It is finally getting to where the air is cold enough to sting your toes & bite your nose, so I keep thinking of this, one of my all-time favorite oldie cartoons, Jack Frost from Ub Iwerks. It concerns mostly a stubborn little bear who refuses to hibernate (I can't fully relate to this, because even when I was a little bear, I loved to hibernate.)
I wrote a few things/did interviews that are elsewhere this week. If you have any interest in the picture book I wrote when I was seven or what I was into in college or how my books have come about, maybe you'd like to read them?
I've got several exciting additions to the shop coming next week (the Dream Animals print suite & book set, among other things!) 'til then,
In my matchbox of a studio, there was recently a pretty serious clean-up and move-around. This was all begun to stuff a (miraculous) seventh piece of furniture into this tiny place - a new/oldie chest of wooden drawers in extremely useful sizes. I love the classic old card-catalogues but I can't use all those tiny drawers to flat-file original art or store big bottles of paint or hide away boring paperwork.
During this rigamarole, I tried to do a bit of a ruthless purge of unwanted books and nicknacks and old supplies, but it ended up (unsurprisingly) more timid than I'd hoped. So easy to gather things, so hard to banish them. Still, I can see all my toys and things nicely in this new arrangement, though my toy piano is sadly hidden behind the tiny couch.
I like these funny little planters (on the left) to hold pencils and small brushes and things. And on the right, you can see all my Alices on the top shelf (the Golden Book stack is there, too) hanging out with an unintended mini-collection of swans of varying sizes (and a white bobble-head rabbit.)
My favorite three wind-ups (Monkey, Seal, and Goose) have a place of honor on those old green file boxes, next to some current particular favorite book covers. And my monkey lamp is just where he belongs, glowing while I paint and draw, never shall we part.
It's been uncharacteristically toasty around these parts lately, and it has put me in a very stitchy kind of mood. I always get a bee in my bonnet to sew in warm weather - I don't know why that is?
I guess sewing Summer dresses seems much more easy and breezy than sewing heavy woolens for Fall (and it is) so that's probably most of it. This year I really wanted a few extremely simple little 60's-inspired shift dresses with elbow-length sleeves. That's been the bee in my bonnet.
I'm so particular and get such specific ideas in mind, sometimes it's easier to just make things yourself, right? Right. So armed with cold, milky iced coffee, that's been one of the things I've been up to lately.
I promised myself if I would actually sit down and draft a pattern for this dress and test it and test it (and test it again) I could buy a few yards of Liberty fabric. I picked Claire Aude in the goldens and pinks and jadeite green, because it's always been one of my favorites of all their prints.
After it was washed and pressed, even though I'd already made a muslin and two other mostly-successful dresses from my pattern, I had the worst time getting the nerve to cut it. It's such truly lovely and excellent fabric that I felt terribly outclassed, but I crossed my fingers and went to work.
Somehow I managed to sew the whole dress (tricky to do with my fingers crossed) and it turned out just liked I hoped. Perfect for the hottest days, when we get them, and easy to wear with some little old sneakers or worn-in flats.
And the best part?
I have my share of sewing-heartbreaks, so when something turns out like I'd hoped, it's so gratifying. And besides, when you make things with your hands for a living, it feels extra-special to make things for yourself, for fun.
Have you done any Summer projects (sewn or not) (pocketed or not) you're particularly happy about?
(Photo of me & my wayward hairpin swiped from the BEA recap on the RH Buzzers blog)
I forgot to ever post about this!
A few weeks back, I traveled to NY for Book Expo America festivities with my publisher to start sharing Dream Animals with everyone. As a bonus, I got spoiled spending several days visiting my (lovely & beloved) editor & book designer, and another day or two to do a little non-work-related gallivanting, too. I'm going to do this in list-form, because I'm coming off one of my marathon headaches and it's all I can muster.
Itinerary & Highlights, Mostly Out-of-order
- Signed things (prints and postcards) on Thursday morning of BEA at the very well-lit and enormous Javitz center (the photo up top was taken there.)
- Arepas at the East Village Caracas, not once but twice.
- Found myself among wildly esteemed company as one of the featured authors at the Random House Cocktail party (photos & nice recap of that here). This led to surreal scenarios like posing, prom-photo style, between my author dates, extremely cool Chris So-Many-Caldecotts Raschka and lovely Steven Luminous-and-legendary Kellogg (both of these gentleman were very kind to this clearly bewildered whippersnapper).
