How PEZ sparked a romance and ended up in the Getty Gallery at the Los Angeles Central Library.
This was my first job for candy manufacturer, PEZ. It was a major commission and I was thrilled for a number of reasons. One, well, it's PEZ. Who wouldn't want to make art for this iconic candy company? Two, it was the first time I illustrated a candy package. And three, it was pretty much the catalyst which created a friendship that led to marriage.
I have to go back to 1975. I was a kid growing up in Sayre, Pennsylvania. A very small town near Upstate New York. There was a store called Jordan's News Stand. It was also the bus stop and the place to buy candy, Wacky Packages, and rubber monsters. Of all the candies I bought there, and there were a lot, Nice Mice by Stark Confections was one that carved itself into my memories. All throughout the 80s and 90s I had looked for it.
When the internet thing happened, I searched online, hoping just to find a picture of it. Then one day, it happened! There it was, in The Candy Wrapper Museum, a newly launched website for showcasing the candy collection of Darlene Waddington. As it turns out, Nice Mice was the first piece she had collected in 1975 when she thought of creating her museum in Los Angeles, California, the same year I was buying the candy 3,000 miles away. Of course I had to write to her.
We exchanged pleasant emails and things were nice and professional. Then, I get an email from PEZ asking if I would be interested in working on the new Holiday packaging. I was so excited! When I had the art done, I emailed Darlene a screenshot of it, figuring she would write back right away. I heard nothing for almost two months. Well, I guessed she wasn't impressed. Little did I know (or Darlene), my email got sucked into her spam folder! Good for me, because she felt so guilty, we started writing to each other more seriously. Over a year of sending emails, then a couple phone calls, and now we're happily married for almost 14 years!
Selected pieces from Darlene's candy wrapper collection (along with Holiday PEZ) are now part of a major art exhibit — 21 Collections: Every Object Has a Story at The Getty Gallery in Los Angeles' Central Library. The thesis of the exhibition is that personal collections create stories of our world that traditional history has not told. It was an honor for Darlene's collection to not only be included, but to be the first one selected. However, more importantly, Nice Mice and Darlene now reside in my house. Not a bad deal!
You can visit The Candy Wrapper Museum here.
I produce illustrations and creative idea solutions for toys, packaging, publishing and advertising. I'm also a writer and fine art painter.
• MFA, Syracuse University