Cool stuff from the selectors. What more could you ask for? Food, Cats and Storytelling

CoverDavid Wiesner And The Art Of Wordless Storytelling
This is definitely a book for someone who has an interest in children’s illustration as it contains well-researched and far-reaching essays on the history and development of book illustration as an art form.

David Wiesner is of course the focus, and I enjoyed revisiting his wonderful illustrations. I remember sharing these books with my children, all of us having varying viewpoints about what was happening, delving deeper into each illustration with each reading. This is a beautifully produced book.

CoverFrom the sublime to the ridiculous! Crafting with Cat Hair is the sort of book you just have to have a look at because it is so unlikely. Taking itself completely seriously, this book gives you in-depth instructions on how to use your moggie’s fluff for felting crafting pleasure.  Perhaps if you are so inclined, it could be a way to immortalise your feline friend.

CoverFood Fights and Culture Wars
Chomping away on my couple of pieces of dark chocolate, it was interesting to read about the violent past of chocolate. The chocolate we eat today is barely recognisable as the cacao that was produced by the early Mayan people.

Cadbury (whose Dunedin factory is set to close next year) was founded by Quakers. Their desire to fend off slavery underpinned the chocolate trade. Filled with beautifully reproduced pictures from the British Library, this is a fascinating romp through history and food.

Cool stuff from the Selectors: Art, Science, and a bit of literarty

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The art of typewriting
Our Selector has always found creating a picture using type to be rather appealing so has enjoyed the 570 illustrations ordered into letters and numbers, punctuation pictures, interlocking words, animals, household objects, maps and texts.

An Astronomers Tale: A Life Under the Stars
Gary Fildes, Bricklayer and average guy,  had a secret.  Eventually he came out – and followed his passion to become an astronomer.

The Fall of the House of Wilde
A new and interesting slant on the many times subject of biography Oscar Wilde which puts him as a member of one of the most dazzling Anglo-Irish families of Victorian times, and also how the family were involved in the broader social, political and religious context of the times.

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Hankie Couture: Handcrafted Fashions From Vintage Hankerchiefs
Designs for that special doll in your life, or perhaps you will just enjoy browsing the pictures, I know I did!

Black Dolls From the Collection of Deborah Neff
Keeping with the doll theme, but from a totally differnt angle this book presents over 100 unique handmade African American dolls made between 1850 and 1930 from the collection of Deborah Neff, a Connecticut-based collector and champion of vernacular art. It is believed that African Americans created these dolls for the children in their lives, including members of their own families and respective communities as well as white children in their charge.  Stunning photography.

Outlander Kitchen
You’ve read the books, watched the TV series, now it’s time to cook Mrs. FitGibbon’s Overnight Parritch; Geilli’s Cullen Skink; Murtagh’s Gift to Ellen; Sarah Woolam’s Scotch Pies and Atholl Brose for the Bonnie Prince.

Imagining a different Christchurch – Jessica Halliday and FESTA 2016

FESTA is a “biennial weekend celebration of urban creativity” and one of the coolest events on Ōtautahi’s calendar. It is on this Labour weekend, kicking off with the SuperWOW disco at the Dance-o-mat on Friday 21 October, and ending with PechaKucha on Monday 24 October at 7.30pm. The unmissable big event is Lean Means on Saturday 22 October.

I had a chat to FESTA’s director Jessica Halliday to get a flavour of FESTA 2016.

What is FESTA?

Jessica Halliday

It is about creating a collective positive experience for the people of Christchurch and visitors.

FESTA helps people reconnect to the central city, to rebuild that severed relationship. A big street party is a positive experience, and connects them with places that are regenerating. It catalyses changes in architecture and design. The collective making of a big project like this is a microcosm of the cooperative way we can work together.

What’s on at FESTA 2016

Lean Means is on Saturday 22 October, and is the biggest event of FESTA with 10,000 to 15,000 people expected. There will be 18 projects to experience. The tallest is around 6 metres and most are about 4 metres. Some will be integrated into existing structures.

