Irish bookshop launches a novel new treat idea for illustration fans
Irish owned children's bookshop Tales for Tadpoles is launching a new gift box subscription service, the Tales for Tadpoles Wonderbox, to keep loved ones connected and uplifted
Tucked into Dublin’s colourful Drury Street is Tales for Tadpoles, an Irish owned wonderland of children's books, illustrated prints and memorabilia. Like all small businesses the shop has spent the last few months weaving through recent restriction levels, using innovation and imagination to keep the company going.
Thankfully, there has been a recent surge in support for Irish businesses from shoppers wanting to support them through difficult times. The option to send a gift from a safe distance has become a popular pick-me-up for those who are social distancing from loved ones. Tales for Tadpoles owner Caroline Sullivan noticed that within the recent batches of online orders there was an increase in requests for personalised notes of love and support. The team enjoyed sending out these sweet gift packages so much that the idea for a new gift box service was born.
The Tales for Tadpoles Wonderbox is a new postal subscription service. Customers can sign up to receive four tailored packages of books, prints and other gifts. There is a small range of different Wonderbox subscriptions to choose from, with some dedicated to prints, some to books, and others offering the best of both worlds. The Wonderboxes are not just for children though; they can be tailored to accommodate the creative appetites of all ages.
Fans of book illustration will be particularly excited about the exclusive prints that will be included in the Wonderbox. Tales for Tadpoles has commissioned new work from local artists, and you couldn't get any more local than the first two. Alongside their artistic projects, Jenni Kilgallon and Lauren O'Hara both work in the store. This close relationship has lent itself to collaboration; both artists know their customers love classic hand-drawn illustrations, intricate detail, animals and nature.
Lauren O'Hara has illustrated three of the books that sit proudly among the curated collection in Tales for Tadpoles. The first two, Hortense and the Shadow and The Bandit Queen, were co-created with Lauren's sister Natalia. The pair works in tandem, with Lauren taking the lead on illustration and Natalia on writing. Their style is influenced by Eastern European fairytales; thanks to their Czech mother the sisters grew up surrounded by Russian, Polish and Czech illustrated books. O'Hara's most recent book, Madame Badobedah, written by Sophie Dahl, is currently in the running for a prestigious CILIP Kate Greenaway medal, awarded annually for outstanding work in children's illustration.
For the Wonderboxes Lauren O'Hara has created four pieces inspired by the seasons. O'Hara's illustrations are hand crafted from start to finish using inks and gouache. She starts with loose thumbnail sketches that focus on composition and a sense of movement, eventually working up to more detailed sketches. Next she adds indigo and walnut inks to bring warmth and tone. Colour is then added with gouache paints. She applies loose brushstrokes onto wet paper, followed by finer details that are painted delicately on top of the dried layers.
Each seasonal image in the exclusive Wonderbox range features three recurring characters: a mouse, a frog and a squirrel. In a formless pandemic year, stripped of the usual gatherings that denote a changing of the seasons, the arrival of these three friends in the postbox will add a sense of occasion to the passing months.
Jenni Kilgallon's work also features prominently in Tales for Tadpoles' display. Her prints are bestsellers in the shop, which is no mean feat when they sit alongside artists like Shirley Hughes and Quentin Blake. Her work is hand drawn in pencil, pen and inks. Its delicate lines and elongated figures are inspired by the classical style of Golden Age illustrators Edmund Dulac and Arthur Rackham, who Kilgallon deeply admires.
Kilgallon’s new illustration for the Wonderbox brings Christmas to the forest in a mysterious twilight scene. She started the new piece by sketching in pencil, then outlining the drawing in ink and painting a watercolour night sky. The last touches lay in adding the fine details; painting the animals, inking the branches of trees, and adding colour to the mysterious Santa hat abandoned by an elusive passerby.
Prints of these new works will be in the first editions of the Wonderboxes and although you can always find a wide range of prints on the shop's website, these ones will be exclusive to subscribers. Future editions will feature commissions by other artists; store owner Caroline Sullivan hopes to be able to support local creators throughout the year.
For more information on the Tales for Tadpoles Wonderboxes see here.
Video and photos credit: Jonathan Lavery