Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Christmas Posting Dates

We  cannot believe December has arrived already and as a result we are now approaching some Christmas postal cut off dates for our international customers. Please refer to the graphic above, or the royal mail website for more detail.

It's such a busy time for us at www.belleandboo.com we do recommend you order as early as possible to avoid disappointment.

Love from the team at Belle & Boo x

Friday, 20 November 2015

Christmas Market

We've got in the festive spirit here at Belle & Boo HQ and we have launched a very special Christmas Market over at www.belleandboo.com!

We've got some 'market stalls' all with 15% off, and a very special 'Secret Santa Stall' which will have 5 products in it each week that will have discounts up to 40% off.
We're starting it off this week with some products from our Boo-tique as well as our popular wall sticker "Decorate Me" Christmas Tree!
The most exciting part though, is Mandy created this magical limited edition art print, "Letter For Santa",  which we are giving away FREE to the first 100 orders over £75.
Letter For Santa, Limited Edition Art Print
 We're also running a prize draw, where if you add Boo's carrot into your shopping cart, you'll go into the draw to win either our 'Catch a Star' clock, one of a new personalised wall stickers, or a set of signed hardback picture books with a personalised dedication from Mandy!

We also have a great new downloadable product for you to print off at home. 'Waiting for Father Christmas' will provide hours of fun for you and your little one to prepare for the arrival of Christmas, with cupcake wraps, banners and signs to help direct Santa to your tree, just to name a few!

We hope you're feeling as festive as we are!
Lots of love,

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

'My Sister'

'My Sister' - Original Drawing by Mandy Sutcliffe

When Kate suggested the idea of running a competition at www.belleandboo.com to have the chance to win a drawing of your child, we were not sure what the reaction would be. The response, however,  was overwhelming! We had so many nice comments from all our customers about what a lovely idea it was, and lots of please please could we offer it again (watch this space in the future!)

It was an exciting moment at Belle & Boo HQ when the winner was randomly chosen and I remember a collective 'aaawwwwwwww' when Suzie read out the name 'Hannah & James Midwinter' and that they had 2 young daughters, it all felt very Belle & Boo!

James Midwinter tweeted within moments
 and Hannah told me how she had phoned her mum straight away.

I also got to feel like a winner when they sent through the beautiful photos and ideas to work from. James had taken some lovely shots of the girls sat reading together and it was the perfect 'Belle & Boo' pose.
Original reference photo

An early sketch of the commission by Mandy Sutcliffe

It was an absolute joy to work on from start to finish, they were my perfect clients and I know that they were all thrilled with the end result.

Hannah kindly sent us this photos of the girls with their picture which we called 'My Sister'.

Love from,

Thursday, 12 November 2015

The Importance Of Little Acts of Kindness

"Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless

 - Mother Theresa

Tomorrow is World Kindness Day. A day where countries across the world highlight good deeds in the community. 

It's also a day that reminds us about the importance of little acts of kindness and why thinking of others is so crucial to being human. We live in a world for the self-obsessed, where people are encouraged by social media and television to be egocentric and focused on personal achievementBut encouraging our children as well as ourselves to be kind is something that is essential for all of us to do and does not require money or even time.  

I love this quote from Maya Angelou because it makes me take account of my own actions and myself. It also makes me consider how I am bringing my children up, what sort of people do I hope they will turn out to be - Strong - successful - happy (all of those) and I think to do this one must also teach them to have the courage to consider others, be kind and remember the world is not just for them but for all.   

You may have read in the news earlier this year about the man and his daughter who celebrated their birthdays with 39 acts of random kindness including leaving pennies next to a wishing well for other people to use, buying a 'chicken' gift from Oxfam and carrying someone else’s shopping bags for them.  And then there is the beautiful young woman, Jaz O'Hara who, with her friends, have been visiting the refugee camps in Calais every week to support existing organisations and to set up a volunteer program in Lesvos whilst also using Instagram and Facebook to document the lives of the people and children living in the refugee camps, often giving them cameras to film there own experiences.   These are generous, strong people who are teaching the world the power of kindness.  

So these are exceptional and outstanding examples but we can all take a leaf out of the book. 

The simplest way to be kind.  
When I was young someone told me that it doesn't cost anything to smile at someone but it will make that person feel good and maybe if they are lonely or having a bad day it will help them to feel a little better. So I have told my children to smile and sometimes say 'hello' to people they don't know but look like they might need a friendly face. And when they sit next to an elderly person on the bus or walk past them in the street always give them a smile. The elderly are so often ignored so this is a little act of kindness that perhaps that person will remember for the rest of the day, if not longer.  

