Every night before Blakers' bedtime, I read her a story. She cuddles in my arms, and takes her job of turning the pages very seriously. She uses her pointer finger with such force to trace the pictures and turn the pages that I can clearly picture her telling someone off one day... however, for now she is content in pointing away and often points at my forearm where my newest tattoo rests. In her baby gibberish, it almost sounds like she is saying "Whad dat?" as she pokes my inked skin of her very own silhouette.
A few years back, as I was visiting my sister who lived in NYC at the time, I entered into the adorable Little Marc Jacobs shop and purchased a book called Mommy Has A Tattoo. This was months before I was even pregnant with Blake, but I have always loved children's book and knew I had to have this for my future offspring. It is a super colorful book that hopes to promote tattoo tolerance. I recently contacted the author, Phil Padwe for an interview and was stoked that he was willing to share about his book. Mommy Has A Tattoo belongs on every bookshelf, but most definitely on the bookshelves of us rad TWBL mamas.
Read on for more insight on this creative children's book--probably the only one of its kind to feature tattooed characters--from TBWL's email interview with Phil.If you were to explain your book in two sentences, what would you say? Mommy Has A Tattoo is a children’s book that teaches tattoo tolerance. Really, it’s just a tool for parents to openly discuss their body-art with their little ones... it’s not preachy and allows you to infer whatever “lesson” you want to give.
What inspired you to write Mommy Has A Tattoo? I was working in Marketing for about 10 years... specifically in marketing to young families and expectant parents. So I was sort of primed to be thinking about things from a marketing standpoint. What really inspired me was a buddy of mine at work, who had a baby. He had tattoos... I had sleeves... his wife was heavily tattooed... I thought it would be cute to get them a little gift, something ‘tattoo’ themed b/c we were all tattooed. When I went to the book store, and asked if there were any, ‘tattoo children’s books’ the sales-lady looked at me like I had 3 heads. She’d never heard of such a thing. So I went to another book store. Then I searched the Internet. This was 2003... and there was NOTHING. It was such a no-brainer idea to me. I’d just turned 30 and all my friends were tattooed, and were starting to have kids. It was a no-brainer... and once I’d thought of the idea, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I knew if I didn’t do it... someone else would.
What did you base the story content on? I did a few versions and showed them around. I asked parents, grandparents, guidance counselors, grade-school teachers, tattoo artists... I asked EVERYONE... what do you like, and what would you change? The story content isn’t really based on anything... it grew organically with each draft I wrote, and showed people.
What is the main message you wish to convey with your book & company? My 'big picture' message is that expression is vital, and acceptance is key. The company was founded with the simple belief that there’s a whole community of like-minded, tattooed mommies and daddies who are every bit as loving and caring as their un-inked counterparts. And also, I’d like to come right out and say that ‘exclusion’... in this case, the TOTAL absence of ANY tattooed characters in ANY children’s books... is just another form of bigotry. A very sly, and very subtle, form of disapproval.
Before penning Mommy Has A Tattoo, had you always wanted to write children's books? Kind of. I thought I’d do a graphic novel or something else first, to be honest... my “real” art style is SO FAR REMOVED from the childish and rather-crude style I used for the children’s book. philpadwe.com has my paintings and sketches, and you see RIGHT AWAY that it’s worlds apart. I always wanted to combine words and drawings though... just wasn’t sure how I’d do it.
Any plans for a follow-up/more books featuring parents with tattoos? Or other children-friendly-tattoo-related products? YES! I’m working on editing the final few pages... I think I may go back to the drawing board a bit... but DADDY HAS A TATTOO is nearly finished! I think the next step is to (finally) finish the Mommy Has Tattoos business plan and seek investors so I can “properly” launch the next book, and a re-print of Mommy Has A Tattoo. I’m also planning on 3 more coloring books... 2 of which will basically be for parents... not for kids (nothing naughty, just too complicated for babies)!
Where can tattoo-loving parents purchase your book and coloring book? The books are available on Amazon.com or directly from my web site: www.mommyhasatattoo.com (I’ll sign/personalize all the books bought from mommyhasatattoo.com, free of charge)... book stores may be able to special-order them, but I just dropped my distributor after 3 years b/c I realized I can TOTALLY get by just on Amazon and my web site... 90% of books are from the big chain-stores anyway, so in keeping with the DIY ethic that produced the book, I may as well handle the distribution at this point too, right?
On your web site, it states that you not only wrote and illustrated the book, but you also handled pre-press, printing and sources, what advice do you have for aspiring story-tellers? And prey-tell, how did you land your book in such a fabulous shop as Little Marc Jacobs? Yeah, I did this entirely alone... I invested my own money, and my own time, and really pulled this out of thin-air. I was a graphic designer for 10 years... I had the knowledge and resources to literally do every bit of myself... so on some level... once I’d become fascinated with the idea... I couldn’t help but go ahead and actually ‘create’ the book.
That said - I did everything backwards. Made every mistake you can make. And honestly - I’d caution anyone against doing what I did. Fortunately the books have been very successful for such a DIY endeavor... but I invested every penny I had. It cost me my life savings, and it’s been a real labor of love. I don’t regret it... but for me to be writing a business plan NOW... is ass backwards. I should have done all this with someone else’s money!
The manager of Little Marc Jacobs emailed me and wanted to stock the book. I was honored. The book was also for sale at Ricky’s NYC and at the Philadelphia Maritime Museum... it’s definitely been in some cool places. A company in Germany picked up the expenses to have it translated and printed in German... and they’re selling it in Austria, Germany, The Netherlands and Sweden. It’s pretty cool...
Also on your web site, there is a short clip from an NPR interview you did and you highlight some of your won tattoos, including one image from Where the Wild Things Are, what made you originally get this tattoo based on the beloved children's book? I've ALWAYS loved “Where The Wild Things Are.” I got that tattoo about 12 or 15 years ago. Long before the current WTWTA craze. Think about it. It’s about a bad-ass little kid who won’t do what he’s told (I could TOTALLY relate, as a child)... who basically goes on an awesome, imaginary, journey beneath a beautiful full moon, to party his ASS off with crazy-looking, long-haired friends! Then when he's tired of partying... he goes home, and finds a warm meal waiting... and then the kid passes out. What's not to like?
What is something that you never get asked about your book, that you wish you did, and would like to answer? I wish people would realize that aside from being cute... and fun... and a great baby-shower gift... Mommy Has A Tattoo is also timely and important as a legitimate early learning tool. Tons of studies exist, showing that toddlers learning to read enjoy books more when they can relate to the characters. It’s important to have tattooed characters in the books your toddler reads, because they’ll relate with people who look like their parents and teachers!