Cat in a Flat has released its first cat-themed calendar illustrated by Axel Scheffler (illustrator of The Gruffalo) and friends. 100% of the profits go to support endangered wild cats in the care of Born Free.  It's the perfect gift for the cat lover in your life this Christmas. We caught up with Scheffler to discuss why the project is so close to his heart. 

Cat in a Flat

Cat in a Flat

Please tell us about your new project with Cat in a Flat?

I have known Kathrin, one of the co-founders of Cat in a Flat for a long time and, as a cat “servant” myself, I followed their start-up with great interest. The idea of a calendar came over coffee and cake in my kitchen when both founders, Kathrin and Julie, came to visit me. We were discussing ways of helping to promote their new online service. Cats and illustrations work very well together, so the answer was not that far. We had the idea to do a cat calendar for 2020 - so I asked a few of my illustrator friends (mainly German) whether they would do a picture and almost all of them did - some are great cat friends as welll.

What made you want to get involved with a charity that helps endangered big cats?

I have loved animals since I was a child and I'm deeply worried about the state of wild animals in the world... many species threatened with extinction. We choose a wild cat charity to tie in with the fact that it's a cat calendar. The BornFree tip came from the wonderful children's book writer Gill Lewis, who writes a lot about threatened animals.

Please tell us about your inspiration for your drawings.

I did two of the pictures. I sent a whole lot of old cat drawings of mine to Cat in a Flat, who put the calendar together - one was very old illustration I did for Resurgence magazine and the other one was inspired by our new chickens. We now have three chickens - it was our daughter's wish... so now we get fresh eggs everyday. I did the drawing because we have now cats and chickens though they keep a respectful distance - the hens wouldn't think of climbing on the cat's back - but anything is possible on a drawing.

Do you have a soft spot for domestic cats?

Yes! We got our cats as kittens. My partner had cats before and our daughter wanted one... but we then got two, so they can keep each other company. They are black and black with a white collar and socks. The boy-cat comes into bed to say hello every morning very early - while he ignores me all through the day! I have of course done a few cat books : TS Eliot's Old Possum and Julia Donaldson's "Tabby McTat" and there is a cat in Room on the Broom - so I know now that  real cats  do  look and behave quite differently from the cats drawn on paper.

What is your creative process when you begin a new project?

I work in my studio - from home. It's rather messy, so I have to clear a little area to do my work.  I get the text from the publisher - I never work directly with Julia Donaldson. She is my main author, but sometimes I work with others. I have meetings with the editor and the art-director to discuss the project. When everybody is happy with the characters and the sketches I can start doing the art work. Usually the ideas for the pictures come quite easily to me once I've read the text.

How long does one image take you to create?

If all goes well, I can do a double spread in two days - depending on the amount of detail... If there is  a lot of sky I can do that quickly. For some books I have had to do lots of versions of one picture until I was happy with it. So then it takes longer, of course. I remember struggling with the skies in Room on The Broom. Generally I think I can work faster now than when I first started .

What are you looking forward to on your calendar next year?

I have number of projects lined up for the next year... and it feels there might be some more cats involved... but I'm not allowed to give too much away! No more plans to get any real animals for now. I’m hoping there might be another calendar for 2021 - and if I can be in charge to choose the artists, I would ask some other illustrator friends (this time some Belgian, French and British) and I'd love to see, what they would come up with...!

Axel Scheffler by Liam Jackson
Axel Scheffler by Liam Jackson


Axel Scheffler is illustrator of many books, including The Grufallo, and co-producer of Cat in a Flat’s Axel Scheffler & Friends 2020 Calendar. The calendar is priced £12.99 and is available from 100% of the profits are going to support endangered wild cats in the care of Born Free.

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