Paige's Book Gallery owner Lesley Stead will shortly open a new Whanganui art gallery which will be the first of its kind in New Zealand.
The Lockett Gallery, set to open in March, will be exclusively for book illustration exhibitions and the first exhibitor is illustrator and author Sandra Morris.
Stead said the inspiration came to her when she hung some of her own book illustrations in her busy shop on the corner of Guyton and Wicksteed streets last year.
"I really put them up as a display but people wanted to buy them," she said.
The black and white images were created for her Beautiful Whanganui book for babies, launched in December 2019.
When the gallery space next door to her shop became available, Stead saw the potential.
"I started using it as workspace initially because there wasn't room to work in the shop.
"It then occurred to me that it is already an exhibition space and we could hold illustration exhibitions.
"Lockett is the name I was born with - it is an old Whanganui name and there is also the reference to children's literature."
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Stead said a corner space in the gallery will be named "Lucy Locket's Pocket" and designated for children to browse and play.
Inaugural exhibitor Sandra Morris moved to Whanganui from Auckland a year ago and has illustrated hundreds of books since she began working on the Department of Education's School Journals in 1974.
"It was a wonderful time to be working on those publications as we had writers like Margaret Mahy, Jack Lasenby and Lynley Hood submitting their work to the School Journals," Morris said.
"Illustrators who work for educational publishers don't get a lot of public exposure so an exhibition space like this is a brilliant idea."
Morris gained a Bachelor degree at Elam School of Fine Arts and later went back to complete her Master's degree there.
While studying at Elam in 1992 she won the Russell Clark Award for illustration for her picture book One Lonely Kakapo.
It would be the first of many prizes for Morris and her love for botanical and animal subjects prompted her to move to New South Wales for a year where she completed a post-graduate diploma in plant and wildlife illustration at the University of Newcastle.
She now runs the Sandra Morris Illustration Agency, representing more than 60 illustrators.
"I am so pleased to have made the move to Whanganui and I've made some fantastic connections.
"It's so easy to reach people here."
She has been teaching illustration and nature journaling to Whanganui children and adults and loves it.
Her work has been exhibited in museums and art galleries before and she said she is thrilled to be the first illustrator to exhibit at Lockett Gallery.
Morris and Stead have both visited the Bologna Children's Book Fair in Italy where they saw large displays of book illustrations from around the world.
"There was some beautiful work on show and I would love to give the opportunity to New Zealand and international illustrators to show their work here," Stead said.
"I'm in it for the enjoyment and my hope is that it will grow organically and intuitively, the way Paige's has."
The gallery and first exhibition at the Lockett Gallery will open to coincide with Artists Open Studios which begins on March 21.