Setting up a meeting with Jamie Creel gives a glimpse into his globetrotting lifestyle.
“I am in Paris till Sunday and then will be in New York for a couple of weeks,” he wrote us in prompt reply to an interview request.
We had a hint about his enviable schedule after hearing him speak at the Bruce Museum’s fifth annual “Art of Design” panel discussion in April at Greenwich Country Club.
The Greenwich-born owner of Creel and Gow, a singular home décor gallery in Manhattan, talked about the profound influence of travel on his business — even sparking its creation.
“The a-ha moment for my store was a trip I took with a group of friends to the Galápagos Islands,” Creel said, explaining how a conversation on that journey inspired the desire to open a shop that would serve as a modern-day cabinet of curiosities.
And that is what Creel and Gow is — an artful outlet for the treasures Creel comes across, or commissions, on his worldwide treks.
For the past 20 years, he has split his time between homes in Manhattan and Paris — and, more recently, Morocco. All feed the passion that’s on vivid display at Creel and Gow, an Upper East Side gallery that Creel opened in 2012 with British-born, onetime Sotheby’s specialist Christopher Gow.
Having bought out his business partner last autumn, Creel is now forging ahead as the sole proprietor of the boutique filled with the artfully unexpected, be it silver-enrobed seashells, ostrich eggs on pedestals, early 20th-century Chinese opera costumes or a vintage cigar cutter in the shape of a miniature guillotine.
Throughout, it’s a hand-selected and wide-ranging inventory that’s assembled without thought to the latest fad.
“I always feel like I’m going against trends sometimes… Taxidermy?” he said, sparking laughter from that Greenwich audience.
IN THE CABINET
When we did catch up with him at Creel and Gow on a recent morning — in the company of plenty of said taxidermy — Creel acknowledged he’s always on the go.
“People kind of track me sometimes on Instagram,” he said with a laugh.
In Paris, his days are filled with daily trips to one of his strongest sources — the venerable Drouot auction house.
“For years, I was buying for my home and I would go to the auctions in Paris every day. After a while, you can only buy so much.”
Now, it seems, those limitations have been lifted, so he’s free to shop away for the destination that has firmly established its niche. Creel and Gow is the place to find bowls carved out of precious stones, Coney Island funhouse mirrors — and even original benches from the Paris Metro.
“When we first opened, what we were doing was so different we got a tremendous amount of press and a lot of people talking about it,” he said.
The interest has continued to grow, though he admits the gallery is not for everyone.
“It’s definitely not for the person who picks up a catalog from a chain store who says, ‘That’s the look I want.’”
Creel and Gow instead, he noted, offers “something a little bit unusual.”
Leading the way are the signature silver-dipped seashells, a mainstay of Gow’s former New York boutique, Ruzzetti & Gow, that continue here.
“The silver is done in Rome by two brothers whose other job is cleaning and repairing the silver at the Vatican,” Creel said.
Popular, too, are the gleaming selenite “logs” that not only add a glam touch to the fireplace but were also showcased in the Drake/Anderson room at this year’s Kips Bay Decorator Show House.
In addition, specimens such as “deconstructed” lobsters displayed in bell jars and carved sculptures in malachite speak to Creel and Gow’s earliest days.
“In the beginning it was more about things related to nature, whether it’s animal or mineral,” he said.
Taxidermy remains a constant — but, Creel stresses, the pieces are ethically sourced.
“We’re not going out and shooting anything.”
More often, a taxidermist calls.
“He’ll say to me, ‘I have a flamingo’ or an owl.”
A STORY CONTINUES
Creel, who grew up between Locust Valley on Long Island and Manhattan after his parents divorced, said early travel, especially an extended stay in Kenya when he was 15, had quite an effect.
“I think it’s probably ever since then that I got the bug.”
Turning that bug into a business, though, was not a direct path.
Attending college in Virginia, Creel studied “historic preservation and communications, so I’m not sure that it really counts,” he said with another laugh.
Practical experience is drawn from the period, about a decade ago, when Creel had a Paris shop where he sold soaps and candles, items also carried stateside at Bergdorf Goodman.
While it’s all part of Creel and Gow’s story, he said, “I never envisioned having a store like this as a kid.”
Creel is proud of his attractive, street-level gallery housed within a historic townhouse, a space where vintage Loulou de la Falaise jewelry is displayed steps away from a striking selection of contemporary Moroccan passementerie necklaces.
He’s in Morocco often enough to source goods regularly, from pillows and bedspreads to carpets to tabletop wares such as chargers.
“There are so many craftsmen there that do wonderful things,” he said.
But Creel added that he doesn’t want to “always have the same thing, even if it sells well.”
He estimated 80 percent of his clientele are repeat customers, who delight in his ever-changing selection.
“For me, this is exciting,” Creel said of the never-ending hunt that would soon take him to the famed fields of the Brimfield, Massachusetts, flea markets. “It’s not work. It’s fun.”
So what’s next for Creel and Gow?
“It’s always evolving,” Creel said. “My big thing is finding something different.”
He took out one of his latest finds — a handful of gangly brass bird legs.
“They’re just fun,” he said, clearly delighted in the quirky pieces. “My idea was someone could have a table and have a row of them.”
And, in doing so, create a scene that’s a perfect tribute to the heart of Creel and Gow.
Creel and Gow is at 131 E. 70th St. in Manhattan. For more, visit creelandgow.com.