9 cool things on a tuesday

1. Been enamored of Phoebe Wahl’s art ever since reading her debut picture book Sonya’s Chickens (2015). Love the timeless, old-fashioned, folk art feel of her watercolor, collage and colored pencil illustrations. There’s a good reason she won the 2016 Ezra Jack Keats Award for New Illustrators. 🙂

Besides her picture book illustrations, I like her 2017 Slow Food Calendar. The four color letterpress prints are gorgeous and distinctive. Can’t get enough of the intimate scenes of people working together in the kitchen or enjoying the outdoors. Though the 2017 calendar is sold out, Phoebe will be making one for 2018 — can’t wait!

She’s also done some wonderful pieces for Taproot Magazine and the Taproot Calendar.

Can’t beat that delightful handmade look. And don’t you love seeing men working in the kitchen? 🙂

See more of Phoebe’s work at her official website, that contains a link to her online shop which features prints, cards, t-shirts and accessories. She just started taking pre-orders for these new Fruit and Flower enamel mugs yesterday (love!).

 

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2. Have you been to the Post Office lately? Love these new Delicioso Forever Stamps, just released on April 20. These spicy beauties were designed by none other than children’s book author/illustrator John Parra!

You may remember we featured John as a hotTEA of Children’s Literature not too long ago. Pretty cool to think of him whenever I send a piece of snail mail out into the world.

John at the dedication ceremony ( National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico)

He’s got a new book coming out on September 5: Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos, written by Monica Brown (NorthSouth Books, 2017). While we’re waiting for that, we can enjoy a little Delicioso every day. Congrats to John!

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3. It’s been awhile since we’ve checked on Christopher Boffoli, the ingenious Big Appetites photographer known for his scenes featuring tiny people posed in captivating food environments.

I always wish I could shrink myself and enter his world of giant macarons, cupcakes, and pies. Check out his website for prints and notecard sets.

Macaron Notecard Set

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4. Speaking of checking up on people, I recently visited Handmade by Mia’s Etsy Shop and she’s having a Spring Sale on some of her wool felted items (up to 40% off).

Look for her trademark big-eyed birdies as well as elephants, flowers and foxes. If you’re a Moomin fan, you’ll like her Moomin pouches, buntings and key fobs. 🙂

Mia was one of the first people I interviewed for my Indie Artist Spotlight series. She’s one of the nicest Etsy sellers I’ve encountered — great, personalized service and I like how she recycles vintage materials (100% Finnish wool) for her bags and pouches.

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5. Remember last time when I mentioned ashley wolff’s cool Resistance to the Regime of 45 prints? Lucky for us, she’s also offering her complete collection of resistance posters as free downloadable high resolution PDFs at her blog! She’s encouraging everyone to download, share, and enjoy. Thank you, ashley!!

Love them!

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6. New Book Alert! Excited to hear that Aussie Poetry Friday friend Kathryn Apel just published her third verse novel for younger readers, Too Many Friends (University of Queensland Press, 2017)!!

Tahnee wants everyone in her Year 2 class to get along and be happy. But what happens when all of Tahnee’s friends want her attention at the same time? And how can Tahnee be friends with Lucy, when Lucy doesn’t seem to want any friends?

A novel about friendship and school life, and the balance we all need to find to be the best friend we can be.

Sounds delightful. 🙂 I do enjoy reading Kathryn’s posts at Kat’s Whiskers — they’re cheery, upbeat, and fun, and display her fondness for wordplay and flexing her poetry muscles. Too Many Friends follows her two other verse novels, Bully on the Bus (2014) and On Track (2015). Order any or all three via the publisher. Congratulations, Kat!

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7. Part of being a diehard Bob Dylan fan is not only keeping up with his musical projects, but with his painting career as well. He’s had several solo exhibitions in England over the years, the most recent of which was “The Beaten Path” at the Halcyon Gallery in London.

