My Mom

39Vlasta van Kampen Hippo.jpgPurple Flip Flops – Vlasta van Kampen, Hip Hippos, 2008

After my last blog entry I have had many inquiries regarding my craft focused family. I have decided to start off my response by writing a bit about my mom. My mom was a devoted crafter, more so when I was a kid than of late, so I am trying to help rekindle her passion for

making wonderful things. Her and my grandmother were the one's who inspired me as child to use my hands to make things. My mom made everything; all the ornaments on the Christmas tree, all my clothes as a child. For my birthday parties we always had a big craft table and made stuff. She would sew. She would knit. She would embroider. She did just about anything that involved makin' stuff by hand. One thing she still does is paint.

My mom is fortunate enough to have turned her passion into a career. When people hear that my mom is a children's book illustrator their eyes glaze over and they respond by asking, with quiet awe in their voice, that they too have a children's book idea and could I possibly put them in touch with her so that they might discuss their ideas with her?

What is it about making children's books that fascinates so many people? Why does everyone want to be a part of this ridiculously unlucrative field?

Meeting my mom only helps to reinforce this romantic notion of a notoriously competitive and fickle industry. I actually think that my mom's body produces far too much serotonin for one person. How else can one person dream up so many incredible characters, like her cymbal crashing monkey in Orchestranimals or her potion mixing lady bug in Beetle Bedlam. She has illustrated 35 children's books and counting...

43vlasta books.jpg

Her work is extremely detailed. She uses her watercolours in a uniquely bold way to create bright colours and sharp, graphic edges that speak to a child's sensibilities. You can tell by her work that she was formally trained as a graphic designer

Being a graphic designer myself, I was lucky enough to have the, possibly explosive, opportunity of working with my mom. I hired her to do the illustrations on the First Day Covers of 2 postage stamp commissions that I was designing. The stamps were in commemoration of the anniversaries of Jasper and Terra Nova National Parks (links at the end of this blog). This was a reminder for a lot of people that my mom started her career as a commercial artist. She worked as an in-house illustrator (does that even exist anymore?) and then did the same commercial work as a freelance illustrator while she raised us kids. It wasn't until 1982 that she produced her first children's book.

Inspite of all the accolades she receives for her bright, beautiful watercolour, my favourite book of hers will always be this first book of hers. Simple, graphic, black and white, pen and ink drawings, ABC/123: The Canadian Alphabet and Counting Book teaches us our alphabet and numbers using a cast of zany Canadian animals.

HORROR of HORRORS! When reaching for my collection of "mom books" I was unable to find ABC/123 to share with my beloved readers. I must go on a book finding rampage and when it is uncovered I will upload some of these amazing illustrations for you to see.

My mom will probably never retire. She may work a bit slower now that her hands are starting to twist with arthritis but I know that she has been working on a few new manuscripts that sound intreguing. I will continue to encourage her to pick up her crafting again - wish me luck. Maybe helping me sew a few sock monkeys will get her back into makin' stuff.

You can see much more of my mom's illustrations at:

See the stamp issues that my mom and I worked on at: