You guys! I'm blown away by all your support. Thank you so much for making this project possible. We met our stretch goal of $25,000, so the book will be printed on 100% PCW recycled paper, to lessen impact on the environment. I will also make a Kickstarter-exclusive, gold foil print for every backer. See my update for more details!
Now I want to see how far we can take it - although we've surpassed the target, there's still work to be done! The more we can raise, the more books I can print, and the further the story can be shared. I'm also donating a portion of the books to schools and libraries, and the more I can print, the more I can donate. Thank you again <3
“…an incredibly honest, insightful and helpful depiction of living with depression. It is likely to be of interest to anyone who has experienced depression themselves, or who supports someone living with depression.”- Professor Thalia Eley, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King's College London
“It is so close to what I often feel but cannot explain… for the first time it seems like I am not the only one feeling this way.”
- Anonymous reader
Dog Years is a book about depression, but it isn’t depressing. It’s about learning to live with what ails you, and realizing that you're not alone. There’s even some bits that are kinda funny.
Although it’s a personal story about my own experiences, it’s also a broad enough that it can be applied to many others. When it was published online, I was overwhelmed by the responses from people telling me how they related to it. I hope printing it will allow it to be shared even further.
The story starts in infancy, goes through teenage years (where the dog really sinks its teeth in), and into adulthood, where years of training have begun to pay off. It addresses the frequent connection between artists and mental health, and the effect depression can have on creative work, as well as on relationships and your own self identity. It's a book about surviving.
You can show it to your friends or family or partners who don't seem to get it when you try to tell them how you're feeling. You can also "accidentally" leave it lying around your house, so your mum or dad or partner or roommate finds it and reads it and figures it out. You can lend it to a friend who's going through a rough patch. You can just look at it on your bookshelf from time to time and remember that you are not alone in this. We are a legion of dog owners.
In January 2017, I gave a talk at the Society of Illustrators in New York, as part of an evening of presentations on the theme of Survival. I wanted to talk about surviving mental health issues, and the ways in which those issues have impacted my life and my work. It felt a little too on-the-nose to stand up and just say "Hey, I've been really really depressed,” so decided to tell the story through the metaphor of the black dog.
The black dog is an old metaphor for depression, dating back to Roman times. Winston Churchill famously used it to describe his struggle with his mental health. To me, it felt like a good filter to tell the story through - owning a dog, being attacked by the dog, training the dog, learning to relax around the dog. It allowed me to be more honest, because it gave me some distance from the facts.
After I gave the presentation, I reworked the story into a visual essay. It was published by Buzzfeed as part of their Mental Health Week. Over the next few weeks, I received hundreds of messages from readers. They told me their dog stories, how my story helped them feel less alone, and how it helped them understand themselves or others. Mental health professionals reached out to say how useful a tool they thought it could be. Psychology teachers asked if they could share it with their students. The response was very humbling. Hearing that my work made others feel less alone, in turn made me feel less alone.
A lot of people asked me to make a book version of the story. I've printed many zines and small artists books before, but this was a bit longer, and felt like it deserved higher production values - I want it to be a sturdy and beautiful object, that feels good to hold, that has presence. You've gotta do the dog justice, you know?
But it turns out printing a beautiful book full of illustrations is really expensive! So, here we are. I've got the story, I’ve got the drawings, I've found the printer, it's ready to go - I just don't have the funds to take it to press. And that's why I need you.
Tell me about this book, then.
The book will be a 6 x 8" hardback book, with a cloth-bound, foil-blocked cover, beautiful color endpapers, and 60 pages of drawings and writing on ~luxury~ paper. It's gonna be nice.
I’m working with printers who have a lot of experience printing books like this, and I’m confident that they will produce it beautifully. I’m also lucky that some of my dear friends are incredibly talented and experienced book designers, and they’ve given me a lot of advice regarding production processes.
Below are a few digital renderings of the book. The real one will look even nicer.
Can't I just read the story online?
Of course! The essay on Buzzfeed will stay up, and you can still read it there. However, the book will have a number of new drawings and alterations to the text. Most importantly, it will be a real thing that you can actually hold, and imho it's nice to hold things sometimes.
STICKER & POSTCARD
All orders will come with a free, Kickstarter-exclusive postcard and sticker, as a small thank you for helping to bring the project to life.
Whatever your donation, you’ll receive a printable pdf at the end of the campaign, containing two cut-out-and-assemble paper toys. They’re on the theme of the dog, but the exact content will be a surprise!
