Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Picturebook in Progress

Last weekend, the first exhibition in the newly renovated Storylab gallery opened at the Seven Stories visitor centre. The Picturebook in Progress exhibition is one of the outcomes of a collaborative project between the Collections and Learning and Participation teams which has been running since July 2013.

The project has the aim of using the Seven Stories collection to inspire and empower the picturebook illustrators of the future by working closely with students from illustration courses across Britain.
Over the course of the project, students from Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, Edinburgh College of Art, Sunderland University, as well as sixth form students from St. Cuthbert’s Catholic High School, Newcastle have been introduced to the Seven Stories collection and allowed to explore its rich illustration holdings.

Students from St Cuthbert's Catholic High School in the Seven Stories archive

Each group has investigated material relating to the creative process of illustrators, seeing how plots and characters develop and how these ideas become the finished books we see on the shelves. Using correspondence between authors, illustrators and publishers from the Seven Stories Collection, the students have also seen how ideas can be shaped by the pressures of the professional world of illustration, a vital understanding to have for anyone serious about pursuing a career in children’s books.

Illustration and Design Students from Sunderland University, investigating Seven Stories artwork collections

The exhibition allows visitors to Seven Stories to go on the same journey as the participating students, following a picturebook from from the very first ideas, be they rough scribbles or short notes, through every stage of development until reaching the fantastic finished artwork submitted to publishers.
As well as showcasing many of the collection items that the students viewed, the exhibition also features five artworks created by students from Sunderland and St. Cuthbert’s in response to their visit to the archive.

The Picturebook in Progress exhibition is open until April 2014.

(David Wright, Learning Co-ordinator: Picturebook in Progress project)

Monday, 27 January 2014

Judy Brook's boat

Last week this wonderful item arrived at Seven Stories Collections department - the latest acquisition for our archive.

Judy Brook's boat in the archive

This wooden boat belonged to author and illustrator, Judy Brook. Judy began illustrating in the 1950s and in the 1960s began illustrating the TV Land comic strip 'Brock and Bruin'. She went on to write and illustrate a variety of children's books, many of which feature animals. Judy is probably best known for writing and illustrating the Tim Mouse series of books. 

Unpacking the boat

The boat has been donated to the Seven Stories Collection by Judy Brook's brother, James Brook, to add to our already extensive archive of Judy Brook artwork. James told us that Judy came across the boat in a junk shop whilst looking for inspiration for her fourth Tim Mouse book - Tim Mouse goes down the stream. In this book Tim and his friend Mr Brown set out to rescue their friend Willy Frog from a gang of fierce river rats.

After finding the boat Judy scrapped her previous ideas and chose the little wooden boat as the model for the rat gang's vessel. 

Early rough artwork featuring a very different boat

In the finished illustration every porthole and handrail has been faithfully reproduced. The model boat provides a great insight into the detailed research often needed to make picturebooks.

Finished artwork from Tim Mouse goes down the stream

Our BRAND NEW Storylab Gallery: Behind the Scenes

Seven Stories, as we all know, has seven floors! The sixth floor has been undergoing refurbishment for the past three weeks, and has now opened its doors to the public.

The floor now boasts a small dedicated gallery space - designed to host small scale exhibitions for 3-4 months - as well as the 'Storylab Studio', which is a new room to accommodate larger groups for all different kinds of booked workshops and training sessions. 

Here are a few images of the transformation of the room to the calming gallery space we now have. This new gallery will allow us to display our Collection - especially newly acquired archives - much more quickly, and also allow for external exhibitions to be brought in.

During the transformation the lighting tracks were altered to gallery style lighting, and the windows were blocked to protect the delicate artworks from harmful light levels. We also removed the original graphics, and added two new walls. We kept the two display cases that have been in here for some time, to continue to display 3D items.

Storylab BEFORE 
Storylab BEFORE

Storylab mid-transformation 
Storylab mid-transformation
Storylab mid-transformation
Storylab mid-transformation
Storylab mid-transformation



The current display is 'Picturebooks in Progress', which uses our Collection to show how a picturebook is created - from early ideas to final artwork.

This exhibition is one of the outcomes of a large scale learning project, funded by the Arts Council. For the past year, members of our Learning Team have been working with higher education and further education students around the country, using the Seven Stories Collection as inspiration for their illustration work. The material that was used to inspire them is now on display, alongside a film of the project. Find out more about the project in an upcoming blog post!

Find out more about the gallery here.

Alison (the Curator)

Monday, 20 January 2014

Touring Exhibitions from Seven Stories

Seven Stories have been touring exhibitions for many years, travelling all around England, Wales and Scotland, and this blog post is the first of many about our ventures.

Last week was a very busy one for our team, as we travelled to Leeds and Kilmarnock to take down two separate exhibitions - Through the Magic Mirror: The World of Anthony Browne and Daydreams and Diaries: the Story of Jacqueline Wilson.

The Dick Institute, Kilmarnock where Daydreams and Diaries was on display from September 2013 to January 2014
Leeds City Museum, where Through the Magic Mirror was on display from July 2013 to January 2014
When each exhibition arrives and leaves a venue, a member of our staff goes along with it. We make sure the original objects to be put on display are in perfect condition, and make sure the installation of all the graphics and props goes to plan. 

