Chatting with New Zealand born & Sydney dwelling illustrator Jax & author Nicola of And So You Asked
Annika: Where do you live?
Jax: Western Sydney
Nicola: I’ve now been living here in Sydney for a few years and I’m based in Maroubra- I couldn’t ever live far from the outdoors so Maroubra is a great compromise between city living and fresh air!
Annika: Would you consider your city or region very vegan friendly?
Jax: Slowly but surely, Western Sydney is growing by the minute and new Vegan friendly cafes and restaurants are popping up here and there – which is amazing!
Nicola: Sydney in general is amazingly accommodating! Luckily most cafes know what you mean when you say vegan and are happy to whip you something up. We also have so many Vegan only cafes popping up which I have been loving- Newtown and Bondi are becoming Vegan food hubs and I am so lucky they are both within 30 minutes of some of my favourites like Sadhana Kitchen, Gigi’s Pizzeria and Soul Burger!
Annika: What kind of work do you do?
Jax: Being an Artist proves difficult sometimes, so I work a normal part time job to cover everyday life but creating is always my main focus so I have absolutely loved illustrating ‘And so you asked’!
Nicola: I work full time in a marketing and communications role, but also run a Vegan business called Delicious Skin on the side too! I make all natural, plant-based skincare and I love it! I feel very fortunate that Delicious Skin and now And So You Asked are extensions of my beliefs and allow me to subtely promote veganism. It makes me really happy and proud to have created these platforms.
Annika: It’s very exciting to see the market for children’s books on veganism and vegan lifestyle growing and your book will be a gorgeous and thoughtful addition to that niche! What I love about what you and others focusing on children are doing is expanding the body of work for younger generations to learn about veganism. When did the idea for the book take shape and when will the book be available?
Jax: When Nic reached out to me about a children’s book she’d written I was excited, when Nic told me what ‘And so you asked’ was about and the message behind the book I knew instantly – this is a movement I wanted to be apart of!
Nicola: The next generation will be the game changing leaders who will create a more compassionate world and there is a really limited scope of literature like this available to plant those seeds! Early in my career I actually studied a bachelor of Early Childhood Education and worked for 8 years with 2-6 year olds before moving onto my current field. It’s such a beautiful age and I love their enquiring minds.
I have wanted to create something for them forever and one night inspiration just hit! “And so you asked” flowed out of my mind and onto paper in one night of insomnia- it was actually Christmas Eve 2015. I feel like it was a stroke of Big Magic (thanks Elizabeth Gilbert for that analogy) and something bigger than me. I made a pact with myself and with the universe that this thing would be a reality by Christmas 2016, and we are on track to make that happen!
Once I saw Jaclyn’s work I knew it was meant to be, and it really was. At every stage she has seen my vision and bought the characters and words to life in a way I cannot believe is real. She is so talented and I am so glad we’re on this journey together!
Annika: Your use of social media to share text and illustrations from the book is absolutely lovely. The illustrations and text touch on so many issues- veganism, girl power, multiculturalism and more. How do these themes intersect for you and what fuels your process in bringing them all together in this book?
Jax: Each issue ‘And so you asked’ addresses is completely relevant in our society today, with not one more important than the other. Each page acknowledges an individual subject, whether it be veganism and animal rights, empowering girls to kick butt at whatever they choose to do or expressing the importance of acceptance between all people.
Every matter that is touched upon in the book has significance to me, if not directly than through loved ones – which makes each illustration for ‘And so you asked’ an acknowledgement to the morals I choose to live by.
Nicola: Thank you so much! I completely agree and I am so glad those themes are coming through without even having read the book 🙂 It’s a testament to Jaclyn’s work!
And so you asked is completely an extension of my values, and like Jax I agree, all of these issues overlap and you can’t have one without the other! I identify as an intersectional vegan and that means that I believe in equal rights for all creatures, cultures, ethnicities, genders and sexual orientations. I believe that all forms of oppression are connected and inherently wrong. I believe we have a right to care for the planet and to speak up for those without a voice. This is what ‘And so you asked’ is about and I can’t wait for it to be out in the world!
Annika: What role do you see early childhood education playing in helping children learn about consumption patterns, societal beliefs and personal decisions- i.e. to choose to be vegan.
Jax: I so strongly believe that educating children from a young age about the colourful diversity of the world, the unfortunate realities of the world and most importantly a kind and ethical lifestyle is key to not only great health but also a more compassionate world that future generations will thrive in.
Nicola: As a previous Early Childhood Teacher I really believe it’s our job to plant seeds and to ask questions that create discussion and exploration in young minds. Compassion is innate at birth. Unfortunately its all too common for children to be slowly taught not to ask where their food comes from or what animal they are eating, or that people are all equal and worthy, or that their opinion and voice matters- even if it’s different from the societal norms. I believe all children have a right to an alternative education and books that explore these ideas and promote love in an age appropriate way.
Annika: When did you become vegan & why?
Jax: Prior to illustrating ‘And so you asked’ I was Vegetarian, because I loved animals – therefore I did not want to eat them! While creating the artworks for the book I found myself wanting to learn more about the ethics ‘And so you asked’ promotes, Veganism being one of them. It only took 5mins into ‘The best speech you’ll ever hear’ – Gary Yourofsky, for me to decide I wanted to live the most compassionate and ethical life I could. ‘And so you asked’ was a big reason for me becoming Vegan and now it holds me accountable to lead by example.
Nicola: Over 3 years ago now! Levi (my partner) put on the documentary Vegucated. I was simultaneously disgusted and inspired. I made a decision that night to change my life and I realised I could no longer live a life that harmed other beings.
Annika: What are some of your favorite foods?
Jax: All the vegan food there is?! But if I had to pick only a few, definitely a hearty veggie curry, my special homemade burritos and fresh watermelon.
Nicola: I’m one of those Vegans that is definitely Vegan for the animals- not the health! I love a good smoothie and salad as much as the next gal but I also love to indulge in vegan treats too like Linda McCartney sausage rolls or Treat Dreams chocolates.
Annika: Favorite meals to make for your family?
Jax: As mentioned before my special homemade burritos are always a winner but Australia is coming into Winter and you can never go wrong with homemade Pumpkin soup, its like a warm hug for your inside!
Nicola: At home we love to cook macro bowls because they are quick, easy and delicious! I also love anything hearty and warm like pasta with a lentil bolognese sauce, a good dose of nooch and avocado!
Annika: Favorite restaurants?
Jax: We love homemade dinners most, its a time for my partner and I come together at the end of the day and make something wholesome with love – but we are guilty of having a Naked Flame Pizzeria Vegan pizza on a Friday night!
Thank You Nicola & Jax for your time & looking forward to seeing And So You Asked come alive in print!