This collection features scenes from the American landscape; we get to see parts of the country through Dylan’s eyes — what does he notice, what does he consider worthy of interpretation? It did not escape me that he chose to paint a Donut Shop (even more reason to love him). 🙂

Vanity Fair recently featured an explanation in his own words about what he hoped to accomplish with this project:

For this series of paintings, the idea was to create pictures that would not be misinterpreted or misunderstood by me or anybody else. When the Halcyon Gallery brought the idea of me doing American landscapes for an exhibition, all they had to do was say it once. And after a bit of clarification, I took it to heart and ran with it. The common theme of these works having something to do with the American landscape—how you see it while crisscrossing the land and seeing it for what it’s worth. Staying out of the mainstream and traveling the back roads, free-born style. I believe that the key to the future is in the remnants of the past. That you have to master the idioms of your own time before you can have any identity in the present tense. Your past begins the day you were born and to disregard it is cheating yourself of who you really are.

The entire article is worth a read, as it provides a nice insight into his creative process.

It’s interesting to learn about people who became famous for one particular art form, but who also excel in others (E.E. Cummings, Joni Mitchell, Paul McCartney, Red Skelton, and Tony Bennett were/are also painters). With multi-talented individuals, I imagine there’s a lot of valuable cross-fertilization of inspiration and ideas.

Signed limited edition giclée prints from “The Beaten Path” are available online via Castle Galleries.

Enjoy this short EuroNews video:

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8. You’ve no doubt seen Molly Hatch’s work while you’ve been out and about, here, there or everywhere, maybe sometimes not realizing who the artist was behind that cool mug, kitchen accessory or tote bag.

I first noticed Molly’s ceramic pieces at Anthropologie. While I’m partial to her tableware, I’m just as happy to enjoy her wonderful, quirky drawings on stationery and notecards.

There’s something about her work that’s old fashioned but fresh and contemporary at the same time. In addition to highly collectible merchandise, she’s done some cool museum installations. How much do I love that she creates wall paintings with ceramic plates? I appreciate the intersection of functional and fine art and will devote more time to researching Molly’s many creative avenues.

Covet Project, 2012 (inspired by historic imagery found in the collections at the MFA Boston and the Met in NYC)
An 11-piece painting consisting of hand-thrown and hand-painted ceramic plates inspired by the historic textile collections at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.
“Deconstructed Lace” (2015), inspired by historic patterns of Royal Copenhagen Porcelain.

Read this short article about how Molly started working with Anthropologie. Visit Molly’s online shop to purchase kitchen goods, stationery, etc.

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9. Finally, I’ve been following the very cool Heads Together Campaign spearheaded by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry to help end the stigma around mental health.

In this video, they discuss the importance of initiating conversation as a first step in healing. Prince William and Prince Harry speak candidly about trying to cope with the death of their mother Princess Diana. I also appreciated Prince Harry’s mention of how social media can distort one’s perception of well being. Heads Together is doing good work!

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Alright chickies, I wish you a Happy Tuesday and a Good Week.

Be Kind.

Eat Good Food.

Smile.

Resist.

Persist.


Copyright © 2017 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free

“He’s a poet. Basically he’s a poet. He does not trust his voice. He doesn’t trust his guitar playing. He doesn’t think he’s good at anything, except writing—and even then he has self-doubts. Have you heard that thing he wrote about Woody Guthrie? That to me is the sum of his life’s work so far. Whatever happens, that is it. That sums it up.” ~ Eric Clapton on Bob Dylan

Glory Be! The man has gone and done it!

The 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature is such a crowning achievement for our favorite song and dance man. Bob turned 75 this year and is still breaking boundaries as the only singer-songwriter to have ever been awarded this coveted prize.

Aside from my inner fangirl whooping for joy and turning cartwheels at the sheer awesomeness of the whole thing, what I’m most happy about is that perhaps this distinction will inspire the average person to broaden his/her view of what constitutes “poetry.”

A rare smile!

Poetry doesn’t have to be esoteric, elitist, abstract or inaccessible. It doesn’t have to live in slim volumes with boring covers. It can be the well crafted lyrics of anthemic compositions that capture the heartbeat of personal and social history through time.

After all, poetry began as an oral tradition, much of it meant to be performed with music. To those who find Dylan undeserving, I would ask that they throw off their cloaks of intellectual snobbery and abandon preconceptions about conventional “Literature.”

Bob with his son Jesse

“Literature” is not limited to printed novels, plays, or short stories. Talk to me about more than five decades of enormous cultural influence, words of searing truth, crackling inventiveness. Talk to me about enlarging the possibilities of American popular music.

Take the average Joe in a grocery store check-out line. Chances are he’s never read any of the Nobel Prize winning novels, but he’s heard a Dylan song or two.

A song is a poem for everyman.