Earlybird orders will get ~signed~ books AND at a reduced price, because acting fast deserves rewarding.
There's also an earlybird gift bundle with a bunch of rewards at a discounted price.
I’ve designed two enamel pins to go along with the book, so you can wear your black dog on your sleeve (or on your lapel, or your backpack, or your hat).
A secret reminder to yourself to keep an eye on the dog, make sure you know what it’s up to. You’re the dog’s boss. Black metal with white enamel. 1.25” wide.
DOG WALKING PIN
You can take this dog for a walk anywhere, and it’s very obedient and well trained, thank goodness. Black metal with white enamel. The figure is 1.75” tall, and the chain is 2.5” long.
GIFT SCREEN PRINT
The black dog bringing you a peace offering. Black and metallic gold ink. Print is 8.5 x 11”, and printed in Brooklyn on high quality archival paper. A kickstarter exclusive.
ORIGINAL DRAWING COMMISSION
If you'd like to have something completely unique, I’ll make you an original drawing of a black dog. The drawings will be 5.5 x 7.5” and a limited quantity of 50. Sumi ink and gouache on cotton rag paper. Signed and dated. If you have a specific request for your dog's attitude or activity, I’ll do my best to accommodate it (within reason!!)
A handmade necklace with a protective dog charm. Cast from my original hand carved wax in either solid silver or brass, on 20" sterling silver chain. This dog is a talisman and an ally. You can look at it and say to the dog "I am bigger than you," because you literally are. It's only about 1 inch long.
Hi! I’m an illustrator, I make stuff, I’m British, I’m 6ft tall, and I live in Brooklyn. I mostly work freelance for a variety of clients, such as The New York Times, The New Yorker, Penguin Random House, The Ace Hotel, and Anthropologie. You can take a look at my illustration portfolio here. I also make and sell a line of products including jewelry, homewares, paper goods, and clothing. You can check them out in my shop here.
Here’s a few places where you can read a bit more about me, if that’s your thing:
Shipping prices quoted are for first class mail. International backers, I am SO SORRY that the shipping price is so high! It is the worst! USPS are monsters when it comes to international mail. I offered rewards of double or triple books, in case you want to go in with friends and split the shipping cost. Please know that I feel your pain and I agree that the post office should in no way charge this much.
Funding and Timeline
The goal is set so I can print a large enough edition of the books that they can retail at an affordable price (I want this book to be accessible, not an elite artist’s book for only very *rich* depressed people). Your pledge will go towards printing costs (the vast majority), Kickstarter fees (10%), and producing the rewards. Also, please bear in mind that Kickstarter includes shipping costs in the total raised, so about 20% is gonna be going straight to USPS. If we go over the goal, I'll be able to print more copies, and maybe even distribute some to bookstores and libraries.
If the campaign is successful, I’ll be able to begin production when it ends. Printing takes around 6 weeks start to finish, and once they’re printed, shipping them to me takes about a further 4 weeks. And then of course I have to ship them to you! I’ve making a conservative estimate for timing, because I’d rather be pleasantly early than disappointingly late - you should receive your rewards by the end of February.
I know that’s a loooooong time to wait, so I’m going to make some printable treats that will be emailed to you once the campaign ends. Hopefully they will satisfy you until the book arrives!
Thank you for your time. It's been a pleasure doing business with you.
Risks and challenges
This is my first time self publishing a hardcover book, but I have a lot of experience with print and self publishing in general. I'm working with a verified printer, and I've seen the samples, so I know the quality is good. The book is laid out and ready to go to print as soon as I can fund it. The non-book rewards have already been made and are ready for you!
I've been running an online business for 7 years, so I have a lot of experience with shipping and fulfillment. I know what I'm doing when it comes to stuffing envelopes and arranging USPS pickups (it's a very nuanced science) and I know how to manage a large volume of orders.
The main risk is with fulfillment time. There is always a chance that there are delays with production, or delays with shipping (hi USPS, I'm looking at you). However, I have left a lot of extra time in the estimated fulfillment date, so I am hopeful that there will not be any delays.
You will receive an email with tracking number when your order ships, which will help us stay on top of any parcels that USPS messes around with.
PLEASE make sure your kickstarter email address is your main email! All the information about this project, production updates, shipping info, tracking numbers, etc, will come to whatever email is linked to your Kickstarter account.
To provide me with your shipping address, you'll need to fill in the backer survey that you'll receive at the end of the funding period. The faster you can fill in the survey, the faster you'll get your goods!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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