We tend to think of Hermes scarves as being designed by European masters – the giants of Old World painting whose works have been resurrected from the 19th century and splashed onto three-foot slivers of silk.
But many of those scarves, in turns out, are designed by a postal worker near Waco, Tex.
According to a fascinating profile in Texas Monthly by Jason Sheeler, the only American designer of Hermes scarves is a man named Kermit Oliver.
For the past 30 years he has sorted mail on the night shift of the Waco post office. He paints after work, in a 10-foot by 10-foot room he calls his “monk’s quarters.” (Read more: $1 Million Most Offered as Reward for Missing Art)
His work – which features exotic animals, fruit and surreal scenes of the Old West – was discovered by Hermes in the 1980. Since then, Oliver has designed 16 scarves. His most famous and best selling is the Faune et Flore du Texas, painted in 1987.
He spends six months to a year deisgning the scarves, paints them on a 90-by-90 centimeter square (the size of the scarf) and FedEx’s them to Paris. He said the money and fame doesn’t interest him, which is why his main job is sorting mail.
“Painting is just something I do,” he told Texas Monthly.”I chose not to support my family that way.” (Read more: Beijing Cracks Down on 'Bling')
Oliver’s works have sold for five figures at Houston galleries. Yet his life is simple: he buys his acrylic paint from Michaels craft stores and he once told a friend: “My needs are very simple. Give me a room with good northern light, my books, my art supplies, and a bed and stick some food under the door, and I’m the happiest man in the world.”
Far more simple, no doubt, than the lives of those who wear his scarves.
-By CNBC's Robert Frank
Follow Robert Frank on Twitter: @robtfrank