Monday, May 10, 2010

Catherine Casalino

Last week I asked Thomas Ng if he knew any cool girls I could interview. I have no interest in starting a boys club. (I want to learn from everyone, because that is what this is turning into. These people are teaching me things.)

Anyway, Thomas suggested Catherine, a fellow book jacket designer, and since I have this thing for those objects called books, (Not kindles) I checked out her website, then sent her an e-mail. Shortly after that we met at Bryant Park. An hour before we met she e-mailed: "Look for a black dress with a pink jacket," I e-mailed back, "Look for a floral skirt with a white top."

                                         Catherine Casalino
        She moved to New York a week after graduating from college
                                Catherine is from Connecticut
                During summers she surfs at Long Beach, Long Island
           Does she customize her own T-shirts and New Years cards?
                      If you are friends with her, you already know
                     She hearts dresses with ostentatious collars &
                                   she wears them correctly
                    Catherine is employed by Grand Central Publishing
                          GC published Twilight and it's children
                                                 Shall we?

Where do you live? "I've lived in Astoria since 2003. When I first moved there, I lived with a good friend. Later on, when she and I out grew the small apartment, I started looking for a place by myself. I looked all over Brooklyn and Queens, and ended up 2 blocks from my old apartment."

What do we like about Astoria?  "I really like the brunch at Locale and the food at Brick Cafe is also great. I also like the fact that Astoria has so many little specialty shops.Within a few blocks from my place I have a bakery, a butcher, a hardware store, a cobbler, a florist, and even a place that repairs sewing machines! What more do you need?"

What's it like working at Grand Central? "I work on cool stuff, and it's a lot of variety which I like......One day I'm working on a book about zombies, and the next day I'm doing Ozie Osbournes memoir, and then I'm doing like a beautiful novel....And it's a cool industry for a graphic designer because it's really self contained. You're not working on a team. I have my own lists, I hire my own photographers, and do what I want which is really cool --Well, you obviouslyy have to please the author and the publisher but no-one else is creatively working on it, which is really nice. So you're kinda like: I'm an expert, trust me. Ya know? Which is kind of, I like that. I feel like it's one of those random jobs that you didn't know existed when you were in college."

Did you always want to be a book jacket designer? "Well, in college I was an English major. I studied poetry. and I was a minor in history, colonial history. I thought I wanted to write for a magazine. I always liked the visual stuff cuz I did photography, so I thought, a magazine would be cool, it's a nice mix of image and writing. And then there were no jobs to be had and I kind of interviewed for everything and everywhere and nothing really came of it. Until this guy offered me an internship in the graphic design department I thought o that's kind of cool. We hit it off, so why not? When I started out I would read the books for him and give him summaries, I also did research for him and photo retouching, and it just snaked, it just went everywhere. I went to Simon & Schuster, after that, Random House, and now I'm at Grand Central. It was kind of crazy........"

Contributed: "You know, you go to school and you're like: I'm gonna write a novel and you just think you write a novel and it becomes a book but it's a completely different process. They don't tell you the possibilities when you're in school. I studied History and English and read a million books and then I came to New York for the publishing institute at NYU and I realized very quickly that this is ridiculous. I don't know all these things about this industry that produces everything that I use. There's so many aspects, like agents, and book sellers, and publishers. It's a whole system, and I thought, wouldn't they teach you that?"

Can you describe what you did to create a book cover that you're proud of? "I think the cover I'm most proud of right now is Procession Of The Dead. It's a really dark book set in a Gotham-esque city. Well, how do you take a scene in a book and make it into a visual image that can go on a 6x9" book cover?....I had these little metal letters that I bought awhile back. I think they're supposed to be for scrap booking or something? And I had the idea to have them spell out the title with their shadows. Then, admittedly, I sat on the idea for a little while. I wasn't exactly sure how it would all work...Then I ended up attaching the letters to thin wooden skewers and sticking them into florist's foam. Then I placed them behind a sheet and lit everything from behind, setting up the letters and making sure all the shadows were falling correctly, so that the title was legible, it was really tedious. When I showed my boss what I had been working on for the cover and explained the scene with the shadow puppets, she told me she had a shadow puppet from Thailand! So I ended up re-shooting the cover with the puppet in place.(Um, how amazing is that?) A lot of the covers I do go through multiple rounds of ideas, but this was one that everyone went for right away. I think because it's just something that was so unique to the book." (P.S. Those are Catherine's hands on the other cover.)

