Maira Kalman is an award-winning artist, illustrator, and product designer. She has illustrated numerous covers for The New Yorker magazine and has written and illustrated more than a dozen children's books. Her articles and illustrations have appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, Interview, and many other publications. Kalman has designed products for the Museum of Modern Art under the M&Co. label, fabric for Isaac Mizrahi, accessories for Kate Spade, and sets for Mark Morris Dance Group. A teacher of graduate design at the School of Visual Arts, she lives in New York with her two children and a dog.
Author biography courtesy of the New York Public Library.
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Kalman told us that she is the co-founder of the Rubber Band Society, is looking for a job in a café, adores ping-pong, and is very, very neat.
"My short attention span has allowed me a life of diversity in work and place, Kalman explains. "I work for The New Yorker, The New York Times, and other publications. I design products for The Museum of Modern Art. I design fabrics, and accessories for Kate Spade, fabric for Isaac Mizrahi."
"I travel as much as I can without being miserable from jet lag," she reveals. "I always remember that I don't really know what I am doing, and armed with that knowledge am very sure of myself."
Kalman reflects, "I consider my work to be about humor and love of life, and can do that when I am not terrified, which is often, but there you go."
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In the fall of 2005, Maira Kalman took some time out to talk with us about her favorite books, authors, and interests.
What was the book that most influenced your life or your career?
Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland made me feel that there were no limits to writing or drawing. Adults and children could engage on different levels and have fun and feel a sense of beauty and imagination.
What are your favorite books, and what makes them special to you?
All of Sebald, most of Nabokov, all of Jane Austen -- for the precision, love of language, sense of humanity, and sense of humor.
What are some of your favorite films, and what makes them unforgettable to
Bringing Up Baby, My Man Godfrey, La Dolce Vita. Madcap comedy is a great favorite. Also, I love the wild imagination of Fellini.
What types of music do you like? Is there any particular kind you like to listen to when you¹re writing?
There is no kind of music I don¹t listen to. Everything good is interesting. I am as happy with a Bach fugue as I am with a record by Thelonious Monk.
If you had a book club, what would it be reading?
I am not a good candidate for a book club.
What are your favorite kinds of books to give -- and get -- as gifts?
Photography books. I often give The Jump Book as a gift. It is a compendium of photos of famous people jumping for Phillipe Halsman.
Do you have any special writing rituals? For example, what do you have on
your desk when you¹re writing?
I usually have three or four cold cups of coffee on my desk, and lots of photos and scraps of reference on the wall. I turn on the music and wander around for a while, wondering where else I might be other than in the studio.
What are you working on now?
The Illustrated History of Shoes to be followed by The Illustrated History of Hats.
Many writers are hardly "overnight success" stories. How long did it take for you to get where you are today? Any rejection-slip horror stories or inspirational anecdotes?
I have a beautiful envelope full of rejection slips, including a nice one from The New Yorker.
I have been working for over 30 years and am always wondering about where I am and where I am going. It does not stop and become a fixed event of achievement.
What tips or advice do you have for writers still looking to be discovered?
It is impossible to know what fate will bring. If you love to write or paint, you will keep on writing or painting, and things will either work out or not, and you just have to keep being in the process.
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