Megan Dowsett is a creative consultant working in museums, galleries and the arts, an illustrator who is finding her voice through personal and local projects, and a parent to two young beings who can't help but influence her creative journey.

Through the name Norris and the Flamingo, she shares the sense of adventure that runs through all of life, wherever we are on our journey. A sense of imagination, of possibility and discovery, for children and adults alike.

9 August 2020

Mythicous Creasts

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Last week, Mythical Creasts, a creation that connected eight local families, returned from it's journey around the neighourhood.  It was lovely to have it back ... but best of all was the sharing of photos, videos and messages that flowed alongside it's tour through family homes.
20200803_123100 The project grew from the joy that we all felt in the invisible interactions of the Dragon Trail.  The trail's success set my mind to pondering what else we could do that would enable engagement with our friends and neighbours, without the mediation of a digital device.

I have long held a dream of creating a collaborative mix 'n' match book, but I wasn't sure that it was the right project - whether it would demand too much of my stamina and too little from the children, relative to the time we respectively had available, and whether it would be too constrained for children to do at this point in time.
20200803_123220 (2) Then, as is so often the case lately, one day I found myself blurting it out - 'Guys, would you like to make a mix 'n' match book of mythical creatures, with your friends?'  And that was it - I was committed.

20200803_123142 Mythical creatures was the continuing theme from school, so offered a natural theme through which to connect with school friends, and so we created a very long list of people who might be interested, and invited them all to take part.  I hoped that not everyone would say yes - I suspected that for many families, as I have been finding, they wouldn't want to commit themselves to an outcome - and in the end our participants self selected, with eight families taking part.

20200511_125055 My initial task was to create a page marked up with dividing lines and markers for the neck and hips, which I delivered on a series of evening runs, along with an electronic instruction sheet, challenged as always by our lack of printer.

Meanwhile, the children built a magical box which we left outside the downstairs front door to await deliveries of mysterious and magical creatures.  Checking the box and recovering the goods was a daily delight (okay, partly a trauma as they fought to get there first ...)

20200518_225200 (2) The trouble is, that once all the pictures had arrived and were laid out in front of me, I was so inspired by the detail, care and imagination that each child had put into their work, that I couldn't help but go the whole hog - to make their artwork sing, it needed to be on colourful backgrounds.  So I cut out each creature and laid it onto coloured paper, prepared with watercolour.  Then I took the names and descriptions the children had given their creatures and passed a number of evenings adding them onto the pages.  I had thought about asking the children to write the titles themselves, but I wanted them to be able to read the book and at this stage, handwriting and spelling skills are highly variable!

Next step, to make a mock-up, trying to understand how to bind a book with three separate spines and ideally, a single front and back cover.  This is the kind of puzzle that absorbs me - and the second attempt proved the better one.  Thankfully I tried out the first on Feets, else I would never have realised its fragility.

Finally to bind it, and to work on the cover.  I realised I needed reproductions for the cover so put in my order with a neighbour.
20200803_123018 It was a long, slow process, squeezed in twenty-minute bursts of energy after a frenzied day of home-school.  It was a satisfying process, because it helped me find my happy place and escape from the continuous mind-buzz of planning the next day's learning.  It was a rewarding process, because from the moment I handed it to Feets to look through, the warm fuzzy feeling of pride (mine - yes, but hers too) enveloped me ... 

When I build a handmade book, the vision that sustains me is the excitement and connection that a child will feel when they handle it, and see themselves, their story or their work emerging from beautiful pages.  This is the first time one of my books has centred primarily on artwork created by children - indeed, of many children - and I hope they each felt the same thrill of ownership that I saw in Feets as she read the book.
When I thought the job was done, I found myself returning to it, to find a simple way to create a small run of copies that could be shared permanently with the families.  I realised that a spiral bound book would allow me to cut the pages without the spine falling apart, so I built it on myphotobook - surely not the cheapest way, but almost certainly the simplest!