Thursday, April 29, 2010

Liam goes spelunking

photo: Michelle Loewen

Can you picture it? Me, sitting at my sewing table, watching a Koo & Poppet thingy come closer to life with every ounce of stuffing, taking a good long look at each one's facial expression before determining an appropriate name. After the naming comes the tricky part: getting their "likes" and "dislikes" just right. In Liam's case, he likes caves and dislikes getting stuck and, in fact, further to that.....

"You read it here first folks, Liam is a serious cave nut. He loves exploring the dark depths of cavernous places. (Well, that's what he told us to write. However, his friends will tell you that the real reason he likes going in caves is because it's a good excuse to wear a headlamp, and Liam thinks headlamps are the bomb)."

Needless to say, these little critters come into being with no shortage of character, even if it only exists in my imagination. So perhaps you can imagine my utter delight when my new friend Michelle, who is also a brilliant photographer, kindly took it upon herself to photograph Liam in his element, headlamp and all.

A photo essay of his entire spelunking adventure (Liam reads maps, who knew?!) lives here on Michelle's blog. Please have a peek and browse through Michelle's portfolio if you're so inclined, I promise you'll be smitten with her work!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Just a quick note to say.....

.....please visit the Koo & Poppet misfits featured over at Papernstitch this month! It's new territory for them and they would be oh so comforted by a familiar face or two. (Scroll down on the home page and you are sure to spy one!)

To go directly to Koo & Poppet's spot on the site, click here.

Thanks for the support!

Monday, April 26, 2010

photo filter

Can anyone guess what this is? (there is no Photoshop involved.....)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

It is calling to me

....and I fear my trigger-happy index finger clicking on my mouse......ADD TO CART....CHECKOUT......PURCHASE.......

should I or shouldn't I?

Miss Popular

I am honoured to see Cute Bunny Milly featured in another treasury on Etsy!
Thanks to Samy for including her, she is most flattered :)
You can see larger images of the whole collection on Samy's blog here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Story Worth Telling

I would like to invite you all, dear readers, to imagine a story that justifies a photograph of mangled, charred springs. How did they get there? What did they belong to originally? Why do they appear to have survived a fire?

For the true tale behind this image, read on....

Ever since we moved from the city to the country, Scott has really embraced a more, shall we say, "back-to-basics" lifestyle. He spends hours out in the yard every evening, digging, hauling, sawing, trimming. What he digs, hauls, saws, and trims often remains a mystery to me - I just resign myself to the idea that he must be doing SOMETHING, so I carry on with whatever I am doing and don't give it too much thought.
As of late, however, he has become a bit of a pyro. He has been starting fires (safely) in our backyard for the burning of leaves, twigs, and really anything of no value that he can get his hands on. He has adopted an "I-could-burn-that" attitude. Sometimes I peer out the window and all I see is my husband's face lit by an orange glow. Slightly creepy. When he finally comes in, he is a walking campfire air freshener.
He simply loves the fact that we live out in the woods and he can have his fires. "AHA. LOOK WHAT I HAVE CREATED. I HAVE MADE FIRE. I AM HUNTER GATHERER AND I HAVE MADE FIRE."

I joke. (But not really.)

So amidst all this nightly burning, we come to another matter.
It is (was) the matter of an old couch that was taking up space in our family room. It was the couch that I bought as a student many years ago and we just never got rid of it. Recently, it had become the "dog" couch and was more or less in shambles. Not only would no one pay a dime for it, but I don't even think we could have given it away.

We were trying to figure out what to do with it.

"I could burn it," Scott joked. (But not really.)


"Well, I COULD burn it..."

"Yes, I guess you could."

[15 minutes later....]

"Would you help me get this thing outside?"

"Now?! you seriously.....?"

And so, incredulously, I witnessed Scott lift the old couch at one end and drag the dog-pawed thing out of the house, up the outside basement stairs, across the lawn, and onto the coals. You know what happens next, my friends. Yes, he set it ablaze. Apparently it was reduced to the springs in a few short minutes.

