Well-dressed women—and a sprinkling of men—surveyed the latest inventory of needlepoint pillows: whimsical landscapes, animals, nudes, and more. It seemed that almost every inch of shelving and couch space was littered with pillows, beautiful pillows. As the guests mingled, nibbled on hors d’oeuvres, and sipped on wine, Kate Hersch—arts patron, mother of two, community volunteer, and tastemaker extraordinaire—worked the room. Literally. Hersch is one of the principals behind August Morgan, an Austin-based company that sells one-of-a-kind needlepoint pillows. Always attentive and gracious, she introduced newbies to old friends and caught up with nearly everyone.
The concept behind that pillow party was the brainchild of Lance Avery Morgan, Hersch’s business partner. “Pillows help a room be well dressed—like a good pair of cufflinks, or for women, the perfect diamond earrings,” explains Morgan, who is also the publisher and editorial director of Brilliant magazine. “Those parties are all about pillow talk. Pillows, talk, and some champagne, for good measure, seem to inspire pillow purchases.” The idea to start a company came to them a year and a half ago while they were lunching in West Austin. “I have always been in love with textiles and had needlepointed in my twenties,” says Hersch, who graduated with a fine arts degree from the University of Texas before moving to New York, where she landed a job in client services at Sotheby’s.
Hersch collects the needlepoints from her travels around the world and pairs them with the many fabrics she has on hand in her office, a neutral-hued space showcasing brightly colored swatches and pillows. Currently, she’s concentrating on nudes, seventies crewel work, and Oriental-themed pillows. Once she’s put together the ideal combination, Hersch hands them off to a woman who does all the sewing in her home, just outside Austin. They’ve added chairs (two American Icon pieces featuring George Washington on one and J.F.K. on the other), benches, screens (one named “Just Us Girls”), and ottomans to their line. The finished products sell at Uptown Modern, in Austin; Auto, in Manhattan; and Revival Home and Garden, in Seattle. The two are looking at more retail partners and would like to take their soirees to all the major cities in Texas.
As the evening wore on, Morgan wrapped up pillows for thrilled purchasers, some of whom were taking home more than a couple (prices start at about $125). He promised one woman that that they could find a needlepoint that would resemble her dog. And he asked another if she had the perfect spot in mind for the pillow she was holding. Hersch was busy working too, making the rounds—smiling, laughing, and talking, sometimes even doing a little pillow talk.