Fiona Whyte studied art at Auckland’s Elam School of Art and then spent over 20 years producing and exhibiting paintings, sculptures and jewellery. Her style, described as “cheerful, naive and vital”, captures an essence and conectednesswithin the seascaoes and cityscapes she favours. Her art pours from a spirit that understands suffering, joyfully communicates in the language of an artist and endures in hope. Recently Fiona moved to New South Wales and is developing her art in a new direction – her passion for children.
I have always been passionate about children, I believe that the way we treat our children will shape the world.
My mum loved to say no; she loved me passionately but was very afraid of the world. So she would say no to everything and was very critical of everyone. My father was of the old fashioned view that boys where more important than girls and although he loved me, my younger brother was seen as the hero in the family. I grew up believing I could never get what I wanted in life and I still work very hard to let go of these limiting beliefs.
As a mother I decided to do things differently, to try to consciously parent my children. Of course some of my childhood training still came up, I will be the first to admit that I am a very over-protective mum, but I aimed to teach my children to love and value themselves, to know that each one of them was individually important and special and to celebrate who they where. I have always believed that my children have just as much wisdom to share with me as I have to share with them, and because of this we have a love and mutual respect for each other.
We need to be very aware of the messages we are giving our children, and the messages are given in many different forms, from the way we speak to our children, the way we speak about ourselves, the toys we give them to play with and the books and TV they watch, to name a few.
My two daughters share my passion and together we started Beetle Bottoms. Beetle Bottoms are tiny people who live in gardens and parks all over the world; they are just like you and me only they are the size of an apple pip. So every child will have these tiny people living in their garden. The idea behind Beetle Bottoms is keeping kids, kids, getting children out in the garden using their imaginations, exploring and creating childhood magic. We want children to grow up knowing that they are amazing being exactly who they are, and that it is all of their unique quirks that make them so special. If we all knew how important we are and celebrated our differences things like bullying would become a thing of the past.
We have a series of Beetle Bottoms books, as well as character dolls, wall decals and children’s games, which we have designed and written to celebrate childhood. As part of celebrating childhood and encouraging children to love themselves we believe it is vitally important for them to see characters and dolls that look like them. Because of this all of our characters steer away from the current trend of sexy, skinny dolls and characters, Beetle Bottoms have healthy, robust, natural children’s bodies.
When we started to design our character dolls we decided to find out what adults thought their childhood dolls had taught them about life. Over and over men and women told talked about how they thought the dolls showed normal bodies and that felt pressure to look like the dolls they had, they talked about the tiny skinny bodies and sexy make-up or the buff action man bodies.
Most dolls are marketed to young pre-pubescent children who are still developing there sense of self and are vulnerable to body ideals and pressure.
Unfortunately these children often don’t know that many fashion dolls bodies are physically impossible to obtain, and certainly are not the average. Children trying to reach these representations of the norm are at a very early age set up for a loosing battle.
During early childhood, children are vulnerable to outside influences as their ideas on the world and how they fit into it are still being formed. Unfortunately when children are handed these sexy dolls, which not only give them unrealistic body expectations but also represent only a fraction of the ethnic groups, their ideas about themselves and the world are being shaped. They are being told that this doll represents what you should be and you’re never going to be it. My daughters and I wanted to break the mold and create natural dolls that communicate to children that it is normal and healthy to look like a child.
My move into working with children was a natural progression, throughout my art career I have always stayed connected to children teaching special art programs at many schools throughout New Zealand. I am also the mother of 5 children and am now a grandmother. After years of doing paintings, sculpture and jewelry for adults I am loving the journey of now creating art and stories for children. I feel called to this mission to help create amazing childhoods and help grow children who love themselves and believe in themselves and I am so blessed to be sharing this adventure with my two daughters and the rest of our family.
Childhood is a magical time and children have so much to offer the world. Children are filled with natural joy and a love of life, lets all join together to keep kids, kids.