• the vestigial tales

    It's been a long time since I've had any illustration work to share here, but over the past few months I've had the incredibly fun job of illustrating the covers for the Vestigial Tales, a series of short stories by my childhood friend Laura Lam. The Tales are stories and novellas of varying lengths set within the fantasy world of Ellada, a world Laura introduced with her young adult novels Pantomime and Shadowplay (there is a third, as-yet-unfinished full length novel in that series). I love Laura's writing, and the kid inside me still loves fantasy, so it's no surprise that I loved Laura's books as well. Here are the covers:

    The Snake CharmThe Tarot Reader, and The Card Sharp all focus on characters found in Pantomime and Shadowplay - in a sense, they're little prequels, filling in backstory. The Fisherman's Net is a sort of Elladan fairy tale. Ellada is a world that was once inhabited and ruled by the Alder—mysterious beings who vanished, leaving behind only scattered artifacts of unknown power, called Vestige. Vestige artifacts feature in all of these stories (and in fact, on their covers as well), hence the Vestigial tales. Because Ellada is a world of circus and magic and fortune telling, we decided to fashion the covers after tarot cards, using the infamous Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck (now in the public domain) as a style guide and source of inspiration.

    The Tales are being released in ebook format only at this point, and it was interesting illustrating and designing for a digital-only release. As an owner of an original Kindle Touch, with the unlit black and white screen, I wanted to make sure these rendered well in that format, which was always in the back of my mind. I also drew these out on paper first before scanning the linework and coloring digitally, which isn't typically my method for illustrating (though it is for hand lettering). It was really nice to get back to pen and paper, and I'm quite fond of what the covers and their pieces look like in their plain linework WIP forms:

    I'd love to collaborate again with Laura in the future, and I'm so grateful for the chance to work on something so different than what I normally do. It was great fun and I really enjoyed the stories, as well (for the record, The Tarot Reader is my favorite). If you're interested in the sound of Laura's writing I encourage you to head over to her website to learn more about her books. US Amazon links follow:


    The Snake Charm
    The Fisherman's Net
    The Tarot Reader
    The Card Sharp

  • reykjavík so far

    Hello from Reykjavík, where we're halfway through DesignMarch 2014 and the Reykjavík Fashion Festival!

    I've been posting on Instagram since arriving, as have Cirilia and Stephen, and I put a bunch of our photos into the montage above. If you want to follow along, you can follow us at @cakeandvikings, @cirilia, and @westknits.

    First of all, Iceland is beautiful. I may be here for the design and fashion events (and to galavant around with buddies) but it wouldn't be that hard to skive off and stare at the landscape or out over the rooftops all day instead. Truly. 

    I arrived early in the morning on Tuesday. I had the Flybus drop me off at Reykjavík Downtown Hostel, near my friend Peter's place, which worked out well for me because I could have a coffee (I didn't sleep on the overnight flight) and some breakfast while I waited for Peter. We got to spend the day together, but I also got to get some work done and take a nap (very necessary).

    Stephen and his friend Barbara (of Chillimint) arrived from Amsterdam later that day, and Cirilia arrived the next morning. Our days thus far have consisted of a lot of coffee, snacks, and knitting. And outfit changes. Reykjavík is known for its street style but I'm not sure this city's residents can hold a candle to these guys. 

    Cirilia, Stephen, and Barbara headed down the hill to Harpa for Thursday's opening day Design Talks. I love how Harajuku Cirilia's pimped-lopapeysa look feels.

    post-coffee on Wednesday

    I feel positively tame standing next to them, swathed in black, white, and grey (right down to the lopapeysa I bought at the Handknitting Association today, seen in the Instagram montage above). But I feel like me, so it works.

    Opening day's talks on Thursday were really excellent (you can read about the programming on the DesignMarch website here). "Design" is such a diverse, broad term, and the wide range of speakers really drove that point home. The morning started off with two speakers who work in urban planning & design situations, and one of them, Kathryn Firth, might have been my favorite speaker of the day. She's working on the ongoing redesign of Olympic Park in London in the wake of the 2012 Olympics, and I have to admit I hadn't given much thought before to what happens to all the giant Olympics complexes after the games.

    After lunch the talks switched gears: we had some tech talk first (with Robert Wong from Google) and then moved on to fashion, with Mikael Schiller from Acne Studios and finally Calvin Klein. The Google talk was good, and about what you'd expect: Robert was charming in a humble, not-smooth-talking kind of way, with funny quips and emotional hooks and appropriately placed "instructional videos" that are totally ads, no matter what Google claims. I got caught up in the moment during his talk, and found my feelings toward Google (which are mostly good, but I do have some grievances) shifting in a more positive direction. After his talk, however, I came down from this magic Cloud (I guess Glass isn't a great thing to stand on) and realized I'd just been expertly emotionally manipulated. High five, Google. You're winning whatever game you're playing and it still makes me uncomfortable.

    I really enjoyed Mikael from Acne's talk. He was funny and genuine and seems generally bemused that people like what his company is doing (though of course he works very hard to make it so that people do). I probably won't buy their jeans or other clothes, but Acne's really on the up right now.

    Calvin Klein... well, he's undeniably a legend. Instead of giving a presentation like the other speakers did, his talk was in the form of an interview, and his interviewer was Icelandic designer Steinunn (a former employee of his). It was clear that CK and Steinunn have somewhat of a special relationship and the utmost respect for each other, which is lovely, but it made for a pretty vanilla interview, I must admit. I'm very glad to have heard Calvin Klein speak at all, and he gave some great advice for aspiring designers, but it would've been a much richer and more interesting interview if his interlocutor had been willing to bring up critique or controversy, or anything other than glowing praise. Perhaps if you're Calvin Klein, you have the authority (or maybe the ego) to pretend critical analysis doesn't apply to you and choose your interviewers accordingly. He was so casual when he mentioned hanging out in the Hamptons and deciding to send his personal plane to Boston to fly Marky Mark down to talk about underwear... and it was at that moment that I realized how far Calvin Klein's reality was from mine, or most of the other people in this world. Nonetheless, it was interesting to hear his story and I'm grateful I had the opportunity. 


    The weather the morning of Design Talks was gorgeous, and we took advantage of the gorgeous light outside Harpa (reflected off the geometric, multi-colored windows) and snapped a few goofy photos:

    I have more to write about what we've done so far (especially the National Museum!), but I think I'll save that for the next post. Until then!

  • the new paper tiger hq

    A few weeks ago I made a very exciting decision - I signed a lease on a studio/office space for Paper Tiger! While there are some things I loved about working from home, I feel like making the leap to a workspace outside the home has been a fantastic decision for my creative work. Change can be a little scary, but over the past few weeks I've been working on putting together a bright, inviting space that is both comfortable and inspiring. It's still a work in progress, and there are a few more pieces of furniture I need to procure before it's "done" and presentable, but I thought I would share a sneak peek of a few details of the space in progress!

    For those who are curious: the succulent is Burro's Tail; the teal fabric on the wall is a Michael Miller print I bought at Drygoods Design (available here); the ombré curtain is from Target; the dreamy pendant lamp is the Garland Light by Tord Boontje; the mirror with Norwegian on it says "to dream and to do"; and the coat rack yarn holder was totally my husband's idea.

  • inspiration: beautiful angle

    I'm a longtime fan of anything letterpressed, and while I've been making posters and doing other design for years, there are a few tangible design mediums I haven't yet had a lot of experience with. Letterpress is one of those, and the other week I finally got a chance to see the process in person (and even help out a little bit!).

    Beautiful Angle is a letterpress studio in Tacoma, WA run by Lance Kagey that's constantly turning out really wonderful stuff. Once a month, Lance and writer Tom Llewellyn (along with friends and collaborators) make a run of posters to put up around Tacoma. On top of the monthly Beautiful Angle posters, Lance often does posters for events in the area. I got a chance to look through the huge backlog of posters they've built up while we worked on pressing some posters for upcoming Wintergrass. I couldn't help grabbing a few photos while down there...

    Some custom letters Lance designed himself.

    The portion of the Wintergrass posters we were pressing that night.

    Lance's gorgeous vintage letterpress.

    Letterpress is an art that's tangible in a way that many things in our lives aren't anymore. In such a digital age I find it refreshing to work with my hands and it helps me really appreciate the physical result of such a time-tested craft. I'm looking forward to spending more time with this medium in the future.

    Posters drying.

    And here are just a few examples of the work Beautiful Angle has done:

  • inspiration: hum creative

    There's a lot of talented design studios in Seattle, and one of my larger inspirations of late is Hum Creative. Kate Harmer has a style that is bright and clean and full of character, which translates well in both print and web. She has a serious flair for typography, and I think her work is showcased especially well when letterpress printed. Being a sucker for good typography and letterpress myself, it's no wonder she's a favorite.

