I was bought up by two groovy artists who now run the art magazine Raw Vision. They were always drawing and painting, and so was I. For the most part we had no TV, so for entertainment my parents made up fantastic stories: My father told of a man who had been asleep for a hundred years and was covered in flies. My mother, whilst brushing my long, tangly hair, told of an elaborate community of knots who lived on my scalp! I was obsessed with Jan Pienkowski’s Haunted House and remember playing with it for hours. I am sure this had a profound influence. My sister is eight years younger than I am—as she was growing up I made it my sole purpose to be her entertainer, by making up stories and illustrating them for her. I made up imaginary characters that she believed in until her teens. (She still hasn’t forgiven me!) I recently found a little home-made book that had written on it in pink pen: My first children’s book by Jennie Maizels, aged 7.
I cannot remember ever wanting to be anything other than a children’s-book illustrator. I was obsessed with sketchbooks and whenever I went away, I would do elaborate hand-lettered holiday diaries. Now that I have two girls, I oversee their holiday diaries instead and with equal obsession (poor things). With ridiculous focus, I worked very hard at Art School (Central St. Martins) and put together a full-scale paper maché Mad Hatter’s Tea Party for my degree show. My first commission was to design and make the window displays for Harvey Nichols. I loved working in 3-D, so making Pop-up Books was a dream come true! I now live in a little village in Hampshire called Braishfield with my husband, our two little girls, three cats, two mice, and one dog named Dotty (who thinks she’s our third daughter).
I still attend life drawing classes and love to sketch my local countryside. I live in the illustrator Norman Thelwell’s old house and work in his old studio. I love the feeling that someone else has been here before me, sketching and coloring in, perhaps with gloves on, too. (It’s a very cold house!) In 1993 I had the fortune of being introduced to the children’s-book writer Kate Petty. We had a fabulous chemistry and worked together for fifteen years producing eight books with over a million sold worldwide. Our first book, The Great Grammar Book, reached number six in the best-seller list and was nominated for children’s book of the year. Sadly Kate died in 2007 at age fifty-five. I miss her every day, but am more passionate than ever about children’s books— especially pop-up books! I am now really enjoying writing as well as illustrating, and having a lovely time working with the wonderful team at Walker.
Three Things You Might Not Know About Me:
1. I’m stupidly superstitious!
2. My late grandfather wrote the ration book.
3. I think I’m fantastic at disco dancing (but my daughters strongly disagree).