Crickhowell Literary Festival 2018 Wrap Up

#CrickLitFest is over for another year.

What a crazy, tiring, inspiring, amazing nine days that was.

I met some great speakers: authors, poets, comedians, musicians. I was pretty restrained with my book purchasing however and only got 4 books over the festival!

For me, the festival kicked off with the amazing Paul Henry & Brian Briggs, a poet/musician combo reading and singing stories based around the local canal. It was heart-warming and heart-wrenching. It was great.

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Next up for me was the amazing Robin Ince, talking about his latest book, I’m a Joke and So Are You. Talking about life, death and everything in between in true Infinite Monkey Cage (minus Brian Cox) style, it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening, and I bought his book.

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Then we had a local writing group launching their anthology to celebrate their 10 year anniversary, we had Oliver Bullough and Katy Mahood. And then there was Tristan Gooley, natural navigator.

Now I am not one for walking, not just going out just for a walk kind of walking anyway. However, I was really inspired by Tristan Gooley and his signs in nature that tell you where you are, which way you are facing etc just by looking at the shape of a tree or the angle of Orions Belt. Or knowing which direction the wind is blowing just by looking at the shape of a cloud. He was definitely inspiring, he made me consider the pros of walking for the sake of walking.

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Friday was a school event with Adam Baron (loads of fun),

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Frankenstein (super interesting),

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And Dr Brian Brivati talking about an exhibition of portraits of Yazidi women, survivors of Daesh.

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Then there was my faaaaaaaaaaaaave, Stuart Turton, interviewed by none other than Sophie Hannah! They bounced off each other so well and I enjoyed their conversation so much, I felt like the biggest fan girl in the room, or maybe second biggest after Amy from Tomes with Tea

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Sophie also had her own event in the evening, discussing her new Poirot story and how she got to write continuation novels for Agatha Christie. Words cannot express how excited I was for that and how lucky I felt for getting to be there. Swoon.

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On Sunday, the last day, I saw Neil Ansell and Bella Bathurst talk about sound and hearing loss and it’s effect on them. It turns out birdsong is usually one of the first sounds you lose when your hearing deteriorates, and that just made me feel so grateful for the fantastic things that are ears.

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Then there was Martin Dorey of #2minbeachclean fame, talking about his new book, No. More. Plastic. He was so interesting and it was great to see such an engaged audience for  a talk on saving the planet.

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Can’t wait for CrickLitFest19, but first, some sleep…

Amy x

I’M BACK! & My May Playlist

Hello friends!

I’ve been neglecting my blog.
Sorry.

Adjusting from student life/summer holidays to moving house and starting a new full time job meant I stopped blogging – oops.

But it’s nine months later and I’ve started making a bit more of an effort to be productive in my spare time and so here I am!

I have some more ideas about posts I want to make but there’s definitely going to be more of a focus on books and illustration and tattoos and vegan stuff and whatever wants to come out of my brain, I guess.

If that sounds good, please stick around!

And just to give you a treat – here’s some music I’ve been particularly enjoying this last month – would recommend!

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Amy x

15 Tips for Making the Most of Art School

I recently graduated from Hereford College of Arts and I wanted to give you some tips on how to make the most of university; art school in particular. I just want to add, I didn’t live in student accommodation so can’t really advise on anything like that, but good luck if you are!

1. Be weary of buying too much stuff before you start.

For starters, if they give you a list of books to read over the summer, borrow them if you can. I still have a copy of Sagmeister’s Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far that I haven’t done more than flick through. Animal Farm and the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy are always good for adult you’s bookshelf though.

If they give you a list of materials – you probably don’t need to waste money on a drawing board you’ll end up leaving at your parent’s house and won’t touch, but things like pencils, inks and paints are probably a good shout. In fact, it was thanks to the list I got from uni that I discovered gouache – now I’m in love. More on that here.

2. Go on trips.

Yes, they may seem expensive, but that £400 trip to Berlin is going to be so worth it. They act as inspiration, but also a break from the studio/desk environment and get you exploring somewhere new. I don’t regret going on any trips as part of the course, I feel like they all helped me stay inspired and develop my skills throughout the three years I was studying. It may take some budgeting, but go if you can! Which leads us onto the next tip…

3. Budget.

This may seem the most obvious tip but it’s SO important. Over the three years I was at uni I managed to afford trips to Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Sweden (three times), London (three times), Glasgow, Totnes and Edinburgh. I lived in a flat that was more expensive than student accommodation. I ate well, socialised and had everything I needed. And now Max and I have enough savings to rent a two-bedroom house straight out of uni instead of having to move back in with our parents until we’ve paid off our overdrafts like most students have to. Now, I know the amount of money people get and have to spend is totally different around the country, and around the world, but I will be writing more posts on how I budget in the future, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

4. Don’t forget your student discount!

Nowadays you don’t need to spend money on an NUS card to get discounts, sign up with Unidays and Student Beans with your Student ID and you’ll get plenty of discounts! Also, don’t be shy to ask if a shop does student discount – might save you money!

I miss mine already…

5. Be at uni even when you don’t have to be.

I cannot stress the importance of this one enough. You are going to develop so much more and have a much more enriching and worthwhile experience if you physically go to uni every day, or as often as you can. For starters, it’s good to get into the habit of having a working schedule, but also the tutors, equipment and studio space that you’re paying ALOT of money for are all there.

6. Make your space inviting.

The worst thing about our studios was that they were so white. Like yeah, you get better lighting, it offsets things nicely but you need to make your space yours. Stick up all the postcards you’ve ever found, make a bunting, stick stickers everywhere, just make it a space you want to be in. We even got a load of spider plants in our last studio because plants are the best things ever. If it’s not against health and safety, I would even recommend getting a communal kettle so you can make your own tea/coffee throughout the day. Make it like a second home.

7. Go outside every now and then.

It’s so important to remember to get some fresh air every now and again. A short walk can do amazing things for your creativity and productivity. Take a sketchbook if you want.

8. Use workshops/facilities.

I definitely needed to listen to my own advice with this one. HCA has amazing workshops for ceramics, metalwork, woodwork, 3D-printing, screen printing and so much more, and I feel I didn’t make the most of them. You should. Remember you’re paying a lot of money to be able to access these things, learn some new skills! Expand your practice.

 

9. Your tutors know their stuff.

Now I know HCA is different to a lot of art schools because it’s so small and there is a lot of tutor contact. My tip is to talk to your tutors if you’re feeling a bit lost or need some specific advice – you don’t have to wait for them to arrange tutorials.

10. Your peers might also know their stuff.

I definitely feel having contact with peers helped improve my work, it gets especially interesting when people find their niches and you get someone who loves AR teaching photoshop to a computer-averse children’s book illustrator. It’s great. Make friends. And then talk about your work to each other, often.

11. Don’t be afraid to talk to visiting lecturers.

We were very lucky and had loads of visiting lecturers over our time at uni, from illustrators to event hosts to portfolio experts. Do not be afraid to talk to them if you’re interested in what they do, or think they might be interested in what you do. Just be friendly and make contacts, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself! They’re just people.

12. Find your own projects, or at least tailor set projects to you.

Your biggest asset is that there is no-one else on this planet who is identical to you. Your life, the way you see things, the way you think, the way you draw is totally unique. Embrace that and make sure you find a way to enjoy your projects and make them personal. Some, especially in first year, may seem restricting and uninteresting but you’ve got to find your angle. If you enjoy it, you will create better work.

13. Set yourself false deadlines.

This one is easy, but so effective. Tell yourself your deadline is, for example, a week before the actual deadline and be strict with it. Then if something happens that takes you longer, you’ve got an extra week buffer room. Try it, it takes so much stress away.

 

14. Take a sketchbook with you everywhere (and use it).

Again, this is something I needed to take my own advice for, especially in first and second year. Make it somewhere you can doodle, write notes, sketch, paint. Make it a scrapbook. Make it personal. Now, this is the important bit, you do not have to show it to anyone. It doesn’t matter if you do a crap drawing or get coffee all over it. It is your place to record your life, and if you’re happy with it then great, show the world. If not, it doesn’t matter, you will get so much better just by using it regularly.

15. Don’t expect everything you make to be perfect.

I’ve put this one last because I feel it’s the most important. It took me far too long to realise this, but you can’t worry about creating something that’s not perfect because you’ll never create anything. That’s why I think having a sketchbook that’s just for you is great for getting into the habit of just drawing, painting, collaging, writing without the pressure of making something that’s worthy of being shown. You will make something great. Just don’t be afraid to make something crap first.

 

Hope these tips help! Let me know what you think.

Amy x

ps. you can find my work at my website, or on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

 

August Favourites

I have compiled a list of my favourite things this month, consisting of everything from bowls to paint – hope you enjoy!

In no particular order, I’m going to start off with this bowl from TKMaxx, which I’ve already mentioned in a previous blog post because I eat my breakfast out of it every single day and it just makes me enjoy my mornings a little bit more.

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Next up is this band tee from Oro Swimming Hour and Art is Hard Records, designed by Nicholas Stevenson. I actually picked this up from a recent gig they had in Bristol, not sure if they are available to buy anywhere else but I got a large and it is the comfiest and coolest top ever.

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I also got this zine in the post recently, which was a lovely surprise because I preordered it back in May – glad it arrived before we moved! It’s full of beautifully illustrated articles on mental wellbeing and profits are going to charities and non-profit organisations like Mind, Beat and Sisters Uncut. It really is worth a read – you can purchase a copy here.

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This month has been particularly significant because I’ve gone from brunette to pink! (There is a blog post about that coming!) so I wanted to include the Bleach London Total Bleach kits and Directions White Toner and Carnation Pink dyes in my favourites as they are all amazing products. The reincarnation mask that comes with the Bleach London kits makes my hair feel so soft and healthy even though I’ve bleached it three times over the space of about a month. Would recommend – you can also buy it separately if you don’t need the bleach, which is good!

Deodorant next – I used to use the lavender and vanilla version of Salt of the Earth’s spray deodorant but recently went unscented (in all honesty, it was slightly cheaper) and I love it just as much. It’s so nice having a natural deodorant in a spray form that doesn’t contain any aluminium or other nasty things that are in standard deodorants. It’s easy to use, I find two sprays under each armpit is plenty to get me through the day and a bottle probably lasts a good 8 months.

 

I’ve also been loving Rose Jam body spray from Lush, which I managed to pick up from the new Cardiff Spa store when it opened, but I recently saw them in my local Lush (#TeamWorcester) so I think they’ve probably been rolled out to most stores, in the UK at least. Now, if you’ve read my recent blog post about my everyday Lush faves you’ll know that (Spoiler Alert) Princess Cottongrass is my super duper all-time favourite perfume from Lush. However, I think it’s important to change it up from time to time so you don’t get fed up, and August has just been particularly Rose Jammy for me.

I also treated myself to some new art materials lately. I picked up this Clairefontaine Naturel pad from my local indie art shop and it’s so nice to work on natural colour paper – sometimes white is a bit too bright and intimidating. I find I can use pretty thick layers of gouache on it too without it buckling, which is really nice.

If you follow me on my “work” Instagram you will also know I’ve been loving Winsor and Newton’s gold gouache. It’s amazing. It’s like foiling in liquid form. I got mine from Cass Art and I must admit I’m now a bit tempted by the silver…

Hope that compilation was interesting! As always, you can check out my illustration work via my website, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Thanks for reading!

Amy

Brunette to Pastel Pink

About 4 months ago, I decided I wanted to dye my hair a lovely pastel pink, but sensible me wanted to wait until after I graduated so that I knew my hair would look alright in the awful photos of me that would be on relative’s mantelpieces for years and years.

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Two days later, I was blonde. Just in time for being Swedish for two weeks.

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I (with the help of a friend) used two boxes of Bleach London’s Total Bleach on virgin hair and I was really happy with the results. It did, however, take over two hours to apply!

About three weeks after the first bleaching we bleached it again, avoiding roots this time (figured I might as well do those when they’re about 2-3 months grown out). It took so much less time when avoiding the roots! This took another one and a half boxes of bleach.

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(apologies for the awful bathroom lighting!)

I then toned it with LaRiche Directions’ White Toner…

Just under a week later I tackled the bits that still weren’t quite light enough with the leftover half a box of bleach. (side note – I now have a teeny patch underneath that looks greenish, and I think this may be because I used an opened bottle of developer, so if you can afford to use whole boxes at a time, I would defo recommend it!)

After washing the bleach out with Daddy-O shampoo from Lush (which I would recommend!)  I mixed a tiny blob of Direction’s Carnation Pink with three good squirts of conditioner and thoroughly ran it through my hair and left it on for about 5 minutes.

The result:

Almost a week later I dyed it pink properly, mixing Carnation Pink with conditioner to dilute it…

 

I absolutely love it! It’s just got a hint of pink in it and it’s exactly what I wanted! Also the pot of pink dye I got will last ages because I only used a tiny bit. I ended up mixing a butterbean-sized blob of dye with two good squirts of conditioner three times – so about a third of a bottle of Superdrug’s Raspberry and Macadamia conditioner (which is vegan and cruelty free and I got mine on offer for 95p! I think they retail for £1.99 but often have offers on). I would recommend using a white conditioner if you’re going to dilute dye just so you can see what colour it’s going to be a bit better, but I just had that raspberry one and I wasn’t too precious about the colour being too intense because I knew it’d wash out – and dyeing your hair crazy colours is all about experimentation, right?

Hope you find this post interesting/useful – let me know what you think!

Thanks for reading

Amy x

Ps. as always, you can find more of my illustration work (like the cover illustration one this post) on my website, Instagram and Twitter!

Our moving story…

We’re about to move into our first house!

First, a little bit of backstory. Max (my boyfriend) got himself a flat around the same time we got together, in December 2014. We met at art school, and at the time I was commuting two hours a day from my parents’ house and back, so I started staying with him until June 2015 when I was officially added to the tenancy and had officially moved away from home, from Wales to England.

So, come May 2017, we were both about to hand in work for our final deadlines, and wanted to start looking to live somewhere new. We were set on Bristol, because the illustration scene there is amazing, without it being London. Because neither of us are quite ready for London.

We started looking into different areas of Bristol and decided we wanted to and could probably afford to live in Clifton/Redland area. We kept looking, with the intentions of moving in August, as we had our degree show in June, New Designers at the beginning of July, Graduation and then a two-week trip to Sweden at the end of July, into August.

The more we looked, the more we realised that we wouldn’t be able to get much for our money in Bristol itself, compared to towns just outside. We started to fall in love with Clevedon – on the Severn estuary, with sea views and only 20 minute drive into Bristol. And so much cheaper.

The time came, between New Designers and Sweden, that we could start viewing places. We found what looked like our dream flat, arranged a viewing for it for a couple of days time, and chose a couple of alright-looking places to go and see as well since we were driving an hour and a half each way anyway.

The three alright-looking places were first up, and all seemed very bleh in real life too, we were a bit disappointed but got to spend the day in Clevedon because our other viewing wasn’t until late afternoon. It is a beautiful town, would definitely recommend a visit if you can.

We had a look at our dream flat, and it was beautiful. Beautiful views, beautiful floors, beautiful everything. We loved it. The estate agent who showed us around said he had another viewing booked after us and if we wanted it we needed to go to their office in Portishead (15 min drive) ASAP and put our names down. So we did. But we didn’t think to bring passports and bank statements with us so we were told to bring them the next day. So we did. 3 hour round trip so they could photocopy our passports and bank statements. And, as soon as we got home – we got a phone call saying the other people who viewed it also showed an interest and the landlord picked them over us. Three. Hour. Drive.

So then we sulked for a bit and went off to Sweden, during which Max convinced me that moving to Wales might be a good move for us. I was previously adamant that I didn’t want to live where I grew up or anywhere to close to it. I wanted to live somewhere new and exciting. But we looked at some properties and there was such a massive difference in price, for example the two-bed top floor flat we looked at in Clevedon was £750/month. In Monmouthshire, there were quite a few houses in the £550-£650/month range that came with gardens and driveways and all sorts of good things.

And, wise as he is, he said that he’d rather live in a nice house somewhere not so cool than an alright flat somewhere cool. And I agree.

I mean, there’s still beautiful scenery in Wales.

We started arranging viewings while we were in Sweden and the first one (well, two) to come around were these semi-detached cottages that were stuck together and both happened to be up for rent at the same time. They were properly in the middle of nowhere, in a hamlet three miles from the nearest town. But they were so nice, it was hard to choose which one we like more but we chose one and applied for it. We were supposed to hear back the next day.

We didn’t.

In the meantime, another viewing came up for another cottage and we weren’t sure whether to go or not since we’d applied for somewhere else, and we started panicking about being offered the other house before we’d seen this one because this one might be nicer, and we’d already applied for the other one but what if this one was nicer, but also the other one was in the middle of nowhere, and was that going to work for us etc. But we did go and look at it and I’m glad we did because it wasn’t for us and it confirmed to me that I would definitely be happy if we got the other one.

So four days after we viewed the first cottages, we got an email from the estate agents saying the landlady had some questions regarding us being self-employed. (Oh yeah, another thing I should point out is that being a self-employed recent graduate is a nightmare for convincing people you can pay rent. Get a real job, don’t be an illustrator. … I’m kidding. Maybe?)

We answered the questions, and heard back the next day – she was willing to offer us a six-month initial tenancy if we paid that six-months rent up front. Woohoo!

It is now almost two weeks since we first viewed the house and we have completed referencing forms and handed in our months notice at the flat we’re currently in. We’ve packed around half our stuff and are very excited about having a house together (with a garden!) Hopefully referencing goes ok, and Max isn’t some kind of bankrupt ex-pirate with a criminal record and he just hasn’t told me.

I’ll just finish this post off with a list of things I’m excited about now:

  • Seeing the house again now that we know we’re going to be living in it.
  • Needing a laundry basket because we have a garden to dry clothes outside.
  • Having more space for house plants.
  • Having a separate studio room to make sure our work/life balance is good.
  • Getting a fridge freezer where the freezer section can hold more than three peas and a chip.
  • Having cupboards! Cupboards for clean bedsheets and towels! Oh, the joy.
  • Being able to eat at a table.
  • Having more space for nice rugs.
  • CHRISTMAS IN OUR NEW HOUSE.

 

And if you are in a similar situation, or just want to take something from this blog post so you know you haven’t just wasted ten minutes of your life, I think it’s to remember that, cue cliche, everything does happen for a reason. It really does.

Thanks for reading, will update you on the move when it happens! Eeep!

Amy

 

(cover illustration – www.amyvale.com@amyevale)

 

Hello!

Thought I’d use this first post to introduce myself a little bit.

  • My name is Amy.
  • I’m Welsh, but am currently living in England for a little bit.
  • I just graduated with a BA (Hons) degree in Illustration.
  • I live with my boyfriend Max (who is very lovely).
  • I’m vegan.
  • I collect pins and patches and stick most of them onto an old Levi’s denim jacket I got for £5 in a charity shop about 4 years ago.
  • I don’t really wear make-up.
  • My all-time favourite band is The Cure but at-the-moment fave is Ezra Furman.
  • I drive a little blue car that looks like a cube.
  • My favourite season is autumn.
  • I love the idea of being out in the woods but I really don’t like bugs.
  • I wear glasses (currently roundish brown ones) and have prescription sunglasses, and hate that moment when I go into a shop and have to switch glasses before I can see anything.
  • I can’t resist a good bourbon biscuit.
  • Since starting this blog post, I have a new-found passion for making lists.

 

So expect posts about vegan stuff, illustration stuff, pin stuff, home stuff, that kind of thing!

Thanks for reading, smell you later.

Amy x

ps. my illustration work can be found on my website and on Instagram!