It was a struggle for me to learn how to read. When I was in kindergarten and going to a Catholic school, the nuns had a such a struggle in trying to teach me to read. Reflecting back as to why it took me so long was two things: I was scare of the nuns and there was simply nothing interesting in my classroom to read. It wasn’t until one non scary nun who was head of the after school program told me about a bunch of books she kept in her desk. She told me that she kept these in her desk because these books were not really appropriate to read here. However since I was the only person in my grade who was not reading at the point she thought that anything is worth a try. She then proceeds to take out this book from her desk drawer:
In a Dark, Dark, Room and Other Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz. She told me that she would only let me read that book if I can read it out loud to her and let her help me to read it if I needed and want the help. So an agreement was made between her and I that I would stay after school and learn to read that book. The first story that I remember reading from that book was this one and it reminds one of my favorite short stories to this day:
What is your earliest memory of learning how to read? Comment below!
“Hello! I am Lauren West, but I go by my “artist name” Lauren Cat West. No, my middle name isn’t Cat…but it does start with a “C” and I LOVE CATS.
Anyway, I am an illustrator, muralist and designer living and working in Philadelphia, PA. Before I pursued art full-time, I had worked in the bicycle industry (in different capacities) for nearly 12 years. I reallllllly love bicycles. I grew up in Georgia – in a world of canoes, lakeside swimming, cycling, camping and hiking and have always been taught to respect and appreciate nature. When I’m not working, I spend most of my days and free time outside as much as possible and draw a lot of inspiration from my time spent there.”
2. What things or people inspire when you are creating your art?
“I take a lot of inspiration (as I mentioned before) from the outdoors and nature. I love to take moments to look around at everything that exists amongst itself outside – seeing patterns, color, textures, space. As much as I love nature in its purest form, I also really love the dynamic visuals and strength of nature taking over urban environments. I live in a city, so that’s something that happens and grows all around you.
Vines growing up a chain link fence, daisies sprouting out of a dirt mound next to construction debris, or ivy crumbling a brick wall. A lot of the work I make is fueled by what makes me happy (I’m usually laughing while I’m working on something) and what I hope ultimately brings happiness to other people – that’s often driven by comedy, bright colors, simple forms, and throwing in things that just don’t make sense together but make you smile anyway. I like to play with simplicity but I also like to push things to their loudest and busiest. It’s really hard to describe truly where my visual style comes from because it’s what naturally just comes out while I create… But it sure as hell is a big mixture of everything I’ve loved and held close to my heart. I’ve always taken inspiration from Pee Wee’s Playhouse (Wayne White and Gary Panter’s visuals), outsider art, assemblage art (growing up in a lake my dad made sculptures from people’s garbage we’d find when they did the “annual lake drain”), Mid century children’s illustrations, old Golden books, Americana folk, textile, tin can packaging, mod and punk rock, etc… I’ve got a lot of random visual inspirations whirling around in my head ready to make the next thing! Take a look around – there’s good stuff to see everywhere. “
3. What are your top three favorite flowers or plants that you incorporate in your art and why?
“I do incorporate a lot of plants/flowers in my work! Sometimes it’s just a nice embellishment, other times it’s more of a focal point. I use a lot of daisies and tulips because their form and shape can be overly simplified while still remaining recognizable. I also use a lot of white pine or fern fronds as a shape that has more complex parts and relies more on pattern than a large blob shape.
I reference fungi a lot: morels, russula mushrooms, turkey tail, etc… Mushrooms are AMAZING (I can go on forever about that) – they are beautiful, strange and their connectivity to everything around us completely blows my mind. Anyway, I have a deep love for fungi so they make appearances in my work from time to time. “
4. What have been some memorable bike trails you have been on?
” I’ve been riding a lot in Vermont where the trails are DEEELIGHTFUL. Mountain biking is excellent up there and it’s “the state of a million gravel roads” (not really, but it should be named that).
Those roads can wind you through sunkissed woods, farm fields and breezy climbs along wild raspberry bush-lined hills. We Actually live close by to Philadelphia’s own wilderness, The Wissahickon Park. Which is a super magical spot within an urban metropolis. I really do love riding a bike anyway though. In the woods or through the city, if it’s on two wheels, I’m happy.”
