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Have a design in mind featuring characters from your favorite graphic novel? For the past three years, Curious Books in East Lansing has designed custom posters (and tattoos) for customers, thanks to Jesse Chastain.
Chastain, 21, has worked as a clerk at Curious Book Shop for three years while studying pre-med at Michigan State University. Sitting at the register, she would keep herself busy filling in her elaborate sketches with watercolors. Once the secret got out to store owner Ray Walsh that she was an artist, he asked her to make signs for the store. Then one day a customer came in looking for posters from a new book release and one thing led to another.
“Ray wanted more posters, but didn’t know where to find them, and my manager suggested I make them,” said Chastain. “They let me sell them and they just take 20% of the commission. Usually, for artists, it’s the other way around and the store keeps 80.”
Around the holidays, interesting requests start to pour in. This year, Chastain designed a tattoo for a customer (for free) and repurposed a battered Steven King novel cover into a bookmark.
“A woman came in for Christmas and wanted Edgar Allen Poe posters, so we were like, ‘Why not?” Chastain said.
The commission resulted in three posters inspired by Poe’s legacy. The locally owned bookstore is selling copies of her original “Poe” designs.
As the designated in-house artist, Chastain often gets inquiries from customers about her life plans.
“People would ask about my major and what I’m doing with my life and I was like, ‘Why am I science major?’,” she said. “I used to do an internship at General Motors for automotive design and I don’t know why I didn’t stick with that.”
After this spring, she is transferring from MSU to study design with a focus on mechanics.
“My parents used to own a design business. They would design parts and products for people out of their house and they never told me until this year,” said Chastain, clearly still bemused by the discovery.
In the upcoming weeks, Curious Book Shop will begin selling a series of Chastain’s “Alice in Wonderland” themed posters. She said they will sell for about $10 each.
Curious Book Shop
Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Sunday, Noon to 5 p.m.
307 E. Grand River Ave., East Lansing
(517) 332-0112, curiousbooks.com