Monday, December 29, 2008

Looking for Buried Treasure? We're Camping Out at Victoria Thorne.

We're giving ourselves a little vacation and only posting 
on one blog right saves on holiday cheer, 
and will certainly help ease into the new year. 

See you there!

Our boy's room, here.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Wabi Sabi: some notes from a conversation with Ed Young

Below, a bit from a few notes taken while talking to Ed Young in the Spring of 2006; at the time, I was working on a magazine article/shoot that would feature rooms I'd created for children...and the best part of the preparation was a chance meeting with Mr. Young and the opportunity to spend a few minutes talking to him about his thoughts on design for children.

Here are the notes, just as I transcribed them in another little blog I had at the time:

"...Mr. Young, who trained as an architect, had such important things to say about environments. The first thing he said was that I needed to talk to Ashley Bryant, who lives near the shore and takes daily walks there and collects various things and writes poetry and turns his play into work. Mr. Y thought this was of great importance (these are my weak notes, written fast because I could not breathe and was trying to get it all down and nothing made sense to my hand 'tho it was all making the most primeval sense to my brain. When I look at the entry I made after talking to him, I know somehow I got it because, two entries later, I used a quote of Mr. Y's that I found, and realized--later, again--that they were remarkably similar) because...notes, finally:

  • [children are] 'hungry for something that's not made already'
  • 'branches | personal | imagination' (think this was in connection with the walks on the shore of A. Bryant, and his making into children love to do)
  • 'express themselves through their imagination'...[by taking bits and pieces and making] "things out of them" (this might have been in connection with the statement--Mr. Y. talks softly, and almost lowered his voice to a whisper when he said this--and I didn't write it down, so this is paraphrased - 'do you know where children really love to get things? From the dump...')
  • 'architecture' (I think this is when he told me that is what he had been trained in)
  • [questions for architects should be] 'is it healthy?' | 'is it human?'
  • 'when humans use it and play with it - it becomes beautiful' (this in thinking that architects want the things they build to be beautiful, and that the mistake they make, often, is that pure 'beauty' becomes the most important end result to them--but if humans don't use it, it isn't beautiful. Mr. Y. said that places that were supposed to be beautiful but are not used by humans, because they are not people-friendly, often become the most blighted areas of a city...)
  • [for] 'creating a culture in' - (the highest use of architecture, I believe this was his thought)
  • 'once it's used, it becomes healthy'
[The following were a few more of my own thoughts:]
Okay, so there you have it. The bottom line (literally) is that once it's used, it becomes healthy.

This, therein, is the problem I see with many designs created by decorators|interior designers today. They are beautiful (perhaps), but who on earth really wants to live in them? I've seen dozens of immaculate, awfully expensive houses that look like untouched museums. Nobody's home. Who would want to be?

Little ones, above all, are not supposed to be perched on the edge of a chair trying not to spill on it...rugs are not supposed to be pure white unless you are the boy in the plastic bubble...people need to be able to stretch and read and eat and play and write and be happy in a room, and this includes, most especially, children.

And I do believe, with all my heart, that this can be achieved: that we can begin to make beautiful spaces that can be lived in, and not just admired, so that we can function better as a society, and members of a society."

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

Tomi Ungerer Returns (thank goodness): “I think children have to be respected...there should not be a limit of vocabulary."

“No one, I dare say, no one was as original,” Mr. Sendak said of him. “Tomi influenced everybody.”

Burton Pike, a professor emeritus of comparative literature who became friends with Mr. Ungerer in the 1950s, said: “He’s never lost the feeling of how a child sees the world. And a child’s view is not really sentimental.”
There's a wonderful article and slide show on Tomi Ungerer and his work in the New York Times this weekend. "The Three Robbers" is now an animated film. 

And if Mr. Sendak has the above to say about Tomi, isn't it a good idea to find out a bit more? 

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Characters for a Spun-Cotton Storybook

Wouldn't it be fun to put a story together 
with these characters, 
all ornaments? 
(Have a complete fascination with Russian spun-cotton.)

Turnip Pullers,
Deer, and Friends

Friday, December 19, 2008

a quick muse on this week in publishing

December has been a cruel month for many in publishing.

My belief, as stated earlier in the blog - actually, the reason the blog was started - is that we are undergoing a profound change in the way we read. Books will not go away. It is my hope that the strong will survive.

And it is my belief we can help make this happen.

We have a choice: why not, with great discernment, choose the best words and the best art?

Let's choose to accept that great reading and inspired art can, and will, continue in many forms (many more that we might have ever thought possible) and in a variety of formats.

Does this mean fewer books? Probably.

But the ones that continue to exist can be better books: the best.

And new authors, and new illustrators, will still find ways to be seen. You're looking at one of the most efficient ways right now: this screen.

The glowing field in front of you will never trump a great tome. But it will inspire them (tomes), abet them (tomes), and bring new forms to life.

Isn't it our prerogative, as the public, to find ways to continue to support this great art?

Go buy a book. A good book.

Never stop choosing the classics.

Never stop supporting the great art of the past, and that of the present.

