To what do you owe your love of storytelling?
I’ve always loved telling and listening to stories. When I was a little girl I would stay up late listening to my parents and their friends telling stories. My dad is a farmer and a big part of what he does is talk to customers at farmers markets all over Victoria every weekend. He spins a really good yarn. I still help him with sales once a month, mainly because I feel like I am learning the craft of storytelling just by being there.
Why do you create for young people?
I feel like kids are the best audience because they still allow their imaginations to run wild. They don’t question the craziest of stories. All my favourite adults are still young at heart and have the same ability to lose themselves in the magic of art and words and music. I think being young is actually something you can achieve at any age!
What were your all-time favourite childhood books or stories?
I loved any book with intricate illustrations or wild, weird or unusual styles or humour. I always drew prolifically from a very young age. I loved made-up places, situations and creatures - so Graeme Base’s Animalia was a favourite, also the Grug series by Ted Prior and everything by Dr. Seuss. I was also fascinated by the illustrations of Jeannie Baker and remember clearly seeing them in the flesh at Dromkeen on a Primary School excursion and this making a huge impression on me. The way she built her pictures still appeals to me today. This is part of why I now try to exhibit my originals as much as possible, so that hopefully one day I can inspire other kids like me to make their own stories.
As an illustrator, what would you choose as your mascot or avatar?
I love horses. They are free and strong, yet they can be hardworking, loyal and serve their family or owner faithfully for life. I love their sense of intuition and gut instinct.
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
It’s not exactly literary, but I made a big effort to get to Studio Ghibli when I was in Japan. Miyazaki’s animations and impact on the history of visual language and illustration in general is huge. It was a truly magical time for me; I really didn’t want to leave.
If you could tell your younger self anything, what would it be?
Be kind to yourself, trust your instincts, go with the flow and make the most of where life takes you.
What do you think most characterises your work?
I think you can see that I have fun making my work. I still get lost in drawing, even as an adult. It’s always very colourful, usually features animals and is sometimes a little bit strange. Now that I am working with clay and paper this is also a distinctive difference from most illustrators too I guess.
What do you do when you are not creating?
Pretty much eat and sleep! I have to do the washing and look after my family too ;) I also really love gardening. I just picked 80 quinces off my tree today! I’ll be making quince paste very soon.
Where do you find your ideas?
In my head! Everywhere! I am constantly photographing everything. I walk along the Merri Creek near my house and think and notice things every day. I find ideas in the things that my kids say to me, things I read in fiction may spark an idea or something I listen to in a podcast. I’m very interested in materials and the unconscious and the way that creative things can sometimes seem to almost happen by themselves. I also find inspiration in my own life journey and things I am trying to address, like slowing down, being confident or more resilient.
How do you know when a story is finished?
I run out of pages!
Want to meet Tai at the festival? Book her hands-on drawing workshop, What's Your Animal Family?, here.