Oh, I bet you are going to enjoy getting to know Megan Eckman of Studio MME as much as I did. She is a talented pen and ink illustrator, storyteller, and self-proclaimed “wonder rekindler.” She’s just released her first book, How to Outsmart Tea Pirates (and other useful sailing tips), and I’m thrilled to welcome her to GM to pick her brain about the book, art, process, and imagination.
Have you been formally trained as an artist (if so, where and what degrees do you have?)
Yes, I have! I received a BA in art, emphasis in drawing, AND a BA in English, emphasis in creative writing, from Minnesota State University Moorhead in 2009.
Have you always loved making things? What do you love most about it?
Yes, I’ve always enjoyed making things though my crafting skills are sub par to say the least (despite my best efforts). I love being able to take something that only I can see in my mind and putting it down on paper. There’s just something magical about that process.
How did you embark upon a career as an artist?
That’s a funny story actually. When I started college, I wanted to be a writer and just take art classes on the side. However, in order to take the higher-up art courses, I had to declare it my major. So I called up my parents and announced that I was going to be double majoring. They fully supported my decision but my mother made me promise to start a business before I graduated college. So I did! Studio MME was born a year before I graduated and I’ve been doing it ever since.
The characters in your illustrations all seem to have a story behind them. In creating them, what comes first – the illustration or the story?
It’s always the story and that comes in its entirety.
I’m a total needlecraft fanatic. What draws you to embroidery?
My grandmother taught me when I was little but I completely forgot about it until a year ago when I got the urge to embroider all of a sudden. Since I didn’t want to make the day of the week cat tea towels that I had done with my grandma, I decided to make my own pattern. I think the needle and thread conveyed the same feel as my original pen and ink. I loved it! It was different and yet still the same. However, I will say that my skills aren’t as nice as they were when I was 9 because if my grandma saw the backs of my pieces, she’d faint.
Your book, How to Outsmart Tea Pirates (and other useful sailing tips) is out now. What’s it about?
It’s a collection of short stories, poems, and illustrations that all revolve around the sea. There are stories about seagulls holding a court case over a food dispute and what to do if your mother is a selkie. There’s a tale about how to properly fish for mermaids. And there’s another one about how to take your goldfish to school so it can learn math.
Do you have a favorite story or line from the book?
There’s a story about three orphan children and their cremated grandmother (kept in a cat-shaped cookie jar) who have to battle hungry wallpaper in their new home. That is by far my favorite story because no matter how many times I read it, I still laugh out loud. To me, that’s the mark of a good story.
I noticed your tagline is “Rekindle your wonder.” Why is that a priority for you?
Ever since I was little, I’ve had an overactive imagination (which is why I’m still terrified of the dark and have a strict list of things my boyfriend can’t do once it gets dark outside). Everyone is always telling me, ‘Oh I wish I had your imagination.’ But the funny thing is, they do! They simply forgot how to use it. As we grow up, our teachers and our parents tell us we have to be serious, get real, see the world as it ‘is’. I think that’s a shame because there’s so much magic and wonder around us but we can’t see it if we have forgotten our imagination.
Name three things that inspire you…
Long walks in the woods.
What are your hobbies and interests outside of your work?
I’m a bibliophile so I’m using reading 2-3 books at a time. I’m also an avid cyclist.
Ok, you’re stranded on a dessert island. What five things (aside from your loved ones) can’t you live without?
I have to bring my loved ones? Haha. Just kidding. A sketchbook, a pen, John Donne’s collection of poems, The Gashlycrumb Tinies by Edward Gorey, and a big hat because I sunburn easily.