Women In De­sign

The joy of es­cap­ing to an­other world is what drives this chil­dren’s book au­thor and il­lus­tra­tor to keep cre­at­ing.

Australian House & Garden - - News - STORY El­iz­a­beth Wil­son | PHO­TOG­RA­PHY Martina Gem­mola

Chil­dren’s au­thor and il­lus­tra­tor Anna Walker jug­gles the realm of the imag­i­na­tion with every­day fam­ily life.

Even be­fore she could read, Anna Walker was smit­ten with books. “I re­mem­ber gaz­ing at my pic­ture books and think­ing, ‘This is what I want to do when I grow up’,” she says. “I’ve al­ways loved the idea of es­cap­ing into the realm of the imag­i­na­tion, and cre­at­ing worlds in which you can be any­thing you want to be.”

Anna’s mother was a li­brar­ian and her fa­ther a gold­smith, so she grew up sur­rounded by art and books. “Mum and Dad were busy run­ning a jew­ellery shop and I spent many hours there, fill­ing in time read­ing, draw­ing and sewing.” This held her in good stead.

Melbourne-based Anna ini­tially worked as a graphic de­signer, then as a free­lance il­lus­tra­tor for news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines, be­fore be­ing com­mis­sioned to il­lus­trate her first book in 2006. Since then, she has il­lus­trated 31 ti­tles, in­clud­ing 18 of her own. Her sto­ries have gen­tle, amus­ing and life-af­firm­ing nar­ra­tives, in­clud­ing the award­win­ning Mr Huff, a sim­ple tale about deal­ing with dif­fi­cult emo­tions. The char­ac­ters she cre­ates are al­ways semi-au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal. “They’re in­tro­verted and quiet and try­ing to find a way to fit into the world. Each one has a part of me in them,” she ad­mits.

Anna not only con­jures up char­ac­ters for her books, she of­ten brings them to life as felt dolls and in stop-an­i­ma­tion videos. “I love spend­ing time with the char­ac­ters and ex­plor­ing with them,” she says. “It’s like we’re on a jour­ney to­gether. It’s a lovely place to be.”


Anna lives in a ren­o­vated cot­tage with her in­te­rior-de­signer hus­band Scott and their chil­dren: Olive, 16, Sam, 12 (left) and Joseph, 14. Af­ter ris­ing at 6am, she takes Sun­shine the labrador out for a run. Back by 6.30am, she makes the kids’ lunches and gets ready for work. “It’s fran­tic be­tween 7 and 8am,” says Anna, pic­tured with the chil­dren and Freddy, their Bir­man cat.


Anna and au­thor Jane God­win (right) re­view the im­ages and text for GoGo and the Sil­ver Shoes, their sixth book to­gether, due out in March 2018. “We re­script and re­fine, to make the book the best it can be,” says Anna. “There’s a strength and truth about Jane’s words that I ad­mire. Truth is re­ally im­por­tant in chil­dren’s sto­ries.”


“I adore my stu­dio and al­ways ar­rive with a smile,” says Anna, who shares the space with three other cre­atives. Her il­lus­tra­tions are mostly in ink and wa­ter­colour, but she also en­joys ex­plor­ing dif­fer­ent me­dia, such as col­lage, pen­cil, wood-block print­ing and etch­ing. While the il­lus­tra­tions come eas­ily, the writ­ing can be nerve-rack­ing. “But I love to tell my own sto­ries,” she says.

‘I have been work­ing to achieve this all my life. It’s taken pas­sion and per­se­ver­ance.’


Brain­storm­ing with trusted peers is all-im­por­tant for Anna, meet­ing here with friends and fel­low cre­atives Kat Chadwick (left), an il­lus­tra­tor, and Klarissa Pfis­terer, a book de­signer, to dis­cuss ideas for one of Anna’s next books. “I know they’ll give me hon­est feed­back,” she ex­plains. “They’re not afraid to say what’s work­ing and what’s not.” Anna works on a book a year, part of a non-stop cre­ative out­put. “I usu­ally have one book as my main fo­cus, while plot­ting the sto­ry­board of a sec­ond and gath­er­ing tiny seeds of ideas in the hope they might grow into a third, fu­ture story.”


Anna is hap­pi­est when sur­rounded by her fam­ily, pets and sewing box. “Mak­ing things is re­lax­ing,” she says. Here, Anna and Olive make Christ­mas garlands (far right) while Sam plays with Freddy. an­nawalker.com.au

HOME TIME Most week­days Anna aims for “pens down at 3pm”, to be home for the chil­dren. In­ter­spersed with mak­ing din­ner and over­see­ing home­work, she also knits and sews. Her lat­est project is Christ­mas cards with a match­ing felt deer (above left). “I love mak­ing char­ac­ters out of felt,” she says. “It’s like bring­ing them to life.” ‘My favourite Christ­mas tra­di­tion is mak­ing pud­ding like my nan did, in a cal­ico cloth. Bring­ing home a Christ­mas tree is al­ways fun, too.’

‘I love the world of chil­dren’s books be­cause I spend the day roam­ing with imag­i­nary crea­tures. I can lose my­self on a brave ad­ven­ture and be back in time for the kids’ ar­rival home.’

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