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Veteran movie sculptor, Shelley Daniels Lekven, has created charming, elaborate clay illustrations for her new children’s book, Lily Pond.

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Shelley Daniels Lekven, a sculptor on The Nightmare Before Christmas, Toy Story and James & the Giant Peach, has created elaborate clay illustrations for her new children’s book, Lily Pond. It follows the vivid imagination of a little frog as she daydreams about her future. More at www.lilypondbook.com.

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When she was six, Shelley Daniels Lekven and her siblings started building a clay town with some old balls of colored modeling clay. “Claytown” grew to become the centerpiece of their childhoods. She pursued a freelance sculpting career after college, which eventually led to work as a character sculptor on The Nightmare Before Christmas, Toy Story and James & the Giant Peach. Lekven has created elaborate clay illustrations for her delightful new children’s book, Lily Pond. The story follows the vivid imagination of a little frog as she lies in bed daydreaming about her future. More at www.lilypondbook.com, or email: shelley@lilypondbook.com.

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Shelley Daniels Lekven started playing with clay at the age of six, when she and her siblings began building a clay town on the dining room table with some old balls of modeling clay. Her parents, remarkably, let it stay, and “Claytown” thrived and grew to become the centerpiece of their childhoods.

The careers of both Lekven and her brother, David, sprang directly from Claytown. While in their teens, she helped David create an award-winning clay-animated movie about a small country of frogs, which launched his successful career in animation and planted a seed in Lekven’s mind.

Shortly before graduating with her psychology degree from UCLA, Lekven wrote a poem that follows the vivid imagination of a little frog, Lily Pond, as she daydreams about her future with all its possibilities and promise of adventure. Lily considers travels to distant lands, saving lives, fame, acclaim, and possible careers, all from the safety of her cozy bedroom. Lekven decided the poem would be fun to illustrate in clay for a children’s picture book, and chose frogs for the characters since she already knew how to sculpt them. She set aside her diploma, started work on Lily Pond, and for the next twelve years lived the life of a starving freelance 3D artist in San Diego, New York and Los Angeles.

Lekven was working on a TV pilot in L.A. when Henry Selick walked in looking for character sculptors to work on the new puppet-animated movie he was directing called The Nightmare Before Christmas. She worked on Nightmare for two years, sculpting several characters and body parts for animation.

After Lekven’s work on Nightmare was completed, another studio needed a sculptor for their new computer-animated movie. Its working title was “Toy Story.” Lekven sculpted the heads of most of the principle characters on Toy Story, which were then plotted into software for animation.

The last scene for Lily Pond was finished and photographed while Lekven was working as the sculpting supervisor on James & the Giant Peach. The twenty-three illustrations in the book had taken fifteen years to complete.

Lekven met her husband, left “show business,” and spent the next several years raising their children. When she eventually returned to Lily Pond, Lekven added skies, adjusted colors and made small corrections by computer to perfect the illustrations. From start to finish (with a lot of living in between) Lily Pond took thirty-eight years to complete.

Lekven lives in San Diego, California with her husband and three children (all of whom would rather draw than sculpt). For more, visit www.lilypondbook.com, email: shelley@lilypondbook.com.

FUN FACTS

  1. I don’t like sculpting with ceramic clay, carving pumpkins or decorating gingerbread houses.
  2. My fingerprints are so shallow another sculptor once jokingly accused me of sanding them off.
  3. In high school I won “Best Actress” for playing one of the elderly sisters in “Arsenic and Old Lace.” These days, I play an outrageous dowager auctioneer every year at my Unitarian church’s annual auction – sadly, it’s a quick transformation.
  4. I met my husband on a blind date in Mill Valley, California at a seminar entitled “The Soulmate Acceleration Training Course.”