We at Alabama Chanin have long been obsessed with and inspired by Maira Kalman. She has a rich and singular voice – as a visual artist, author, illustrator, and storyteller – that imbues people, objects, and words with knowing wit and humanity.
Maira has written and illustrated 18 children’s books, all of which have been popular nighttime reading with my daughter Maggie. Maira’s illustrated version of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style resides, beautiful and dog-eared, on my desk each day—as it has become part of our company style guide. And for years, I have traded and passed on copies of and links to her columns from the New York Times, The Principles of Uncertainty and The Pursuit of Happiness (both of which are now published exquisitely in book form).
Recently, friend and amazing designer Gael Towey produced and directed a short film on Maira, as part of her important and thoughtful series, “Portraits in Creativity.” The group of videos highlights artists and their inspirations; each individual film is a loving tribute to the act of creating. (We are honored to be featured as part of the series, alongside talented artists like Maira, Gabriella Kiss, and Sheila Berger – with more to come.) View each of Gael’s portraits here and watch her film about Maira below.
Maira’s characters act as narrators for everyday experiences and manage to find the wonder and magic in the moment-to-moment and day-to-day occurrences of an ordinary life. Perhaps that is because, as she told Gael, “I think that every person you talk to is eccentric – deeply eccentric – in their own way. You just have to find it.” Maira has a wry artist’s eye that appreciates the beauty, the absurdity, and the imperfect perfection of real people.
Her newest book is Girls Standing on Lawns, a collaboration with Daniel Handler (known to many as Lemony Snicket) and the Museum of Modern Art. (It is a favorite addition to our Alabama Chanin library.)
View Maira’s episode of “Portraits in Creativity” above, or visit Gael’s site here.