Highland Fairytale Book – Written & Designed by Urban Reiver
February 15, 2012

As promised, here are some images of a traditional book that I designed previously, oooh, back in 2008 I think.  It was created as part of my Fashion Design course at university – the brief was to design and make a collection of 6 outfits based around a theme and for this particular sub-project we had to make some sort of book/box/diary/collection of images to reflect these outfits.  I absolutely love Grimm’s Fairy Tales (who doesn’t?) and one night after reading through some of these whilst curled up in bed I wondered about how to incorporate that into the task that had been set.

After looking long and hard at my outfits (based on the Scottish Highlands, wildlife, people etc) I realised that they had characters of their own, almost embodying sort of half-animal, half-human creatures, quite Pagan-like and primal in their appearance.  This thought inspired me to begin to write my own fairytales, imagining my outfits as heroines with individual personalities.

As there were 6 outfits I split these up into 6 separate stories, each one a couple of pages long and each with an illustration at the end. To keep everything nice and traditional I studied the layout of old fairytale books and tried to make mine similar.  I even used a thick, textured, vellum-type paper for the pages (after many failed experiments printing onto tea-stained paper, not recommended!).  I laid out the pages on MS Word, making sure to leave extra space in the margins where the book would be bound, printed them out double-sided onto A4 sheets of paper and cropped them down to A5 using a sharp scalpel and a steady hand.  For introduction pages like the one opposite, I added a hand-drawn crest using black ink and a dip-pen.  To be honest I would have preferred to use a feather quill, to really get into the spirit of it, but there were none available at the time.

For every story, I introduced it by creating an illuminated letter, to highlight the differences between each one.  Again I used the black ink for this, but I did make many mistakes and reprinting was a regular occurance, so I think next time I would definitely have designed them on Illustrator and placed them onto the page before printing. Still, it adds a little “je ne sais quoi”, so I’m not complaining.

So, onto the illustrations!  Firstly I knew that I must paint with inks – what could be more traditional than that?  Unfortunately the ink bled freely through the vellum paper I used for the text pages, so I had a hunt around numerous art shops before I found this lovely, textural canvas paper.  The packet told me it was only suitable for oil paints, but I bought it anyway, determined that it would work.  Luckily it formed the perfect base for my ink drawings and really emphasised the rich colours (some papers seem to absorb it, leaving your illustration slightly dull).  I used the back of the canvas, which was still nicely textured, but with a smoother, less rough quality to it.  I loved the result!  Each story had its own nicely painted illustration, depicting a scene as well as a quote to go with it.

The final stage was to get my pages bound together, so after worridly checking over and over that I had them arranged in the right order I took them to Bookbinding by Crawford in Edinburgh and they completed the job in a matter of days – plus they die-stamped the title and my name on the front in gold which made me quite ecstatic!  The whole book is of beautiful quality, even the text pages which were produced on an HP Photosmart Printer.

I am currently planning to write a collection a short fairytales, old-fashioned in style and illustrate them myself (of course!), so I shall keep everyone updated with any progress I make on that front.  I hope you have enjoyed this post!

P.S.  If you would be interested in seeing the outfits that inspired me, please have a look at the “Into the Wilderness” Collection on this blog