'There are so many inspiring, badass women in Ireland' - Artist Fatti Burke on our nation of 'the biggest hearts'
“All I know from my experience is that Irish women are my whole world, they’re the people I love most, I’m happy to be in Ireland when I’m there, I’m happy to know so many inspiring, badass women.”
“For the most part, Ireland has really advanced in things like gender, sexuality, and that’s really refreshing. Irish people are all about respect and love. We’ve the biggest hearts.”
Irish illustrator Fatti Burke, best known for her art work in Irelandopedia, the bestselling children’s book, is currently living in Amsterdam, a colourful city that’s had a subliminal effect on her own colourful work, but she’s already making plans to move home. Ireland has come a long way, she says.
For the day job, she concerns herself with ancient female heroes like Granuaile, and she doesn't have to pause to name her contemporary female hero.
“Sinéad Burke, I’m really obsessed with her. Everything she does is amazing, really inspiring. And the joy of speaking to her, she’s the smartest person I’ve ever met," she muses on International Women's Day.
Fatti, who has produced Historopedia, Fócloiropedia, and Granuaile with her father John Burke, is all about inspiring children (and their parents and teachers) to learn with visual cues, and making facts cool.
Her next book “Find Tom in Time, Ancient Egypt” will be published in May, and she is currently illustrating for a book based on Ancient Rome for UK publisher Nosy Crow.
“I have a special part of my heart for kids. When I’m drawing I’m wondering how would a kid read this image? I have to think like a kid. When a child hurts, there’s nothing worse in the universe. I’d love to be a mentor for someone – if the child doesn’t have role models in their home then they could have a mentor outside of the home – I've started thinking about going back to college to do youth service or counselling training.”
“I used to work on a domestic abuse helpline, and it was great helping people just by listening to them. To do that with kids would be my absolute goal even if it’s just a side job.”
Encouraging children to realise their dreams is crucial, she says. As a young girl, the people around her encouraged her to develop her love.
“I had an art teacher who was very encouraging. I knew that I had my heart set on going to art school, and my teacher encouraged me and helped me to get into college and believed in me.”
"I always had confidence in my work, even when I didn’t have confidence personally, I always knew I liked my art, and that came from my parents. They never said ‘there’s not much money in art’. It’s nice to have that support. One thing I’d want children to have is someone who doesn’t laugh when they come up with an idea, when they say ‘this is my dream’, someone who can help them achieve that. It’s always good to encourage that kind of dream.”
Making education fun is a huge part of encouraging our children to blossom, Fatti says.
“I’m one of those people that finds it hard to learn just by reading and a lot of kids are visual learners too. It’s nice that I have a little niche there that does help people, illustrating female role models in ancient times, and I’m also working on a project on Irish birds, niche things that I find really interesting.”
“It’s about saying that it’s cool to want to learn new things and all these cool facts that are out there. You don’t have to be a swat. We don’t have to learn the same way, and for me the knowledge that teachers are using my books in class is really cool.”