I consider myself a poet first and a musician second. I live like a poet and I’ll die like a poet.

Eight years ago, the very first time I hosted Poetry Friday, I asked participants to post their favorite Dylan lyrics. I shared the 8th of Dylan’s “11 Outlined Epigraphs.” He was 22 when he wrote this in 1963:

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weekend feast: one bob dylan, one birthday, one meat ball (+ recipe)

“I think of myself as a poet first and a musician second. I live like a poet and I’ll die like a poet.” (Bob Dylan)

Just as he’s done for more than five decades, Bob Dylan is still releasing new albums (the latest is “Shadows in the Night,” a mellow collection of standards recorded live with his five-piece band), performing around the world with his Never Ending Tour, and receiving more honors and accolades (2015 MusiCares Person of the Year).

To promote “Shadows in the Night” he gave only one interview — to AARP Magazine, where he discussed his creative process and influences, revealing that he’s a big Shakespeare fan, and had he not become “Bob Dylan,” he would have liked to have been “a schoolteacher of Roman history or theology.”

When receiving his MusiCares award, he delivered a riveting acceptance speech crediting his sources of inspiration, thanking his various and sundry supporters, and even confronting his detractors. To those who would criticize his singing voice, he reminded them of what Sam Cooke said when told he had a beautiful voice:

Well that’s very kind of you, but voices ought not to be measured by how pretty they are. Instead they matter only if they convince you that they are telling the truth.

The voice of our generation — plain, real, everyman — endures. We need to hear and will always value the hard truths good poets tell.

Enjoy this bountiful three-course feast honoring Bob, who’ll turn 74 on Sunday, May 24. 🙂

 

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friday feast: sniffing out if dogs run free by bob dylan and scott campbell

photo by John Cohen (1970)

Throw me a bone: we’re going to the dogs today in honor of Bob Dylan’s 73rd birthday tomorrow. Ruff!

So, am I the only Dylan fan who’d never heard “If Dogs Run Free”? A 50’s beatnik send-up embellished with Al Kooper’s jazzy piano riffs and Maeretha Stewart’s sassy scat-singing, this oddsauce number was included on Dylan’s album NEW MORNING (1970).

Actually it’s kind of silly to call anything the Archbishop of Anarchy has done “odd,” given his penchant for innovation, reinvention and doing whatever he durn well pleases. Yet this one is indeed unlike anything else in his vast catalog of 600+ songs. It’s spoken word, very Jack Kerouac, black berets, smoky coffee house. It’s so laid back you end up in front.

Hear for yourself:

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IF DOGS RUN FREE

If dogs run free, then why not we
Across the swooping plain?
My ears hear a symphony
Of two mules, trains and rain
The best is always yet to come
That’s what they explain to me
Just do your thing, you’ll be king
If dogs run free

If dogs run free, why not me
Across the swamp of time?
My mind weaves a symphony
And tapestry of rhyme
Oh, winds which rush my tale to thee
So it may flow and be
To each his own, it’s all unknown
If dogs run free

If dogs run free, then what must be
Must be, and that is all
True love can make a blade of grass
Stand up straight and tall
In harmony with the cosmic sea
True love needs no company
It can cure the soul, it can make it whole
If dogs run free

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*finger snaps*

 So deep, Daddy-O.

And there’s more. This song was recently made into a picture book illustrated by Scott Campbell, who took the “kids love dogs” theme and ran amok with an animated visual narrative. Celebrating the free-spirited joys of childhood and championing fearless individuality, there’s not a beatnik or beret in sight — just lots and LOTS of dogs.

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friday feast: jon j muth’s adaptation of bob dylan’s “blowin’ in the wind”

When I first heard Jon J Muth was doing a picture book adaptation of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” I fairly swooned.

The mere thought of DYLAN (my best bud who’s probably writing a song about me even as we speak) paired with MUTH (who had me years ago with his panda wearing baggy shorts) made me hyperventilate with anticipation. Just how would he make an iconic, somewhat ambiguous protest song meaningful for children?

Muth cleverly used a paper airplane as a visual metaphor. The “answer,” perhaps written on this folded piece of paper, sails on the wind, ever present but always out of reach. It’s quite an apt metaphor, perfectly in tune with what Dylan himself said when the song was first published in 1962:

Too many of these hip people are telling me where the answer is but oh I won’t believe that. I still say it’s in the wind and just like a restless piece of paper it’s got to come down some  …But the only trouble is that no one picks up the answer when it comes down so not too many people get to see and know . . . and then it flies away. I still say that some of the biggest criminals are those that turn their heads away when they see wrong and know it’s wrong.