- Walks and wanderings and lunches and dinners with my darlin F and a rascally Westie pup.
- Favorite place in the world, not for as long as I'd have liked, but still. If I'm in the city, I can't not go.
- Dinner followed with several editors, designers, agents, my own Josiah, the gentle Mr. Kellogg, and funny and irreverant Patricia MacLachlan (Sarah, Plain and Tall (!). She and Steven created a special & poignant picture book (full of children in beautiful sweaters) called Snowflakes Fall, which is a tribute to Sandy Hook, CT.
- Bagels and more bagels.
- Visited the missing-the-point-entirely Punk show at the Met
- Utterly destroyed my feet by wandering Soho late into the evening with my companions and ended up at the drugstore crying pitifully for bandaids. Worth it to peer at the glow of fancy shop windows and witness a friend very excitedly inspect the discarded shipping boxes heaped outside the Chloé store.
In short, it was a good little trip.
We are all really, really excited about Dream Animals, and really excited about our next book (which I'm working on now.) Mainly, though, I just spent a handful of days getting spoiled in the company of NY people I love and work closely with and that time zones keep me from. Any time I have a chance to visit them (and/or the Natural History Museum and/or the bagels)
Another new painting - five little friends masqurading in five different disguises.
I have just had a really nice couple of days! My children's book editor (who I love) came to visit, and we went to a few of my favorite haunts and talked endlessly about books and not-books. It was so lovely & a nice excuse to take a work break/painting break (I need an excuse, or I will squirrel myself away for days and days.)
I'm more excited than ever about my first picture book's release, and about beginning work on the next one. I cannot wait to share more of everything - more news and (most importantly!) more pictures!
And thank you for all the kind words about these new paintings! I love how this strange little collection is coming along.
On my less-industrious days, I think Miette is the sanest person I know. Costantly burrowing into blanket-nests and staying there in a quiet decadence. I would say this expression is Classic Miette - begrumped and disdainful and ferociously protective of his coziness.
What all of this has to do with the New Year, I don't know.
But I'm looking very forward to it, for lots of reasons.
One is simply that I can be a little numerically superstitious & it includes one of my favorite numbers (lucky 13) and besides, I vastly prefer odd numbers to evens any day.
Another is that I have some exciting things happening this year: a solo show and a picture book coming out, and lots of personal work and another picture book to make. I look out on the expanse of the months ahead, and they already feel very busy and full. It's lovely to have a million things you want to make and only be hindered by the time it takes to make them (given that you can carve out the time, that is.) I think 2013 will be a year like that.
I don't make proper New Year's resolutions because I am in a state of making vows & making changes (secret & known, big & little) no matter the time of year. Then I sink or swim accordingly. And beneath those, running like ribbon in the background, I have general, everyday resolutions. Sometimes I can't sleep for reminding myself:
To work hard.
To forge ahead.
To be kind.
To remain curious.
Happy New Year!
When Andy (one of the two organizers, both people named Andy) asked me to speak at the first ever XOXO conference, my first instinct was to say something along the lines of: "Um, geez, you got the wrong girl. Thank you sir, but no."
I've never spoken to a group larger than a few dozen people, and truthfully, I was just very concerned that I wouldn't have anything of value or general usefulness to say to the (formidable) audience/attendees.
"I'm not really a speaker" I said. "I'm afraid I won't have anything interesting, never mind inspiring to tell them."
Image Source: Brooke Parrott
"Just tell your story" Andy said.
Image Source: Glenn Fleischman
So I did. I wrote something and Josiah helped me make some funny little slides, and I worked up my courage and (still terrified) I spoke to this big sea of kind faces.
And it's now available to watch online.
I hope it is interesting and/or useful and/or inspiring. I tried my best! I did the only thing I could do: simply tell my story. Then cross my fingers and hope it means something to anybody else.
I made these little Emily-cartoons to illustrate the short talk I gave this past weekend at the XOXO Conference here in Portland. The day I spoke was all about the stories of creators who had built something on their own terms, and these little drawings served to help me illustrate the beginning of my story.
Clockwise, we have (briefly):
1.) Fresh out of art school, I assumed I'd have to work in the service industry.
2.) And I did. But I also worked on creating The Black Apple at night.
3.) When, at last, I was working for myself, I was able to wander where my heart desired and make anything my heart desired.
4.) The only problem is, sometimes there are too many things I want to make!
