inspiration: richard scarry

29 Jun

Apple car shirt,

I recently found a great book on the closeout pile of one of the big bookstores. Called “The Busy Busy World of Richard Scarry,” this tome of a book could be best described as a love letter to Scarry, written by his long-time editor (Walter Retan) and art director (Ole Risom), and dedicated to his fans worldwide.

There’s a lot in this book; certainly too much to cover (and too many great images to be nostalgic about) for a single post.  So I thought I’d start with a list of three things I’ve learned, which now endear him to me even more than before:

Richard and wife Patsy, courtesy The Busy Busy World...

1.  He met his wife (Patty) through his work – she was an accomplished copywriter, he was an art director.  They both left advertising.  She became a children’s book author.  He became Richard Scarry.  The two of them led quite a glamorous life, jet-setting and sailing, then moving from Connecticut to Europe and eventually settling in Gstaad, Switzerland.

Best Word Book Ever, biography, Biggest Word Book Ever

2. His books were truly trail-blazing in concept and design.

In 1963, “Scarry wanted to create a different kind of word book for children, one that would arrange words by categories instead of by the alphabet.”  His publisher at Doubleday rejected the idea.  He took the Best Word Book Ever to Golden Press, and ten years later, over seven million copies had been sold.

In 1985, Scarry’s Biggest Word Book Ever was the largest scale children’s book ever published to date (2 feet high), and also one of the most expensive (at $29) and costliest to manufacture.  Random House sold out the entire run.

photo from the book

3. He never thought it was beneath him to sell (a selection of) merchandise based on his work. (I was too old for the video series but hear that it was quite wonderful).  I laughed out loud when I saw the caption under this photo.  It reads, “Dick looks at a variety of samples of stuffed toys based on his characters.  Merchandise and other licenses resulting from Scarry’s enormous international popularity added considerably to his income.”

lowly worms, amazingly handmade by stitchcraft creations

But what’s amazing about Scarry’s influence is that, to this day, people are still inspired to create their own Scarry-ific toys, stuffed animals, busy worlds and clothing.   The McDonalds toys are still around on Ebay, and the videos (as above) still exist, yet folks are staging their own birthday parties (check out stitch/craft’s website) and turning Scarry’s book pages into amazing up-cycled playthings.

Here are two of my favorites, courtesy of Etsy artisans:

blocks by LiliaRose, Etsy

Lilia Rose covers oak wood blocks with vintage ilustrations, then glazes them with a non-toxic, water-based sealer.  The images on the five blocks above are sourced from the Best Word Book Ever.  Find them here for $15.

collage by aboundingtreasures, Etsy

Wow.  Dallas, at the Abounding Treasures shop, makes amazing 3-D collages.  This one happens to feature hand-punched butterflies from Scarry books.  I love the delicate, yet sophisticated, beauty created in these collages – and at $15 for a 5.5″ x 7.5″ you really can’t go wrong (save your money for double-matting and framing!)  And please check out her shop to see other patterns and shapes.

storybook wristlet,

Lastly, one for the nostalgic moms out there. I found this wristlet, created from the pages of Please and Thank You, then coated with some type of vinyl to keep it from tearing.  It’s $35 and such a cute piece – maybe it could be used in a nursery or kid’s room to keep wipes or small toys?

The only thing I haven’t been able to find is any kind of textile; I suppose you can create your own via Spoonflower … that is, f you were to keep it to yourself (no one likes a copyright infringer).  I’m sure a Richard Scarry bedding set could do a cracking business – has anyone out there seen any?


4 Responses to “inspiration: richard scarry”

  1. Holly June 30, 2010 at 10:53 am #

    Thanks for including my Busytown Birthday/Lowly Worm dolls in your post, I love all the other projects you featured as well. I have seen Richard Scarry fabric a few times on eBay (but haven’t ever managed to get any!) I gave away a Lowly Worm doll on my blog recently and had more than 400 entries. There are A LOT of Richard Scarry fans out there!

  2. Farrah Bostic June 30, 2010 at 1:53 pm #

    this is a lovely post – I didn’t know anything about Richard Scarry… except that I loved his books as a kid. “Busy, Busy World” was my first exposure to the notion of a world outside my hometown (maybe even outside my home!), and the little exclamations in other languages made me love the idea of international travel and exploration.

    i love that etsy enables people to share their own love of things like this, it creates such a wonderful community of interests and loves and desires – i might need to get those butterfly punches for myself!

  3. Abounding Treasures Designs June 30, 2010 at 8:21 pm #

    Thanks for featuring my Butterfly Whimsy Collage in your post ~ I loved the other items that were featured ~ don’t you just love Etsy!?

    My now-grown children always looked forward to reading Richard Scarry books!!

  4. Frances Bernstein February 11, 2011 at 12:02 pm #

    In about the mid 1970’s Utica produced children’s bedding with a RIchard Scarry design. Perhaps you should contact them to encourage them to reissue the design. All I have are two pillowcases and they are charming.

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