I added the little bird character late in the design phase. Savi seemed so alone on the beach after her mother leaves and I thought she needed an escort of sorts. Cecelia Yung, the art director, liked the addition and wrote, “About the bird: maybe he can be her “guardian angel”-someone who hovers protectively so that she’s never truly alone. He would be a comforting presence for the child who worries when Savi is alone in the dark. Maybe he can make his appearance when Savi’s mother leaves?”
A few months before the artwork was due, I faced the inevitable and admitted that I would not be able to make the one year deadline. I called Cecilia and told her that I needed more time. She was understanding enough to extend the publication date another 6 months.
Through the fall and winter, I added the finishing touches, stitching blades of grass and hand sewing the floss edge around the border sections.
I was particularly fussy about the shadows, which were made up of different colored stitches. I kept thinking of something my teacher, Mahler Ryder had said years earlier at RISD, that shadows are not black, but are made up of colors.
I was saving the book jacket illustration for last and imagined how it would look while I stitched the other pages. I took a mental inventory of what materials would be needed and was shocked to discover I’d forgotten about the sky fabric. I had used every last inch of Peter’s overalls on the inside artwork. I had none left for the cover illustration, the most important of all! This was a drawback of working with unconventional materials. If I worked in watercolor, this would never happen!
I had dealt with insufficient supplies before. I would have to find something similar, but the weave and shade were unique to an older line of Osh Gosh clothing. before I could work myself into a tizzy, the same fabric literally walked into view.
My friend, Terry came over with her 2-year old daughter, Molly, who was wearing a pair of jeans made out of the same light blue fabric! Terry is a seamstress and fabric lover, so she was not at all surprised when I asked her if I could have Molly’s pants when she outgrew them, which appeared to be imminent. I’ve kept the pants and when I hold them up at talks, they always get a reaction from both young and old audiences.
The extra 6 months made it possible for me to finish by the new deadline in the Spring of ’90. I packed up the illustrations and shipped them to New York. After the editors at MacMillan had a chance to look them over, Cecilia drove the artwork over to Gamma One in the city. Gamma One has a “painting with light” system that works well for textured work. During the minutes-long exposure time, light moves slowly back and forth, helping to define the dimensionality of the art. The 8 x 10 color transparencies were then color corrected to match my original art.
Cecilia suggested we put an explanation of my technique on the last page.
“The original pictures for this book were made in fabric relief. This art form includes many techniques, including applique, embroidery, wrapping, dyeing, and soft sculpture. The background fabric was dyed and then sewed together. Three-dimensional pieces were made from a variety of materials, including covered and stuffed cardboard shapes, wrapped wire, found objects, and fabric. Details were embroidered onto the shapes and background and then the three-dimensional shapes were sewn into place. All stitching was done by hand.”
To be continued in The Way Home (part 5).