Lunch with the Ladies of Mazza

**Screen Shot 2017-07-20 at 12.47.28 PM copy
It was a cross between Parents’ Night at elementary school and a rolling party. Parents’ Night because we spiffed the place up and hung my sister Kate’s and my best artwork on the walls. A rolling party because these ladies were primed for a good time even before their big bus pulled up to the bottom of our driveway.


I hung my sister Kate Harvey McGee’s paintings down the hall. Kate illustrated Little Wolf’s First Howling with me and I wanted the visitors to see her pastels.

Last month the Mazza Institute Study Tour landed in Seattle to begin their visits to NW children’s book illustrators’ studios. Most of the tour members were from around Findlay, Ohio, where the University’s Mazza Museum holds an amazing, diverse collection of original artwork by children’s book illustrators. Every summer they take a tour to a corner of the United States and visit illustrators’ studios. Julie Paschkis and I thought why not invite the group to lunch on the first day of their journey? Lunch for 40 on our patio. Why not?

Luckily, fellow BATTerinas Bonny Becker and Margaret Chodos-Irvine, as well as author/illustrator Dana Sullivan, signed on to help. And John, too, of course. (Our other BATT member, Julie Larios, was doing a tour of her own while teaching at Vermont College’s alum retreat.)

We greeted the enthusiastic busload of women and their leader, Ben Sapp, with peach bellinis. Mostly our guests were former teachers and librarians who now work as docents at the Mazza Museum. Several collect children’s book art themselves. Right away, we connected. Picture books matter to them like they matter to us.


Margaret set out the buffet of sandwiches and salads while our guests helped ferry drink ingredients out to the patio. 

Over a luncheon prepared by Julie, Margaret and Bonny, we talked books and illustration and illustrators and heard about past Mazza tour adventures. Though we had ample leftover food, the ladies managed to polish off all the Prosecco.


Bonny says we can see the back of her head in this photo. Ben Sapp, John and Julie and I are standing, left to right, in the back.  

Dana led a “Great Book Giveaway” trivia game. (“Name the four Little Women.” “Name four cats in children’s books…”) These ladies know their children’s book trivia! Later he posed with director Ben Sapp.

After lunch, our guests toured my studio, viewed artwork, bought books and tried their hands at gouache resist.

Screen Shot 2017-07-20 at 12.47.07 PM

It was a lot of fun. As we walked our guests back down the hill, I had a chance to tell director Ben Sapp how thankful I am that there is a place in this world like the Mazza Museum that values children and stories and especially the art of children’s books. It’s the culture of a world I want to live in.


Loading up the bus after lunch and the studio tour. Dana says they rolled away singing “The Wheels on the Bus.”

Over seven days, the Mazza Study Tour ladies met 15 illustrators. In Tacoma: Ben Clanton and Wendy Wahman; in the Seattle area: Julie Paschkis, Margaret Chodos-Irvine, Dana Sullivan and me; on Lummi Island: Nina Laden and Paul Owen Lewis; in Olympia: Nikki McClure; in Portland: Carolyn Canahan, Nicole Rubel, Maggie Rudy, Kate Berube, Alison Farrell, and Zoey Abbot Wagner. Such a rich variety of illustration styles and media. I wish I could have trailed along.

After the luncheon, as we took down tents and put artwork back into flat files, I thought back. Who would have guessed 25 years ago in Keith Baker’s Picture Book Illustration class, that two of my fellow classmates – Julie Paschkis and Margaret Chodos-Irvine – and I would create a critique group that grew into Books Around The Table, and that over the years together we’d all publish 70? (maybe more?) children’s books AND end up hosting 40 ladies from Findlay, Ohio, for lunch?

It was a memorable experience, but John and I had expected that because my old studio was on the itinerary 10 years ago, the last time the tour came to Seattle. Some of this June’s guests had been on that tour, too.

I hope in another ten years they will roll through again. I’ll have the peach bellinis waiting.

10 responses to “Lunch with the Ladies of Mazza

  1. I bet this was so wonderful for all involved. I saw Julie once at Mazza! I am lucky enough to live in Columbus OH and go to Mazza for summer conferences. TY of this post.

  2. What a terrific experience for all, Laura. How fortunate those writers were to be with all of you. Love the tablecloth, speaking of times past.

  3. It was fun to meet the Mazza crowd and you and John did a terrific job of setting it all up.

  4. I SO enjoyed reading about your luncheon for the ladies of Mazza. How wonderful to share good food, good company and good libations 😉 with people who care passionately about children’s books!
    Many years ago I was part of a special day long field trip to see the Osborne Collection of Children’s Literature in Toronto. My memories of that day still bring me pleasure. Everyone who was there shared a deep appreciation for the authors and illustrators of children’s books. Your works make the world a better place for children. Thank you for sharing.

    • laurakvasnosky

      You are right — we children’s book people have a great connection. It was so fun to see Marilyn and Barb at our UW Bookstore launch of Little Wolf. Made me remember good times at WLMA and visiting your schools.

  5. WOW! It was as fun as you made it sound in this blog! We wish we could have stayed longer. Your hospitality and generosity were unparalleled! Thank you to all who made it so special! HUGS!!! PS… the food was delicious! Not sure why we polished off the prosecco and not the sandwiches. 🙂

    • laurakvasnosky

      Thank you for stashing a MAZZA mug in the cupboard with your thank you note, Kerry. It was fun to find when we were making coffee the next morning.

  6. How I wish I could have been there, Laura!! I know first-hand how you make any event special – the Mazza people were lucky to have you and your friends host them.

  7. Ah! Fantastic post on a wonderful experience, Laura. What a delightful group. I wanted to sit down with each and every one. It looks like your visit was something very special indeed. Over too soon. xo

  8. Pingback: Books Around The Table

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s