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What Illustrator Maira Kalman Can’t Live Without

Photo: Getty Images

If you’re like us, you’ve probably wondered what famous people add to their carts. Not the JAR brooch and Louis XV chair, but the hand sanitizer and the electric toothbrush. We asked illustrator Maira Kalman — whose newest book, an illustrated reissue of the Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas is out today — about the French press, sketchbooks, and bouncy balls she can’t live without.

Working in my studio and sitting at a desk, painting or writing, I need to take breaks. And throwing the ball against the wall is one of the greatest diversions and brain reactivators around. The Pinky High-Bounce is a perfect product and the balls don’t leave marks on the wall. Whenever my nieces and nephews come over — and soon my grandchildren, who are almost old enough — we all throw the ball against the wall, not caring if something breaks. In my apartment, we throw it over the bed against the wall in my bedroom. That’s my favorite place, everybody’s very happy, and there’s a lot of screaming.

I write a lot of letters that I actually put stamps on and take to the post office. For me, it’s one of those places where you can find time because time stops when you’re there. Mostly I write letters to my granddaughter Olive and her little sister Esme. Olive is 4, and I’ve been writing her an illustrated letter on this stationery every week or every two weeks since she was born. So now she has hundreds of letters and a record of the history of her life and the history of my life over the last four years. I do it with a pen and ink. It’s always inspiring to write a letter because you want to make it good, but it’s not for publication yet, so there’s a sense of ease and authenticity, which definitely helps me in how I think about working on my paintings and writing. I always think, “This is me speaking from the heart — how can I do that in my work?”
[Editor’s note: For the prices shown, you can get a 25-pack from Amazon or a 10-pack from European Paper.]