Kimberly Newton Fusco’s Studio Tour

caToday on Tuesday Tours I’m very excited to welcome Kimberly Newton Fusco, the author of three of my favorite books. My daughter and I’ve read The Wonder of Charlie Anne more than once, and we always tease each other with one of the reoccurring lines, “A proper lady…” If you haven’t read The Wonder of Charlie Anne, what are you waiting for? Head out to the bookstore or library and dive it. Kimberly’s other book Tending to Grace is a beautiful short and poetic read. It’s a book I could easily have finished in a day, but I wanted to savor it, so I forced myself to only read a chapter each night. Beholding Bee is one of my first encounters with magical realism and it definitely had me thinking long after the final page. Today Kim shares her writing spaces in her home in Rhode Island, where she tends to her family, her sheep, the cat, a new puppy, and her books, but not always in that order.

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unnamedTell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium. 
I am a fiction writer for young people and I feel unbelievably lucky that I get to do what I have wanted to do since the sixth-grade.

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
We built a new house ten years ago with an office in the front so that I could watch my children getting off the bus. But, I can write anywhere, and I do: outdoors in our sheep field, in a coffee shop, in one of several lawn chairs I have set up in the woods behind our house. When I’m outdoors, I use a journal. Indoors, I bring my laptop to a comfy couch in our living room—my favorite spot because I can make a big roaring fire in fall and winter. I know some people love writing retreats, but I can make my own retreats at home and I wonder, what could be better than this?
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Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start writing?
My alarm rings at 5:30 and after a cup of coffee I make breakfast and lunch for my husband and daughter (my other three children are in college or grad school or graduated from college and working).  I drive my daughter to school, take some quiet/spiritual time, run a couple of miles on my treadmill, care for our animals (two sheep, a cat, and a new puppy), and then begin writing. I write throughout the morning and often return to it in the afternoon after some exercise.

Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
Pictures of my children growing up cover my office. They remind me that love and family are truly the most important things and both are important themes in all my books.

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If you had the chance to live inside the world of one of your stories, which one would you pick and why?

I love them all, but I guess I would pick the novel I am working on now because I am so involved in the lives of my characters in Me and Gloaty Gus. In order to write a novel, I become my characters and walk around in their shoes.  It’s the only way I know how to write fiction.

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What’s the biggest distraction for you when you’re writing? How do you deal with it?

Right now it’s our new golden retriever puppy, Harper. She is three months, and a handful.  We have her crate-trained so when she is in the crate, I write. There’s always a distraction when you work from home, though, and I think it’s a matter of coming up with creative solutions that work for everyone in the family.

If you had to pick a quote to hang above your desk for inspiration, what would it be?

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What other artists, writers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
I am very inspired by the poet Jane Kenyon and the advice she gives me each day:
“Be a good steward of your gifts. Protect your time. Feed your inner life. Avoid too much noise. Read good books, have good sentences in your ears. Be by yourself as often as you can. Walk. Take the phone off the hook. Work regular hours.”

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If you could relocate your studio for part of the year to another geographical location, where would it be?
Well, we had a particularly rough winter last year in New England, so as much as I love writing by a crackling fire with the snow coming down outside my window, too many days of this gets a little daunting, so perhaps someplace warmer, but I would miss my family so much that I would be back the next day.5

What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
It is nice to have a spot, but I think it is even more important to be flexible and write wherever and whenever you can. I wrote my first novel, Tending to Grace, in bits when my children were napping or playing in the treehouse. A little time can go a long way if you are disciplined. I try and live by the advice: “People first.” Our children grow up much too quickly to always be looking for solitude.

What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?
My new novel,  Me and Gloaty Gus, is under contract with both Knopf and Faber & Faber, London. Publication is planned for  2017. My website is http://kimberlynewtonfusco.com.

Thank you, Kim for sharing the lovely places you write. My daughter and I can’t wait to read Me and Gloaty Gus!

elizaJoin us on October 27th when uber talented illustrator and author Eliza Wheeler shows us her studio space in Los Angeles, California.