Have a read of the Belle & Boo children's books and you will see Belle is always very kind to her bunny friend Boo, even when he won't go to sleep or is a little naughty.  The children in the illustrations are shown sharing books, holding hands and giving each other cuddles and hugs - all little acts of kindness which make others feel special and loved.  

A few memories of simple, random acts of kindness to warm your hearts.

An act of kindness that has always stuck in my mind is from my childhood in Australia.  Our elderly neighbours used to let me and my sisters play in their garden (as it was much bigger than ours) and spend hours climbing their beautiful mango tree! It still puts a smile on my face just thinking about it. 
Clare, Graphic Designer, Belle & Boo

All the children at my 7-year-old daughters school were asked to bring in one of their teddies with a note attached to the child refugees. It's called Teddy Aid.
I recently read about TEDDY AID, which is a small organisation that has been set up by some mums in London to provide some small relief and comfort to some of the refugee children.  Basically they are asking kids to donate a teddy or soft toy that will be shipped off to various destinations and distributed to some of the children.  It doesn't cost a penny, and I think is a lovely way for our kids to be engaged with these children, who are ultimately just like them. 
Kate Shafe, Director, Belle & Boo

Today Kate, Belle & Boo's Marketing Director and co-founder, arrived in the office with a gorgeous bunch of roses for me.  I don't know why but it has made me happy and brightened up my day as well as the office. 
Nichola Drew, Commercial Manager, Belle & Boo

My sister was physically disabled. She was confined to a wheel chair and was also blind so she relied on others to do everything for her.  Children often find disabled people very alarming - it's a natural reaction of course.   So when my son, who was two at the time,began to take his food and snacks, stretch his little arm up to her mouth and feed her it, it took everyone’s breath away.  It was just a selfless act of kindness that no one could have ever expected a little child to do.  Of course my lovely sister often didn't want the food but his kindness made her feel loved and very happy.
Jules Smee, PR & Digital Communications

Yesterday when I got home from work late my 13-year-old son asked me if I was ok. Then went off and to my surprise came back with a cup of tea!
Suzie Damami, Operations Manager

So why is kindness so important? Well it is a fundamental part of being a human and something that binds us all as human beings.  It bridges the gap between race, religion, gender and politics.  So if you can remember to do something kind now and then not only will you help that person to have a good day and make yourself feel good but maybe it will help to make our society a better place.

Jules Smee

If you would like to share your own memories and stories of kindness you can leave a comment in the box below or message us on Facebook or twitter.  We would love to hear from you.

Check out Kindness Uk for more simple ideas on how to be kind.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Crafty, arty & fun things to do in November

Belle & Boo Recommends is our new monthly round-up of activities, events and fun family friendly things to do across the UK.  From adult crafting workshops to museum events for children,  some of which we have enjoyed ourselves and some that we have heard about and would love to do.

If you have any recommendations or feedback please let us know in the 'comments' box below.

A Festive Crafting Dream - Manchester

Kirstie Alsop is hosting a weekend of Christmas crafting to inspire and delight crafters of all abilities. There will be a host of Kirstie's favourite designers and artisans teaching as well as selling beautiful handmade wares - perfect for the festive season.

We love the sound of the 'Grand Make' tent where you can learn how to craft  'quick' and simple products to use in your home or as gifts.  There are also more in-depth skills workshops as well as interesting talks on new trends and demonstrations.   Plus there is a  Christmas gifts there is a shopping village to snap up unique Christmas pressies.

The Handmade Christmas Fair
20th - 22nd November

Family Book Festival Day - Newcastle

Books on Tyne is Newcastle’s Book Festival, organised by Newcastle Libraries and the Lit & Phil.  This year they have launched events for children and families, many of which are free. There are also lots of interesting and inspiring events for adults from writing to celebrating books.  
Family Day is the 28th November.  Great for older children it includes a fun comic book workshop and a the chance to learn the secrets of plotting a detective mystery with writer of 'Murder Most Unladylike' Robin Stevens.  Thrilling stuff.

