Thursday, August 9, 2012

Some background and progress on Handmade Fairytales

Whenever I'm asked what Handmade Family makes I say stories...Actually, that's a lie. I just now thought of it, but it sounded so good, that I honestly want it to be true. Maybe I will start saying that for real. The real truth, is that we make back-to-basics gifts, toys, accessories and decor that promote education, problem solving and imagination. We're more than the products we make though, and we know that our customers are more than what they buy...we make things to be a part our families' lives. Stories are an important part of that, and we love telling them. When Abby was born, I knew that I wanted to collect these little experiences and illustrate them, so I started a little web comic called Daily Life. One panel cartoons with some accompanying text. I did several of them over the course of a year or two, and then decided to make a calendar collecting twelve stories about my first year as a stay-at-home dad my two little girls.

Looking for an idea for the second calendar was tough. I wanted to still tell stories about my family, but was looking for a way to stretch my abilities a little and offer something that people who didn't know me, and who didn't have that back story could relate to. Part of what inspired me as a kid, and made me want to follow a career in art was a love of movies and games. I remember being a member of the Rebel Alliance, or a Ghostbuster on the playground. Movies have become a part of our cultural dialog and there's such a rich source of material to play with there. One of the really fun aspects of that project was researching accurate costumes for the kids, while thinking of ways to make costumes for the adults that made sense but were obviously hand made.

I've enjoyed working on these projects so much, and have learned so much by doing them. This year though, I wasn't sure whether I was going to do one. I talked to Mrs Handmade about it and while we both agreed that the fan inspired work for 2012 was really cool and we love showing it, maybe we could do something more...So we decided to do a book. At first, I wanted to do just a "sketchbook" collection of drawings and illustrations. Sort of a best of the last couple years with some new work to tie it together. She thought (rightly) that it would be better to do a book of all new work, and to continue telling stories. So we decided to work on an illustrated book of Fairy Tales. As we talked out the idea, it grew. And grew...Into the most ambitious project we've done so far. The book will contain 12 fairy tales, written graciously (and incredibly) by our friends, with illustrations, layout and design by me. Along with this is the 2013 Handmade Family with us and the kids acting out the stories as illustrated theatre...
Brandon Graham, with The Brave Little Tailor
Justin Hunter, with Goldielocks, The Fox & The Crow, and The Frog Prince
Josh Burnett with Hansel and Gretel
Leighton Connor with The Princess and The Pea, and The Seven Ravens
Richard Smith with Jack and the Beanstalk, and an original story about my forest sprites
Rob Lammle with Thumbelina
Steve Johnson
with The Emperors New Clothes, and Little Red Riding Hood

So would you like to see a little bit of what we've been working on? Here's a couple of the pencil drawings from the Brave Little Tailor, by Brandon Graham

“Seven,” he said. He would have to swat them all at once. If he missed even one, he would be stung for certain. Stings were not his favorite. He found his straw broom and tested its heft. He aimed carefully. Then he let fly. SMACK. Seven wasps curled harmlessly along the ground.
“Did you see that?” he called to his sheep. The sheep were hard to impress.

He was, however, truly miffed that no one had bothered to warn him the giant was there. Meridee might have said something. Poor manners were inexcusable. He turned on his heels to go back and give her a good talking to.
We're all really excited about this project and are looking forward to sharing the ideas and progress  with you over the next few weeks as we lead up to their release at the Strange Folk Festival in O'fallon IL, at the end of September. Until then, take care and be good.

Your friend,

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