And keep your eyes open for new work, champion it when you see it, follow it where you can.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Window On Elizabeth Street | Peter Sis

When I am drawing pictures for a book about Prague or Tibet, for weeks or months at a time it is nice to look outside and see the real world. The models and junkies and kids from the Catholic school across the street. The dogs - one of them has a set of wheels instead of hind legs - who romp by.

What books and art did I do in this studio? Starry Messenger, Galileo Galilei, Madlenka, Tibet, The Wall. Every time transferring myself to a faraway place. Except for the character of Madlenka, who lives on a block just like this one. I have been here ever since our son Matej was born, and he is fourteen and big now.

What did I see from my window? The World Trade Center for sure - for the last time on the afternoon of September tenth. Marching processions and bands with statues of St. Anthony or St. Gennaro, lots of car crashes because of a silly stop sign on Elisabeth St., lots of bums, transvestites and panhandlers from the Bowery, the next street to the east. The transformation of a bodega, a hardware store and a shoemaker into boutiques and more boutiques. Dustin Hoffman shopping, the owner of the Connecticut Muffin café shot to death, the old italian lady sitting on her chair outside of the Albanian butcher place. Martin Scorcese grew up and slept on the fire escape in that same building. Italian home cooking on the corner of Prince and Elizabeth streets. After years of emptiness, the greasy spoon just outside my kitchen became a trendy café, the Café Habana. Lenny Kravitz shot one of his rock videos there.

The condo buildings are growing like mushrooms, and old wrinkly artists of the past are disappearing. The New Museum of Contemporary Art on the Bowery one block away means a constant flow of tourists, who are happily shopping because the dollar is so low. 

Jim Jarmusch lives across the street, but I haven’t seen him in a long time. So maybe he moved? Or maybe he is making another film in Finland?

These old tenement buildings, still full of people from Asia, have bare and dim-lit kitchens I can see into. But there are hipsters too. Models. Japanese models. People who look like characters out of Pokemon. Mafia guys in Ray’s Pizza. 

Robert Plant in the Café Gitane. David Bowie in the Brazilian restaurant. The pigment store under my studio became a handbag boutique. I will have to draw with markers now….

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Lives of the Artists

Arrived in my mail basket today. 

It is impossible to tell you how beautiful this book is. 

The artists? 
Guardi, Van Gogh, Bonnard, 
and Nevelson.

Once you have read this 
you will never forget 
they are the artists.
Or why that is important.

And you may wonder, as I do, how you might have lived
without this incarnation of beauty.


FILIJ: Peter Sis in Mexico

Peter Sis 
at the 
November 18, 2008

Monday, December 8, 2008

It's a Great Week to be in the Windy City: A Thousand Madlenkas and The Films of Sis

In 2003, Peter Sis was named a MacArthur Fellow, 
an honor bestowed 
by the 
John D. and Catherine T. 
MacArthur Foundation 
in Chicago. 
The foundation recognizes "talented individuals 
who have shown extraordinary originality 
and dedication in their creative pursuits and 
a marked capacity for self-direction."

This December, Peter Sis Returns to Chicago 
to Donate 1000 Copies of the 
Spanish version of Madlenka 
the Children of Chicago Public Schools, 
the Center for Teaching through 
Children’s Books 
at National-Louis University 
and to Participate in the 
Chicago Premiere 
of his 
Short Animated Movies at the 
Facets Cinémathèque.

Artist in Residence
Peter Sís
MacArthur Fellow 2003 
and his book 
offered as a 
gift to the 
of Chicago Public Schools
Friday, December 12, 2008, 9:30 a.m.
at José Clemente Orozco Community Academy
1940 West 18th Street 
t312-861-1037, ext. 100 or

You can also attend
A presentation of Peter Sís’s book 
The Wall 
for teachers and librarians
followed by a Q&A and book signing by the author
on Saturday, December 13, 2008
2:00 p.m. at National-Louis University’s Lisle Campus
850 Warrenville Rd, Lisle

The screening of Peter Sís’s 
Animated Films 
Facets Cinémathèque
by a Q&A and Book Signing 
by the author on 
Sunday, December 14, 2008, 12:00 p.m. 
1517 West Fullerton Ave.
Admission $9/$5 

Sunday, December 7, 2008

General Eric Shinseki

Wonderful and long-awaited news.

We have learned so much about strength from General Shinseki.  

There is no weapon more powerful than the truth. To accompany this with wisdom, patience, and good intention: this is the stuff of greatness. 

Thank you, Mr. Obama.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Maira Kalman and the Wonderful Dream


illustration from the principles of uncertainty, copyright maira kalman

What's Not to Love?

(click any word, above: delight)

Okay, Boys and Girls: Do You Wanna Scare A Little Christmas Outta Yourself?

If yes, then you're so very in luck. 

Click here for a little beaded sweat 
with which to deck your 

(I've picked films to click that might not 
feed nightmares: I, myself, was 
scared witless by 
...'nuf said?)

Each day brings a new short film. 
Courtesy of Beck and Co. (see below).

It's all so very scary but fearfully delightful.

Rumor has it that there will be a film from Peter Sis. 

Advent countdown has begun. See December 4 here. 


Dateline: Tomorrow. Hastings on Hudson, New York: Capucilli. DuPont. Howe. Jeffers. Reich. Schotter. Sis. Schories. Young.

Galapagos Books is excited to have 10 wonderful local authors and illustrators for their annual book signing event. The illustrious panel:

Alyssa Satin Capucilli
Lindsay DuPont
James Howe
Susan Jeffers
Susannah Reich
Roni Schotter
Peter Sis
Pat Schories
Ed Young

Enjoy an afternoon with incredible authors & illustrators; refreshments will be served.

December 6, 2008

11:00am - 3:00pm

Main Street
Hastings on Hudson, New York 10706

Contact Information:
Amada Abad

Art, above, by the excellent Ed Young!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I Live Here: You Need to See

The marvelous Book By Its Cover,
published by the ridiculously talented Julia Rothman,
has recently posted about a book that needs, truly, to be recognized:

by Mia Kirshner, J.B. MacKinnon,
Paul Shoebridge, Michael Simons

"This a pretty incredible book both for it’s structure and it’s content. It’s a story about refugees from four places: war in Chechnya, ethnic cleansing in Burma, globalization in Mexico and AIDS in Malawi," writes Rothman.

Click here for the rest of the story. It's important. And then...

Click here to make a difference.


Laurent de Brunhoff 
Jean de Brunhoff

December 4 to January 17, 2009
Reception: Saturday, December 6
4 - 6 pm

Please join us to celebrate The Art of Babar on Saturday, December 6 from 4 to 6pm. Laurent de Brunhoff will be in attendance and we will have pre-signed Babar books available for sale.

Mary Ryan Gallery is pleased to present The Art of Babar, an exhibition of original watercolors, drawings, and prints for the Babar books by Laurent and Jean de Brunhoff. This exhibition features a rare selection of watercolors by Jean de Brunhoff seldom seen on the market, available for sale for the first time. These exquisite illustrations are for Jean's fourth book, The ABC of Babar (1934), originally published in French. Laurent's earliest works in this exhibition come from his second book, Babar's Picnic (1949), and are shown alongside his father Jean's watercolors. Both Jean and Laurent were originally trained as fine artists, as is evident in their watercolors. These early works by Laurent resemble Jean's, but also provide examples of both artists' distinct working methods and styles.

Published illustrations by Laurent de Brunhoff from the past six decades will be on view, including works from Babar's Birthday Surprise (1970), Babar's Mystery (1978), and Babar's Museum of Art (2003). Watercolor collages on photographic backgrounds for his most recent book, Babar's USA (2008) will be exhibited in this exhibition for the first time.

Babar is one of a handful of children's book characters that has become a timeless classic with universal appeal. For more than two decades, Mary Ryan Gallery has been exhibiting the work of Jean and Laurent de Brunhoff and has been instrumental in elevating classic children's book illustration to the realm of fine art. The field of collecting children's illustration is still in its infancy and it is an exciting time to see many museums interested in collecting and exhibiting such works. It is particularly gratifying to see Drawing Babar, Early Drafts and Watercolors at the Morgan Library and Museum (September 19 to January 4, 2009), which features the first manuscripts by Jean and Laurent de Brunhoff, both recently acquired by the Museum.

For more information please contact Jordan Karney at 212.397.0669 or

Babar books have been published in 17 languages and have been in continuous print since 1931. The first seven Babar books were written and illustrated by Jean de Brunhoff. In 1946, nine years after Jean's untimely death from tuberculosis in 1937, his son Laurent wrote and illustrated his first Babar book at the age of 19. Since then, Laurent has completed nearly 40 Babar books. Mary Ryan Gallery has been the exclusive representative for the art of Laurent de Brunhoff and the estate of Jean de Brunhoff since 1986.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

If Only Little Roger Had Had One of These

I saw one of these kits yesterday, and almost bought it for my sister (your birthday is imminent, happy girl!). She and I created libraries for our books, and her filing system was always precise, a wonder to behold (my filing started off well, but I'd get bookshelves looked pretty good, though: utilitarian, but somehow was 1969, after all).

Thus, it amused me to see Roger Sutton's comment this morning...sounds as though he had date-due paditis, also. 

And how odd that, when I skipped over, seconds after Reading Roger, to another favorite blogger - the delectable Cup of Jo - she'd just posted what we'd all been dreaming of. (Thank you, dear Jo. You are part March, perhaps?) Roger and Lindi and I might have loved finding this personal library kit under the tree (lo, those many years ago!), don't you think? 

Ah, the power of the date-due. I used to watch in awe as the stamp went down on the book, marking it forever, giving me an expiration chill. Had to get home and read, quickly, before my time was up. 

So much better to stamp it yourself (or just create your own art, as little Roger did).

Pardon Our Mud

Ah, sometimes keeping up with two blogs four kids a dog a husband a house and a job makes things a little muddy. 

We are making mudpies over @victoriathornedesign. So, you might go see?

And we are quite behind in announcing (or elaborating upon) some wonderful events and so on and so forth. Please stay tuned and have patience, goodies are on the way. (As soon as my office has shifted back into place...we did a bit of house&room juggling over thanksgiving).

Here's Mud in Your Eye.