Yesterday was the culmination of many weeks of preparing. I installed a window display at Books of Wonder, a fantasy-land of children’s literature located in Manhattan on 18th between 5th & 6th Avenues. I was asked to create a display for my impending book release (August 26th!), book release party (September 5th!), and author panel (September 7th!). It was such an honor to be asked to create a window display at such a well known and beloved store. I was kind of freaking out about what to do, especially after seeing some pretty amazing displays. Then I had a little idea that turned into a big project: What if I recreated Elliot’s apartment/world in the window? In 3-D? With cupcakes??? Here is the original sketch.
Once I confirmed that everyone was OK with that idea, I started to recruit people who actually knew what they were doing. I hadn’t made anything out of paper mache since grade school. My friend Les St. Leon worked on various sets for Universal Studios, Disney, and zoos in multiple cities, so I thought he might be a good person to check in with. Les helped me build the foundation for Little Elliot, which is what terrified me the most. Here’s how he started out!
We used an old lamp to create a weighted base. The torso is made of foamcore circles wrapped in chicken wire. Then we covered everything in masking tape.
The legs are also made out of chicken wire. The trunk is chicken wire and crumpled paper. The arms are crumpled paper. The head is a styrofoam ball. The ears are bristol and crumpled paper. Everything is covered in masking tape. Then, the next day my lovely illustration friends came over to finish taping and to start the paper mache madness.
I don’t know what I would have done without Misa Saburi, Ruth Chan, & Isabel Roxas. We got tons of work done in a few hours, instead of me sitting there covered in gunk for days. Check out their sites. You will be enchanted.
Naturally, my favorite aspect of the paper mache process was that my studio smelled like baked goods from all the flour and water. Meanwhile, I had to make my own “baked goods” out of Model Magic. I balled up some newsprint and taped it tight, then attached the cupcake tops (there’s a Seinfeld joke in there somewhere), and placed each in a baking cup. I also made Mouse the same way.
I needed to find a way to make a blue poofy tail for Elliot. I found these creepy dolls at a 99 cent store, who generously donated their hair for the cause.
To get a sense for being in the big city, I drew some windows for Elliot’s apartment with a New York skyline. Conveniently, a neon sign with the name of the book was located right across the street. After I finished this, it went off to the printer. I also went fabric shopping for something that could pose as wallpaper for the backdrop.
Add paint and polka dots: one cute elephant and mouse friend to order! Elliot had come to life in our home! Three guesses what he made a beeline to…
Elliot and I tried to get to sleep, but we were too excited for the next day.
Mom and Dad drove down to help me schlep Elliot, Mouse, and furniture (from some very kind friends with good taste) to the store. Isabel returned to offer a hand. Finally, Elliot was in his natural habitat: a bookstore.
Well, that’s all for now! The window display will be up until at least September 7th. Little Elliot, Big City goes on sale in 8 days. Head over to Books of Wonder, or your local bookstore and get your copy on August 26th!