Posted by: Sally Ingraham | March 25, 2013

Diana Wynne Jones and Her Amazing Striped Tights

Diana Wynne Jones (1934-2011)

Diana Wynne Jones (1934-2011)

Thing are going round and round in my head, or maybe my head is going round and round in things. – Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

March is Women’s History Month and coincidentally, women have been much on my mind lately. I’m reading Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, which gets up close and personal with the type of stories that the government and the ruling class would rather you didn’t learn about in school (according to Chomsky – more about that in a later post, I predict). Early on in the book he writes that one of his intentions is to find ‘those hidden episodes of the past when, even if in brief flashes, people showed their ability to resist, to join together, occasionally to win.

I feel a sort of mission welling up inside of me, a powerful urge to start telling stories again. As a kid, homeschooled and left mostly to my own devices, for History I loved to research a famous person and then write a story about them, usually weaving in some magical elements which would allow me to time-travel into their daily life and have a random encounter. Such fun! I want to do this again, to some extent, and I’m drawn to the idea of seeking out interesting women who have been obscured by the way the history books are written, their stories lost amid the jumble of a male dominated society. I’d like to have some random encounters with some of the bad ass women of the past. That’s one idea.

The other idea that has been fermenting in my brain is taking my paper obsession to a new level and making some moves to improve my artistic skills. I’ve been wanting to go beyond drawing and my marker/colored pencil combo, and had toyed with the idea of taking up painting. I’m too broke to get the materials necessary for that endeavor however, so I turned to paper and the piles of catalogs that land in my mailbox every day. Free art supplies! A large library with a juicy arts and crafts section turned up Julie Nutting‘s Collage Couture, which set me off down a path that so far seems like the right one.

Something about making collage pictures of women, featuring fun clothes, to accompany or maybe even fully embody the stories I want to tell, feels completely right. We’ll see where I go with it!

I would like a pair of these tights!

I would like a pair of these tights!

The piece above and to the left was my trial run. It seemed appropriate to kick my project off by composing a celebration of Diana Wynne Jones (since it is DWJ March). I found a photo of her included in the blog post Neil Gaiman wrote soon after she died, (which never fails to make me cry,) where she was sporting these outrageously wonderful striped tights. Perfect.

I have lots of room for improvement when it comes to the execution of these pictures, and could use a few additional or different tools, but for today I’m pretty pleased with the results. It was great fun to put in lots of elements from the Howl books, and I got a kick out of cutting the clothes and hair off of catalog models and transforming them into DWJ and her worlds. It was an utterly satisfying project.

I have a copy of DWJ’s Reflections: On the Magic of Writing, and perhaps after I’ve read it I will get in my time machine and pay her a visit! Although she may not seem significant in the big picture of history, her quiet life of writing stories made a huge impact on how I understand the world. She’s exactly the sort of woman I hope to continue encountering as I dig into the pages of the past, excavating the spaces between words and the pauses at the end of sentences, where the buried women of history are waiting to leap out, shake the dirt off their clothes, and stand revealed – beautiful and powerful.

Let DWJ be the first in line!


  1. That is amazing! Very cool, I love Calcifer and the words for her face and hands. I hope you do more of these!

    • Thanks darlin’! That’s my trusty Anne Rice novel being put to good use again…! 🙂

  2. may she be the first in a very long line. what an excellent project. I love your resourcefulness and I adore those striped tights.

    • I hope she is too! Thanks L. 🙂

  3. This looks amazing.
    I’m interested in the People’s History you mention, I’ll have to have a look.
    I’ve been doing exactly what you mention in this post. I’ve written a fair amount of stories in which mythological figures and famous people speak. Travelling into their heads and time is fascinating. I’m a Chomsky fan btw.

    • I’d love to read one of your stories if you’d care to share. 🙂

      I just recently started reading Chomsky and I’m pretty blown away by some things he says. I’ve mostly been perusing his political opinions but I really want to study his linguistic work too, since I’m fascinated by that kind of thing.

      A People’s History of the United States is INCREDIBLE. Definitely check it out. I’d be really curious to hear your thoughts on it. It’s massive though… I’ve been working on it for over a month and I’m not halfway through yet! 🙂

      • I’m not ready to share my stories yet. But one day. 🙂

      • I understand. I hope you continue to enjoy writing them. 🙂

      • Yes and I also hope the day will come when I will want to share them and we can see how we write, amybe about the same figures. Do you rather focus on mythological or historical women? I have a thing for fairy tales too. Giving those characters voices.

      • I’ve done both. And the last time I wrote such a story was when I was 16 I think, so I have to get back into it! Right now I want to research and write about historical women – but I love fairy tales too, and giving voice to women who are typically not much more than tropes would give me a lot of pleasure…!

  4. This is fantastic! I can’t wait to share it. 🙂

    • Thank you so much! And thank you again for organizing the DWJ love this month.

  5. I really really like your drawing. And so fitting for DWJ March. I, too, have yet to read Reflections, but from what I have heard.. I’d definitely want a ticket for your time machine.

    • Thanks Iris! I’m about 1/2 way through Reflections now – and it is SO good. I thought I loved DWJ before but my appreciation of her has deepened and my respect for her is growing to epic proportions. I highly recommend it!

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