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Noriko Matsubara at Newton Hall Library, County Durham, UK

Lads and Lasses We Love – Noriko Matsubara

This blog first appeared on Digital Sparkles’ blog article on 12th November 2018. You can read it here.


Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do
Hello, my name is Noriko. I’m a Japanese artist, illustrator and author based in Consett, County Durham.

I write and illustrate children’s books about a pair of socks; see more at Bocchi and Pocchi. ‘Bocchi and Pocchi: A Tale of Two Socks’ was my first picture book. The inspiration for the story came from my childhood as a I would watch my grandma regularly mending socks and wondering what might happen to them. ‘Bocchi and Pocchi and the Bird’ and ‘Bocchi and Pocchi’s Big Surprise’ are the sequels. I am going to continue with this series as there are so many adventures these woolly socks could have together! 

While I illustrate my picture books with coloured pencils, I also practice paper collage called ‘Chigiri-e’ a Japanese art form, traditionally created using hand-torn Japanese paper. Whilst my work is influenced by my Japanese heritage, the material I use today is modern newspaper print which adds a special contemporary dimension to my work.

Before becoming an artist, I taught Japanese in Lebanon, Canada and the UK. As a consequence of my travel I decided to follow my passion and I went on to study fine art. While on my journey, I met an introvert gentle man from Essex – I’m now married to him and we have two children aged six and two. 

Tell us about your business
Apart from creating artwork and children’s books, I offer Japanese art (Chigiri-e, Origami) workshops and book reading/craft sessions. 

In my Chigiri-e workshops, I teach both adults and children just how easy it is to create beautiful Chigiri-e Art. My Origami workshops give people an authentic experience of learning the art of Japanese paper folding. I deliver tailor made workshops that suit any age over four years old. In my book reading sessions, I read my picture books with puppets and songs, and children enjoy themed craft activities afterwards. 

I’ve recently launched my online shop selling my Chigiri-e prints, children’s illustration prints and greeting cards Noriko Art

What are the most sparkly bits of what you do?
It makes me happy when I’m drawing my wooly sock characters, I often find myself smiling. When I read my stories to children in libraries and nurseries, I like to see the smiles on their faces. I hope my picture books help children go to bed with a smile too.

Creating Chigiri-e Art is a slow process but therapeutic and satisfying, I get so absorbed in the process of tearing newspaper and layering it piece by piece. I love sharing this technique with people and seeing how newspaper is transformed into a piece of art in each person’s hands.

I’m so grateful to be able to share my stories and art with people!

What are the biggest challenges you face running your business?
Time management. It’s challenging to be a business owner and mum of young children at the same time.

I often work too hard and don’t spend enough time with my family, which makes everyone unhappy including myself. So I think it’s important to keep in mind what my priorities are and to balance work with family life. 

What have been your biggest achievements and how have you celebrated them?
I have to say getting my first picture book published was my biggest achievement so far. I celebrated it by hosting a book launch event. I felt so proud when I signed a copy of my book for a customer the first time! My picture books are now sold in the UK, Spain, China, South Korea and Vietnam. 

What are your goals – for yourself and your business?
My personal goal is to look after myself and my family as best as I can, and help our children thrive.

My business goal for the next few years is to build up the art side of my business while working as a children’s author/illustrator, and bring my whole business to the level that I can support my family, travel and invest in my interests. My ultimate business goal is to use artistic activities to help other people achieve their potential.

What is your favourite place in the North East and why?
There is a walk along River Derwent between Shotley Bridge and Allensford. When we moved up north three years ago, this was the first place we went. It’s still my favourite place in the North East. As a family we sometimes take a walk there and have a picnic by the river. I love the sound of water.

There is a good chance I will give a different answer to this question if I’m asked next time though, as we haven’t explored further afield, we haven’t even been to the Northumberland coast yet!

Who puts a Sparkle in your eye?!
My family.

My children cause so much trouble and make me exhausted, but I can’t imagine my life without them! They give me inspiration for my children’s stories and art projects. My next picture book is about Bocchi and Pocchi, a pair of socks, looking after a very naughty Baby Sock. Guess who inspired me to create this story?

My husband Steve, becasue without him my picture books wouldn’t have been born. He has been very supportive throughout my career as an artist. When I was almost giving up sending my ‘sock’ story to publishers, he encouraged me saying, “You just need to find one person who likes your work. Keep sending your submissions. It’s a better bet than winning a lottery.” He was right! Steve is also a good writer and helps me with story lines. Funny bits of the stories are often his ideas.

I’m so grateful to have my husband and our children in my life.

A final Sparkly thought – what tips would you give to busy, hard-working entrepreneurs?
If you believe in your work, don’t give it up! A person who can become an author is the person who doesn’t give up. 

Prepare. If you aren’t prepared, even if an opportunity arises you wouldn’t even notice it.

Think what your priorities are. If you work too hard and neglect your health or your family, it will defeat the purpose of your life.

You can connect with Noriko on TwitterFacebook and Instagram

Noriko’s picture books are available here or on Amazon.