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On Your Desk

Anna's desk 1

Today's desks come from two women whose work I absolutely adore, one an artist in New England and the other a writer in the American Midwest.

First the artist: Anna Brahms is a master doll and puppet maker in western Massachusetts. She lives in a cozy old house by a river and is inspired by fairy tales, nature spirits, and the beauty of the land around her. Anna studied art at the University of Jerusalem and spent two years performing with a traveling puppet theater troupe before turning her hand to making puppets and dolls -- living and working first in Jerusalem and Paris, then settling in the U.S. in 1981. Her beautiful art has been exhibited extensively across the U.S. and Europe, and has been displayed in Christmas windows at Tiffany and Saks Fifth Avenue in New York, in the Muse'e des Arts Decoratifs in the Louvre in Paris, and numerous other places.

Anna's desk 2

Anna's desktop can be seen in the two photographs above and in the next photograph below. "I too love seeing artists' work spaces," she says; "it reveals so much about the artistic process. As a puppet and doll maker, my specialty is characters from fairy tales, and all sorts of mischievous nature spirits, faeries and such, so my work space is always crowded with lots of stuff important to this kind of work. Both puppet and doll making involves all sorts of crafts, such as sewing, painting, sculpting, and wig making,  so I am always busy doing something, even on those days when I don't feel especially inspired.

"My table is a mess," Anna admits. "My whole studio is that way. But being a Virgo, there is an order to my mess! At least, I usually know where to find things...."

Anna's desk 3

The next two pictures are examples of Anna's work: scenes from "Cinderella" and "Sleeping Beauty" respectively. There's more -- oh, so much more -- on her website, which is absolutely filled with marvels to inspire you, delight you, and touch your heart.

Cinderella by Ann Brahms

Sleeping Beauty by Anna Brahms

The next desk belongs to Pamela Dean in Minneapolis, the author of some of my very favorite fantasy novels (Tam Lin, The Secret Country Trilogy, The Dubious Hills, and Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary), and a handful of splendid short stories too (of which "Owlswater," published in Jane Yolen's anthology Xanadu in 1993, still haunts me all these years later).

"My pictures will look dreadfully scruffy on your beautiful blog,"  writes Pamela, "but I love the 'On Your Desk' series so much I wanted to contribute to it." Okay, perhaps writers' desk aren't usually as colorful as a typical artist's desk, crowded with paints and exotic-looking tools -- but I think that's what gives the magic conjured by writers a glamour of its own: the mysterious process in which whole worlds are created and characters brought vividly to life by the simple means of words upon a white page or computer screen.

Jane Yolen once wrote: "I have always been jealous of artists. The smell of the studio, the names of the various tools, the look of a half-finished canvas all shout of creation. What do writers have in comparison? Only the flat paper, the clacketing of the typewriter or the scrape of a pen across a yellow page. And then, when the finished piece is presented, there is a small wonder on one hand, a manuscript smudged with erasures or crossed out lines on the other. The impact of the painting is immediate, the manuscript must unfold slowly through time."

Ah, but then there's the book in the end...that beautiful object that many of us still love even in this age of the Kindle. And here, below, is the workspace of a woman whose books are completely enchanting:

Pamela's desk 3

"This is my immediate work area. The White Flower Farm catalog is a valuable tool of research, and the Dave Carter and Tracy Grammer CDs are the music I write to at the moment."

Pamela's desk 2

"These are the windows I face when I work.  The quilt was made for me by my grandmother after Ace Books put forty-one unicorns on the cover of The Secret Country."

Pamela's desk 4

"This the only bookshelf I could get at to photograph. A lot of these reference books are being replaced by the Internet, but sometimes I still prefer to open an actual book."

Pamela's desk 5

"And finally, the cat on the printer." (Yes, another workspace with its animal Muse.)

For more information on Pamela and her books, please visit her website/blog, Love and Rhetoric Without the Bood.

And I'll have more desks for you later this week....