Image credit: Allie Hill
Local graphic designer cum illustrator Allie Hill has just released her latest children’s book and we can’t get enough of it!
Titled “Just Enough”, Allie’s second book is colorful, simple and yet deeply profound. It tells the story of a little girl called Amelia and the adventure she has with her blanket.
Through the book’s clever wordplay, Allie’s tale delivers an entirely unique interpretation to discovering happiness through a memorable and lovable character; Amelia’s grandmother.
See, Amelia’s grandmother is a tailor who creates fabric using her magical sewing machine. Best part, the character was actually inspired by Allie’s own mother who was a tailor and dressmaker.
We shot Allie some questions and here is her take in the creation process of her book.
1) Amelia’s grandmother was inspired by your own mum – did she get to see it herself by any chance? What was her reaction?
I kept it a secret from my mum until after the book came out, so she only got to see it recently! She said she loved it, of course, but all mums would say that, won’t they? Hahaha!
Growing up, we did not have much money, and my mum had to work really hard to make ends meet…. but one of the small luxuries that my sisters and I always enjoyed was having beautiful clothes – made by my mum, a self taught tailor and dressmaker extraordinaire. Many, many hours of my childhood were spent in fabric shops like Mun Loong, Fah Num, Globe Silk Store and Binwani’s… I remember being dragged from shop to shop, almost bored to tears waiting as my mother dove into ream after ream of colourful fabrics, raving about the colours and patterns, completely oblivious to my whining and tantrums. Years later, I realised how much this had imprinted on me. In spite of my sulky protests back then, these days I cannot walk past a fabric shop without feeling the pull to go in and browse. It always makes me laugh when my daughter complains that she is bored in there… I just think.. you wait and see…!
Although my mum was an amazing dressmaker, she never wanted her daughters to follow in her footsteps. Dressmaking was incredibly hard, with long hours of eye straining and back breaking detailed work and very little recognition. So she encouraged me to find other means to pursue our shared passion for making and designing things. Today, I ‘make’ things like brochures and books with a mouse and computer. The hours are just as long, but while my mother would have done everything manually without any shortcuts, I have Photoshop and ‘ctrl-z’, and for that I am so thankful!
2) Additionally, what was your kid’s reaction? Did she recognise any familliar stories?
My daughter is also a naturally gracious person, so she also said she loved it lah, hahaha! Some of her drawings are also in there, I am happy to say. Although she is often my muse, this particular child character is actually named after a friend’s daughter, little Amelia Jolie who lives in Germany. On the day that I was wondering what name to give the character, I received the happy news that she was born, so that was that. The real Amelia is now a happy toddler – it’s taken that long to finish this book!
3) Tell us the main reason you embarked on this project and what keeps you going? Why is it never enough despite numerous previous successes?
This book was truly my own lesson in having just enough, and I’d say that it was a happy accident. I had not thought of writing another children’s book.
My first book was a commissioned project for a client who made a line of organic children’s products called Buds for Kids, so it was not even an attempt to venture into the world of publishing. I am a graphic designer by trade and am happier designing books for other people. But it was while designing my cousin Kenny Loh’s book back in 2013 that I was introduced to Oon Yeoh, who was then working for MPH Publishing as Consulting Editor.
We got chatting about books and to my surprise and delight, he told me that they wanted to work with me. With no track record, qualifications or even story-line, I was really questioning my ability to produce anything.
This book would never have happened without the patient encouragement and guidance of my editor, Oon. He encouraged me to think about what values I wanted to share with my child as a starting point. Together, we went over several ideas and settled on this one, and then I began to write. Actually I had no idea how to begin to write, so I wrote a bit, scribbled a bit, made lots of tiny mock-ups and spent days staring at Pinterest and my daughter’s picture books!
It didn’t actually take three years to work on this book, I just kept putting it down and leaving it for months. What kept me going was all the amazing help I received – Alex Lim helped me to write and rhyme, Nadine helped me to edit and trim the unnecessary parts, family and friends all chipped in with gentle encouragement and prods when I procrastinated. In the end I realised that, more than anything else, I wanted to have this book published to honour all these people who believed in the story even when I doubted it.
So I guess this is a roundabout way of saying that sometimes there are no reasons – things happen, opportunities flirt with us, and it’s up to us if we respond or close the door…
As for the question of why it is never enough despite previous successes…. well my dear Ista, I have not had the success yet! 🙂
4) What is your favourite way to get inspired and what is a current or next project we can look forward to?
My favourite way to get inspired is to browse design and art books while enjoying a nice cup of coffee. I also enjoy the randomness of my Pinterest and Facebook feeds – often a completely unexpected and unrelated image will inspire new ideas. As for current projects: there is always the ongoing design work for clients, but one of the projects worth highlighting is the mural project for Arts on the Move, because it’s my favourite way of working – through creative collaborations. The latest mural features very young photographers (aged 7 to 15!) and is organised and curated by Studio DL. Later there will also be a mural featuring handmade flowers made from plastic bags and fabric scraps. And another on multi-cultural poetry! All not by me, but through a collaborative process with some very amazing people.
Allie’s latest book definitely makes the perfect Christmas gift for any young reader. It is on sale for only RM 19.90 and can be purchased at your nearest MPH Bookstore. Additionally, you can grab an online copy here.