New York, New York…or, Close Encounters of the Daniel Radcliffe Kind

So, I was in New York for the NYIGF last week, helping set up the booth for the FRED company, where I design homegoods and the like.
Setup went well- and the booth looked positively smashing, I must say!

I wouldn’t cross that line if I were you…

After, we had a little time to jump into the Museum of Modern Art’s store and check things out.

They periodically carry Fred items, and I found one of mine, the Half Pint creamer inside.

Even though it was an exhausting day of show setup, I really wanted to see if we could score some tickets to How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, starring Daniel Radcliffe, currently running on Broadway. Holy cow! We got tickets! In the very last row!

The coolest thing about NYC, in my opinion, is the preponderance of theater going on at any given time. You could see a new play every day, and probably never run out of options.

Here’s what the Hirschfeld Theater looks like from outside… oddly enough, there was a giant line of people waiting to get in, but because we were picking up our tickets at the box office, we went in first.

The Hirschfeld Theater has lots of (surprise, surprise!) Hirschfeld cartoon art on the walls!

I couldn’t take pictures during the play, but it was fabulous! And Daniel Radcliffe was excellent in it- it was a very demanding role, and he was up to it and able to sing, dance, and perform acrobatics, all with an American accent. I only realized he wasn’t speaking with a British accent about 3/4 the way through, so it was a good job!

We waited along with about 500 of our closest friends in the alleyway behind the theater to see if the stars would come out and meet the crowd. Apparently, this is the same scene every night. It was fun waiting with everyone, a good crowd. Oh, hey! Look!

John Larroquette…I used to LOVE Night Court! He was very funny in this play.


A little piece of Daniel Radcliffe! That’s as close as we could get before he was whisked away in a car. In fact, I didn’t really see either of these guys- Eric and his fancy overhead camera moves were able to catch these glimpses!

This is as close as I really got to meeting him!

BUT, I was able to score what I believe to be The Offical Dorkiest Souvenir Available on Broadway!

Yes, THAT’S RIGHT. An official J. Pierrepont Finch bowtie! This was specially picked up for my kid, Audrey, who happens to be cool, because she gets it.

Post-show, we wandered through the freakshow that is Times Square, still teeming with hundreds of people, even at midnight.

Every time I am in this square, I look to the statue of George M. Cohan, and I wonder just what he would make of this all now.

Blueberry Fields Retreat

I had the fine good fortune of joining a small group of über-talented writers on the first Blueberry Fields retreat in Yarmouth, Maine. Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect of it, but I was more than willing to find out.

First impressions are everything:

The setting was beautiful, ethereal, and perfectly conducive to getting your writer’s groove on. The sessions were casual.

The results, unforced.

Between poolside art experimentation and word games, we had a first pages reading…

off-the-wharf lobster dinner…

and time to settle in for readings from our works in progress.

The comfort level, along with the high level of writing quality made for a seriously inspiring evening!

Not pictured: TONS of laughter and beautiful food, long and meaningful critiques, frogs, turkeys, yelping foxes and other things that shall remain unpictured!

We had the opportunity to pick organic blueberries from the hundreds of bushes on the property.

It was amazing to be able to focus on writing for a while, then hit the fields for berries.

Couldn’t have ‘picked’ a better weekend, or better folks to hang with!

Many thanks to Meg, Julie, and Cameron for all of your hard work putting this weekend together. “Magical” isn’t too strong a word to use for it!

Moving Forward, Looking Back!

Congratulations to all the recent graduates out there! Whether you are moving from Kindergarten to First Grade, from 8th grade to High School, or heading off to college in the fall… well done!

In the Spring of 1989, just before I graduated from RISD, I was very lucky to be “recruited” immediately for a job at Russ Berrie and Co., Inc. The company was in New Jersey, which meant my first real move (since I commuted to college). Russ was famous for it’s giftware at the time, and I was put into the Plush division. Yep- designing stuffed animals for a living! Practically a dream come true!

I recently found some pertinent plush designs from way back then:

“Going nowhere fast”… haha!

This little grad turtle was a typical job. A “Product Planner” would decide what they wanted to see, and then have an artist (like me) draw it up and specify (spec) colors and materials for the manufacturer to work from. Then, we would receive a sample product. The sample would usually be presented to the decision makers (including Russ the man himself), for possible inclusion into one of the upcoming lines. Often, items didn’t make it into the line for one reason or another.

This design for “Gradzilla” was a different story. When we designers were finished with our regular work and had extra time, we could freely design items (of any type) as a “Designer’s Day” item. I was a speedy worker, so I drew a lot of these kinds of things.

Did they ever get produced? I have no idea! They probably at least made it to the sample stage. I heard recently that the once great and powerful Russ company was going out of business. So sad! But the world keeps a-turning, and we must go forward!

Good luck to everyone as they move forward!

Antiquing In the Brimfield Tradition

It has become a tradition (cue the Fiddler on the Roof theme!) for my mother and I to hit Brimfield twice a year- once in spring, and once in the fall. Brimfield is a town in Massachusetts that becomes the antique mecca of the US three times a year. The town is overtaken by a baffling quantity of antiques dealers from all over the country, selling every possible thing ever made. That is what I like most about it. While I may be seeking certain things for my various collections, mostly I like to take pictures of the oddities that I never expected to see. And so, I share them with you! I hope you appreciate the old and odd, too!

Who you lookin’ at, punk?

I didn’t expect to see Harrison Ford, for example.

Harrison and Mom, together at last!

Early Christmas!

Are they live, or are they cooked?

Here you can see a set of the original, deadly steel-tipped Jarts, along with a painting of…questionable content.

What is going on in that painting?

I can’t buy everything, but IF I could, this would be amongst the purchases:

You can never have too many wooden bunny carts, I always say.

