Artist Spotlight: Kay Sales

Every time I lose an eyelash, I make a wish. I wish for the same thing each time: the determination to take the next step toward what is important to me. Ironically, the knowledge that I can manifest that reality for myself is kind of terrifying. As I grow into the power to direct my life, I try to focus on taking a step each day, no matter how imperfect, toward my dreams. One thing I love about my job with Card Isle, is how often I cross paths with inspiring, creative, optimistic people who are doing the very same thing.

As the content manager, I get to know artists the best. Kay Sales is an inspiring example of person combining work with her passion. She has designed real and imaginative landscapes as a feature film animator, landscape architect, and graphic artist. Kay and I share an interest in the power of landscape architecture to strengthen communities and the environment; I was exceptionally excited to get to know her better. She has wonderful ideas for creating spaces for children to play and learn and has implemented them in Denmark and Los Angeles.

Kay has adapted to shifts in the job market and her own personal development while pursuing creative professions. After graduating with a graphic design degree, she worked in animation for five years at Steven Spielberg’s studio in London. The studio relocated to Los Angeles as Dreamworks studio and Kay worked there on four feature films. When the industry started to transition from hand-drawn to computer-generated animation, Kay realized she wanted to work on projects that could effect social change. She went on to study landscape architecture and discovered she loved designing spaces that encourage children to connect with nature through play.

Working with Swire Siegel Landscape Architects, her designs transformed asphalt fields in school yards into vibrant and active green spaces. Kay believes that nature-based spaces in school settings can further school systems’ potential to create equal opportunities for all children. Kay’s blog featured a short film narrated by David Attenborough for the UK based organization, Learning through Landscapes. Watch it here to learn about the idea of conserving school grounds and outsourcing the need for more classroom space by utilizing unused spaces in the community.  

Walden School in Pasenda before photo. Photo credit to Swire Seigel Landscape Architects

Above are after photos of the Walden School in Pasadena, showing the implementation of a design Kay contributed to with Swire Siegel Landscape Architects. There a number of natural play features such as a water channel, magnetic water wall, and slate chalk wall. Photo credit to Swire Siegel Landscape Architects.

When the economic crisis threatened funding for landscape design projects, Kay, a native of the UK, relocated to Europe. Living in Denmark, she continued to search for outlets for her innovative ideas. In between landscape architecture projects, she wanted a way to stay creative and continue to develop ideas for children. She brainstormed with her own children and drew little creatures for an alphabet poster idea. Her younger son came up with the name monstabet for her creation. This fun side project led to several variations on the monstabet and grew into counting by numster posters and even monstrees: a tree identification poster infiltrated by adorable monsters (I have my very own monstrees poster from Kay’s store)! As in her landscape architecture design, Kay considered space and context for inspiration: “While drawing the monsters, I [thought] about how they relate to each other and the space they inhabit.” By hiding the contours of her characters, she enticed the viewer to look closer.

Counting by Numsters by Kay Sales. Available at The Monstore

A Field Guide to Monstrees by Kay Sales! Available at The Monstore.

Kay is still active in landscape architecture and through her illustrations she continues to use her skills as animator. Throughout her varied career path, Kay’s says “children, and the hope of inspiring the next generation to love nature and be creative” has remained her personal connection between her art and landscape design. Kay describes her creative process as organic. Like all creative processes, as Kay reminded me, it is hard to predict how it will turn out, but the act of doing leads the way.

Numster card available through Card Isle. Cover art by Kay Sales. Perfect for your favorite toddler’s birthday.

New Baby Monstabet card available through Card Isle. Cover art by Kay Sales.