Mandy Sutcliffe has been illustrating children for over 20 years and has worked with clients such as Disney, John Lewis & Walker Books. In 2007 Mandy, along with good friend Kate, created the International Children’s Brand ‘Belle & Boo’. A few years ago, Mandy took a step back from Belle & Boo to concentrate on larger limited edition and original artworks of children and was happily getting on with this when lockdown happened.
The first lockdown presented the perfect opportunity to start a project that had been whispering to Mandy for a while – An idea that had sprung from her love of paper dolls, the dress up and cut out kind, you may remember from when you were a child and from this Mandy’s Paperchain of children from around the globe, all holding hands was born.
Scroll down to read an interview with Mandy Sutcliffe and view some of the illustrations of children that are part of the Paper Chain.
When did your love of drawing begin?
I have always loved drawing, my father is an incredible draftsman, so through him, I learnt the main principles of drawing and most importantly I learnt to draw for fun. It has always been a hobby for him, I am incredibly lucky that it is my career yet it feels like a hobby.
My love of drawing children began during an art college exchange to Paris. I would sit for hours in the Parisian parks sketching the elegant children, with their large hair bows, knee-length socks, smock tops and Mary Janes. Then on my way home I would visit the art galleries (which luckily as a student were free) and study how the masters did it, Degas, Bonnard, Vuillard It was a wonderful opportunity that I am forever grateful for.
What made you want to become an artist/illustrator?
To be perfectly honest I wasn’t particularly good at anything else! but more importantly, I didn’t ever want to do anything else. I always just seemed to be on this path & I feel incredibly lucky every day that it’s worked out for me.
What are your main sources of inspiration?
I had an appreciation of ‘good’ illustration from a very young age, I remember one of the first things I bought with my pocket money was a copy of ‘The Water Babies’ beautifully illustrated by Mabel Lucie Atwell. The books I loved as a child are still my main source of inspiration, my ‘Milly-Molly-Mandy’ & ‘Winnie The Pooh’ books are extremely well-thumbed!
Instagram has also become a great source of inspiration, I follow many accounts of incredibly well-dressed children from around the world, that I can only hope to be half as stylish as!
Most will know of you via the International Children’s Brand ‘Belle & Boo’ which you set up with your good friend Kate. What made you decide to take a step back from Belle & Boo?
I recently stepped back from my company Belle & Boo to have the creative freedom and the time to work on personal art projects. Larger scale artworks, limited editions and original pieces like the Paper Chain Project.
Belle & Boo was my baby before I had my babies (twin boys 9 years ago now) It was amazing at the time, allowing me to be a hands-on mum and a creative business owner and I got to work with my best friend Kate every day. Kate continues to run the business and I illustrate for the brand when needed.
Can you tell us a little more about the Paper Chain project and how and why you decided to start it? How can children be added?
The Paper Chain Project is something that had been whispering to me for a while. I have always loved paper dolls, the dress up and cut out kind and I knew I wanted to create a paper chain of children from around the globe, promoting friendship, inclusion and kindness. However, I constantly put off starting it, as I knew once it was underway it would be a huge commitment.
Then Covid hit and we went into the first lockdown here in the UK. Suddenly I was homeschooling full time & I didn’t have the time or headspace to continue working on my current art pieces.
My boys were really missing their friends, which got me thinking once again about the idea of a paper chain, it seemed a lovely way of connecting children separated by the pandemic. I decided if I got up early and drew a child a day, I would be doing something positive, mentally and creatively. I’d read somewhere that the simple act of holding hands triggers a chemical reaction in our mind that make us feel loved, happy and secure, so, it seemed the perfect symbol in this scary, unknown time when we can’t hold hands with everyone we love.
I started with my boys and added their friends and younger family members, then I offered it out to the Instagram community, as an (almost) weekly competition to have your child/ren added.
Nearly a year on, I am still going!
To enter all you have to do is follow, my Instagram account, like my post and leave a comment, it’s as simple as that. I use a random computer name generator to pick the winner usually on a Sunday at 5 pm.
How many children are part of the Paper chain to date?
From drawing a few children each week, I now have nearly 280 children holding hands and I have met (virtually) so many wonderful parents & children from around the world.
I love the fact that I finally started the paper chain because I didn’t have the headspace to work on large art pieces and now a year on, I have a huge piece of original art!
I am hoping to have at least 300 children by May 18th, 2021, which will be a year to the day that I started the project.
Alongside each drawing, you add the child’s name, age, location and a quote. What is your favourite quote from a child so far?
I enjoy reading the quotes so much. To begin with, I asked the children how they were feeling during the 1st lockdown, then as we came out of lockdown in the UK, I asked what they thought about Kindness & then friendship.
Currently, the quotes are about the pandemic again, there are some very truthful, sad and funny observations.
They are often about missing friends and family, especially grandparents, yet also about how much they are enjoying spending more time at home with their immediate family.
This quote from Ivy sums it up perfectly,
Ivy, aged 11, Bristol UK “The thing that I like about life right now is that I get to spend more time with my family, the thing that I hate is that I miss all the other people I love, it’s complicated…”
I have lots of favourites but a few that stand out are
Heide, aged 5, Wilmslow UK “I had a baby sister, but I can’t go to funfairs”
Madeleine, age 6, Leyland, Lancashire, the UK “I miss my family but like seeing the bunnies on the field every day!”