5. Do you have any exciting news or events that you would like to include?
” No exciting events coming up but I hope that can happen sometime in the not-so-distant future…. As for exciting news, Getting my website store finished and putting up new products is my #1 only job/priority now and I am SO excited to finally have time to work for myself again. And another news flash, maybe my work will have even more greenspace/forest inspiration ifyouknowhwtaimsayin’ (I’m moving but not announcing the location yet).“
If you like to learn more about Lauren’s Art. The following contact information is below:
“I grew up in Orange County California going to the beach and South Coast Plaza, these places were sacred. I’d throw a penny into the fountain at the mall and wish that I could go live with Laverne & Shirley or blow on a dandelion and wish that Falcore would swoop down and save me! I could climb on his back and fly away. Movies, TV and music were my inspiration, escape and salvation. So Pop-Culture is pretty much everything to me. My Grandmother, Rita Utah, was a fine artist and my Best Friend. She encouraged my creativity and inspired the hell out of me. When I was 7 she gave me and my sister a customized dollhouse and it was magical because of the touches she had added. It wasn’t an out of the box set up dollhouse. She had worked for months adding touches and furniture and making it super rad! It was the start of my love of miniatures. I studied Experimental Animation at California Institute of the Arts where I did stop-motion with paper and cashmere cut outs. From there I went to Disney Animation where I created a Pilot. Then I went to work on the show Robot Chicken, where I made puppets for the sketches. But I was extremely unhappy navigating the “industry” and working on other people’s projects. I’m way more satisfied doing my own miniatures and miniature films and sharing them on a platform like instagram. The interaction I get from followers is so gratifying. I feel seen and I feel like you find your people there.”
2.How long does it take you to create a miniature?
“It can take a weekend or up to a month to create my miniatures. I customize Petite Blythe dolls into whatever character I want. That means doing hair, eyes, outfit and props. Then I create sets with the furniture and props I have or make pieces from scratch.”
3. If you had to pick 3 pop culture figures to create in miniature form. Who would you pick and why?
” Pretty much all the characters I create are from Pop-Culture. My main thing is making Musicians, Movie Stars and Murderers. Which ones should I talk about?? Debra Winger, Liberace, Gilda Radner, The cast of Spiral, (my favorite French show)?
I’ll talk about Ed Gein, Jerri Blank and David Bowie. So with Ed Gein, the murderer who dug up dead bodies and made fashion and art with them, I used a doll that already had short hair. Ed Gein lived in the 1950’s so I used a plaid ” Sylvanian Families Shirt” and Petite Blythe jeans to get his look. But what was super fun about the Ed Gein project was using lunch meat to create his body suit, the skin lampshade and chair.
And putting all the doll parts around the set. The eyeballs come out of Petite Blythe dolls so I filled a little chest with them and it was so great! I made a one minute movie which I narrated and I’m really happy with it.
Next, for Jerri Blank from “Strangers With Candy”, I made her whole outfit from scratch and cut the hair off of a doll with the right color. I also used hair spray and paint pens to style her hair. I gave her cool earrings, boots and a belt. But like most characters the props are my favorite. I made a Safe Trap House collection can, she can wear around her neck and paper flowers. I made cheetos and cotton candy and other junk food along with glint, hot fruit, a box of weed, a bong and a pipe. Oh and I’m super proud of the tiny back star dream catcher. I loved decorating the walls of her bedroom with miniature posters and signs. I had so much fun creating her world. I did an entire “Strangers with Candy” dollhouse like the one on the show and added her Step-Mother, Sara Blank!
Lastly, I’m so proud of my David Bowie doll. Before I discovered Petite Blythe dolls I’d tape a picture of David Bowie’s head to a stick and add clothing. I have always been a HUGE David Bowie fan. Like since Labyrinth! After he died I was really, really upset. I felt like the stability I had in having him around my whole life was gone. Making the David Bowie doll was actually healing and having him in my miniatures world makes me happy. I started by making his whole outfit from scratch. It’s based on a costume he wore in the 70’s and then again in one of his last music videos “Lazarus”. In the “Lazarus” video David Bowie has a cloth tied around his eyes and buttons where his eyes should be. I literally went to CVS and bought an Ace Bandage which I cut to make the bandage around his eyes. I painted tiny Petite Blythe buttons black and hot glued them to the bandage and suddenly he was alive again. I cut and styled his hair. I used a lot of hair spray and a blow drying to get his hair to stick up. I still have to touch up his hair every now and then. But it’s fun.”
