Sunday, 9 October 2016

Let's make... Christmas tree decorations [part2]

In this second festive DIY post, I'm going to show you how to make more Christmas tree decorations and these are a little more personalised. Once again though, they begin with very basic items you will most definitely have lying about the place.
The first decoration is something very special indeed - an anniversary memento of a baby's first Christmas. Made to be cherished and brought out to hang on the tree every year. And what makes it even more special is that it is made from the lid of one of his baby-food jars!
It is pretty straightforward to make as you can see from the following directions...
This one was made for my great-nephew who lives in Germany :)

Print off the photo of your choice and cut it to the correct size to fit inside the lid.
Most jar lids have a vacuum indentation so I recommend cutting out a piece of card and sticking the image to that before sticking into lid; this gives a nice smooth base.
As this is a memento, some wording that marks the occasion is always a good idea.
You can of course put this on the front, instead of the image [or as well as the image] but, I've chosen to put it on the reverse.

As with all my wording, I type it, print it out, cut it down and then immerse in a little warm back coffee; this takes off the stark white new paper look.

Finally if you wish, edge the image with a little glitter glue, which sparkles off the fairy lights perfectly when hanging on the tree <3
Now come a few other ideas for novel decorations and the first is made using a... beer bottle cap!
As with the memento, put your words [or image] on a piece of card first before adhering into the cap. The twine will need to be super-glued around the cap and this is very fiddly but you'll get the hang of it. This is particularly poignant with a loved ones name or image on.
The next idea is glittery paper cones with golden ribbon that hang beautifully on the tree.

I have already blogged about how to make these here
The next idea is made from a... screw top lid from a bottle of wine!
This one is so light, it can placed directly in amongst the Christmas tree branches. The inside of the bottle top is painted with glitter glue and when fully dry, some wording of your choice can be added. The white ribbon gives it a very angelic look. 
And so we come to the final idea and it is made using a... sushi bottle!
I'm sure you've all bought sushi packs for lunch over the years, but did you ever think of cleaning the little plastic soy sauce bottle and using it to hang on the Christmas tree? Possibly not :) But, this is the perfect receptacle for a child's mini Santa list or any sentimental message. The red cap makes it already fairly festive looking but a strip of red gingham ribbon finishes it off to perfection! This is an especially nice easy project for younger children to work on.

Let's make... Christmas tree decorations [part1]

Troedyrhriw Angel
I love Christmas and start thinking about it around August time. This is because when I was growing up money was tight and so my Dad would clear a shelf in the pantry during August and purchase something Christmas related in each weekly grocery shop from then on. Seeing that shelf get fuller and fuller made me so excited... pickled onions, piccalilli, After Eights, Mr Kipling mince pies etc. and so it grew.

Sadly, many of our  precious childhood Christmas decorations are now lost. However, one item we do still have is the beautiful angel that sat atop my maternal Grandmother's tree for most of her long life. Some years ago I photographed her and then made a Christmas craft range that proved very popular [I will post about that very soon and put a link here]. I call her Troedyrhriw Angel because that is the village in Merthyr Tydfil [South Wales] where my Granny lived.

However this first of two festive DIY posts will show you how to make a selection of Christmas tree decorations from basic household items! And, they're pretty easy to do so most are suitable for children if supervised. This is what we'll be looking at in this post:

Glittery bells made from plastic egg box cups
 Curved bells made from actual egg shells! 
Shiny hanging discs made from sweet wrappers

How to make the egg box bells
Plastic egg box

It's tricky cutting the bells out but persevere and, as well as the cups, cut out the
middle tower sections as these can be used also
Next you need to punch a hole in the top to thread the ribbon or string through. Best way to do this is to get a wad of cotton wool or kitchen paper and firmly place into the bell. This lessens the chances of the plastic splitting. A small sharply pointed instrument is needed to make the hole, like a large safety pin or the fine end of a pair of scissors [adult supervision needed here]. 
Next comes the fun but fiddly bit! Decorate the cups and towers with glitter glue
 or you can of course, use glue and dip or sprinkle regular glitter
When dry, and I mean FULLY dry, thread a length of looped ribbon or string through the hole. If using glitter glue [recommended for best results], this can take hours to dry so best kept away from impatient little fingers over-night.
Some finished bells

