Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Margot Apple at Eric Carle

It’s school vacation week here in western Massachusetts. I always try to do some cultural visits with Julia to help me keep my sanity and educate and have fun with Julia. Saturday, we went to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in South Amherst. We bought a membership there this year and I have vowed to get my money’s worth. Too bad it is an hour away but I’ll try. The place is not big by regular museum standards but it has a lot to offer children and others interested in children’s literature and picture book art. Here Julia stands in front of one of the four humongous murals Eric Carle painted on Tyvek for the lobby. They are so colorful and evocative of his collage papers. There's a wonderful art room for kids to make art each visit. We made some printed quilt squares with linoleum blocks and colored pencils.

The event we were attending was a reading and talk by local illustrator Margot Apple. If you are a knitter and have ever had small children, chances are you know Margot’s work. She is the illustrator for the popular Sheep in a Jeep, Sheep in a Shop (page here from this book), Sheep Out to Eat and a few more all written by Nancy Shaw. They are fun books to read to kids – the rhyming and clever use of words make them favorites with children and parents. There's another in the works on sheep in outerspace.

I first met Margot at a book signing in Shelburne Falls at the small Textile Arts a few years ago. I was signing Knitting for Baby, she her own Brave Martha. It was spring, it poured, and noone came but Margot and I talked and talked sharing war stories of book publishing. Margot is also a knitter and handknit sweaters often appear in her books.

Margot has illustrated over forty books for children. She began her career in the early 70’s. Margot is down to earth and honest and has a great way with children. The reading room at the Museum was crammed with people – kids, parents, and grandparents. She works in watercolor, pastels and pencil. When asked her favorite medium, she said pencil because she can erase – how honest. Her favorite book project is Brave Martha which I love. It's a story about a cat and a little girl and the dark. The illustrations are done in pencil with watercolor added on top. They have a lovely sepia quality and I think they are her strongest work.

Margot is still illustrating but said it is difficult to find work now as her style isn’t what editors are looking for. This made me sad to hear because she is definitely talented and loves what she does. Her comments made me think about my own career and how long I will be wanted. My style definitely isn’t what the younger knitters begin with. I’m interested to see if anyone in their 20’s will buy my new book Kristin Knits. I find it hard to deviate from my particular style in knitwear. I’ve been asked by editors to do ballet tops, ponchos, and more. I always politely decline – I really have no interest in creating things I wouldn’t like nor wear. I’ve never been one to wear a bustier and I stopped wearing halter tops back in the 70’s (thank goodness). All something to think about……. Maybe I should start a new career.

More tomorrow on Margot.


Chicken Betty said...

Lady, I wouldn't worry about your style. Classics always cycle back in. Having been uber exposed to crowds of knitters at Webs over the last 6 months I can tell you that most of them are NOT knitting ponchos and haltertops - those people are still looking for novelty yarns and we see fewer all the time. Most knitters are trying to expand their knowledge and skills. They are asking for good classic sweater patterns with cables, or fairisle. They are very interested in color. Don't be pressured by fads - they always fade. :)

Patricia said...

Here! Here! Yes you can do a ballet top, but why, there are tons out there. Doing something colorful, cables, and incorporating your style will always win out! Sometimes you just want something colorful and warm!

Patty in Sparks maryland where it is still cold!

Sonya said...

Sheep in a Jeep and Sheep in a Shop are perennial faves in our house. I will have to check out Brave Martha. But new Career? Whoa there - I won't stand for that kind of talk! Do you know it was your pattern - a child's cable sweater in Better Homes and Gardens Knit It! back in 2002 - that was the first thing I knit that actually looked like the photograph? Yes that was the pivotal knitted item. My seaming was horrendous, but my daughter wore it, her cousin, my sister-in-law's god daughter and next in line is my youngest. I love that sweater and I love that article: your family on the farm, a stack of your sumptuous knitted sweaters. Just Say No To Halter Tops.

Anonymous said...

Kristin your designs are timeless, colourful and comfortable. I will always buy a magazine or book with your work in it. Boo to halter tops and 'what is in this year'.

Patience said...

Dear Kristin, Please design something for me that suits a 40-something and tell those book editors I have more money now than I did when I was in my 20s, mostly becuase I'm not sucker enough anymore to buy something just because it's a knitting book.
Love, Patience
P.S. I'll work on getting used to colors.

lyssa said...

Hey, I'm in my 20s and I don't wear halter tops or ponchos...nor do I knit them! Oh, and I collect children's books, too...there is hope.

Chris B said...


I love your design style and I surely hope you're not serious about finding a new career. All of your knits are classics--and so beautifully executed.
--A fan in the Boston area.

kate said...

I LOVE your style, and I love Margot Apple's style, too. Too bad that it is difficult for her to find work. Maybe she can illustrate a knitting book for you?
Your stuff is great- keep it coming...

Kristin said...

Thank you once again for highlighting this museum. We will be in MA this summer for our annual visit with family and I'm putting that museum on the "definitely do" list.

Willow said...

My husband has always said, do what you love and the money will come.
Don't change your style. I think you will always have a following who will knit what you knit and stitch what you stitch because you love your work. It shows.

Deborah Newton said...

Dear Kristin,
Being in the field too, I thought a lot about what you said about designing. We all have our strengths and interests-- that's what makes us unique. Let's face it, you are ABLE to design anything! What you CHOOSE to design is what makes you one-of-a-kind. That is what you should be doing, exactly being yourself.
Bravo to Kristin who will always have a place n the world of knitting!
Best-- Deborah Newton

Green Kitchen said...

I keep thinking about this post because I'm a lapsed graphic designer, now an at home mom. Graphics is not a job I'd love to go back to, and, at 39 I'm a little old, definitly not hip. But, what will I do when I do go back to working? I was thinking about trying a more artisitic approach, trying to develop a style that is recognizable, and hope that people want to buy into "me." I thought this might have more longevity than hired graphics gun. I thought if I grow my own audience theyn I'll be set, maybe not in a huge financial way, but in a sustainable way. Now you've got me thinking this isn't so. But, it's got to be better than graphics, where you are always compromising, always making halter tops when you don't want to.