Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Laini's Ladies Story

Here are two new Laini's Ladies -- I've only just designed them, so they will be debuting at trade shows this summer and will be in stores in fall. I love the way they turned out, and I love the quotes. I got both quotes off of blogs, too: the "cup of tea" quote is from Deirdre, and the "fairy tales" quote is from Amber. Thanks, ladies!

I've been meaning to write a little "story of Laini's Ladies" here so I could link to it from my website, so here it is:

For the origins of Laini's Ladies, I have to go back four or five years to my discovery of two things: paper arts/stamping/scrapbooking stores; and Somerset Studio magazine. I had been doing oil painting illustration, spending all day, day after day, at my easel, painting detailed things like this:

And I had started to incorporate collage into these (see on the wolf's quilt?), and started to branch out into little projects "just for fun" such as making weird little collage people as gift tags for all my family's holiday presents. They were so much fun! Here's on of those from that first batch:

They were collaged, laminated, and then riveted with little eyelets so their arms and legs swiveled. (This is a great project to do with kids, by the way. SO fun!) Well, another year went by of painting and selling my prints at the Portland Saturday Market on weekends, and then the next Christmas season rolled around. My crafty friend Maggie was having a Christmas card-making party, and I didn't want to haul my whole studio of supplies over to her house so I thought up a new version of a "lady" I could make as a holiday card. She would be laminated, have a tiny little waist I could tie a ribbon around, and have little dangling bead feet. So I did the design work in advance, went bead-shopping (I {heart} bead shopping!) and assembled them at Maggie's. I loved them! I made more!

Two weekends before Christmas I premiered my first six designs at the Saturday Market and. . . sold out by lunchtime!!! My brain was whirring. It might have been snowing that day but I didn't get cold. I made more $$ than I had ever made at the Saturday Market and I was thrilled. For the next couple of weeks I did very little besides cut out my litte dolls and wire up their little hooks and feet (I was a bit awkward with it at first, not having done much jewelry making or wirework of any kind, but I learned through much repetition. And then the season was over, the market was shut down, and I had two months ahead of me to just design and dream. And I spent it developing my first complete line of Laini's Ladies and yes, shopping for beads!

By May things were still going well and I had a sales record and accounts in five or six states including Florida and Hawaii, so I decided to take the leap of going to the New York Stationery Show. This wasn't an insane leap because I wasn't getting a booth there, but just planning to walk around the convention floor and see what was what. And what I saw was that there was nothing in the whole show even remotely like my Ladies. Which I took to be a good thing! Now, I'm not a real natural networker. I have to suck up my courage, calm my heartbeat, and go forth, sort of pretending to be a businesslike, confident artist. It's exhausting and can be really un-fun. Jim and I had to do that for several years at the San Diego Comicon in order to make the connections necessary to get our graphic novel published, and I had to do it at SCBWI conferences to meet editors and agents when I was working on Blackbringer. It's hard. But necessary. So I talked to as many people as would talk to me in New York that weekend, and I began to learn about licensing, and I was lucky enough to meet Tom Bottman!

By "lucky" I mean this quote by Thomas Jefferson: "I am a great believer in luck. I find that the harder I work, the more of it I have." !!!

Tom was intrigued by my little winged ladies and he contacted me the week after the show (Oh, I had made mini "me" ladies as business cards, complete with beads and ribbons, with my face, so people would remember me) and we went from there. It's been a few years now and it's a great partnership. I do the design and the Bottman company does all the rest. Some artists would want to go in a different direction and do everything themselves, start their own company, the way Anahata has (who I met at that first Stationery show, and who, I believe, is there now) -- but I knew the business stuff was NOT for me. So that's the story of how Laini's Ladies came to be: through playing around with new materials, making things for gifts, allowing myself to fall into a new fascination. That happens to me, it has since college:

One year when I was supposed to be studying for finals I got obsessed by making clay puppets. Another year, I saw a girl doing watercolors on the roof of my building in Berkeley and I had to go buy a set. That watercolor set, I am SURE, set the stage for me going to art school four or five years later. And when I first opened that paint box at the age of . . .20? I had no notion what to do. I was as clueless as if I'd just decided to take a radio apart and put it back together! But you learn, if you keep with something. When I taught illustration a few years ago I told the students that anyone could learn to draw if they really want to, but you can't just wish it idly, you have to really really want it, and then, you know, learn it.

Follow your creative whims, too. If you feel like doing collage, do it. If you should be painting, but you really want to make a puppet, make a puppet! Play! Have fun! That's rule one. Play. And later on, show people. That's kind of it, boiled down. Play, and then show people. Have at it!


aleciagrimm said...

