Winnipeg Beach coffee shop owner, teen with autism make colouring book

A coffee shop owner and a young talented drawer with autism in Winnipeg Beach collaborated to create a new colouring book that highlights the colourful community.

Drawing 'relaxes me ... it is how I can talk about things I see,' says illustrator Sam Mercier

Lisa Kiecker, owner of a coffee shop in Winnipeg Beach, and Sam Mercier, a teenager with autism, created a colouring book about Winnipeg Beach. (Christine Gurniak/CBC)

A coffee shop owner and a young talented drawer with autism in Winnipeg Beach collaborated to create a new colouring book that highlights the colourful community.

It's called Exploring With Sam, after teenager Sam Mercier who created the illustrations, and visits Winnipeg Beach in the summertime.

"I'm really happy and excited about [the book being published]," coffee shop owner Lisa Kiecker told CBC Information Radio host Marcy Markusa. "It's something I've dreamed about for a long time, and I'm so happy Sam came into my life."

"It has been such a wonderful experience working with him."

The book's creation was serendipitous.

Mercier had originally popped into Kiecker's store to buy Freezies, but was uncomfortable because of the ornamental fish that hung on the walls, Kiecker said. So she took down the ornaments, and that was the start of their friendship.

Later, Mercier started working at the shop. Around that time, his mother happened to mention to Kiecker that Mercier had a knack for drawing.

Since he was a young boy, Mercier said he'd carry something he could draw with at all times. Now he draws everything with a Sharpie.

"It relaxes me," he said. "It is how I can talk about things I see."

Sam Mercier holds a published version of a colouring book he illustrated. (Marcy Markusa/CBC)

His mother showed some pictures to Kiecker who thought "they were absolutely amazing."

"I always wanted to create a colouring book for Winnipeg Beach; a little bit of history, a little bit about today, yesterday," Kiecker said, adding that she then asked Mercier's mother if her son would be willing to create the illustrations.

And that's how it started.

Kiecker — who claims she cannot draw — had a vision and wrote the story, while "I got to draw pictures of my favourite places," Mercier said. Some of his favourite places in the area include the pier and the beach.

"It was great drawing pictures about Winnipeg Beach. I want to show how much I love Winnipeg Beach with my pictures," he said.

Mercier and his mother spent last summer driving around the Winnipeg Beach area, taking photographs of different landmarks, then drawing them to fit Kiecker's vision, said Mercier's father, Guy Mercier.

Guy Mercier added that he's glad his son has found something that interests him, and that could be followed as a future career path.

"We've always said that Sam has run into some angels, and we think that Lisa is one of them now," he said.

"She was able to see past some of the little things he does that are a little bit silly, and give him the opportunity to try some work experience, and then kind of seen where this has gone. It's just been amazing."

Kiecker said she never had many encounters with people with autism, so it became a learning experience for her — not only about autism, but about relinquishing some control of the project to let Mercier's creativity come through. 

"I was always amazed by what he came back with," she said.

Exploring With Sam can be ordered on Facebook, and there's a signing at Christmas on the Bandstand in Winnipeg Beach.


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