Handmade by Lori: drawings, stories, paper dolls and more

Tuesday , October 14, 2014 - 12:55 PM

BRIGHAM CITY — As a kid, Lori Nawyn says she was always the class clown, out to get a laugh or some attention any way she could.

“When I was in grade school, I was really an obnoxious kid,” she says. “I never knew when to sit still and when to listen.”

Then, in the fifth grade, Nawyn wrote her first book — a story about herself and a classmate — and read it aloud to her class.

The positive feedback she received “made me see myself in a different way,” Nawyn says, and helped her realize, right there in the fifth grade, that writing was what she wanted for her future.

The dream paid off for the Brigham City native, who, in recent years, has penned everything from a novel to an inspirational thought book to a few cookbooks. And her simple grade-school drawings have blossomed into a bevy of artwork including illustrations for children’s books, home decor and gift items, a line of paper dolls and assorted craft projects.

A former journalist, Nawyn is a writer of books with a message, whether it’s helping women cope with the ups and downs of life in 2014’s “Simple Things: Daily Thoughts, Stories, and Inspiration to Live Life More Fully,” or taking children on a tour of the United States, in her “Abbie and Jack” book series coming in 2015.

“I enjoy interacting with people and knowing that I’m making a difference, or hopefully making a difference in their lives,” Nawyn says during an interview at her Brigham City home. “I enjoy helping people and making their lives better in any way that I can.”

Art with meaning

Many of Nawyn’s creations are born in a small upstairs studio in her house, where her cheery artwork is scattered about on the walls and shelves.

Although the artist says she does a lot of drawing on her computer, she enjoys going old-school and working with pencil, too.

“I still love to flesh out my ideas by hand,” says the grandmother of four. Her art skills are mostly self-taught, she adds, since being a mother to four children meant, “I didn’t have the time or resources to go to art school.”

When it comes to book illustrations, Nawyn says she accepts few projects, only those with a strong message that has “the capacity to touch others and make their lives better.”

One such book was “Love, Hugs, and Hope: When Scary Things Happen,” written by Ogden author Christy Monson on the heels of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in late 2012.

“My heart had been aching to somehow try to help those families,” Nawyn says.

Her latest illustrations for a children’s book is this fall’s “From Head to Tummy: The Simple Truth About Food, Media Messages, Self-worth and Real Beauty.” Author Haley Hatch Freeman is an anoxeria survivor and the self-published book is aimed at elementary-age girls.

Real beauty is about more than body size, social media status or attention from the opposite sex, Nawyn says in a post about the project on her blog (choosetodanceinthesun.blogspot.com). “Real beauty is something we know and embrace for ourselves; it’s loving ourselves for who we are — right now,” she writes.

The author and illustrator will sign copies of the book at a release party from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 18, at the American Fork Library, 64 S. 100 East, American Fork.

On the road

One of Nawyn’s next writing and illustrating projects is the “Abbie and Jack” board book series, to be published next year by Familius. Abbie will travel the 50 states with her faithful Jack Russell terrier at her side.

“Abbie is actually going to be a pilot” — a nod to Nawyn’s fascination with aviation — “and that’s how they get from state to state,” the author says. And, “We’ll see Jack doing all sorts of things like wakeboarding and skydiving,” she says.

This year has seen publication of three new books by Nawyn, the most recent being “The Pear Aficionado” (Familius, $12.95). The cookbook is a followup of sorts to last year’s “Peachy: A Harvest of Fruity Goodness,” a tribute to the author’s roots growing up in the hometown of Peach Days.

“Simple Things,” published in January by Covenant Communications Inc., is a year-long study guide for women, addressing different themes each month.

“The gist of it is helping women define themselves and what they want out of life,” Nawyn says. She says she sees many women who feel pressure to overachieve at everything yet feel they can never make mistakes or measure up.

Women need to learn to like themselves, she says, adding, “Really, you’re the one who needs to look in the mirror at the end of the day and be happy with yourself.”

Time to gather

For July’s “The Great American Family Reunion Cookbook,” Nawyn says she spent a year interviewing families from every state to collect recipes for their iconic family gathering foods.

Utah’s offerings include not only an orange JELL-O salad — no surprise there — but also a recipe for Marguerites from Nawyn’s friend Delone Glover of Brigham City. Marguerites are a meringue-like concoction spread on saltine crackers, and Nawyn says when Glover’s mother made them, “that was the epitome of peace and wonderfulness in the world.”

Besides recipes, the reunion book from Familius includes tips for planning a family get-together, whether it’s choosing a theme or location or activities.

The book was written in honor of Nawyn’s Grandma Esther, one of two grandmothers who raised her. Grandma Esther had a knack for fostering good will among large groups of people, Nawyn says, and giving everyone the chance to shine.

“She worked magic, she really did,” she says. “Family meal time was so important to her and she really forged some strong memories.”

One of Nawyn’s great-grandmothers was a devoted collector of old dolls. She was the inspiration for the artist’s Hearts and Hands Dolls, a line of soft-sculpted dolls that are distributed to children or elderly shut-in women.

“Some of those ladies ... they will just take them and clutch them to their heart and just love them,” Nawyn says.

Old-time dolls

Nawyn is also creating a line of paper dolls, one for each state. Each doll comes with a teddy bear and accessories related to her state; Aurora, from Alaska, for instance, has a posable sled dog and the state flower, the forget-me-knot.

The Utah paper doll is Ulalie — “It’s hard to find names that start with a U,” Nawyn quips — who comes with a sea gull, a honey bee and a pioneer dress.

Down the road, Nawyn would like to write novels for children in middle grades, perhaps about history, and a novel about her grandfather, who engineered the first “sno-planes” to travel into Yellowstone National Park in winter.

Yes, she has plenty of projects to keep her busy, but Nawyn says, “I enjoy being busy ... I’m always thinking.”

Contact reporter Becky Cairns at 801-625-4276 or bcairns@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter at @bccairns or like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SEbeckycairns.

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