Maplelea Girl Charlsea, from Canada’s west coast, was inspired by the many letters and emails our office receives each week. Online research helped us to learn about the history and geography of the area, but it was the trip to Salt Spring Island when specific details about her experiences and character really came to life.
Whether a descendant of an original farming family, or a recently arrived escapee from hectic urban life elsewhere, everyone was eager to share their knowledge of the Island and its community. They told us about Salt Spring’s need for exceptionally high recycling rates, the wide-spread love of gardening, the frustrations of a life ruled by ferry schedules, and the mystery of fairy doors in the forest.
Maplelea families welcomed us into their homes, eager to tell us what it was like to be a girl growing up in the Gulf Islands of BC. A grade 4/5 class answered our many questions about everything from their favourite field trip to their footwear of choice. Teachers graciously stayed after school to continue the dialogue. And, a local historian and former teacher, an original Salt Spring back-to-the-lander herself, put the Island in context for us.
We experienced the spectacular view of the Gulf Islands from atop Mount Maxwell and the liveliness of the Saturday Market in Ganges, where even young Island entrepreneurs offered their hand-made goods. Events were attended – a house concert, a fall festival, a church fundraiser, a community forum on children and youth, and more. And how could we not stop at the ubiquitous unmanned farm stands that offered their fresh organic bounty with the trust that a deposit would be made in the moneybox for the produce taken.
After a ferry trip, we were on Gabriola Island to meet with a Maplelea family whose kayak trip inspired the one taken by Charlsea.
Laden with hundreds of photos and many pages of notes we returned to Ontario to collaborate with a writer, an illustrator and a sculptor to create the story journal and doll that would become Charlsea. Our in-house production team worked hard to design outfits and accessories to reflect her lifestyle.
We would like to thank all the girls, families and community members who so openly and kindly shared their stories and experiences, only a few of which are shown here. The information was extremely helpful in the creation of our Charlsea Woodhouse character.
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