There is a full programme of events with a lot of workshops, speakers, and a symposium on the resuse of materials (organised by Rekindle working with Objectspace), and a session with artist Hannah Beehre on drawing Christchurch architecture. Events for kids include creative junk and mutant monster workshops.

If you want to experience a Human Library, Talking Books and Freerange Press bring together a collection of passionate experts on a range of topics including the state of the city,music, and brewing beer. You can book a twenty-minute, one-on-one conversation with a human talking book.

Utilising waste streams – Sustainability, Re-use

Jos de Krieger of Superuse Studios in Rotterdam is a specialist in urban installations and interventions and the creative director of FESTA 2016. He developed the concept, visited, and gave lectures and design workshops, and also met with New Zealand and Australian studios. The idea is to get a brief and a budget, then look for waste materials in the vicinity to be reused. Using such materials requires a lot of research.

The materials for Lean Means are lightweight – plastics, cardboard, bottles, post-consumer plastic bags and are local to the studios. The pavilion for the Ōtākaro Orchard is made of hundreds of metres of frost cloth from the Big Barn in Sydney – it can come over easily on the plane with the students as it’s so light.

Re-use is part of what FESTA is now. Students were re-using stuff anyway, with one of 2014’s projects using plastic bottle rejects on their way to China for recycling. They went on to be recycled after appearing at FESTA CityUps.

FESTA closes the loop with connections back to sustainability all the way through. Cassels will be there, and they are working on cleaning up the Heathcote, and Punky Brewster have a focus on reducing water in beer sales. There will be a second hand market with upcycled things for sale.

We are trying as best as we can to make it consistent.

CityUps - FESTA Festival of Transitional Architecture
CityUps, FESTA 2014, Flickr 2014-10-25-IMG_3049

Art and architecture

CreativeNZ funding has enabled three artists from three different disciplines to be involved: Juliet Arnott of Rekindle, artist Julia Morison and movement artist Julia Harvie.

Julia Morison has been integrated into a team from Massey University, School of Design at the College of Creative Arts. Her philosophy is that art shouldn’t be a “brooch pinned on at the end”, and that artists should be involved in informing the development of projects.

Moving artist Julia Harvie will suspending herself of the COCA gallery gantry and weave herself a nest from coppiced hazel shoots. The performance teases out ideas of making a city that nurtures children, and what parents can do to influence the creation of that environment.

Juliet Arnott is a strategic advisor to FESTA and is involved in the The Zero Waste Village of Resourcefulness:

Skilled craftspeople undertake high quality crafts that are zero waste in nature in a village of temporary shelters. These structures are designed and fabricated from waste materials by Ara students …

These three artists will appear at CoCAcabana on Friday night.

CityUps - FESTA Festival of Transitional Architecture
CityUps, FESTA 2014, Flickr 2014-10-25-IMG_3154

Why FESTA?

Experience a re-imagined Christchurch. Imagine a different Christchurch and present it as an experience, instead of a city made of renders.

What it could be, as well as what it is.

FESTA information

How you can help Lean Means

Help FESTA transform Christchurch by supporting Lean Means, and share in a positive reimagining of the city – full of lights, colours and people. This Labour Weekend, we will transform central Christchurch with a large-scale reimagined city called Lean Means, live for one night only, free and open to all, on Saturday 22 October.

FESTA 2014 – CityUps

CityUps - FESTA Festival of Transitional Architecture

FESTA 2013 – Canterbury Tales

Canterbury Tales - FESTA

FESTA 2012 – LuxCity

Luxcity

Libraries and reading

As a kid, Jessica went every week to Hornby Library. Her main preoccupations were:

Reading, running around the farm, reading.

CoverShe enjoys Charles Todd’s Ian Rutledge stories and is a keen fan of British comedy, especially panel shows like “Have I got news for you” and “Would I lie to you”.

It’s raining Raina

CoverIt seems apt to be writing about American cartoonist Raina Telgemeier’s latest graphic novel Ghosts (released September 2016) after a night or two of ‘dark and stormy’ wild weather across the country. I lay in bed snuggled up with my children to keep warm, making up spooky stories to tell them as the wind lashed the trees. It was the kind of weather that gets one imagining something eerie in the air… like ghosts, perhaps.

