I have loved Storyteller Dolls since I first saw one. I bought one to display where I write to remind me that what I need to stay focused on is telling the story. Storyteller Dolls were invented in New Mexico in 1964 by Helen Cordero of the Cochiti Pueblos. The idea of an elder passing the ancestor stories down to the next generation instantly made sense when I saw a doll, and it is important to me. My long-time friend Karen Sparks is a wonderfully creative artist who is talented in many media. I first saw Karen’s work in person in 1999 after meeting her online the year before, so I knew how amazing her work is. Long ago she said she wanted to do the cover and maybe other needed art for this book, and I was happy that she said she still wanted to do it when I asked her. One day as I was brainstorming to come up with a cover design for “Be the Music,” I glanced over to the shelf by my turntable, and flashed on what I wanted the main design element to be.
I asked Karen if she was up for making a ceramic Storyteller Doll. Lucky for me she agreed. I suggested maybe the hair might be an orange, corn needed to be in the design, and maybe some pianos would be involved; Tori Amos and many little girls who play piano tell them their stories, so it makes sense that pianos are among the doll’s listeners. With Tori’s 1994 b-side “Frog On My Toe” in mind, in which her late, beloved grandfather she called Poppa has a conversation with her and shares some of his Cherokee wisdom, I’m sure Karen found putting a frog on the doll’s toe irresistible. We went back and forth in email and sharing photos for weeks, but all the wonderful elements and detail of execution are Karen’s.
Karen named the doll Talula. Talula: front. Talula: back.
Once we had Talula, we needed to figure out an overall book cover design. Again Karen wanted to do the art, and I had the kernel of an idea: let’s put Talula in front of a backdrop of mountains near Taos where Under the Pink was recorded in 1993. I found a photographer who makes such photos and sells them online, and she is a librarian, to boot. Lisa made some new images of mountains near Taos for us and we chose one. Then I extracted Talula from the background of the professional photographs Karen had gotten made of her, presented Karen with a mock-up design, then let Karen be Karen to choose fonts and do a final design. It turned out Karen is as talented with Photoshop as she is with other tools. I hope others are as pleased with what Karen created as she and I are.