How do you feel about the city? "I always had this idea in my mind that I wanted to live in New York. My mom always tells this story how when I was little she brought me into the city to see the Met or maybe the Christmas show at Rock Center? Anyway I was looking out the window and said, I'm going to live here, (I was like 4 or 5) and my mom was like, okay? And I was like, I'm going to live here when I grow up. And she was like, greatt.....And when and I came up when I was in college, I always wondered, what if it's not what I thought it was gonna be? You know? And it is. I wake up every morning and I'm like, I live in fucking New York City. It's awesome. I just, I don't know? It's exciting, it's just an exciting place to be, the people, and the things you can see, the food, and everything it's interesting.

And the kindness of strangers. I really think there's a lot of good people in the city. You know if you post on craigslist: "I really wanna go to this concert but I can't pay a scalpers price." Someone will get back to you and give you a ticket."

Um, has that happened to you? "O absolutely.

Also Contributed: "I have a Fashion Blog."

Well Hello..Let's hear about it: "Well, I love doing book covers, but I just wanted an outlet where I could create my own content in a way. I've always found fashion really interesting. It's an art form that people wear. And when you grow up in the suburbs you look through your vogue, but you're never going to see any of that. In the city I could walk into a Yves Saint Laurent and try on a pair of shoes, and like poke them all, and touch them, and try them on, and see what they're like which I think is really cool about the city.

The blog is all fashion stuff, but I like to have a personal story when I write anything. I feel there are so many fashion blogs that are like, o look at what Prada is doing this season. And every other blog has the same thing, it's just kind of regurgitating the same information that I get from vogue and everywhere else. I think people react negatively to fashion with that kind of stuff, because it's not personal, it's like so, this is fabulous. Okay? Why don't you tell me why you like it? Why is it interesting? Why did I save up money to buy that pair of shoes?" (Amen.)

Are ya happy? "Yes, absolutely. I feel like very lucky to be here. I like where I am and the people in my life, they're all wonderful. I'm surrounded by all these really talented people.....I think people get unhappy because they don't know that they're options, or they don't change something. If you're unhappy, do something about it. If you don't like the way you got your hair cut, find a new stylist. If you don't like where you live, or if you don't like your boyfriend just breakup with him, and get a new apartment. You can move two blocks and never see him again. There are so many different worlds within New York that the possibility of being unhappy is unlikely....

I mean everybody has bad days. I think for me if I had a job I didn't like, it would be very difficult. I've been in situations where I've had a bad boss, or a work situation that was stifling. And it sucked. It definitely brings you down.  Right now I'm lucky, I have a great boss....But two years ago I got laid off in the whole economic down-turn. And um, I was totally shocked. It was crushing just because I felt like there was really no reason for it, it came down to numbers. But when you work hard and you're good at what you do you think you're gonna be fine. I never took a sick day. I was that kind of worker."

Wow, what did you do about that? "I immediately got on the phone and called everybody else I knew in the industry and told them, 'I just lost my job if you hear anything let me know.' It was incredible, within a week  I had all these freelance jobs, I mean everybody I called sent me work. They were like, here's work, take this project. About a month after that I got a new job.

It made me realize what a good support system I had throughout the industry and friends and everything else. It gave me a little more faith in people, I guess. You know, you feel like the world is gonna end if that happens and it doesn't. Someone will always come in to help you."

Are you lying about any of this? "I'm a TERRIBLE liar. I'm just pathetic at it. I never got away with anything as a teenager. All my mom had to do was give me a look and I'd crumble and spill my guts, like Chunk in the Goonies.

While I wrote this I listened to Journey's, Don't Stop Believing. It just felt right.

O and Catherine went into work the day after she was laid off, when no-one else did. I'm not so sure I could do that?

1 comment: