Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Little Houses on the Hillside...Crafting Strangefolk

Last year when were deciding what we wanted to be when we grew up, Mrs Handmade and I went to a lot of craft shows and festivals, testing the waters of the indie-craft scene. In late September, we went to the Strangefolk Festival in O'fallon Il. We were hooked. I wrote about the show afterwards, and remember how excited I was about it. Shows were definately something we wanted to do, and Strangefolk was at the top of our list. With the festival coming up this weekend, I've apparently decided to test the limits of "mind over matter" as I stay up doing client work, working on the Handmade Tales book, and getting new product ready for the show...Building a little neighborhood of little houses and people, in fact.

These little handmade playhouses started out life as a doodle on my desk blotter and have grown into these. There are two types, above are the Deluxe version where the face is painted, and the interior has a chalk board paint coating so that kids can customize their inner playhouse.
There's also the anywhere version with both faces painted with chalkboard paint to allow for maximum versatility in scenario location. I'm really excited to show these this weekend, and will be adding them to our online shop as well after the festival. 
In other news Brandon Graham, who I collaborated with on the Brave Little Tailor story in the Handmade Tales book has printed out the spreads of his story and my artwork to be included in a show in Chicago. How awesome is that? Next week, in conjunction with that I will post that layout here, as well as a downloadable pdf with the preorders for the book in our online shop...but more on that later. :)

Until next week then, take care and be good!
Your friend, 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Brave Little Tailor: Illustration Process

When I started this years big personal project, I knew it was going to be a lot of work...and boy was I right. As I'm nearing completion though, I'm really pleased with how it's all coming out. It's been really rewarding on so many levels. The friend's I've made, collaborating with writers, not to mention I have a large new body of work rolling out for the winter shows. One of the things I really like about doing these special yearly projects though, is seeing how the work changes from year to year, thinking about how the family has grown, and all the new things we do and are capable of doing. I'm really lucky to be able to do the things we do, and am so happy to share it with you all.

Today, I have a large set of images to share for the first complete calendar image. Showcasing the climactic scene of "The Brave Little Tailor", the idea is that the kids and us are acting out each of the stories in a theater setting. As I've been designing these, I feel like our love of the muppets and puppetry are really showing, and I'm reminded of one of the reasons I began drawing in the first place. In high school, I wanted to be a puppeteer and work in the Henson Creature shop. At any rate, This is my basic process for creating an image. I hope you enjoy it!

I started off with the thumbnails at the right of the page (the full size version is at the top of the post), and then rough in the major forms. I'm working at about 9x12 on bristol board.
Next, I pencil in the details of the characters, and firm up some of my ideas for the background.
Then, I ink the main characters and scan them into the computer. Without the background.
I put the background together in illustrator, right on top of the original pencil drawing. I also paint in a base color for the characters to help isolate them and unify their color schemes.
Here I put the final calendar layout over everything to make sure it all fits. I add a texture to the page, as well as paper textures to the background elements. I lay down color on all the foreground elements quickly to give everything a base to start from.
 The Characters are painted.
 Here I added some details to the background like the stage floor, shadows cast by the set, and the theater spotlight.
 And last I went in and added some detail to the set pieces, finished up the floor and added some sheep to fill in some dead spaces.

Thanks for stopping in. I hope this all made some kind of sense. I enjoy posting about process, so I hope you all enjoy reading about it. Ha-ha-ha!  If you have any questions or comments, I'd love to hear from you. 
Until next time, take care and be good!
Your friend,

Friday, September 7, 2012

Superheroes Need Groceries, Too

One of the great things about making things that we love and selling them is that sometimes we get to see them out "in the wild". Mrs. Handmade has been making superhero cape and mask sets for awhile now, and we always love to see the way kid's eyes light up when they see them. They are durable and washable and make a great asset to any kids dress-up box.

A friend of ours posted a picture of her kids wearing our capes and masks to the grocery store today. "Superheroes need groceries, too." She says. :)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Handmade Fairy Tails: A Version of Thumbelina

I like to write. I like to draw. I like to paint...unfortunately, I don't always have time to do all of these things. Ha-ha-ha! When I was initially concepting the Handmade Fairy Tales project, I knew I wanted to have an updated version of each of the stories to go along with the illustrations. I knew it was going to be an ambitious project, but we like books and wanted something that families could share. We also wanted something a little darker than the mainstream because we don't like the idea of insulting our children's intelligence. So far, I like to think that they pay us back for that.

     It's hard for me to give up control of projects. I don't feel like I'm a good delegator, and I'm used to working alone. I am however blessed with several very talented friends, and after thinking hard about how much work I needed to get done I asked around to see if anyone was interested in doing a little writing for me. I am SO GLAD I did! Not only are the stories all done, but they're all done on time and are really great. It's been a real treat seeing them come together from the ground up, and as I'm nearing finishing the artwork I'm really looking forward to sharing them with you!