Muth’s paper planes travel through lush, dreamy watercolor landscapes, each scene reflecting a different lyric. Four children and a woman, depicted singly or in groups, appear in the narrative — a journey traversing green fields, hillsides, forests and an ocean. The paper airplane is always present — a silent lodestar which takes on spiritual connotations (“How many seas must the white dove sail/Before she sleeps in the sand?”). I am reminded that the Native Americans view birds as messengers between heaven and earth. The ethereal, capricious wind, invisible but for the flittering of a paper plane, can gently usher in change or cause mass destruction.

Ironically, Dylan didn’t consider “Blowin’ in the Wind” a protest song. It was adapted from the Negro spiritual, “No More Auction Block,” and contains Biblical rhetoric, so it “follows the same feeling” — inspirational as gospel music is, but not political. He claims he wrote the song in ten minutes!

Muth’s idyllic landscapes, characterized by a soothing, inherent stillness, reflect the song’s entreaty for peace, harmony and freedom. The sheer majesty of these natural scenes are in keeping with the spiritual feeling Dylan intended. Each child has his own plane, must travel his own path, find his own answers. By the end of the book, the children and the woman are all playing together with a big red ball. Nearby, there’s an old cannon draped with the flags of several nations, a single red balloon tied to it.

The final spread shows all the paper planes gliding in unison high in the sky. There may be different answers, but only one human truth. Basically we all want the same things. A fleet of planes, the collective unconscious. Single notes join in 12-part harmony, a beautiful chorus.

This new picture book will make it possible for parents and teachers to share Dylan’s song with a new generation of children who’ve never known a time when America was not at war. It comes with a CD of the original studio recording of “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and there’s also an Author’s Note and a Note from music historian Greil Marcus, which discusses the song’s universal, timeless message and describes what the world was like when the song became a civil rights anthem in the 60’s.

The open-ended narrative and use of enigmatic symbols (red balloon, red ball, red boat, acoustic guitar passed down to the children from a man living in a walled city), will challenge children of different ages (and adults) to draw their own conclusions, interpret as they will. Muth’s use of red, in particular, could spark interesting discussion: is it the color of strength and love, or a reminder of blood shed in senseless wars? Is it the rising sun, the dawn of new hope (since the boy on the cover, the only one able to touch a plane, is wearing a red shirt)? Or is it fire — to complement the earth, air and water so prevalent in the pictures?

For almost 50 years, “Blowin’ in the Wind” has reminded us of these painful unanswerable questions. Muth says:

Freedom and joy are not care-free. Escape from the burdens of life isn’t freedom. Freedom is full of care for everything. That means we must be a part of what all people want for themselves and for humanity. The doors of the heart will then be thrown open to wind from every direction.

Reach for the paper airplane, unfold it and read what is written there.♥

*Dylan first performed “Blowin’ in the Wind” at Gerde’s Folk City in NYC on April 16, 1962. Since then, he’s performed it live 1050 times, the most recent being last night in Leipzig, Germany. Enjoy this live television performance from 1963:

 

BLOWIN’ IN THE WIND
written by Bob Dylan
illustrated by Jon J Muth
published by Sterling Children’s Books, November 2011
Picture Book for ages 5+, 28 pp.
Includes CD
*On shelves now!

I’d love for you to share any thoughts or memories you might have related to this song. Do you remember when you first heard it?

 

♥ Related reviews on this blog: Man Gave Names to All the Animals illustrated by Jim Arnosky (Sterling), When Bob Met Woody by Gary Golio and Marc Burckhardt (Little, Brown).

 

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“Bob Dylan sets up a number of questions, like ‘how many deaths will it take till he knows/That too many people have died? and finds that ‘The answer is blowin’ in the wind.’ This is a poet’s answer to an unanswerable question, and it has the effect of poetry, which is to open up the sky.” ~ Frank Kermode and Stephen Spender (“The Metaphor at the End of the Funnel”, Esquire, 1972).

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*Spreads posted by permission, copyright © 2011 Jon J Muth, published by Sterling Children’s Books. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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