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Studio MinaLima: Illustrating The Secret Garden

In our exhibition celebrating The Secret Garden, one edition of the classic children’s book on display is a vibrantly illustrated interactive version designed by Studio MinaLima, published in 2018 by HarperCollins, alongside sketches showing their creative process. We spoke with founders Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima to find out how they created their innovative design, which invites readers to journey with Mary into Misslewhaite Hall and its garden:

Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima

Can you tell us a bit about yourselves and how you set up Studio MinaLima?

Eduardo: We met in 2001, on the set of the Harry Potter movies; this is where we realised that we shared the same artistic vision and have worked together every day since. On completion of the Harry Potter series (and some other films in between!) in 2009, we formally founded our graphic design studio.

Miraphora: As Studio MinaLima, we have continued to work on movies including the Fantastic Beasts series. We have also crafted MinaLima Classics – our best-selling series of illustrated and interactive children’s fairytale books as well as our reimagination of the Harry Potter books. And, of course, we have opened four House of MinaLima gallery-shops across the globe.

Eduardo: We can’t seem to sit still so we have now expanded our studio to collaborate with award-winning experiential designers Eddie Newquist and Robin Stapley, who have a rich history of creating successful experiences, exhibits and attractions so you can guess what’s next!

In 2018 Studio MinaLima’s interactive illustrated edition of The Secret Garden was published. How did this project come about?

Miraphora: We love magical worlds and what better way to escape in them than to delve into a classic tale. So when HarperCollins commissioned us in 2015 to give Peter Pan the MinaLima treatment – vivid full-colour illustrations and papercraft elements with which readers could interact – we couldn’t resist. The Jungle Book followed, then The Beauty and The Beast and some other titles and it was not long before it was the turn for this much-loved English classic: The Secret Garden. We currently have eight published titles with Snow White coming to bookstores this November!

How did you decide which scenes in the book to illustrate, and how do you work together to create them?

Eduardo: Illustrating a book starts with me attentively reading the story again – because, let’s face it, it has been some time since I read these as a child! – and creating, what we call, a ‘bookmap’. This entails marking all the quirky, interesting and intriguing elements of the story. Then, together with Mira and our team of illustrators, we decide which events will be presented as an interactive, a full-page or double-page illustration or smaller spot illustrations within the text.

That’s when the creative vision starts to form in our minds and Mira starts roughly sketching characters and locations. From here, our fantastic team will pick these sketches up and draw the illustrations in more detail.

MinaLima sketches for The Secret Garden, on display in the exhibition. Photo by JUDDArtINDEX

Can you walk us through the process of creating the interactive elements of the book?

Miraphora: Our team starts crafting all the paper-engineered elements by hand, to see what works and what doesn’t; it can be quite challenging. We also have to make sure that the illustrations and interactives are evenly spread out to create a balanced reading experience and a book! But it is a very rewarding process, because these elements really help create a connection between the reader and the characters.

Photo by JUDDartINDEX

Do you have a favourite illustration in the book?

Miraphora: Our past in film makes us find ways to include little props in our books, so the interactives are always our favourites!

Eduardo: But it is a very hard question to answer – all the illustrations are so lovely! Can we say this?? I would say that the map of Lilias’ garden is my favourite. It depicts an important part of the story and helps the reader to uncover secrets alongside Mary.

What were your first encounters with the story of The Secret Garden, did you read the book as children yourselves?

Miraphora: I remember my mum reading it to me in the 1970s!

Eduardo: I can’t remember whether this was a popular story or not in Brazil. However, I remember starting to work with Stuart Craig in 2001 and rewatching all his films – including The Secret Garden from 1993! This is when I fell in love with the story. I then read it again when we started illustrating the MinaLima edition of this book!

What’s next at MinaLima, any exciting projects you’d like to mention?

Eduardo: We have two very exciting book releases at the end of this year! In October we are publishing The Magic of MinaLima, which celebrates us working together for the Wizarding World for 20 years. Expect behind-the-scenes, insights into designing iconic props such as the Marauder’s Map and, as always with MinaLima, some interactive elements! Then in November, we are publishing Snow White and Other Grimms’ Fairy Tales, which is our ninth MinaLima Classics title.

Follow MinaLima on Instagram: @minalimadesign
Find out more: www.minalima.com

The Secret Garden is open until 4 September, and kids go free! – Book a visit

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