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Imagining the Enchanted Forest

11 November 2017

Credit: Alun Callendar

The keen-eyed among you will have spotted the illustrations of Emily Sutton adorning the packaging of Bettys treats from biscuits to Christmas puddings for a few years now. We just love her charming, hand-drawn style, so when we wanted to create something really magical for this Christmas, we knew just who to ask to bring our Enchanted Forest to life.

Although there was a decided lack of snow on the ground when Emily first picked up her pencil back in May, she was already in a festive mood. “I was simultaneously working on a children’s Christmas book, so I was ‘in the zone’!” she laughs. “Because my illustration style is quite classic anyway, it’s a time of year that really appeals to me.”

As well as taking initial inspiration from a stack of vintage Christmas cards from Victorian times to the 1940s, picturing the Enchanted Forest allowed Emily to tap into her love of mid-20th century imagery, an era she calls “a real golden age” for illustration. “There was a sense of fun without veering into cartoon territory,” she explains. “It was a time when Christmas wasn’t as commercialised; it did have a more magical feel to it.”

Frolicking among the trees in the Enchanted Forest are Emily’s versions of our new chocolate characters Freddie the Fox, Sophie the Squirrel and Harry the Hedgehog. “The chocolate characters have a real sense of personality already, so I just built upon that,” she explains. “The squirrel I think of as being playful and fast-moving; the hedgehog was a little more tentative and shy.”

As for the forest itself, Emily turned to both the scenery on her North Yorkshire doorstep and the wealth of magical settings in fairy tales. “Near where I live there’s a forest called Yearsley Woods where I go for walks, so I took some photos there, just to get a sense of the landscape. But the Enchanted Forest is half based in reality and half in my imagination.”

Indeed, there’s something uniquely Bettys about this particular one. “Obviously Bettys is a Yorkshire institution but it has its roots in Switzerland,” Emily says. “So there’s a Yorkshire stone cottage in there, but then the snowy hills and forest are a little more continental.”

While Emily uses traditional pencils, paper, inks and watercolours, she’s excited about her work being the basis for our Christmas film. “I’m a bit of an animation geek myself and it’s always been my alternative fantasy career,” she enthuses, “There’s something really magical about seeing your drawings come to life.”

With her Christmas commissions already wrapped up, when the season does arrive, Emily knows what will make it extra enchanting for her. “At Christmas itself I really enjoy seeing family. The best thing at the moment is that I have a two year-old niece and it really brings Christmas back to how it used to be when I was a child. That’s the highlight, really.”

Shop our Emily Sutton illustrated Christmas collection

Emily Sutton signs our Harrogate window which included displays of her artwork