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Morag Hood - From Costume to Children's Books

Illustration of two puffins talking to each other by Morag Hood.
Illustration of two puffins talking to each other by Morag Hood.

, Wimbledon College of Arts, UAL | Photograph: Morag Hood.
Written by
Sophie Kassay
Published date
08 February 2019

Morag Hood is an alumna of Wimbledon's BA Costume Design (now BA Costume for Theatre and Screen) who since graduating has become an award-winning children’s book illustrator and author, known for titles including I Am Bat and Colin and Lee, Carrot and Pea.

We spoke to Morag about her career highlights, how her costume design degree has proved useful as a children’s book author and her advice for those considering a career change.

What inspired you to become a children’s book author and illustrator?

I always really loved picture books and my interest in them didn’t really diminish as I got older! But I also loved theatre and design and so that was what led me to study costume design in the first instance.

Illustration of a bat from children's book by Morag Hood
Morag Hood, I am Bat by Morag Hood.
, Wimbledon College of Arts, UAL | Photograph: Morag Hood

Can you talk a bit about your career from graduating from your BA up until now?

After graduating I worked freelance for a few years in the costume departments of various theatres. I especially enjoyed the work I did at the Young Vic theatre, touring with the Opera Group and on Monkey Journey to the West - a large scale production with an enormous cast of Chinese opera singers and acrobats!

But after a while I realised that costume wasn’t quite the right fit for me and I started doing some short courses, including one at Chelsea College of Arts. I worked up an illustration portfolio and applied to do an MA in Children’s Book Illustration at Cambridge School of Art. When I graduated from there in 2015 I found an agent and was offered a publishing contract - it really was a dream come true! Since then I have had 5 picture books published, with three more coming this year.

What have been some of the highlights of your career thus far?

Every time I see my book in a bookshop or meet a young child who knows my characters it feels really special. Some highlights have been seeing my books translated into multiple languages, winning the United Kingdom Literary Association (UKLA) Award and having one of my books, I Am Bat, be given to every Primary One child in Scotland as part of an amazing scheme run by the Scottish Book Trust.

Illustration of a zebra teaching smaller zebras maths from children's book by Morag Hood
Zebra by Morag Hood.

Did the BA Costume Design degree equip you with skills that were useful in your children’s book author career?

I initially studied costume design because I loved theatre, text and character and the BA allowed me to explore and develop in all of those areas. One of the biggest things the BA gave me was time and space to explore and think creatively. Each of the projects we worked on was so different that it really gave me a chance to work out what interested and motivated me.

What did you enjoy most about studying at Wimbledon?

I especially enjoyed meeting and working with such a broad range of people, some of whom became my best friends. I still turn to a couple of them when I need to discuss my creative work. Wimbledon was a great place to live and study and I really enjoyed being so intellectually stimulated. The work experience which I did as part of the course also led to my first costume jobs when I graduated.

Illustration of two aadvarks from children's book by Morag Hood
Aalfred and Aalbert by Morag Hood.

What advice would you give to someone considering a career change?

Try it! It can be a bit scary but if you possibly can then the rewards are definitely worth it. Especially in the creative world, no exploration will ever be a mistake - you just learn more about what you enjoy and what drives you. It was very important to me to test things out, doing some short courses and working by myself before I took the plunge. When I first started thinking about a change I wasn’t in a position to go back to studying full time, so patience is also important. A career change doesn’t happen overnight, but then none of the worthwhile things in life do!

What’s coming up next for you?

My next book ‘Aalfred and Aalbert’ comes out in January 2019 so I am gearing up for the launch and doing a few events for schools. Then I have another book coming out in the summer which is very nearly finished, and I am already in the early stages of developing another picture book to come after that. I also write picture books for another illustrator, Ella Okstad, and we have a new book coming out in May 2019. Looks like it is going to be a busy year!

Find out more about Morag's books.

Learn more about studying BA Costume for Theatre and Screen at Wimbledon College of Arts.