Interview: Janet Bingham talks about Two Bears in a Bubble
Two Bears in a Bubble When New Zealand went into lockdown on March 26, 2020 during the Covid-19 crisis, no one knew what to expect – least of all two denim-clad bears living in a seaside suburb of Auckland. This is the charming, contemplative account of those bears navigating the highs and lows of Level Four, within their bubble of two. Fashion designer and Bear Brothers founder Janet Bingham has created a beautifully illustrated keepsake of this extraordinary time, with witty, heartfelt conversations that will ring true with readers. This is a book to treasure. Janet talks to NZ Booklovers.
What inspired you to write this book?
Being in lockdown and having time, gave me a huge surge of creative energy. I did not feel it was appropriate to be promoting products on Instagram, so instead thought I’d develop my bears. I had been doing a series of drawings for my sons 30th birthday, so had all my materials out on the kitchen table anyway.
I guess it was my way of having a voice and sharing my personal fears and thoughts during this crazy time. Often it was the narrative which came to mind first, and then the sketches followed.
Did you have a particular audience and/or message in mind when you were writing the book?
Only other people going through lockdown, which was pretty much the whole world! I found it fascinating that friends and family across the world were all doing the same things and had the same fears – I will always think of it as the great equaliser.
What research, if any, was involved?
Only listening to the news, and talking to friends. My friend Cathy told me she had been working out with a broom and weights attached instead of being at the gym (Day 13) and I heard of a wee girl who hid in a cupboard and was too scared to come out (Day 2).
What was your routine or process when writing this book?
Planning during morning bike ride, usually at the top of North Head looking towards Waiheke, where I took a flask of tea and my notebook. Drawing would start at 1/2pm and the Instagram post sent by 5pm . This was a good time to catch NZ folks making supper and UK folks getting up.
What did you enjoy the most about writing this book?
Finding my voice in the quietest of days, being able to express my feelings in a unique way, and feeling connected to so many people at a time when I could have felt very lonely. Also, drawing again, and finding that very happy place it takes you to when your thoughts are flowing through the pencil – it’s really 40 years since I felt like that at Art School.
Did you encounter any particular challenges?
Not really, because I wasn’t writing a book at the time, just daily posts – my greatest pleasure has been seeing how Fraser has translated my drawings and narrative into a beautiful product, with no direction from me at all. He just got it, and knows me so well.
What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?
I am most looking forward to celebrating with my two bears, the original bear brothers, as soon as Fraser the book designer can come to New Zealand.
What is your favourite book you have read so far this year and why?
I am not a reader except for books on design, but my favourite book of last year was Pelle’s New Suit which I bought in Stockholm, it is so charming with beautiful illustrations.
What’s next on the agenda for you?
I would like to write the story which has been on my mind for the last 2 years around Shorty the Hot Dog, who is a well loved character I created and is embroidered on our t shirts and denim aprons. Most people write the book and then create the merchandise, I have done the opposite in this case! I have lots of story ideas they just need to be pulled together.
The book will be sold online at: https://bearbrothersdenim.com/
and instore at Bear Brothers Denim, 61 Victoria Road, Devonport.