Monday, 11 November 2013

Catching up

I've been terrible. There is no such thing as spare time any more when you have a toddler, especially when juggling that with working too. I've been busy creating more Oxford Sparks shorts, and a few other bits of illustration too.

Many other things are afoot. Firstly, I am cooking up a sibling for Tilly and will be due to pop at the end of February. And at some point during or after all of this, we are hoping to move house again. Yes, I know. We didn't mean to move so soon but I am struggling to find a balance between giving my daughter enough attention whilst maintaining some kind of grip on my career, so we are decamping and moving a bit closer to my parents. We haven't sold our house yet, but we will do as soon as we can.

So it's all been rather hectic here and I've neglected this poor blog. Apologies.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Oxford Sparks

It's been a long time since I last wrote: I am sorry. Juggling the demands of an eleven-month-old livewire/child/monster and trying to work at the same time can lead to a few things being neglected. Rest assured, I am not only knee deep in baby effluent! I have also been working on a number of different projects, mostly with some lovely people at Oxford University.

Back in 2011 I was selected to direct and animate an ongoing series of animated shorts for Oxford Sparks, which is an online platform for the public to engage with the exciting scientific research that is undertaken at Oxford University. They involve the adventures of a little green chap, called Ossie, who gets himself into all kinds of trouble and thus takes us on a journey to learn about something that is being developed and researched at Oxford University. I have now made five of these films and am currently working on the sixth. Click the links below to see them:

Rogue Planet
Underwater Volcano Disaster
Another Case of Heart Trouble - I directed this but didn't animate it due to newborn baby duties
Towards Absolute Zero - I directed this but didn't animate it due to newborn baby duties
A Quick Look Around the LHC

It's been great fun making these, especially being able to make use of my scientific background - makes me feel like my brain isn't turning to mush just yet. Look out for the next one due this summer - it's a brainy one!

I'll be back later this week to talk about a couple of exhibitions I saw recently.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Sharp Suits

I came across this project today. Created by designers Mark Shanley and Paddy Treacy, it is a series of posters that they designed in response to some of the worst client comments they'd received or heard of. I wish I'd come up with this idea - any of you who work in the same field will get the joke. I spent ages laughing at them. All images from Sharp Suits. Sadly they aren't taking orders for prints any more or I'd have spent a small fortune.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

in summary...

This just about sums up the last four and a half months of my life:

I'm back! Looking forward to posting more regularly again.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Friday, 8 June 2012

I'm still here!!!

... just not got much to say for myself lately. You know how it is: all I seem to want to do is sleep and eat cake. I've stopped working and started nesting a bit. We have painted three of the brick walls in the snug in Stony Ground by Farrow and Ball and are hoping to use the room for a home birth. Keep your fingers crossed for us. Not long to go now - well, no more than three and a half weeks! Will update when we have news!

Meanwhile, I've been daydreaming about nursery stuff and baby clothes but not buying anything apart from essentials. Anyone want to buy me this blanket by Mini McGhee in green, pretty please?


Monday, 14 May 2012

hello, beautiful...

No, I haven't given birth prematurely, but I have bought a super-large vintage wall chart of lobster anatomy from the lovely Junk Deluxe to indulge myself. It's currently adorning our bathroom wall because it happened to complement the wall colour, and there aren't too many walls big enough in our house to accommodate it. Needless to say, I am in love with it.

Like Junk Deluxe on Facebook for most recent stock updates. Wall colour: Hardwick White by Farrow and Ball. The other picture is a screen print by James Brown.

Hope you have all been well. Life is slowing down at my end - I'm counting down the days until I finish my latest project and can finally get on with preparing for the arrival of the little beast currently residing in my belly.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

catching up

We entertained some of my dear school friends and their partners over Easter weekend at our house. We'd only had the windows completed three days before the first guests arrived, so there was some frantic tidying and dusting beforehand. Somehow we managed to get it all ready and had a lovely, relaxed few days with lots of good food and some windy walks. We climbed the hill opposite our house to pick wild garlic for a risotto I had planned to cook. The view from there was pretty amazing, especially in the changeable weather that was sweeping overhead that day. The fact that our own house made up part of the view is kind of beside the point, but it was good to see how it sits in the landscape, with the hills of the Clwydian Range marching off into the murky distance.

On Easter Sunday, despite some pretty unpromising weather forecasts, we decided to be brave and took an indulgent picnic for eight people to one of my favourite places  - Llanddwyn Island, which I've written about before. The weather turned out to be just fine, if a little windy, and the four miles of beach and shoreline walking was perfect. There is something very British, but very magical, about picnicking on a beach with clouds scudding overhead and the threat of rain in the air. I loved every minute of that weekend and feel so lucky to have such wonderful friends who were willing to travel so far to come and see us.

The following weekend, we went to see an acquaintance of mine who sells industrial vintage stuff in Manchester. He's just set up shop in a new warehouse and wanted to show me some of his latest goods. I'll write about this in a separate post, as he very generously donated some bits to me to have a play with in the house. I've been too busy with work and stuff lately to have done anything yet, but I'm really excited about dreaming up some ways of displaying and using his vintage finds.

Last week we attended our first antiques auction in over a year. This one is in Froncysyllte, near Llangollen, and was pretty quiet so there were bargains to be had. We got a 1920s oak desk for the husband's office for the princely sum of £35.40 which, once it's been tidied up, will look just spiffing. There were lots of items that we had no interest in at all: the usual parade of Staffordshire dogs etc., but it was a fun day out. Plus, like our old auction haunt at Willingham, they do a splendid bacon sarnie. What's not to like?

What else, what else? Drawing? Nope. Sorry. Lost my mojo there, I'm afraid. I think there's not enough room in my body for both a baby and a brain. I'll see what I can do to remedy this in the coming weeks. I hope to finish work within the next week and a half, to start properly on nursery and other baby stuff I've been procrastinating about and maybe to do some creative stuff too.

Meanwhile, I hope you are all well. Only seven weeks til I'm meant to pop now, so not too long at all. Eep!

Monday, 16 April 2012


I promised to update you on the progress of our windows and never found the time. It's been a busy couple of weeks around here. 

Before - photo from last year:


 The first window goes in:


The panelled wood finish and architrave inside:

To say that we are happy with the result would be an understatement. Of course, the outside will need some serious work with a paintbrush before it will look its best. The slight mis-matching of the window heights and sizes will disappear once the mortar is painted white again. We are also still debating what to do about the shutters. I think we may keep them because the house will look too plain without them, but paint them a different colour. We feel like the house has got its original Georgian character back and we love the enlarged central window, which is bringing much more light into the study and landing. I am delighted with the new joinery inside each window too. It makes it difficult for me to use the sills as temporary glasshouses for my veg plants any more, but I knew this would be the case. We've just got a lot of painting to do now, but it will be worth every penny we spent. Huge, huge thanks to Rod and his team at M&R Joinery. They took so much care in making our windows, and obviously take great pride and interest in what they do - it was fantastic working with them.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012


above Marloes Sands, high tide
Since we are soon to be gaining an addition to the family, the husband and I decided to take a short break as a kind of last hurrah; the last holiday that we will take just by ourselves for a long time. We chose an easygoing, self-catering trip to Pembrokeshire for lots of walking and eating. I am luckily not too whale-like yet to be unable to complete shortish walks, so we managed a few miles here and there of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, and also found the time to look around St Davids and one of my favourite seaside towns, Tenby. We used to holiday in Tenby when I was a small child. I don't remember a lot of it, but I still associate Castle Hill and the crashing waves at the base of the cliffs on South Beach with some of my happiest memories. The weather was perfect for our first full day there, but quite windy and overcast for the rest of the time. Nevertheless, we ate picnic lunches outdoors every day and enjoyed the feeling of utter remoteness that can be found along this stunning coastline. True, the inland landscape of Pembrokeshire is nothing particularly special but where it hits the sea, something magical happens. I was blown away by the geology, displayed in ragged splendour on every cliff-side, and the sea that remains blue even when the sky is gloomy with clouds.

near Solva

We dined out one evening at Y Polyn, near Carmarthen, which was absolutely wonderful. As I get older I am becoming more difficult to please, but this was the best meal out I've had in ages. The bread is freshly made in house every day - we were treated to perfect focaccia and a moreish onion bread - and the cooking is lovely and simple. We had a rich fish soup with rouille and gruyere croutons, which was the undoubted highlight of the meal, and a lovely, fresh goats cheese in a hazelnut crust with golden beetroot, followed by duck confit with lentils and pollack with a saffron, potato and leek broth. Dessert was a pair of tarts - mouth-puckering lemon, with ginger crumble and home made plum ripple ice cream; and a warm pear and frangipane tart with vanilla ice cream. I nearly burst, especially since the food was in competition with the small child in my belly space, but it was worth every waddle and groan on the way home. It has inspired us to make the most of the fruit we have in our garden - rhubarb right now, and later the delicious, perfumey plums and damsons that we didn't make the most of last year. I am dreaming of our own rippled ice creams, more damson gin, crumbles and Eton messes. I could go on...

In other news, we came home to an immediate, if self-inflicted, chaos. In short: the windows are being replaced. Update to follow later on this week.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Our house a year (and a hundred years) on

It's been almost a year since we completed on the purchase of our house, and it's been a crazy year. Last week we had yet more plastering done so we are still living in chaos and dust, but every step we take is another one forward. The nursery-to-be has been replastered, so that the old walls are no longer textured, and the partition wall no longer moves when you press it. The snug ceiling is no longer an ugly, orangey pine - it's now insulated, boarded and painted white which has made the room much brighter than before. We are considering painting three of the brick walls just to brighten it up even more. Some people would say that's a travesty, but others will agree that there's cosy, and then there's GLOOMY, which this room can be on many days in Wales. I'll update with pictures of these when I finally get some breathing space from work.

What I wanted to show you today was an old picture of our house that the previous owners have kindly scanned for us. It shows Ty Isaf in the 1900s, with the Lloyd Jones family standing outside. Isn't it marvellous? I love pictures like this. It's a shame that the central window has been bricked up, and you'll agree that the house is quite different-looking from what it is now.

This is our house on the day we finally purchased it last March. Nothing has changed much on the outside since then, but changes are afoot. See those windows? 1950s metal windows. In three words: yucky, draughty, wrong. We are replacing them with bespoke timber sash windows to try and restore some Georgian grandeur to the frontage. We will not be bricking up the central window, of course, but will enlarge it instead to match the two on either side. It's a risky and expensive move, but we are keeping our fingers crossed that it will look good. The shutters too have their days numbered: they may be very pretty and French-looking, but are not really in keeping with the house's age. I think it will look much more austere than it does now, but I like austere and bare. It suits my glum personality.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Moomin stuff

Loving these Moomin trays, on offer on Achica today. I like the colourful one best. Various designs are also available full price here, here and here. Now I must get on with some work...

Thursday, 16 February 2012

stuff and nonsense

Hi peeps. How are you? I've been a bad girl, I know. But I thought I'd pop by with another update of what I've been up to.

1) Last weekend was spent at one of my dearest friends' hen do in Oxfordshire. I ate a whole, and rather large, sea bass all by myself at The Swan at Southrop. It was delicious and indulgent. We went to beautiful Burford, where we had lots of scones and pottered around the little shops. I came home with a set of vintage butter knives, I couldn't help myself. It was a wonderful, snowy, cosy weekend full of laughter and great company. It's so good for me to get out and see friends. It reminds me that I'm not just an illustrating/baby-making machine.

2) I've been considering making a necklace like this one, from old brooches and bits of jewellery. I want something kooky, blingy and totally over the top to wear to a wedding in March, because I'll probably be wearing a plain black jersey dress over my burgeoning belly that will need some serious pepping up. I'll let you know how it goes. I'm currently stalking several job lots of vintage brooches on eBay and hoping for a bargain. Image from Lovejune on Etsy.

3) I'm currently working with some nice people at Oxford University on an animation. I don't know how much I can disclose, but it's been a fun challenge so far. The hard bit starts next week, when I start animating to a tight schedule.

4) It's that time of year when I should be thinking about what I should be growing in the garden. I've been lacking energy recently, and the cold snap has made spring seem like it's ages away yet, but it will be March before I know it and little seeds will have to be started. It's so exciting. I just need the husband to do any heavy work for me this year. We may even get chickens, but I think this is a fantasy.

5) I started baby and nursery pinboards on Pinterest. But have I bought anything yet? Uh. No. I'm kind of more interested in growing vegetables. Just kidding.

Hope you are all well.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012


At the weekend, we took another walk, this time a five-mile easy circuit from Dolwyddelan, complete with large picnic. Another lovely day out in the cold, in the company of the husband and my aching uterus.

In other news, I'm getting excited about this printmaking course I'm doing. I shall post pics if I actually create anything I like, but it's been fun so far. It's just a bit of a shame that I shall finish the course, then shortly afterward become too large to pull a screen or anything, followed by being too preoccupied to turn up to the Print Centre at all. I have good intentions, though. Really I do.