Naio ended up being one of my favorite characters in the book. She is eccentric, endlessly optimistic, and enthusiastically caring about her friends.
I didn’t originally set out to make this framed around the Japanese language at all. Originally she was a he — and he was just called feather. The book was simply called Pebble.
But even from the beginning, I knew this character was going to be one of Tama’s best friends. She has an entire chapter to herself and a reappearance later in the book.
In my original designs she was mistaken for a leaf. So… after some additional references, I added some of her more distinct characteristics: her fuzzies (a much more approachable word than barbules), her fluffy “dress” (technically the “the after feather“), and her striped head. Her lavish, extended eyelashes accentuate her eccentricity as she delicately balances on the calamus (seriously, I didn’t know all these parts had such dry names).
She’s been one of the most expressive characters to draw, and so much fun. I suspect that many of the MAKE/100 sketches I hope to make will be of her.
Unfortunately, I can’t remember where the name came from, but that was the point where I decided it would be female character (and perfect for my wife to play). I was searching on jisho.org for meaningful words, and ended up with Na+i+o — It’s some kind of English portmanteau of Japanese kanji that I’ll probably never recall.