In which we visit the House of MinaLima

img_3664Be still my beating heart. This weekend, myself and fellow graphic design enthusiast (and former production gremlin as we have been affectionately known), Becca, ventured into London on a mission for cake and beautiful graphic design. We succeeded on both counts.

I am going to start this by saying that if you love Harry Potter, go to the House of MinaLima. If you love graphic design, go to the House of MinaLima. If at all possible. (Though, it is supposed to be closing in early February but there has been a petition to keep it open permanently so we shall keep all of our fingers and toes and cross-able appendages crossed, arms, legs, everything.)

It really is a spectacular display.

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The exhibition is exceedingly popular (and for good reason), as we approached, me giddy with excitement and practically bouncing down the street, we saw the queue. It wriggled around a street corner, unfortunately blocking the entry way to a pub much to their chagrin though the MinaLima staff were trying their hardest to make sure visitors left a gap, and people were joining it at a pretty constant rate. If there’s anything we British are good at, it’s queuing so we dealt with it in a way expected from Millenials; we took selfies. Even the American and French tourists we saw seemed to be in good spirits despite the long wait to get in. We were dancing about in the queue for around forty minutes (all of which were incredibly chilly).

There’s something about the magic of Harry Potter that makes queuing that bit more exciting, and makes people more happy and willing to do it – so many queue for a few moments pretending to be running through a wall in King’s Cross station, for example. The mood in the queue (how many times can I type the word queue in this little section?) was for the most part jubilant. People were excited. It may have been freezing cold but there were giggles and exclamations of joy to be heard all around. Some people left, not interested enough to stick out the chill, but those who remained seemed to bubble with energy, getting closer and closer to boiling point as they neared the door.

Once inside we were instructed to start on the first floor but before we got there, I noticed my first little detail and I knew I was going to love everything. There was a door next to the stairs, and instead of simply reading ‘No Entry’ or ‘Staff Only’ this door said ‘No Entry. Trolls in the Dungeon!’

Perfect.

img_3701The House of MinaLima is covered in design. Covered. Even the stairs had Hogwarts letters pasted to them, and the walls newsprint. The folks at MinaLima have committed wholly to not just creating an exhibition but creating an experience and it’s pretty mind-blowing.

The first floor is reserved for items from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, including wanted posters and the delightfully styled advertisements seen throughout the film. Plus all of the New Salem Philanthropic Society paraphernalia. I want all of it. I am hoping that they will release a series of t-shirts with the designs on. That would make me incredibly happy, already owning one courtesy of LootCrate.

img_3704We had a little bit of a wait before we could ascend the winding staircase once again to reach the second floor but the waiting is more than worth it. I think the second floor was my favourite.   

I had heard, from the radios held by the staff members, the word Marauders several times while looking around the first floor. I had assumed it was just code for the visitors until I reached the second floor. The entire floor is made up of a section of the Marauder’s Map and it is incredible. I had imagined wonderful things but I had never imagined I would be walking on that map.

img_3685Along with the wonder of the map are labels from potions, labels from Dumbledore’s memories, the Whomping Willow as it appears on the map, Hogwarts letters hanging from the ceiling as if they’re falling and lots of other lovely papery coloured things. Muted colours. It was very calming.

Until you venture behind the door. Behind the door is the Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes section and it explodes with colour. Even the walls and floor are brightly patterned. I was squeaking with delight on a near permanent basis.

img_3683The third and last floor had two rooms, one larger with a fire place from which hundreds of letters cascaded, and the covers and designs of all of the books Harry and the gang use in their Hogwarts career.

I adored this part. I love books and I love book design and I love designing books so seeing the covers as I had never really seen them before was a wonderful experience. Not only that but enclosed in cases on the walls (which looked delightfully Victorian) were actual copies of the books as used in the films. Most were battered and worn as if they were old and it took all of my willpower not to beg the nearest staff member to let me hold one.

img_3682The second room has Harry’s Undesirable No.1 poster and the wanted posters of Bellatrix and Sirius, as well as many front pages of the Daily Prophet. For such a small room, it is quite imposing.

In terms of the building’s structure, the third floor was my favourite. It’s so old that the floor is warped into waves and it feels light a building right out of Diagon Alley. I can imagine the amount of careful thought that went into choosing just the right building. They got it spot on.

img_3686Even if I was absolutely terrified of walking back down the stairs.

I present this statement with the adjacent evidence: look at my face in this picture. This picture represents both my absolute terror at being stood on the stairs and having to then walk down them (stairs are a problem for me) but also my absolute wonder at all of the beautiful design and pretty much being inside the world of Harry Potter. I tried so hard in this photo. I don’t hate it (which is surprising considering it’s not one I took myself). I am getting better at liking photos. I am proud of myself.

img_3702Luckily for me, not many people were wanting to come down and no one was currently wanting to go up, so my descent was not traumatising (for the most part, I was incredibly nervous the whole way down). It was so worth the stairs. I was so nervous when I was in the queue, despite my excitement, I had read on the website about the uneven stairs and I had been thinking about it ever since. But I was determined not to let it stop me and I am so glad my determination won out.

img_3695The gift shop was last. There was a sale on. It would have been rude not to buy anything. Rude. I wanted to buy a print but couldn’t quite justify the spend right there and then and didn’t feel like I could make such an important decision about which one on the spot. I am not ruling out buying one online though. In fact, I probably will. Instead, I opted for the two sets of Hogwarts postcards (each with book covers and such inside) and an original MinaLima design on a t-shirt. A Parliament of Owls. I had to. I also intend to buy their Murder of Crows design, and am hoping for a Tiding of Magpies to be sold as apparel too. Not to mention their exquisitely produced editions of Peter PanThe Jungle Book and Beauty and the Beast. I am a sucker for their design and I am not ashamed.

Much to my surprise Miraphora Mina was actually there. I was too chicken to say anything to her (I had no idea what to say) but it made me so happy to be in the same place as one of the creative minds behind all of that incredible work. From what I heard of someone else’s conversation with her (they were inquiring about work experience) she seemed very down to earth and willing to help budding designers. Excellent.

I hope they are able to keep it open, I would love to venture back there again and I would love more people to be able to see it. It’s incredible and it was an afternoon well spent.

A Chance Meeting and a Ladybird Exhibition

One of the things that I love about Oxford is its book culture. It is so full of people who love books, be they OICPS Publishing students Trainee Professionals, Publishing and Research Professionals, tourists, C.S. Lewis enthusiasts, Tolkien enthusiasts, Lewis Carroll enthusiasts (guilty as charged!), students, teachers… the list is endless. 

Today, I met a lovely middle-aged couple at the bus stop and after answering their questions about bus times and ticket prices, we got onto the subject of my Masters and subsequently books. They told me that they had visited a Ladybird Art Exhibition in Grantham, which runs until the end of October and I now rather want to go to. It displays original artworks from 1960s and 1970s Ladybird science titles.

The husband, whose name I stupidly forgot to ask, remarked about the colours, the brightness and the lack of subtle shades in their design. He had a theory that their choice in colour, at the time of their creation (all of them were hand painted), was heavily influenced by possibly ongoing post-war shortages. While I am unsure if this is correct, it makes me want to find out. His enthusiasm for the exhibition and its quality was enough to get me at least a little bit excited about it.

Now, science isn’t my usual area of interest – I am ever the Children’s and Young Adult fiction enthusiast – but there was one title I found while researching which has me intrigued:

The Ladybird Book of The Night SkyThe Ladybird Book of The Night Sky.

While there are more sophisticated books about the constellations, which make use of the ever-improving astrological technology of our age, the Ladybird title has its own sort of charm. As all* of the images are painted by hand, there is little assurance of its accuracy. Rather than being the be all and end all of children’s astronomy books, it becomes astronomy through the eyes of the painter(s) and that concept is very tempting. Having sourced some second-hand copies, my finger is hovering over the ‘buy’ button and it is taking a lot of control** not to click.

Its age is part of its charm, with vintage being ‘in’ it’s not difficult to find myself leaning towards it (though I have always been interested in antiques, my book choices tend to be much older).

Claudine King-Dabbs writes of the book:

It demystifies the same sky observed by Isaac Newton – and seeks to explain the mechanisms and movements of the planets and stars – to unravel and explain the mysteries of our solar system, again, like Newton.

The link to her article on the conception of the exhibition can be found at the end of this post.

The night sky has always been something that fascinates me (I own a rabbit named Orion as testimony for my love of the stars, and rabbits; despite Orion treading on/hunting Lepus, the rabbit constellation, which is something I didn’t think about when giving him the name… but I digress), so it is unsurprising that it is this book which had pulled me in. Science for people who do not go out of their way to learn about the subject.

Without this chance meeting, I would never have known about the exhibition or even the above book; the people here have such enthusiasm about the printed (and now digital) word and love to share it if the conversation wanders down that path. It’s lovely to experience.

When the bus arrived, we parted ways and I spent the whole journey home thinking about Grantham, a place I have never visited, and the books on display there.

The Exhibition takes place at The Grantham Museum from 10am until 4pm and is free, so I highly recommend a visit. More details about the event can be found here.

For those interested in the event’s conception, the article can be read here.

While we are on the subject of events, my Resources page will list relevant museums and such with permanent book-related exhibitions (temporary exhibitions might also be listed depending on the amount of time I have free to take care of the upkeep of such a list).

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*from what I can gather, having never seen inside the book I can only assume that all of the images are painted.

**The control is necessary, I already spent an alarming amount of money on books for my degree today. Adding another onto that total is not in my best interests, nor would it make my bank account very happy.