Award-winning artist creates holiday scene at Essentials
Essentials at 84 North Main street in Northampton is featuring large illustrations by Amherst artist Tony Diterlizzi in their window space. Purchase photo reprints »
DiTerlizzi is known for his fanciful illustrations. For the Essentials window he imagined a forest scene filled with western Massachusetts animals. Purchase photo reprints »
A detail from DiTerlizzi's holiday window at Essentials Purchase photo reprints »
Tony DiTerlizzi works on some trees for the window display at Essentials. Shown at the right in his Amherst studio is his assistant, Ashley Valentine. Purchase photo reprints »
NORTHAMPTON — This holiday season, one local retailer is drawing in shoppers with a bit of big-city Christmas magic in its window display, courtesy of an award-winning artist.
Essentials, a Main Street shop that sells everything from stationery to furniture to kids’ clothing, has decorated its front windows in the style of the great New York department stores. Designed and created by author and illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi of Amherst, the display has drawn admirers from the Pioneer Valley and beyond.
“I’ve always marveled at the holiday windows, especially the ones I’ve seen in New York City,” said DiTerlizzi, who wrote and illustrated the children’s book series “The Spiderwick Chronicles” and illustrated a Caldecott award-winning version of Mary Howitt’s poem “The Spider and the Fly.”
Colette Katsikas, who has worked at Essentials for over a decade and bought the store this fall, came up with the idea of having DiTerlizzi design the holiday window display. She initially suggested that he make a few trees to provide a seasonal look, but he was so enthusiastic about the idea that he ended up decorating the entire window.
“I wanted to do something big and fun and cool for my first holiday window, so I’m beyond thrilled,” Katsikas said. “I feel like now I’ve set the bar.”
“I couldn’t afford what he really deserves,” Katsikas said of DiTerlizzi’s efforts. “I mean, the work that he put in is unbelievable.” She said all DiTerlizzi accepted for the window display was an Essentials gift card.
DiTerlizzi and his wife, Angela, have been Essentials customers since they moved to the area more than a decade ago. The store’s offerings include a small selection of books, and DiTerlizzi said he was pleasantly surprised to see “The Spider and the Fly” on one of his early visits to the shop.
“My wife and I both love stores that are kind of eclectic, that have lots of interesting bits,” he said.
While he is known for creating mythical creatures for his books and illustrations, DiTerlizzi decided to go with a more traditional theme for the Essentials window. It features snow-capped trees and a whimsical group of animals bringing gifts to a holiday celebration. He chose animals that live in western Massachusetts to populate the window.
“I kind of pictured that they were off to a holiday party in the middle of the woods,” he said of the animals, which he created specifically for the Essentials window scene. “I thought because the rabbit’s box was very long and narrow he had carrots in there, and the raccoon had garbage that he had fished out of someone’s garbage can.”
The animals and scenery were hand painted on foam board, primarily in acrylics — with a heavy dose of glitter.
“When I worked on it, I felt like I was an illustrator from a bygone era, doing this old department store window for the holidays,” said DiTerlizzi. “I think honestly that’s one of the reasons why I got so excited about doing this project.”
It took DiTerlizzi nearly a week of constant work to create the scene. It was a family affair, with Angela and their 5-year-old daughter, Sophia — who was ecstatic about the glitter, DiTerlizzi said — pitching in to help. His studio assistant also worked on the project.
DiTerlizzi documented the process on his blog at www.diterlizzi.com and on his Facebook page. He said feedback has been enthusiastic.
One night after the display was set up, DiTerlizzi was standing outside the store with his wife and Katsikas when a group of people stopped to look at the window. When DiTerlizzi went over to say hello, he learned that they had read about the window on his Facebook page and made a 90-minute drive from Connecticut to see it.
“I was completely just blown away and stunned and touched,” he said.
Katsikas said that she has received many compliments from customers. “People who don’t even shop here have just come in and said, ‘I just want to say that’s one of the most beautiful windows I’ve ever seen.’ ”