NS: Can you tell us a little bit about how the story of Oddsoks developed? What inspired you to write it? Where did the story come from? What role did each of you play in developing the story?
Alex: The story stemmed from a second wedding anniversary gift Zara made for me – the present for each year has a different material attached (for example, 50th is gold) and the second year is cotton, so she sewed a comical cat-like creature for me. It came with a note apparently written by the creature, apologising for having “borrowed” the real gift. We started blaming the creature for all sorts of things that were mislaid in our apartment. Socks were forever being lost, hence our rationalisation that there must be more of the creatures hiding behind the washing machine somewhere.
Zara: We hadn’t seen any stories out there with a similar narrative to this, so we thought it might be fun to make it for ourselves. I created a couple of children’s books in my last year of university, one of which was Highly Commended in the The Macmillan Prize for Children’s Book Illustrations. Upon graduating, I was mainly commissioned to work on editorial and advertising projects, so I initially worked on Where did the Oddsoks go? as a self-initiated side project. We started by discussing the story, before I went on to design the characters.
Alex: The process was quite organic – we created each page from there, drawing the illustrations and writing the text simultaneously, before editing and revising.
NS: The style of illustration that you use for ‘Oddsoks” is quite unique. The characters and scenes are illustrated as if they might be appliqué – designs with fabric textures and colors accented with homey stitching around the borders. I think you have used a similar appliqué style for a piece on celebrating Elias Howe and his receiving a patent for the sewing machine and also for some holiday characters. How did this style develop? What do you find most appealing about it, especially in the context of children’s book illustrations?
Zara: I first experimented with the style when creating the Elias Howe piece. It was a development of the layered technique I use in Photoshop, only using fabric textures instead of paper ones, as well as adding stitched details. I feel it is important to work on self-initiated illustrations alongside commissioned work in order to develop new techniques. I used it as a portfolio piece and this led to working with a supermarket client, using this style within a children’s holiday range. I enjoyed working on the collection and thought that the aesthetic would transfer well to children’s books, despite the fact that I hadn’t seen the style being used in children’s books before.
Alex: I believe that although the style is graphic, the bright colours and tactile-looking textures are warm and appealing. It also made sense to us for the look of the illustrations to have a link to the subject matter, especially given the original inspiration.