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An interview with Millie Marotta

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'Wild Savannah': Millie Marotta's brand new colouring book

‘Wild Savannah’: Millie Marotta’s brand new colouring book

PIONEER for the adult colouring book craze Millie Marotta spoke with The Herald last week (Feb 17), a few days after she released her latest collection, ‘Wild Savannah’.

Millie Marotta is the UK’s best-selling non-fiction author of 2015, the NY Times Bestselling author and her book, ‘Animal Kingdom’, spent a record 20 weeks as the official paperback non-fiction number one on Amazon.

On February 11, the Pembrokeshire-based artist released her third book, ‘Wild Savannah’, which offers beautiful and intricate illustrations of the Savannah grass lands. The colouring book is already being flagged as one of the biggest releases of 2016.

Speaking with Millie last week, she said that she has adored art for as long as she can remember and that she has always gravitated towards creative activities.

After studying Art and Design in school, she went on to do a degree in Wildlife Illustration and then became a teacher at Bush School, where she taught for a number of years.

In 2008, when the economy was taking a down turn, Millie decided to take the plunge and leave her stable, well paid job to become a freelance illustrator.

“I was really scared,” she told us, “People were like, ‘Oh my gosh, are you a bit mad?’ but I felt like it was the right time.

“I always carried on with my own projects outside of my job and my desire grew and grew. Teaching over time and nurturing other people’s creativity made me miss being more creative myself.

“My plan was to do freelance illustration and I had to make it work. I was deadly serious about it – I made sure it was going to work. It was really scary and it was a bold move, but it worked out.”

Millie Marotta-95

Millie Marotta: “Colouring is an easy way to be creative.”

We asked Millie whether she planned to create colouring books from the beginning, or if her art style paved the way for her.

Before creating her colouring books, Millie worked on a variety of different projects; textiles, food packaging, book illustrations, editorial… The list goes on.

Millie told us that her publisher’s had seen her work a year before they got in contact with her. The publisher’s had bought a screen print of the artist’s work to give to a colleague who was leaving their office.

A year later, they contacted Millie proposing the idea for an adult colouring book because her style of art seemed perfect for the craze.

“We met for a chat first of all and it seemed like a great idea – it made sense. I took in some drawings, which I thought would be good for the book and we had similar ideas.

“It all happened so quickly. I came away from the meeting and started drawing for my first colouring book the next day.”

We asked Millie whether she plans her books before starting. She replied: “I plan quite meticulously; I don’t make it up on the spot.

“My books are planned really well so that there is plenty of diversity. There are lots of different types of drawings; when you’re drawing in excess of 80 pieces, it’s important to think abou it carefully so that the whole book is beautiful and engaging.”

Millie told us that she is not one to wander around and she works best when she is in her studio. As her work is so meticulous and accurate, the artist likes to work at home in her usual, relaxed environment, at a desk surrounded by materials she loves to work with.

She draws every day, whether she is planning pieces as little thumbnails or creating a very accurate and precise final piece. Drawing is the largest portion of Millie’s day.

All of Millie’s work is nature based, and the natural world is what inspires her. She said: “I’ve always been fascinated by the natural world, it’s an inherent thing and it seems obvious for me to focus on it. I don’t have to think about it.”

Fellow artists who create nature-based pieces are the people who inspire Millie most. The artist loves Charlie Harper’s flat, clean stylised graphics and the intricate and scientific work of Ernst Haeckel. Millie went on to talk about Pembrokeshire artist John Knapp Fisher, whose monochrome style has always been an inspiration to her.

“Why do you think adult colouring books have become so popular?” we asked.

“Overall, it’s down to the fact that we all lead such busy lives. We cram so much into a day and there comes a time when we need to shut out the outside world.

“People need a simple and accessible way to be calm – to concentrate one thing instead of 100.

“Colouring is something we’ve all done as children, so it isn’t a new hobby, it’s inherent in all of us. There’s an element of nostalgia and familiarity.

“We kind of leave colouring behind – as children we love to be creative, but life takes over and we don’t allow ourselves time to engage in creative activities. Colouring is an easy way to be creative.”

We asked Millie what advise she would give to anyone thinking of pursuing a career in art. She told us that the most important thing is to take time to develop your own style.

“The illustration world is a busy market and it’s easy to look at other people and try to work like them.

“It’s important to do what comes naturally to you because your work is then honest and genuine. This makes you stand out and you will produce better work.”

Millie is already working on book number four, which will be released later this year, and is about to release a homeware range, which she tells us is “new and exciting” for her.

The artist is incredibly busy, but she’s happy to be – she tells us she would be doing this much even if she did not have deadlines to meet.

Millie has also recently become a patron for the Born Free Foundation, a charity whose aim is to keep wildlife in the wild. Funding for the charity goes towards stopping the suffering of wild animals and protecting threatened species in the wild.

By selling a limited edition print of the lion piece in Millie’s new ‘Wild Savannah’ book, the artist will help to raise money for the charity, and raise awareness while doing so. The print will be sold exclusively on the Born Free Foundation’s website.

Millie told us that she cannot wait to do more work with the charity in the future.

You can now buy Millie’s latest book, ‘Wild Savannah’ in most good book stores and online, and we at The Herald suggest you do that right away.

 

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Community

Environmental projects supported by Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund

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PROJECTS involving worm composting, community planting and solar panels were just some of the projects that recently received support from the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority’s Sustainable Development Fund.

More than £140,000 was awarded to eight projects at the committee’s January meeting with the next deadline for applications set for 12 noon on 23 March.

Clynfyw Care Farm was successful with an application for a vermicomposting project, which will create a quality rich sustainable compost that can be used to improve soil conditions organically. This will support local vegetable producers and sequestrate carbon in the process.

