MacKay launches children's book

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Owen Sound artist Elly MacKay can now add the title of published author to her name.

MacKay, who has been getting attention from around the world for her unique art, has now released her first children's book, If You Hold A Seed. A book launch was held at the Rocking Horse in downtown Owen Sound on Saturday where MacKay was on hand to do a reading and sign copies. And it appears her book is in just as much demand as her artwork as copies of the book sold out and a waiting list was started in less than half an hour.

"It is really exciting. The community has been really supportive," MacKay said Saturday after the signing. "It is getting good reviews and the publisher says it has been selling really well."

The story is about a little boy who plants a seed with a wish, and with patience and love he nurtures it into a large tree, so large it holds him, and his wishes come true.

"It's a story about persistence and not giving up," said MacKay, who calls Owen Sound home with her husband Simon and two young children Lily and Koen.

The idea for the story comes from MacKay's memories of her family outings when she was a child. Her family would go for walks and her father would often show her seeds and tell her about how a tiny seed has the potential to become a large tree.

When she was pregnant with Koen she was thinking about him growing up. The family also had planted several trees and were watching them grow.

"I wrote it one evening when I was pregnant," said MacKay. "I did all of the illustrations for it when (Koen) was three months old at nap times."

MacKay's interest in children's books and the arts goes back to her childhood. Her parents, Steve and Joan Irvine, are artists and Joan has also written many books, including many about how to make pop-up paper art.

"It's cool to be able to compare notes and she gives me advice," said MacKay. "She is a good resource. She has lots of wonderful stories and I can bounce ideas off her."

When she was 16, MacKay went on a trip through the U.S. with her mother to meet members of the Movable Book Society. MacKay learned about Victorian tunnel books, where images are layered in what looks like an accordion. She made many of the books herself and the work she is now doing evolved from the tunnel books.

MacKay creates scenes using different types of papers, inserting characters, trees, clouds and animals she has drawn. A scene is put together in a miniature theatre designed and built by Simon, who is a woodworker. MacKay photographs the scene, playing around with it to create different effects by adjusting the lighting and switching paper colours and camera filters. The final photographs take on a 3D effect. A video about MacKay, the process she uses and her new book can be found on YouTube by searching for "Elly MacKay."

While If You Hold a Seed is MacKay's first book, she isn't stopping there. She is the illustrator for a book, The Best Gifts, which will be coming out in a couple of months and she has signed a contract for a book called Fall Leaves.

A book called Shadow Chasers will be coming out in 2014. MacKay, who is just starting the illustrations for the book, said Shadow Chasers will be different in that it all takes place at night.

"It is a different way of working," said MacKay. "I can only work at night on it because I can't have any daylight coming into the images. It's a whole new experiment working that way."

If You Hold A Seed was published by Running Press of Philadelphia and is available online on Amazon.

MacKay said she enjoys writing and has been coming up with many stories lately.

"Over the Christmas break I was sort of on a writing kick," MacKay said. "I have been having fun."

MacKay, who has had an online shop called theatreclouds on Etsy, an online marketplace, for a couple of years and has sold work in places like the U.S. and Australia, recently saw her work go international in part thanks to a spread in O, The Oprah Magazine.

"It has been going really well," said MacKay. "I just heard today about a store in China that wants to carry my work so starting to sell work in Asia is really neat."

MacKay's work started selling at a store in Korea last fall and her work has been on a blog called My Modern Metropolis that has given her additional exposure.



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