A Day in the Life of Illustrator Xoë Hall

Artist Xoë Hall is living her best life! As part of the TeacherTalk team, she creates learning resources for Early Childhood Education teachers, including a striking new book, Hineahuone/The Clay Woman. Today she tells us what a normal day of illustration is like for her.

Alarm goes off, snooze. Alarm goes off, snooze… this carries on a while. I finally emerge reluctantly from the layer of snoring, grumbling pugs, toss my legs over the side of my bed and take a moment to appreciate the glorious sheepskin between my toes while I try remember l what I was just dreaming about.

A lick on my face brings me back to reality.

Xoë living the Pug life, photograph by Rebecca Blount, Xoë’s intern.

In a zombie-like state, I somehow feed the pugs, drink the coffee, have the shower. And now, I’m awake.

So I jump in the car and drive eight minutes down the road to TeacherTalk HQ where me and the pugs are greeted by three more crazy little dogs and depending on how many orders came in over night, the relaxed or slightly freaked out faces of Stevie Elliott, our designer and Kate Robinson, our boss lady and a true patron of the arts if you ask me!

TeacherTalk’s Hand made resources, photograph by Rebecca Blount

Our office is located Plimmerton, which is quite perfect because we are situated directly above Sand Dunes Early Learning Centre, and we make early childhood learning resources! And books!

Kate has owned the day care downstairs for over 10 years and quickly noticed a lack in fun and up to date learning resources, so she and her designer daughter Stevie started TeacherTalk and asked me to illustrate. We have known each other a long time! See what we get up to here.

Stevie working at TeacherTalk HQ, photograph by Rebecca Blount

There is no particular order in which the following things occur throughout the day… and if the state of our office by 5pm is anything to go by… well, we are busy girls.

In amongst the creative chaos of making these resources, I re-tell old Māori legends and illustrate them for children’s books. As I research and write, the images slowly start to emerge from the mist. The images start with pencil on paper, many layers of paper. Once I get a good feel of my characters and settings, I bring in the pen. Then, when my line work is all inked, the drawing is scanned into the computer and coloured in photoshop. Each image and the words that go with it kind of happen hand in hand.

I re-tell old Māori legends and illustrate them for children’s books. As I research and write, the images slowly start to emerge from the mist.

Xoë illustrating for one of her re-told Māori legends, photograph by Rebecca Blount

Our third book baby arrived in many boxes this morning actually. She has a glossy cover and a cute little place to write your name.

She is called Hineahuone/The Clay Woman. Lovingly woven and illustrated by me, designed by Stevie, translated to te reo Māori by our friend Sian Montgomery-Neutze and proofread what feels like hundreds of times by numerous helpers. We are very proud, and still a little in shock that the day has finally come to see it as a real life book, with that new book smell. You know the one.

The Clay Woman, woven and illustrated by Xoë Hall, photograph by Rebecca Blount

Time to call it a day, well, a TeacherTalk day anyway.

Now it’s off home to my little house in Paremata by the sea. The rest of the evening will likely consist of me pottering around in my studio listening to stand up comedy, music or podcasts, and I might end up painting, glittering, stitching, or rhinestoning into the night.

Xoë’s home studio, photograph by Rebecca Blount

Xoë Hall

Xoë Hall lives in Porirua, Wellington and is of Kāi Tahu descent. Xoë is a multimedia painter and illustrator who exhibits her creations regularly around New Zealand and beyond. Hineahuone/The Clay Womanis third in a series of children's books, created alongside TeacherTalk. See her work at www.xoehall.com.