Thursday, March 22, 2012

NZ Book Month Pop Ups!

me and The Red Poppy Pop-up

I have a friend who is an engineer, and I am an artist. She and I have vastly differering  jobs but last night I almost ventured into her world. With paper. 

It was a New Zealand Book Month event run by The Wellington Children’s Book Association and  featured the wonderful collector of pop-up books (amongst other interesting antiquities) Trevor Morley and myself.  Trevor has a fantastic collection of books from rare collector's items by Ernest Nister through to amazing Star Wars pop ups complete with light sabres!  The young boys in the audience were entranced by the books and all thoughts of Playstation were gone from their heads as they contemplated the mechanics involved in the engineering before them.

Trevor also had an 'Adult' selection which required a driver’s license and proof of age to view. Much giggling was heard in the corner (oh, was that from me?) as pop ups of all sorts abounded. Trevor was a former vice squad cop, so he was at pains to make sure that no one was accidentally offended or over educated by a mistaken viewing.

I turned my hand to simple engineering and showed how to make words pop up to make simple and effective greeting cards, then went on to a larger project; making a pop up diorama of The Red Poppy; the book that has occupied my illustration career for a few months past. Everyone got to make a smaller black and white version of it too, with the help of the Storylines scissors and glue sticks kit that we use each year for arts and crafts at the festival day.

I promised the enthusiastic audience some links to useful sites that show how to make pop ups.
Here they are:
Extreme Cards:  this one has all the different sorts of cards you will ever need- very useful! It also has a pattern for the Volvelle; the disappearing picture- a bit tricky to get right but worth persevering with 

Popular Kinetics is another useful site- I particularly like the ‘make your own Occupy tent’ one. This site has lots of card ideas- just click on all the pages and occupy yourself for hours! 

 And, if you want to make a Red Poppy scenario this is how you do it:

1) Download the pictures below and print out 2 copies  of the background image and one of the characters. The line image is a guide for tracing onto the back of one of the backgrounds.
2) Fold and crease the backgrounds images in half one way and then the other so they it fold easily either way.
3) On ONE of the background images, cut along the solid lines (not the dotted ones)
4) Fold and crease along the dotted lines and make sure they bend from either side easily
5) Open  it up and push the cut areas out so they form box shapes; this is what you'll glue your other character pieces to. Lay it down flat again for the next bit.
6) Cut out Jim, Nipper and the poppies and glue them to the front of the 'boxes' you have pushed out.
7) Glue the other background to the back of the pop up, making sure you don't glue it to the box parts that pop out!
8) Open it all up and there you go! Jim on the battlefield heading  towards the patch of poppies in No Man's Land and Nipper the brave little messenger dog, waiting  to rescue him!

Now go to the Children's Bookshop in Kilbirnie and buy a copy- it'll help keep me and David Hill working to produce some more lovely things to look and read :)
Happy NZ Book Month everyone!


cutting and folding guide- lay along the centre of your paper

Jim, Nipper and poppies

Background- print 2

© Fifi Colston 2012

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Hidden Treasure

I'm quite busy at the moment; what with the launch of The Red Poppy tonight at the Children's Bookshop in Kilbirnie, working on another picture book for Scholastic and tearing the kitchen apart to create a nice clean space for new joinery. When I say 'I' in regard to the kitchen demolition, I mean Graham our builder who mercifully understands my appreciation of the layers of old wallpaper being uncovered in our 1910 villa. He stands aside whilst I photograph, peel and save patches of history, exclaiming all the while 'Oh, this is where they did a renovation in 1980, and this wonderful pattern from 1960 and... why this must be from the second world war, and this... wow that's on top of the original scrim!'

We have found no less than 7 layers of wallpaper paint and scrim; each telling its own particular story. This is more exciting for me than the prospect of a new kitchen (in which I will have no more excuses not to cook).
Graham beckoned me over yesterday and said 'Look what I found' and there, tucked in between the wallboards and floor were an old pocket knife and a Red Triangle Badge. I googled the latter and found out this information:

The minister of Internal Affairs approved the Y.M.C.A to hold a public appeal for funds to assist their war work. It was decided that the appeal would be known as "Red Triangle Day" to be held on March 15th, 1917. The YMCA undertook considerable work within New Zealand and especially overseas during the war, providing Christian based home comforts, accommodation, social and recreational facilities and entertainment, convalescent facilities, and canteens. Providing Christian based facilities and fellowship was seen as a necessary alternative to safeguard soldiers from often immoral and corrupting alternatives.

It is serendipitous (and just a little spooky) that we found the badge this week, and our Anzac book launch is today, March 14th, 95 years later almost to the day. I like to think it is a sign from the universe that our efforts are being recognised and those soldiers who were thrown to the lions in WW1 approve. We live today, as they would have hoped, in a country unaffected by the hardship and terror of war; long may it continue.

Monday, March 05, 2012

The Red Poppy: Blossoming

So...the next exciting thing on my social calendar is the launch of The Red Poppy on March 14th at The Children's Bookshop. Beautifully written by David Hill, this is the book I spent half of last year illustrating (with the helpful assistance of Creative New Zealand). It seems to be being well received so far and we are getting lots of very positive feedback about it. Nipper, the brave little messenger dog is going to be at the launch- her real name is Molly and she will be freshly washed and available for patting and posing with. As long as she's fed the odd Anzac biscuit I think she'll be in heaven. I have been asked what drove me to illustrate the book- because as you know, this is mostly a labour of love and there is certainly no guarantee that something you have poured your talents on and sells well will make the book awards and be recognised in the way that we all crave. So I answered with the following:

My husband’s grandfather Rothwell, wrote postcards to his fiancĂ© Hilda, from 1914-1918. Particularly poignant were two from France; they said simply “Am O.K” and “Keep smiling!” I was in the process of scanning and blogging these cards for the family when Scholastic asked me if I would look at a very special story to illustrate. I had decided some time ago that the next book I illustrated had to really mean something to me on a very personal level. Illustrating a book is a labour of love and I wanted to make a body of work that would enthral me and push me to produce as excellent work as I could. For that I’d need to relate to the story; it had to move me. Then I read David’s manuscript.  Jim’s letter home never mentioning the horrors of the trenches struck an immediate chord with me; those cheerful words from a young man, disguising the reality of his situation. Rothwell did come home from France to be a husband and father, but was far from ‘o.k’; dying just a few short years later from the cruel ravages of his war experience. Illustrating this book has been a journey through his time for me. I visited war museums, studied WW1 uniform, grew red poppies, photographed mud and rubbed chalk pastel until my fingers bled. I have learned much and my artwork is a tribute to him. It’s been a real pleasure working with David, Diana and Penny at Scholastic and Penny Newman the brilliant book designer who created the vision with me.

If you can, please come to the launch and have a Red Cross Battenburg Biscuit (my son, trainee chef is making them special like) and a glass of wine and help us celebrate our efforts and remember those who went before us, uncertain into war seeking a positive future. Which is what I hope this book will have :)