Elise Marks is creator and sometimes slave of her independent web work, and everyone's favorite zesty weasel. [Editor's note: When we conducted this interview in early June 1999], her mouse was resting comfortably in Kansas City, Missouri; her favorite American city. A background in video and film production made for an easy transition into multimedia design for the Internet, a calling she seems perfectly suited for. Truly a leading-edge developer — her current projects include interactive media integration — Elise also has a fun, quirky persona we know you will enjoy. We invited her to talk to us about improving our web design, and yours; some of the causes launched by the Digital Divas, and making the Internet more of a fun and entertaining experience for everyone.
This is your friendly interviewer, Jeff Clark, as he appeared in 1999. Time changes things.
[Internet Brothers] Elise welcome and thank you. OK, you have to tell us about the zesty weasel. (editors note: since this interview was originally published, in June 1999, Ms. Marks has retired The Zesty Weasel.)
[Elise Marks] zesty the cartoon character was inspired by my friend heidi's pet ferret, zoe. at the time, my personal website was flopping round like a fish on a pier; it had kind of lost its purpose and direction. it desperately needed some kind of focus — and some kind of spark. when i came up with the weasel, i thought he might serve me well. zesty weasel is definitely my silliness outlet; it's driven by my need for fun and stress-relief, and i like to offer that to my visitors as well. hopefully zesty makes folks laugh. that is his primary purpose in... errmm... life.
[IB] Saucy Tomato Design, your personal web development shop, has quite a portfolio. Your immense talent has a lot to do with that, but for some of the budding graphic artists and HTML hopefuls out there, the wait can seem interminable. How did you put Saucy Tomato together and get it moving forward?
[EM] i had always been an artist. i had a computer in the house for probably two years before it even occurred to me that what i enjoyed doing on paper and canvas might translate to that little beige box. my ex-husband bought a scanner in 1994, and it came with corel paint. i started playing one day when i was bored, and that was the end of me. i focused on learning and started working in photoshop and hand-coding in notepad and simpletext. i committed at least three hours every day to honing my skills through reading and practice, and i built a website for my ex-husband's consulting business so that my portfolio would contain more than just my personal homepage. i designed some original business cards, and then i simply pushed myself to learn, and everyone i met to hire me. hehe. and they did (probably because that was the easiest way to shut me up).
every new job was a different challenge — i saw each one as a chance to learn something new. mind you, it was no cake walk early on. in addition to completing the jobs i was awarded, i had to find those three hours each day for study and practice, and i had a family to care for and a full-time job besides, but i was determined to make Saucy Tomato successful. i went completely free-lance almost two years ago — and it's been brilliant; this wonderful blend of work and learning and pure enjoyment. in sweats and a tacky old pair of ducky slippers, no less.
“share some of your knowledge with your visitors. give them a bit of yourself. it's good karma, and it will come back to you.” — Elise Marks
[IB] Can you tell us about a few of your current projects? We understand you're working on an interactive web integration that is truly pioneering stuff. Are you excited to have the opportunity to be involved in these new media creations?
[EM] my partner (in work and in life), pat tomek, and i are the out-of-house web development team for a local multimedia production house, opus communications, and we've been working with hyperlock technologies in chicago on a couple of new projects. it's been a blast; it is truly new stuff — hyperlock's client list is still relatively small, but it's growing like wildfire, and there are some heavy-hitters onboard (bowienet, the wwf, ameritech and jamtv, among others). one of the projects in which we're implementing this technology involves a children's television show. we've built a website which functions relatively well on its own; but there's also a cd-rom which launches a browser connection to the site when it is inserted and contains "keys" that allow encrypted video on the cd to be viewed with the user's browser.
outside of that, the job i'm enjoying the most right now is the "great life" website (which offers a holistic approach to living a great life over 60). it's going to rely heavily upon interactivity, and it's going to be very positive and helpful to the community, and i really like that. i'm having a lot of fun with a website for howard iceberg, a kansas city area musician getting loads of attention from the "no depression" side of the music industry. although i would have gone a little more "quirky" with his site if he'd completely given me my head, he's allowed me to be pretty creative, and he pays on time. haha.
[IB] Here's a simple question with a nearly impossible answer. What can even the amateur web designers do to make the entire World Wide Web a more attractive place than it already is? What are some of your basic tenets of good web design?
[EM] as regards the basics:
Proceed to part 2 of Internet Brothers interview with Elise Marks.