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Sophie Page’s Studio Tour

photo of meToday on Tuesday Tours we have illustrator, story maker, and sculptress Sophie Page sharing her studio in Boston, Massachusetts. Sophie creates her illustrations by sculpting three-dimensional characters, placing them within scenes and sets, and then photographs them. She’s a recent graduate of The Rhode Island School of Design and has an Etsy shop where she sells her work.
She’s working on two new book projects and seeking publication for her first book, Marjory and the Juniper Tree.

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Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I’m an illustrator from rural New England. I recently graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design, and since then I’ve been working as an illustrator and art teacher. I create multimedia sculptures, which I then photograph, and manipulate the digital images to make 2D illustrations. I work with clay and found natural objects, and I’ve been increasingly interested in working digitally as well. I feel like my work falls somewhere between children’s lit and art books, and that’s fine with me. I’m still discovering my niche. It’s an exciting time.

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How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
I’m very much in transition lately, so I haven’t been in my current space for very long. I’m working on renovating a barn/garage space in Ipswich, MA and that’s kind of a dream project. But for right now I’m renting the attic of a very lovely historical house outside of Boston. It suits me very well. studio4The owner of the house is a great pastel painter, so we can critique each others work and there’s great energy. I’m very inspired by the space, but sometimes I feel like I’m living in one of my sculptures and it can be overwhelming.

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Describe a typical work day. Do you have any rituals you do before you start creating?
Lot’s of coffee. I’m very into caffeine. Mostly I just spend some time checking my email, go for a run, and then get started on my current project.

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What’s the biggest distraction for you when you’re creating? How do you deal with it?
Well that would definitely be my cat, Hephzibah. She’s a really wonderful cat but she is always trying to claw her way onto my lap when I’m trying to focus. Honestly I’m still figuring out how to get her to settle down while I’m working, but every once in a while she’ll fall asleep in the armchair next to me and everything is great.work4

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Is there anything you like to listen to while you’re working? What are you reading/listening to now?
I always listen to music while I’m working. Lately it’s been a combination of 80’s new wave and Nicki Minaj, which is a lot better than my Barry Manilow phase, that’s for sure. As for books, I just finished reading Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi, I found it very moving and would recommend it highly.

studio9Is there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
My friend who is 84 years old told me about an elaborate game her mother played using crude handmade dolls, sometime around 1913. For my birthday this year she gave the dolls to me. They are really just balls of false fur with skirts, and I’m fascinated by how simple, rough, and well loved they are. I try to imbue my work with that kind of sentimental quality.

work in progress

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Which other artists, writers or creative people are you most inspired by at the moment?
Kiki Smith, Marlene Dumas, and Francesca Woodman. My little sister, Isabelle Marina Page is a constant inspiration. She is currently a student at the Cooper Union school of art and her work is fantastic. The Guerrilla Girls are another longtime inspiration, and recently the radical performance art duo Darkmatter has been majorly on my mind.

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What are the three best things about your studio space?

My cat is there.

The history of the space.

I play music pretty loudly and I have yet to receive a complaint.

Share with us a memory of one of the best times you had working in your studio.
Occasionally friends and family will leave bits of dried plants or driftwood for me to find. That’s especially nice because I can use them in my projects and it makes the work feel more precious.

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What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?

Make sure it’s a place where you feel really comfortable and safe. It might sound tacky but you should have a good feeling about the space, like you can see yourself bopping around at 3 a.m eating gummy worms in that space.

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What’s coming up for you and where can we find out more?

Lately I’ve been full of stories. I’m working on two simultaneously. One is about a girl with too many pockets, and one about a girl with three eyes. I am currently seeking publication for my first book, Marjory and the Juniper Tree. You can check out more of my work at sophiegenevapage.com. I also sell prints and sculptures through my online shop.

Thanks, Sophie! I love your work and I hope to see Marjory and the Juniper Tree in print soon—the illustrations are stunning!

