Monday, 20 March 2017

Dick Bruna - an inspiration in my life

I was born in 1970 and had many of his children's books as a child, including some Miffy books. I was a child who loved primary colours and my favourite colour was (and still is) yellow. My parents let me have a yellow bedroom with yellow walls, yellow curtains and yellow duvet. (which was quite 'cool' in those days. I even painted my wooden chair yellow. My sister in contrast was into pink flowery Laura Ashely.

It was when I was a music student years later in Manchester that I came across some vintage Miffy curtain fabric in a charity shop and made some cushions with it. I think my friends thought I was a bit old for this but I loved them.

When I was 22, and a full time violin teacher, I decided to make a children's board book for my sister's children and did this in the style of a Dick Bruna Miffy book. The pages were square and there was a simple sentence on a white page followed by illustrations on the opposite against a bold coloured background. I used poster paints and carefully cut out each illustration to then pritt stick onto the coloured paper backgrounds. The book was just for fun and I had no idea then that perhaps a small seed had been planted in my head for later years!

I changed my career in 2008 and left my music teaching career for good. It was during this year that my cards and prints were sold in Habitat and what made this more remarkable and special to me was that they were being sold alongside Dick Bruna's packs of cards!

I started to collect fabric in my 30s and was particularly drawn to vintage fabrics from the 50s, 60s and 70s. At one point, I had a huge collection of vintage children's fabrics and amongst the collection was some 70s Dick Bruna fabric. 

Over the past ten years or so I started collecting 70s puzzles and picture dominoes as I loved the artwork on them. My Dick Bruna children's book collection started to grow and I also started to find more and more Dick Bruna vintage items.

 My favourite being an original 70s child's toy that I bought in Holland around ten or so years ago.

I began making bags, cushions and purses with some of my original Miffy fabrics and a few years ago, I signed a contract with Miffy HQ to allow me to sell these items to the public as they liked my work and wanted me to help keep the Miffy brand alive and vibrant.

On May 1st 2015, my first baby board books were published by Templar. These were shortly followed by several other baby board books. As an illustrator, the attention I've given to the line I use in my work has definitely been influenced by Dick Bruna's use of line. My work has always been quite naive and simple and I've often given thought to what lines are relevant to add to my illustrations and which ones should be left out. I chose to use square format books and wanted to keep them small, a bit like the Miffy books. Obviously they're not a copy but you can see the subtle influence! Irene, Dick Bruna's wife was his primary critic, much in the same way my partner Jim is to me. I loved imagining Dick Bruna getting on his bicycle every day and having his regular coffee in his local cafe before working in his studio.

I was greatly shocked and saddened to hear of the death a few weeks ago of my favourite children's book illustrator Dick Bruna. He died on my Birthday on the 16th February and on hearing the news, I burst into tears. I was completely in shock and couldn't comprehend it, despite him being 89 -  I just couldn't imagine a life without him existing. I'd also had a hidden wish to meet him one day and feel incredibly sad I didn't make an effort to make this dream a reality - I just kept imagining one day. I wanted to thank him for his books and for being such an inspiration to me and my work.
I believe his work will live on for decades as it has a timeless quality. Many more generations of children and adults will enjoy his work and I shall definitely help keep his legacy alive.


Happy in red said...

I live in Utrecht, the city where Dick Bruna is from and has lived all his life. I remember that when I moved to this city, I would sometimes see him riding his battered old bike along the canal. His white moustache glistening in the sun. It would bring a smile on my face. Whenever I pass Nijntje Pleintje (Miffy Square) I say 'Dag Nijn' (Hello Miffy) as a tribute to the statue of Miffy, that the son of Dick made. When we heard of his passing, the city went quiet and sad. It's like a father has passed away, and we all feel a little lost. But lucky for us, Nijn will always be here.

wendy ellis said...

My first toy, in 1973, was a Miffy. This set my life-long love of all things Dick Bruna like yourself - and led to me finding your fantastic work. My house is full of Bruna stuff and my admiration (obsession?!) has passed onto my kids. I, too, shed a fair few tears when I heard the news, but am so very glad his work has been such a big part of my life. I have no doubt he will remain a massive part of the lives of generations to come.

mrsrobinson said...

It was so sad, hearing that Dick Bruna had died. I've grown up with his books, illustrations and toys and as a teacher cheerfully decorated my room with many Dick Bruna things. P's first outfit as a baby had little Miffy's all over, so I passed on the enjoyment of all things Dick Bruna to my now not so little one...

Dotty Jo x said...

What a lovely post! Jo x

Ksenia Beurre said...

Some really nice gift items:)
Loved it!

Anita said...

The summer of 2015 my spouse and I spent a week in Utrecht visiting places I remembered from my childhood when my father's work took us to the Netherlands for a few years in the early 60s. I was delighted to discover that we were visiting during a major celebration of Bruna's work (Miffy's 60th birthday). One day we were standing at a bus stop along with several families with small children when the bus we were waiting for rounded the corner and we could all see that it was one of the special buses covered in Miffy drawings. The children were all squealing with delight. To tell the truth I was thrilled, too. Such a good memory.

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But lucky for us, Nijn will always be here.

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