4. How did you come up with the concept of your short film: “Jeffrey Dahmer, the @duartedollhouse film”?
“I watch a lot of True Crime and the story of Jeffrey Dahmer’s life just spoke to me. It’s upsetting that he had no one there for him as a child. His Father worked all the time and his Mother suffered from mental illness and wasn’t able to be present to give him the love and attention he needed. So he got all twisted up and took it out on others he killed to keep with him so he wouldn’t be lonely.
Most of the time, I am inspired by not only the story of a person’s life but the miniatures I get to make when recreating their story. I usually only use Petite Blythe dolls but I needed a child Jeffrey Dahmer doll, so I used my second favorite doll, a Dolly Pop! My Dad had gotten me some as a kid and I just stared at them, I thought they were so cute. But this one I won on Ebay! I was most excited to work with the lunch meat again like I had done for my Ed Gein film. I cut out a fillet and added cilantro to create Jeffrey’s cannibalistic meal. Making these horrific things in cute, miniature form transforms the gravity of the subject into something that is so absurd it’s funny. And then when I add my sweet narration to the film, it takes it to another level of WTF! And somehow people have really responded to this in a positive way.”
5. Do you have any exciting news or events that you would like to share?
” Upcoming I’m working on my next film about reducing plastic use! The only thing being murdered in this story is the planet! Hey, ho!! JK. And then I’m going to be featured in the next issue of Hype Zine by Hannah Hightman. The issue will focus on miniatures and I’m so excited because it’s such a well done and cute Zine. It’s like candy!”
If you like more information about Lauren and her work. Her contact information is below:
Rowlf is one of my favorite muppets so I decided to share some facts about this cute dog!
He is half corgi and the other half is not known. He was created and performed by Jim Henson. Henson designed three different concepts of dogs and settled one concept as Rowlf. And an other concept became Baskerville the Hound. He is the muppet that is most like Jim Henson’s personality.
He first appeared on the scene in a bunch of Canadian Purina Dog Chow commercials in 1962:
His sidekick in those commercials was a dog named Baskerville the Hound:
These commercials were so popular that Henson was contacted by other companies for more of the muppets to be in commercials for the American Photocopy Equipment Company and Esskay Meats:
He was also cast as a regular cast member of the Jimmy Dean Show (CBS 1963-1966). Which was a variety series with host country singer Jimmy Dean. Jimmy Dean mentioned that the parts of the show that had Rowlf in it were the most popular parts of the show. Out of the 86 episodes of the show he did not appear in one of them. Rowlf even got up towards a thousand fan letters a week.
Rowlf made numerous appearances on different shows after his run with the Jimmy Dean show. Here he is with Jimmy Dean on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1967:
In 1968 Rowlf was one of the few selected muppets to be part of “pitch reel” for Sesame Street:
Rowlf loves playing the piano and showed off his passion of music on the Muppet Show:
He also played one of my favorite characters Dr. Bob on the medical comedy pet drama called “Veterinarian Hospital.” A constant skit that was on the Muppet Show.
His favorite music is classical music and you can always find him near or at the piano. He is known for his serious and funny one liners.
I remember really being into the Muppet Babies cartoon show and always thought that baby Rowlf was the cutest! Rowlf will always have a special place in my heart as do all of the muppets. I admire him for this great serious but funny humor and he seems like a friend for life!
“My name is Katie. I was born and raised in Lancaster, PA. I currently live in Lancaster with my little family…My 2 year old son, Linus and my fiancé, Louis (who I met working at the the post office…we were both letter carriers and he continues to deliver mail).
I’m a “retired” elementary school librarian and mailman. At each of those jobs I would document funny or weird conversations I had with students and the general public. I would then make mini-comics of the interactions. After I had my son I ended up going back to work at the post office and my mom and mother in law watched him while we were at work. In the fall of 2019 there was a freak accident and our child care fell though. We ultimately made the decision that I should resign from the job and stay at home. In hindsight it would’ve happened anyway because of the pandemic but, at the time it was a big decision! Once I was at home I quickly realized I needed a source of balance, something to keep me busy outside of taking care of my son, so I naturally turned to being creative. I was still kind of searching for my identity (after having a baby everything shifts! You no longer feel exactly who you were pre-baby) and pre-baby me always loved drawing and keeping busy in some creative way. It felt like I was connecting with myself again by re-entering this hobby. It’s been a joy.”