Join us next week when author/illustrator Harriet Muncaster will be sharing her studio in Hertfordshire, England.10

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Barbara Reid’s Studio Tour

This week’s Tuesday Tours features the studio space of Author and Illustrator Barbara Reid, who created one of my favorite picture books Picture A Tree, which has had numerous starred reviews, been included on some best-of lists, and has been honored on the 2014 Green Earth Book Award Short List. I love trees, as does my family, and when the publisher Albert Whitman announced a drawing contest for kids to create a tree and possibly win a copy of the book, my daughter Evey was all over it. After winning and receiving a copy of Picture A Tree, Evey was so inspired by Barbara’s artwork that she spent the next six months creating a book all of her own out of clay. Evey’s studio, however, is not nearly as put together and organized as Barbara’s!  Barbara lives in Toronto with her photographer husband Ian Crysler, who took all of the beautiful photographs for this studio tour.skyberg-tuesday-tours-logo

Barbara ReidTell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I am a picture book illustrator of more than 25 books, and the author for about 12 of those. My relief style plasticine illustrations have won numerous awards, including a Governor General’s Award for Illustration and the Ezra Jack Keats Award. As a kid I was an avid reader of both words and pictures. I drew constantly. I drew on paper, walls, school desks, school work, myself, my friends, you name it. I copied pictures from books that I liked, and “improved” illustrations I didn’t like; textbooks were especially tempting. I was a fast reader, so had plenty of free time to daydream doodle in school. computerDesk BulletinBoard BookCase

I also spent hours playing with Plasticine, the original non-hardening modelling clay. While studying illustration at the Ontario College of Art and Design, I raided my childhood plasticine stash to create a relief illustration for a project. It went over well, and plasticine art became part of my portfolio, eventually becoming my primary medium. Plasticine is a fantastic medium for expression, and I am still finding new ways to use it.  It is wonderful for creating detail, and the textures encourage the reader to spend time and look closely at each page–an illustrator’s dream. Best of all, it’s a kid’s material. I get a huge response from young artists and see incredible student art in schools and my inbox. I first plan an illustration with drawings, then create the picture by spreading, modelling and adding texture to layers of clay on illustration board. The finished piece is  photographed and the digital files sent to the publisher. My husband Ian Crysler, is a professional photographer who does a terrific job of lighting and shooting all my work. A very handy partnership! Our two daughters have grown up through various roles: models, test readers, consultants, and editors. Very tough editors. It still surprises me that I’ve made a career of doing something that is so much fun. Another happy surprise is the opportunity to travel that comes with being a children’s author. I have met amazing young readers, artists and writers, as well as inspiring teachers and librarians in communities across Canada and the USA . The experiences contribute to my work.supplyCupboard

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
I’ve always worked from home, my studio is on the renovated third floor of our skinny brick house in the city. We have lived in the house for 25 years. It’s in a lively neighbourhood and I can walk or subway to most everything I need. There is also a park and ravine system nearby with tons of trees, birds, and wildlife. It’s easy to break the isolation of working alone by going for a walk or running errands. And really, really easy to procrastinate.
Oh, yes. Procrastination is probably the easiest thing to check off the to do list!
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 Are there any kind of rituals you do before you start creating? 
Almost every morning for 15 years I took our bossy little wire-haired Fox Terrier Ruby for a walk in the Don Valley ravine system. Walking in nature is one of the best ways to clear your head and think random thoughts. Ruby was an excellent companion: she made sure I walked whatever the weather, she was always happy to be out, and she didn’t talk. My book Picture a Tree is dedicated to Ruby, as most of the writing took place on our walks. She also makes appearances in Sing a Song of Mother Goose and Perfect Snow. Now Ruby is terrorizing squirrels in the afterworld, but I still try to get out there every morning. It always makes for a better day. That and coffee.

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Picture a Tree, by Barbara Reid, Scholastic Canada (the fall scene)

Is there anything you like to listen to while you’re working? What are you listening to now?
Classical music on CBC (Canadian national public radio) if I’m writing or drawing roughs. In the production stage of plasticine artwork I enjoy CBC talk radio and lecture podcasts.
ArtDeskIs there any special item/trinket in your space that inspires you?
My favourite distraction is a bird bath on the deck outside the studio window. Most days the birds have a little happy hour sort of thing and they all line up and take turns. Distraction and inspiration often go hand in hand. Inside the studio are all sorts of books, souvenirs, stuff from kids, photos, and quotes pinned up that inspire me. It’s kind of a shrine to the Idea Fairies.
I love the Idea Fairies–there’s a new book idea waiting to be created 😉

ToolsWhat would you say is the most useful tool in your studio? 
This will date me! I have an ancient burnishing tool for sticking down Lettraset instant lettering. I use it as a magical 11th finger for making small details in the clay. It is the one tool to rule them all. I have chewed the handle to a stub. It’s irreplaceable and so it never leaves the studio.

If you had a couple hundred dollars to improve your space, what would you do?Pay someone to clean the fish tank.

What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Be selfish! By that, I mean respect your work by creating the space and time you need to do it in.

The Night Before Christmas, by Clement C. Moore, illustrated by Barbara Reid, Scholastic Canada and Albert Whitman & Company

What are you working on now, and where can we find out more?
I’m very excited that my illustrated version of the classic Clement C. Moore The Night Before Christmas will be released in the USA for Fall 2014, published by Albert Whitman & Company. First published by Scholastic Canada, it won the 2014 Libris Children’s Picture Book of the Year, from the Canadian Book Publisher’s Association. In response to the line: “Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse”, I chose to make all the characters mice– even Santa. The story takes place in the hollow log home of a lively (to say the least!) mouse family. I’m working on some new ideas, but it’s too soon to talk about them. You can find out more about my books, upcoming events, and how-to videos for creating plasticine artwork by visiting my website: http://barbarareid.ca.

Thank you, Barbara for sharing your beautiful studio, and also for inspiring my daughter (and me) with your amazing and memorable books! 

Stop back next week to see the literary spaces of author Deborah Underwood!

CommuniTree by Andrea Skyberg and the Milwaukee Parkside School for the Arts

CommuniTree available June 5th, 2013!CommuniTree-Skyberg-Cover-053013-Med

Check out the Youtube trailer/making of CommuniTree

About CommuniTree:

On the surface we look like individuals, but hidden below, like the roots of the great Quaking Aspen trees, we’re connected. In the same way a family has a family tree, our community has a CommuniTree. On a family tree, each branch represents a person. On a CommuniTree, individuals are connected by our roots of shared values and collective ideas. Our connections take form in our collaborations, the music we make together, our trust in one another, and in the seeds of love that we continuously plant.

About the project:

CommuniTree was created in collaboration with 686 students (K4 – 8th grade) from Dover School and Tippecano School for the Arts & Humanities, during a time when these two separate schools were merging together to form Milwaukee Parkside School for the Arts. In an effort to take an active role in building their new school, students worked with artist and author Andrea Skyberg to develop a children’s picture book about community.

Interview & gallery tour with Andrea Skyberg

Linda D’Acquisto created this great video that shows me talking about the pieces in the gallery exhibition, Threads That Connect, which was showcased at the Arts@Large gallery October 19, 2012 – Jan.8, 2013.

Squircle Wish Banners on display at IMAGINE exhibition

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The Squircle Wish Banners were modeled after the Tibetan Prayer Flags which, traditionally come in sets of five colors representing the five elements, which are said to produce health and harmony. Like the Prayer Flags, the book Squircle has five animal messengers who share an idea with Evie, the main character in the book. Using all five of these ideas, Evey experienced harmony and understanding.

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The Prayer Flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom, and when blown by the wind, they are thought to spread compassion into the world, bringing a benefit to all. The Squircle Wish Banners were created to provide a similar benefit. Each student created her/his banner with a good intention or pledge in mind. S/he selected the colors that represented people in her/his immediate circle of family and friends.

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Thread is a main symbol, which represents connection in the story Squircle. It also serves a purpose in the creation of the artwork, connecting together the fabric that was chosen and cut by the students. When displayed, the good intentions and pledges set by the students when they were created their banners, convalesce together creating a powerful energy that benefits all. It also serves as a visual reminder that we are all part of the Squircle.

Final day of Threads That Connect gallery exhibition

January 201310This week I had four final author visits and art workshops with Garland school, Tippecanoe school, and Lincoln school in the gallery before the exhibition came down on January 9th.

Making pledges to add good things to our worldWorking on the Squircle Wish Banners In progress Squircle Wish Banners