 How to make the egg shell bells
A used egg-shell is very delicate so must be handled with caution all through this process. The first thing to do is to punch a small hole in the tope of the shell to hang the looped ribbon or string through. The same process of cotton wool or kitchen paper stuffed into the shell as used with the egg box bells, can be applied here to protect the shell from cracking. But be aware, even more care must be taken due to the fragility of the shell! 
The above image shows a shell with a layer of glitter glue already painted on the inside. Multiple layers of the glitter glue will need to be applied. Firstly, to build up the depth of colour and secondly, to make the shell harder.
The above image illustrates that you can choose to glitter up one side and paint a colour on the other, it is entirely up to you. Once fully dry, thread the looped ribbon through. This is probably the most tricky of the three decorations and the most time consuming, as to get results like the ones shown below, at least four layers of glitter glue and two of paint will need to be applied. That said, I think it's definitely worth the effort...
How to make the sweet wrapper discs  
Sweet wrappers! Who wouldn't have a few of these lying about the place?
Firstly find a template for your discs [I used a jam jar lid], then pencil around them onto pieces of old cardboard and cut the circles out. Then, cut out the same size circles on the sweet wrappers. Remember here, that you'll need a circle for each side. For these I chose gold paper for one side and different colours for the other. An especially nice idea for children to make these as gifts, is to leave one side blank or cover with plane paper, and write a Merry Christmas message on.
Next, stick the wrappers onto the cardboard and then [if desired] you can decorate round the edges with glitter glue. When fully dry, create a hole for the ribbon, a proper paper punch is by far the best way, and as long it's not too thick, should work fine on the cardboard.
Festive DIY craft post part two will follow soon....  


Thursday, 15 September 2016

My name is Jen and I live in South Wales. I am an Assistant Librarian working in a museum library; I love my job and this is the reason I have been doing it for many years. I Tweet about our library collections and generally bookish matters as @Squirrellib.

I am also an artist/crafter/poet/photographer and this I do during evenings and on week ends.
You can follow my online presence through these social media sites: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Flickr
Or just send me an email:

List of published work and publicity appears at the end of this post.

I create craft items from recycled paper and card, and I'm very fortunate that working in a museum, departments have regular clear-outs and our recycling rooms are often filled with beautiful old stationary and packing materials. My most popular crafted items over the years have been circular hang-able postcards [or "talismans", as I like to call them], brooches made from recycled cardboard and calendars at Christmas. I'm also a bit of a thrift addict and love to create something from nothing that becomes a sellable item, in this respect I'm very proud of my decorated tins and lids.

Floral scull talisman with vintage ribbon loop for hanging
The reverse is blank for writing on

"Alice" brooches made from recycled cardboard
Image used is by John Tenniel
Decorated vintage tin lid
Words by Robert Louis Stephenson
Calendar made from recycled cardboard

Cover by Dorothy M. Wheeler
 I was always artistic, my sisters and I would draw for hours on end when we were little; favourite subjects at that time being ice skaters, ballerinas, mermaids, Daleks, high-heeled shoes and [naturally] canoodling couples. I didn't go to university straight from school like all of my friends but went to work instead as I could not decide what I wanted be. I had a succession of shop jobs, the best by far being Laura Ashley, but after some years [and a few weeks into a managerial course], I realized that I couldn't continue indefinitely with retail. I was at a loss what to do once more, but on the plus side this time, I had figured out what I didn't want! I ended up starting an Art History degree course at Cardiff University simply because a friend was doing it and it seemed like a good idea at the time. Fortunately I loved it and after graduation got a job as a museum assistant, hoping this would be a stepping stone to the world of art curatorship. However, a maternity cover position came up in the library there and thankfully the librarian I was covering decided not to return and I've been there ever since.

Childhood, social history, folklore, Gothicism and mid 19th to early 20th century children's illustration and literature are very strong influences. Illustrated fairy stories have always mesmerized me, I have a collection of early Ladybird Books of which I know every line and image and regularly re-visit Enid Blyton stories, one my favourites being the Faraway Tree series. The premise of magical creatures, talking animals and fairies all living in the branches of a giant tree holds my imagination captive still, as do the tales woven by C. S. Lewis, George Macdonald, J. R. R. Tolkien, J. M. Barrie and Lewis Carroll.

