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The CHIRP Blog

Erik Roldan writesLaura Szumowski of Zoo-Mouse-Key Press

Did you like our Fall Pledge Drive T-Shirt? It was designed by Chicago-based illustrator Laura Szumowski. We chose her design for it’s clever, layered point of view — qualities you’ll find throughout her body of work. I spoke to her about her business (Zoo-Mouse-Key Press ), her mission, and living in Chicago. Thanks so much for your design, Laura!

Your T-shirt design for CHIRP is a hit! Tell me about your inspiration for the design.

Most of my work is fact-based, so I like to start out with a bit of research to see where it takes me. I looked up “chirp” and discovered it’s a signal used in sonar. A humpback whale seemed like a great way to illustrate sonar. I also drew the sonar pulses to mimic an LP, although it’s not particularly noticeable, but I like that it’s there if you look for it.

Illustration is your profession, no? What’s that kind of business like in 2011? How has it changed and how are you managing it in terms of productivity and making sure you get compensated?

Yes, and I love it! Illustrators are needed as much as ever, and I actually see it growing in popularity as more people discover what a wonderful and powerful component illustration is for getting their message or story across.

Smaller budgets can be limiting, but folks are finding creative, alternative ways to provide compensation. One way of doing this is with trade. If you need an illustrator (or designer, writer, etc.) but your budget is small, think about what you might be able to offer as a trade in addition to monetary payment— business consulting, publicity, accounting, etc. People in the creative community are combating the changing economy by working together, collaborating and creating more symbiotic relationships, and it’s pretty awesome.

Your work seems to have a progressive, feminist perspective. Can you tell me about some of your projects and how you think they are representative of your mission as an illustrator/publisher/writer?

In 2005 I set out to create a nonfiction, illustrated series of books exploring women’s health. The first book was Tip of the Iceberg (a book about the clitoris), and last year I released Cycling: A Guide to Menstruation. The series will also include books about orgasm, fertility awareness, vaginal and breast health, and menopause. My goal is to make information about women’s health approachable and fun, while also dispelling myths and being thoughtful about the ways language and images can shape a person’s perception of their body and health.

Creating this series is an interesting challenge, but it’s also something I really believe in. My original mission in starting a small press, ZMK Press, was to publish this series with full artistic license. That mission is growing though, and I’m excited to announce that in 2012 we’ll begin accepting submissions for new titles to publish.

How is Chicago treating you? When did you realize that this was your city?

I love Chicago! I’ll admit I have fantasies of moving to the south sometimes, but this city offers so much to artists and people who want to do their own thing – it’s a wonderful community. Second to that, being able to get anywhere on my bike is THE BEST.

What’s happening? Any upcoming events?

Right now I’m illustrating The New York Stories, a book of short stories by Ben Tanzer. It’s going to be a hand-bound, limited edition that’s part of the paper book series from Chicago Center for Literature and Photography (CCLaP). Keep an eye out for it in mid-November, it’s going to be gorgeous.

I’m also releasing an expanded new edition of Tip of the Iceberg next spring! Lots of new information and illustrations, it’s going to be awesome. Right now it can be pre-ordered on our website ( ).

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Categorized: Interviews

Topics: laura szumowski

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