Ghosts is a little bit different from Raina’s previous, award-winning, autobiographical graphic novels Smile (2010) and Sisters (2014). For fans expecting another story from her real life, she points out this is her first true fiction story “not at all based on real stuff.”

However it does similarly revolve around two sisters:

Eleven-year-old Catrina and her family are moving to the small coastal town of Bahía de la Luna because her younger sister, Maya, is sick. Cat isn’t happy about leaving her friends, but she tries not to complain because she knows Maya will benefit from the clean, cool air that blows in from the sea. As the girls settle in, they learn there’s something a little spooky about their new town…

Have a peek at an excerpt of Ghosts set in the missions of foggy northern California and during the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos).

As a fan of graphic novels, especially autobiographical comics, it was exciting to meet Raina and hear her speak at the recent International Board for Books and Young People Congress (IBBY), held in Auckland in August 2016.

CoverRaina’s illustrated stories of her life growing up appeal to 7, 17 and 37 year-olds alike. I thought it was curious that my copy of Raina’s book Smile had gone missing from my bedside table one night and when I went to check on my young son, supposedly asleep in bed, I found he had taken it and was totally absorbed and asking for more – I suspect it was the smiley face on the cover that attracted him. He quickly became a big fan of Raina’s despite the content of her books being from a female perspective and about sisterhood and female friendships. This is a great reminder not to gender stereotype readers’ interests.

Moreover, graphic novels are a great hook for reluctant readers. I like to think of Raina’s comics as ‘gateway graphic novels’ and wanted to meet Raina partly just to thank her for really igniting my son’s reading. I also blame Raina for my son wanting a pet fish (her fish poo scene had him in hysterics) as well as his first iPod for his birthday (just like her character in Sisters, although in her case it was a cassette player, being the 1980s). Happy Birthday son – you’re also getting Ghosts for your birthday too!

American cartoonist Raina Telgemeier
American cartoonist Raina Telgemeier at IBBY Congress 2016, Auckland. Flickr 2016-08-19-Raina-Telgmeier-speaking

Raina’s talk at the IBBY Congress My life as a Comic and Comics are my life

The title of Raina’s talk at the IBBY Congress My Life as a Comic and Comics are My Life highlights how interchangeable these two aspects are for her. Indira Neville, from the National Library of New Zealand in Auckland – and a cartoonist in her own right – introduced Raina by acknowledging her impact on making a greater space for women in comics. Raina then talked about her influences on her comic-making as a child.

Early influences

Raina shared her early influences and inspirations as a child growing up in the 1980s in America (like me) such as the Care Bears, the Smurfs, Strawberry Shortcake and Scooby Doo cartoons. Perhaps a reminder not to write off children’s seemingly vacuous television viewing. She was talking about my childhood too! She also highly rates the comic series Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Waterson and Bone by Jeff Smith as both being important in her becoming a cartoonist.

Raina was also a huge fan of realistic fiction such as that of Judy Blume and of Beverly Cleary and her stories of sisters Beezus and Ramona. Raina was interested in what kids her age were doing and was enamoured with For Better and for Worse by Lynn Johnston – in this comic strip the characters grew up every year alongside her and her family in real life so they felt like friends or neighbours to Raina and for her, lives blurred between reality and comics – much like her own work does.

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Growing Up

CoverA seminal comic she received was from her father, Barefoot Gen by Keiji Nakazawa, which ends with the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. She said she cried for two days after the ending and was fascinated with how “comics can make you feel a huge emotional response” – this resonated with her from a young age. She credits Barefoot Gen with waking her up to the power of storytelling.

“Comics can make you feel a huge emotional response.”

Another spark was a 1st grade teacher who set a year long assignment of diary writing where the teacher would write back and forth to the students in diaries they were keeping. Raina helped illustrate her school annuals and yearbooks and she kept an illustrated journal all through school and college, drawing her day in a visual diary. She still keeps a weekly comic diary. She says “all my influences get chucked into a blender and what comes out is my own original work.”