I didn’t go to art school so I guess I’m considered “self-taught”.
As a family we love to hike and camp and ride bikes. Connecting with nature is super important to me and something I’ve introduced to my son from the get go. Our earth is a magical little space ship that humbles me endlessly. “
2. Can you talk a little about your online shop?
“I started the shop very recently when I noticed there was interest in certain shirts I was making. It was a nice way to make the shirts available for people who would stumble upon my Instagram. I throw some drawings and doodles into the store as well from time to time. Everything I post on my IG is for sale but it’s easier to visit an online store to grasp that.
I make everything by hand so a lot of what’s available in the store is made to order. It’s quite childish to draw on t-shirts with sharpie and fabric markers but I’m dedicated to this craft! When I was growing up, every year at the beach, my grandma would set out a bunch of fabric markers and give us a t-shirt to draw on. I remember thinking how fun it was to make your own shirt and then be able to wear it. I guess that was my introduction to t-shirt making and I never really stopped making them. When I sit down to make a shirt I don’t use a stencil or anything I just go for it. Mistakes and imperfections are part of life and being perfect doesn’t exist. We are all complex creatures with our own tastes, influences, beliefs, histories etc. Ones mans trash is another mans treasure as they say. I like to make stuff that feels relatable in some way because human connection is some type of magic. I try to embrace that in life through my daily interactions and in what I create. I love taking custom orders! I feel I enter worlds I wouldn’t otherwise. Most times when I receive a commission I like to do research to try to pick up a “vibe” of what I’m going to draw. Depending on what type of commission a customer wants (drawing or t-shirt) I can usually make it and ship it within a week. Sometimes the design is a collaborative effort and sometimes the customer will trust me to make whatever I feel like. Regardless, commissions are super fun and I love connecting with people through them.”
3. What was the first art piece you created?
“Oh wow, hmmm. I used to have a subscription to sports illustrated for kids. I was quite a tom boy growing up and played a lot of sports and at recess I’d kick the little boys asses in basketball and football. They hated me for it.
Like most kids magazines they had the section where you could get your drawings published. I loved seeing other kids drawings and wanted to participate so I would draw Scottie Pippen and Shaq and football players and other various athletes. My drawings never got published but it’s when I can first recall drawing portraits.”
4. What things inspire you when you are creating an art piece?
“When I worked at the post office the general public inspired me and when I worked at the school the kids were inspiring. It’s usually whatever situation I’m in in life I observe it through a specific lens that caters to some kind of creative project. Since I’ve been at home, a lot of children’s books and cute cartoons have been inspiring. I love listening to the radio in the car and old mix CDs (I have a stack of old mix’s I’ve made since 2003!) and that’s where I find sources of inspiration for the little doodles I make with lyrics. I also pay attention to vintage t-shirts and the way they’re designed – the colors and shapes of letters and stuff like that. We take everything we are exposed to and put it into our brains and then process it in some way. A lot of it remains in our subconscious. I think we operate largely off of our subconscious without realizing it. With that being said, I also enjoy remembering stuff on purpose. If I want to remember something I will never forget it! So, visually, that’s a good practice for me and lends a hand to what I make.
As far as the act of drawing I like making stuff quickly without thinking much about it because I feel something special comes out of it. If I spend too much time trying to make something look right it doesn’t look right at all to me. “
5. Do you have any exciting and/or upcoming events or news that you would like to share?
“Every day I just wake up and wing it. Some days I have orders to fulfill or commissions to work on and other days I have nothing and I love that freedom! I need to have balance in life or else I feel off-physically, mentally and spiritually. Although, I once read a quote something like we are never balanced, just balancing. That really resonated with me. This project was something I started doing after I quit my job to stay at home with my son. I was searching for this “balancing act” and being creative slowly became a daily thing that I would tune into. Previous to being a stay at home parent I still made stuff it was just different because time was different. Time is weird! It’s so relative. I would LOVE to finally make a zine of my mailman comics but I am very distracted. I have about 40 mini-comics for the zine and it’s been on the backburner for a year plus.”
If you like to learn more about Katie. Her following contact information is below:
Recently I just thought that Burger King only had one mascot. However I was so wrong. There was a time when there was a whole bunch of characters that resided in the Burger Kingdom in 1976 until the mid 1980’s. The cast included:
The Duke of Doubt:
Even though the Duke of Doubt was part of the Burger King Kingdom. He was not a fan of the Burger King. He always doubted the King’s magical power of making Burger King food appear out of thin air. He was the most visible character in the commercials along with the Burger King.
