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The Room of Wonders by Sergio Ruzzier
Pius Pelosi. That’s him on the cover. He’s a collector. Being a collector is his gift. He collects things that inspire him, even if they’re otherwise ordinary things. In fact, his collection is his life’s work. A work of art.
Pius has a room of wonders.
“Pius’s entire collection was exhibited here. There was a baby’s shoe, a dried leaf that looked like a dog, a toy soldier who had lost his gun, a glass eye, a button, and thousands of other treasures.”
But the object most special to Pius is the one visitors find to be the most simple, the most boring. It’s a gray pebble. Eventually, Pius listens to what the others say about it. He throws his prized pebble in the river.
Pius feels lost. He empties his room of wonders. Nothing makes sense without that pebble.
Sergio Ruzzier is an artist. He was a Sendak fellow too. When he was a child, he’d pick up pebbles and rocks to keep in his pocket. His early creative influences are apparent in his work. As a kid, he read comics by Charles Schulz, E.C. Segar, George Herriman, and others.
“I knew I would have liked to be like them. At the same time, I was starting to appreciate medieval and early renaissance art, which I would see in museums and old churches. The two things combined made me dream that I could one day create my own pictorial universe. Once I found the materials that were right for me, pen and ink and watercolors, I began to build it.”
This book feels so much to me like creative process. You start with this core thing that inspires you. You build up a collection or somehow expand it. Maybe people tell you stuff that doesn’t resonate with you, but you listen. Or you get lost all on your own, which is pretty easy too. Through comparison, through doubt, discouragement. Or maybe you just get plain old stuck. You let go of your pebble. You feel directionless and empty. You must find your pebble again! That thing that got you started in the first place.
images: Sergio Ruzzier
Sergio Ruzzier no longer has pebbles in his pockets, but he does have strategies for when a project isn’t flowing:
“Sometimes, if I’m really stuck, one thing I do is take walks, to try and clear my mind up. That can help. I also like to use tools that are beautiful, at least to me. My old glass pens and inkwell stand are very comforting, for instance.”
A lot of life takes creativity, and not just the creative fields. Parenting, jobs, teaching, solving problems, etc. We can lose our way with any endeavor. It’s helpful to have a so-called pebble of our own to remind us why we got on the path in the first place. To put us back on it.
I, too, take walks when stuck. There are a couple of picture books that I definitely think of as pebbles. And, then there’s one of my favorite creative memoirs: Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up. Me and a million other people are big fans of his. (But to prove my devotion, I’ve gone to see him play banjo, and he’s amazing.)
“I did stand-up comedy for eighteen years. Ten of those years were spent learning, four years were spent refining, and four were spent in wild success.”
Thinking of this book helps me stay on my own creative path. It details his journey, which was made up of development, practice, and honing his craft. He started his career at 15 at Disneyland and went on to Knott’s Berry Farm and then lots of unpaid gigs at lots of clubs. Surely, he must’ve had a pebble in order to persevere. It’s pure speculation of course, but perhaps it was his arrow through the head he became famous for. Or his banjo, which he used in his act and still plays today. Or maybe it was something we could never guess. Maybe even a tiny gray pebble in his pocket.
The Room of Wonders is sadly out of print. So if you can’t get your hands on it, I recommend Amandina also by Sergio Ruzzier. It’s captivating. Plus, he’s got a brand new book out too: Bear and Bee!! I agree with the reviews!
Okay, guys, what’s YOUR pebble? A book, an object, a memory, a ritual, a piece of music you revisit? Do share!