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Welcome to Ava's Behind the Scenes Blog!

Mary and I are thrilled that you are interested in learning more about Ava's Triumph. We created this blog to take you behind the scenes and show you how we created Ava's world. We spent a year creating Ava’s Triumph. We developed the book over many iterations each time improving the story, props, sets, images and layout. Here you will learn about our inspirations for the story, the art, and our process.

The props and sets were meticulously designed and created by Mary - from the wool felt bunnies, to the hardwood floors, to the functioning mid-century modern floor lamps. Everything has been crafted by her hand.

For our first blog post, we begin with an entry about how we created elements of Ava's studio.


Ava's Studio

Since art galleries and artists are Mary's world, we knew all along that Ava loved art. Indeed, an earlier title of our book was Ava, A Young Artist. Mary used many different references to research her designs: websites, books, youtube videos, etc. After gathering ideas and inspiration, Mary would then develop a working prototype that we could put to use right away in the current iteration we were shooting. She would then refine the product over time. Below are a couple examples illustrating this process for Ava's painting supplies and ladder.

For Ava's studio, Mary looked for inspiration in the studios of famous artists. There had been a wonderful exhibit of Richard Diebenkorn at the DeYoung in San Francisco at the time. Diebenkorn is a favorite of ours! The exhibit included larger than life photos of Diebenkorn's studio.

Ava's studio was inspired in part by Richard Diebenkorn's studio
Ava's studio was inspired in part by Richard Diebenkorn's studio, Image by Unknown, but possibly Leo Holub or Rose Mandel via"


Ava's Paint Supplies

You can see the evolution of Mary's designs in Ava's paint supplies. The prototypes for the paint cans and paint brushes were created with vellum paper and aluminum finished card stock. You can see how the prototypes were refined over the iterations - from rough prototype to more experimentation with color, different sizes, different materials, etc. Her final paint cans were made from pie tin and are incredibly detailed works of art. And her paint brushes were made from real hair - ours!


Ava's Ladder

Mary created an inspiration board of the studios of famous artists: Henri Matisse, Georgia O'Keefe, Frida Kahlo, Richard Diebenkorn, Pablo Picasso, Agnes Martin, and many more. Because their canvases were often very large, artists needed ladders to reach the entire canvas. Ava wanted a ladder, too! Mary originally designed the ladder to be propped up against the wall, but after multiple iterations using it against the walls, Mary revised the design to make it a self-standing ladder. We needed the flexibility to position it anywhere in Ava's studio.

top-left: Photo by Alvin Langdon Coburn via; mid-left: Photo (Woman on ladder) by Unknown via"

The self-standing ladder

This image above is a favorite of mine. Everything is in this image. You can see the entire depth of the studio: the ladder, the stacked futons (more on these later!), the hardwood floors, the walls and string lights -- even a glimpse of Ava's front lawn. What makes this photo especially interesting is its two-fold perspective, you see both the real world and Ava's world in parallel, both dimensions at the same time. In the foreground, Ava looks to be having a snack as we prepare the set for a shoot. And in the background, you can see Mary's hands as she connects the latest iteration of her freshly-painted custom door. Mary has a bandaid on her index finger. Blood, sweat, and tears - a true labor of love. That was this project!




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