Gathering up all my courage to give the talk to hundreds of XOXO folks was tricky, but I'm happy I did. And giving a lot of thought to how things began and how things have grown and changed since I graduated from art school in 2005 was a nice reminder that I've been doing something with my time, lo, these past seven years!
We spent most of Saturday afternoon at the festival, where ebullience and enthusiasm very nearly shimmered in the air. People were very kind and excited to be there, and the warmth with which Andy & Andy organized the whole shebang reverberated in everyone's good spirits and up into the rafters of the beautiful old brick building that housed it.
I think all of the talks will be online eventually, and I'll be sure to post when they are. I'm pretty certain the talk went smoothly (I hope it did?). Also pretty certain I'm the only speaker to refer to both Art School Confidential and The Velveteen Rabbit, which will scarcely surprise you.
I wish it was due to some kind of Rip Van Winkle-ish, hazy Summer's end reason, but it's really because every bit of my thought and energy has been going into the picture book I'm working on. I wish I could share it - the hardest part of book-making is how solitary it can be. I'm all wrapped up in it and it's all I can do to think of anything else - this happens every time! Besides, my plans are ambitious, the original paintings are big, my art deadline is creeping closer, and this all makes for a very Tim Gunn, "Make It Work" moment in my neck of the woods.
Even in single-minded worker bee mode, there are simple things that come along and keep me happy. I try to recognize these little things and be grateful for them.
- Martinelli's Sparkling Apple Juice, which feature my favorite drink label ever.
- Unkempt stems of wildflowers in bottles from a shabby late-Summer garden
- Pining after sweet dotted blouses
- All the Fall clothes tumbling in, coats and soft woolens and tweeds
- The light on walks just before the night falls, all brilliant gold
- Listening to favorite Knitters songs
- Watching Season Two of Boardwalk Empire with Josiah (ieee! We just finished it!)
What little things are currently brightening up your day-to-day?
I don't like being this quiet, so I'm going to try my best not to vanish this completely again any time soon. Besides, my favorite time of year is waiting just around the corner!
Expect more peeps soon!
There's an nice little write-up about me in the newest issue (August) of Inked Magazine. If you click to enlarge, I think you should be able to read it (if'n you'd like to.)
Even though my own skin holds no pictures thus far, my love for the illustrated men and ladies of the world is strong and I was happy to be included! I had ink on the brain even before this interview and now, more than ever, my mind is percolating about more tattooed portraits I would like to do.
I am working hard behind-the-scenes on my next book (a picture book) and I wish so much I could share the paintings here and there as they come along. I am so happy at work on this project. We'll all have to wait 'til 2013, when I can show you, but (I hope!) it will be worth the wait.
Hoping your week is off to a nice start! I will be squirrelled away in my studio with coffee and podcasts and Netflix instant in the background for company.
- I mail-ordered a new variation of my favorite flowers and planted it last fall without seeing the blooms. The flowers are coming in now and they're the prettiest melange of peach and papaya! I love the way flowers surprise you
- Saints be praised, there are now large Moleskine sketchbooks! Having made do with the medium size for years, it makes me disproportionately happy every time I sit down to this new, sturdy, roomy one.
- I baked up a batch of petite chocolate chip & walnut cookies last night from my go-to all time favorite recipe and they turned out unusually photogenic. The stars were right.
- I'm re-reading Geek Love and finding even more to knock me down dead this time. I think the first time I read it (six years ago?), I was mostly swooning over its terrible, nervy beauty. This time, I'm bowled over by those things, but I'm also struck by the things it has to say about childhood, siblings, universal things that extend beyond the sideshow.
- And I'm hard at work on a new children's book! It's a picture book scheduled for release next year. I might share a sketch peek here soon - I'm living in the sketches right now. I want to crawl inside them all.
See you soon!
I've been thinking about this post for a while, and after lots of percolation, I find myself in the year 2012 writing about an extremely unlikely topic: Exercise.
*Note this is not an accurate depiction of Miette as my personal trainer - anyone who knows my cat knows he would be driving a fully automated child-sized car. He would never be caught expending so much effort on riding a bike.
Like lots of pale bookish types, I always thought I just wasn't cut out to be An Exerciser. It's not so much a lack of motivation to jump around and sweat and then fall down, out of breath (although that's part of it). For me, it was always:
1.) The trappings of exercise: the gym, the clothes, the equipment, the shoes.
I'm not sociable enough to go to a gym, and I don't want a ton of equipment and accoutrement filling up my house.
