At a small table near the entrance of a vegetarian restaurant in Oak Park, local designer Sky Hatter sat in a floral dress and yellow sweater on a cushioned window ledge across from me in a chair with a comically high back. We met to talk about her two books. Before we started the interview, though, I needed to clear the air.
“How do you say the title of your book?” I said.
The title of Hatter’s latest book “The Ocean is a Pousse Café,” released last fall, likens the layers of the ocean to the layers of a colorful french cocktail.
“It’s not ”po͞os-sē kaˈfā,'” Hatter emphasized. “It’s ‘po͞os kaˈfā.’ In French, when the ‘e’ doesn’t have an accent over it, you don’t pronounce it.”
I was thankful for the French lesson.
With that out of the way, we dived into our meals. Hatter had a layered vegetarian hot dish, like a lasagna, with a light brown sauce on top that had the look and texture of gravy. The dish tasted like moussaka to me, but I forget what the restaurant calls it.
My dish was pretty no-frills: [fake] bacon slathered in avocado and vegan mayo, garnished with lettuce and stuffed into a gluten free pita. It was messy and yummy. We gossipped [Sky and I are former co-workers], giggled and gorged before getting to the business of discussing Hatter’s books.
“Idle Hands” was released on Blurb in the spring of 2014. It was one of her first graduate school projects. But the grad school she decided to attend wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
“Graduate school was not conducive to what I needed in my career,” Hatter said. “I took what I could use and decided to forget the rest.”
Hatter periodically tucked her long brown hair behind her ears as she answered my questions.
The idea for “Idle Hands” started before her graduate program, though. It started with an observation.
One observation, for example, she was much happier when she felt useful and felt useful when she was busy. Therefore, she created work for herself.
The self-described “boomerang kid” from a small town in California with a population of about 700 “if you include the dogs,” Hatter said, decided to move back to her hometown after completing her undergraduate degree at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago.
While at home she continued to paint and create and even worked at a national park to stay engaged. It was around this time that she met a writer and fell in love. This writer was having a similar post grad experience–a degree holding adult, boomeranging from home to school and back again and temporarily jobless.
Hatter liked his writing and therefore decided to “put a body to his words,” she said.
Over time “Idle Hands” developed into a book of short essays by millennials on being “idle.” The irony is that none of them are actually idle. They are creators, thinkers, writers, and scientists who are actively creating, thinking, writing and engineering.
Millennials may suffer from a bad reputation, but Hatter sees the state of young adults as a part of dynamic evolution; the products of changing a few variables.
“We’re going to be different than our parents and that’s a good thing,” Hatter said. “How will we define success? It will be based on how satisfied we are; on what we have created.”
Hatter completed the text, design and illustrations for “The Ocean is a Pousse Café” in about a day, she said.
“I have always been obsessed with the ocean,” Hatter said. She humorously blamed the combination of living in the middle of the desert and hype about The Little Mermaid at the time for this fascination.
Hatter credits the topics in her book to her “good oral memory,” the Blue Planet series, a number of trips to the Field Museum and its “fish people,” and a college professor who first described the ocean like a Pousse Café.
Starting from the bottom of the ocean to the top, the book is a brief exploration of six ocean categories.
“Hopefully my viewers will be forgiving with inaccuracies,” Hatter joked.
Curious about animals and their mating habits, Hatter is considering creating a book about courtship next.
“The Ocean is a Pousse Café” retails on Blurb for $50. “Idle Hands is $41.39.