There are a lot of kids books out there. There are a lot of environmental kids books out there. But there aren't many quite like Steampotville, by Steve Ouch (pronounced as expected). Without being preachy or over the top, Steampotville takes readers on a fantastical journey where animals repurpose our junk into a world of fun yet absurd perspectives, that definitely challenge the way you might look at the world...or...um, their world.
Then again what would you expect from a UN Arabic translator, truck driver, pumpkin picker, marketing director, English teacher, cabbie, Victoria Secret bra salesman, farmer, designer and artist?
Your New Children's Book is called Steampotville. Can you tell me
where you got the idea for the book and what the heck is a Steampot?
As a child I spend a great deal of time on my Grandparents farm on the confluence of the Missouri and Yellowstone river. These rivers are wild rivers and flood often. I remember finding a old rusted cowboy coffee pot on the ground in the middle of nowhere. When I ask my grandfather about it he said it was a SteamPot that must of been carried to our farm in the flood. The name stuck with me.
There seems to be a theme of recycle, repurpose, reuse flowing through your work. Both on a higher level with your characters using found objects, but also with the way you create the characters in the book.
Can you speak to that?
StreamPotVille is a authentic world of found objects in many ways. The illustrations are a collection of images montaged together. When I created the them I repurposed pictures and reused photographs of objects. I spent a lot of time just searching out the parts of the characters and montages. Then within the story the animals live in these found objects on my grandparents farm. I imagined them as quite resourceful as they prefer found objects over new stuff. The story's background is a reflection of my own personal preference and love for found objects.
You've got a pretty diverse background. What made you consider doing kids books?
It seemed to me that picture books for kids was the perfect transition for my career as wordsmith and visual artist. In many ways I still am not a "grown-up" and with my diverse background I have plenty of material to bring into my books. I'm hoping that my next in-between illustration jobs will be cable guy, because there is nothing more
interesting then the inside of people's houses.
I can definitely see parallels in your work from Escher and even
Gorey, but where do you draw your own inspiration from?
I spend a lot of my time trying to figure out how our general visual experience works. Often when I do, I drift away or try to make some imagination feel real. Right now for instance there is a man in a hotdog suit staring over my shoulder (one of my pet peeves). I might imagine him there on and off today. These thoughts help me create
variety in my life. Also my inspiration comes from conversation. Every time I can talk to someone, they pull me into their world for a spell. That's like a mini-vacation. Lastly, my wife inspires me.
I've heard you are now making collectables from found objects. Can
you tell me more about that?
Just like my montages, I am spending time creating collectable toys out of found stuffs. Some of the items come from free piles in apartment complexes and other from second hand stores. Occasionally, I do a little dumpster dive. The outcome are the COOLEST collectables.
You can check out some here.
Buy a signed copy of the book here.