The only thing better than marvelling at Tom’s brain during conversation is looking at the illustration that comes out of it. Mythology, felinology, wizary and clipart all play vital roles in what can only be described as some of the most endearing, hilarious illustration going on today. After many weeks of no sleep and bouts of lizard hands (see interview), Tom has completed Nine Tales, a large publication hailed by many reputable sources as one of the most beautiful objects on sale at this year’s Pick Me Up. We chatted to Tom about Nine Tales and what the future holds…
Nine Tales features a particular black cat – do you know this cat?
Yeah, it’s based on my parents’ black cat, Mudgey. But its also an amalgamation of my sister’s two cats (a real fat one and a real muscly one) and my parents’ other cat who is verging on feral.
What are the benefits of having a cat as the star of a story?
Well, It can do things that maybe a human star character couldn’t do, like hide in a banana skin or wear really small jeans. And having a cat doing human things like skateboarding or getting a haircut is more comical than if a human was doing it.
Historic imagery features quite heavily in your work, are you drawn to cats as they have been a constant throughout history?
I think growing up with cats has made me want to make work about them. They’re weird animals when you think about it, so sassy but charming at the same time. You’re always aware they could sack you off and go and live in the wild at any time, my tiny cat ate a whole wood pigeon once. But the historical factor is an added bonus, Dick Whittington and the Egyptians got it right. Witch hunters – very wrong.
When did you decide to take on the epic task of creating Nine Tales?
I started them at uni, but then left them for a year and a half to fester. Then Victory Press asked me to do an A3 Riso printed book, so I thought this was perfect for it!
Do you work from home or a studio?
I work from home. I often have to rig up a lamp on my computer mouse hand to keep it warm, like a lizard. The rest of the room can be warm but there just seems to be a phantom cold spot in that exact position on my desk.
Where do you find inspiration and do research?
The internet, the internet, the internet. But also the Medieval sections in museums.
One of the best bits about this publication is the patterns, can you tell us about the process of sourcing and creating them?
Some are made up from my head, or borrowed from things I’ve seen around, but most of them are copyright free patterns I got from a book. I’ve never really used much pattern before, but I think I’ll continue.
The France story is my favourite. Do you have a particular favourite tale in the book?
I like the baked beans story most.
There was talk at Pick Me Up last night of some sort of audiobook to accompany Nine Tails – is that the next step?
Only if Bagpuss narrates it.
Haven’t you got a show at Beach London coming up?
Yeah I’m really looking forward to it, there might be some textiles and home made ceramics involved and probably more cats.
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