Posts Tagged ‘illustration’

Caretaker of imagination: the creative world of Zee Southcombe

Monday, May 8th, 2017

Auckland writer and artist Zee Southcombe has published an astonishing 12 books in the last two years, and usually has a few creative projects on the go. Her works include children’s chapter books, a wordless picture book, colouring books, a children’s anthology, and zines, as well as her surrealist, emotive paintings. Her novels The Caretaker of Imagination and Lucy’s Story: The End of the World were both finalists for Best Youth Novel in the 2016 Sir Julius Vogel Awards.

Zee loves to share her passion for writing with others – especially young creators – inspiring them to follow their own dreams.


zrsouthcombe edge

What do you make?
I’m a writer and an artist, so I primarily make books and zines, but I also have a fine art practice specialising in painting.

My books are in the adventure fantasy genre and written for children – but are ‘adult friendly’. I also publish an annual anthology of stories and poems by children in New Zealand. A couple of years ago, I began illustrating colouring books, and fell in love with patterns and lines. It is from that, and a passion for the natural world, that led to mandala art. I held my first painting exhibition last year, titled Broken Beautiful, which reflected the theme of mental and emotional wellbeing. My paintings are very personal; they’re basically me on the canvas.

My zines explore the creative life, both my own and through the eyes of other creative women. I love how creative and experimental zine-making can be, and that they are a hands-on version of book publishing.

How did you get into your craft?
I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember, and reading for even longer! Although I studied teaching, after working in schools for a few years, I realised that I missed my art practice. In 2013, I decided to follow my long-time dream of writing a children’s book – and I haven’t stopped since.

Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I like to keep it simple – pen and paper are my favourite tools. Now that I’m illustrating more, I love my new gouache paint palette, which has every colour I could want and is travel-friendly.

zrsouthcombe_meetthemaker3 copy

zrsouthcombe_meetthemaker5 copy


Tell us about what’s involved in producing one of your publications:
For my books, it starts with the idea, which I’ve usually been playing around with in my head for anything from a week to several years. I then pull the idea out into a story by getting a plan down on paper, and begin writing the draft. Sometimes I wish the words could just magically flow out of my head and onto the paper, but unfortunately the drafting is not the easiest bit for me!

Once I have the draft done, it goes off to beta readers, who ‘test’ the story pre-publication and give me their feedback. I then revise the story based on this, and send it to my editor, who gives me much more thorough, line-by-line feedback which I trawl through. It’s usually off to one final beta reader again after that, and then another revision by me. Finally, it goes to the proofreader. The editing process usually takes at least six months.

In between all of that are the illustrations, which I either contract out or draw myself, and at the end of the process is the formatting. This bit is about font choices, line spacing, page numbers, and cover design. The files are then sent to my Auckland-based printer, who prints and binds them for me.

For my mandala artwork, I first hand-draw the template (each one is started from scratch), and build a collection of symbols and shapes within a theme. For example, Moths’ Garden was inspired by flowers and leaves found in my garden. I then draw these freehand (usually while listening to a podcast) and erase the pencil. From there, I scan the drawing, touch it up digitally, flip the colours, and overlay it on one of my photographs. It’s then sent off to my local printer.

zrsouthcombe mandala

zrsouthcombe blog

What inspires you?
There is a lot that inspires me, but recently I have been more and more inspired by nature, especially in my visual art practice. I love tramping and exploring the outdoors. The mindful nature walking definitely shows its face in my work, as well as more obvious references to nature in my mandala art. I’ve also spent more time creating outdoors – be that drawing, writing, or painting – even in the colder autumn weather!

My fiction books are explorations of questions I don’t know the answer to – ideas such as divinity, the beginning of time, and fate – all wrapped up in fun (and sometimes scary) adventures.

Is there a philosophy behind your work?
Always. As a child, I hated when books or movies or conversations were simplified for me. I had big questions, too! My driving philosophy for my books are to never talk down to children. An interesting outcome of this philosophy is that my stories have appealed equally to children and adults.

