One day back in 2010 Sarah Hartsig was sketching. She was going through a difficult time in her life and her inner world was a complicated tangle of light and dark, of confusion and need for clarity.
She was feeling sad and the movement of the pencil in her hand was calming her mind. Her hand kept drawing and an outline of a figure began to emerge. Just a short while later, a sweet little mouse named Pepper came to life before her.
‘Who was this little friend?’ Sarah thought. ‘Where did it come from? That was the moment. The first spark of light in my lantern that would guide me.’
Shortly after Pepper, other characters were born in Sarah’s imagination and in her drawings. Hazelnut Squirrely – a wise woman who gathered herbs, foraged in the forest, baked and preserved. Earl the Gray, raised in a high-class family of squirrels that operated in the tea industry. One after another, the inhabitants of Hazelwood Forest came to life and filled Sarah’s days with inspiration and joy.
‘I had stumbled upon a world that was teeming with life and love, with friendship and adventure around every corner.’ She spent her time getting to know her new friends and shaping their stories with both her watercolors and her pen.
Pepper’s appearance signaled a new beginning for Sarah, a time when she would start to create from a place deep within, full of light, kindness and authenticity.
Ever since she was a little child, Sarah was on a quest to find what was true. She was always artistic and continued her creative journey through college, where she spent a year studying art in Florence, Italy and later as she delved deep into art therapy.
In 2013 Sarah traveled to the Netherlands to study at the Emerald Foundation, a school that taught her the healing power of color and its ability to transform and soothe when applied in a specific way. She learned about a new color spectrum that began with magenta and ended in violet, signifying both the beginning of life, the rising of the sun and the transition from light to dark.
Her knowledge and experience in art therapy combined with the methodology of Liane Collot d’Herbois – founder of the Emerald Foundation – sparked an idea of incorporating the power of color into the children’s stories she was creating. She infused Hazelwood Forest’s drawings with magenta, a color that is most comforting to children. Sarah explains that ‘magenta carries no form or movement; it is a mist, an atmosphere, a warmth and a sense of embrace.’
Sarah’s goal was to bring a magnitude of depth that exists in childhood’s fleeting moments to life in a heartfelt and whimsical way. She drew Pepper, Hazelnut Squirrely and her other friends with beautiful expressions, helping children relate to them on an emotional level.
‘I wanted to honor the most profound moments of childhood and infuse them with beauty,’ Sarah explained. ‘Hazelwood Forest is an invitation to experience what’s true and what exists to protect this place of truth.’
Sarah’s passion and love for what she does is evident in every page of her book ‘A Party for Pepper’ and in each illustration she shares with the world. Children and adults alike are whisked into an extraordinary place that helps them savor the most wonderful moments of childhood: the sweet, cheeky and sometimes mischievous nature of fun, of adventures big and small and of lessons that stay with us through the years.
Hazelwood Forest is a place created for the love of the little things in life that should be savored: tea with friends, adventures big and small, helping our neighbors make apple cake and blackberry pie, and storing up enough acorns to last all winter long. Join the community of Hazelwood forest and get to know its characters by following their website, Facebook and Instagram.