Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion

Amelia Gregory: editor of Amelia’s Magazine, publisher of a new colouring-in book featuring 40 artists from around the globe and single mum to a three-year-old and three-month-old talks family, crowdfunding and creativity

I live in a little house in an estate just off Brick Lane in east London. I’ve been here for over 15 years and have seen the area change immensely during that time. I have two children – my three-and-a-half-year-old is affectionately known as Snarf and I have a three-month-old baby girl called Carys.

I don’t have any spare time at all. Carys is with me the whole time, so she is pretty used to me staring at a screen and I chat to her all the time – right now she’s lying on a sheepskin rug playing with a rattle. Thankfully she is a much easier and less demanding baby than her brother.

Snarf is at Forest School for eight hours a week – at Into the Woods in Highgate and FRUK in Clapton – but both are a long way from where we live so I have to work in cafés with Carys on my lap, which is getting much harder to do now she is getting bigger.

I work in the morning when Snarf’s watching CBeebies, and in the evening when they are both in bed. I have very little day-to-day help because I’ve split up with their father and he no longer lives with us.

Close family members have not been happy about the break-up and I don’t have any childcare help at present. I basically haven’t been out at night for nearly four years, but I figure I went out enough to last a lifetime when I was younger, so I’m fine with it… for now.

I’m a bit jaded when it comes to offers of help but what I’d ideally love to see is some kind of working mums’ network whereby there is a place you can go on an ad hoc basis and know that your kids will be entertained whilst you get on with work.

My house is in a state of abject chaos – I aspire to do some serious tidying and sorting in the new year

On a bad day, either one or both of the kids wakes me up at 5am, it will be 7am if I’m lucky. We co-sleep in my double bed and I tandem feed so I’m either woken by my youngest having a poo or by my eldest going “I want booby…” and it’s a bit of a juggling act as to who gets dealt with first.

I have always done breakfast, the nursery run, dinner, bath and bed on my own so things haven’t really changed very much in that department, it’s just that I have two now. Since Snarf is only at Forest School two days a week we do varied things on other days, but I try to get out of the house in the morning otherwise he starts climbing up the walls.

We go to a home education group in Hackney one day and meet up with friends for various adventures on the other days and are usually back by mid afternoon. It’s taken a bit of adjusting to figure out how to manage both the children at bedtime but I can usually get Carys down to sleep whilst Snarf is in the bath.

Thankfully she happily goes to sleep on her own – Snarf still likes to snuggle on the boob so that’s a chance for us to have a nice bit of downtime at the end of the day. Carys is far more independent already; must take after her mum!

I either eat with Snarf or have something small a bit later once he’s in bed at about 8pm, then I work for a few hours, gobble chocolate, and try to fit in a bit of colouring before bed if my eyes are not too knackered (I had an operation on them to correct short sightedness many years ago and don’t do too well at night).

I try to be in bed by 10 or 11pm but don’t always manage it. Of course something has to give, and my house is in a state of abject chaos – I aspire to do some serious tidying and sorting in the new year.

By Jenn Leem Bruggen
By Jenn Leem Bruggen for Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion

Amelia’s Magazine began life as a printed magazine in 2004. I produced ten issues biannually before stopping to concentrate on running the website and producing illustration books. I cover art, fashion, music, illustration, photography and anything else that catches my eye. I champion the smaller independent brands.

I’ve been fascinated by the adult colouring phenomenon for some time and knew I wanted to do a collaborative book myself so despite being pregnant I decided to create Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion in time for Christmas, in order to catch the trend as it goes mainstream. I started the process of making it when heavily pregnant and am now producing the book with a tiny baby in tow.

The book is aimed at adults so the imagery and themes are mostly quite complex, but that’s not to say that an older child might not enjoy it. In many ways, kids’ activities are there to initiate them into the world of adult creativity so they are not so different to things that we do as adults.

In fact, I think that adults could do with more free play. I went to a camp a few weeks ago where the adults held a mass game of sock wrestling that was mega fun. And we often play ‘Night Games’ on camp that are huge fun for big people and little ones alike. We should tell each other stories more often, and sing around camp fires.

By Becky Dinnage
By Becky Dinnage for Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion

But with the book, I just want everyone to know how great colouring is. Until quite recently I thought it would be a fun project but I didn’t really think that colouring-in as an activity would be for me – I studied textile design and I like to knit and crochet when I get a spare moment (haha).

However, I decided to do some colouring myself as research and to sample the pages in my book, and now I’m hooked. It really does zone you out… and hours can pass (it can be dangerous if you have things to do) before you realise how absorbed you are in the process.

I also think that although many people pooh-pooh it as uncreative there are many creative choices to be made when you colour a page, such as what medium and colours to use (there are a surprising amount of coloured pencil types to choose from, let alone types of marker and pen).

I ran an open brief for Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion on my website and had over 100 submissions of artwork. From these I chose my favourite ones that I felt would work well as colouring pages, and to showcase a good variety of themes and styles.

I think that colouring is particularly suitable for busy mothers – it can be done when the kids are around (or even with the kids) and offers real relaxation when they are not

Crowdfunding is really my only option for projects like this. I don’t have the money to produce them otherwise. A successful crowdfunded campaign ensures that I don’t lose money, because the money is there upfront.

My books are all produced in this country, which is very expensive to do. I do so for ethical reasons and to keep a tight control over production quality but it makes it very hard to compete with big commercial publishers that outsource production to China.

I did originally hope that a big publisher might take on the production and distribution of this book to take some weight off my shoulders, but that didn’t happen for a variety of reasons. Big publishers work to much longer lead times and I like to turn around my books immediately, plus there is so much competition for colouring books that I don’t think the publishers I approached were prepared to take a gamble on my idea.

I am still hopeful that I can publish a similar version of Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion with a big publisher in 2016 because I feel it’s different enough: each artist has been given a double page, with a full colour page on the left, and a complementary black line image on the right to colour in – offering inspiration to the colourist and a great showcase for artists.

I think that colouring is particularly suitable for busy mothers – it can be done when the kids are around (or even with the kids) and offers real relaxation when they are not.

You can help lift Amelia’s colouring-in book project off the ground by pledging here

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