In addition to that, I try to make my work as honest as possible, which viewers have described as ‘a kind of rawness’. Of course, I also try to only do projects that are fun!

My fiction books are explorations of questions I don’t know the answer to – ideas such as divinity, the beginning of time, and fate – all wrapped up in fun (and sometimes scary) adventures.

Describe your creative process:
Different every time. There is a lot of ruminating on an idea before it even begins to come to fruition, often during a walk, but other than that I don’t really have a set process. Some projects are solo, some are collaborative; some are started and finished within a week, others are still in process five years later. I enjoy the flexibility of my creative work.

Describe your workspace:
Not nearly as tidy as I would like it to be! I have a big desk with room for a candle and a cup of tea, a large wooden bookshelf, and boxes of art supplies. I either face the window, looking out at the monarchs, wax-eyes, bees and tui in the bottlebrush tree, or I face my wall of art, which is covered in work that inspires me.

zrsouthcombe_meetthemaker1 copy

zrsouthcombe_meetthemaker4 copy


I’ll often go out to write, as I find that distancing myself from my house and computer (and all the chores that haven’t been done) is useful in helping me stay focused on the project at hand. At least once a week I’ll pop into a local cafe or library, and I regularly book mini writing retreats. The most recent one was in a cabin nestled among the trees and birds in native New Zealand forest.

Five words that describe your mind:
Full, questioning, distracted, curious, doubting.

Your favourite feedback from a customer:
How do I pick? Every piece of feedback is important to me – both for my artist’s ego and to continue improving my work. What touches me most is when a reader or viewer really connects with a piece of work, but I especially love it when adults buy one of my books for their children – and then can’t resist reading it themselves!

“To label this book merely as a children’s book would not do it justice. While this book is, indeed, a great read for children of all ages, many adults will be able to relate to the main character, John, who has lost all sense of wonder in his life and goes on a journey with his faithful cat to find out where the magic and imagination he knew as a child had gone.” – Paul Magnan, Amazon review.

What are you currently listening to?
I’ve dug out an oldie and am listening to a fair bit of kiwi band, Elemeno P. I have also needed a bit of a pick-me-up, so Disney classics have been on my playlist, too!

Recommend an album:
Elemeno P – Love & Disrespect. It’s fun, kiwi, and a great way to kick off your morning.

zrsouthcombe2 blog

zrsouthcombe3 blog

What’s your favourite childhood book and why?
I have so many favourites that I always find it difficult to answer this question. A series that has had a significant influence on my writing is the Narnia Chronicles by C. S. Lewis, and I love all of Roald Dahl’s stories. At an older age, I got stuck into the Harry Potter series, and Tamora Pierce’s fantasy novels.

What are you reading now?
I’m reading The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot by Robert MacFarlane, a beautiful book about some of the old pathways – on land and sea – as research for my current work in progress, Ramble On. Before that I read a heart-wrenching and simultaneously comic children’s book called See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng. I highly recommend it to readers of all ages.

Tell us about your pets:
I have a cat called Shadow who, like most cats, is rather particular about her wants! Sometimes she’ll hang out with me in the studio while I’m writing or painting, and if it’s cold enough then I’ll have the privilege of her sitting on my lap.

What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty/arts business?
I’ve only been in this business for two years, so sometimes it feels like I am still just starting out. Through trial and error, I’m slowly learning what works for me and which bits of advice are worth following. I would say be patient, and trust yourself; only you know what is best for you and your goals at the end of the day.