I discovered the illustrations of Margaret Tarrant in my twenties and even though she remains a first love, many others hold my artist's heart including Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, Cicely Mary Barker, Dorothy M. Wheeler, Anne Anderson and Florence Anderson.
An essence of "faerie" is a constant that floats through my art and poetry like wisps of fog; tales of changelings and the supernatural lapse of time between the fairy world and ours are ever present in my thought processes. Naturally, thoughts of faerie slip to darker meanderings and here is  an example...  I have always been a fan of Arthur Conan Doyle and loved that he believed absolutely in fairies, was very public in his belief that the Cottingley fairy photographs were genuine and even wrote a book about it called The Coming of the Fairies [read it here]. This book is such a beautiful read, it chronicles the meetings between Doyle and the theosophist and ardent fairy seeker, Edward Gardner with the children who took the photographs, Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths. It contains a naivety that some might ridicule but which I find so endearing.

From the diaries of Charles Altamont Doyle
My readings about Doyle then led me to discover that his father, Charles Altamont Doyle suffered terribly from depression and alcoholism, spending many years [and eventually dying] in a mental asylum. While incarcerated, he kept an illustrated diary chronicling the fairy folk who he believed plagued him [The Doyle Diary by Michael Baker (Paddington Press, New York & London), 1978]. This diary is full of fantastical creatures drawn in a very specific style that stare and giggle from the page in a most unsettling way. Moreover, Charles Altamont Doyle's brother [Conan Doyle's uncle] was the prolific fairy painter Richard Doyle and his fame during his own lifetime cannot have been easy for the depressive alcoholic. All this led me further down the path of artistic mental fragility to the case of another fairy artist Richard Dadd who, after a complete mental breakdown and the murder of his father, spent many years incarcerated in the now notorious Bethlem Royal Hospital [and later, until his death, at the newly established  Broadmoor Psychiatric Hospital]. It's not for everyone of course but I find all this gothic darkness fascinating and it is, at times present in my work, see my Damsels scull series and illustrated poems Lilith and Black Hearted Beauties [you will find an index of my poetry posts further down that will save you time scrolling]. I tend to live in the past, never more happy when looking through photo albums, reading old diaries, or closing my eyes and walking through rooms in houses we inhabited when I was little. The past draws me to itself, it hovers close by, calling me to sun filled summers surrounded by beloved relatives now long gone. This tendency to look back is probably why ideas and theories associated with faerie have such a hold on me.
I am an avid reader and inspired by contemporary fantasy writers. A great love is Carlos Ruiz Zafon as I find his writing exquisite. I remember reading The Shadow of the Wind [while listening to Ludovico Einaudi's Eden Rock album] and being transported completely out of myself. He has a way of writing characters that you care and empathize with after just a few brief lines. I am interested in historical automata and so loved his haunting page-turner,  The Watcher in the Shadows. I also enjoyed Catherynne M.Valente's poignant, whimsical Fairyland series. I recently read the somewhat grittier Some kind of fairy tale by the late, great Graham Joyce and loved it so much, I now intend to read all his other stories.  A strand that weaves its way through Joyce's story is the subject of lost time, or a length of time that cannot be accounted for and I'm drawn to stories concerning this type of supernatural time slip. I also love science fantasy and adored Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series but my absolute science fantasy love affaire is with the masterful, Tad Williams. His Memory, Sorrow & Thorn series is one of the most exciting and romantic stories I've ever read [and re-read 3 times].

I am an obsessive cinema goer and I'll basically watch anything except war films because they break my heart [still not got over Saving Private Ryan]. Classic films I love to watch over and over again include: The Holly and the Ivy [1952], Now Voyager [1942], Ziegfeld Girl [1941], It's a Wonderful Life [1946] and Young at Heart [1954]. More recently I adored the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films but [apart from their visual excellence] have been very disappointed with the Chronicles of Narnia films so far. Unsurprisingly, I adore magic films like Peggy Sue Got Married [1986], Practical Magic [1998], Bell Book and Candle [1958] and of course, all the Harry Potter films
Dad as a toddler with his dad David
My artist's name, Mayfifth1935 is quite simply my father's birthday, he was born on the 5th of May in 1935. He passed away in 2007 and creating this artistic world helped me to cope with the grief at his passing. My parents gave my sisters and myself as perfect a childhood as they could manage and, until his last day, all my dad wanted was to provide for, protect and spend time with us. Christmas is incredibly important to my family only because of the way he made everyone single one perfect. Therefore, when I eventually decided to create Mayfifth1935 as an enterprise, naming it after his birth date has, kept him close by me.