    Logo & business cards for Seattle photographer/creative manager Sarah Jurado

    Some of my favorite projects of Kate's are her interactive ones. What Comes To Mind? "in­structs view­ers to make con­nec­tions be­tween the image and the let­ter print­ed over it" via a series of photos removed from context. Each photo is juxtaposed with a letter of the alphabet and a lined card for viewers to write down their associations.

    Another favorite interactive project is Methods Employed, a collaborative list of methods people have suggested for creative endeavors. It's full of (as the name would suggest) methods, advice, ideas, and general thoughts on the creative process. I enjoyed reading through the list and even added a few myself!

    Kate's a talented illustrator too, and I fully recommend checking out her full portfolio.

  • on hand lettering

    In a world dominated by almost infinite type, the art of hand lettering has lost some of the prevalence it once held. From time to time it's possible to become disenchanted with even your most favorite typefaces (I am certainly guilty of this) - the uniformity becomes overbearing. The uniqueness of handmade lettering helps it escape that fate, but the best hand lettering doesn't look "handmade," either. When someone compliments my lettering by saying that they "love the font," I consider it a job well done. I have focused increasingly on hand lettering in my work in the past few years, and I recently got a chance to put my skills into action for some larger projects.

    In December, Red Kettle Records approached me about doing some lettering for the album artwork of the then-upcoming Youth Rescue Mission album. In the end my lettering made it onto not just the front cover, but also the back, for the track titles.

    Another project that came up was for my friend Sarah Jurado. Having managed her husband Damien's career for some time, Sarah announced early this year that she would also be managing the band Viva Voce and launching Lightness Management to cover her managing duties. Sarah asked me to create a logo for this new venture, and I was more than happy to oblige. The end product is a little sleeker than the Youth Rescue Mission work, but they both started off as pencil sketches on paper. There's something deeply satisfying about that process, and I'm looking forward to doing more lettering like this on future projects.

  • on home and community

    Many people have a lot of pride for their hometown or their home state - I grew up in North Carolina and even though I haven't lived there for several years, I still carry around a little replica of the state's silhouette on my keychain. It reminds me to think about home. But there's more than one meaning to that one word: home. There's the home you came from, and then there's the home you choose. The home you make for yourself. The friends you surround yourself with who, while they may not be your blood relatives, are like your family. Washington state is that home for me, and I've noticed that folks around here have a lot of Washington pride (myself included). Seattle is a city with a pretty sizable population of transplants; I know plenty of folks who uprooted their lives and moved out here to take a chance on Seattle. And we may not have grown up with Mariners baseball or the Kingdome or Fisher and West on the radio in the morning, but we love this city all the same.

    Last fall my friends Damien and Sarah were spending some time with me after they got home from tour. I'd started making my "hello" maps, and after Damien saw one and proclaimed "that's awesome!", he said, "You should make one that's Washington State and just says 'home.'" Friends, let this be evidence of Damien's genius.

    Now, remember when I was talking about the home you choose, and the friends that are you like your family? Damien and Sarah are that for me. Without going into all the boring details, they were there for me at a time when I needed them immensely, and I wanted to give them something meaningful for Christmas. I remembered Damien's Washington "home" suggestion and came up with two things: the sign and the sticker you see below:

    Damien put the sticker on his guitar. My friends immediately began asking for stickers and signs of their own. I only made nine signs, but I kept making stickers, and those are available via Luckyhorse Industries. As you can see at the top of this post, the graphic from the sign is now on T-shirts - the lyrics came from a song by our friends The Head and the Heart and they recently approached me about putting it on some shirts exclusively for their two upcoming Seattle shows. I was thrilled to oblige (and happily, Luckyhorse Industries also printed the shirts).

    My friend Abbey from local music blog Sound on the Sound loved the WA home stickers so much, she got the design tattooed on her arm:

    I have been trying to write this post for weeks now, and failing, because this feeling of home is so much bigger than just a few friends. There's a strong feeling of community in Seattle right now, which has been much discussed and written about (check out the March issue of City Arts Magazinefor some examples). I'm just grateful to be part of such an inspiring community and I can't wait to spend some time behind the merch table at the Head and the Heart's sold out Showbox gig tomorrow night, meeting people who love this community and this state just as much as we do.