I love your winged ladies. I saw them in Cloth Paper Scissors & had to come check out your blog. You are very talented.

chest of drawers said...

I love your new ladies...and that´s wonderful advice on having fun and enjoying activity. I love those scarves you and Alexandra are making - check my link to for inspiration.

Judy Wise said...

Your story is magical, generous, inspiring. Thank you for sharing it with us.

deirdre said...

Glad I could help with the quotation. It's one of my favorites.

This post is so inspiring - the art bug is biting me hard and I want to immerse myself in paints and collage and a million other things. It's good to hear that you didn't know how to start either, and now look what you've done!

Star said...

I usually am content to lurk, but the story of how you started all this is truly wonderful. You are inspiring!

paris parfait said...

Very inspiring story of how your gorgeous ladies came to fruition! You are an inspiration, Laini.

Amber said...

They're beautiful Ladies! I'm such a sucker for quotes by both Einstein and C.S.Lewis.

Amber said...

Heehee!! I love that you used those words! They seem even more brillllliant like this. ;)

I love reading this. As always, I find your experience so inspiring. When you got those water color, was that the first time you tried art? Or did you draw and stiff growing up?

You know, Wyatt seems to love illistration and drawing, and I told him about you and how people can be artist for a living, how the people who make the pictures in his books do that for their jobs...He thought that was VERY cool. lol


Rampian said...

Another inspiring entry. I can't believe you started painting seriously at 20. Knowing what you've done since then, I'm just floored. And I'm so proud to own one of the early "Ladies." And glad that you took the plunge, despite the beating heart, to talk to me at that SCBWI conference years ago. Now you know how unthreatening editors really are!

Melba said...

Brilliant post and soooo important too! It is essential we continue to share our stories, to light the way!

Thank you for being such a bright Light Laini!


Rhonda the Stitchingnut said...

I agree with everyone ... this is so inspiring. I just fell into needle felting resently as an art form, won a contest in a LYS, and have now entered it into an art festival. I'll be teaching it in September also, but you've encouraged me to keep working more at it, networking and maybe by the time I retire (3 years) I'll have another whole coureer ahead of me ... but one that's FUN.

Sarah Beth Durst said...

So cool! Thanks for sharing this, Laini. And I LOVE the fairy-tale lady!

Also, I'm a huge believer in that Thomas Jefferson quote.

[a} said...

Your ladies are gorgeous, but I love the quotes you pick out...they are absolutely divine & yummy. Thanks for sharing your story. Have you read that article by Keri Smith (about doing what you loved as a child, whatever makes the hours fly by, as a living)? You totally fit as a success story for that article!

what'sinyoursoul said...

Great to see you two at Inside Story, Laini! I just wrote about it on my blog. Very cool to win your book, and glad I studied up on my Louis Sachar.


lila said...

How wonderful for you to share your journey! I found out about you in the Cloth Paper Scissors article, too!
I'm looking forward to learning more about your novel...especially as it features a blackbird on the cover!

Frida said...

Oh - yum - I've been missing your joyful, playful, insighful (and all sort of other good thinkgs-full) posts.

I like knowing the story to my Laini's Ladies - they've been keeping me smiling through some sad days.

Mango season has, however, arrived in Herat and everything can only get better right? How can people fight and kill when there are mangoes to be eaten?

I'm loving all these great reviews - you have a genuine 'critical success' on your hands. Still waiting to get my hands on it as well. Cursing the post in Afghanistan.

Brenda McGowan said...

It is great to hear how people have found their success... your story is very inspiring and I love how you look at the creative process. Thanks for sharing!

Linda said...

What an inspirational story! Thank you! By the way, I first saw your ladies a couple of years ago in a shop in Salem and loved them. I've just recently seen a rainbow lady while out blog-hopping and am now on the lookout for one for myself! Do you have any suggestions for where I can find them online?

Jessica said...

I was just going to write how inspiring your story was, but then I noticed that pretty much every person that commented let you know how inspiring it was so I'm not going to bug you with information you're well aware of. What I will butg you with, though, is how much I love your Lain's Ladie Collection! My favourite is the one that reads "I don't know what inspiration is, but when it comes I hope it finds me working picasso". I painted an abstract and used the quote on it.

Keep on rockin'!

CLR said...

I just wanted to share my "story" about discovering your Laini Ladies. A co-worker gave me one for Christmas a few days ago. Now, she is an aquaintance. She does not know me very well and I don't think she knows my passion is writing. I had been seeking direction on finally pursuing my writing in a more serious manner. I could NOT believe it when I opened her gift and it was The Muse of was affirmation to me. I adore the quote on there too!! I want to see more of your "Ladies"! I may be giving them out next year, hoping to inspire and encourage!!

CLR said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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