Something I’ve been thinking about more lately is the importance of having fun. I’ve seen too many people burn out (myself included) or become despondent. If you’re not enjoying the process, then make changes so that you are. There’s no point in success if it comes at the expense of your health.

zrsouthcombe blog


What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
Whenever I table at a craft fair, I try to buy something to support my fellow artists. Last weekend I bought some beeswax food wrap from Rematerialise. I’ve been eyeing it for ages, because I need something to pack my food for long tramps. It’s environmentally friendly and easy to use, so it’s a no-brainer. My favourite handmade purchase this year was a ceramic mushroom necklace from Little Life Workshop. I am in love with all of her creations!

What’s in store for the rest of 2017?
Right now I’m working on my first book for adults, Ramble On: A celebration of walking in New Zealand and around the world. It’s going to be a glorious mix of interviews, personal essays, hand-lettered quotes, and fun facts. The book will be fully illustrated. It’s a great way to bring my love of walking, drawing, and writing together in one project.

Because I’m enjoying the project so much, I’ll be making a series of zines around walking in New Zealand, just in time for Zinefest season. I’ve also got two collaborative projects lined up – one is about self-publishing in New Zealand, and the other is a collaboration with my (also crafty) mum.

You can meet Zee at Hamilton Zinefest on Saturday 13 May, Auckland Fair on June 18, and she’ll be speaking at Lexicon in June. After that Zee’s running the Auckland Half Marathon in October, to raise money for the Mental Health Foundation of NZ, a cause close to her heart. $8 from the sale of each of her digital prints will also be going to support the fundraising. Awesome stuff!

Inspired? Zee has offered a sweet prize for one lucky Felt reader and budding zine maker of one of her great DIY Zine Craft Activity Kits. The kit contains everything you need to make your very own mini zines – blank mini zines, felt pens, stickers, and Zee’s very own “Zine Idea Generator”. To be in to win this great prize, simply leave a comment telling us what you like about Zee’s story and her work. The draw will be made on Friday 19 May and is open to New Zealand residents only.

zrsouthcombe draw1

zrsouthcombe draw2


Explore Zee’s Felt shop here »


zrsouthcombe caretaker

Orca by Ana Aceves

Thursday, March 16th, 2017

A4 giclée print - Orca by Ana Aceves

Born in Zamora, Spain, Nelson artist and illustrator Ana Aceves has many strings to her bow, with a Bachelor of Arts in Music and a background in graphic design and art direction. Orca is an A4 fine art giclée print on watercolour paper of an original illustration, printed in Nelson and signed by Ana.


Buy now from Ana Aceves »


Waiotemarama Willow Pattern

Friday, June 17th, 2016

Waiotemarama Willow Pattern print by Allan Gale

Waiotemarama Willow Pattern is a print by Allan Gale, created in his studio in the secluded bush valley at Waitomarama, South Hokianga. The kauri wood used to make this print is hand carved and printed using a traditional technique.

One of a limited edition of 80, it is printed onto beautiful quality Arches 88 paper, then titled and signed in pencil. Allan has featured in our Meet the Maker series – you can read his interview here


See Allan’s beautiful collection of prints »


Why can’t we all be like that wise old bird?

Thursday, May 26th, 2016

Wise Owl print A3 - Contemporary art print of pencil and watercolor drawing by Millie Strong

A contemporary art print by Hawke’s Bay artist Millie Strong, featuring a pencil and watercolor drawing of the wise and mysterious great horned owl.


Order from Millie on Felt »


Prints on wood by Holly Roach: collect all four!

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

Prints on wood of original Holly Roach illustrations

Auckland printmaker Holly Roach has released a new set of digital prints on wood, featuring her original illustrations Kina + Pied Stilt, Dotterel, Midnight on Kauri, and Fantail + Ferns. Measuring 14cm square, the blocks are available for $25 each and make a stunning collection for a feature wall at home or at the bach!

Fantail + Ferns wooden print by Holly Roach

Kina + Pied Stilt print on wood by Holly Roach


Buy Holly Roach prints on Felt »


Alice in Wonderland

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

This year Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (often called simply Alice in Wonderland) turns 150 years old. In its long life this engaging children’s book has never been out of print and has been translated into at least 176 languages.



Inspired by a real little girl called Alice Liddell, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland came about during a river outing on a summer’s day in Oxford – 4 July 1862. The party consisted of Charles L Dodgson (the man behind the pen name Lewis Carroll), the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford (the college at which Charles was a lecturer in Mathematics) and the Dean’s family, the Liddells.

On the river Charles related a story about a little girl called Alice who embarked on a very strange adventure. The Dean’s family were enthralled and their daughter, Alice, asked Charles to write story down. Although Charles started writing the very next day, the manuscript took him two and a half years to complete.


Many of Felt’s imaginative makers and artists have been inspired by the wonderful imagery and delightful text of Alicehave a look at what they’ve come up with!



Featured seller: In My Backyard

Monday, February 17th, 2014

Graphic designer and illustrator Katie Wilson takes inspiration from the microcosmos of life in her backyard, capturing it in beautiful, delicate watercolours and whimsical textile products. Katie is a founding member of the Felt community and can be found at many of Christchurch’s maker markets. She loves overcast days, avocados, walking her over-enthusiastic dog, dreaming of an abundant vegetable garden and collecting twigs.

What do you make?
I mostly sell prints and other paper goods based on my own illustrations. I also dabble in screen printing, creating accessories like pouches, scarves and brooches. My work generally focuses on plants and animals – the things I find in my backyard.

How did you get into your craft? Do you have formal training or qualifications?
I’ve been drawing and making things for as long as I remember, and have been selling my creations on and off since 2007. I have a degree in graphic design and illustration.

What techniques do you use? Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
Right now I am really loving painting with watercolours. My mum makes a lot of the paint that I use – she collects rocks from around New Zealand and grinds them down to create her unique pigments (she has a shop on Felt too). I don’t use the paint in the typical watercolour method – I apply it quite thickly and often add other media to create texture and depth.

I also love screen printing and wish I could do more of it – I love creating multiples of my designs and seeing them all hanging up to dry.

How do you get past a creative block? Describe your creative process:
I’ve learned not to fight creative blocks, I think they are part of the process. If I’m feeling uninspired I go for a walk, do some gardening or just get out of the house and see people. I generally feel much better after that and the work flows again.

Ideas usually come when I’m doing something else, my desk is littered with scraps of paper with notes and doodles on them. I try to carry a sketchbook with me always and jot down ideas as they happen, or I tend to forget them! When starting a new project I often look through my sketchbooks and an idea for a print will jump out. From there it is usually a quick process to decide on the composition and colours. Sometimes I paint individual elements, scan them and then finalise the final layout on the computer.

Is there a philosophy behind your work? What inspires you?
I’m inspired by the outdoors and nature. I guess I hope my work encourages the viewer to look a little closer at the other species on this fragile planet.

Describe your workspace:
I tend to paint on a table in my living room as it has great light and is close to the music. I’m probably the messiest person ever – it is very cluttered and piled high with bits of paper, plants, sketchbooks, half finished paintings and art supplies. I also have a room that houses my sewing machine and fabric piles.

Your favourite feedback from a customer:
Oh my gosh – I get such great feedback from my customers, I can’t just pick one! I think the best feedback is when a customer comes back and orders from you again though.

What are you currently listening to?
My usual playlist of melancholic and maudlin tunes.

Recommend an album: Dresses by Loch Lomond.

What was the last handmade item you bought?
I recently got a brooch from madebyfran here on Felt. It’s made from matai and I love it!

What would you most like to learn, if time and money were no object?
I’d love to learn to screen print fabric by the meter, I’d also like to learn how to draft patterns, oh and I’d love to do ceramics one day too.

You’ll find more of Katie’s beautiful prints and textile products in her Felt shop, In My Backyard.

