• Embroidery
  • Jillian Tamaki & Rachell Sumpter
  • Creative Director
  • Paul Buckley
  • Production
  • Dolores Reilly & Marlene De Jesús
  • Editor
  • Elda Rotor
  • Paul Buckley: After completing the Penguin Ink series, I wanted to do a complete 180, but with something still tactile, just warmer—and friendlier. I had purchased this small emroidery off of Etsy and this time I went over to my Penguin Classics Publisher, Elda Rotor, and it was an instant sell. I was given 3 titles to start with, now I just had to figure out who could embroider like an illustrator.

    Jillian Tamaki, process shot

    Erin Paisley, purchased via Etsy

    PB: I looked for weeks, and so few people do this in a commissionable way, and those who could, never felt right. I’m always trying to solve multiple projects, so late one night, I was looking at Jillian Tamaki’s website wondering if she’d be good for a Kerouac project I was working on, and for no real reason I took a look at her “blog” section, and waaay at the bottom was this amazing quilt she had embroidered for herself; EUREKA! Except the captain said it took her forever, please do not ask me to do this for you. So I sent her an email saying I had these three titles, she could pick any one she wanted, sorry, I know it’s nuts but I have to ask. Then I packed up and went home. The next morning I came into the office to Jillian’s reply which was a hells yes, and please let me do all 3 — !!! (huge sigh of relief).

    PB: These being so tactile, so extruded and full of peaks and valleys creating shadows everywhere, the production that went into creating the final covers was quite intense. We picked up the originals from Jillian and had them photographed and retouched, creating photographic-images. Then a second retoucher was needed to get them ready for the printer and to further control color and shadow densities. We then printed these on an uncoated sheet and sculpt embossed all the threads for a beautiful tactile effect.

    During this procedure I noticed that Jillian had lined the backs with canvas and in one corner it was peeling down to reveal that the backsides are just as amazing as the front—so upstairs I went to show this to my publisher and beg her to let me reproduce them on the backs of the covers, which is exactly what we did.

    PB: These 3 were so successful that we did 3 more titles, that time with the amazing Rachell Sumpter, also presented below.

    Rachell Sumpter:
    I sort of tricked Penguin when Paul contacted me and asked if I would like to create the next set of Threads and if I embroidered. I said, “Yes, absolutely!”—though I had hardly embroidered in my life. He asked for test embroideries, which I had to create, quickly, and then the next step was for me to create extremely detailed sketches showing where every stitch was going to go. Someone who has never seen the covers could probably re-create them from the sketches, stitch by stitch. Jillian Tamaki was very helpful in recommending a book she uses and telling me to use stretcher bars. I learned quickly, but I also had a two-month-old nursing son and a show in Stockholm I was preparing for at the same time. It was nuts! I had to create a test embroidery to prove my abilities—which was fine. I was a little unsure myself. The deadlines were the same as a standard illustrated cover—two weeks for sketches, two weeks for final. (Is that correct? That’s what I recall but I can hardly believe it.)

    RS: The Wizard of Oz was first and of course the most detailed; I think I may have gone overboard. The poppies were my favorite part, and trying out the different stitches for pattern making on the flaps was interesting.

    With The Wind in the Willows, I originally wanted to do the section where they are drifting down the river and encounter Pan—it felt very dreamy and surreal—but I also thought, “No, this is for young people—they want action!” Hence the obnoxious Mr. Toad. I did like the way the colors turned out; the complementary palette really sang. Plants and characters are my favorite things to draw and paint.

    Little Women was challenging because it was last, which meant little leeway with deadlines. The big question was, Do I include the sisters? Or one—then which one? So I decided not to include any!

    Society of Illustrators Gold medal for Black Beauty