Keep reading after the jump!
(Photo above taken by my unofficial event photographers, our pals The Berkleys)
The reading/event at the cozy Green Bean Books was so nice! There were lots of sweet children and parents and ladies who came to visit, hear some of Oddfellow's, and draw some monsters. We read the 5th chapter/story in O.O., in which Professor Silas and the gang goes off to look for a lake monster, then I talked a bit about what seems to make for the best mysterious creatures (mixing two real animals, etc) hence my school-project looking posterboard there!
We had tons of colored pencils, and fueled by lollipops, we all drew for a good little while. Some of them drew monsters, some drew characters from Oddfellows (!!! - I wanted to steal those!)
This anonymous flying dinosaur was left behind, and I thought he should be immortalized here:
Portland locals should visit that lovely little store! I left with an armful of books from their expertly curated and beautiful collection.
Thanks to everyone who came, and especially to all the kids I got to talk to and draw with and sign for.
It was the best time!
I've been stuck on the idea of treasure boxes for a while. Probably my whole life, but especially the last little while. When I say treasure box, all I really mean is a small box filled with small things - as simple and wonderful as that.
For Josiah's Valentine this year, I got in my mind to make him a treasure box of sorts, one that told a story. I made a little collage on top of an old box I found, which came complete with a little key.
Inside, I gathered small curiosities that served as symbols of my affection and told bits of the story. Once I wrote it down, the story itself was included in a small, folded piece of paper tucked in with the odds & ends (a blackbird whistle, two miniature ivory dice, a beat-up blue toy car, and a skeleton key - which, together, sure seem like a recipe for a Tom Wait's song.)
It is a fairy tale of sorts about a magpie who steals the key to a girl's heart from a chain around her neck, only to be re-stolen by a ne'er-do-well fellow, who reunites the girl with her key and vows to win her heart fair and square.
We've given each other quite a few stories and pictures between the two of us, and they are the most special presents I feel I can get or give (although I'll never say no to a heart-shaped box of candy!). He loved it, and it made me so happy that I made him something this year.
Richard Buckner has a song called Gauzy Dress in the Sun - they are one of those universal things of beauty, I think.
I happened into my rat's nest of a dressing room the other day when the sun was streaming in, and I couldn't resist taking a photo. We were temporarily using the curtains for that room elsewhere in the house, and now I wonder if I shouldn't just leave the curtains down. I could see all of my things much better in the golden light, messy as they may be.
If I ever get it into presentable shape, maybe I'll take some more photos in there?
I am almost finished with a bunch of new full-color Oddfellow's portraits. There are thirteen, I think. I began creating them especially for the forthcoming website, but it's also just nice seeing everyone in color, in paint, as a change from the drawings that fill the book. The frames for the originals came, and they are so pretty! I'm very excited about how this little series has come together.
I'll start sharing them here, soon!
Edit! A very sweet commentor raised a question that I get a lot, and my reply got so lengthy I thought I'd repost it here:
This is such a sweet comment. A lot of people send similar notes and emails. The reason I don't post outfit photos these days is this: I woke up one day, and suddenly, like a switch had been pulled, I had absolutely no interest in them at all. I still love clothes as much as ever, but I just don't have the interest, time, or daylight-gallivanting hours to document what I wear. Most days, I am at home working.
There are so many fashion blogs posting beautiful clothes all the time - that is their job (or part of it.) My job is to make images and stories (and various other things now and again) and that doesn't leave too much time or energy for documenting life or clothing the way many lifestyle-type blogs do.
I pour so much into my own work, and this blog, for me, is a place to post dispatches about what I'm interested in, what I'm making, what I'm doing. I know it has evolved over the years, and it has become what it is right for me at this particular time.
Thank you for your nice & funny note, and all your kind words!
Powell's just posted an interview with me in which I talk a bit about Oddfellow's as well as cover topics as wonderful and varied as "Favorite teacher", "Favorite fictional characters" and "Favorite kid-friendly curse word."
It was quiet here this week, but keep your eyes out for more about what I'm working on behind-the-scenes, upcoming book events, etc. soon!
I moved my studio around this Summer, which was a little project that siezed me one day out of the blue. My work room is quite small, no more than a walk-in closet. And it's important for that tiny space to be cozy, not oppressive (otherwise, if this hadn't worked out, I probably would've needed to look for studio spaces in the outside world.)
