From Batman to beach babe, Ollie is a willing model for mum Gilly’s creations. Andshe’s making asmanyas she can before he starts crawling. By Kim Willis
Baby Ollie has yet to crawl, but has already perfected pizza-making and posed in front of pyramids.
Gillian Corke, 34, a primary school teacher from Gosport in England, wants her baby son to try kitesurfing, pizza-baking and being a rock star. All from the comfort of his own home, of course.
Dodging a roaming turtle, a few curious fish and a giant crab, the intrepid seafarer floats through the ocean. Moments later, his mum scoops him up, changes his nappy, gives him a feed and puts him to bed. For Ollie is an adventurer with a twist. He may have been to the moon, karate-chopped a monkey and flown on a dragon’s wings, but he does it all just before bedtime. And all before he’s learned his first word or taken his first step.
Mum Gilly says, “When Ollie’s big sister, Eloise, now three, was a baby, I was on maternity leave from my job as a primary school teacher and I had the urge to get creative.”
Only, Eloise wasn’t a willing model for her mother’s visual adventures. “She had reflux and cried as soon as I put her down. The idea was soon scrapped.”
Ollie was born on January 21 this year, and quickly established himself as a laid-back baby. Gilly says, “He seemed
to just love having his picture taken. So when he was about 10 weeks old, I got out a bit of tinfoil, some duvet covers and dinner plates and set to work.”
Gilly’s first creation was Ollie hanging alongside his romper suits on the washing line. “The idea came to me while I was hanging up the washing. I posted the picture on Facebook and my friends all thought I was mad, but then the ideas started to snowball – I had to grab a Post-it and write them all down.”
Nearly every night, Ollie enters into a new world – joining the circus, sailing a boat, visiting Egypt, Paris, Moscow and India. Gilly’s creations are all made with things she’s found around the house.
She says, “I have one rule – I can’t buy anything new for the pictures. I just make them up out of things I already have. Which means I have to be inventive – my husband Julian, 34, can’t remember the last time he had a pair of socks as they’re all used in the scenes.” She points out she’s not a professional but a teacher and a mum. “I love arts and crafts and have plenty of yogurt pots and lollypop sticks. If you’re inventive, you can make anything work. I have to think outside the box. For the fireman idea, the fireman’s hose was our vacuum hose.” And for the pizza oven scene, “I made the ‘food’ myself out of felt, and my mum knitted me some apples, plums, a pineapple and a pizza.
“For the Batman idea Julian had bought Ollie a Batman dribbler-bib, and I thought if I turned it around so it was on his back, it looked like a cape. I made the buildings out of place mats and used foil and old T-shirts for the rest.” For each shoot, Julian will stand on a stool and lean over the scene with his arms holding the camera outstretched, hoping to capture a funny look on Ollie’s face, while Gilly entertains the star from just behind the camera.
Eloise loves helping her mum create the scenes too. She goes to bed at 7.30pm then the mum has half an hour to get the picture of Ollie, get him fed, clean and ready for his bedtime at 8pm. Gilly says, “It’s a pretty small window, but I don’t have time to spend on the creations during the day. I’ve got Eloise and Ollie to look after. Ollie’s adventures are strictly between 7.30pm and 8pm!”
Once finished, Gilly will leave the creation in place so Eloise can find it in the morning.
“The first thing she says to me is, ‘Mummy, what picture today?’ then she
‘I have one rule – I can’t buy anything new for the pictures. I just make them from things I have’
runs downstairs to see. Her favourite was the fire engine, but the beach scene was brilliant because we got all her toys and had a picnic on the make-believe beach. All her animals had a ride on the boogie board. But she doesn’t like being in the picture – she leaves the modelling to Ollie.”
Gilly knows Ollie’s modelling days are numbered.
“He’s learning to turn over at the moment, which makes things tricky. As soon as he can crawl he’ll be off on his own adventure and we’ll have to stop doing these – I enjoy them all the more because I know it won’t last forever. For one thing, he’s getting so big we’re having to make everything else on the set even bigger to keep the proportions right. Soon he’ll just be too big.”
Gilly’s friends are begging for a calendar or even a book of Ollie’s Adventures but Gilly never did have any big plans. “It’s all just for fun. I get to mess around with the kids and come up with silly ideas every day. That’s all there is to it.”
Most recently, Ollie recreated the famous Star Wars scene of Luke Skywalker looking out at two moons. Gilly says, “I broke the rules and bought a light saber from the 99p shop. Ollie’s monkey played the role of Chewie and Julian insisted on being in charge of that one. Star Wars means a lot to him.”
Gilly’s favourite of all of the adventure scenes is ‘Ollie Under The Sea’. She says, “I love diving and being in the ocean, so setting Ollie up with sea creatures was my favourite, and the expression on his face was priceless.”
Ollie has been a natural star, giggling and posing as soon as he’s in position. Soon he’ll be too big and wriggly to continue. But, as Gilly says, “When he’s older he’ll be able to say he’s already been a wizard, a magician, a builder, chef and cowboy. Not to mention mastering windsurfing and snowboarding. Not bad for the first few months of his life!”
Since her first washing-line scene (above), Gilly’s ideas haven’t stopped flowing
Even Gilly’s mum gets in on the act, knitting a pizza for this scene
From dad Julian taking photos to Eloise helping Gilly with the artwork, the whole family is involved
StarWars fan Julian insisted on being in charge of this recreation
This is Gilly’s all-time favourite as she loves diving and finds Ollie’s expression ‘priceless’