Friday, March 25, 2016

Miami Slice

When I'm not illustrating a book, it's accessories time! I play around with the many jewelry and handbag ideas that have been piling up in my brain.

But no matter what I've got on the to-do list for the day, in the past two years or so, my mornings start with eating breakfast while watching my favorite 80's cop show - full of dramatic scenes with synthesizer music, boat-chases, pastel designer linen suits and palm trees - you know the show ;) Best theme song ever.

Last March, after my first trip to Florida (thanks, cousin Jen!) I was inspired to create a collection of handbags based on the tropical vibes of that trip, the TV show, and my memories of growing up in the tropics with tall, waving palm trees and bright colors. (side note- I used to watch this 80's cop show as a kid in the Ivory Coast too. I have a thing for cop shows, it's weird)

Majestic fan palms and deep blue sky!

While in Florida, I had so many flashbacks to life in the Ivory Coast: the warm humid air, the hibiscus and bougainvillea flowers, coconut trees, fan palms, sunny beaches, the produce... it was really like going back in time!


The photo on the right is of the very first coconut tree I'd seen in eighteen years! I wanted to take it home! Ahh, now I'm thirsty for coconut water... 

So during our trip, I loaded up my new fancy smartphone with photos of palm trees, flowers, beach scenes, etc. When I got home, I printed some of the photos on fabric sheets and sewed them into purses for my Something IvoryCoasty line! I named the collection- you guessed it- the Miami Slice Collection. I created a few screen-print designs and printed them on top of some of the photographic images too.



(I played with printing the images in different hues for a playful, retro effect)

Oh, and also, last year is when I started becoming obsessed with tassels, so some of the bags have tassels attached to the zippers. This spring, the tassel obsession has evolved into earrings- more on that in a future post.

I sold some of the pieces at the yearly art show and sale in my neighborhood called Art on Lark. Look for my Something IvoryCoasty booth this summer at Art on Lark too! I will have sooooo many tassel earrings, I promise.

Friday, March 11, 2016

OK, I'm back.

I'll chalk it up to a combination of laziness and busy-ness, but It's been over a year since I last wrote a post, so I'm getting back into the swing of things with a round-up of the whirlwind of activities from 2015:

Firstly, I was happy to have Miranda Paul (from Green bay, WI), the author of my sixth illustrated children's book, and Isatou Ceesay (from the Gambia, West Africa), the real-life hero of the book One Plastic Bag: Isatou Cesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia, visit Albany during their book tour!

Let me start off by saying how special it is for me to be able to meet the author of one of my books. That rarely happens! (It is often assumed that children's books happen with the author and illustrator working side-by-side, but that is not so- I as the illustrator work alone, like a hermit, in my apartment after I'm hired by the book publisher to illustrate a book) It's not until I've finished the illustrations that I even reach out to the author, if they have not contacted me yet.

And to be able to meet the subject of a book I've done is even more rare! Isatou Ceesay is the first for me! I felt like I knew her from my research and illustrations, but shaking the hand of the lady herself was amazing.

We started off Miranda and Isatou's week in Albany with an Art for All event at the Albany Institute of History and Art, just a few blocks from my home.

Isatou with fans and their recycled art creations

Isatou brought a HUGE bag of recycled items made by the women in her village in N'Jau, Gambia.
They make recycled plastic bag coin purses (like in the book!), mini soccer balls, keychains and jewelry.

We used colorful plastic and paper bags.. 
... to make beautiful collages!


Next on the One Plastic Bag Albany tour was story-time at Fiamma's Enchanted Cafe in Altamont.

What good listeners!

We had the opportunity to do a book signing at my favorite local bookstore, the Little Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza. I used to go there during the summers as a little kid! 

Miranda Paul, Isatou Ceesay and myself, standing in front of the mini house that kids (and limber enough grown-ups) can sit inside of to read!

Isatou demonstrated how she can cut one plastic bag into one very long strip! In the book, she and her friends teach themselves how to crochet with these longs strips of plastic, which they use as thread to make recycled plastic bag purses.

If you're curious about the process, check out this YouTube video of Isatou doing her demonstration: 

(I had to watch this like five times to figure out how to do it myself)

Next came a school-wide assembly at Tamarac Elementary School, in Brunswick/Brittonkill, 

Presentations and workshops at Brown School in Schenectady, 

and at Wildwood School in Schenectady. Students created loads of recycled art projects, and they even wrote a song about One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia!

Collaged "Welcome to Wildwood" sign.

Still lifes with recycled plastic bottles and paper flowers.

A collaborative classroom art piece with a chicken wire screen and plastic bag strips.

What a great way to end Isatou and Miranda's visit! 

Book store staff recommendation!

For more information and upcoming events featuring the book One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia, check out