Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Inspiring Interview { Kim O'Neill Screen }

I've been a follower of Kim's work for a quite a while. She's the very talented brains behind Good Stock - a press and bindery company that creates custom heirloom books. These personalized books tell your story through personal pictures, both old and new, letters, newspaper clippings, memoirs, sketches, family trees, and good ole family lore. Kim organizes all of the information, designs, digitally prints and hand binds it all into a wonderful book.

We are so excited to have been given the opportunity to get to know Kim a little better and we think that you will enjoy getting to know her too.

What did you do before designing books? How has that helped you to be who/where you are today? To say my career path has been all over the place is an understatement. It took me a very long time to “find” my creativity, so to speak. In college I majored in Spanish, then my first job was working for a ski trade show, then sports and event planning, then marketing and promotions for technology products. Quite a directionless assortment. But, I love a good challenge and have really broad interests so I always poured myself into my work and enjoyed it, whatever it was. The problem was that at the end of the day, it just wasn’t me. That took me a while to figure out and MUCH longer to do something about. In fact, if I could choose any other line of work at this point, it would be helping other women find their creative path.

How did you get started with Good Stock and what made you choose this line of work? My first book was for my mom’s 60th birthday. I was living in LA and my sister-in-law shipped me a bunch of old photos of my mom. I had no computer or scanner, so I borrowed my friend’s and stayed up working late on the design. In fact I think I may have spent the night at her house. I played hooky to finish the book (only time I ever played the sick card!), used our work printers to print the pages, bought a book on Amazon on how to bind a book, and got out my needle, thread and glue to put it together. I still have a copy - it is far from perfect but I love it, and so did my mom.

My second book is the one that launched Good Stock, several years later. I came up with Good Stock: A Family Tale because when I’d come home to Seattle the newest members of my extended family – my cousins’ little kids, my niece and nephew – would look at me like I was an unwanted foreigner. For a sentimentalist like me, that totally bummed me out. We have a very big, close family and I wanted them to a) know who Aunt Kimmy was, and b) know who everyone else was too, and c) know why it mattered who their family was! So, I took my grandfather’s favorite phrase, “You come from good stock.” and used that to tell the story of our family. My mom helped me write the book, I had a bookbinder in LA bind it, and then I gave it to my grandfather – and the rest of the family - on his 90th birthday.

If I am making all this sound very focused, don’t let me fool you. I tried designing a MILLION things in between these two books (window shades, anyone?) and took forever to really focus in on the books and realize there was something special there. I feel like the books picked me, they just kept popping up.

All of your work is custom. How do you stay creative and come up with unique ideas for each client? I love words. And a big part of the creativity for me is in the storytelling and the mixing of text and images. If I don’t have a clear concept for the book – a story I’m trying to visually tell – I literally cannot design worth a darn. The story drives everything. But that is also the beauty of the work for me and I think is what keeps everything fresh. Since everyone’s story is so different, each book is going to be unique too.

As for design ideas, since my medium is the printed page I get a lot of ideas from books and magazine layouts. I also love looking at posters and anything letterpressed. Basically, anywhere I can find neat font treatment ideas and color combinations and layouts is really inspiring for me.

What has been your favorite project to date and why? Shoot, I can never pick a favorite. But I will tell you which book made me cry the most while designing it. (Yes, tears are my occupational hazard.) It’s called Always, James. It’s a compilation of love letters written from James to Anna while he was in the war. (James and Anna’s daughter and granddaughter put the book together.) Admittedly, I was a month away from getting married so I was in a highly emotional state, but this book is so touching I just got very wrapped up in it. I found myself annoyed at Anna for not responding to James’ letters quickly enough, nervous for Uncle Harry who was also in the war and no one had heard from him for ages, crushed for James when he did not make pilot. And the love letters...oh, enough said. I was a basket case.

Who/what inspires you? Family.

What was the last movie you saw or book you read that changed the way you think? Autobiography of a Yogi. Still reading it, it’s been a bit mind blowing for me. And – in a totally different direction – The Not So Big House. I love the idea of living small, but well-designed.

What is your most treasured belonging? Belonging is what I treasure most. The sense of belonging to a family / place / community.

Finally, what are you coveting this season? Sunshine! It has been dreary rainy cold this winter in Seattle. This weekend is supposed to be 80 and I am beside myself with excitement.

Thank you Kim for creating such wonderfully inspiring work!