The story of Mr Coconut started a number of years ago, when I was on holiday with my children: it was raining, we had no books with us, and they said they wanted a story. I said I’d tell them one but they had to come up with the subject, to which Eliot said, ‘it’s about a coconut’.
The story went down well, but when we came home I forgot about it. I’d written other stories, for adults and children, but I didn’t really think Mr Coconut was going to be one I wanted to publish. And then the studio in which Catherine and I work opened to the public as part of Brighton’s Artists’ Open Houses, and whist everyone around me had illustrations and photographs and such like to exhibit, I had nothing. So I made the Mr Coconut story into a story trail that you could follow round the studio (this was a couple of years ago which is why it looks somewhat fallen down in the photos).
And then Catherine and I talked about making Mr Coconut into a book. Catherine has published a few illustrated books before and she thought she might illustrate them in a similar style, using a combination of illustrations and textiles.
We had a vague idea that when we’d completed it we might send it out to publishers, or maybe just print a few copies for ourselves. Catherine made a puppet Mr Coconut to get an idea of his character, and sketched up a few pages of what the book might look like.
Then Catherine was called away to do a full-time job for a few months, and the book went quiet for a while. But in the meantime I discovered Kickstarter, and the idea of showing your progress to encourage people to finance the production of the work. And it seemed like the right kind of way to publish Mr Coconut: my paid work is in designing books anyway, and we had already made one book before between us for a project of Catherine’s when she was running school workshops. We even had a (shoddy-looking) publisher name of our own.
But we found that all Kickstarter projects are demonstrated to their audience with a video. And we had no idea how to make a video of Mr Coconut, this felt like making a film of a book which we had not yet made. But we began to come up with lots of ideas for a little animated film of Mr Coconut, where he describes what we wanted to do with the project. And the puppet Mr Coconut became the star of the video. I began to learn how to edit and Catherine came up with all these ideas for the backgrounds, making them out of material.
And through making the video the style of the illustration came together, a combination of puppetry, material props, photography and Photoshop editing. Without us ever intending it to, it seemed obvious that the illustrations in the book should be made in the same way as the scenery for the video.
So that is where we are up to: making the Kickstarter video in preparation for making all the other illustrations for the book.