Making It

Raised in San Francisco, Raina went to the School of Visual Arts in New York, “having been enamoured with the city due to shows like Sesame Street”, and there she studied illustration and comic-making. She made mini-comics “back in the pre-internet days” and distributed about 7,000 copies of her her mini-comic ‘Take-out’ (7 issues, 12-pages black and white). She sold them for a whopping $1 a piece and would be thrilled when she received a cheque for $2.50 for selling a few comics. Her advice at the conference on how to get good at drawing comics? “Trace and copy is a great way to learn how to make shapes.” Simple as that.

CoverRaina frequented comic conventions to promote her work and was approached at one by Scholastic Book Group, who were kicking off Graphix – an imprint of Scholastic. Raina had only done short comics up to that point so wasn’t sure what to do for a larger book so they asked her what she really liked reading herself as a kid. Answer: The Baby-Sitters Club by Ann M. Martin, which just happened to be in Scholastic stable of books and wow, two weeks later she had a book contract to illustrate the beloved series. She lifts the dialogue straight from the books and each of the four books took a year to make. Initially in black and white they have been reprinted in colour and since then have been on the New York Times Best Sellers list (colour sells!) She says she can see herself across several characters in The Baby-Sitter’s Club but Kristy is her favourite and of course the character in her comics she can relate to the most is herself… She went on to write and illustrate several graphic novels about her experiences growing up, also published by Scholastic.

Smile

CoverWarning: Contains graphic content (of a dental nature)
Smile (2010) depicts the aftermath of an incident that led to Raina having her teeth reconstructed between the ages of 11-15, after falling over and damaging her permanent front teeth. This was a very self-conscious time of life and her graphic novel lays bare these awkward years and the accompanying bullying as well. There is something innocent and wholesome about Raina’s stories and she comes across as cheerful but there were certainly no smiles when she presented a photo in her talk of her gruesome dental files from this time period. Set in the time covering the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in San Francisco, Raina says in Smile: “I survived a major earthquake. I guess in the grand scheme of things losing a couple of teeth isn’t the end of the world.”

Sisters

CoverSisters (2014) was based on one panel in Smile about a family road trip and delves into the relationship with her younger sister Amara and wider family dynamics many readers will relate to.

Raina can’t wait to be a big sister. But once Amara is born, things aren’t quite how she expected them to be. Amara is cute, but she’s also a cranky, grouchy baby, and mostly prefers to play by herself. Their relationship doesn’t improve much over the years, but when a baby brother enters the picture and later, when something doesn’t seem right between their parents, they realize they must figure out how to get along. They are sisters, after all…
Present-day narrative and perfectly placed flashbacks tell the story of her relationship with her sister, which unfolds during the course of a road trip from their home in San Francisco to a family reunion in Colorado.

What’s the drama with Drama?

CoverAfter the dramas in Smile came the real Drama (2012). Set in middle school years, partly Raina’s intent with Drama was to honour the technical people who do the work behind the scenes in school drama and stage productions (as opposed to the select few who make it on stage). Drama is a homage to these friendships and the camaraderie that occurs between them. In the story are twin boys who are gay, just like her best friends were at school. On the controversy of having young gay students depicted in Drama, she says she is pleased Scholastic backed her and notes her based-on-a-true story graphic novel is actually indicative of the real world compared to fantasy-driven comics which get less questioned. Moreover she says:

“I hear from kids thanking me for validating their existence.”

This I think is the essence of what makes her work so popular among readers young and old alike – they can find themselves in her stories: in the sibling spats, in the humiliating experiences, negotiating friendships and in the minutiae of school and home life.

What other comics and books does Raina recommend for readers who love her graphic novels?

She gave special mention in her presentation to:
El Deafo (2014) by Cece Bell Raina rates it as: “The best middle grade memoir about hearing loss you will ever read.” Okay, it may be the only one.
Roller Girl (2015) by Victoria Jamieson. A graphic novel adventure about a girl who discovers roller derby right as she and her best friend are growing apart.
Sunny Side Up (2015) by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm. From the brother-and-sister creators of Babymouse, Sunny Side Up follows the lives of kids whose older brother’s delinquent behaviour has thrown their family into chaos.

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Fun Palaces – Saturday 1 and Sunday 2 October 2016

Celebrate art, science and creativity at this year’s Fun Palaces festival! All activities are fun, free and suitable for all ages. Central Library Peterborough will be a Fun Palace from 10am to 2pm on the weekend of Saturday 1 and Sunday 2 October (it’s the middle weekend of the school holidays).

Fun Palaces

Here’s the schedule for Fun Palaces 2016:

Saturday 1 October

Fabriko Electronic Sticker Fun Palace

Make a card, paper critter or a fan that will light up with a special electronic circuit you make with stickers, batteries and LEDs! Both days, 10am – 2pm

Spider Phobia Demonstration

Who’s afraid of spiders? Don’t miss out on this experience to have Virtual Spiders creep and crawl all over a desk and up your arms! Both days, 10am – 2pm

Nao Robots

A HUGE success last year! Swing by and interact with these incredible humanoid robots! Both days, 10am – 12pm

Nao Robots - Fun Palaces at Central Library Peterborough

Interactive Trampoline Gaming

Come alone and have a try of the world’s first interactive, digital gaming system designed for a trampoline. Saturday 10am – 2pm

Springfree

Quiver Augmented Reality

Experience the exciting world of Augmented Reality! Colour in images the ‘old school’ way and then watch them come to life using Quiver! This is a magical and engaging 3D experience. Saturday 10am – 12pm

MineCraft

Get imaginative and create your own Fun Palace through MineCraft. Work on your own or with friends to create the MOST fun environment you can think of! Only 20 computers available. Saturday 10 – 11.15am and 11.30am – 12.45pm

HTC VIVE

Experience a 360-degree virtual world! This is the very latest in augmented reality technology. Both days, 12 – 2pm

Sunday 2 October

Fabriko Electronic Sticker Fun Palace

Make a card, paper critter or a fan that will light up with a special electronic circuit you make with stickers, batteries and LEDs! Both days, 10am – 2pm

Spider Phobia Demonstration

Who’s afraid of spiders? Don’t miss out on this experience to have Virtual Spiders creep and crawl all over a desk and up your arms! Both days, 10am – 2pm

Virtual spiders - Fun Palaces, Central Library Peterborough

Nao Robots

A HUGE success last year! Swing by and interact with these incredible humanoid robots! Both days, 10am – 12pm

HTC VIVE

Experience a 360-degree virtual world! This is the very latest in augmented reality technology. Both days, 12 – 2pm

Bee-Bots!

Come and learn about Robot technology by having a play with these cute little guys! Sunday 10.30 – 11.30am and 1 – 2pm

3D Printing Demonstration

What’s all the hype about 3D printing? Come in and see yourself during a live demonstration. Learn a little about how these cool machines work, what we use and other facts about this exciting technology. Sunday 11am – 1pm
Fun Palaces at Central Library Peterborough

Kitchen Science Lab – Solar Oven

Build your very own solar oven and harness the power of the sun to cook yourself a wee treat. Sunday 12 – 2pm

Start Making! An interview about zines with Alice Bush of Christchurch Zinefest

Christchurch Zinefest 2016 is happening on Sunday 18 September, 11am to 5pm at Space Academy / Kadett (371 St Asaph Street). I spoke to one of the Zinefest organisers, Alice Bush –  a graphic design student at University of Canterbury. She’s been making zines for four years. As well as going to Christchurch Zinefests, Alice went to Wellington Zinefest last year.

Zinefest at Darkroom, St Asaph Street
Zinefest 2014 at Darkroom, St Asaph Street Flickr 2014-10-18-IMG_2732

Tips for Zinemakers

Don’t feel intimidated by what is out there already!

Start making,  not worry too much about what you’re making. Know that it will be accepted in a community. I think that all zines are valid – no matter how hi-fi or lo-fi they are.

Fave topics?

At the moment, I’m really into Riot grrrl feminist type stuff.  What she said by UC Femsoc is a great feminist zine. Filmme Fatales from Melbourne is another great read.

I always love a good funny zine as well, batshit weird … I saw a zine in New York dissecting Home Depot as an art store. There was one at Wellington Zinefest called “Sock review”, which was pretty awesome.

I like zines because they can be anything that you want them to be, no matter how weird your idea is.

Zine culture in Christchurch

There is Zinefest once a year, but that’s about the only event we have at the moment. The zine culture has been laying low, and the Zine Library that was in the Darkroom disappeared last year. I’m trying to build up the culture a bit more, getting people involved and doing more stuff.

Zinefest at Darkroom, St Asaph Street
Zinefest 2014 at Darkroom, St Asaph Street. Flickr 2014-10-18-IMG_2731

Space Academy has started having zine nights. The culture is there, but it is not as big as in Auckland and Wellington. It’s hard to do creative stuff in Christchurch when everything goes into rebuilding.

Zines and the Internet

People used to make fanzines and send them to their friends, now fan-culture has moved on to the internet and there’s not really any need for zines in that culture anymore. It’s interesting to see zines or digizines on sites like Issuu. It is for magazines, but I’ve seen tons of zines up there.

I’ve been reading this article by Bryce Galloway. He’s been involved in zines for a long time.  In the early 2000s it started being closed off, and away from the outside world and the Australian and American zines. It’s good when people put their stuff up on the web, because then everyone can see it. You’re getting your work out there to everyone.

Zines and libraries

I visited the Wellington zine collection when I was there. Zines have always been away from the mainstream way of publishing, and it is interesting that they are now in that context of the library.

Zines have been made since the 1920s. They started with sci fi, fanzines, and poetry. I’ve been trying to track down things from that era, most of it is in America. So it’d be great if the zines we make now will last to influence and encourage aspiring zinemakers in the future. I’m all for archiving things and making sure that things last.

I want zines to last as a form.

More about zines

Zinefest at Darkroom, St Asaph Street
Zinefest at Darkroom, St Asaph Street. Saturday 18 October 2014. Flickr 2014-10-18-IMG_2726

Adult Learners go mad on 3D

My colleague Katie and I learnt something new this Adult Learners Week – how to make stuff and 3D print it! We visited the learning centre at Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre. Thanks to excellent training from Danny McNeil, Learning Specialist (and 3D wiz), we went through the whole process of creating an object and printing it. We learned how to design stuff using 123D (software now on library computers) and Inkscape.

Words like extrude and chamfer are now in my vocabulary. I saw how a background in gaming – particularly Minecraft – can help kids (and adults) design. It gets you familiar with working in a three dimensional space –  orbiting, rotating, and viewing objects from all angles can be tricksy and new when you are not used to it.

3D printing
Designing a cat toy in 123D – involves some maths!

Danny took us through the process from woah to go – you can watch his how-to videos 3D modelling a step by step guide and have a try. People who’ve done his class have gone on to make all sorts of interesting things – new bits for their tools, flying vehicles, and more.

3D printing
Ready, set, 3D print!

I highly recommend getting out of your comfort zone and learning something new – this week or any time!

3D printing
3D printed cat toy

3D printing
3D printing

More photos from our training.

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Haere rā Peter Gossage

Haere rā to Peter Gossage who died last weekend. His stories and art are familiar to many New Zealanders, and Peter was renowned for retelling the myths of Aotearoa.

His Storylines profile delves into his career:

Peter Gossage has worked as a display artist at the Auckland War Memorial Museum, and as a graphic designer and scenic artist at TV2. His first job on leaving school was at an ad agency, and his drawings of Māori motifs on a television commercial drew interest from a publisher. This led to a career retelling and illustrating Māori legends for children.

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His work was striking and unique. We interviewed him back in 2002, and Peter’s advice to aspiring writers was:

Read everything you can. Be simple and plain. Simplicity is the essence of good design.

Your life as an artist

The Wayward LeunigThere are three stages to your life as an artist: young and artistic; middle-aged and completely useless; and the Third Age in which you will do anything to stave off dementia.

According to research, Seniors (in addition to exercising, eating well, doing crossword puzzles and cleaning their teeth with turmeric) are being exhorted to take up drawing, painting or sculpting – with a wee glass of red wine on the side. Because Seniors who picked up these creative skills later in life are 73% less likely to develop cognitive impairment than those who did not. (Readers Digest, November 2015)

But long before we get old, we seem to lose our creative confidence, as art lecturer Linda Carson recalls:

When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I worked at the college – that my job was to teach people how to draw. She stared back at me, incredulous, and said, “You mean they forget?”

And maybe most of us did forget, but not all. Some very creative, successful adults carried that child-like creativity into adulthood – and made a fortune while they were at it. Here’s a selection of contemporary artists who made it big, just by staying connected to their inner child – and who have produced beautiful new books as proof:

  • Michael Leunig: Leunig is an Australian cartoonist who started his work life in an abattoir and only took up cartooning a little later on. I love his drawings and the pithy words he so often gives his characters – who always have exaggerated noses!
  • Grayson Perry: Perry’s sketchbooks take the reader on a journey of discovery through the complex sexual life of the author – who realised he was a transvestite in his teens. He rediscovered his love of drawing when he and his daughter started drawing together for fun. Sketchbooks is an inspirational peek into the life of an artist.
  • Quintin BlakeQuentin Blake: Best known for his illustrations of Roald Dahl’s books, Blake’s illustrations are quirky, witty, cerebral, physical and endlessly creative. According to Quentin Blake by Joanna Carey, his mother wasn’t a fan of her son’s drawings though, she called them “unfinished”. But he just powered on, and to this day draws with an old-fashioned pen and ink. No expensive equipment required.

Make Your MarkAnd there are others, like William Steig, Ralph Steadman, Tristan Marco with the stunning compilation of up-to-date art in Make Your Mark, and James Hancock who was so lonely when he first moved to New York, that he decided to draw all the buildings around him.

And if you are a confused late bloomer in your artistic career, just turn to your inner child who, like the little darling in the quote below will tell you how it is all done:

First I think. Then I draw my thinks.

Easy Peasy.

Barbie: The Icon

9781943876112Rightly or wrongly I was determined that my daughter was not going to have Barbie dolls, but by the time our daughter was 3 our house was awash with Barbie and all her paraphernalia. How did this happen?

To try to even things out I presented our son with Barbie – he proceeded to use her spiky limbs as a weapon! We had Malibu Barbie, Night and Day Barbie but best of all was Wedding Day Barbie! Tiny little handbags were lost as were multiple pairs of shoes … bits and pieces of Barbie limbs would appear in odd places. Thankfully all could be replaced by the neverending Barbie gravy train at the local toy store.

In my own way I became quite fond of Barbie, and I grudgingly admitted that she did provide hours of fun for my daughter and her friends.

When Barbie: The Icon arrived in the library I couldn’t help myself, and immediately borrowed it. Perhaps it’s the memories of times past, but I have had a lovely time browsing its full page photos of Barbie dressed in her finest, as well as enjoying the writing.

The focus of the early seventies was to make Barbie increasingly bendable…

and

Barbie has become the interpreter of aesthetic and cultural transformations that have distinguished more than half a century of history, but unlike other myths of contemporaneity, crushed by time passing, she has had the privilege, as a doll to be timeless.

Bendable and timeless! Oh how I envy her.

Some Barbie facts:

  • After a 43 year relationship Barbie and Ken break up in 2004. Barbie meets a new man, Blain – a surfer from Australia, however by 2011 Barbie and Ken are back together again. Phew.
  • Barbie has had more than 150 careers including being US President, watch out Hillary Clinton!
  • It wasn’t until 1980 that a black Barbie doll was created , called… ta da…Black Barbie.
  • Fashion designers who have created her outfits have included Donna Karan, Vivienne Westwood, Calvin Klein and Dior.
  • Her full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts.

Find more Barbie stuff – including movies – in our collection.