Slovenian Cats, or, Why Blogging is Amazing

Original Cat Print by Alenka Sottler

A few months ago, I put together a feature on the Slovene children’s book illustrator Alenka Sottler as part of my series on the 2014 Hans Christian Andersen Awards. Like the other children’s literature posts that I do from time to time, the feature was well-received and a few people shared the link on Facebook. Nothing much happened for the next several months, until, one day, a notification from WordPress appeared on my phone. I glanced at it hurriedly, saw the name “Alenka Sottler,” and dismissed it as a fluke — it was early in the morning, I needed a strong cup of coffee, and I was, of course, already late for work. When I returned to the comment later in the day, I could scarcely believe it: Alenka Sottler herself had found my blog.

Dear Alina!
First and foremost, I would like to thank you for your interesting comment on illustrators and my work. I read your text… a while ago and I wanted to add a note but it wasn’t until now that I found the time to send you a few words regarding the ‘digital illustration’ in my book The Emperor and the Rose…  It is a book of modern fairy tales through a woman’s perspective and narrated by using old-fashioned language… by the way, the cat that you like so much is a magic animal in the book. He helps a prince to win a princess. If you would want to have a print of this illustration I would gladly send you one, just let me know the address.
Kind regards from your almost a namesake,
Alenka Sottler

I promptly sent her an email thanking her for the kind words and extremely generous offer to send me an original print of the cat, whose named, I learned, was Motz. After a quick email exchange with Alenka’s assistant, the address was confirmed, and the cat print shipped off.

In the meantime, I moved to New Zealand. It had been 8 months since the original blog post, 4 months since Alenka left the comment, and 4 weeks since I had heard from her assistant. Sure enough, though, Motz the magical kitty arrived in Ohio, U.S.A. in late November after a long overseas journey. I asked to be emailed a photo of the print, which is what I posted above. Although I’ll be gallivanting across New Zealand for the foreseeable future, and it may be another year before I see the illustration in person, it hardly diminishes the beauty of the exchange.

Sottler print, side-by-side comparison

I went back to my original post to compare the two images side-by-side. Motz, as he appears in Sottler’s book “The Emperor and the Rose,” (left), has deep and thoughtful brown eyes, is stenciled slightly darker, and has more of a cool, blue-gray tone. In contrast, Motz, as he appears in the print, (right), has subtly sharper eyes, lending him an intelligent and mischievous expression, and is set against a yellow background. It’s fascinating to see that the grid-like pattern originally extended across the entire sheet of paper, and was probably digitally removed in post-processing. It’s an archaeological remnant, a rare clue about Sottler’s illustration technique, that demonstrates visually the process as Sottler described it: “I made illustrations on cotton cloth with tartan pattern used in the sixties by Slovenian housewives for making bed linens. This cloth pattern is very similar to knitting. In addition, digital images of our time are ‘cubic’ as well.” Traces of the old, blended with modern elements, an artistic fusion that provides classic fairytales with a unique subtext.

So, let’s retrace the steps. A library assistant, enamored with a pile of beautifully illustrated children’s books, decides to write about them on her blog. A Slovene artist, hard at work, reads the post while “perched in a wooden cottage situated on the slope of a mountain range.” Compliments are exchanged, a promise is made, and a magical cat delivered halfway across the world. It doesn’t get much lovelier than that.

I dearly hope that I get to meet Alenka Sottler in person at the 2016 IBBY World Congress in Auckland.

25 thoughts on “Slovenian Cats, or, Why Blogging is Amazing

    1. Thank you!! What a lovely comment! It’s hard to believe that I’ve been blogging regularly for over a year now. It gives me a lot of satisfaction, and I’m sure the same is true for most of us who blog. Cheers!

    1. I know!! I still cannot believe how nice she is. And that she mailed the print such a long long way. Going back to the United States after such a long time away will undoubtedly feel weird, but it’s really wonderful to know that this print is there waiting for me… 🙂

    1. I know! Blogging is such a common activity these days that it’s easy to forget how much of an impact it can have on yourself and others. For example, your posts Toronto Fashion Week were so cool to read! All I ever hear about is New York Fashion Week, and frankly, the smaller shows are a lot more original and exciting.

  1. Dear Alina,

    when we received your email containing the post Slovenian Cats, or, Why Blogging is Amazing we could not help but have a hearty laugh. It was so wonderful to read your post about the blogging fairy tale. It really made our day! Have lots of fun with the Motz !

    Best wishes,
    Alenka and Sibil

    1. Hello Alenka and Sibil!
      Thank you again for sending the beautiful print of Motz! It is already one of my most treasured possessions, and I’m glad my story gave both of you a laugh. I’ll be writing to you soon about a feature on Pepelka. 🙂 And I hope I will see you at the 2016 IBBY Congress in Auckland!
      With countless warm wishes,

    1. I can’t believe it happened at all! This is part of why I like children’s literature so much. A lot of the people working in the field/genre/industry/whatever are super generous and down-to-earth. I mean, you know, it’s children’s books!
      As for Kim Jong-Un, you’d better monitor your Gmail and Facebook accounts pretty carefully! Who knows what craziness might pop up!

    1. I know, I can’t believe how nice she was! I do lots of posts about children’s book illustrators, but Alenka is the only one who’s gotten in touch with me. (Not that it’s a requirement, obviously, or even that I expected it — I’m just pointing out that it’s very unusual!)

      1. I have heard from a couple of authors whose books I reviewed, but the comment were a protest against something negative I said. Not at all the same type of feedback!

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