DCFunemployment: Tell the people – Who are you?
Liz Reed – co-creator of Cuddles and Rage
Liz Reed started making comics with her husband, Jimmy Reed, in 2010 as a creative outlet from her nine to five. Cuddles and Rage started as simple doodles between questions at bar trivia and grew into a full-time career. Her work is best known for being disturbingly cute with a strong focus on food humor. Cuddles and Rage has been featured on HelloGiggles, BuzzFeed, and the Washington Post. Liz and Jimmy’s debut picture book, Sweet Competition, which came out November 1 with HarperCollins.
DCF: What does being funemployed mean to you & what was your path to funemployment?
LR: Being funemployed means doing what you love for a living. I know there’s a lot of debate right now on the whole “quit your day job” movement, but I am a strong believer in taking risks. With that being said, you should always have a plan before you quit your job and know that it will be challenging. Before doing Cuddles and Rage full-time, I was working at Science Channel in production. I loved both of my jobs so much. They were equally fulfilling creatively, but I knew that if I didn’t take a risk on pursuing Cuddles and Rage full-time then I would never really know its full potential. I took the leap without having a definite source of income, but I was ready to do whatever it took to keep going. I taught art to kids part-time, sculpted more commissions, and got a literary agent. Pretty soon after quitting, Jimmy and I got a two-book deal with HarperCollins (DCF: Definitely one of my favorites!) and now our first book is coming out this November. None of this would have happened if we didn’t take a risk.
DCF: Who was your first cheerleader?
LR: The very first supporters of Cuddles and Rage were my co-workers at Discovery Communications. I worked in their post-production facility for the first six years of my career and was surrounded by creatives. The culture celebrated people’s creative endeavors outside of work. When word spread around the office about Cuddles and Rage, everyone showed their support by hanging our comics in their cubicles and using them in emails. They even featured our work on the company’s portal, which goes out to everyone across the world within Discovery. Everyone wanted this crazy little thing called Cuddles and Rage to succeed. (DCF: Sooo important to have supportive people in your life!!)
DCF: What experiences in your life prepared you for where you are now?
LR: I think having a background in television production prepared me a lot for my career now. Working for a network, I got to see tons of amazing ideas come through and never make it to air. (DCF: Most people only get to see the after but seeing the before has so many gifts). So many different factors can kill a project that you have no control over. It could be as simple as one person in a room of twenty not understanding your vision. Jimmy and I always come to the table with a lot of ideas and never hold anything sacred. We love the challenge of coming up with new concepts and staying fresh. We also know that we can always come back to an idea if years later it’s still eating at us.
DCF: Where do you get your inspiration and/or motivation?
LR: My husband and co-creator, Jimmy, inspires and motivates me daily. I feel really thankful to have found someone to be creative with. Every day we’re making something new together, from picture books to silly songs over breakfast. (DCF: Sometimes we forget to let our hair down and be a little silly!!). Creativity is a part of who we are.
DCF: What does balance mean to you and how do find balance?
LR: Balance is not letting your work consume you. You can and should obsess over what you’re creating, but make time for friends and walks outside. Your work will be better for it. Everyone’s brain needs time to chill.
DCF: What sacrifices did you have to make to get here?
LR: When I first left my day job, Jimmy and I had to cut back on a lot of our expenses. Eating out, buying new clothes, and going to the movies all became very special and rare occasions. As a result, it was also hard to maintain friendships. So much of being social is tied to money. I didn’t really think about that a lot until we were in the thick of it. On the flip side, I tried to make saving money a fun challenge. I learned how to make fancy coffees instead of going to Starbucks. We watched movies from home and only bought what we needed. We made it work. (DCF: The best rewards come from some struggle and sacrifice.)
DCF: What struggles have you faced as a women in your industry?
LR: The indie comic world has tons of female creators who are able to share the stories they want to tell. I feel really fortunate that I’ve never personally seen or experienced any struggles in the small press world. I do wish there were more female voices in mainstream comics. I just read a stat that only 16.9% of creators at DC are female and only 17.4% are female at Marvel. Those numbers have to change. It’s not just a “we need women” to balance out these stats issue. Women do read and love comics, and our voices and opinions should be reflected there too. I think it’s slowly coming around, but there’s still a long way to go.
DCF: What is the early advice you didn’t listen to that you wish you had?
LR: Don’t be afraid of rejection. It took me a long time to get over rejection in so many aspects of my life. It can paralyze you. Don’t let it! I try to step out of my comfort zone on a daily basis. Sometimes that means emailing somebody big for my podcast, People I Think Are Cool, to see if they’ll be a guest or simply ordering fancy wine with an intimidating name to only have the waiter correct me. Letting go of rejection makes you stronger. It’s really not about the rejection of “you” as person. Sometimes things just don’t work out and you move on. (DCF: Yassssss to ALL Of This!!).
DCF: What was your greatest failure and what did you learn from it?
LR: When I first started making comics and dioramas, I just wanted to create. I was a “feeler” who didn’t like to follow instructions. I felt my way through learning marco photography and the art of storytelling. All I wanted was to put content out there and never stop, which is wonderful, but you have to make time for growth or else your content will become stale. I’m still very much a feeler with my creative process, but I now make time for furthering my education. Every day, I take a few minutes to learn new techniques, and I’ve seen my work level up because of it.
DCF: What is your proudest moment?
LR: Landing a book deal with HarperCollins was a huge moment. Getting published was always a dream of ours and it’s happening not just once but twice! When they said they wanted to sign us for a two-book deal, I stopped working that day and danced by myself in our living room for the rest of the afternoon. I was so excited and jittery that I had to stop and embrace the moment.
DCF: What’s next?
LR: Our debut picture book Sweet Competition is out Nov. 1 with HarperCollins and is available for order (http://bit.ly/2aoiOaQ). We can’t wait to share it with the world. We are developing some fun promotions for that while working on our second picture book. Also, I’m continuing to create new comics in between all that and teaching myself stop motion. We’re taking our comics off the page and bringing them to life in new ways.
Also check out Liz’s podcast – People I Think Are Cool
Come out on Nov 5th for the launch party at Fantom Comics in DC.