Conscious Couplings // Island Artist Meets International Beauty Brand

By Liz Beth Jones

When you study islander Kathe Fraga’s collection of original paintings, a recurrent theme emerges—two natural beings finding each other and becoming a perfect pair.

One could say that too of a recent collaboration that’s taken her signature work from Bainbridge Island to as far as Manhattan, England and Tokyo.

Fraga was commissioned by Japanese skincare and cosmetic company Shiseido to create the artwork for the 2017 Nuit de Chine holiday collection, part of its French inspired Clé de Peau Beauté line.

Years in the making, the limited edition collection entitled Chinoiserie Chic is now being sold in select stores worldwide. Nuit de Chine (French for Chinese night) is suggestive of the ancient patterns on Chinese vases and Japanese kimonos against a backdrop of rich but faded wallpapers, recalling an era when Europe had fallen in love with the mystery of Asia.

Filled with pairings of birds, butterflies and flowers, muted and vibrant, serene and lively, dark and light, Fraga’s work was a textbook match for Shiseido’s vision of richly detailed and layered textures that evoke a Parisian night filled with timeless Oriental luxury.

Lucia Pierone, Clé de Peau Beauté’s creative makeup director was first attracted to the spirit of Fraga’s works where East meets West, old meets new, and natural meets sophistication when the company discovered her artwork on Pinterest and social media sites. Fraga’s paintings were a perfect expression for Pierone’s vision for the Nuit de Chine packaging.

“It was like the stars aligned,” Fraga said of the collaboration. Fraga also created opulent hand painted silk scarves and pillows, jewel like cases, and a golden signature makeup pouch to complement the cosmetics’ lush colors. “It was so exciting working with people who were devoted to getting the product done right,” said Fraga.

“They were so respectful of my personal vision and the many ideas I had for the line’s artwork.” Islanders may recognize Fraga’s unique chinoiserie style, which was featured this past spring at BIMA, on silk and linen pillows at Dana’s Showhouse, or from her designs on Calypso Cards found at T&C.

Her paintings hang in the Robe King Gallery in Winslow. An allegory for her work, Fraga’s historic, 110-yearold south-end waterfront home and studio hint at juxtapositions similar to those found in her chinoiserie and showcase her creative touch throughout.

Color fills the rooms, porches and gardens. Built by Colonel Warren Gazzam and carefully restored over the years by Fraga’s business partner and husband, Jeff, the home retains its original and unique spirit, like its barnacled beach rock and weathered grey shingles.

Fraga paints most every day, which includes creating her art in the dining room on the original fir table, rumored to have been built for the house by a traveling monk.

“It’s a resting place for the eye, a welcome peaceful voice as something reinvented emerges,” she said of her quiet and nature-filled lifestyle, “surroundings gentle, old meets dynamic new.”

While Fraga creates, “Jeff keeps the business on track,” she said. “He designs everything to do with marketing my greeting cards, pillows and scarf labels, tracks shipping and delivery of paintings, and communicates with gallery owners plus manages the website. It’s a lot of fun to work together!”

Indeed, Fraga’s life and work affirm the idea that good things come in pairs. For more information, visit