And it could be your lucky day, because Katie has very kindly offered one lucky Felt blog reader the chance to win one of her beautiful A4 prints. Just leave a comment below, telling us which In My Backyard print is your favourite and why, and you’ll be in the draw. Anyone can enter and the lucky winner will be drawn on Friday 28 February.

Featured Seller: birdinabunnysuit

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Designer Bayley Collins lives in Grey Lynn, Auckland, with her husband (whom she married in Las Vagas last September), two cats, Ziggy and Zues, and an imminent new arrival. Combining her love of collage and illustration to create collections for her birdinabunnysuit label is her dream job.

What do you make? Collages and illustrations of animals with personality!

How did you get into your craft?
After studying I decided the best way to find my dream job was to create it. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do, just that I wanted to be creative and be my own boss.

I started to make little collages. My first one was an owl with a rabbit’s body. My husband asked me what it was and I said “It’s a bird in a bunny suit.” It all started from that moment.

Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
Yes, I have my Bachelor of Visual Arts and Design.

Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
Pencils, scissors and glue. I love to sit down with lots of illustrated pieces and see what happens and what kind of characters emerge.

Foxy Owl Print by birdinabunnysuit
What inspires you?
Animals, my cats Ziggy and Zues and stories I hear about other people’s pets.

Is there a philosophy behind your work?
I’m not sure if there is a particular philosophy behind my work. I just love creating little characters and seeing other people enjoy them.

Describe your workspace:
I had a studio until about a month ago. Now my first baby is due any day so my studio space has been filled with baby related bits and bobs, and I have become very organised! I have a small desk that looks out over Grey Lynn and the Auckland CBD.

Five words that describe your mind:
Quiet, non-stop, creative, imaginative and a little bit nuts – but I don’t think I could come up with new ideas for birdinabunnysuit without being a little bit nuts.

Your favourite feedback from a customer:
“This purchase was great and made a friend who was going through some hard times very happy.”

What are you currently listening to? Angus and Julia Stone.

Recommend an album: Down the Way – Angus & Julia Stone

Your favourite childhood book? The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton

What are you reading now? I’m Not Fat, I’m Pregnant! by Jaquie Brown.

A favourite quote:
My favourite quote is a very simple one: “Keep moving forward.”

galleryDo you have any pets?
Yes! My two cats, Ziggy and Zues, who keep me company while I work from home and give me endless inspiration for new work.

If you were a crafty superhero, what would your name and superpower be?
Girl in a Bunny Suit – and I would be able to talk to animals.

What was the last handmade item you bought?
A cute lion soft toy made from an old woollen blanket from Kraftbomb in Grey Lynn.

Visit Bayley’s Felt shop to see all of her beautiful prints and cards. Bayley has generously offered one lucky Felt blog reader a prize of two large prints of the winner’s choice from her Felt shop! To be in to win, leave a comment below, telling us what inspires you about Bayley’s whimsical art. The draw will be made on Friday 16 August and is open to New Zealand residents only.

We are very grateful to Bayley for answering all our questions, especially given that she’s about to go into labour with her first baby! We wish you all the best, Bayley. Despite being at such an eventful time, birdinabunnysuit will be at Kraftbomb on Sunday 29 September at the Grey Lynn Community Centre, Auckland.

Idyllic childhood days

Monday, April 8th, 2013

Piano Rock: A 1950s Childhood by Gavin Bishop

Piano Rock: A 1950s Childhood
By Gavin Bishop · Reviewed by Anne Mortimer

With a “to be read” queue that will take me easily into retirement, Piano Rock immediately drew me in thanks to the beautiful silhouettes, line drawings and watercolour illustrations that pepper the bite-sized chapters. However more importantly, this was 1950s spelt correctly, with no superfluous apostrophes thank you very much.

