Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Two Bad Mice and Anita Jeram

Anita Jeram and Two Bad Mice

Perhaps once in every generation an artist will stamp their personality onto a book, and the book will become equally loved for its illustrations as well as its words. Many of our greatest Children's Classics have been born in this way. 

When we think of Alice in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll 1865) we imagine John Tenniel's illustrations of the little girl with flowing blond hair:

When we think of Beatrix Potter's books her paintings of Peter Rabbit, Mrs Tiggywinkle and Jemima Puddle Duck come flowing into our minds:

We cannot think of Wind in the Willows (by Kenneth Grahame1908) without simultaneously remembering  E H Shepard's pictures of Toad

Toad of Toad Hall by E H Shepard 1908

and if we think of Winnie the Pooh (by A A Milne 1926) we again think of E H Shepard's illustrations

Pooh and Piglet by E H Shepard 1926

Peggy Fortnum cemented our image of  Paddington bear (by Michael Bond 1958) 

and when we think of Guess how much I Love You (by Sam MacBratney1994) we immediately conjure up Anita Jeram's pictures of The Little Nut Brown Hare with his dad.  The book is already a classic that children of the 1980s and early 90s are now sharing with their own children. 

Anita Jeram's illustrations and the text of Guess How Much I Love You are inseparable.  

In many people’s minds Anita illustrations and Two Bad Mice are inseparable.  Since we started working together in 1995 we have sold about 20 million of Anita's cards across the world.  Most Greeting Cards have a short shelf life of five years or less, they become the ephemera of our pasts that are never known about by our children.  Anita's cards have broken that rule, for instance Cloud Watching which was first released 19 years ago is still a best seller (so far we have sold over 350,000 Cloud Watching cards).

Cloud Watching by Anita Jeram 1997

Anita redrew and expanded the Cloud Watching image so that we could use the picture to decorate one of our mugs.  Here is a video that shows the all round decoration that Anita made for our best selling ceramic.

Anita's work for Two Bad Mice is different from the work she does for her book publishers (Walker Books).  Her pictures for books are aimed at being amusing for children as well as being loved by the adult readers too.  When she works for Two Bad Mice the adult audience is always at the forefront of her mind, and the jokes are usually on adult themes.

Multitasking by Anita Jeram 2012

Anita has prolific imagination.   It usually happens that twice a year we ask her for ideas for new cards, then a few days later a package will arrive with perhaps ten sheets of closely packed illustrations with titles.  These sheets are always a joy to receive and the number of ideas so prolific that we have trouble choosing which ones to use.

The sheets are so full of ideas it is often difficult to decide which ones to use

There are so many ideas that when I later come back to these pages I find new jokes I did not notice first time round, or perhaps it is just my memory could not hold on to so many ideas all arriving at once.

Anita's work is often well composed very pretty, like this pretty composition for a little mug we hope to release later this year.

Fruit Tea - Design work for a mug 2015

of course her work is almost always cute and very funny

Cat's Rule OK - Design work for mug 2015

and when she wants it her work is elegant

But Anita's primary interest does not seem to be centred on colour, composition, elegance or even humour.  What makes her work different and interesting is the nuanced psychology that always embellishes her pictures with added meaning.  In this picture the cat attention and thoughts are very clearly explained, what is extraordinary is the bird's eye which is half hidden behind the wire of the cage.  The eye seems to let us know what is going on inside the birds head too.  This level of expression is very rare in illustrators. 

Anita's pictures are always full of psychological observation

We have only met Anita a few times, and we have always discovered her to be shy and quiet.  At first she seems a different person from the one we see coming forward in her artwork, she is definitely humble.  Suddenly she will make a quip that mirrors the humour and focus that is in her picture, her pictures reflect her personality exactly, it is just that you cannot see her meekness in them.

Recently Anita has taken a rest from illustrating books, and having more time on her hands she has embarked on some big projects expanding the range of products that Two Bad Make make with Anita.  We have been working on Kitchen tiles, linen and new mug shapes.
Work in progress for Kitchen Tiles 2014

One of the kitchen tiles which will be available in 2015

Themes used for the tiles are then used on the linen. 

An Apron

and mugs

These new products are being released as they become available during 2015 and we are now thinking of themes for bathroom ceramics.


Anita was born in 1965 and brought up in Portsmouth.  After leaving school she worked at a factory, shop and at a kennel.  Her early ambition was to work with animals but she soon realised that without more academic qualifications it would be difficult to advance her career.  In 1986 she married Andrew Jeram whom she had known from her school days and was then living in Manchester where he was studying palaeontology and the physiology of fossil scorpions.

Anita had always loved making drawing of animals.  Her  husband would come across these drawings around the house.  One day, after finding a particularly lovely picture of a kitten in the kitchen, he urged her to take her talent more seriously.  This conversation led her to apply to join an Art and Illustration course at Manchester Polytechnic.  Her tutor on the course was David Hughes, an illustrator, who took the promising work of his pupil to Walker Books who shortly afterwards offered her a contract.  Her first book, Bill's Belly Button, was published in 1991 a year after she graduated. 

Anita has written and illustrated her own books as well as worked with other children's authors (see list below).  Anita's most famous illustrations are the ones she has done for the best selling classic Guess How Much I Love You written by Sam McBratney which has sold 28 million copies and been translated into 53 different languages.
The directors of Two Bad Mice discovered the illustrations for Guess How Much I Love You in a bookshop in Islington, a few months later Anita started working with Two Bad Mice (1996).  At Two Bad Mice she established a reputation and big fan following for her witty cards (to date 20 million cards have been sold in many countries across the world).  More recently Anita has designed ranges of ceramics and gift products. 

Anita's original works are sold through The Illustration Cupboard, Children's Book Illustration  and Francis Iles Gallery.  The success of Guess never went to her head, she lives a quiet private life with her husband and three children and many animals near the coast.  She does not accept private commissions because she is already very busy and wants more time to enjoy with her family.


Bill's Belly Button (1991)
It Was Jake (1991)
The Most Obedient Dog in the World (1993)
All Pigs are Beautiful (by Dick King-Smith 1993)
My Hen is Dancing (by Karen Wallace 1993)
I Love Guinea Pigs (by Dick King-Smith 1994)
Guess How Much I Love You (by Sam McBratney 1994)
Contrary Mary (1995)
Daisy Dare (1995)
Puppy Love (by Dick King-Smith 1997)
Animal Friends ( by Dick King-Smith 1997)
Birthday Happy Contrary Mary (1998)
Bunny, My Honey (1999)
All Together Now (1999)
In Every Tiny Grain of Sand (contributed illustrations 2000)
Kiss Goodnight, Sam (by Amy Hest 2001)
Don't You Feel Well, Sam ( by Amy Hest 2001)
I Love My Little Storybook (2002)
You Can Do It, Sam (by Amy Hest 2003)
You're All My Favourites (by Sam McBratney 2004)
The Little Nutbrown Hare stories (by Sam McBratney 2007)
Little Chick (2009 by Amy Hest)

No comments: