Interview: Laura Shallcrass talks about Hare & Ruru
Updated: Oct 11, 2020
Laura Shallcrass is an exceptional visual artist and author, her work celebrating nature and natural beauty. This is a central theme throughout her work; preservation of the natural world, female empowerment and mental health wellbeing. Her storytelling uses a style of quiet, contemplative poetry, with multiple visual narratives and for the reader the added layer of hidden details, a signature of her work.
Laura has held four solo shows as well as exhibiting in a number of group shows and she was a finalist for the Red Book Art Prize in 2013. Her works are published in the Red Book, Remix and Extra Curricular alongside several publications in New Zealand and Australia. Laura works out of her home in the hills near Queenstown New Zealand where she lives with her husband, two kids and an ever-growing menagerie of furry friends. She talks to NZ Booklovers about Hare & Ruru.
Tell us a little about Hare & Ruru.
Hāre and Ruru is the tale of Hare who struggles to deal and un-named mental malady, self described as 'noise'. Hare goes on a journey to try and find a solution and ultimately finds some relief by using 3 key strategies; connecting with nature, talking to someone and focusing of breathing.
What inspired you to write and illustrate this book?
I felt compelled to write and illustrate a book that was not only beautiful but which had something bigger to say, and to share with kids some anxiety coping strategies which they may find helpful.
What research was involved?
A lot of research into various methods of coping with difficult feelings, both compiled data and observations I've collected in the course of my own anxiety disorder and as a parent. That's to say nothing of the countless hours I spend observing nature and the visual world to create better illustrations. Or the hours reading and observing language in aid of better storytelling. Life is research!
What was your routine or process when writing and illustrating this book?
The story itself came fairly easily, I started with the poem and worked backwards a little bit but it was a fairly straightforward writing process. The illustrations were more complicated, I had 3/4 done the entire book before I changed style completely to settle on the way it is now. Even within that I re-did countless pages over if I wan't happy and was still tweaking things right up until printing! The designer in me is very particular about sticking to design rules and I have a tendency to overcomplicate things in order to stick to rules I've created which no-one else will ever notice!
If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.
Astral plane by Valerie June
What did you enjoy the most about creating Hāre & Ruru?
I really love to create imagery. I love writing too but it's much more of an achievement based satisfaction rather than the pure pleasure I get from drawing or painting. So creating the illustrations was my favourite part.
What do you hope children will take away from reading the book?
I hope they get a feeling of kinship with the characters and feel like they're not alone if they have feelings of anxiety. I also hope that they get something out of the coping strategies and teaching notes, that one of the suggestions resonates and can help them feel less anxious.
What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?
My favourite things to do are ride my horses and spend time with family so once I finished the book those were the two things I had more time for again which was lovely.
What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?
Such a hard question! If I have to choose one probably The Famished Road by Ben Okri
What’s next on the agenda for you?
I have a painting to finish for a community arts exhibition and a bunch of other projects on the go at the moment but hopefully in the not too distant future I'd love to do another book!