Fatti Burke, known to her friends as Kathi, is a Dublin-based illustrator and designer. Hailing from Waterford originally, she has just launched her book, Irelandopedia, which she has co-written with her father John Burke.
For her first book this is an impressively ambitious undertaking, with the father daughter teaming up to produce a children’s book that condenses hundreds of stories about Ireland into over a thousand images and tales representing the 32 counties of Ireland. A Compendium of Maps, Facts and Knowledge, the duo have covered the length and breadth of this tiny island with detailed maps and stories. We have been pouring over the book since we got it and we are delighted to have had the chance to catch up with Kathi to find out more about how the book came about.
The tagline for the book is “An adventure around Ireland”, where did the idea for the book come from and what was it like working with your Dad.
I discussed the idea of a book about Ireland with Gill & Macmillan at the start of 2015 – it was basically born from my previous work with mapmaking as well as my obsession with Irish themes. As we discussed the concept further, we realised that we’d need a school teacher’s expertise to really make it appeal to kids. My dad taught me everything I know, so he was my first choice. He didn’t take much convincing either – we make a surprisingly great team. People are really shocked to hear we didn’t fight or anything through this process!
From stories of ghosts and JFK, to Brian Boru and the Clancy brothers, this book covers an immense range of fabulous facts, how were they chosen?
Well since I’m based in Dublin and Dad lives in Waterford, we had to do all our work together online, but we worked out a pretty smooth system. Dad would upload his research to our folders – these were taken from his own experience, history books, encyclopedias and websites. So then I’d look through all his brilliant facts and choose the ones I thought worked best – the ones that are either the most interesting or would be the funnest to draw!
Starting from scratch on your first book must have been quite daunting. Were there people you turned to along the way and what type of advice did you get?
Oh of course! I asked Chris Judge for advice from the get go. He gave me great advice, about pacing the work and negotiating deadlines. I’m used to working on a project for only like 1-2 weeks maximum, before I move onto my next one. So the prospect of working on one thing for 5+ months really scared me! Luckily, I had a deadline so I couldn’t faff about. I just made a plan on Day 1, telling myself what I needed to complete each day in order to deliver on time. It was painful and hard to stick to at times, but it helped massively. Having that planned from the start is what forced me to work so hard in getting it completed as quickly as I did.
As an illustrator, you are probably best known your maps; did the process of creating this book alter or change the way you approach map making?
Oh, massively. These maps are very different to what I’m used to – more geographically accurate stuff. Whilst the spreads are based off each county’s borders, the only ‘mappy’ bits are the mountains, rivers, lakes and cities. Those bits are where they should be – but the majority of the facts are more decorative, and therefore I had a lot more wiggle room in the layout of the pages.
You featured in a project for OFFSET in 2013, where you ended up with a tattoo inspired by David Shrigley. Where do your inspirations come from?
The Shrigley thing is gas, I might have been a bit stupid to do that but anything in the name of Offset! Most of my stuff doesn’t have any huge inspiration – I just love to have a laugh, so I tend to make things that make me happy! It really is that easy – animals, food, childhood memories. I like to keep things simple.
Your style has become more confident over the years and there seems to be an unmistakable simplicity to your illustration, with your personality shining through this book. Do you have a particular illustration from the book that is your favourite?
Oh my absolute favourite things to draw were all the pieces on the “What We Eat” spread. The macaroon bars, the fizzy drinks, the billy roll. I just love drawing food and packaging, so I had so much fun reminiscing and salivating on those pages.
Having dedicated the past five months to this project you are probably looking forward to taking a break for awhile but where should we expect to see your work next?
I have some work coming out in the next couple months with some great clients – I have some amazing luck with the array of deadly people I end up working with! I’m currently working with the Women’s Museum of Ireland, the City Of Physics, and a couple of awesome food brands. I think I have the bug though, and I’ve already written another picture book, so I’ll probably be working on developing that in the new year.
With pages like ‘What We Eat’ and ‘On the Farm’, this is a super colourful, off-beat and fascinatingly funny exploration of Ireland. Fatti’s incredibly effortless illustrations and her father John’s cute Irish facts go hand in hand seamlessly, creating a book which is a captivating read for both the young and the young at heart. Having read it cover to cover a few times, we are reminded of how special Ireland really is and we are certain it will inspire many new adventures.
Photos by Lauren Pritchard