This week author/illustrator Carin Berger visited our public library with her box of tricks: thousands of pieces of cut paper in wavy, curvy shapes. Children grabbed the pieces—cut from catalogs, magazines, newspapers and ephemera—and arranged them on black construction paper to create animals, rain forests, people, trains, robots…just like Ms. Berger does in her books. She’s a collage artist—quite possibly the world’s most delightful vocation.

Did Ms. Berger always know she wanted to be an author/illustrator? Not necessarily, although she was always interested in telling a story through images.

Carin shared with us a book she created when she was 10 years old, called The Naughty Jester. Already she was using cut paper to help tell her tale, and her talent is apparent, even at this young age.

naughtyjester

naughtyjester2

Carin didn’t start writing children’s books until she had a child of her own. When her infant daughter didn’t sleep well, she stayed up in the wee hours writing silly poetry, illustrating her words with collage. Turns out the notion wasn’t so silly and the sleepy little project became her first book, Not So True Stories and Unreasonable Rhymes.

foreverfriendsMs. Berger told us secrets. If you look at the items the naughty jester is juggling, you’ll find those same images repeated in her books. The blue bird is one of the main characters in her Spring 2010 title Forever Friends. And her daughter’s name Thea appears in every book. You have to look hard to find it.

So today’s idea tip is to walk over to that pile of junk mail on your kitchen counter (come on, you know it’s there) and start cutting. Take an interesting pattern, perhaps from a clothing catalog, and cut a fancy little shape. Not just a circle or square, but perhaps a swirl like a wisp of a cloud on a windy day. When you’ve collected enough shapes, put them down on a piece of paper and shuffle them around. Overlap them or spread them out.

What did you make? Is it a character? A place? A strange object that needs a function? What does it do and why? What could appear in the negative space?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m busy with scissors and glue.

So how’s it going today?