Guest Post: Judith Caseley

I love a good Top 5 anything, but especially when the list is about an awesome picture book! Check out these fun facts about Judith Caseley’s one-of-a-kind ABC book, Z is for Zebra: A Mosaic Menagerie.

Top 5 Random Facts about Z is for Zebra: A Mosaic Menagerie

  1. I fell in love with mosaics when I ate at a restaurant called Tupelo Honey, in the small town of Sea Cliff, New York. The walls were covered with mosaics, and I said to my husband, I want to take classes on how to do them! He said, I can teach you. George can cut and color hair, and wire electric appliances, build houses, and guess what….lay tile. So he bought me some nippers, cut me a board, and I ordered various tiles from online shops. It was like boxes of candy arrived in the mail, tesserae of every color and density, and I just started cutting tile, gluing them on the board after drawing a vase of flowers, and grouting them in the end, with an oatmeal consistency. Not all of them are great, but mosaic making is very forgiving. Amateurs can do gorgeous work!
  2. Mosaic making saved my sanity. During the three years making this book, my grown stepdaughter was living in the house, and I suspected that she was doing drugs. There was a lot of nocturnal activity, and comings and goings, and my partner was unable to use tough love and ask her to leave. We discovered we were right. I joined a very helpful group, and went to my desk, every morning, to do my mosaics. They grounded me, gave me so much therapeutic joy, cutting and pasting, making artistic choices. Finally, they gave me a feeling of accomplishment during a very difficult period of my life. I had learned to do them myself.
  3. Mosaic making is not easy on the body. My nails were ruined, although gel nail polish survived the best. I often cut my hands, got glass in my slippers and had to shake them out before going to my bedroom, and even sat on a jagged tile, and yes, you can guess it…got a cut on my butt! 
  4. I was most afraid of doing Z is for Zebra. When I was in high school, all of the good artists could draw horses. I could not, and still cannot. My strong suit is color, but I don’t draw all that well. I get by. The fun part about choosing my animals for this book is that I could choose what I thought I would be able to draw and mosaic well. But what other animal could I do for the letter Z? Which as you know, looks like a horse, so I was terrified. But I decided to focus on just the head, and created my favorite mosaic, making it the book jacket. My least favorite pictures are the hippo and the kangaroo, but my favorites are the butterfly, the giraffe, the zebra, and the duck. I love the mallard male, with his blue spotted wing, and butterflies give my joy when I see them in the garden.
  5. The mosaics are created in the order of the alphabet. The anteater is only the second animal I’ve done…I’d done a few mice before it. Then the duck gets better, and as I complete each letter, I learn tricks and style so that the pictures improve, letter by letter. The reader can see the artistic progression. 

Coming from a family who owned a terrazzo business for generations, I have a special place in my heart and huge appreciate for mosaics and the complexity of working with tiny pieces of material. To learn more about Judith Caseley’s and Z is for Zebra: A Mosaic Menagerie, visit Book Tour + Giveaway: Gus’ Fortunate Misfortune and Z is for Zebra: A Mosaic Menagerie.

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