Some of you enjoy glimpses of the design process I use for my projects. So I thought I’d share a few details about the development of the Vigilant-Dragons Cookie Jar.
What inspired the design?
For many years, Karen has kept an old, Chinese ginger jar in our living room. I’ve seen this delightful artifact every day and enjoyed how the snaky shapes form a continuous surface decoration. The notion that a field of dragons could make an excellent surface decoration has been with me for a long time.
A very early sketch of canisters decorated with dragons appears in one of my sketchbooks from 2012.
You often say that design projects don’t move forward in a straight line, was that the case with this project?
Yes. Absolutely. In 2015, I took the dragon idea all the way to cookie jar prototypes and then stopped.
At first, I liked the cylindrical shape of this jar. But eventually I realized that because it had parallel grooves molded into the surface near the bottom and a sloping shoulder, the area to be decorated was too small.
Because I didn’t like the prototype I put the whole idea on hold for a few years.
Then, In 2018, I produced a tea towel design using a pattern of dragons holding coffee mugs (below). People liked it. That experience convinced me it was time to bring back the dragon-covered cookie jar idea.
Finally, in the early summer of 2018, I found a square cookie jar shape that I liked better than the cylindrical design. I especially liked the gentle curve of the top of the side panels.
How do you develop a design to fit the shape of the canister?
Designing a panel of dragons to fit the shape of the cookie jar exactly required drawing and refining individual dragons over and over. I prefer to use brush pens for that work.
The first sketch (above) explored how many dragons might fit on a side panel.
Subsequent sketches, like the one above, looked at how dragons could intertwine.
Then there were some sketches (above) to work out how many arms, legs, wings, flames, ears, and horns might fit.
Finally, it was time to try to draw a complete panel (above).
Almost done. The best panel designs were symmetrical with a patch of four or five dragons repeated vertically and horizontally. In the drawing above, I am looking at alternative dragons to complete the curved arc at the top of the side panel. The one on the right is much better, so I went with that.
A similar process of sketches and alternatives was needed for the lid.
Finally, I decided some element was needed to highlight the shoulders of the canister—like epaulets. The space wasn’t large enough for a dragon, so I used the target shape that appears in the negative spaces of the dragon pattern.
And here’s how the final design turned out. I love that from across the room the design looks traditional but up close we see that most of the dragons are munching cookies. But perhaps, I am easily amused.
The Vigilant-Dragons Cookie Jar is currently funding on Kickstarter.
Pittsburgh, June 17, 2019
February 20, 2023
I love your designs. Did you by any chance grow up with Dutch Delft dishes in your home? They were all around me as a kid and your blue and white patterns remind me of them but yours are so much more fun! Thank you so much for sharing your humor and talent with us.