The move-around turned out exactly the way I'd envisioned it, even though it was all rather harem scarem and done on a whim. We moved the heavy-duty printing equipment into a formerly useless nook in another part of the house, so my pint-sized studio wasn't consumed with electronic things. Now I have only a slim little computer, and the rest is full of my old toys, books, paints, fabric.
Nice things. Things I'm happy to have surrounding me.
I also got a very small loveseat we stuffed through the door somehow. Miette has taken up residence on it, and does his best bossing and dictation from upon a ratty old quilt my friend donated to our beloved ratty quilt collection.
My favorite 7-year old came over for a bit a week or so ago. We spent the afternoon at the antique mall, and then came back here for tea. Inevitably, we ended up in my studio, where curiosities on crowded shelves had drawn her like a moth. She peered into old paintboxes still full of crumbling cakes of watercolor and admired my strange monkey lamp (a longtime favorite of hers.) I think she might try to pocket it if it weren't so unwieldy.
It was the nicest way to spend an hour, and I was happier than ever that we fixed it up so that room is stuffed with only nice things, and not big hulking things riddled with power strips and cords.
We read Little Fur Family aloud and wound the silver keys on my wind-up toys until her mama called.
Today we're going to carve up the pumpkins, spend the evening with some scary movies & hopefully get visits from some cute trick-or-treaters!
I hope they all look something like this:
A smattering of Halloween links:
I hope you are having a spooktacular Halloween (har har har)!
Remember back when I asked the cosmos for a Miette Sweater ?
Well, a lovely & talented lady named Jean made me one, and it's perfect. Down to the smallest funny little button-placket detail, it's Miette's woolen peppermint goodness through-and-through.
Since I have such a gem on my hands now, I thought it was only fitting that I should continue continue my proud tradition of dressing as a character absolutely nobody will recognize, and be little Miette for Halloween 2011.
As suspected, nobody knew who I was, but that's fine! Without the perfect jumper and Ron Perlman on my arm, who can blame 'em?
My new blog banner was a hint, but another project (though smaller than the book) I've been anxious to share is my new website!
It's very strange that I've gone without a home base like this for so long, and that's really all I wanted - something simple that could serve as an introduction to me/my work and also be a jumping off point to my various haunts around the internet.
The portfolio page is something I'm really excited about (heretofore, I've just been inviting people to peruse my shop and archives here.) This is much more simple.
Hooray!!! So happy this is finally out there.
Hop over and click around!
I was all forlorn that our yard is so tree-shadowed, 'til I realized early this Spring that there is one bit of the yard that gets perfectly respectable sunlight. Enough sunlight to make a flower bed and grow things besides the bleeding hearts and ferns to which I had resigned myself.
They were outshone by a last burst of ranunculus blooms and since them, just a bloom here and there.
While there were some really pretty ranunculus flowers this Summer (lots of surprise singles & doubles and lovely colors from mystery bulb planting) the plants that bloomed in early Spring were much happier.
I think, like me, they like a chill in their toes.
Creating a garden has been one of the very best undertakings I've ever begun. Planting and tending living green things, things that ask for very little and in turn, give one such a feeling of accomplishment (and of course, shows of dazzling prettiness) is so comforting and grounding and thrilling.
My mom is an incredible and prolific gardener, and her yard is breathtaking and perfectly kept, without feeling overly fussed-over or too manicured. She's got a truly emerald green thumb. I can only wish for a thumb somewhere in the vicinity of mint or pistachio green.
I'll squirrel those away for another day!
Lovely June has me in her clutches, and there have been lots of things (both the quiet and exciting varieties) going on around these parts.
- Most exciting, an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) of my forthcoming book project arrived at the doorstep yesterday, which is so exciting it makes my heart skip a beat.
- I'm creating all the final art for the aforementioned book right now, which is keeping all my quiet moments busy. Creating many pencil shavings.
- Realized at least half of our napkins were truly stained and dodgy, and sewed up a baker's dozen of new ones in pretty summer cottons.
- Baking a bunch. Baked Banana Bread Bittman (pictured above). It's still the perfect B.B. to me.
- I've been really lucky with new/old book finds in the past week or so (also pictured above) the prize jewel being Mermaids & Mastodons. I'm always looking for old cryptozoology/peculiar natural history books, and this one is the best I've found.
- Also been quietly keeping my first flower garden this Spring/Summer. At the risk of sounding maudlin, it's one of the best and happiest pursuits I've ever begun.
Hoping June is being good to you!