So it began as a book for children?
I thought it would be perfect for kids, because it would be life lessons from a dog. I made a mock-up and presented it to Chronicle Books. They liked it immediately but said: “This is not a children’s book. It’s a grown-up book.” Now I realize children already do all these things in the book. It’s grown-ups who need to be reminded to act more like children.
Why do you say that?
The world is so complicated these days, and there’s so much information coming at us, that it’s sensory overload. Wilma teaches me to see the world in a very simple, childlike way, and to home in on the details. People miss so much beauty in the world because they’re not observing. They’re just busy going from place to place, walking down the street and looking at their cellphones.
Are the photos a mix of candid and posed shots?
Ninety percent of the pictures were taken because I always have a camera, we’re always together and we just stumble upon things. We go to Vermont every summer, so there are a lot of shots from there — like there’s a tractor we found, and I just put her on it.
A few of them, where I wanted a message, I intentionally set it up. There’s one where she’s painting on the beach, and I posed her for that. There are also a few of her with costumes on. I would never buy a costume for her, but I have a friend in Hong Kong who sends me dog clothes because she thinks they’re funny, and I always take a picture.
Has Wilma influenced your ceramics?
Definitely, but it’s hard to explain. I’ve always been very simple and minimal, and Wilma is like that, too. I did a series of Wilma work that had big polka dots, because she has these amazing organic polka dots on her back. She’s my muse. She seems enlightened, and has definitely changed my life. A lot of people say that a dog takes on the personality of its owner; but with me, I want to take on her personality.
Is that why she’s listed as the book’s author?
She basically wrote the book. It’s what Wilma and I experience as we go through the world together. There’s one shot in there of her with a pair of eyeglasses that I found on the street, and it says, “Take a closer look.” That’s the main message. There’s so much beauty and inspiration if you just look and notice the small things in life.