Ripley entertainment is the parent company to the immensely popular “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” series that has captivated audiences for decades via photo-filled books, a television show, and even a museum. The brand is notable for their headquarters in Orlando, Florida. One of their largest attractions in is NYC in the Times Square section of Manhattan. They are increasingly expanding their line to include books about different subjects, for various age ranges, yet which all celebrate the magic and oddity that can be found in everyday life.

One of their most recent publications is titled “Odd is Art” which chronicles some of the most unusual work on the market today.

The unconventional creations featured in the book are at once elegant, eclectic, and imaginatively unusual. Each page includes vivid and stunning photographs of works that are either created using unusual materials (such as laundry lint) or formed by artists using untraditional methods (such as a limbless artist that paints by holding the brush in her mouth), the paintings and sculptures in the 144-page “Odd is Art” are part of a collection that celebrates creativity and uniqueness.

“Odd is Art” was created by multiple editors, including Jordie R. Orlando who started working at Ripley Entertainment in 2016. Jordie holds a BA in English from the University of Central Florida and has a background in digital design.

Jordie, along with the Ripley Publishing team, has written, edited, and designed several books from the nonfiction children’s line of Ripley Publishing before diving into “Odd is Art” which was her most ambitious project to date.

Jordie recently granted an exclusive interview where she discussed the formation of “Odd is Art” and how she hopes it will delight art lovers of all ages and demographics.

Books, editing, and artwork

Meagan Meehan (MM): You have a background in English and graphic design, so have the arts always interested you?

Jodie R. Orlando (JRO): I definitely leaned more towards the arts than other subjects while growing up, and still do. My grandmother especially inspired and encouraged my interests.

MM: You started working for Ripley Entertainment in 2016, so what most attracted you to the company?

JRO: After I finished my time at the Publishing Institute, I thought I was going to have to move to New York City to follow my dream of working in the book industry, so at first, I was just really excited to find a publishing opportunity close to home in Orlando! But mostly I was attracted to the incredible subjects Ripley books explore. Being able to present nonfiction stories in a fun way to young, and sometimes reluctant, readers is a joy and a privilege.

MM: Ripley’s Publishing now offers books on all sorts of subjects, so how are the themes decided?

JRO: Generally speaking, our rule for choosing what to write boils down to this: it must be incredibly hard to believe, but undeniably true.

We’re always interested in seeing where we haven’t been and how we could get there. How can we put a Ripley’s spin on something? The company is celebrating its 100-year anniversary this year, and we’re still finding new things to explore.

MM: How did you first hear about the “Odd is Art” project and how did you get tasked with assembling/editing it?

JRO: The publishing team routinely gathers for brainstorming sessions where we share ideas for new books—pie in the sky, anything goes, no bad ideas sort of thing. One of our designers brought up a book based on Ripley’s strange art exhibits during one of those meetings and it really intrigued me, so I volunteered to take it on.

MM: The book is full of amazing work, so how did you find all these artists and was it difficult to narrow it all down to 144 pages?

JRO: Definitely! Our warehouses and museums are filled with literally tens of thousands of exhibits, so choosing what to feature was pretty intimidating. We have a digital catalogue of everything we own, which helped. We also set up some rules to make things a little easier on ourselves, like only showing one or two examples of a specific medium (e.g., paintings, taxidermy, food, etc.) and giving ourselves some space to reach out to new artists, who weren’t a part of the collection at that time, but still fit within the family. I found those artists by scouring the internet.

MM: What were some of your favorite pieces of art and did you find any stories especially fascinating?

JRO: It’s so hard to pick!

The cover piece by Paul Baliker really stands out. It’s made out of driftwood and sends an important message of eco-awareness. One of the artists I worked with personally was Dino Tomic, whose medium of choice is gunpowder. We ended up flying him in from Norway to film him creating some custom pieces for us. Being able to watch his process was amazing, plus he was super nice!

MM: Will you be making more books about art and artwork in the future?

JRO: It’s definitely on our radar!

Present projects, career goals, and Ripley's brand

MM: Can you give us a little sneak peek about the books that you are working on at present?

JRO: We just wrapped up “Ripley’s Believe It or Not! 100 Years.” It’s a massive book all about our history, from our humble beginnings as a newspaper cartoon to the family entertainment company Ripley’s is today.

It’s full of stunning imagery and fun extras like gatefolds and attachments. It goes on sale in November. Another book that’s been fun to work on is “Time Warp” which is a trivia book about bizarre parallel events throughout time. I did the fact-checking on that one and I’ve never seen anything else like it. That’ll be out in October. And, of course, we’re working on the newest “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” book that we put out every year. The next to go on sale is “Century of Strange!” in August and we’ve just started writing the next in the series, currently untitled, which come out in Fall 2019. We’re staying busy!

MM: Generally speaking, what are the absolute highlights of your experiences with Ripley’s Entertainment so far and where do you hope your career goals from here?

JRO: Obviously this book is one of them. It’s my baby! We were definitely taking a chance creating a coffee table art book, as it’s way outside the demographic we usually market to, but I’m so glad we did. It turned out beautifully and I got to work with so many talented artists. Other Ripley highlights include meeting and interviewing people like the Dragon Lady and Short E. Dangerously, a half-man. Oh! And, of course, being able to hold Luke Skywalker’s original lightsaber—I totally geeked out that day! Career-wise, I hope to take on more challenges like Odd is Art and continue the momentum of growth we are currently experiencing.

MM: How do you think the Ripley’s brand—and publishing arm—will evolve over the next ten years?

JRO: Ripley’s will continue to be a place people will turn to when they want to read, see, or watch something unbelievable. We’re already exploring new ways to do this, like the Carnival of Curi-Oddities live show that will be going on tour soon and our partnership with Nitro Circus! I could never guess where we’ll be in ten years—everything moves so quickly, it will be interesting to see what we’ll be up to! I love my job and I’m really proud to be a part of this small, but mighty team!