On June 26th, the DIME Store will host an event to officially launch “&MADE”, the shop’s new in-house collaborative brand. Since the beginning of this year, DIME has encouraged its makers to work together and create new and exciting products with their combined skills. Today we look at one of those collaborations: a children’s book that’s the combined brainchild of Matt Sallack of Otter Illustration and Shawna Smyth of Shawna Smyth Studios. “Arrhinoceratops to Zephrosaurus: a Dino ABC Book” will be released at the &MADE launch later this month.
WDDI: Earlier this year, The DIME Store hosted a mixer to encourage makers to work together on collaborations just like this. What came first: the mixer or the idea to collaborate on this type of project?
Shawna: I think Matt had the idea for this dino book before the mixer, but for me, the mixer came first.
Matt: I actually approached Shawna a week or so before the DIME mixer about the idea. I believe it was at a SCRAP meeting. I ambushed Shawna and told her about the idea. And if I remember correctly, Rachel was sitting there as well and exclaimed, "The collaboration mixer is next week!" And then if I am still remembering correctly, I replied, "Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads." And then proceeded to put on sunglasses smoothly and fly away with a jetpack.
Who had the original idea?
Shawna: Matt had the original idea! I don't know when he sleeps, because I'm pretty sure he spends 24/7 turning all his ideas into realities! And he has a TON of ideas.
Matt: The dinosaur ABC book is similar to a project I was working on for my MFA thesis at Academy of Art University. I have always had a special affinity for dino's and I wanted to make this idea happen. I saw Shawna's lettering and was like, "I think that would make this book even better." So when I told her about the idea, she was in!
Who did what?
Shawna: Matt did most of the legwork on this project. He had the original concept, did the research, did the illustrations and layout, found a way to print and distribute the books... basically all the super important stuff to make sure this book became a real thing. I hand-lettered each dinosaur name in the style that Matt and I agreed on. I sent him a few variations early on to see what he thought would look best, and we ended up both having the same favorite!
Matt: I did all the illustrations, book layout and design. My BFA is in graphic design and my MFA is in illustration. So this is a perfect project to utilize all that art-school knowledge! Shawna hand-lettered all 26 dinosaur names in an elegant, but approachable script font. And she also did a sans-serif font for the phonetic pronunciation of all the names as well. The magic comes from the pairing of her aesthetic with mine. It's something that you can't really plan for or know how it will work. But when it comes together and each compliments the other, it's a novel appeal.
What was the best part of working with someone else?
Shawna: I would say, seeing how another creative brain works. Matt carries a sketchbook everywhere, and will sketch out his words as you're talking. If he's talking about the layout of the book, he'll sketch it real quick right in front of you. I usually only bring a sketchbook to client meetings when I feel like I'll need to draw what the client is telling me, to make sure we're on the same page. Like translating their language to my language. The way Matt did it felt almost like a mixing of languages, like Spanglish. It was really neat to see!
Matt: The best part is you are creating something that you cannot create on your own, physically and ideologically.
What was the hardest part of working with someone else?
Shawna: Making our schedules line up! I feel like I've been back and forth between here and Austin a lot lately, plus taking on new chalkboard clients, and Matt's so busy with the Community Market, his East Side Arts & Craft Beer, Mulberry St., Voertman's... etc., etc. It's really good that we're both busy, but it can make it difficult to schedule meetings.
Matt: I feel the hardest part of any collaboration project is communication. Everybody has different words that mean different things, and messages get lost in translation. But that's also sometimes when the happy accidents occur.
How do you feel about the finished product?
Shawna: Oh. My. Gosh. I love it! The finished product looks more amazing than I could've dreamed possible! The only way it could possibly be better is if the whole thing were about cats instead of dinosaurs...
Matt: I love it. That's the best part! I've already sample-tested it on the kindergarten class at Lee Elementary here in Denton, and they were pretty hyped on it.
Do the two of you have any other plans for future collaborations and products?
Shawna: We were thinking of doing some original art pieces to go with the book! And maybe coloring pages? I think we talked about that, but now I'm not sure. The last time we met in person was at Matt's home, and he has a tiny, playful kitten that definitely made it hard to focus. I mean, she's just so teeny and cute! You try talking business with a fuzzy kitten in your lap!
Matt: No plans yet, but basically any project where I need anything with hand-lettering she will be the first one I think of.
Has this inspired you to collaborate with other makers on other products?
Shawna: Absolutely! I'm looking forward to working more with several other makers on different products! Nothing in the works just yet, but I have IDEAS.
Matt: Yeah, there are several makers I would like to work with. Savannah Kurka of Savvie Design is at the top of my list. I have tons of ideas and it's just a matter which ones seem to have the most creative potential and how plausible they are logistically.
Make sure you stop by the DIME Store on June 26th for the official &MADE launch and the “Arrhinoceratops to Zephrosaurus: a Dino ABC Book” release, where you can even get Matt and Shawna to sign your book, by a book gift pack, and more.
The DIME Store is a shop and artist collective in downtown Denton that features art, craft, and vintage from 40+ local makers. Rachel Aughtry and Shelley Christner act as the "curators and purveyors" of the shop. When they're not at DIME, you'll find them behind their sewing machines or enjoying a margarita at The Greenhouse.