February 12, 2021

Enchanted Creators: Diane Plumley of D&D Digital Delights, By Molly Ellson

Editor’s note: I’ve been a huge fan of the Etsy shop D&D’s Digital Delights for many years, and this year, Diane Plumley is collaborating with EC so we can offer our Patreon supporters gorgeous, high-resolution fairy tale images. Thanks Diane! Read on to learn more about Diane and her fabulous shop. (KW)

The next time you happen to be scrolling through Etsy, on a quest for the next fairy tale themed treasure, I implore you to set your sights upon D&D Digital Delights—a wonderful shop that provides its customers with stunning digital images of vintage illustrations. Diane Plumley, the brain behind D&D Digital Delights, collects illustrations from wherever they can be found: charity shops, antiques markets... distant realms... and authentically and lovingly restores them to their original splendor, before making them available to buy on D&D’s Etsy site. With over 40,000 stunningly restored images already sold, it is obvious that Diane has a passion for vintage illustration and she is eager to share that passion with the world—and the world is responding.

So, without further ado, I present the second installment of Enchanted Creators: an interview with Diane Plumley.

1) How long have you been collecting and restoring these beautiful illustrations, and what inspired you to begin?

I've loved Mother Goose and fairy tales since I was a little tot. My favorite place was our local library, a building directly out of a Charles Robinson illustration. I also collected the Junior Classic fairy tale magazines every time I had a dental appointment, which clearly dates me! (Me too Diane! KW)

I found Green Tiger Press and would order a few art postcards at a time, and when the fairy cards arrived, it was like Christmas. I began collecting illustrations, and then books—some first editions.

While in college, I came across Anne Anderson's Mother Goose [illustration] and I've craved vintage children's illustrations ever since. For years, I hunted for a first edition of her Mother Goose... now with a flick of a finger, you can possess one.

Later in life, I began a jewelry line composed of vintage illustrations, with crystals and charms that matched each image.

When I saw how people were ripping the illustrations out of books, in order to sell them, it infuriated me. My friend, Dee, and I decided to pool our collections, restore illustrations—if need be—and offer them on Etsy as downloads, to hopefully keep people from destroying more books. I'd already been fixing all genres of images for my jewelry, so this seemed like a logical progression. 

That was in 2014. Since that time I've sold 42,911 images, and counting. 

2) Tell us about yourself; what is your background, do you participate in any other creative activities?

Oh, heavens, what haven't I done?! 

Back in the day I was an actress. I made marionette jewelry by moulding polymer clay into various subjects—movie stars, fictional characters, and more. I sold to high-end boutiques and department stores, including Bloomingdales. Then, I went on to make decorative marionettes.

I’ve made fairy dollhouses for my nieces and am currently working on a Mother Goose dollhouse. There’s a haunted house in the making, too.

However, my primary creative outlet is a fairy garden, called Gnomesville, which I create each spring and contains houses, real flowers, mushrooms, lots of fairies and, of course, gnomes. I also have every Cicely Mary Barker fairy figurine, bar one.

Gnomesville brings kids and grandkids to enjoy the town; it is a lovely distraction for people, particularly during this difficult pandemic. 

3) Are you a fairy tale fan? If so, what are your favorite tales/artists/authors? And why?

I love “The Shepherdess and The Chimney Sweep”; I think it’s the idea of going out into the big world, but finding it too much to handle—I sometimes feel that way! Of course, “Cinderella” was a major influence in my day.

I vowed to have a princess wedding dress. But, the only problem was that I didn't want to marry! When I did, I designed a gown influenced by Edmund Dulac's fairy godmother illustration, as it’s one of my favorite images. 

So many illustrators awe me, it's difficult to narrow them down... 

Anne Anderson is my number one favorite. She remains at the top. After that, my tastes have changed over time. I was a fanatical Arthur Rackham lover; so much so that I wrote a college thesis on his work. As time continued, however, I found that I was increasingly entranced by Kay Nielsen and Virginia Sterrett. I'm discovering artists from the past all the time. My latest favorite is Hilda Cowham and, for humor, you can't beat W. Heath Robinson.

4) How do you constantly find new material? Do you enjoy the search?

I still have tons of material yet to scan, but, oh yes, I enjoy the search. 

Antique flea markets  with used books, paper ephemera events—with any number of incredible items—and friends allowing me use of their collections are all very exciting. I do sometimes find wonderful illustrations online, but the quality is often less than great and I am a real stickler for perfection. As perfect as I can make it, at least. 

5) The images on your site are perfect and have stunning clarity—despite having often originated from antiquated source material—how do you do it? Is it a difficult process?

I try to start with the original source. For example, I have a first edition of Virginia Sterrett's “French Fairy Tales”; I carefully scan the tipped in illustration, and then color correct. To appeal to buyers, some images need a little punch, BUT—and I feel this strongly—the image shouldn't be so weirdly altered as to not be true to the artist's intent. There are other sellers on Etsy that change tone, vibrance, etc., to a garish degree. The buyer can't know the image isn't true to the artist, but they would if both examples were side by side. In a first edition example, little needs to be done.

If I find a book with a fabulous dust jacket but it's torn and worn, with dirt and spots, I have to spend quite a lot of time correcting the image—filling in spaces, cleaning up spots etc. It's absorbing work. And when finished, if I succeed, it's a nice feeling. 

6) Do you have a favorite illustration in your collection? Why is it your favorite?

My favorite illustration is by Virginia Sterret; I call it “Fairy Tree,” but I'm not sure what the caption says in the book. My second is Kay Nielsen's “In Powder and Crinoline,” when poison is about to be served. The old lady from Edmund Dulac's “Snow Queen” is another favorite—her house is just magical with little toy soldiers guarding the door. I obviously love all of Anne Anderson's Mother Goose, but “Ride to Banbury Cross” and “I Had a Little Nut Tree” stand out.

The artistry within each of these illustrations is sublime, the colors, lines and intent are all practically perfect. The dresses worn by the ladies are gorgeous. When I view these illustrations, I am enveloped in the magic of the story.

7) Do you have any help with D&D Digital Delights?


Originally my friend Dee and I collaborated. But she bowed out after a year or so. My husband is an expert in print so I will consult him on an image I'm not sure is up to par, but other than him, my three rescue Bichon Frises provide humor and love on my good—and bad—days! 

8) Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

Just a pet peeve of mine. I state quite obviously and emphatically, on my shop page, that each image has a size at which it looks best and that some images will not enlarge well.

However, no one seems to read this information and the amount of questions about specific images, which I must answer, can be frustrating!


All images are from Diane Plumley. They include, in order, two jewelry photos, one of Diane’s handmade puppets, and two photos of her fairy garden, Gnomesville. The last is of Diane herself.


This post was sponsored by Marcia Sherman, one of our generous Patreon supporters. Thank you Marcia!


Kelly Jarvis said...

Great interview, and the digital prints for Patreon are going to be gorgeous! Happy Birthday, Kate! <3

Katew said...

Thank you Kelly! ☺️

Lynden Wade said...

What a great idea! I remember a former boyfriend berating a stallowner for selling prints ripped out of books. I was embarrassed at the time, but secretly agreed it was a shocking crime...