Here’s another one of those “Wha???” kind of items. They are plaster wall hangings depicting… human peas?

OH, the humanity!

These make me want to be a chocolatier, so I would have an excuse to own them all!

Continue reading “Antiquing In the Brimfield Tradition”

Books of a Certain Age

I was at Savers the other day (which is a secondhand department store), and was happy to find a cache of semi-vintage children’s books.

I don’t know about you, but I am always attracted to books from the 60s and 70s. I guess that is due in no small part to having grown up then. Be that as it may, there is something oddly comforting about the cheap printing, limited palettes, and distinctly “quieter” storylines from this era. And at 69¢ each, my children’s library is filled with such things. A lot of them tend to be library discards…how sad!

It must have been hard to illustrate back then, knowing you sometimes had to work with only one or two colors. Not to mention having to do the separations by hand- no computers to make that task easy. Huzzah for modernity, at least some of it!


A couple of weeks ago I was asked to come speak to RISD students in the illustration department about my work. It was great fun to be able to go back to the very building I spent many hours in (the ISB, which hasn’t changed a bit) and talk about the post-RISD experience!

There’s the unchanged ISB. What has changed is in front of it- a beautiful waterfront complete with art tile-encrusted walkways and arches. It’s about a million times nicer than the late 80s landscape I saw as a student!

Here’s my first indication that I would have to be “professional”!

A Professional Practice flyer about me!
Check out those great student watercolor studies to the left!

My talk was mostly in the dark, with a Powerpoint display, so no pictures there! But afterwards, the students could come up and play with the array of my products, toys, children’s books and kid’s menus that I brought along.

I like seeing peoples’ initial reactions to these things… it’s very telling.

While I was in the vicinity, I had the chance to walk over to the always-fun risd/works store nearby, which is now part of the cool new wing of the museum.

risd/works carries a lot of my design items, and displays them in a gorgeous setting!

Here’s a wall o’ fun from the Fred Co. My designs shown are: CooKeys, MonKeys, EarRing, TropSticks, and Cool Jewels.

Aristocakes is a new product of mine. Crown-shaped cupcake bakers!

Pastasaurus sighting!

A great array of my art glass items… Winestein, Half Pint, and Calf and Half.

If you go to risd/works, and you really should, be sure to say “hi” to the ultra-friendly and helpful Evan and Dinah!

Aren’t they cute? Be sure to tell them Liz sent you! 🙂

A Very Good Design Day, Indeed.

TODAY, I was surprised to see that my Aristocakes cupcake bakers were featured on the Today Show! Yep, there they are with Matt Lauer and Bobbie Thomas, the style editor, in a segment about giving your mom the royal treatment. Well, this was a treat for me!

Later, I was flipping though the June/July issue of the Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine that had just come in the mail, and there’s another one of my current products in the Fun Faves section! These are called Tropsticks… flamingo-shaped, easy-to-use chopsticks.

Yeah, it was a good day.

My Book In Rhode Island Monthly!

The May issue of Rhode Island Monthly Magazine has a feature called Rhode Readers, highlighting books by local children’s authors. How happy am I to see What Does A Seed Need? in the lineup!

Check out the other titles by friends Anika Denise and Chris Denise, Peter Mandel, and my old RISD teacher, R.W. Alley and his wife Zoe B. Alley. There are so many great artists and writers in this state!

The Blue Bunny Bookstore!

We found out that Lisa Yee was going to follow up her American Girl signing with a signing of her latest book at The Blue Bunny. I have been wanting to check out this store for quite a while, so it was the perfect excuse to head up to cute, old town center in Dedham Mass.

The Blue Bunny is the brainchild of author/illustrator Peter H. Reynolds. I have a lot of respect for his philosophies and work, so I expected that the store would be a great blend of toys, books, art, and fun. And it was!

Here we are with our friends the Sheas, who came up from CT for the signing.

Seriously, for me as a toy designer and a children’s book creator, it doesn’t get much better than this! The children and adults who were there that day seemed to agree- it’s a grand place to explore.

According to Lisa, ours was the very first copy of her new book, Warp Speed, to be signed. WooHoo! The book is about a Star Trek geek (there might be a couple… a few…OK, FIVE Star Trek fans in our house), so it was a must-have addition to our nearly complete Lisa Yee library. She’s such a great writer- and just the kind of role model that you want your kids looking up to.

I got to hold Peepy! She’s clearly a girl. And we both were rockin’ the stripes.

Lisa’s back in sunny California now, but we are glad to have seen her here on the East coast. We will certainly be back to The Blue Bunny- and if you live in these parts, check it out. You won’t be disappointed!

Well, Hello Dollies!

Guess who came to the local-ish American Girl store the other day?
None other than Lisa Yee! She wrote the latest Girl of the Year Books about Kanani, a Hawaiian girl. She also wrote Millicent Min, Girl Genius, and the subsequent stories relating to it. Oh, and also, she’s awesome. Add to that a few kids who are both American Girl and Lisa Yee fans, and you have the ideal day trip!

Lisa is from California, so it was great to get to see her on our coast! Here she is with the Dubois girls. Amazingly, she is still smiling after having met with approximately five thousand (mostly) little girls, with another thousand still to follow.

Poking around in the American Girl store, we couldn’t help but notice that our pal Mary Beth’s new book was on the shelves there, too! Check out the Paper Shaper Forest Friends, a make-it-yourself book of adorable animals in MB’s signature style.

Yes, Millie thought you should see what the back of the book looks like, too!

I bought some stylin’ shoes while we were there, too.
Doll shoes. Unbearably cute saddle shoes!

They do not fit me. But so help me, I will find the ideal miniature feet for them to fit on.
It’s a shame we don’t have any cats anymore!