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

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