     Rob Lammle, from wrote a two fantastic versions of Thumbelina for us. The first was a modernized take on the classic tale, it's funny and clever, and I think captures the characters well. Unfortunately, it didn't really fit with the rest of the content in the book so he decided to go a different way with it. I didn't want it to go totally unused though, so I asked if it would be okay to showcase it here along with the illustrations for the actual story...I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did.


by Rob Lammle

Thumbelina sipped her thimbleful of Caramel Macchiato with seven drops of vanilla, light foam, extra caramel, and non-fat milk while she leaned on the side of her iPhone, waiting for it to connect to the coffee shop’s notoriously weak, but free, wifi.  It had been a long day at the office – tax season, ya know? – and she’d earned this small caffeinated, sugary respite. 
She glanced at her Gmail app icon with disdain.  It had been staring at her all afternoon; glaring with its silent, but accusatory “5” just above the red-lined envelope.
Thumbelina sighed.  Might as well get it over with.  She tapped on the icon and the program opened.

Inbox (5)
Hi, LittleWoman34! My name is Nancy Toad. I saw your profile on and I just had to write and tell you about my son, Todd.

Todd is 36 years old. He's the Assistant Manager at the mini-mart on Marsh St. He’s worked there since he was 16, so loyalty is obviously very important to him. He’s intelligent, very polite, takes care of his laundry most of the time, and never makes me cook for him (although sometimes I make him a home-cooked meal so that he'll eat something other than those microwave Hot Pocket things). He’s very independent, but insists on staying at home to take care of me ever since his father became the lunch special at that horrible Freddy's Frog Legs Restaurant back when Todd was just a tadpole. Isn’t that sweet?
So, LittleWoman34 (if that is your real name haha!), Todd would love to meet you. He normally works Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am – 4pm, so any other time would be fine.

Nancy Purloin Toad

Inbox (4)

So I’ve been talking to my sister and her friends, and they say you’re not pretty enough for me. I mean, you only have two legs. You have beady little non-segmented eyes. You have a strange mouth. No feelers on your head. Heck, you don’t even have wings.

I mean, I'm sorry, but I'm just being honest - it's not me, it's you. I think I’m just too much insect for you. I’m looking for a real May Bug, not some weird little human. So, anyway, yeah, I’ll see you around.

Mitch Cockchafer

Inbox (3)
Hi, Thumbelina!

It’s your old (very old. haha) friend, Mouse.

Guess who stopped by my burrow today? That’s right – that dark and handsome man in the velvet coat, Mole.

He said he came just to say hello, but all he could talk about was you, my dear. He just went on and on about how pretty you were, how much he loved your singing voice, how you were such a good cook, etc. He asked if you’d ever dated an older man. He didn’t come right out and say it, but, c'mon, he has to be interested.

Oh, Thumbelina, if you and Mole got together… He’s so smart and sophisticated. He has more food than you two would ever need. And his burrow – his burrow is HUGE! It’s at least twenty times bigger than my little place (and you and I were pretty comfortable that winter you stayed with me. Imagine having Mole’s house to roam around in!)

Anyway, think about it and let me know what I should tell him the next time he comes around.

Love ya,
Tanya Field Mouse

Inbox (2)
Hi there, LittleWoman34!

Look, there's no easy way to say this, so...

I think you're really great, but I think we should just be friends. It's just that, I'm only here for the winter, so I don't want either one of us to get too attached. I really do wish there was some way we could make this work, but with me migrating all the's just not the kind of life that a woman like you should have. Besides, you've seen my place – it's far too messy for someone as great as you.

But, seriously, if you want to get dinner sometime or coffee, I'd love to see you again. Maybe this could be the beginning of a great friendship. I hope so, anyway.

Talk to you later.
Jack Swallow

Inbox (1)
Hi, LittleWoman34!

My name is Prince. I'm 25. I live in the forest, where I'm King of the Flower Spirits (it's a living). I saw your profile and, well, you are stunning! Not to sound too creepy, but if you were here right now, I'd probably just ask you to marry me straight out. I know, crazy, right?

I know we'd have to get to know each other better first, but if you'd be interested, you'd have your own pair of wings so you can flit around the meadow where we'd live. Of course, with the title of Queen of the Flower Spirits comes a name change (hope you don't mind). It's totally up to you, but I see you as a May Blossom; I think that has a nice ring.

Did I mention the golden crown? Because there's a golden crown, too.

Anyway, if you're interested, check out my profile and hit me up.

Hope to hear from you soon.
 Thumbelina tapped on the link to Prince's profile.  It took a while for the webpage to come up (shoddy, free wifi...), but when it finally did, Thumbelina gasped.  The tiny man in the photos was, for lack of a better word, beautiful.

The photos were pretty typical for a dating profile: the obligatory pet picture (he has an adorable little aphid!), the common groomsmen photo of him in a tiny tuxedo, Prince in his rock climbing gear as he tackled the dizzying heights of a garden gnome, etc.   In each photo, he flashed a kind, warm smile.  His silver hair shimmered in the sun.  His transparent, dragonfly wings mesmerized Thumbelina; she'd never seen anything like them. 

But the one photo that got her, the one that reeled her in, was taken at dawn as the sun rose over the meadow.  The light refracted by the morning dew gave the whole thing an otherworldly glow.  Prince sat cross-legged on the center of a daisy, looking into the glorious morning below.  The sun hit his face just right and he looked totally at peace.  He was in his element.  That is where he belonged.  And suddenly, Thumbelina wanted to belong there, too.

She tapped on the “Contact” button at the top of his profile.  Her Gmail popped up.
                Hi, Prince.

                My name is Thumbelina (AKA LittleWoman34). 

                Wanna get coffee sometime?

 Until next time, take care and be good!
Your friend,