Wow, Meow! Do I have an interesting guest on my blog today. He is not a cat character in a book but a cat character indeed. I will let The Topiary Cat introduce himself, explain what he is, and the history and art behind his creation.
Good day, Topiary Cat. Please tell us your story. How old are you? How did you come about? Where are you from? Excuse all the questions. I know I am very curious, but I don’t believe curiosity kills the cat (character or real feline) or anyone else for that matter. If it did, Debbie (my author and a librarian) and I would be out of work.
Hi, Sneaky! First of all, thank you for addressing me as ‘The Topiary Cat’ or in this case ‘Topiary Cat.’ I don’t have a ‘Christian’ name, for religion is a mystery to me. I am immortal and have been around as long as recorded time. However, The Master, who created me, has weaved a fantasy around me that many people believe.
Some say I was first created around seven years ago. The Master, or ‘Richard’ as mortals call him, visited a stately home in Buckinghamshire, England not far from his home in Hertfordshire. He’s a keen photographer and took a photo of a huge ‘cloud’ topiary in the grounds. When he got it home it appeared to him to resemble a giant topiary animal sleeping by the lake. For fun he decided to photograph Tolly, his beloved Russian Blue cat, in the same position and marry the two images seamlessly together.
Then some of the images of me were put on social media and went viral, unfortunately with Richard’s name removed. The BBC picked up on my fame and the story went around the world. Richard reposted the pictures on my Facebook page and had over three million hits. I was famous – ‘The Topiary Cat’ had arrived!
Oh, my Bastet! That is a pawsome story. Maybe I should have my author Debbie take some unusual photos of me. I’d love to go viral or whatever that means. I think it’s a good thing and would get a lot of exposure for our mystery series (MOL)- Meow Out Loud.
Which of your poses and locations do you like the best and why?
That first image of me is still a favourite of mine for obvious reasons, and I love the photo of me drinking from the lake at Painshill Park, Surrey. I’m also very fond of the one of me meeting another topiary cat over Hertford Castle wall.
While I am just a cat in a book series, I think I have an eye for art. Debbie showed me your photos that she is posting on this page, and I think they are all purrfect especially the water licking one. It makes me thirsty.
Tell me a little about Richard’s cat Tolly who I understand you are based on.
Beloved Tolly. Poor Richard still tears up at the mention of him. A pure bred Russian Blue with the pedigree name of Whaylee Zanechka, he sadly passed away in February 2016 at only 12 years old. He was intelligent, loyal, loving, a remarkable hunter and guarded his territory fearlessly.
Awww. I know Debbie was very broken up when she lost her cat Floppy. He wasn’t a purebred Russian Blue, but he was a beautiful shade of gray with white boots and chest (not as handsome as my sable and cream Siamese colors). Floppy suffered from a condition known as diabetes for many years, and Debbie had to give him insulin shots twice a day. He passed away at 15, a few years later than Richard’s Tolly, but she loved him so much that she wrote her first book, Cloudy Rainbow, to memorialize him, much as Richard created you in Tolly’s memory. Now Debbie has Oliver, a 16-year-old Siamese whom I am based on as a younger version.
Tell me also about your guardian and master, Richard Saunders. How long has he been an artist? What else does he do besides your cat topiary photos?
Richard can’t really remember a time when he didn’t create art. Most of his family did and it seemed a normal thing to do. He discovered surrealism as a teenager and failed to grow up. I, The Topiary Cat, am much more sensible and logical than he will ever be. He retired from his job as a Creative Director in advertising to concentrate on art … and me, of course.
It is important for humans to follow their passion. Debbie has also been writing since a very young age but has only recently begun to publish her work. It takes time, and I am glad that I and her other characters are there to help her as you help Richard.
What is surrealism?
No idea! Richard tells me it’s painting whatever comes into his head with very little editing, tapping into his subconscious. I know nothing of such things. He takes a lot of photos, he’s a classic car enthusiast with a 1949 Triumph drop-top with dickey, or ‘rumble’, seats in the boot. He loves his garden and going for long walks. He also loves Cornwall and has created many images of me when I go there on holiday with him, because it is such a magical place and I feel at home there.
Debbie lives in the United States, and our books take place in a small, fictional upstate New York town called Cobble Cove which may resemble some of your English villages. Debbie has visited England many years ago and was impressed with their gardens and parks.
Are there any “real” cat topiaries that you know of?
I have yet to see a single cat topiary that looks like a real cat. The only ones I have seen look like cartoons. I think a cat is too subtle a shape to be replicated in topiary.
I had a feeling it would be difficult to grow a cat topiary. By the way, Debbie has an unfinished manuscript that she hopes to get back to that features topiaries. Maybe she can slip something in about you. She once read a gothic mystery, whatever that is, in her childhood by Phyllis Whitney called Hunter’s Green that featured topiaries in the form of chess pieces.
Can people purchase prints of your topiaries?
Of course, there are cards, posters, and calendars produced. A book is planned but that will take a long time to be realized. Richard is not the most organized person in the world, he’s a dreamer and not very worldly in such matters.
I see. Please keep me posted about the book. I am a library cat and Debbie is a librarian as well as an author. We would both love to know when it’s released.
Is there anything else we should know about you, Tolly, or Richard or anything you would like to add to the interview for our readers?
I would just like to say thank you for interviewing me, Sneaky. It’s been delightful. And to your readers, if you see me posted without The Master’s name or ‘The Topiary Cat’ logo on social media, please let them know who I really am: the immortal spirit of beloved Tolly.
I certainly will, Topiary Cat. It’s been a unique pleasure having you here. Can you please list your website and any social media links and also those of Richard’s. I am sure my readers would like to connect with both of you.