Influences of Beatrix Potter

A season long gone…

I was very blessed to be a full-time mum. It didn’t happen by accident; it was a planned decision made by my husband and me. Yes, it was hard going financially on one income, a mortgage and a growing family; but the rewards of those fast-fleeting years made the trade-off well worth it.

All up, we had six lovely babies, the first four – daughters, all grown up now and the boys well into their teens.

I can hear you say – ‘Hey this isn’t a Mummy blog! This is an anecdotal art blog!’

OK, don’t stress; I’m on to it!

I have been repeatedly inspired by the art of a famous, well-loved, British children’s writer and illustrator. She is of course, Beatrix Potter.

My love for her illustrations goes way past my children’s formative years; it started in my own early years growing up in New Zealand. As a child, I had a few of her small colour illustrated books. The Tale of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle undoubtedly my all-time favourite, with The Tailor of Gloucester a very close second, on account of the exquisite brush work of fabric and embroidery of the illustrations.

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I have over the years enjoyed embroidery, cross stitch, smocking and quilting and here amidst this hobby my love for her art has blossomed…

One Saturday afternoon, when I was in my late teens, a friend and I went to the Victoria Street Markets, Auckland, NZ. One stall that caught my attention was full of hand-embroidered T shirts. Challenge accepted…I went home and got out my embroidery thread.

I am amused at my teen-age choice of picture. But having said that, I am pleased to say it was a Beatrix Potter’s illustration from The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

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Sometime after this, a dear friend gave me a delicate white Pillowcase beautifully crocheted down one side during WWII. I up-cycled it into a bassinet quilt. Using single thread, I embroidered in satin stitch Peter Rabbit in bed having, or is that refusing, chamomile tea.

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Clearly not satisfied with that, (I had dreamed of having twins one day) I got another white pillow case, sewed on a more coarsely crocheted boarder – cut off a muslin blouse I had bought in Hawaii and worked Mopsy, Flopsy and Cotton Tail in their red cloaks. Both quilts bordered in satin trim and both regularly used for each of my babies.

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(I didn’t have twins, that pleasure went to my older brother! Grrr!)

When I was expecting my first baby I was excited to receive from one of my bridesmaids two cross-stitch Jemima Puddle-Duck pictures. They have been up in each subsequent child’s nursery.

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Two of our daughters were given Royal Dalton Beatrix Potter baby cups with Beatrix Potter illustrations gracing the outsides. I have them displayed in a glass cabinet in our kitchen in New Zealand.

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Furthermore, for each of my babies, I smocked/ embroidered/ cross stitched/Crocheted, their own coming-home-nighties. On my fourth daughter’s nightie I cross-stitched Tabitha Twitchit, Jemima Puddle-Duck and Peter Rabbit.

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Years later I bought a waste paper bin for my oldest daughter’s bedroom – Her name is found in Beatrix books; but we chose her name from the Book of Job in the Old Testament of the Bible. Let me know what you think her name is.

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At six months of age, this daughter was fully engaged with Beatrix Potter books…She now works in publishing!

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My daughter’s first Beatrix Potter Book

When she was eight and was involved in ballet competitions in Gisborne, NZ she performed a beautiful  ballet as Jemima Puddle-Duck decked out with a feathery tutu, broached shawl and blue bonnet!

Beatrix, her stories, her art and love for the lake District has inspired generations of children, mine included. As my memories of motherhood dance like beautiful butterflies in soft upward currents, they make me very content; years well spent.

I’d love to hear from you how Beatrix Potter influence and enriched your life’s adventure; please, do leave a comment.

www.antoinettejames.com

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