Tag Archives: Ben Sapp

Lunch with the Ladies of Mazza

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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O, A-mazz-ing

What is a book without a reader?
It could be a doorstop, an aspiration, dry paper.

book

What is a book with a reader?
It can be a living thing, a friend, the start of a conversation.

1825 Punctuation in Verse

This week I was lucky to be part of two communities of readers where books are opened, explored, read, shared and celebrated.

On Monday I was a guest speaker at Oakland University in Michigan, where Dr. Linda Pavonetti and Jim Cipielewski run an amazing program. On Tuesday I spoke at the summer conference at the Mazza Museum of Findlay University in Ohio, which is well run by Ben Sapp.

In both places I felt deeply appreciated for what I do – in fact I felt like Cinderella at the ball.

Paschkis, mazza, oakland ball

In both places I was inspired by the work of other authors and illustrators. Oakland had an exhibit of Ashley Bryan‘s work, including sketches, prints and paintings.

Ashley Bryan Mountain

At the Mazza Museum I saw original art from Maud and Miska Petersham, Wanda Gag and scores of more recent artists, such as Chris Raschka, who will be speaking at Mazza today.

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Jon Klassen was leaving as I arrived ( and yes, he had his hat). James Dean spoke about the origins of Pete the Cat. Michael Hall gave an elegant presentation which made me see shapes and letters in different ways.

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I felt especially lucky to meet and hear Ed Young who spoke about his life and work with candor, calm, wisdom and grace.

Ed Young, Julie Paschkis photo by Barbara Katz

When I create a book I start my work alone. I collaborate with many others along the way. But the final collaboration with the reader is often abstract. It was a pleasure to be among readers, teachers, students and librarians who care so much about children’s books and who share that passion with the world.

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Now I am home from the ball. Unlike Cinderella, my daily life is pretty good. But the memories of Oakland and Mazza will  feed me as I get back to work.

Paschkis glass slipper ball