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Tea book a labour of love

Gibsons artist Pauline Lawson is always ready to put the kettle on and serve tea in an outstanding collection of china cups. Tea is only one of her interests; others include antique shops, living by the ocean, music, good food and wine.

Gibsons artist Pauline Lawson is always ready to put the kettle on and serve tea in an outstanding collection of china cups. Tea is only one of her interests; others include antique shops, living by the ocean, music, good food and wine. But it is the tea that has launched her art in a new direction. This year, she illustrated and wrote a whimsical story of the adventures of Emily, a character who lives and paints in an attic room with her pet cat Rudi. The story is a labour of love, she says, and not surprisingly, the tale reflects Lawson's own life. The book, Darling, Pass the Darjeeling, published by Cornelia Bean, a tea and coffee blending company in Winnipeg, will be launched at a special tea party at the Gibsons Public Library on Saturday, Nov. 20.

A tea book is a unique form of writing. Most are illustrated histories of tea, says Lawson, with recipes or tea etiquette to inform or entertain while sipping. Lawson's tea book is a bit different in that it describes a journey. In Darling, Pass the Darjeeling, Emily sips her orange pekoe tea while gazing from her window wishing she could travel to distant lands to meet interesting people. One day, a mysterious package, a paint box, arrives that gives her journey wings. Like her character, Lawson stays at home in Gibsons to paint, but her spirit roams the world, visiting many of the countries mentioned in the book: Ireland, Africa, Russia, Japan and the mythical land of the owl and the pussycat.

The text that accompanies each illustration is not lengthy. In many cases, it is written in light-hearted verse, suitable for all ages. The artistry is in the detailed illustrations and the author's whimsy. The overall effect is enhanced by the superb efforts of book designer Leonardo Vazquez who squeezes a shape or image from each page of text. Thus, the story describing the old medicine man sitting by the side of Spirit Lake is typeset into the triangular shape of a teepee, while Lawson's corresponding illustration depicts the teepee in the shape of a teapot. The result is absurd, but fun.

Lawson admits that not all the images are factually accurate. In her safari illustration, for example, she depicts a tiger, usually found in India, enjoying a cuppa in company with an African giraffe. Anything can happen when the safari takes place in the author's imagination.

Lawson was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in England and emigrated to Canada in 1970 to pursue a career in art. In her 30 years on the Coast, she has exhibited at the Sunshine Coast Arts Centre and taught seniors. She is most proud of her role as director of murals, a fund-raising project at Camp Goodtimes, the cancer society's camp for children with a history of the illness.

She began to paint angels and icons in 1990. Several of her paintings now hang in local churches, notably St. Bartholomew's Anglican and St. Mary's Catholic. She illustrated Circle of Wisdom: Journey of the Glastonbury Grandmothers by Margaret West, and in 2001 she created Tea: A Cultural Installation (with Michael Cichon), a Western/Korean teahouse at the former Artesia Gallery.

Though her publisher has already launched the book in September in Winnipeg, the Gibsons Library launch will be the first on home turf. The public is invited to the tea party on Saturday, Nov. 20, from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the library. Hardcover books for $24.95 will be available for sale there and again on Nov. 27 at a signing at Coast Books in Gibsons. After Nov. 20, the book will be at Talewind Books in Sechelt and, of course, at a local tea house, Intime in Gibsons.

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