We're All Mad Here

I was reminded today of Sharon King-Chai's beautiful Alice in Wonderland artwork. I woke up to a notification on my Twitter feed; she'd been sent another photo of another tattoo (from Turkey, this time). Her typography for the Cheshire Cat's assertion that "We're All Mad Here" has made for some incredibly popular ink. Seriously. Go and do a quick Google or Pinterest search for "Alice in Wonderland tattoo"; you'll find the eye-catching ace of spades shape she created popping up on skin again and again. Sometimes her design has been copied verbatim, but just as often worked into another motif, or brightly colored up.

Macmillan were the very first publisher of the Alice stories, nearly 150 years ago now. They still produce a color edition with the distinctive Edwardian artwork (which established the image of Alice in her stripy socks and all-important Alice band) and, for various funny reasons, I edited a reissue of it. These books were the first thing Sharon and I worked on together – and she's a lot of fun to work with, by the way. Besides being hugely talented, she has twenty brilliant, innovative ideas every minute and is incredibly motivated and creatively generous.

Sharon came up with the idea for the motifs, we agreed on which quotes to use and she drew them up: playing card suits for Wonderland and chess pieces for Looking-Glass. In the little hustle that often happens between editors and designers, and because we were printing the artwork into the book itself, I remember being strict about the punctuation and making her squodge the dash into the "animal or vegetable – or mineral" quote. And I think she had to redraw it entirely from scratch. Sorry Sharon!

While it's funny to think of all these different people from all over the world, walking around with Sharon's lettering inked on to them, it's also a living echo of the time we worked together. Those tattoos will still be around long after the editions of Alice we made have been consigned to boxes in attics or pulped and recycled.* And, well, that's kind of beautiful, isn't it?

*I'd really like to believe that they would be sitting on bookshelves, treasured forever; but, hey, I'm a realist.