Our books are created with an integrated approach to illustration that combines needle felting, scale model-making and photography (in studio or on location).
Needle felting is the process of repeatedly “stabbing” loose wool with a barbed needle, which entangles wool fibres and provides an effective means of creating felted shapes and sculpturing fine detail. All of the felted figures (and some objects) in our books were painstakingly made by hand with this needle-felting technique.
This Star Wars Epic Yarns behind-the-scenes video debuted on starwars.com! It gives you a nice glimpse of our incredibly labor-intensive creative process:
For more on how we made Star Wars Epic Yarns, check out these links:
Check out our Cozy Classics behind-the-scenes video below!
Here are some of the interview responses which we gave to frankie magazine in May / June 2013 about our writing and illustration process for Cozy Classics:
How do you condense an English lit classic into 12 words? J: In a phrase, “No subplots.” When you only have twelve words to work with, you can only trace the main narrative arc, and even then only its essence. So only major plot points, and no minor characters. Our [words] have to be baby-friendly, too—think twelve words from a dictionary of maybe a couple of hundred—so it’s definitely a challenge.Tell us about your approach to illustration – you combined needle-felting, model-making and photography. H: I think it’s borne out of a secret desire—which a lot of people have—to make a movie. We think of creating needle-felted figures as “casting”. We create indoor sets or scout outdoor locations for shoots. Then we get behind the lens and try to create images that feel cinematic. We don’t use any computer animation to create our images.* If you see a sky in a shot, it’s natural sky. If you see a forest in a shot, it’s a real forest. In the shots where you see stars in the background, they’re created by backlighting cardstock with holes punched in it. For us, computer animation would be cheating.
* We only made two exceptions when we took on Star Wars Epic Yarns: lightsabers and Force lightning (which, after a little head-scratching, we determined were impossible to do in-camera).
What made you decide on needle-felting as a medium? Were either of you keen needle-felters before? J: For us, the home-spun quality of needle-felting resonates with the classics. It’s interesting because needle-felting as a handicraft didn’t really develop until the 1980s, so it’s a relatively new form. It’s of the same vintage as computer graphics, but needle-felting just feels old-fashioned in a way that lends itself perfectly to our books. H: Neither of us had ever picked up a felting needle before this project. The very first figure I tried needle-felting, Ishmael, wound up in the book. After I had felted a number of figures, I flew to upstate New York to show Jack how to needle-felt. So we basically taught ourselves everything we know about needle-felting, and in a hurry.
You’ve both got kids – did you roadtest everything with them first? J: My kids definitely get to test drive the images and words before they’re published—they get the advance iPad version. It makes my older daughter very anxious for the books to come out [waiting six months to a year for publication]. H: My kids get advance iPad screenings, too, but they seem to smile and giggle at everything I show them, so I’m not sure they’re taking their quality control responsibilities very seriously.
All Star Wars Epic Yarns images © 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. STAR WARS is a registered TM of Lucasfilm Ltd.