I answered some interview questions for the article, as you'll see, but thought I'd share with you ALL the questions asked, and my answers.
What inspired you to become a children's illustrator?
Since childhood, I've loved drawing and reading and working on crafty projects. We were raised without a TV in the home, which equaled = "make your own fun", and there were plenty of supplies around with which to do this. My mom and sisters were and are very artsy -- with drawing and needlework, etc., and, as the youngest in the family, it stands to reason that I wanted to do what they were doing and enjoying. My mom read to us each night. I'd sit right up next to her, following along as she read, the accompanying pictures both a treat and an education about good illustration. It wasn't until I reached second grade that I learned that you could BE an illustrator as a job, so I decided then that's what I'd be. I illustrate for children -- for their education and their entertainment -- because I know to what kids respond, I like playing a role in their education, it's an area in which I'm well-suited, and it's fun!
How is 3D storytelling different from your 2D illustrations?
For me, 3D storytelling or 3D designing doesn't have to be as "buttoned-down" as a 2D illustration. When I design 2-dimensionally, I have many things I have to take into account -- size of page, where type is going to lie, the specifics of what is being taught to the children (and showing these things accurately).
However, when I design 3-dimensionally, it seems I have more latitude for "play". The area in which I'm working is still a factor, but If I have all my "toys" (puppets, props) around me, I can arrange them in a variety of settings. Arranging elements (as opposed to designing them from the ground-up) takes virtually no time at all, whereas if I were to do this same thing with DRAWING, it would take a billion times longer.
I'm happy to be able to work both ways -- one provides a nice "break" from the other; things learned from working 3-dimensionally enrich my 2-dimensional work; and being able to know what makes a good image in 2D ALWAYS informs what makes a good image in 3D.
Why miniatures? What makes them so special?
Some of the things about working with /making miniatures that I like are: they don't take up a lot of room, they're not difficult to lift (or shouldn't be), you don't need a LOT of whatever material it is to craft them, and there is something that can only be described as "charming" about a life-size thing made teeny. For a lot of girls/women, I'm sure, there is a fondness for all things doll-housey. I suppose I had this feeling towards dollhouses too, growing up, but more so with the town named "Beetlegrass" that lived on my dresser. It was the bigger scope of LOTS of families -- not just one -- lots of the things going on, with tons of things that needed to be made that got me going back then, and which still "has" me, inspiring me to create the many scenes in the Children's Museum display. In telling my dad about the exhibit, he asked, "Is this like Beetlegrass?" I agreed, "Yeah. It's like Beetlegrass on STEROIDS."
Can you describe the process of creating these miniatures?
In making finger puppets, I start off with... my finger! I wrap it with wool roving, which I dip into a bowl filled with warm water and a squeezin's worth of dishwashing liquid. I dip and sqeeze until the roving starts to hang together, and then I start to gently rub the roving. Wool is pretty nifty in that it has scales on it, and wet and warm and soap and friction work together to make the scales cling tighter and tighter to one another, until the item is "felted". When it feels as though this finger shape is felted enough (and you get better at knowing this over time), I run it (still on my finger) under cool running water, squeezing out all of the soap. I then remove the form from my finger, and put it on a rack to dry, which takes maybe a day. After the finger form is dry, I stitch into it, adding eyes/arms/hair, etc. -- all the things that will make the puppet unique.
I made some of the miniatures for the display using polymer clay -- dusting with pastel chalks to add the illusion of being baked -- adding a gel medium here and there to create shine. YouTube tutorials of other people making their mini clay items were very helpful, not to mention: fun.
Some miniatures were embellished with paint and other materials. Some furniture was constructed by chopping up OTHER furniture I had. I cannibalized a lot of "stuff" to make other "stuff" for this display!
Do you create back stories for each character you make?
YES, that is probably the most fun for me -- creating the characters' stories -- and this development happens over time, and it's something I can't NOT do. It's just one of the facets of being an illustrator: we're storytellers. In the same way I DON'T design a character to the Nth degree before I jump in with the making, I DON'T figure out everything about his/her history. A lot of these guys' stories are "revealed" when they interact with one another. Often times, a prop will stir up something for me. If I see a miniature at the flea market, I think, "OH! So-and-so could use this; I had no idea he rode buffaloes professionally!" Or a prop used in the setting up of a scene to photograph can give clues as to who the character is. If an odd pairing of prop to puppet makes me laugh or makes me wonder, "Why are they doing that?", then I'm engaged and it's almost like I'm the "reader" who can't wait to find out what happens next, instead of being the person who's creating the backstory. It's like kids playing with their dolls or ACTION FIGURES. Except it's an "adult" doing it.
How do you manage to create such intricate detail with such small materials? How do you determine what miniature items are necessary to complete a display?
Generations upon generations of small-handed females have led to the happy genetic conclusion that is ME: I was not cursed with the dreaded MAN HANDS! (Link to image of man hands.) I joke, but having smallish (woman) hands does help in the creation of small things. As far as details go, they're what I live for, artistically-speaking. Adding embellishing details in my art, both 2D and 3D, are what make a piece interesting, one-of-a-kind, create its story, etc. Also, again, from a tactile standpoint, it's a pleasurable experience to add embellishments -- stitching on individual freckles; sewing on beads; needle felting in a hairdo. So, you have fun, and then you have something to show for the time you've spent. ("I made this guy, see? Behold this thing that I have made, etc.")
When creating the scenarios for the Children's Museum display, I had tons of ideas for what I wanted to do, but of course had to whittle these ideas down to 17, the number of "ramp boxes" in their atrium walkway. The museum gave me a "model" box with which to work, and I also had the dimensions of the boxes on hand as reference (12 5/8" L x 6 3/4" H x 5 1/8"W). For each scene, I knew which puppets I would use (or which ones I would make -- 15 of the 36 puppets in the exhibit are *new*) -- and then I compiled the miniatures that I already had on hand for the scenes, crafting new props when that was required. Then, working with the model box, the puppets, and the props, I just "played" -- moving things this way and that, lots of times editing out elements that made a scene too cluttered. It's the same process I go through in my 2D illustration work, except in this case when I'm editing, I physically REMOVE the item. I then took photos of the scenes so I'd have a reference for recreating the scene at the museum.
Which of the miniature displays that is currently hosted by the Children's Museum are you most fond and why?
I think the scene of which I'm most fond, is probably the one that was the most challenging, and that would be the butcher shop scene. The butcher is one of the *new* puppets, and I had to "fight" with him a bit in order to get him the way I wanted, but in the end I am so happy with how he looks, with his paper hat (REAL, LIVE paper was used!), the pencil behind his ear, and his mustache (white glue was used on the ends). The display case (upper portion designed so it was one piece, with folds and cut-outs) with acetate, and other add-ons -- fairly "fussy" work, but the result was worth the time spent. The meat string at the back of the box gave me a hard time at home -- the strings kept twisting around each other and at one point, my glasses fell off my face and got tangled up in it too -- but am glad all these "issues" were worked out beforehand, so that installation of this piece went smoothly. I like the graphic look of the scene -- the palette of black and white and red -- and how the museum's architectural elements show through the box and repeat colors, designs, and "ground" the scene in an actual "place".