It takes imagination, skill, muscle power, sweat and wool to make the hat…
… and a mysterious drawing.
When it’s half done, Miszek teases Clive by sending a photo in which the hat can’t be properly seen.
Later, the finished hat travels from Gdansk in Poland to the Ystwyth Valley in Wales…
… snug in a neatly packed box.
The hat has been sleeping, but wakes up when the box is opened.
Jack investigates the hat. The hat smells interesting. It smells of Miszek…
and of Fisieńka Ćmieleska!
Here is the hat. It’s the best hat in the world!
It springs a wonderful surprise, having not one…
… but two faces!
Miszek writes to Clive:
‘So here it is – your protection from the cold and what’s more important – protection from all the evil lurking in the woods. From now on you are perfectly safe.’
He’s right. I do feel safe with this Janus hat that keeps an eye on where I’ve been as well as where I’m going.
It takes imagination, skill, muscle power, sweat and wool to make the hat. But most of all it takes a big heart, and Miszek has the biggest. Thank you Miszek for the-hat-that-keeps-me-warm-and-safe. This hat makes me very, very happy.
This copy of Russian Fairy Tales with extraordinary illustrations by Alexandre Alexeieff (Александр Александрович) is a much loved and well-thumbed treasure from my bookshelves.
The book’s slipcase.
Alexeieff was a stage designer as well as an illustrator, and perhaps this accounts for the creation in the Fairy Tales of a plausibly complete world with it’s own unique visual style. I can’t recall any other illustrations quite like these. I particularly like the half page images and vignettes, of which there are many. What’s so impressive about his approach is that it’s imaginative and yet leaves ample room for the imagination of the reader, a crucial aspect I think of the best illustrated books. Some of the figures look as though they may have been influenced by the folk tradition of Russian toys, a notion not so far from my own process of creativity.
Alexeieff became a pioneer in the field of animatied film when in 1931, with his second wife Claire Parker, he developed the ‘pin-screen’, a technique by which thousands of adjustable pins in a panel are lit with raking light, and images are conjured by the shadows resulting from manipulating them to different heights. (The couple’s invention was the precursor of the toy pin-screens available in novelty shops, into which you can press your hand so that the shape of it appears sculpted by pin heads on the reverse.) Parker and Alexeieff’s pin-screen wrought effects of ravishingly atmospheric beauty, conjured out of light and shadow alone. Their calling card showcasing the technique was the 1931 animated film Night on the Bald Mountain set to the music of Mussorgsky.
You can view part of Parker and Alexeieff’s pin-screen animated version of Gogol’s The Nose HERE. Do bear in mind that everything you see is painstakingly made from the shadows of thousands of pins!
Alexander Alexeieff (1901 – 1982) Claire Parker (1910 – 1981)