Lydia Leith is a multi-disciplinary designer: she created a series of Royal Sick bags to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee as well as a Queen’s Head jelly mould and also works in ceramics and textiles.
Paul Leith illustrated posters for the Body Shop, stamps for Royal Mail and book covers for Penguin in the 1980s. He’s since worked with Lydia on a range of illustrated gifts and large-scale murals at Carlisle Train Station and Bitts Park and a Bird Observatory in Cumbria.
Books are available to buy from Lydia’s website and present some unusual twists on familiar genres. Mr Teapot Head and how he found love tells the charming tale of a man with a teapot for a head who is often the subject of ridicule, but falls in love (and finds acceptance) with Miss Milk Jug:
Bread and Cheese is a story of two neighbouring countries, Red Land and Blue Land, which prepare to go to war with each other but eventually reconcile their differences over a feast of bread, cheese and strawberry yoghurt:
While Leithuania presents a guide to the fictional country of the same name, home to a lemon curd factory, a trumpet repair workshop and the city of Pie Minster.
With fields of blue poppies and butter cups, and a shop serving tea and ginger snaps, it’s a fairly idyllic place – aside from the no-tolerance policy towards misbehaving (“Anyone doing bad things will be carried off by the birds and never seen again” reads one page). People also keep dragons for pets.
“Paul stopped working commercially as an illustrator when the digital age came in. He kept making art works and projects but instead of ending up on a billboard or a book cover they ended up in the drawer or in the attic,” she says.
“[He] had seen I was doing mug designs on the computer. I suggested that we transfer some of his recent sketches into a mock up on the computer. …The speed at which we could create work excited Paul and he began sketching endlessly. One day Paul came through to show me a series of line drawings that he wished to make into a book,” she adds.
Leithuania began with an idea for a fictitious place where the pair would like to live. Mr Teapot followed, after Paul showed Leithuania to a four-year-old: “The part she responded to the most was a Teapot man painting on the wall of the art gallery. So Paul did a story about this one character Mr Teapot Head,” says Lydia. “When I coloured Mr Teapot Head, I only used two colours, red and blue. I love old printing and packaging, so I wanted to recreate that sort of look.
This two-colour aesthetic led to the idea for Bread and Cheese’s Red Land and Blue Land, a tale which evolved into “a sort of anti-war story” [each country is suspicious of the other and governments prepare for war, before their weapons are destroyed in a lightning storm and their countries joined by a rainbow. Residents eventually meet and decide to join a bridge to link both lands], says Lydia.
“It was intended to be slightly funny, but also covers quite a serious topic – we wanted it to be something children could understand, but could also entertain the adults reading it,” says Lydia.
With their bold colours, strange imagery and bizarre plots, each book has a slightly psychedelic feel and the witty copywriting and cheerful illustrations will appeal to both adults and children. Lydia says Paul is already working on fourth book, “and has ideas for lots more.”
Titles cost £10 each and are available to buy here.