Boys and girls, this is what the country life has done to us. Not only are we burning our old furniture instead of disposing of it respectably, I think we may just be on to a new boonie-ville social activity: "Dude, jump on the 4-wheeler, we're headed to the MacNeill place for a couch-burning!!! Bring your bow and arrow!"

Spectacle as it may be, mission accomplished. Goodbye couch, R.I.P.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

"A" is for Adorable

Some great photos of a happy customer!
This little one-year-old's mama authors a wonderful blog, be sure to visit her here.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Exhibito "A"

I'm not exactly sure if "exhibito" is the Italian word for "exhibit" but it's close enough and that's where these sextuplets are off to - Italy!
I present to you "Claudio".
Likes: bike rides
Dislikes: flat tires

And yes. Those are linen carrots. On a bunny's tummy. How long do you think it took me to decide I needed THAT fabric? Umm, like negative 2 seconds.

"BOLOGNESE and MUSEUMS and GELATO and FASHION, HERE WE COME!" they squeal from within their luxurious bubble mailer. As soon as their voyage is complete, these bunnies will be available online at! I will post more about this fantastic site in the coming weeks.
Catania, Italy

So here you have it, the newest resident of the Forest of Misfits. Claudio has moved into a burrow right next door to Tuesday, and Milly is showing him around. The welcoming committee consists of Elliot, Baffin and Weasel McBeasel. And those of you reading this who are unfamiliar with Koo & Poppet - permission granted to consider the author of this blog insane.

The Koo & Poppet spring collection is well underway, and I will be posting more designs over the next few weeks. I'm so excited to unveil the 2010 fabrics!!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Featured Artist: Shirley Ng-Benitez

Ever since my introduction to the blogging world in 2008, I have crossed cyber paths with countless interesting, artistic, friendly and supportive people. Illustrator Shirley Ng-Benitez is one of them, and I've recently had the pleasure of interviewing her about her work and other fun facts.

KP: What 3 words would you use to describe your illustration style?

SNB: Wow, this is a tough one, as I'm still figuring it out - though I would say, 1) story-like 2) heartfelt 3) warm

KP: Do you have an illustration that is especially close to your heart?

SNB: I have two: La Partie de Thé dans le Bois (; and "Monsieur Olivet" ( I feel that the first one is special to me because the sketch came from a thought from a lovely friend and I just started sketching the idea out quickly. Miette's face came first and then the party crowns, the tea, and the whole forest scene came to life. I just keep sketching and everything just came out so fluidly...that is something that doesn't happen very often for me. Monsieur Olivet is very special to me because of his expression. This expression just "spoke" to me and he came to life one day. I found the "right" name for him, and he is off on his adventures. It has been such a treat to come up with his friends and story..which is still unfolding, by the way.

KP: An artist/illustrator whose work you admire?

SNB: Oh so very many that I can't say just one..can I name a few? Holly Hobbie, Amy Bates, Lisbeth Zwerger, Maurice Sendak, R.W. Alley. So very many more!

KP: Please tell us a bit about your artistic process, from concept to finished artwork.

SNB: When there is a problem to solve visually, there is an initial period where I have a few immediate thoughts about how to go about illustrating the piece, and so I quickly sketch out ideas on regular bond paper. After I sketch a few ideas, I move on to my daily chores and work-load all the while thinking about the problem. I tend to work on my illustrations at night when all is quiet in the house, and when there's time to think. Each night, before I go to sleep, I sketch. I think this has helped me a lot this past year, feeling more comfortable with just letting the pencil go. I erase a lot, and keep sketching facial expressions, poses and environments until I get to a point where there is a special something that I see in a sketch. Then I get pretty excited, and eager to work through all of the details to enhance the entire piece. Once I'm happy with the sketch, (and hopefully have succeeded in solving the visual problem), I define the sketch more with detail. Not a completely detailed piece, but I add enough detail so that I can then move to the next phase, which is to photocopy the sketch and enlarge it by about 150%. I tend to sketch small, so I blow up the sketch so that when I paint, I can add a bit more detail. Once the copy is made, I turn it over and add graphite all over the back so that I can transfer the copy to a watercolor block. I use Arches Cold Pressed 140lb. currently because I really like the texture of the paper and enjoy the format (12 1/8" x 15 1/8"). Once the pencil is transferred to the watercolor block, I wet the entire area I'm going to paint on with plain water and let it dry. Sometimes I float color into the backgrounds at this stage and leave it clear where I might place a character or animal. Then I start laying in color here and there in light washes. I move back and forth between focusing on the main character, or the background as I find that I like the differences (detail work, and then soft washes). I start adding fine detail with my favorite 00 Winsor Newton Sable brush throughout. I really enjoy the whole process...and it's always hard to know when to stop..but I'm hoping I'm getting better at knowing when. I am still a student, that's for sure!

