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Her Nickelodeon job is strictly child's play

December 26, 1998|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - The kid in some people lives forever and Karen Craig is one of those people.

Craig, 34, grew up in Greencastle and made her mark in the competitive world of commercial illustration in New York.

She's a senior designer for MTV's Nickelodeon television network, the number one kids' cable network. It produces such popular children's programs as "Rugrats" and "Blue's Clues."

Craig is one of several employees who handle the network's consumer products line. Television characters like Blue and the Rugrats spawn a multimillion-dollar merchandising business when their likenesses appear on products from knapsacks to dinnerware to clothing and toys.

It's Craig's job to make sure that companies licensed to use the characters on their products do so with accurate reproductions. She develops and illustrates style guides which companies follow when manufacturing the products. Nickelodeon gets royalties from the products and promotions, Craig said.

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She does freelance work after hours for other Viacom divisions. Viacom owns Nickelodeon and MTV.

Craig spends up to 20 hours a week freelancing. "Anyone in New York who wants to get anywhere has to work more than 40 hours," she said.

One of her latest freelance projects was two board books for preschoolers based on the Blue's Clues characters. She designed and illustrated the books. They were published by Simon and Shuster.

Projects like that may eventually lead Craig to a lifelong dream of creating her own line of children's books. While she has developed ideas for characters and themes, she isn't ready to talk about them yet.

She lives in a studio apartment on the Upper West Side, about 60 blocks from her office on the 41st floor of a Times Square office building. "My window looks out on the Empire State and Chrysler buildings," she said.

She rents a weekend getaway cottage in the Catskills and spends as much time there as she can. She hopes one day to live and work in a setting like that yet keep a small apartment in the city, she said.

Craig's parents are James and Julia Craig of Greencastle. She's home this week for the holidays. She returns to Greencastle for holidays and never misses Old Home Week, the triennial homecoming celebration the town has been holding since the turn of the century.

"My friends in New York say I live in a little gingerbread town," she said.

She graduated from Mercersburg Academy in 1981, went for two years to a small liberal arts college before transferring to Syracuse University for its arts programs.

She graduated from Syracuse in 1986, worked for nearly a year at Harrods department store in London scooping ice cream, "because it was fun," she said.

She moved to New York and worked as an office assistant in an advertising agency.

Two years later, she moved back home and began to work for a mail order firm in Hagerstown that dealt in children's library and promotional materials. She stayed about five years before returning to New York in 1993. She enrolled in a two-year toy designing program at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

"I wanted to move back to New York and I wanted to go back to school," she said.

She went to work for Nickelodeon in 1995.

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