Books On Tyne
23rd to 29th November

A Dance Extravaganza! - London and UK wide (from Spring next year)

Into The Hood: Remixed- there are still some tickets left for the Sadlers Well run of this award winning  production by Zoonation Dance Company.  'An Urban Fairy Tale' Into The Hood: Remixed is a family friendly, joyful, feel good retelling of classic fairy tales. Directed and written by Sadler's Wells Associate Artist Kate Prince, it first ran in the West End in 2008 to critical acclaim.  It's London run ends on 14th November but do not fear their is a UK tour scheduled for Spring 2016.

This is a show which gets everyone up on their feet and smiling and be prepared to be wowed by some of the UK best young dancers .   NOT TO BE MISSED.

Suitable for children over five and beyond.

Sadlers Wells
The Peacock Theatre
London WC2A 2HT
Until November 14th 2015 and then on-tour across the UK.
UK Tour Information - http://www.zoonation.co.uk/story/hoods-remixed-tour-schedule

A Interactive Exhibition for little ones - Cornwall
KEAP - The Wonderful World Of Oliver Jeffers

Designed for children 7 and under this delightful exhibition explores the beautiful and best-loved work of one of our favourite authors Oliver Jeffers. Walk into immersive environments inspired by books 'How to Catch a Star', 'Up and Down', 'Lost and Found' and 'The Way Back Home'.

It features live storytelling and an opportunity to immerse themselves in the book, with spaces to explore including  ‘the boy’s’ bedroom complete with penguins, aliens, a Lost and Found office, a full-sized rowing boat, a beach, a pier, a garden and a rocket.

The Wonderful World of Oliver Jeffers
Hall For Cornwall
Various dates until 13th December 2015


Pirates and Princesses - Stoke On Trent

Gladstone Pottery Museum is part of the award winning Stoke galleries who are renowned for their child friendly activities.  The museum is housed in the last Victorian pottery factory and is cleverly designed to educate and inspire children of all ages.

During November there is a jolly pirate trail (from Tuesdays to Saturdays) and children need to solve clues to track down pirates around the gallery. Plus there is booty to be won.

On Saturday 14th November there is a special pirate and princess day with a crafty crown making activity.  If children dress up as a pirate or a princess they will get in free.

Gladstone Pottery Museum
Stoke on Trent

Makey Mamas - Bristol

Makey Mamas run crafting classes for expectant mamas and mothers of new babies to learn new skills.  A lovely way to meet socialise with like minded women, relax and make something special for babies and bumps.  Belle & Boo support Makey Mamas by donating fabric to them for their workshops.

During November there are lots of classes on offer including print your own baby clothes and crochet your own booties.  Other classes throughout the year include toy making, photography to how to make natural skincare products.

Visit the website for more information http://makeymamas.co.uk/

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Illustrating A Children’s Book by Mandy Sutcliffe

 Last week our office was buzzing with excitement as we received the first copies of Hop Along Boo the newest Belle & Boo children's picture book by Mandy Sutcliffe, our creative director and founder.    It was an incredibly exciting and proud moment to launch the book on the Belle & Boo shop because we knew Mandy had created her most beautiful book yet and the reaction from our customers has been amazing.  Each page is filled with a stunning, detailed illustration which carries the reader away to a magical world.

Mandy Sutcliffe, reading her new book
 'Hop Along Boo' to her twins.
Mandy is an incredibly talented artist but she is also very humble and a joy to work with.  So we thought we should celebrate Mandy a little whilst giving you the opportunity to learn a bit more about her and how she creates her exquisite illustrations.....

Illustrating A Children's Book by Mandy Sutcliffe

Starting work on a new picture book is such a daunting task. I usually start with two A4 pages of text in front of me (and not much text at that) but as I divide those sentences up into 36 pages, I already know what a lot of worry and work will go into each page. 

My dad told me once when I didn’t know what to draw “there is nothing more daunting than a blank piece of paper, so just start with anything and good things will happen” Bearing that in mind, I usually fill the page with lots of little thumbnail size rectangles and then start sketching initial ideas, very, very roughly. 

Early sketch of the pirate spread from Mandy's new 'Belle & Boo' children's book
'Hop Along Boo'
I was lucky enough to collaborate on my latest book with the incredible children's book author Mark Sperring. Coincidentally we both live in Bristol so he came by the studio and over a cup of tea or three, I showed him all my favourite Belle & Boo illustrations and talked about what I loved to draw. Mark went away and wrote a magical story of Belle encouraging Boo, her little rabbit friend, to go to sleep by showing him lots of different little children all getting ready for bed. The story for Hop Along Boo was born!

Early illustrations by Mandy Sutcliffe for the children's picture book 'Hop Along Boo'.

Some drawings for this picture book came really, really easily. The illustration below was the first double page spread I worked on and it is still one of my favourites (I love drawing parades).

For other spreads I had a complete blank. When that happens, I usually spend far too long trailing through the internet and my vast array of children's books for inspiration. Even after doing that there are usually 2 or 3 spreads that are a little hazy right up to the publishing deadline and for Hop Along that was no exception (read on!)! 

At this point in the process the publishers, Orchard Books,  usually want to see around four rough spreads to check we are all 'on the same page'.

For example, the image above was one  I felt really confident about.  However it was dropped quite early as the publisher wanted to move Belle & Boo inside their house more quickly.

Once the initial sketches are under way there is always a request for the front cover.   Since my first book this has always erked me, as an artist I feel the best front cover drawings would come at the end - once the book was fully formed and needed gift wrapping beautifully! 

However, as a business woman I do understand that the book needs to start being promoted and excitement needs to be built within the publishing world.   In fact very early on Hop Along Boo received so much interest at book fairs and as a result, for first time, one of my Belle & Boo books is being published in America as well as the UK, which I am thrilled about.  So the front cover is usually the first finished piece of art work and the rest follow. 
Initial ideas for the Front Cover of the new Belle & Boo book
"Hop Along Boo'

I like to work on one spread at a time and have great pleasure ticking them off one by one on a little thumbnail chart as the deadline looms closer and closer!

I can honestly say I lost myself daily in the process of creating 'Hop Along Boo'. When you're fully immersed in the creative process, I guess it is a form of hypnosis and it’s so good for the soul! I will admit I lost that ability to fully give myself to a project for a while after my twins were born, and I did worry I wouldn’t get it back. It was such a relief and blessing to have that feeling again. I would go to bed excited to get to the studio the next day and was constantly jotting down ideas, researching and boring anyone that would look or listen!

Illustration by Mandy Sutcliffe

Saying all that, I can’t lie, there are a few spreads in the book that I found so, so tricky. For example, the two spreads featuring Belle in her bedroom, were two of the last spreads I finished. I even went as far as colouring the one below and the publishers approved it, but I just knew deep down it wasn’t right.

I had a big chat with my dad and we sketched out a few ideas. I also reminded myself of Milly Molly Mandy’s cosy, sweet bedroom, a room I longed for as a child (although my bedroom was in the new extension of a 1960’s bungalow)! I stole a weekend away from my children and partner (something I rarely do) and ended up with this layout which Iam really pleased with. 

Final illustration from Hop Along Boo

Weirdly, I can’t quite remember how I got the layered effects in the bedroom illustrations. 
Final illustrations from 'Hop Along Boo'
In fact the above drawing, where Belle and Boo are tucked up in bed, I finished in one day which is unheard of for me, I usually allow at least 4-5 days per illustration. It was one of those creative moments when time bends for you.

 Of course being an illustrator there are now a few things I wish I could change, but that just makes me want to try that little bit harder next time.   Nevertheless, I am excited and proud of this book.

I REALLY hope you enjoy reading 'Hop Along Boo' with your little ones, I read it to my boys for the first time earlier this week and they genuinely seemed to love it, especially the pirate spread.

Final pirate illustration from Hop Along Boo

Someone asked me the other day "what I hope people take away from my drawings”.  
I think it stems back to how much I enjoyed reading my children's books as a child and my memories of sharing a book with my parents and my sister.  As an adult I still love the same books, Winnie the Pooh, The Flower Fairies anything by Maurice Sendak! That really confirms for me that children recognise good art work.

So I hope I can create some lasting memories for todays children, and at the same time remind their parents of their own wonderful childhoods.

Happy reading.

Love Mandy

Mandy Sutcliffe is the creative director and founder of Belle & Boo. Mandy studied at Leeds Metropolitan University where on a trip to Paris she discovered her love of drawing children. 

Graduating in 1995 she exhibited her paintings of children around the country and taught foundation level art students part time at Stockport Art College, South Manchester.  In 2007 Mandy started to sell a small collection of her signed prints of children via Etsy, where she quicky became one of the websites best selling 'makers'. Soon after she was joined by her friend Kate Shafe and together they launched 'Belle & Boo' with the aim of making beautiful, collectable gift and lifestyle products for children featuring Mandy's beautiful art work.  Belle & Boo is now one of the UK's most beloved children's brands. Mandy's love of drawing has never dwindled and she continues to draw and illustrate every day.