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!

Illustration Friday- Dusty

I haven’t been able to take part in Illo Fridays lately- but the word of the week is “Dusty,” which reminded me of this:

It’s a scene from an old book dummy of mine called (what else?) Dusty.

In it, a little girl bonds with a giant dustball she found under her bed. It was a good exercise; I taught myself a lot about digital art while making this proposal.

Angus McDermott

St. Patrick’s Day is coming soon enough. If you are like me, you like to get a jump on Irishing up your house for the occasion.

Each year, I bring out certain things. Things like this guy:

Yes. I know. He is actually Scottish.

This is Angus McDermott, also known as the first item I can remember designing as a professional. He came with the name “McDermott” sewed to his leg. I added Angus as an homage to his obvious Scottish heritage.

Back in 1989, a few months after graduating from RISD, I started working at Russ Berrie and Co., in Oakland, NJ, a large giftware manufacturer. I was put into the “Plush Department” (What a dream! Making stuffed animals for a living!), and this is one of the first designs I ever made that actually got manufactured. Like other kinds of design, a huge proportion of what gets developed doesn’t actually end up manufactured. In the two years that I worked there, I was lucky to have quite a few go through to production.

Anyhow, when he comes out for St. Patrick’s Day, he reminds me of those early days and of my NJ friends. Begorrah!