KP: What have you found to be the greatest challenge as an illustrator? What is the greatest reward/Why do you love what you do?

SNB: Greatest challenge: overcoming self-doubt. I have always loved drawing ever since I can remember. I drew all along the sides of my papers as a kid, and would always scrunch up and cover my work as a child. Even after finding my direction in college, I remember hesitating to show my work to the class for any sort of critique. It was much too personal and I remember feeling that to show my portfolio to anyone was like wearing my heart on my sleeve. It was SO hard to break through that self-doubt and fear of rejection.

The greatest reward is to have my girls respond with a verbal, "Awww!". (Extremely awesome when you're aiming for illustrating something sweet and cute!). I just asked my little one to help with question 1, and she said, "what does that mean?". After I said "what does mommy's work look like to you?", and she said, "it brings you into the forest". Heck, I was just so tickled to hear that because that's what I'm shooting for - bringing people into my work and having them feel as though they've just been transported to a childlike world again..full of innocence, light, and fun. I love to illustrate because it brings me such joy to be able to send a cheerful break to anyone who might chance upon a piece. I believe in living each moment to the fullest, to stop and smell the flowers, and enjoy what nature brings us, so when we can pause a bit in our busy day to relax and ponder, it makes me happy to know that my work might be a part of that levity that we all need.

KP: As a child, what did you aspire to?

SNB: I always wanted to be a veterinarian and own a horse. I now, crazily have a barn but no horses, just a dog, a fish, and lovely family. And up until my first year in college, I thought I was going to be an Engineer, just like my dad. Thankfully he has been so supportive of my quite-the-opposite career direction.

KP: What do you do in your spare time?

SNB: I walk the dog; ride my bike; in the spring through summer I enjoy pretending to play golf; love to bake and cook; read about the illustration industry and about artists, illustrators, lettering-artists, and designers of the past and present; crochet scarves, sketch, sketch and sketch some more. I also love chatting with my girlfriends and catching up with my favorite blog friends and artists!

KP: Chocolate, Strawberry or Vanilla?

SNB: Chocolate - all the way. Especially dark of any kind.

(Love this lil' guy)

Find Shirley's work here (illustration blog) and here (graphic design website).

All images copyright Shirley Ng-Benitez.

Friday, April 2, 2010

A Day in the Life

I've been back at work for about a month now - back to my real job, one that does not involve koopoppeting. Not that Koo & Poppet isn't real or fulfilling or time-consuming, but it was just time for me to return to the professional world. I must admit, it feels good to wear nice clothes everyday and actually do my hair, as so much of this last year was spent in sweats and sloppy pony tails. It also feels good to show up for work on a regular schedule, put my education and background to good use, and earn an income again. But I have hired someone to help with the Koo & Poppet production, so business moves forward as usual and on task!
This of course means that my REAL real job as Sadie's mommy has taken a time cut by 30 hours per week. I have one day off during the work week to spend with her, and I appreciate our home time together that much more because of this new schedule we are transitioning into. We stay close to home, run fewer errands and take naps together. We eat cheerios and walk down the lane to the mailbox at a pace of her choosing. We try on shoes. We hide in closets and read books over and over and over. I breathe in her smell and realize she is growing further and further from her babyhood everyday.
Our day comes but once a week, and I don't take one second of it for granted.