By Valerie LK Martin
LEBANON — Fall comes around and you start to see reindeer and ornaments and lights. You are praying your kids don’t see it all until December, but no such luck.
Your little ones begin thinking only about the presents and visiting the man in red. You try to imagine just how to break into their focus with the birth of an important baby.
Author and illustrator Beth Gully may just have something that will help.
In her book, “The Other Side of Christmas,” Gully tells both stories. Santa, stockings, cookies and gifts magically morph into Mary, Joseph, Herod and Jesus.
The book is a flipbook. Read it front to back, flip it over and read it back to front.
The amazing thing about this flipbook is that the illustrations are, used in both stories. See one thing in the Santa tale and another in the Jesus story.
The idea for the book came from a sketch Gully created in 1994. A graphic designer by profession, she always creates her Christmas cards. That year she made an ambigram of Santa and Jesus. (An ambigram is a word, art or other symbol whose presentation retains meaning when viewed from different perspective.) Years later, with prayer, many discussions and help from friends, the book was born.
She said she developed this skill by accident.
“I was designing a Christmas card and had written the word ‘happy’ in a cursive I created. No other ideas came, so I went to lunch,” she said. “When I returned, the paper was on the floor, upside down, and it looked like the word ‘holiday.’”
A skill was born.
Gully is one of 100 or so professional ambigram illustrators in the world. The book and her Santa/Jesus ambigram have won numerous awards. Most people may be familiar with word ambigrams (used in movies such as “The Divinci Code”), but drawings take an extra level of talent.
The most difficult part about completing the book was finding the time.
Gully is the owner of BT Graphics, a business she works full time. You may have seen her work if you have ever been to the Waynesville Library or driven into West Chester. She has designed about 400 logos.
The sketch ideas for the book came rather easily to her. One day, while having coffee with a friend, they were throwing out creative concepts when a flipbook entered the conversation.
Gully said, “I sketched out three ideas in two minutes.”
The release of the book in 2014 has seen results beyond Gully’s expectations and the publishing world’s stats for such things. Gully has been placed in 24 stores nationwide and in Canada. Churches have purchased for their children’s ministries. A hospital placed them in its gift shops. Gully has also done 35 book readings.
To Gully, it is a faith story. The idea flowed so easily, and it caught fire in her heart. She wanted a famous illustrator she knows to take her concepts and do his magic, but he was not available.
She said, “It soon became evident that I was to illustrate.”
And the creativity is not stopping here.
There is a children’s church video book of the story due in mid November, and Gully is working on an Easter flipbook due to be released in time for Easter 2017. Spanish editions of her work have started. Gully also has a line of Christmas cards called Elizabeth Card Collections, available at the Golden Lamb in Lebanon.
Who knew the little girl who learned to write backwards so teachers could not read her passed notes would come create such a wonderful piece of art with a purpose? According to Gully, God did, and she is quite happy to help you tell your young ones about both sides of Christmas.
Beth Gully’s Favorite Christmastime Recipes
Nutella Hot Cocoa
2 cups milk
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons Nutella
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
Heat milk to steaming. Whisk in remaining ingredients. Heat until desired warmth. Top with chocolate chips and marshmallows.
Makes 2 servings.
Russian Tea Cakes
1 cup butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 1/4 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup pecans, finely chopped
Cream butter and sugar. Add remaining ingredients. Form into balls.
Bake at 275 degrees for 15-20 minutes. While warm, roll in extra powdered sugar. Cool. Roll in sugar again.
Makes 42 servings.
VALERIE LK MARTIN
Valerie has a varied background in fundraising, public relations, teaching and freelance writing. She also holds a master’s of divinity and is an ordained chaplain. Valerie has stepped foot in 25 countries, jumped out of an airplane, twice been electrocuted by lightning and once slept in a train car with 12 strangers. She lives in Oregonia with her husband, Tom, Sadie the Lab and kitties, George Herbert and BeBe. She can be reached at [email protected]