Friday, 16 February 2018

A year in review 2017

I don't do review posts but, January has been so long and dire, this is an exercise in thinking more positively. It turns out that my year was pretty good, creativity-wise a tad slow to begin with but rather wonderful towards the end. The main thing is that writing this post made me happy, looking back over holidays and family events and choosing what photos to include really lifted my spirits. Hope you enjoy reading it.

We begin with April and a wonderful holiday to the South of France to stay with my sister and my niece. They live in a tiny little village nestled at the foot of the Alps, right on the coast between Monaco and the Italian border. This exceptionally beautiful place has been a regular destination for me since my sister moved there way back in 1984 and it always works wonders on the soul. This holiday was no exception, especially as the weather was great.

Carnoles, South of France

Tropical St Ives! I'm on the left
During May two notable events occurred, the first being that I dropped a day in work. This had been on my mind for ages and for a number of reasons, but mostly I felt it was time to alter my work life balance. I love my job as a museum librarian, but I've been doing it for many years and felt I needed a little tweak. Reducing the work hours so as to enable more time for art and craft, and all artistic endeavours that contribute to my well being. I miss the extra money but it was the right decision!

The second event was another lovely holiday, this time to St Ives in Cornwall. We always take a trip around May 5th to celebrate my late father's birthday [Mayfifth1935 <3], and we've had some wonderful trips since we began this in 2008. The weather was a challenge [to say the least] but we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

St Ives, Cornwall

Let's skip forward to August and the birth of my Great Niece, Juliette! She might just be the most beautiful baby in the history of all babies and the absolute light of my life. I took this photo in December when she was already six months old - she spent the holiday season laughing, delighting everyone with little squeaky dolphin noises and loved nothing more than wriggling and rolling about on the floor.


In September, I was once again in the South of France and spent my birthday at the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco - this place is AMAZING and one day is nowhere long enough to explore its magical galleries, but I've visited a few times now so just look in on my favourites. We were really lucky this time to catch the Borderline   exhibition by French artist Phillipe Pasqua, his sculptures were placed within museum's historic maritime galleries but this magnificent silver beast was up on the roof!

Phillipe Pasqua - photograph taken by Hanna Ounis

Monaco Port 03/09/2017
Now we come to the first of two events concerning my artistic endeavours of which I am so very proud. In October, I had two photographs accepted for an exhibition at the SHO Gallery in Cardiff. It was called The F Word and the brief was for artists to create pieces of work relating to fashion through a choice of decades. Being a child of the 1970s, I chose this decade and I had already photographed a collection of my childhood toys [portfolio here], so had an idea of what to create. I re-photographed a collection of dolls from the portfolio  that were dressed in national costume; these 'dolls of the world' were very popular at this time and evoke a very special childhood memory.
In the early to mid 70s, my family would gather around the television every year to watch the Miss World competitions and one of our favourite sections was when the contestants paraded in their own national costume. However, to me as an adult, these dolls now represent two very  conflicting emotions; an uncomfortable acknowledgement of male domination in a  world  of absurd political incorrectness and also a very comforting childhood memory [to illustrate this further, during this time, I received a  Top of the Pops LP every Christmas - now just Google some images of these circa 1970s and you'll get my drift].
My entries for The F Word; I was very proud to be a part of this exhibition.

Verona [Dolls of the World as Beauty Queens] October 2017

Sienna, Alassio and Verona [Dolls of the World as Beauty Queens] October 2017

The second event was having one of my poems and some artwork published in the very last issue of  Thistle Magazine . This lovely publication and I go back a long way, they've published some of my work and I've collaborated with them, supplying images. The Design Director, Erin Fassinger, has always been very kind and supportive and so I was thrilled when not only did they publish my Symphony poem in their last ever issue, but they published it on the very last page! Thistle issues have always been havens of artistic whimsy and their pages bursting with creative talent. You can still purchase all the issues via their website. I don't know yet what future plans the Thistle team has but I wish them every luck and look forward to seeing where their creative aspirations take them.

I wrote two other poems during the year, a romantic Valentine inspired love poem titled  The Vow and the darkly horrific Welcome to Salem, inspired by the Salem witch trials of 1692-93 [and the recent tv series]. I also handmade a book of my poetry - I wanted an aged look to the pages so printed text onto tracing paper and then immersed it into coffee [I always use coffee than rather tea]. It's amazing the effect that water has on tracing paper, it makes it hard and crinkly and the coffee tint turns it "old" - just perfect for the book. The blue covers were recycled office folders and the doll portrait you might recognise from my SHO Gallery photographs. This was my first artist's book and I definitely intend to make more. I have lots of ideas!

