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StoriesKate Castelli ’08

Covered Up

Assistant Illustration Professor Kate Castelli creates original artwork for bestselling author Haruki Murakami's book "Men Without Women," a Penguin Random House UK publication.

Kate Castelli, assistant professor in the illustration department at the College of Art and Design, was selected by Vintage Books to create the cover illustration for world-renowned author Haruki Murakami's book Men Without Women.

Kate, who is a 2008 alumna of the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University, worked alongside members of the creative team at Vintage Books, which is a branch of Penguin Random House UK, to capture the tone of Murakami's collection of short stories. Haruki Murakami is an international best-selling author whose work holds significant weight in postmodern literature. Kate's original work is now on display in bookstores around the world and online, solidifying her own place in cover artwork within postmodern literature.

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Kate's work often utilizes painted and carved line elements printed on antique book pages within her book arts and printmaking projects. Working within the theme of isolation and loneliness, Kate created a carved woodblock that captured the emotional and elemental observations made by the characters in Haruki's stories who find themselves alone.

We caught up with Kate to learn more about this project and her process of creating.

How did you get involved with this project?

The art director of Vintage Books had stumbled across my work on social media a while back and looked up my website at the time. They contacted me out of the blue with a screenshot from my website and asked more about the series "First Circles." They had been waiting for the right project to use my work. I was thrilled that my work resonated with them for this project. I’ve read a lot of Murakami’s work over the years, so I was incredibly honored that they wanted to use my print for his cover.

What was the process for getting your work approved and printed?

The publisher, art director, and design team are located in London (five hours ahead of Boston) so the entire process was done through email and several phone calls. After the initial inquiry about my work, I sent the design team some files of specific pieces (about half a dozen total). The design team selected one that worked best for their concept and created mock-ups of the cover. This allowed them to work with type placement and determine how to engage my work.

Once the final mock-up was approved, I received the contract and sent them a hi-res scan formatted to their file specifications. The turnaround time for the project was less than two weeks. In order to meet printing and publishing deadlines it needed to be done quickly. The final book didn’t debut until the spring, but they rolled out social media and marketing campaigns in January. The publisher sent me hardcopies of the book; it was such a thrill to have it in hand and see my work on bookshelves around the world. I was in London this summer for a studio residency and was able to finally meet the design team in person.

What does your own process of art-making involve?

My own work exists at an intersection of bookmaking, printmaking, and mixed media works on paper. I use a lot of ephemera and found paper. I've always been a bit of a magpie in collecting things. It's an active part of my process to haunt used bookstores and antique shops, especially when I travel. I love museums and libraries, luckily Boston is home to many of each.

I tend to work on projects in stages. My printing surfaces and grounds take time to prep and the prints need to dry longer because of the nature of the surfaces. Books and mixed media work gets developed in layers. I like to have a lot of space to spread out (a.k.a. creating a large mess) and utilize every available flat surface. As a faculty member, I’m fortunate to have access to the print shop and other studio facilities at the College of Art and Design. I take full advantage of those resources to make and document my work.

Any advice for students as they navigate the undergrad experience and their possible career paths?

Make work and put it out into the world. Be confident in your voice and personal vision, but be strategic and professional in your presentation. Social media, like Instagram, is a powerful tool to connect you with the global art world and contemporary markets. One of the hardest things about being a creative professional is having patience. There is no script for this or timeline for success. Sometimes you don’t see immediate results, but it is important you keep working. Finally, I would emphasize you stay curious and stay hungry for the next thing to say “yes” to.

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