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Meet the Chalk Artist Behind O's February Cover
To convey creative spirit of this issue on our cover, we invited Brooklyn-based chalk-lettering designer Dana Tanamachi to run wild on a blackboard. The artist, who had previously worked at a high-end graphic design firm, found her calling at a housewarming party two years ago. "My friends had a chalk wall, so I grabbed a piece of chalk and started drawing the word Brooklyn on it. Pretty soon people were saying, 'This is awesome.'" Her first commissioned design was for a small SoHo furniture gallery. "I'd been making chalk designs for friends and around my community, so discovering that I could do this professionally was exciting."
Typically, Tanamachi finds inspiration in typography. "For an Americana-themed piece I looked to stamps, old currency, and documents." The O cover called for something dynamic and fun. So Tanamachi grabbed a box of bright chalk—a departure from her usual white—and got to work in the Chelsea studio where we were shooting. She doodled and sketched before taking her work full-scale. "Chalk is so temporary. I can make big, messy strokes, then erase and add. I just carve away and embellish until I end up with my final design."
The next day at the shoot, Tanamachi felt the excitement. "Everyone was buzzing around, making last-minute adjustments to the set. It was definitely 'go time,'" she says. In response, her first instinct was to hide: "I wanted to be out of the way and invisible!" But when O photo director Katie Schad found Tanamachi standing behind a curtain, she pulled her out into the action. "I knew everyone would be curious about who created this glorious art," Schad says.
Soon after, O editor at large Gayle King approached Tanamachi. "Dana had done this great design all by hand. Oprah loved it, too, so I wanted her to be able to connect the chalk design with the person who did it," says King. Before Tanamachi knew what was happening, Gayle had introduced her to Oprah and asked a photographer to snap a picture of the pair. "All I could think was, Did that really just happen?" says Tanamachi. "The experience was more proof that this work is a joy, not a job."
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