Rose, age 4, Derry, N Ireland “I like going to the beach. I can’t wait to hug my friends and go to the ice-cream shop when the bug is over.”
Aidan (usually known as ‘Aidie Babe’), aged 2, Lancaster UK, when asked his opinion he replied ‘I want to dance on the table’ don’t we all Aidie Babe, don’t we all!
Ella, aged 2.5, Calgary, Canada, here is a quote from her mum “I didn’t get very far with Ella. I asked her about lockdown and coronavirus, and she replied, “OK I want it”!!! ………….How wonderful it would be to just have no idea, right!?!”
What do you hope to achieve from the paper chain of your drawings of children?
Oh, many things both big and small! On a personal level drawing the chain is keeping me sane, it is a daily space of calm and meditation, where I can block out the craziness that is going on all around. I also know it is bringing joy to others that are following its journey. I am lucky enough to receive incredibly heart-warming messages, from parents that say it helps their children feel less alone, to adults that say it brings moments of sunshine to their days.
From a career perspective, my ambition is to have the artwork exhibited as one long Paper Chain around the walls of a gallery or museum, I think it would look beautiful and be of interest to children and adults alike. My dream venue would be the V&A’s Museum of childhood, one of my absolute favourite places in the world, it’s one of the things I miss most about living in London.
Do you have any recommendations of where our followers (adults or children) can obtain any information about classes, books or videos they can watch if they want to explore the art of drawing and illustrating?
I always think look local we have a wonderful art teacher that runs (when we are not in a pandemic!) an amazing after school art club. She is so passionate and enthusiastic and has endless creative ideas, the children all love it.
My boys and I also often copy illustrations from our favourite picture books, which lets us try out different techniques and styles, my best advice would just be to draw, draw, draw.
During my foundation art year, I drew anything, often the same thing, every day, I filled a large suitcase with sketchbooks, which I then took to my interview for my degree course. It was a good ice breaker when the tutors asked if I planned to stay and start the course immediately!
What are your favourite cultural magazines/publications? How about podcasts?
As a household, we have a couple of magazine subscriptions Juxtapose, Little White Lies and The Phoenix comic.
I constantly listen to the radio or Podcasts whilst I am working, a huge perk of the job. Midweek I always listen to LBC’s James O’Brien and then podcasts I regularly listen to are an eclectic mix, ‘This American Life’, Fern Cottons ‘Happy Place’, ‘Swindled’ and Grounded by Louis Theroux are all firm favourites.
Who are your style icons, both past and present?
So, for me my style icons are the children depicted by artists such as Jessie Wilcox Smith, Cicely Mary Barker & Muriel Dawson, it’s all about knee-length socks, buckled shoes, pixie caps, double-breasted coats etc, etc.
I am pretty obsessed at the moment with a children’s brand I recently discovered called Apolina. I could draw children dressed in their outfits all day every day. Through my project, I am also discovering incredible independent designers, 2 I love at the moment are @patternlovesprint & @jabellafleur, they have the BEST dressed kids!
What is currently on repeat in your home tv/film/music wise?
What haven’t I watched in the last year?!? Luckily, I am a late convert to ‘Schitts Creek’ so I currently have another 4 series to watch, happy days!
Music-wise My partner @ruffmercy directs and animates many music videos so I am always listening to his latest find!
What motivational or inspirational quote inspires you most?
So, so many, I love an inspirational quote! Whenever I read ‘Oh the places you’ll go by Dr Seuss with my boys, I always feel inspired, especially at the moment as we can’t go anywhere!
‘You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose”
Also, I thought it only fitting to mention ‘The Paper Dolls’ by Julia Donaldson illustrated by Rebecca Cobb. These simple lines get me every time,
‘And the girl grew,
Into a mother,
Who helped her daughter to make some paper dolls’
It always makes me think of when I was a little girl, making the sailor paper dolls from Milly-Molly-Mandy with my lovely mum.
To find out more about the paper chain project or to be part of the project head over to Instagram and follow Mandy Sutcliffe HERE
Mandy Sutcliffe is also offering one lucky follower the chance to be part of the chain. Hop over to the Junior Style Instagram to find out how your child to be part of Mandy Sutcliffe’s Paperchain.
If you enjoyed reading the interview with Mandy Sutcliffe you can view more Chit Chat Tuesday Interviews on the blog HERE.
Thank you to Evangeline @bambina_lina, Haru, Hana & Hina @harukun_08, Doe & Twitch @thewoodlandwife, Remi @bellamartinelli, Wilf & Mabli @tigerlilyquinn, Zora & Dalia @beforeandagain, Rose & Madeleine @nos.vies.en.rose, Elfie, Ned, Mabel, Iris, Violet & Robin @victoriaropercurzon, Ollie & Ella @sunshine.sparrows, Sully, Silas & Scout @hello.scout, Evie & Orla @Emilyrickardstylist, @miokimiokimiamor, Silvie Blossom @silvieblossom for letting us share your images.
Photography supplied by Mandy Sutcliffe – All rights reserved.
All posts copyright Junior Style Sales Ltd.
Please do not reproduce without permission.