Kitty Crowther — storyteller, illustrator, writer, children’s book advocate, recipient of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, author and illustrator of Stories of the Night — took over the Gecko Press Instagram account on Wednesday 13th May to give an insight into her life in lockdown and a peek into her studio. Over to Kitty!
Dear Gecko Press and friends,
I am happy and proud to take over for the day. And in a strange way, I have the feeling of travelling to your fascinating country, New Zealand. Now, how great that is!
So let’s take a journey into my world. Shall we?
I am Kitty Crowther. I live in Belgium, in the countryside. I live right next to the forest. Nature is a VERY important and sacred guest in my work.
I have been confined for two months now, with my two handsome crazy sons, Théodore and Elias (21 and 23). And also with my boyfriend Sam.
This is me with my new HAIRCUT, done by ——> me! My hairdresser taught me this trick (dry cut). Take a bunch of hair, twist, twist and twist it like a small hair tornado, take your small scissors, and cut down, gently. The bears in my book ‘Stories of the Night’ don’t need a haircut; it keeps them warm.
I start my day with a cup of hot water with a slice a ginger. I walk barefoot in the garden. I’m very lucky to have one. I say hello to my giant cherry tree (I’m cheating a bit with this photo; it was taken a month ago, in full blossom.)
Most days, I go straight off into the forest, even before breakfast. An hour walking. The photos in the forest here are taken by my son @bctheodore (he is studying photography at university). There is hardly anyone in the forest, and I listen to the birds. I always wonder what they are saying.
Stories of the Night has been translated into 19 different languages. The first edition was in Sweden. And I am so happy that Gecko Press has published the English version.
Since this confinement started, I knew that I wanted to stay in touch with my friends. But I didn’t fancy video calls. And I didn’t want to spend every day writing emails. So I suggested to a bunch of friends to join me for a meditation every day at 9am. I really love it; it helps me a lot. We have occasional emails too, where we can write long texts about how we feel (the emails my friends write are very beautiful). We also have a music playlist and a WhatsApp group.
I asked my friends to send me a selfie with their mask (they are not all here). Can you find me?
In this group are illustrators, writers, photographers, dancers , healers, shamans, culture organisers, poets, publishers, publishing assistants…
The woman who is under my photo is Sara Donati. She is Italian. A wonderful writer and illustrator. One day, she stayed for a week in my house, and one night she dreamt that I made a pink book called Short Stories of the Night, with the title written in my own handwriting. For fun, I did a fake cover. THIS is how the story began.
After breakfast, off I go to the studio, which is in my house. I have just finished a book called I want a dog (any dog). So, my studio is very messy now!!! I am the kind of person who invites friends round so I would HAVE to clean the house, haha. Well, it’s almost the same when I finish a book; it’s cleaning time!
But first I’ll show you where I work.
I have the very old desk which my English father had when he was at university in Oxford. I like to write on that desk. And the other desk is for drawing. I ALWAYS change things around.
The studio is heated with a stove, so in winter my fire friend is with me. Super-nice heat.
These are my favourite tools. (Do I bite them? Yes!!! Nobody can steal them!) Very often, people ask me what brand of pencils I use. Important: it’s not the tools that make you unique. It’s like someone with fantastic clothes but super-boring to talk to. So, don’t focus on that.
Anyway, I use an amazing Japanese black pen, a Palomino Blackwing. Luminance Caran d’ache and the Supracolor Caran d’ache. And Faber Castell. And Karisma (but this doesn’t exist anymore).
I work a lot with a light table.
And here, you can see a few sketches from my latest book about dogs! It will come out in French first, with Pastel – l’école des loisirs – in spring.
And now, my studio is ready to start a new project! (I tidy pretty fast !)
I have a lot of projects coming up… I will illustrate a novel by Astrid Lindgren for l’école des loisirs, called Seacrow Island. I’ll work on an activity book with my Swedish publisher and friend Erik Titusson (Lilla Piratförlaget). I’m also going to work for Querido, a Dutch publisher. I did a black and white book a long ago with Bart Moeyart (long before we both received the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award). Bart asked me to have these drawings in colour, so this is what I’ll be doing. The book is called ‘The Great Grandmother’. And then I have another story to start… But for now, it’s time to prepare tonight’s meal. Three hungry men are waiting. We take turns to cook; tonight it’s me.
Thank you for following my day. I wish you a nice evening and good books to read.
Good night and thank you, Kitty – we’ve loved hosting you!
Follow Kitty Crowther on Instagram @kittycrowther to stay in touch with her work.
Stories of the Night is available where all good books are sold and on our website.
Stories of the Night, was described by The New York Times as a “magical totem of a book [that] bursts with beauty, absurdity, generosity and the surprise of the natural world” and by Meg Rosoff as “a rare, precious dream of a book”.
Follow Gecko Press on Instagram for more illustrator takeovers, previews of our upcoming and new titles, and lots of Gecko Press fun.