I am an interdisciplinary designer and entrepreneur whose career began in the Los Angeles apparel industry and eventually transitioned to graphic design and publishing.
My company PAINTBOX PRESS has been a series of adventures. It started serendipitously with a project I was working on while pursuing a Masters degree. Having recently moved to a historic neighborhood in Chapel Hill near UNC, I was inspired by a magnificent garden planted by twins Bernice Stiles Wade and Barbara Stiles shortly after WWII. For decades the twins designed, planted and cared for the garden throughout the year, awaiting the three weeks in April when it bloomed and the twins put out a small wooden sign announcing "The Garden is Open." They invited friends and neighbors to celebrate its beauty.
I immediately knew I would like to tell their story. I wrote and illustrated a prototype, then printed and hand-assembled 40 books in my studio to share with our neighbors. As it happened, a reporter from the local newspaper was attending the garden event that spring. She asked if she could photograph one of my illustrations for the article she was writing. The following day, orders for 400 copies of The Garden is Open appeared in my inbox. Eventually that numbered in the thousands, and Paintbox Press was born. As a testament to the value of fresh air and friendship, both twins lived to beyond age 100.
As a designer, I have always enjoyed working in both two and three dimensions. I approached Macy's department store in 2000 with a proposal to write and publish a coffee-table pop-up book on Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Fascinated by what happens behind-the-scenes of such an event, I spent a year researching the topic, attended Macy's Clown College, and marched in the parade as a clown when the book was released in 2001.
I continued to seek out projects as an official licensee of other annual events—including the Derby (2005) and the Tour de France (2009). In addition to providing opportunities to experience these world-class events first-hand, the paper engineering skills involved in designing the pop-ups resulted in invitations to speak at elementary and middle-school students across the US.
The creativity of students and teachers I meet in K-12 classrooms is evident, but often schools are not set up in ways that encourage innovation. Traditional classroom layout, 45-minute class periods, seeking "one right answer" in preparing for standardized tests limits the ideation and project-based problem-solving I was exposed to as a design student, and that have used nearly every day of my life.
Paintbox Press has embarked on creating a series of interactive books on design that introduce young people to a variety of creative professions, empowering them to use their imagination along with the process of design to tackle challenges and, ultimately, to make their world a better place. To date, three books have been released, and a fourth, Fashion Design for Kids, is currently in process.
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