barbara reid: author and illustrator (and talented plasticine artist)

the other day, i wrote about the clay project that i tried. for me, it was equal parts soothing and maddening. i loved kneading and working the clay in my hands, softening it up and getting it rolled or flattened out. i found that part of it relaxing.

but actually manipulating the smallest pieces of clay and putting it together to create something that looked like, well, something… that gave me total admiration and respect for canadian artist, barbara reid. she is perhaps best known for her illustrations in children’s books. her medium of choice? plasticine.

here is a photo of just one page from one of her books which we own…

two by two plasticine art book by barbara reid

two by two by barbara reid

(photo used with author’s permission)

it’s interesting looking back. i didn’t really know much about barbara reid until sheri mentioned her in a comment on another post. but when i heard the name, i knew that we had crossed paths before. at least her books and i had. here is that story…

when my first son was born, the public health nurse who visited me at home brought one of barbara reid’s books. it was a gift for my daughter who had just become a big sister. i remember the nurse placing the book in my hands. she looked at me with sympathetic eyebrows scrunched upwards and that unmistakable look in her eyes: the one that said you-poor-sleep-deprived-thing-are-you-hearing-any-of-this?

i remember the nurse’s words though. she said, “sometimes, it’s hard to spend time with the older sibling when there is a new baby in the house. reading together is a nice way to stay connected.”

it’s funny, because in my foggy post-partum state, that’s the only thing i do remember from that nurse’s visit. i’m sure she gave lots of other well-meaning advice. but i think that one stuck in my mind because that’s what we already did, always have done, my children and i. i can’t imagine my life as a parent without books.

here is that particular book…

read me a book by barbara reid

i often wonder if authors and illustrators realize how their books enter and mingle with people’s lives. a few books do so in profound ways. but most books slip into our lives in simple, subtle yet meaningful ways. i find the stories about books as interesting as the ones within their pages.

if you have some time, take a look around barbara reid’s website to learn more about her and how she came to this medium for story-telling. she explains the history of plasticine (it’s more interesting than it sounds!), she has projects to try, and my favourite part, some videos showing how she works. it’s mesmerizing to me, and you can learn a lot about her technique.  if you’ve ever tried making a picture out of plasticine, you can appreciate the attention to detail and creativity that goes into her work.

i was also very happy when barbara told me that she is working on a new book. i’ll be waiting. maybe i’ll try my hand again at working with plasticine in the meantime. i’d like the fiddly bits to be a little less maddening :-)


i shared this post on no time for flashcards.

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9 Responses to barbara reid: author and illustrator (and talented plasticine artist)

  1. Tara Benwell says:

    For some reason, reading this post reminded me of the Anne of Green Gables scene when Anne talks about kindred spirits and bosom buddies. So many of your posts remind me that we are connected through tiny details.
    Your Barbara Reid story is so precious! I love those public health nurses. They have such important jobs. One of the few things I took from my mom’s room after she died was Barbara Reid’s “Have you Seen Birds” which I gave her the Mother’s Day before she died. I remember being on the phone with her one day (it must have been a good day because she was at home instead of in the hospital). My aunt (who donated her bone marrow) and my aunt’s best friend (a successful children’s book artist) were visiting my mom and they were all gathered around the kitchen table making birds from Barbara’s book with the plasticine I had sent in the mail. My mom was all about birds. We watched “Rio” yesterday and I couldn’t help but weep inside. I must read “two by two” again. That picture is amazing!

    • imadeitso says:

      you could’ve just said “kindred spirits” and i would’ve known exactly what you meant :) i will look for the “have you seen birds” book. i love birds.

      thanks for sharing your story tara. (hugs)

  2. Sheri says:

    Thanks for the mention. Wonderful that you connected with Barbara Reid!

  3. Thanks for sharing! I hadn’t heard of Barbara’s art before and I’m so interested in her work now. I’ll have to take a peek at our local book store to see if they carry any of the books she has listed online. It’s amazing how we’re all connected!

    • imadeitso says:

      yes take a peek! she has quite the sense of humour too, if you look at the details closely, there’s often something silly or fun going on. thanks for dropping by jenny!

  4. Corey says:

    I love her detail.

    p.s. Reminds me of Cecile on Sesame Street. (stop-animation clay work)

    • imadeitso says:

      i love the details too, the little birds on the antlers? the guy tripping on the bucket? hehe… and that glow around the lanterns is amazing, really.

  5. googiemomma says:

    oh wow. i swoon (insert dramatic hand to head action here)
    some people just clearly have talent oozing from their very pores.
    i’m gonna have to check some of her books out!

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