Illustrating the Einsels' love story

The great romances of the world are documented in film and literature from Wesley and Buttercup in "The Princess Bride" to Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet."

Naiad and Walter Einsel documented their own great love story over the course of their nearly five-decade romance using their considerable artistic talents to create "Art from the Heart." That is the title of a book about their collection of unique Valentines, which Naiad published in 2008. It is also the title of an exhibit of their tangible tokens of love on view in the Little Gallery at the Westport Historical Society.

Sue Gold, director of the historical society, called the exhibit a fitting tribute to their love. The exhibit continues through April 30 and includes dozens of the elaborate drawings, collages, kinetic sculptures and poems exchanged between the Westport couple between Feb. 14, 1953 -- their first Valentine's Day together -- and Feb. 14, 1998 -- their last. Walter died that November.

"I can't believe it was that long ago. He's still here. Any room I walk into, part of him is still here," said Naiad, who was reluctant to be separated from her Valentines even temporarily for the historical society exhibit. "It was difficult to part with them.

"They're all special. We never bought Valentines for each other, or anniversary cards or birthday cards," said Naiad, a graphic designer and illustrator whose work has appeared in magazines such as Seventeen, Cosmopolitan, Ladies Home Journal, Food & Wine and Smithsonian magazine, on record album covers and book jackets.

"Instead of just saying `I love you' we did something creative; all these different ways of expressing love, and it was really from the heart," she said.

"Mine were illustrative; his were three-dimensional," said Naiad, who met Walter on April 26, 1952, when he was working as an art director at NBC and she held the same position at CBS.

He proposed three weeks later. They married the next year and spent 46 more years together raising two daughters and collaborating on art projects.

They were the first husband-and-wife team to create stamp designs for the U.S. Postal Service, and in 1979 they were commissioned to create the AT&T Age of Information Center exhibition at Disney World's EPCOT Center in Florida that features 55 intricately designed figures with movable parts.

Both Naiad and Walter were inducted into the Society of Illustrators' Hall of Fame last year.

Among the heart art work in the exhibit are a heart-shaped maze called aMazeing created by Naiad for Walter for Valentine's Day in 1988, and her Valentine Love Seeds seed packet from 1993, one of which she wrote to Walter: "Sow the seeds of love and reap the Magical Harvest of sweet passion fruit."

The exhibit also includes Walter's final Valentine to Naiad in 1998: A copper heart with an antique cast iron stove burner in the center to which he affixed a red ribbon and sticker that reads "You still light my fire."

At the recent exhibit opening, Naiad said she was impressed by the number of men, young men in particular, who took the time to look at the display and really read the poems and inscriptions that she and Walter wrote to each other.

"I wondered what they thought and I wondered what kind of Valentine they were going to give their wives this year. That's rewarding for me if I knew that I inspired someone to do something creative for love," said Naiad.

"Even though I don't have Walter here, I have some friends that I make Valentines for, not as elaborate, and for my daughters and their children. I have five grandchildren now and I became a great-grandmother on Dec. 9," she said.

One of her grandchildren, singer/songwriter Lisa Bastoni, will appear in the Westport Historical Society's premiere coffeehouse performance at 4 p.m. Feb. 19. Bastoni's concert, Song about Life and Love, will feature her own compositions as well as some that Naiad wrote for Walter. Bastoni's debut album is titled "Your First Sweetheart" (2004).

There is a suggested donation of

$10 payable at the door. Reservations are recommended. Seating is limited.

For more information, call the Westport Historical Society, 25 Avery Place, at

203-222-1424 or visit