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What If It Was Scary?

Kate: What do you think about making songs for kids that are scary?

Caspar: Do you mean scary kids?? Hee Hee! I think that there is a rich tradition of dark and scary elements in kid's music and story books. Most nursery rhymes started out as political cartoons and were linked to pretty gruesome events in the world of kings, queens, and the clergy. The news of rivalries and jealousies and political warfare were disguised as innocent rhymes to enable the news to travel from town to town without the threat of persecution from the state. There are still obvious remnants of this dynamic in songs like "Three Blind Mice."

I like to keep a tiny tiny touch of that darkness in some of my songs in the form of giving inanimate objects an inner lifeI like to keep a tiny tiny touch of that darkness in some of my songs in the form of giving inanimate objects an inner life and making them lost or lonely. I love the idea of something that feels sad or disconnected trying to find its place in the world. I think that a child that is cared for in a loving household feels very safe with its parents but can feel as it grows up that worrisome threat of the big wide world. I guess there is something about doing songs of lost things looking for a home that I like because it is dark.

I did write one song a few years ago called "Six White Geese" that was my early attempt to make an overtly old-fashioned nursery rhyme type of thing. I ended up having all of the geese die in one way or another, and the song went too far! I used to share early mixes of songs with a wide variety of test families to get feedback from real parents and kids about the tunes. One of the children felt there was just "too much death" in my song and I needed to back off! Kids are generally VERY honest about their reactions to songs and she was no exception.

A sprinkle of darkness keeps the tension in a song tight and can make it compelling, but too much can literally kill the magic.

÷÷÷

Caspar: Where do you see your art going in the future? What is the next potential shift in medium that you might explore?

Kate: I really don't know where my art will go. If you had asked the same question 10 years ago I would NOT have said collage. When I graduated from art school in 1994, I was painting my illustrations.

In the spring of 2001, I met glass artist Dale Chihuly. I had a friend who worked at the Boat House in Seattle where Chihuly works and lives. He thought it might be fun if I could check out a glass blowing studio. I met Dale's assistant and he asked me what I did for a living, and I told him I was a freelance illustrator. "Do you have a portfolio?" he asked. I did, and he told me to go get it. "Right now?" I asked. Yes, right now."Do you have a portfolio?" he asked. I did, and he told me to go get it. "Right now?" I asked. Yes, right now. So I went home and got my portfolio and brought it back to the Boat House. To my surprise Dale was waiting for me! We had a great time chatting about art, and we collect some of the same things: Japanese folk art, vintage children's books, old fishing lures, and funky weird stuff.

Our meeting wrapped up and as I left Dale handed me an empty cardboard box with instruction to go into his supply room and fill it up with art supplies. After I filled the box with paint he then handed my several packets of heavy weight watercolor paper. Such a generous gift, but unfortunately not my chosen medium. Later that year the country experienced the 9/11 attacks. I, like many of people, lost a lot of my freelance clients, and I went about a year without any work. I found the need to reinvent myself. So I pulled out the supplies Dale had given me, and I started to hand paint tissue paper. I then glued it down to the watercolor paper and added bits of decorative paper. I started with basic shapes and simple designs.

Over the next five years I would develop a brand new style, and it's all thanks to Dale Chihuly and his assistant Billy O'Neill. Such a random meeting that resulted in one of the most important artistic moments in my life! Prior to that experience, I was a very anxious artist. Things in my career were not happening fast enough, and it made me very sad. I really believe that all the worry was blocking me from achieving the success I dreamed about. Now, I try to stay focused on what's happening right now. I keep my eye out for unusual "coincidences" that I know will lead me to the next great source of inspiration. Having said all of that, though, I'd love to start working three dimensionally as a woodcarver.

÷ ÷ ÷

Caspar Babypants is also known as Chris Ballew, twice Grammy-nominated lead singer and songwriter for the rock-and-roll band the Presidents of the United States of America. For music, info, and more, go to BabypantsMusic.com.

Kate Endle is a collector of beautiful and unusual printed papers, which she uses to compose vibrant images for children’s books and original artwork. Original art and Kate Endle collage prints can be found at her online shop at KateEndle.com.

The couple is married and live in Seattle. Their collaborations include three children's books: My Woodland Wish, Bunny Rabbit in the Sunlight, and Augie to Zebra.


Books mentioned in this post

  1. My Woodland Wish Sale Hardcover $7.98
  2. Bunny Rabbit in the Sunlight New Board Book $9.99
  3. Augie to Zebra: An Alphabet Book! Used Hardcover $11.95


Caspar Babypants and Kate Endle is the author of Augie to Zebra: An Alphabet Book!

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