Let’s start off a new month with a new segment! Once a month from now until the end of the year I’m going to share something that inspires me with y’all. I hope you guys enjoy the glimpse into this crazy mind of mine!
I must admit that I have a deep affection for cute talking animal stories, movies, and shows. They have been a large portion of the media that I’ve consumed from my earliest ages. They were in the picture books my parents read to me, in the movies I watched, I even remember learning to read in part with the aid of a computer game called Reader Rabbit.
Probably my favorite of all of these are a series of cartoons based on the works of Beatrix Potter. I have vague memories of watching the VHS of these short stories over and over and over, and building pillow forts on the couch. I’m not sure that last one ever actually happened concurrently, but I like to imagine that it did. I sometimes wonder how parents survive the maddening, obsessive nature of children re-watching things.
I hadn’t re-watched these cartoons for years. However I discovered that they had left a very very deep impression on me none the less. When I picked the name The Crooked Thimble for my business, I did so because I had this compelling imagery with the name. I pictured a tailor shop by day, and a raucous critter pub by night. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why this dual imagery resonated so strongly with me, until I started watching old rodent themed cartoons as reference material for the supplementary art that I wanted to do about The Crooked Thimble.
One of the first videos I looked up on YouTube were those old Beatrix Potter cartoons. I remember loving the art style, ink lines and watercolor textures. It was then that I re-discovered the story of “The Tailor of Gloucester”. And it was my idea of the Crooked Thimble all over, albeit with a lot more depth to the story, and less close ties to the pub concept. A story of tiny mouse tailors helping make glorious opulent garments, getting caught in tea-cups, and even a brief scene of mice and rats partying and clearly getting drunk on wine on christmas eve!
I knew I had re-watched this so many times as a kid, and I always remembered that story as being one of my favorites. But I had only remembered the mice as tailors, I hadn’t realized that it also shaped in this idea that mice and rats really know how to party too. Admittedly that part of my Crooked Thimble concept was partly shaped by other works like the Redwall books by Brian Jaques, and Season of the Spellsong by Allan Dean Foster, but those are for another article.
After re-watching the Beatrix Potter cartoons a few dozen times, again, these last few months. I actually went and looked into reading the original stories, and learning more about their creator. She was one special lady! She was a highly intellectual woman in a time that it was very difficult to pursue science professionally. She made beautifully and detailed illustrations of her observations, and even tried to get a paper on her research with fungi published.
I may not always agree with the morals of her stories, but I have a deep respect for the gumption of this woman. Faced with a world that ignored or discredited her ideas because of her sex, she never let it stop her from pursuing her passions. Even when publishers rejected her work, she never ceased her study and illustrating of the natural world. She used her wealth and collected and preserved land which is now part of a national park. And when science publishing turned her away she shared her art in the form of her stories. I hope that I can achieve even a touch of that gumption and grace, to boldly follow my path and be undaunted by the hurdles along the way.
In so many ways I wish she were able to hear me say: Thank you. Thank you for never giving up on yourself. Thank you for leaving such an amazing legacy.
Please check out these sources, I simply cannot do justice to how amazing this woman was.
This article is probably my favorite as far as taking the facts of her life and presenting them as a narrative. Chet Raymo does a great job of telling her story in an approachable, compelling, and concise fashion.
and of course the Wikipedia article on Beatrix Potter for basic facts