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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

Bluestone Foundation makes waves in west Wales communities

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THE BLUESTONE FOUNDATION, the charitable arm of Bluestone National Park Resort, is continuing to make a positive impact on the people and communities of West Wales through its latest round of events and funding totalling £17,500

The Foundation has recently completed a successful round of grant allocations through its Community Fund and is gearing up for its next fundraising event in August at the Blue Lagoon Water Park. It has supported local groups with more than £250,000 since it was launched in 2010.

The Bluestone Foundation offers two avenues of support: the Community Events and the Community Fund. The Community Events at the Blue Lagoon raise funds and awareness for local charities.

This year, the Foundation has already hosted events for Get the Boys a Lift and VC Gallery, with upcoming events supporting Paul Sartori and Team Cruising Free in August and Sammy Sized Gap in October.

Each event is hosted by a local charitable organisation and local residents will be able to buy tickets. All of the proceeds are directed into the community, with 75% of funds going to a local charitable organisation and 25% through the Bluestone Foundation.

Each event will mean up to 600 local community members can enjoy our water park’s facilities while raising money directly for local good causes. On Tuesday 27th August, Paul Sartori Hospice at Home and Team Cruising Free will benefit from the fundraising created through ticket sales.

“We are thrilled to see the positive impact our Community Events have on local organisations,” said Marten Lewis at the Bluestone Foundation. “The Blue Lagoon provides a unique and enjoyable setting for fundraising, and we are grateful for the community’s support.”

The Community Fund, which runs in three rounds this year, provides financial assistance to projects focused on economic, social, and environmental initiatives. The Foundation recently allocated approximately £7,500 to three projects in its first round of funding and is currently reviewing applications for its second round which closes in July. A third round of funding will close on 17 October.

Among those to have benefited in the first round are the South Ridgeway Community Association in Manorbier to help develop a community garden and allotments; The Tenby Project, to support weekly sessions with a trained nutritionist on healthy eating for adults with learning difficulties; and Transition Bro Gwaun in Fishguard, to host community energy engagement events.

The Foundation is inviting the community to join them at their next Blue Lagoon event on August 27th, where they will be raising funds for Cruising Free and Paul Sartori. Tickets can be purchased at  Blue Lagoon event in support of Team Cruising Free Tickets, Tue 27 Aug 2024 at 18:30 | Eventbrite

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Community

‘No second homes’ call for Saundersfoot estate plans

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A SCHEME by one of the UK’s largest housebuilders to site 72 homes, 25 of them affordable, on the outskirts of a Pembrokeshire village is not expected to have a no second homes condition, despite a plea by the local community council.

Back in 2022, Persimmon Homes applied to Pembrokeshire Coast National Park for the scheme on a 2.26 hectare area of land adjoining the northernmost houses of a long-established Sandyhill Park residential estate, Saundersfoot.

The official application, including 47 open market dwellings, proposes a variety of detached, semi-detached, terraced and apartment properties to create an “attractive and integrated extension to Saundersfoot”.

The application is recommended for delegated approval when it comes before the national park’s July 17 development management committee.

The affordable housing units will be split into four low-cost ownership units and 21 socially rented units, a report for national park planners says; the 35 per cent affordable percentage taking precedent over an affordable housing policy requirement of 50 per cent as it is designated as an allocated site.

As well as the affordable housing element and an open space provision, a financial contribution of £2,000 per open market property, some £94,000, is required by the county council’s highways department to cover the contribution towards Active Travel Routes within the local area (Saundersfoot Harbour to New Hedges).

Local community council Saundersfoot has objected to the scheme on a number of grounds, asking for its refusal, the report says.

The community council also wants a caveat that no property is bought for second-home holiday use.

Reasons of objection include: potentially causing an imbalance of the aesthetics of the remaining green areas of the village; the scheme being dominant, overbearing, and intrusive to existing residents; access and road safety issues; infrastructure, and the effect on local services.

On a potential residency condition, the report says: “With regards to whether or not it is appropriate to apply a planning condition limiting the use of the market houses to C3 primary dwellings only and therefore preventing use as a second home or holiday let, the authority has undertaken an assessment based on its established methodology.”

It says the assessment “demonstrates that there is not a sufficient justification in this case to impose such a condition,” adding: “Whilst Saundersfoot as a whole has a slightly higher percentage of second homes and holiday lets than was anticipated when the LDP2 was developed, the majority of detached properties of the estate style type proposed as market dwellings on this site in Saundersfoot are occupied as primary dwellings.

“It is the flat or apartment-style properties that are more likely to be occupied as a holiday let or second home, however within the development these properties will already be controlled as they are designated as affordable housing.

“There is therefore no need to apply a use class condition to the properties, based on the evidence gathered.”

It is recommended, subject to further updates to be received at the committee meeting, that delegated powers of approval are given to officers, subject to receipt of a Section 106 legal agreement addressing the provision of affordable housing, open space and a financial contribution towards the Active Travel Route.

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Community

Torch Theatre and Port partnership strengthens community engagement

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A TWO-YEAR funding partnership between the Torch Theatre and the Port of Milford Haven is going from strength to strength, providing over 10,000 hours of engaging, creative activities for the community in its first year.

During the past 12 months, the Torch Theatre has welcomed 45 schools and over 5,000 students to workshops, performances and tours of the building expanding young peoples’ knowledge, experiences and aspirations. Over 130 youngsters attended the Youth Theatre, 35 took part in the Summer Schools, 40 adults benefited from Creative Writing courses and 45 members enjoyed participating in the community choir, Torch Voices.

Chief Executive of the Port of Milford Haven, Tom Sawyer, is delighted with how the partnership is developing: “The Torch Theatre is a fantastic arts and culture hub for Pembrokeshire and I’m inspired when I hear how many people they’ve supported over the last year through their vibrant programme of performances, workshops and activities. Everybody should be able to access the arts, it nourishes our hearts and minds, and we’re pleased to see so many people getting on board and embracing what the Torch has to offer.”

Ben Lloyd, CEO at the Torch Theatre, said “We are very grateful for the Port’s support through this successful partnership. It is hugely important to us as it enables us to extend our reach to more people, particularly young people, across our community which we know contributes to feelings of inclusion and wellbeing. This partnership has bolstered our youth and community offer, allowing us to keep activities affordable and accessible for all.”

Throughout 2024, the team at the Torch will be building on the success of last year. The uptake of subsidised youth theatre engagement has increased, educational outreach continues to reach further into the community, their entire Youth Theatre will come together, for the first time in a generation, to present a Main Stage production Wind in the Willows featuring a collaboration with Torch Voices, and their subsidised summer schools are growing in popularity.

P: Chief Executive of the Torch Theatre Ben Lloyd (left) with CEO of the Port of Milford Haven Tom Sawyer (right).

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