The Newport Area Environment Group will receive funding to lead a community planting project promoting decarbonisation through biodiversity.

Cwm Arian Renewable Energy secured financial support to research a Pembrokeshire-wide Energy Efficiency program, with the aim of reducing energy use and tackling fuel poverty by increasing and normalising the uptake of low carbon life choices.

Funding for photovoltaic (PV) panels was agreed for projects submitted by Herbrandston Sports and Recreation Association, South Ridgeway Community Association, Neuadd Gymuned Bwlchygroes Community Hall, Ramsey Island Nature resort and Visitor Centre, and Crymych Rugby club, who all received funding to help harness solar energy.

Directors from Clynfyw Care Farm said: “Thanks to funding from SDF, this worm composting project will be a useful tool for engaging with people, reducing CO2 and teaching a simple sustainable process with important stages in a safe, supported environment. Once established, vermicompost will be available for purchase in local outlets, providing an environmentally-friendly alternative for local growers.”

Applications for funding are encouraged from not for profit groups, including village halls, community councils and environmental groups in the county who have a project that will contribute towards a reduction in carbon and help respond to the climate emergency.

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Did the world’s first airplane fly in Pembrokeshire?

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WHEN asked who was the first to fly an airplane, you’d probably say Wilbur and Orville Wright, more commonly referred to as the Wright brothers. However, you’ve probably never heard of Bill Frost, a Welshman who many say was the “first man to fly.”

Born in Saundersfoot on May 28th, 1848, Bill Frost was a carpenter on the Heyn Castle Estate.

Clearly, as a handyman, he was in the perfect position to build a plane, and this obsession, if the tale is to be believed, was strengthened in the winter of 1876. Legend says that Frost was carrying a large plank of wood on a windy day when a large gust of wind picked him up, carried him several feet, until he returned to the ground with a rather rough landing.

What followed was, shall we say, some rather odd behaviour.

Locals reported seeing Frost running around fields, with a large sheet of zinc above his head, presumably trying to get another gust of wind to lift him up. Although he was testing the limits of aerodynamic designs in all likelihood, he was of course branded rather bizarre locally.

Many locals also attributed this behaviour to grief, as his wife and daughter had recently died. A religious man and deacon of his local chapel, one could understand locals believing he was maybe trying to get to Heaven.

In 1894, things started to get serious for Frost, who applied for a patent for a flying machine on October 25th. To describe the patent would be to describe an amalgamation between a plane and a glider, with two reversible fans which would, he hoped, lift him into the air for a successful flight.

Bill Frost with his wife, Annie, in 1896 . Bill lived until 1935.

Then, the patent said, wings would be spread via a lever and another lever would control whether the aircraft was moving up or downwards.

With his practical knowledge and his interesting research methods, Frost began work on building the aircraft.

He did so in the workshop of his house on St Bride’s Hill, an impressive feat when you consider it was over 30 feet long.

Reports state that the aircraft was built out of bamboo, canvas and wire, with bags and pouches filled with hydrogen to help it stay afloat.

The patent, in full, reads: “The flying machine is constructed with an upper and lower chamber of wire work, covered with light waterproof material. Each chamber formed sharp at both ends with parallel sides. The upper large chamber to contain sufficient gas to lift the machine. In the centre of upper chamber a cylinder is fixed in which a horizontal fan is driven by means of a shaft and bevelled gearing worked from the lower chamber. When the machine has been risen to a sufficient height, then the fan is stopped and the upper chamber, which has wings attached, is tilted forward causing the machine to move as a bird, onward and downward. When low enough it is again tilted in an opposite direction which causes it to soar onward and upward, when it is again assisted if necessary by the fan. The steering is done by a rudder at both ends.”

A book has been written about the subject

So, why are the Wright brothers considered the first men to fly?

Well, for starters, there’s no photographs of Frost’s flight, nor any written testimonials. However Frost himself, as well as several locals in the area, claimed that on September 24th, 1896, Frost flew for approximately 500 yards.

This, if true, would have been a considerably longer flight than the Wright brothers achieved.

The end of the flight was not so successful, however, as the bottom of the craft hit a tree and crashed into a nearby field.

Not deterred by this, Frost repaired the machine, however it was then destroyed in a storm some weeks later, and Frost could not afford to build a new one from scratch.

His patent expired four years later.

Without a craft for another flight, and with no photographic evidence, his claim to be the first man to fly, unfortunately, can not be verified.

In 1935 Frost died aged 90 years old. Although he held no grudge against the Wright brothers, he did state that the government had turned down his application for funding following his first attempt, which scuppered the hope of any future flights after his craft was destroyed.

The reason for this? The government claimed that aircraft would never be used for navigation or warfare; a statement that looked very foolish as World War I began to play out.


HTV footage from the 1990’s on the Bill Frost story (Youtube)
 

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Library reservations service expanded

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PEMBROKESHIRE’S Library Service has extended its reservation service.

Customers can place up to two reservations for books and audiobooks, which are available and in stock at libraries in Fishguard, Haverfordwest, Milford Haven, Narberth, Newport, Neyland, Pembroke, Pembroke Dock, Saundersfoot and Tenby.

Items are also available to reserve from the service’s Stack (store).

Library members can place reservations free of charge, in person or via the online catalogue.

To access the online catalogue, log on to https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/libraries-and-culture and select ‘Find Library Books’.

Customers can also place a request for an item not currently in stock, to be purchased as one of their two reservations.

The Library Service is not offering an Interlibrary Loan service at the present time.

For details on the library services currently offered in Pembrokeshire, please view https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/libraries-and-culture

 

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