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In 2015 and 2016, a strange fever overtook the UK public. Vital everyday activities such as sleeping, cooking and re-tweeting were usurped by a new phenomenon: Adult Colouring.

Perfectly sane individuals found themselves reaching for the crayons, and spending huge amounts of time hunched over increasingly intricate patterns, themes, motifs and the occasional fractal. 

Up to this point, colouring books restricted the user to achieving small but delightful results, such as:

  • turning the Gruffalo brown or
  • making Noddy and Big Ears appear in colour

but now, in a dramatic change of usage, they could:

  • de-stress you
  • enhance your thought processes
  • release your inner artist and
  • launch you on a path to inner peace.

Take that, Toyland! 

 

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There were many benefits to be had from this new occurrence:

  • Bookshops got to sell a lot of colouring books, many of them at 12.99 a pop (hooray). As an added bonus, downloads of colouring books never quite took off. Can’t think why.
  • Some fantastic publishers such as Laurence King Publishing found themselves with bona fide bestsellers on their hands.
  • Hitherto unknown Welsh illustrator Millie Marotta was crowned the unofficial queen of Adult Colouring (well in my shop she was, anyway) and subsequently found herself in a position where she could get the drinks in.
  • Violent crime was significantly reduced in urban areas.

 

Of course, when I say “Adult Colouring” I’m talking about colouring books for adults, not to be confused with Adults-only Colouring Books, which

a) tend to use up all your ‘flesh tone’ crayons (so I’m told) and

b) require very careful stapling placement on the part of the Publishers.

 

Black Reading Lady Secret Bookseller logo on yellow background

 

One of our regular customers explained to me that

sitting in bed with a colouring-in book and crayons

was now her chosen way to end the day. Whether her husband was on the next pillow or not, making models out of plasticine, well, she wasn’t letting on.

On her insistence, and to prove that I occasionally listen to customers, I decided to give it a go:

I grabbed a copy of the Art Therapy Handbook (‘Use Your Creativity To De-Stress’), some coloured pencils and an optimistic pencil sharpener, and into bed I got. I soon realised the following however:

  • Adult Colouring patterns are bloody complicated.
  • My ‘Creativity’ is somewhat limited, particularly at bedtime.
  • The concentration or ‘mindful attentiveness’ required to keep the pencil within the lines was making me stressed, not de-stressed.
  • I could be using this time to read one of those other books, you know, the ones with words.

Evidently my role was to sell these books to others, not to use them myself. Plus I was clearly getting high off my own supply here. I wondered if I could sneak this copy back to the Publishers. I’d only started eight different patterns.

 

Black Reading Lady Secret Bookseller logo on yellow background

 

As publishers smelt money, the number of available titles multiplied, and the choice became overwhelming. If you wanted a Poldark Colouring Book, any discerning bookseller would have to ask you whether it was the Poldark Country Colouring Book or the Poldark Television Series Colouring Book you were after.

There were so many titles in fact, that many bookshops (including mine) had to do away with whole sections in order to accommodate them:

Farewell, Creative Writing. Adios, Gardening.

To illustrate the sheer number of titles available, I’ve compiled an A-Z of Adult Colouring Books. Amazingly only one of these is not an actual published Colouring Book. Can you guess which?

  • Alice in Wonderland
  • British Airways
  • Corbyn
  • Die Hard
  • Essex
  • Fashion
  • Game of Thrones
  • Home Alone
  • Isle of Wight
  • Jungle Book
  • Kama Sutra
  • Leamington Spa
  • Military Aircraft
  • Northern Ireland
  • Outlander
  • Poldark
  • Quirky Objects
  • Railways
  • Sherlock (What colour is a Mind Palace anyway?)
  • Tour De France
  • Ultimate Cake Pops
  • Vogue
  • X Factor
  • Wonder Woman
  • Yorkshire
  • Zen Garden

 

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Like most good things, this craze couldn’t last:

The government tried (and failed) to impose VAT on Adult Colouring Books just as the horse was bolting and sales diminishing (ha!), the publishing industry moved on to newer trends:

  • Hygge
  • Well-being
  • Parodies
  • Guinea Pigs acting out Classics

and keen colourers moved on to do whatever it is people do after the colouring-in stage of life has ended:

  • Learning how to use a knife and fork
  • Counting up to ten
  • Going to the toilet unaided

(that sort of thing.)

At the peak of the Adult Colouring-in phenomenon, when it wasn’t unknown for someone to spend over 30 pounds on three of these titles, a lady walked in to our shop and asked if we stocked colouring-in books for kids. I showed her a Miffy Colouring Book for 3.99.

Ah, that’s a little more than I wanted to spend.

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