Liz Reed and her husband, Jimmy Reed, are the authors and illustrators of the children's picture books Sweet Success and Sweet Competition. They are also the creators of the webcomic Cuddles and Rage. They live in the Washington, D.C., area.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for your books, both the text and the illustrations?
A: Sweet Competition came from the saying "a cherry on top." The question "what if there were two cherries who wanted to be on top of a sundae?" sparked the seed for the story.
With cherries being attached at the stem, the symbolism of family ties and working through problems fit perfectly with the fruit. We both grew up competing with our siblings over everything and really pulled from those experiences to create the Cherry Twins.
Sweet Success came from a very different place. As creatives, ideas come to us every day. It's so easy to get distracted by the shiny new thing when you are in the middle of a hard project. We wanted to make a book that inspired people to create and not give up on their dreams big or small.
Q: How do the two of you collaborate on your books?
A: We pitch ideas to each other and filter through the ones that we both like. After that, we come up with an outline for the story and then one of us will write a first draft. If we get stuck in the revision process then we will sketch out the story. We are both very visual people and sketches help us see what's missing.
Once everything is finalized, I will make the storyboards and we will go through more revisions. By the time we reach the making stage, the story is locked down and we get to sculpting.
Q: How do you create the illustrations for the books?
A: Both of our books are mixed media. Our characters were sculpted out of polymer clay and we used various found materials and miniatures to create the world around them. Texture is a very important part of our process. Our goal is to always have a variety of textures on every page so the reader can feel the world.
Q: What do you hope kids take away from the stories?
A: Along with the message in each book, we hope kids get inspired to create mixed media worlds of their own using found materials. Using everyday materials to create art makes you look at the world in a whole new light.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: We are working on a big project that hasn't been officially announced yet, but we can say that it is for all ages.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Working with clay is amazing. There is something about the feel that is so relaxing. It's a treat to see your work come to life in your hands. I always encourage people to buy air dry clay and sculpt something for fun. Even if you don't see yourself as an artsy person, you may be surprised by how much joy can come out of sculpting a simple shape like a heart.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb