Sow your ideas…or sew them!

Art is seeing the everyday with fresh eyes. Today we’ll look at two books that feature illustrations made with fabrics.

Celebrated librarian Jeanette Larson joined forces with her friend, artist Adrienne Yorinks to create Hummingbirds: Facts and Folklore from the Americas.

Double-page spread from "Hummingbirds"

Double-page spread from "Hummingbirds," sans text

I met Jeanette when she attended the ALA-Midwinter Meeting in San Diego as a first-time author to promote her debut picture book.

Jeanette Larson: [Adrienne] does not work from sketches. There are some studies–pieces she did and then discarded — but she works directly on the fabric. It’s pretty interesting to watch!

Adrienne Yorinks: To briefly describe my process, I create small gesture drawings to see how the flow is for the entire book and then for each book, I figure out which method I use.

baby hummingbirds

Baby hummingbirds

For Hummingbirds, I used all different ways to try to capture these exceptional creatures. I knew from the start that I wanted to create different art between the factual parts, and the folklore pages.

from "Hummingbirds"In the folklore section I knew I would do double spreads, and for  the facts, the art would be tighter.

A text page from "Hummingbirds"

A text page from "Hummingbirds"

Final jacket for "Hummingbirds"

Final jacket for "Hummingbirds"

Anna Grossnickle Hines wanted to write a book about peace. Inspired by her writer friends, she set herself a goal to write one poem per day, with peace as her theme.

After many months of writing, revising, sifting and sorting, she felt she had enough poems to form the basis for her latest book, Peaceful Pieces.

Front jacket from "Peaceful Pieces"

Front jacket from "Peaceful Pieces"

Anna Grossnickle Hines
:  Peace has always been important to me, all kinds of peace, from an inner calm to the end of wars all over the earth. . .”

"busy brain" / inner peace


. . . I knew I wanted to illustrate the book with quilts, and I knew that would be a new challenge. The poems, though all about peace, are varied in content. . .

peace on a larger scale


Some immediately suggest an image . . .

for hamster sequence


. . . but others are more abstract. How was I going to translate these concepts into strong graphic images?

dominoes concept



And how was I going to create a collection of fifteen or more quilts that would feel like they belonged together in one book and not be too jarring as the pages were turned?

After quite a few rejections, I found editor Sally Doherty at Holt, who in turn, enlisted book designer April Ward.  I sent them samples and sketches. They liked some but were disappointed in others. . .

For several months we went back and forth. I was grateful for their helpful comments, and had a much better vision of many of the quilts. . . .

I decided that it would help if the colors and patterns of the fabric could carry over from one page to the next, a bit of something familiar with each page turn, along with the new image.

"entrance" concept


Joy Chu: Anna’s website is a plethora of information about both the children’s book process, and the work behind her many titles. For those of you wondering about making the transition from traditional art materials to digitized imagery, you can find out how Anna acquired new skills for the creation of her previous book I Am a Backhoe, here. Click here to visit her website.

More about the making of Peaceful Pieces on this webpage. And check out the genesis of a sample spread here, at the publisher’s website.

Often the editor and designer, alongside the rest of the publishing team will reserve a conference room just to view finished art sequentially. Here’s Anna’s final art, being viewed and reviewed by all:

Viewing final artwork in sequential order

Viewing final artwork in sequential order

A bonus! Here is the book trailer for Peaceful Pieces, created by Anna and her husband, Gary Hines:


Another illustrator-who-sews wins a Golden Kite Award!

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8 responses to “Sow your ideas…or sew them!

  1. Pingback: Sew fine! | got story countdown

  2. Fabulous, Joy! Thank you so much…and to be combined with Adrienne Yorinks. When my first book with quilted illustrations was in production–and I thought I was the first to do such a thing– I went to a quilt show in Pennsylvania and there was a special display of her work. What a treat!

    • I love stories of serendipity. And thank you, Anna, for sharing your process with us! What gorgeous imagery you wove into your multi-layered textiles. Amazing stuff!

  3. Absolutely beautiful! I am going to pass this link on to some quilters I know I am sure they will love this book.

  4. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! Thank you for this post. I used to work in children’s books at Harcourt, and the art showing was my absolute favorite moment. I’ve been learning to sew, and can only marvel at the inventive expertise in these projects. Kudos! Can’t wait to get the books!
    Gwendolen Gross (author of The Orphan Sister, coming July 2011 from Gallery Books)

    • I don’t know how anyone would complete any picture books without having access to a huge-and-loooong conference room table to scrutinize each piece!

      Dang, it’s too bad we didn’t cross paths in that room when we did our respective stints at Harcourt, Gwendolen!

  5. Pingback: Spring forth with books! | got story countdown

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