Favourite things: Niamh Sharkey
It's puppet love for children's author and illustrator, niamh Sharkey, whose collection draws on Moomins and monsters
RAVENOUS BEAST PUPPET
I was designing costumes and sets with Barabbas Theatre Company when I met this amazing props maker, Eimer Murphy. I commissioned her to make a puppet based on one of my characters. Kids really love him at my workshops.
My mum was given this ring for her 18th birthday by her brother David. She passed it on to me when I turned 18. So I guess it’s a family heirloom. It’s not a real ruby, but I don’t care. I love it.
I love the smell of oil paints. They’re my medium of choice when illustrating my books. Mine are housed in an old wooden box and mixed on a scruffy palette. My favourites include Old Holland and Sennelier.
MY GRANDMA’S CHAIR
It reminds me of my Grandma Grania’s kitchen. She was always cooking up tasty meat pies, and she made the best almond fingers in the world. I was going reupholster this chair but I don’t want to change it.
I always keep a notebook as they are good for doodling, sketching and keeping ideas. You never know when you’re going to be inspired!
I smile every time I see this painting; it’s of the Hugglewugs, a monster family that I drew. They remind me of my own family — our house was always chaotic, but very loving. I tried to capture some of this energy when I was creating my I’m a Happy Hugglewug book.
1950S SINGER SEWING MACHINE
Earlier this year, I became obsessed with illustrating freestyle on a sewing machine. My mum found my Great Aunty Eitne’s sewing machine up in the attic. It’s one of the first electric sewing machines; she had all the original manuals and bobbins in the box. Amazingly, the light still worked when we plugged it in.
I won this egg for my first book Tales of Wisdom and Wonder, for the best newcomer to UK Illustration. It was back in 1999, which seems an age ago now. It has little ball bearings inside that rattle when you shake it. I had fun bringing it through security at the airport on the way home from London!
Stepping into the puppet shop at the Rocks in Sydney was like stepping into Geppetto’s fairytale workshop. Intricately carved marionettes from all over the world dangled from the ceiling. This antique crocodile puppet caught my eye and I had to have it.
THE COMPLETE TOVE JANSSON COMIC STRIPS
Moomins “only want to live in peace, plant potatoes, and dream!” Moomintroll, Moominmamma, Moominpappa are wonderful creations; their humour and quest for new adventures appeals to me. As an artist Jansson is very observant and suggestive. This is the first collection of her comic strips that were published in the 1950s.
Niamh Sharkey will be taking part in The Children’s Book Festival throughout October. She will also be appearing at the Baboro Children’s Arts Festival, and Offset 2010 this October. Her new book On The Road with Mavis and Marge, published by Walker Books, is out now. Check out her blog and download colouring pages at www.niamhsharkey.com