Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Kite Tale

I have to share with you the work of a great friend of mine Sarah Owen. She and her husband Simon and family have set  up a much treasured foodstore and delicatessen called Owen's close to where I live. It's a hub for the community and a place where, in the words of one customer... 'We go for fantastic food, warm welcomes and thoughtful conversation.' Before that Sarah worked in our local primary school and her displays and costumes for school shows were so extraordinary, imaginative and beautifully crafted that they could have easily graced any window display or exhibition. Sarah is much loved by many of the children and young people in the area who she has known and nurtured with her sunny smile and 'I've-always got time-for-you- manner.'

Before I started writing novels for young people my work was in Community Theatre and I see Sarah's world and mine as being very much linked. While she expresses herself through creating wonderful visual worlds, including her shop, I imagine worlds through words intended to be read by young people. Over the last couple of years we have very naturally come together to share these passions and last year Owen's was transported into a Kolkata Deli with the local launch of 'Jasmine Skies!'

Sarah with her pottery cow head and window display for 'Jasmine Skies' 
Sarah is an inspired artist, crafts person and maker. Like my sculptor character Garth in 'Kite Spirit' she creates work because it brings her pleasure. She is hesitant to display her creations despite many people begging her to open Owen's one evening as a Sarah Owen exhibition space. When I wrote 'Jasmine Skies'  Sarah popped around with a kingfisher  she'd made out of recycled materials which was the symbol of that book. 'Just something I put together from some bits of material!' she said!

It has now been seen and admired by thousands of young readers and is one of my treasured possessions.
In 'Kite Spirit' I describe the little centre in forget me not flowers as 'modest yellow suns'....the description seems to fit Sarah too.

Now with ' Kite Spirit' she has sewn the sixteenth birthday kite that Ruby, Kite's mother makes and presents to her daughter on that rites of passage day.

Sewn from silks to reflect  the colours of the lake District where the book is set... moss greens, heather and slate greys.
Our Kite Tale began when I gave the description below to Sarah. Then we went together with my youngest daughter Esha to Berwick street to choose the colours. Esha made her illustrating debut in 'Jasmine Skies' with her monkey drawing and draws and paints constantly. She brought a keen eye for choosing the colours of the kite, rejecting certain hues as too bright or simply 'wrong'.  It occurred to me as we placed  reams of silks side by side to find the palate of the Kite, that this process of laying  tones down and stitching words, ideas and symbols together is very similar to the process of writing. 'Kite Spirit' is populated by a diverse range of artists;  there are musicians, songwriters, dancers, circus artists, sculptors and architects. Through different mediums each character has the potential to find a voice and express their way of seeing the world. Sarah's Kite has become not only the kite that I imagined when I wrote this story, but also a wonderful birthday gift to launch 'Kite Spirit.'

'In front of her was a kite unlike any of the others in her collection.She ran her fingers over what looked like a patchwork of tiny rectangular pieces of parachute silk. Written into each coloured panel in gold and silver were birthday wishes from people from all parts of her life, here and in St Kitts...

 'Happy Birthday my beauty,' read the message from Grandma Grace.
'Go Crazy girl!' her cousin Jai wrote in his so-laid-back-it-was- almost lying down spidery handwriting.
On one triangle was written: 'To our wonderful daughter, our 'Kite Spirit' on your 16th birthday love Ruby and Seth xx'

Ruby held her tight as she read her own message and for a moment Kite closed her eyes and allowed herself to be comforted.
'There are loads more messages' Ruby encouraged her, and for her mothers' sake only Kite opened her eyes and read on.'
'You turn my world!' love Mali xxx'

Each message is lovingly hand sewn into the silks

'We have an appointment on the cloud swing! Love Annalisa x

From the chapter ' Bitter Sixteenth'  in ' Kite Spirit'

I am delighted that Sarah's Kite is to be unveiled for the first time in the wonderful Muswell Hill Children's Book Shop.

It is then planned to fly to 'Fringe' our beautiful sewing and knitting store.

In September Sarah's Kite will be exhibited in Central St Martin's School of Art and Design as part of a 'Kite Spirit' exhibition including a short film made by local film maker Shaun Cobley in which actress Juliet Stevenson reads excerpts from 'Kite Spirit'. The young local actress and dancer Lily Armah plays the character of Kite. The Pop Up Festival is a free Literary Festival featuring the work of many writers and illustrators and a fitting place, bringing together arts and community to fly the 'Kite Spirit'. London September 14/ 15.

Here is the 'Kite Spirit' book trailer on Macmillan Children's Books MyKindaBook website


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