As you will now realize, I am very sentimental and this is especially true of my cats. The first I ever had was called "Puss", mum says she wandered into the kitchen as a kitten when I was a toddler and we grew up together, she was eighteen when she died. My poem, Under the weight of a distant gaze, is based on her being in heaven but still keeping an eye on me.

Marlon Savage
Since Puss, we have had a good number of cats and I have loved every one. The image of the swarthy handsome old gent to the left in particular, features regularly in my work [we were always convinced that he was a reincarnation of Oscar Wilde... or Fletcher Christian]. 

Well, there you go. Not sure what else to share with you at the moment but hopefully you have an inkling of the workings of my mind.

I'm going be updating this post so drop by again in a month or two.

See below for indexes listing selected work, just to save you searching because I'm so kind and thoughtful.

Scroll to the bottom for list of published works.

Mayfifth1935 photography portfolios

Mayfifth1935 poem posts index
Black Hearted Beauties
Parisien Parfumerie
Under the weight of a distant gaze

Storytelling exhibition at The Gate Arts Centre, Cardiff June 4-30 2018
The F Word exhibition at The SHO Gallery, Cardiff October 2017
Published work
The Ghastling Book 2 [p.50-53]
Whim Online
Thistle Magazine
1,000 Follower Giveaway!
Whim Online Magazine
Issue 6
Mayfifth “Beloved Dream” poem [page 125]
Thistle Magazine
The Wilderness Issue [page 117]
Whim Online
Whim Online Magazine
Issue 5
Mayfifth “Courage” poem [page 66]
Ballad Of
Thistle Magazine
The Courage Issue [page 77]
Thistle Magazine
The Magic Issue [page 59]
Craft fairs
23/08/2014 Smock Vintage Fair at National Waterfront Museum, Swansea
02/05/2014 Smock Vintage Fair at National Waterfront Museum, Swansea
14/12/2013 Oh so crafty! Craft Fair at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff
30/11/2013 Cardiff Arts Collective Christmas Fair
29/09/2013 Oh so crafty! Craft Fair at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff
15/12/2012 Oh so crafty! Craft Fair at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff
29/09/2012 Monstrous Productions Craft Fair at Ten Feet Tall, Cardiff
04/09/2012 Cardiff Steampunk Craft Fair at the Owain Glyndwr Pub, Cardiff

27/05/2012 Be kind rewind Craft Fair at Jacobs Market, Cardiff
22/04/2012 Be kind rewind Craft Fair at Jacobs Market, Cardiff
03/12/2011 Oh so crafty! Craft Fair at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff
18/06/2011 Craft Fair at the Mackintosh Centre, Roath, Cardiff
05/03/2011 Craft Fair at the Mackintosh Centre, Roath, Cardiff
11/12/2010 Craft Fair at Milkwood, Lochaber Street, Cardiff

06/11/2010 Christmas Craft Fair at National Waterfront Museum, Swansea
Artist shows
06/11/2012 - 15/01/2013 Washington Art Gallery Christmas Show

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Under the weight of a distant gaze

I know she watches me, I feel the weight of her gaze as I stumble clumsily through life
In her eyes is both the child I was and the last breath I will ever take
I am here, in this loud and exquisite place, while she now exists in celestial silence

She is not alone, there are others with her who each hold a piece of my heart
And to think, these gorgeous creatures are but the vanguard of those who wait for me

But for now, my living spirit desires the waking world and the glory of its pleasures

So there she sits, within my childhood periphery, ready to pounce and kiss me across into heaven

Ps. This poem was written about my first cat who was simply called "Puss". Mum says she wandered into the kitchen as a semi-feral kitten when I was a baby and she passed away around the time of my eighteenth birthday.
However, a few months ago I gathered all my precious photos of her ready to scan and err... now, I can't find them! Therefore, until I do, I've used as illustration, a recent Instagram photo of my current feline master, and RSPCA rescue cat, Bertie.
I love the idea that when my time in this life comes to an end and I enter my very own particular heaven, I will be greeted by my own loved and lost, and trotting ahead of them, will be all the cats I've had over the years, haughty Puss, glowering Marlon Savage, gentle Kallikrates, Tootsy the eternal kitten, adventurous Aditu [aka Toods] & the proud beauty Isadore <3

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Parisien Parfumerie

I was inspired to write this poem when I stayed at a lovely old house in Brighton called Parisien Parfumerie. One of those beautiful terraced buildings that look tiny from outside but have never-ending exquisite bijoux floors, permanently sea salt frosted sash windows and high Georgian walls.  Modern and stylishly refurbished in a beautiful old Parisian style, it is available to rent here and I highly recommend it.

Some explanatory notes on the poem:

My Lord is Brighton refers to
King George IV - he built the amazing Brighton Pavilion as his own personal pleasure palace and was a notorious womaniser. However, towards the end of his life he became depressed and very overweight and was ridiculed in public sketches produced by local artists of the day. When I visited the Pavilion and was able to wander through the spectacular rooms listening to an audio guide relating his life story, I was lost in the sadness and magnificence of his legacy.

My Lady is Paris refers to Marie Antoinette - I chose her for a few reasons [in addition to needing something relating to Paris]. Many years ago I read an account of her final days, the failed attempts to escape her imprisonment during the French Revolution, the brutal murder of her closest friend at her lowest ebb [her baby son had just recently died], a mockery of a trial on a nightmarish scale and eventual death by guillotine.

However, she was also a complex character, her lifestyle excesses most definitely helped to provoke the popular unrest that lead to the Revolution but, there are many reports of her kindness and gentle nature.

She was also obsessed with perfume and apparently created her own containing Orange Blossom, Jasmine, Iris and Rose [reputedly her favourite scents].

Pier, pebbles, salt and sea
I am Parisien Parfumerie

My beauty dwells not in sight but nose
Orange blossom, jasmine, iris and rose
My Lord is Brighton, fierce and proud
Loved by a sad King, lusty and loud

My Lady is Paris, Le Sacre Coeur
Loved by a girl Queen, le parfum des fleurs

Pier, pebbles, salt and sea
Close your eyes and remember me

Friday, 29 April 2016

Art in circles

I find a certain harmony that emanates from art placed within a circular shape, and looking at this brief retrospective selection of my work it is something I am clearly drawn to...

Kalli, Bunny and Savage floral collages in gold circle frames [2013]

Floral March bunny collages in gold circle frames [2014]
Circles have no beginning or end.
They represent the eternal whole and in every culture are an archetypical form representing the sun, the earth, the moon, the universe, and other celestial objects between.
Circles are used to suggest familiar objects such as wheels, balls, many kinds of fruit.
They suggested well-roundedness and completeness.

"Bees" collection glass and metal double sided pendant [2014]
"Bees" collection metal and glass double sided pendants [2014]
"Bees" collection Melissa gift boxes [2014]
Circles have free movement.
They can roll.
Shading and lines can enhance this sense of movement in circles.
Circles are graceful and their curves are seen as feminine.
They are warm, comforting and give a sense of sensuality and love.
Their movement suggests energy and power. Their completeness suggests the infinite, unity, and harmony.

Magical talisman [July 2012]

Kalli and March bunny collages in gilt fames [2012]
Troedyrhiw Christmas angel in her home tin [2015]
Scull motif decorated vintage specimen box photographed against matching background
Circles protect, they endure, they restrict.
They confine what’s within and keep things out.
They offer safety and connection.
Circles suggests community, integrity, and perfection.
Because they are less common in design they work well to attract attention, provide emphasis, and set things apart.

Floral scull hanging circle postcards

Madonna of the roses hanging postcard [2013]

Affirmation hanging postcard [2013]

Decorated tins [2015]

"Nature's Almanac" decorated tin lid [2015]

"Savage" brooch [2013]

"Scull" brooch [2013]

"Dolly" brooch [2013]

"Alice" collage as mobile upload [2014 no filter]
"Alice" collage as mobile upload [2014 vintage filter]
"Alice" collage as mobile upload [2014 ghost filter]

How I wish that the beautifully composed circle definitions in this post were written by me, but they were in fact taken from this website: