By guest contributor Rose Salseda
By day Missy Kulik is a product and graphic designer for the nation’s largest gift supplier. By night, she is the cartoonist of Tofu Baby for the weekly culture and arts newspaper, Flagpole Magazine, and is the author and publisher of her own series of zines. Did I mention that she also makes jewelry, plushies, paper goods, and music, all of which she sells in her Etsy shop Sugar Cookie? And, somehow, she also finds the time to perform as a trapeze artist, help run five blogs, and adopt orphaned bunnies? Although she runs an alarming number of projects at once, Missy found time to tell Indie Fixx readers about herself, her artwork, and the pursuit of D.I.Y happiness in her hometown of Athens, Georgia.
1. Missy, over a decade ago, you began your creative endeavors with self-published zines. Can you tell our readers how you started and how this project developed into the publication of your book, Personal Charm, and your series of minicomics?
I started getting the B-52s fan club newsletters in the mail. There was a section called “52 Pals” and I wrote to a few of those people. I learned about zines from a pen pal that did a zine all about They Might be Giants. I then got into more and more fanzines, sort of like a little snowball growing, and eventually got some comics into Roctober Magazine. Jake of Roctober always encouraged me to draw for his publication and eventually I had enough for my own zine. I published my first zine, Pocket, with the help of my dad somewhere in 1995 or so. I did the mini comics, like Where’s a Cookie?, to make my version of kids’ books in zine form. I am a big fan of kids’ books.
2. What advice would you give to our readers who are interested in the self-publication and distribution of their own illustrations and writing?
The best advice I have is to simply do it. Do not second guess yourself! When I started out doing zines and self publishing, it was so different. I mailed out my stuff and got reviewed in Factsheet Five, Roctober, and so many other zines! If you can find places to review your work, send it to them for sure. They will help get the word out and that is always good! Find zines and send and trade with other zine writers. I also really think the zine fairs and craft fairs are great. Newbies can have a table and sell and trade with other DIY spirited people. I also like the Sampler and have done that before, too. Etsy is also a great place to start a shop online. You can also join their “teams” and maybe find some people local that are DIY, too!
3. How did you snag your own weekly cartoon feature in Flagpole Magazine?
My friend and fellow cartoonist, T. Edward Bak, was drawing his comic called Service Industry for Flagpole. He had the idea to get a few more cartoonists for Flagpole so they could make a page of comics. I started drawing for them in November 2004, just doing journal comics, and then eventually Tofu Baby.
4. In a recent article in Flagpole Magazine, “Behind the Soy,” the author reveals the simultaneous devotion and animosity for Tofu Baby by local Athens, Georgia readers. How do you deal with Tofu Baby hate and not let it discourage you from your production of comics?
I try not to read the negative comments left on my comics each week! I also get more love for the comic from people in person. Lots of people know I draw Tofu Baby, even the place where my car gets an oil change.
5. How did you begin making your own line of wearables, plushies, and household goods that you feature on Sugar Cookie and how do you find the diversity of your product line beneficial?
I always have at least a dozen things going at once, so I think Sugar Cookie (my Etsy shop) and my website show this. I love having so many different handmade items – that way there is something for everyone!
6. It seems that living in Athens and designing products for the gift company you work for has an affect on your handmade goods. How does Athens inspire you and how does your background as a product and graphic designer help you develop your handmade products?
At my day job we constantly look at trends in the gift industry, color trends, and making things as cute as possible. I like to translate this into my own handmade goodies as well. I mean, designing for my job and myself are really very different, but there is some overlap. I love reading the color trend reports and going to the different gift shows around the world!
7. As people become more familiar with your work, they may begin to realize that you have three main squeezes in your life: Raoulie, your partner in crime, Nilla, your enormous fluffy white kitty, and Oreo, your hippity-hoppity bunny. How does your personal life translate into your work and how do you keep certain aspects of life private when it seems to be incorporated so deeply into your art and design?
I love telling people about my life cos I grew up reading personal zines and mini comics! Though I have printed journal comics before and I enjoy reading that stuff I feel some things are better left private. Or if I decide to write and draw about it I would more than likely make a situation more flowery than what it might be. I am all for “hidden meaning” in comics and art. The readers can make their own conclusions.
About the contributor: Rose Salseda is one of the Indie Fixx interns this fall. She has a Master of Arts degree in Art History from the University of Texas at Austin and will soon be pursuing her PhD. Rose coordinates the Wednesday Indie Artist Fixx interviews.