Cute Class at RISD

Recently, I taught a class at my alma mater, the Rhode Island School of Design. It was a class in their Continuing Education department on character design, focusing on THE CUTE ONES. Suffice it to say, this was right up my alley!


I was a little nervous teaching this class. Not because of the subject matter, but because the students were adults, some of them quite accomplished artists already. That was kind of a new thing for me.


But I needn’t have worried. Once we got into the swing of it, it was a blast. Everyone seems to have gotten something good out of it, and it was really fun to work interactively with a diverse group.


This went so well, actually, that I am going to teach a six-week course on product concept and design this summer! Here’s hoping I’ll get another great group for that session- keep and eye out for it! I’ll post about it when I know the details.

IMG_3403 Thanks to my Cute Class students for making this such a great experience!

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!


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! 🙂


Check out the current front page of the RISDworks website!
Calf and Half was in the December issue of Oprah’s O at Home Magazine, in which they put a link to RISDworks. That’s the Rhode Island School of Design’s museum shop that features alumni-designed products.

I took a whole batch of pictures of the newly opened Chace Center (where you will find the shop)… I’ll definitely try to get those up here soon!