During December I had a table at the festive extravaganza that is the Oh So Crafty Christmas Market organized annually by Chapter Arts Centre. I did these regularly up till a few years ago and it was lovely to do one again - online sales are great but nothing compares to you standing behind a table of your own craft and people telling you how wonderful they think it is and asking you questions and really engaging. I absolutely loved it and will sign up to do more throughout this year. 
Another reason I especially enjoyed doing the Christmas market was that my sister Heidi had a table next to me. She does weird and wonderful botanical things creating terrariums and selling them along with plants and cacti she grows herself, always with a quirky slant. During the summer months she also sells home grown vegetables from her own allotment. She sells under the name of The Little Newport Kitchen Garden and you can follower her on Twitter and Facebook.
So there we have it, a whistle stop tour through my year. What does 2018 hold? Well, so far, it's not been great, a challenging January, a nasty cold that developed a few days ago, and driving into the back of a Land Rover on the M4 yesterday [no-one hurt thank God but my little car is a write off]. Then again... it's not been all bad, I've already had a sneaky weekend at Disney Land Paris and it was fantastic and it snowed!
I hope you enjoyed reading this post - one of my resolutions for this year is to post more regularly - so watch this space <3
Taking shelter from a blizzard outside Ratatouille's Restaurant at Disney Land Paris 06/02/18

Disney Land Paris 06/02/18
All photographs taken by the author [unless  otherwise stated] and Copyright Mayfifth1935 Designs

Monday, 30 October 2017

Welcome to Salem

Happy Halloween everyone!

Behold my brand new poem inspired by many dark and Gothic things but mostly by a series I recently watch on TV called Salem.

Now, those who have read the about me section on this blog will know that, even though I'm not a fan of horror, I am attracted to other to the other-worldly such as ghosts, fairies, parallel worlds and time travel. So it was that whilst on holiday this summer, my niece Hanna, asked me to watch the first few episodes of Salem with her because she knew she'd be too freaked out to watch it alone. And, despite the horror and gore [and be warned, there are bucket loads], we thoroughly enjoyed it and when I got home, I lost no time at all in watching the second series and then the final third.

I don't want to give too much away, so I'll just say that it's based on a very clever twist on true events that took place in the small town of Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. A dark time in American history, more than 200 people were accused of practicing witchcraft and 20 were killed during an unexplained hysteria.  The Salem Witch Trials have since become synonymous with mass hysteria and scapegoating.

Everything about the series was smart and slick and the costumes were stunning. The acting was wonderful, especially by the two main protagonists Janet Montgomery who portrayed Mary Sibley, and Shane West who portrayed John Alden. However, my favourite characters were the complex, tortured Reverend Cotton Mather played by the charismatic Seth Gable and Anne Hale, whose ultimate descent into devil worship was portrayed with bone chilling perfection by Tamzin Merchant.

Finally, one of the best things about this series was that all the characters were based on real people who lived through the trials and this made the whole experience so much more compelling.

If you wish to learn more about the Salem witch trials, these links are a helpful start:

Welcome to Salem!
On All Hallows Eve
Where earth underfoot doth boil and heave
Winter is here damp harvest on the turn
Skin on fire with a brain fever burn

Welcome to Salem!
Church bells are ringing
Screams downed out by the good people singing
By Puritan judgement so final and fell
Souls on the hot burning red road to Hell

Welcome to Salem!
See the witches flying
Souls being taken and the congregation dying
Strange little girls with spindly finger pointed
See demons in the window if with rancid salve anointed

Welcome to Salem!
Alarm bells clanging
Familiars on the prowl and witch drums banging
Alone in the pulpit, Reverend Cotton Mather's preaching
Fighting to be heard above the wailing and the screeching

Welcome to Salem!
Hold hands and run
Back to God and the warmth of the sun
Never look back the way you came
Lest the Devil your soul forever claim


Friday, 2 June 2017

Childhood books


Illustration from How The Mole Got His Pockets
Illustration from How The Mole Got His Pockets



Inside cover from The Book of Mice [above]


Snow Goose & Small Miracle

Illustration for The Snow Goose by Peter Scott
Have you ever heard of Paul Gallico? If not, click the link on his name and learn about this American author. The reason I have always known about him is because I grew up with these two books on our book shelves. I would take them out every now and again to read. According to the Paul Gallico website, The Snow Goose is without doubt his most well-known book. It is subtitled A Story of Dunkirk, and is the story of a lonely hunchbacked artist who lives in an abandoned lighthouse in the marshlands of Essex, and his friendship with a young girl who brings him an injured Canada Snow Goose. It is only a short book but quite lovely. The Small Miracle is set in Assisi, and is the story of Pepino, a poor orphan, and his donkey Violetta. When Violetta falls ill, and the vet cannot do anything for her, Pepino tries to get permission to take her into the crypt of St. Francis. But when that permission is denied, then he realises that he has to go to higher authority... Both stories are gentle and homey and incredibly moving. See below for a few images I created via Instagram of the illustrations, Peter Scott illustrated The Snow Goose and David Knight illustrated The Small Miracle.  
Illustration for The Snow Goose by Peter Scott
Illustration for The Snow Goose by Peter Scott

How beautiful is the enigmatic portrait above? Peter Scott [1909 - 1989] was a fascinating character, born in London, the only child of Antarctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott and sculptor Kathleen Bruce. He was only two years old when his father died. Robert Scott, in a last letter to his wife, advised her to "make the boy interested in natural history if you can; it is better than games." Oh yes and... his godfather was J. M. Barrie!

Illustration for the Snow Goose by Peter Scott [detail]
Illustration for The Small Miracle by David Knight

Illustration for The Small Miracle by David Knight

Illustration for The Small Miracle by David Knight
Sadly, I couldn't find any information on David Knight except that he illustrated this little book also...