Paper reportedly dried up for Basford's books

If anything shows that people are desperate for a quiet and healing distraction from their frantic lives, it’s the frenzied buying of a meticulously executed colouring book that is purported to hold mental chatter at bay.

But the global popularity of the mystical Secret Garden and Enchanted Forest series has left the cupboards bare for New Zealand stockists and their customers. Demand has outstripped supply inside 6 months.

One retailer is Doris Mousdale,  owner of the boutique-style Arcadia Bookshop in the heart of Newmarket, Auckland. She says that the stock shortage is only the tip of a production iceberg.

“Everyone is sold out – no one can get more and the problem rests with the paper supply you see. These colouring books would have started off with anything from a 5000 to 20,000 print run. But because of the popularity, the publishers have been doing runs of 250,000. This is a huge jump and so now printers cannot even get hold of enough paper to fulfill orders – they wouldn’t normally carry that quantity of this particular paper stock.”

What’s more, says Doris, every publisher is now producing four lookalikes. That amounts to over 200 kinds of adult focused colouring books flooding the market, spelling diluted interest in the genre – a colouring book bubble, if you like.

Newmarket Manager of national chain Gordon Harris, Peter Lamb, reports they sold out weeks ago and have more than 60 on back order at Newmarket alone.

Peter hoped to stock shelves this week but suppliers keep changing the delivery dates, so customers waiting on back orders will need to be patient or find a less popular brand to relax with.

“We did what for us was a massive first order: we bought 200 to see how they’d sell but they were all gone in a couple of days.”  It’s not a lot compared to more than 1.5 million sold worldwide, but it is to a store like Gordon Harris for whom art books only complement the art supplies.

Peter feels the secret to this particular range created by Johanna Basford and published by UK’s Laurence King, is the quality of the lavish imagery; it requires such dedicated concentration that it leaves everyone feeling “nice and peaceful”.

Other publishers have cashed in on the art-therapy link in droves but he feels none of them offer quite the same magic.

Although waiting customers could now be feeling more impatient than peaceful, there are still high hopes for what the Basford product is capable of; customers are increasingly ordering books to heal the sick.

“Oh yes” says Doris. “We get a lot of people coming down here from the hospital to buy for people they’re visiting. But we also have plenty of customers who work with people with disabilities. They buy them for their clients to use.”

Peter has also noticed this recovery focused trend, namely one that does not involve much conscious thinking, shuts down conscious mental chatter, allowing colourers to fully relax. This is key to convalescence.

“I actually had one customer just come in to buy one for a friend in hospital. Last week someone explained in an online order that they wanted to give the book to someone with cancer.”

Publisher Laurence King did not reply to Case Basket emails, so one can only assume they are pulling out all the stops to reproduce a book that has far and away outstripped all expectation.

But it isn’t only fantastical flora and fauna that have been immortalised on colouring pages recently – humour, sex and politics is also featuring large on an adult colouring scene that comedian Russell Brand has labelled the beginning of the apocalypse.

Brand, however, might be more suited to the renderings of Bristol born street artist Banksy, captured in the Butcher Billy Bullies Banksy’ book, created and published by Behance, that blend Banky’s political imagery with Loony Tune cartoon characters.

Alternatively, a lighter hearted style of poking fun at relationships, human suffering and sex is offered by the range of satire and colour-by-numbers fun: laughter is often the best medicine.

Banksy art fans should visit:

Humourists should visit and anyone wanting to colour Basford’s pretty foxes, ponies and forests should be very patient.