Thursday, August 09, 2007

Barbara Ensor : Author, Artiste, Educator

Barbara Ensor’s website is enchanting. The opening image is a wooden file box, tied up round and round with twine with a big red and white nametag sticker that reads: Do Not Open. So, of course, you cannot help but click on the sign to get to the next thing. Once you click, you find yourself inside the file box, looking at three tabs labeled Cinderella, What Else, and Me.

So what’s the Cinderella bit about? Barbara wrote her own version of the classic tale, renaming it Cinderella (As If You Didn’t Already Know the Story). Some cool things about this version: One, Cinderella talks about her life in letters to her deceased biological mother. Two, the story isn’t over once Cinderella and the Prince are married. Barbara dares to show the complexities of married life and how Cinderella negotiates her own independence. Three, the illustrations are Barbara’s blcak shadow silhouette cutouts. The letters from Cinderella to deceased mom function, in part, to show the interior of Cinderella. “If you don’t see that interior,” comments Barbara, "you wonder why she is such a pushover."

Under the website heading Me, there is a little bio of Barbara. Some interesting facts:

She has written for New York Magazine, Entertainment Life, Village Voice.
Her illustrations have appeared in Harper’s, Self, New York Times.
She grew up mostly in England.
Her first job after graduating from Brown U was as a puppeteer.

During our chat at Park Slope’s Union Hall, Barbara let me know that her family traveled a lot when she was little, so she and her siblings found ways to adapt to different surroundings. For example, they played with dolls way past when they were supposed to, age-wise. They also created a puppet theater. “It was all about setting up the story,” shared Barbara.

Here’s something else interesting about Barbara: In 2006, she started The Little School of Moving Pictures and began teaching young people how to make clay animation movies. She even posts her students’ movies on UTube!

What’s coming down the pike from Barbara? Well, there’s her rendition of Thumbelina coming out in June of 2008. Thumbelina will be portrayed as a tiny runaway bride, with all these different animals wanting to marry her. And there will be plenty of Barbara’s magical black silhouettes.

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