For the love of imagination

Princess & Sunny Day

Princess & Sunny Day

When I was young, I read a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson that struck a chord with me. “The Land of Counterpane” is about a sick boy, confined to his bed, who relies on his imagination to entertain himself. (“Counterpane” is an old word for coverlet or bedspread.) 

The Land of Counterpane

When I was sick and lay a-bed,
I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay,
To keep me happy all the day.

And sometimes for an hour or so
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
With different uniforms and drills,
Among the bed-clothes, through the hills;

And sometimes sent my ships in fleets
All up and down among the sheets;
Or brought my trees and houses out,
And planted cities all about.

I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow-hill,
And sees before him, dale and plain,
The pleasant land of counterpane.

When I hung up the phone from talking to the client who ordered this pair of blankets I’m about to share with you, I realized that Stevenson’s poem was vigorously stroking its way out of the depths to the surface of my memory pool. 

∴ ∴ ∴ ∴ ∴ ∴ ∴

Princess & Sunny DayPrincess & Sunny DayNatori siblings

Anika Yael Natori contacted me last year to ask me to make blankets for her two young children. She had seen my work in person as she is friends with the owner of Calliope’s Castle and its coordinating pillow shams. Yael told me she loved the whimsy in those.

Yael has a fascinating story, which she shares on her Josie Girl Blog. She is the child of immigrants — her mom is from Mexico, her dad from Poland. She grew up in Eugene, Oregon, with her parents and brother (“A family of academics!” she says.) A creative family too. Yael tells me as a girl she liked to make dolls and clothes while her brother would sew beautiful quilts.

After college, Yael became an academic herself and taught math for several years. She continues to tutor. This post of hers about teaching gives a glimpse of her love and enthusiasm for life and people.

Princess & Sunny Day Princess & Sunny Day Under the Sea

Yael fell in love with and married her brother’s best friend, Ken Natori. Ken is the son of Josie Natori — fashion designer, CEO, and founder of The Natori Company. (Yael blogs for the company’s contemporary Josie collection.) As Ken is now president of the company, he, Yael and their children Cruz and Zoe make their home in New York City — but take lots of trips to Eugene, where Yael cherishes her roots.

Each time I interacted with her, I caught the mix of West coast and East coast, of country girl and city girl, of down-to-earth freedom to be herself combined with appreciation for New York’s insistence to take note of all things modern! stylish! intriguing! I have completely enjoyed working with this interesting woman.

And now it’s time to turn our attention to the kids, the blankets, whimsy … and Robert Louis Stevenson.

Princess & Sunny DayPrincess & Sunny DayUnder the Sea
Yael describes 6-year-old Cruzzie as a sweet, sensitive, inquisitive boy who loves to explore. Areas of interest: planes, trains, and everything underwater. She describes her 3-year-old daughter Zoe as a firecracker with big, luscious, kissable cheeks. Areas of interest: animals, princesses, blocks, and puzzles.

When I finished my phone call with her and Stevenson’s poem was surfacing for me, all I knew is that I needed to give each child a landscape of their own to fuel their imaginations.

Yael shipped me a box of her kids’ outgrown clothes of wool and cashmere (oh, to be related to someone in the fashion world!). I have to tell you how much this box of clothes warmed my (occupational therapist’s) heart — especially the worn-through knees in the leggings. The sign of serious play!

Princess & Sunny Day Princess & Sunny Day Princess & Sunny Day

The scene I wanted for each child gradually came together. For Cruzzie, this is “Under the Sea”

Under the Sea Under the SeaUnder the Sea

…An underwater scene with turtle, seahorses, whales, the bottom of a boat, fish, rocks, plants, and starfish — all under a clear blue sky on a sunny day. From the Natori stash come the striped turtle and whale bodies, the rocks, the boat and its button-portholes, and the middle strip of turquoise blue with the navy neck and edge ribbing.

Under the Sea Under the Sea Under the Sea

And for Zoe, this is “The Princess and the Sunny Day”

Princess & Sunny DayPrincess & Sunny DayPrincess & Sunny Day

…A valley kingdom surrounded by hills, with a princess (with cheeks!), her animal friends (including a frog because — one never knows — he may have some royal DNA), and a river meandering through the valley for farmers. (Well, I made it as a river, but a friend who saw it imagined it was a road. That’s the thing here — you can make up the story.) There is also a bridge to cross for further adventures. It’s the same clear sky and sunshiny day that Cruz’s blanket has. Because they’re a pair!

Princess & Sunny DayPrincess & Sunny Day Princess & Sunny Day
Here the Natori stash provided most of the browns, tans, grays and creams with all the sweet little details of small clothes: pockets, buttons, elbow patches, and necklines. The reds and pinks are also Zoe’s. I added sweaters from my own stash to both blankets to round out what I needed color-wise.

Natori siblings Natori siblings

Dear Cruzzie and Zoe: As you use your imaginations to play in your Lands of Counterpane, my hope is that you, Cruzzie, will “sometimes send your ships in fleets”, and you, Zoe, will “bring your trees and houses out, and plant some cities all about” … or whatever! Just enjoy. It was my pleasure to create these just for you.

[Postscript: Yael posted here about these blankets after she received them — with more pics of the blankets and her little girl too :). Thanks for the shout-out, Yael!]

Natori siblings

“The Princess and the Sunny Day” and “Under the Sea”
(each 43″ x 55″)

These are custom-ordered blankets.

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15 thoughts on “For the love of imagination

  1. Hi Joannie! This is the first time for me to look at your blog. I really enjoyed the blankets and the story.
    Do you usually use recycled materials. I’m curious about the name The Green Sheep. Please tell me more.
    Also, when you answer, send me a regular e-mail. I check blogs extremely seldom. You and your family are in my prayers regularly.
    Ruth Ellen Rebelein

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    • Ken, I am thrilled that you are happy with the blankets. I enjoyed imagining your children and their developing interests and personalities as Yael described them to me. I will definitely come say hi on a trip to New York someday! And — the invitation goes both ways!

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    • Thanks, G! That little village is what drove me back to practicing perspective drawing. My first tries were way off. And Yes about your painting! Was there something in the air? I think we were working on our projects at the same time. I see it in the colors, the ‘scape, the scale :).

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  2. Amazing! These are some of my favorites so far. I also know that poem and these are fantastic imagination stations for these kids. Your blankets are truly beautiful and from the heart.

    Like

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