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More on my play therapy collaboration with children’s book writer and illustrator

In last week’s post, I interviewed Liesl van der Hoven about her children’s stories, products and philosophy. In today’s interview, she tells us more about her illustration techniques, the therapeutic element in her work, and Fairy Caravan’s future plans! 

Your artwork in particular in your latest project, the children’s book ‘What if worries weren’t wild?’, is particularly multi-layered, combining photography, and various painting techniques. How did your style evolve in this way?

My illustration style is the result of many “happy accidents” and the need to find solutions to my own shortcomings. Lately, I have been wondering whether this is the case for every artist or whether it’s just me! For example, I’ve always really struggled with backgrounds and placing my characters in a background in such a way that they do not disappear.

At the same time, my photography skills have been steadily developing almost without me noticing, because I’ve taken so many photos of my products for my online shop and social media.

So one day after a particularly enjoyable outdoor photoshoot with the dolls, I started thinking about the possibility of creating illustrations by layering photos and illustrations.
At first, I didn’t think it would work, but I tried it and liked the end result, and now I think this is a technique that I will always be using!

What made you decide to add a therapeutic element to your most recent work?

This was again rather a process of evolution than a conscious decision. I had always felt that there should be something more to my characters, rather than them just being “pretty things”.

I think that was why I started exploring the personality types of my characters with the theory of the 4 temperaments in 2014. Back then I found it hard to explain to people why I thought these characters had to have personalities as well. Most people were content with just liking the illustrations.

Making the dolls, which were more intricate and labour intensive, again made me feel that these characters were more than just beautiful dolls. I continued developing my ideas about their personalities and writing stories about them, but I felt like I lacked the necessary expertise to truly give advice through my stories.

Then in July 2017, I met my first play therapist at a network meeting. After talking to her, I realised that we have so many wonderful connections in the work that we do. Due to a variety of circumstances, she couldn’t continue working with me, but she was instrumental in meeting you, Lenka!

I knew from the very first meeting with you that we had the potential to create wonderful things together. And working with an expert such as yourself means that I can ground my stories in tried and trusted advice from someone who has theoretical and practical knowledge of working with children, as you work with many children every day.

What are your plans for the future of Fairy Caravan – what can readers and fans look forward to?

The short answer is very simple: Books and more books!

The response that we have had so far to our first book has awakened me to the fact that there is such a need for the kind of book that we have created together and I feel called to do many more book like these, focusing on different challenges that young children face while growing up.

At the moment I am also keeping my creative juices flowing by developing a new character for our next book. I don’t want to spoil the secret just yet, but I think this character is going to be very popular with both boys and girls and he might be a bit of a troublemaker! Although he is a little naughty, he is still lovable and sweet and will have a lot of wisdom to share with our young readers.
The ever-popular softies and dolls will continue to be available in the Fairy Caravan shop for everyone who wants to cuddle a story character that they have fallen in love with.

I’ve temporarily had to pause the Story Club with online stories that I started last year. It just became too much for me to manage now that my focus is on writing and illustrating printed books. But I am also pondering ways in which I can make those stories and activities available to readers again. I’m sure a good idea will make itself known one of these days!

Where can your beautiful handmade children’s toys and helpful stories be found?

All of the Fairy Caravan toys and books are available on my website.
The best way to keep up to date with news about the latest new characters and stories is to subscribe to my weekly email newsletter.

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