Piano Rock tells the story of Gavin Bishop’s 1950s childhood, growing up in Kingston beside Lake Wakatipu. Each chapter offers a snapshot of life and the variety of memorable happenings that shaped Gavin’s childhood between the ages of four and eight, beginning with the Bishop family’s journey via goods train from Invercargill to Kingston sitting on their couch in the guard’s van with the doors open taking in all of the scenery. Despite the different time period, the themes covered are ones that younger readers can associate with, or imagine: looking forward to visits from Grandma; learning to swim; an out of the ordinary school outing in the back of a  farm truck to the Nevis Valley; the arrival of a new baby brother and the impact that has on an older child.

Piano Rock: A 1950s Childhood by Gavin Bishop

Piano Rock: A 1950s Childhood by Gavin Bishop

I particularly enjoyed the description of the food, which is all very “matter of fact”. The baking of girdle scones was a Sunday ritual and a recipe is included for readers to try. Mrs Bishop’s traditional fare was influenced by the neighbouring Greek and Romanian families. This really struck me as my mother’s cooking didn’t take on any cosmopolitan influence until the late 1970s. I remember thinking how experimental my friend’s mam was because she cooked spaghetti bolognaise and such like when we were faced with leek pudding and neck chops with barley! Piano Rock draws to a close with the dramatic recollection of a bonfire on Guy Fawkes Night through the eyes of a small boy. The tale is neatly brought to a close, with Gavin reflecting upon a family photo, which mirrors the start of the book as the Bishop family prepare to leave Kingston for Invercargill in 1954.

I have re-read the book with Miss X who often asks me tell her about “the olden days” or, a story from when I was little. Piano Rock offers younger readers an affectionate reminiscence of a 1950s childhood, ably assisted with delightful illustrations and a handy-dandy glossary in the back.

Anne Mortimer is a sometime mum and sometime administrator. She also makes handcrafted felt items and will occasionally sell these. Anne has worked for museums, galleries and libraries in the UK and settled in New Zealand four years ago.

Featured Seller: ellaQuaint

Monday, June 11th, 2012

Intricate brush strokes and delightful detail are the hallmark of Auckland artist Lizzie Thomas’ talented hand. Her shop, ellaQuaint, is filled with charming illustrations of birds, woodland creatures (Timorous Beasties), marine life (Aquatic Beasties) and all manner of whimsical imagery.

Humpback Whale – an Aquatic Beastie original watercolor by Ella Quaint

What do you make?
Mostly I paint and illustrate a range of different manu and beasties. In addition to I also create cards and collages from salvaged, recycled and hoarded snippets.

How did you get into your craft?
You were guaranteed peace and quiet when I was a child if I had a roll of cellotape, scissors, a shoebox and some felt tips. Visual and tactile activities always appealed so from a young age I knew I wanted to be an artist.

Do you have formal training or qualifications in your craft?
My degree is a Bachelor of Visual Arts from AUT, majoring in Sculpture. In addition to that I have taught art and design for many years now too.

Giclee prints by Ella Quaint

What inspires you?
Nature, just how amazing it is. Getting out and about in it or watching wild-life documentaries. Also other artists and designers inspire and motivate me too; there are so many incredible people producing some very clever and stunning work.

Is there a philosophy behind your work?
All that I paint / create stems from an appreciation for the environment and the treasures that dwell within it. I love how animals are so popular in art and craft at the moment, shifts like that can help rouse people both young and not so young to take the time to notice the wonder around us. Also I think it is so important to be aware of the amazing things not only within our own immediate locality but also the oceans and on the other side of the world. In my view we need to think holistically if we are to conserve the beauty in our back yard.

"I love how animals are so popular in art and craft at the moment, shifts like that can help rouse take the time to notice the wonder around us." – Lizzie Thomas, Ella Quaint

I do aim to have products that use eco-friendly materials and processes. There is still room for improvement within that, but I will get there. I have just found a new paper supplier for my cards, collages and A5 prints that has an excellent range of consciously produced paper so I will be switching to them over the next couple of months, my old stock was ok and sustainably produced but I could see there was room for improvement. (more…)