Grab Life by Its Ears

Grab Life by Its Ears: The whole story behind Pippin’s Press

Most days I write from my kitchen table. On other days I pace around the house, frustrated about not knowing where I last placed my glasses, while my easel and art supplies compete with two rambunctious rabbits for room space. There are no timetables or colleagues, just me trying to entice Milly and the other characters out with a carrot.

I’m most creative at the moment. As much as I try to plan or brainstorm my next storybook, what usually happens is Milly and Chip decide to show up at the most inconvenient times like when I’m in the shower. I make a mad dash to find a pen and paper before she gallops off again. When this happens, I have to be ready. So far, it's been a work in progress…

Paper samples are usually scattered across my work area. I love vibrant paper! One of my favourite things to do is match accent colours to each other. Whether it’s a summer outfit, paint swatches or paper covers, I find it a soothing thing to do. From the painting and writing of the storybooks to page layout and printing, I do everything by hand. Scoring and folding each book can be a tedious task but worth it when the books are all finished. I have a great sense of pride when I see them all on the bookshelf. Milly radiates on the front cover so full of gusto, just like the day she came to me.

I’m not interested in following the path of how things should be done. I’m finding the freedom to create my own little niche of artistic storybooks. Large house publishers have other picture books out there about animal adventures and yes, the white rabbit has been seen before. The difference is these hand-bound storybooks come from Pippin’s Press which means they’re coming from me and that is what makes them unique. They’re different because you are too, reader. All of us experience the world differently.

That being said, here’s the whole story behind Pippin’s Press.

As most of you know, Pippin was a little white rabbit with a personality big enough to stare down a lion. Our very first companion, he lived with us for ten years. We got him when he was six months old, already a cheeky diva. Teaching him about the litter box was a battle and he had a thing about chewing the hem of a pant leg when he got cross. A year later, we noticed Pippin started feeling unwell. I was enjoying a typical student life when we first took Pippin to the vet's. I remember wearing my university sweatshirt as I held him in my lap, a little uneasy about sitting in a clinic full of pooches. We were told from the veterinarian the odds of Pippin surviving Pasteurellosis was slim. Heading home with red-rimmed eyes and a hefty vet bill, we didn’t have the will to stop for groceries. That evening the three four of us – I always forget Pippin’s buddy Merry – we ate raspberries and wholegrain Wheaties cereal on the sofa together. The sound of Pippin’s medication being crunched up in a spoon with raspberries was drowned out by a contestant on America’s Got Talent. We were told twice by vets that he wouldn’t make it but against all odds, Pippin lived to a ripe old age. He has always been my muse and is the spirit of this startup: heart and originality.

Now this story goes back in time to another special rabbit. He was a brown lop-eared rabbit who lived and rummaged about in a hospital parking lot. A little rough around the edges, this guy was searching for food. Anyone from Victoria, B.C. will know which rabbits I’m talking about. And it was this rabbit and my mom who happened to meet under the most unlikely circumstances.

As a child, I underwent a series of operations because of my health issues. A hospital room was unfortunately a familiar setting growing up. I spent some lonely days looking out of a hospital window from my bed. It was storytelling and developing an imagination that helped pass the time. The magical world of the Queen of Hearts and the Mad Hatter created the backdrop for adventure in the dreariness of a hospital room. Night after night, I hopped along with Peter Rabbit and other characters like Possum Magic. I’d hide under my blanket and imagine something else – great adventures or talking animals to keep me company. Even today I still have the anniversary collection of Beatrix Potter’s works and Animalia by Graeme Base.

One afternoon when my mom came to check on me, she brought a bag of my stuffies to lighten my spirits. As it happened, a brown rabbit had caught the scent of the horse feed my mom often carried in her car and when she opened the back door to retrieve the bag of stuffies, the rabbit leapt right in and started eating the loose grain on the floor! Surprised by the rabbit’s grit, she was hesitant to shoo it away. Looking up at the hospital, she decided to let it eat a little while longer. By now I’m sure you can sense what's going to happen.

I beamed from ear to ear when I saw this rugged rabbit peeking out of my mom’s bag. I knew he would be waiting at home once I was strong and well again. I was told to hurry up though, because my mom had many chores to do and she couldn’t look after a rabbit for very long. He needed a home and lots of love from me.

In that moment, this furry creature became my motivation. He lived on to have a good life on the farm, cleaning up the loose strands of alfalfa and hay scattered about the barn. He is Benny in The Peculiar Habits of Little Rabbits Storybook – the best friend that showed up at Axel’s doorstep carrying goodies in his suitcase. And just like Pippin, against all odds, I went on to regain full health and a zest for life. I played sports, rode horses and am still determined to run a half-marathon.

Difficult experiences can give us motivational starts. Often there’s a silver lining behind these experiences and it leads to finding our purpose. So, the idea of using my creativity as a chance to be brave in life has propelled me into so many other wonderful opportunities. This is me, a writer chasing down a dream of owning a children’s press with rabbits leading the way. It’s been a feather in my cap, watching it grow.

It is hard for an artist to offer up their work to judgement and criticism. But I’ve learnt our greatest critics are often our inner ones. Not everyone is destined to be a great artist or writer and chasing after the greats is not my goal, but I do wholeheartedly believe that hard work and genuine creativity is in everyone. The new and the different are always in need of friends.

Hanging out with Pippin

If you'd like to learn more about my storybooks hop over to my shop.

Binky on my friends,

Kyla :-)

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