Once all objects are removed from the display cases, they are carefully laid out to be checked, before being packed away.
Two of Jacqueline Wilson's toy monkeys, which inspired a section of 'My Sister Jodie' being packed away for safe transport back to Newcastle.
Leeds was the final venue for the Browne exhibition, but in April, the Wilson exhibition will be travelling to London, to go on display at the V&A: Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green from April 2014.

Over the Summer, we also have our exhibition A Vikings Guide to Deadly Dragons heading to Wolverhampton Art Gallery, and in February, A Squash and a Squeeze: Sharing Stories with Julia Donaldson will be opening at Chatham Historic Dockyard. Head to the Seven Stories website for more details.

To find out more about where Seven Stories touring exhibitions are heading to next, click here

And if you are interested in booking an exhibition for your venue, please email alison.fisher@sevenstories.org.uk or sarah.mcglynn@sevenstories.org.uk.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Yasmeen Ismail at the Seven Stories archive

Just before Christmas author and illustrator Yasmeen Ismail paid a visit to the Seven Stories archive. If you’ve yet to have the joy of seeing Yasmeen’s work for yourself, you can see some pictures and find out more about her from her website: http://www.yasmeenismail.co.uk. Yasmeen’s first book was Time for Bed, Fred, published by Bloomsbury last year, and her next book If I had a Cat is due out in June this year. Yasmeen has very kindly donated artwork from both of these titles to the Seven Stories collection!

This is Yasmeen at the archive with some of her artwork


During her visit, Yasmeen had a look at some of our collections including illustrations by Edward Ardizzone for his book Tim and Charlotte and illustrations by Helen Craig for Angelina Ballerina. She also talked to us about her own process and technique. Yasmeen specialises in watercolours and collage and her colourful, energetic style (inspired by her background in animation) is very distinct. She uses a computer to bring her drawings together, taking elements of various scanned drawings and sketches and compiling them into a final image – making her process quite a bit different from a lot of other illustrators in our collection. Amongst Yasmeen’s material are whole pages of drawings of books, clothes and ‘Freds’, only one or two of which have made it into a final image.

Yasmeen’s artwork will be catalogued and available to view soon and will no doubt be featuring in Seven Stories events in the near future.

Monday, 6 January 2014

About the Seven Stories collection…

What does Seven Stories collect?

Seven Stories is the National Centre for Children’s Books. We collect material relating to the history of children’s books in Britain from 1930 right through to the present day. Our collection includes original artwork and manuscripts by over 100 authors and illustrators, including Philip Pullman, Robert Westall, Enid Blyton, Edward Ardizzone and Judith Kerr. Our aim is to collect material that shows the whole process behind the making of children’s books, from drafts and dummy books to finished artwork and final typescripts. We also collect material that relates to the wider children’s book industry, showing the role editors and publishers play in making children’s books.

As well as our hugely significant archive we have an extensive library of printed books charting the history of British children’s literature. Our library holds many rare and important titles and is a valuable resource for researchers and children’s literature enthusiasts.

Through our efforts to preserve the nation’s children’s book heritage we have built up a significant collection of books and archives containing many unique, historically valuable and wonderful items.

Our Visitor Centre in Ouseburn, Newcastle upon Tyne - home to our exhibitions (but not our collections!)

What do we do with our collections?

We use our collections in all sorts of ways! At our visitor centre in Newcastle upon Tyne our curators put on inspiring and imaginative exhibitions featuring original material by some of Britain’s best loved and most significant children’s authors and illustrators. Many of these exhibitions then go on tour to other venues across the country. You can find details of all of our current events and exhibitions on our website: www.sevenstories.org.uk.

As part of our aim to encourage a love of reading we regularly draw upon our collections in our outreach work with schools and communities. We believe that everyone should have the right to learn from and be inspired by our collections.

As custodians of the only collection in the world dedicated to telling the story of British children’s literature from the 1930s to present, we make our collections fully available to researchers with a variety of interests. Our collections are regularly used by children’s literature specialists, art students, writers, illustrators and many others. Anyone with a research interest, or simply a passion for children’s books, is welcome to come and view the material we hold at our collections department in Gateshead.

A small selection form our extensive library of children's books and related literature

How can I find out more about the Seven Stories collection?

If you’d like to see what we hold in our collection and find out more about some of the highlights, then have a look at our collections web pages: http://www.sevenstories.org.uk/collection. You can search our archive using the online catalogue or via the list of authors and illustrators. If there’s a book you’re looking for that you think we might have in our library then send an enquiry to collections@sevenstories.org.uk.

Students looking at the Collection

How can I view the collection?

You can find out about exhibitions featuring material from our collections at our visitor centre and around the country, via our website: www.sevenstories.org.uk.

If you have a particular research interest and would like to arrange a visit to our collections department then visit our collection web pages to find out more: http://www.sevenstories.org.uk/collection, or email collections@sevenstories.org.uk.