He was a close friend of the King but his better friend was the shakes that were made at Burger King. He main characteristic was his shaking because he was so empathetic to the cold temperature of the shakes. That is also why he wore warmer kind of clothes and always accessorize with a Burger King cup as a hat.
The Burger Thing:
This character was basically a talking whopper burger in a painting He was more of a minor character in the kingdom because he would be the character in the group that would talk the least.
The Wizard of Fries:
A talking robot who face was a carton of french fries and had an interesting power of making many fries from just one.
The characters in the Burger King kingdom did not have a long run. By 1989 they were replaced by the BK Kids Club Gang:
Do you remember these characters? I don’t but it was interesting to find out how similar their campaigns were to McDonald’s.
“My name is Ana Karen Romero. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. I am a daughter of Mexican immigrants. And I really, really love paper. I was the kid who preferred crafting, paper, and markers over playing tag. I eat up all things paper and stationery. I touch and stare at the menu in restaurants for too long (or at least used to, in the before times). I can spend a lot of time in stationery stores, where half of the time a little Ana in horns is telling me to buy 12 more pens, and the other half of the time is a little Ana in a halo, reassuring me that buying only one pen is OK. While I love all things stationery, cards have a special place in my heart because they’re a way to express myself. The right words may not come out in the moment, but the art of letter writing allows me to reflect, and to express.”
2. What made you want to start making cards?
“I actually started making and selling cards in high school! When I was a teenager, I became obsessed with a scrapbooking store that opened up near my home. As I dove into the hobby, card making came naturally. Friends, teachers, and family bought my cards, and for a while, I thought this would be my career path: mass producing cards to sell at stores like Papyrus (RIP Papyrus). I went to college to major in business, and in the process, I changed my mind about my card company dreams. I never strayed far from paper, though. Before graduation, I started interning at a paper company, in their purchasing department. I learned so much about paper and the industry, plus I got to play with samples! Being around so much paper eye candy geared up my creative juices again. I started making invitations for family parties, and Ana Karen Loves Paper was born as a blog idea. My goal was to share the invitations I create, along with other stationery content I enjoyed. When I decided I wanted to pursue entrepreneurship, I shifted my focus from marketing a custom invitation service, to making and selling handmade cards.”
3. What are your top 2 best selling products and why do you think are so popular?
“El Corazón and La Muerte are my two top selling cards. These card designs are inspired by the Mexican bingo game, Lotería, which I think it’s part of the reason they are so popular. I’m absolutely smitten when the abuelas stop and smile at one of these cards. People like to see their culture represented, and I’m happy that AKLP cards remind people of times spent playing Lotería around the table. The sayings are also so sweet, which is another reason I think people love them so much. El Corazón card translates to “I love you with all of my heart” and La Muerte card translates to “I love you until death.”
4. Do you do custom orders and if so can you walk through the process of it?
“Yes! I take custom orders, with a minimum of 25 identical units. This is perfect for someone who wants invitations, or a business that wants a custom card to sell in store. I split the process into three parts: the Designing, the Prototyping, and the Making. I start the Design with direction from you: what do you need (a thank you card, an invitation, etc), and what theme. I mock up designs using the Cricut software, and finalize the mock up with you. Prototyping is my favorite part, because I pull out my swatch books. I’ll look for the paper that will work best for your design. I look at hue, texture, thickness, etc. In some cases, I may need to test cut everything first, to make sure I can build the piece just how I imagined it. The Making is usually the easiest part, because I’ve figured everything out already, and I approach it like an assembly line. Typically, it takes 2-4 weeks for turnaround. For a more involved piece, like a wedding invitation suite, I’d need about 8 weeks.”
5. Do you have any exciting news or events that you would like to share?
” Since I’ve started my business, I’ve expanded to include other stationery goods. I try to source as much as possible from other small makers, with a focus on BIPOC and women-led brands. Of course my cards are the heart and soul, and I’m so excited to announce that I’ll be debuting a wholesale catalog soon! I dream of boutiques across the US stocking AKLP cards, and this tool will make it easier to reach that dream. If you have any shops where you think AKLP cards would be a good fit, let me know so I can send them a catalog when it’s ready.”
If you like to learn more about Ana Karen’s Shop. The following contact is below: