An interview with the creator of ‘A Window into Tom & Hatty’s World’ exhibition
Where did you get the idea from?
The idea of peering through a window came to mind because, although Tom finds the mysterious garden through a door, Hatty sees the garden from her bedroom window. I thought it would be nice to create something more physical so kids could imagine themselves inside the scene. The window boxes are a little bit like the layers on a theatre stage. I thought seeing how the scenes have been created from paper and card might spark kids’ imaginations to try making their own theatre scenes at home.
What inspired you to create this exhibition?
Being based in Lake District, I’ve always been inspired by gardens and landscape. My dad is a keen gardener so growing up we always had a beautiful garden full of trees and flowers, with a big (somewhat rickety) greenhouse. The imagery of Tom exploring the garden really sparked my imagination and memories of adventures in our garden. I love designing anything botanical!
How did you decide what scenes to illustrate in the book?
I chose the midnight garden because it’s the main image you think of from the book cover, and I wanted to illustrate it using a colour palette of midnight blues and greens to depict that mysterious feel in the story. The geese and the ice-skating seemed to have a somewhat Victorian Christmas feel that I thought would be great to illustrate for a Christmas production. The last scene – Mrs Bartholomew’s living room – is my favourite! When I was sketching out the idea, I expected it to be my least favourite as it’s just a living room, but I really enjoyed bringing in lots of little details to make the interiors feel homely – cute china cups, a slice of cake, I even painted miniature versions of old paintings – there’s a nod to the goose scene with a little two-inch painting of a goose! So, there are lots of details for kids to spot! I wonder how many famous authors you can spot in Mrs Bartholomew’s books?
How did you become an illustrator?
So I would describe myself as an illustrator and designer. I work across a whole variety of projects combining illustration and design, sometimes for publishing, sometimes branding – and in this case for theatre displays! I loved designing the whole exhibit for this project, thinking about how the windows were going to fill the space, and designing the mural and typography to go around them.
So how did I get to be doing this as a job…? I went to school here in Keswick, and we had an amazing art teacher who was so encouraging and taught us lots of techniques. After school I did an art foundation course at University of Cumbria and then decided to study illustration at Falmouth. It was a brilliant degree course which really helped me develop stylistically as an illustrator and taught me so many things about colour and composition that I’m still using every day in projects like this one! I think often as an illustrator people expect you to have one set style, and that this is the thing you must develop. I’ve realised my strength is being able to work in lots of different styles, it means as a designer I can really tailor the illustration to the nature of the project and think about the whole vision for the project.
What are you most looking forward to about the festive season?
Having family to stay, last year was a bit of a wash out so I’m looking forward to hopefully having family round (fingers crossed!). And of course, pigs in blankets and Christmas dinner…and I do love Christmas carols. Last year a few of our neighbours came to our front door and sat outside while I stumbled through some Christmas Carols on our piano, and we gave them whisky and hot water bottles to keep them warm! Maybe I should get practicing now in advance!
A Window into Tom & Hatty’s World is on display in our Friends Gallery on the first floor. Visit the webpage to find out opening times, admission and other info here.