Balloons, Bunting and Books

A couple of weeks ago myself, Ted and my long suffering husband (Mr E) went on a day  trip to a little place a couple of hours drive away, called Hay on Wye.

It’s a small Welsh village/town – which is, in many respects like many other Welsh villages…

but Hay is a town of books. There are books shops galore. New books, old books, really old books. Picture books, fiction, non fiction…. I think that if you can imagine a book you can probably find it in one of the many amazing bookshops in this quiet little town.

And the week we went was no ordinary week … this time, Hay was not the sleepy, quaint little town I had been to before , or the way you imagine a little Welsh town to look.

Instead, it was bustling with people. There were balloons and banners, the streets lined with stall selling all sorts of items from Welshcakes (yummy), to ice cream (just as yummy), to clothes, to candles.

There were adults of all ages, children and dogs. What an atmosphere!

But why, what wakes a quaint little town and make it a huge attraction?

Why books, of course! We had travelled to Hay for the annual Literary Festival.

Hay Festival Fun
Hay Festival Fun

It was the first time we had ever been (yes, I know, we only live two hours away, no excuse – but it’s true), and it certainly won’t be the last. Ted & I loved every minute. (Mr E did too – but he mainly did the town and river part).

BUT – before I get carried away with the romance of it all – a word of warning.

It’s busy. Very busy. Narrow streets see lots of traffic – pedestrians and motorised traffic. If you don’t like crowds, it’s probably not for you.

At the festival site, there are queues. For everything – you will queue for coffee, queue for ice cream, queue for the loo (although that’s normal anywhere I think!), queue for the shows, for the signings, at the book shop… Be prepared to spend lots of time queueing.

And beware of grumps. I think it’s linked to the queues. I encountered one or two very grumpy people. Small children I can forgive – queues are very boring.

Grown adults of 50+, being rude and grumpy at such an event – no need. I do hope you don’t get one of those in the book shop queue – honestly – the sales assistants are doing their best, give them a break!

But – yes, another but. -If you can get past all that, there are books.

Lots of books.

Storytelling, Activities. You can spot celebrities. You can watch people’s eyes light up as they pick up a book, see their favourite author or simply eat some rather delicious food.

There are smiles, there is laughter, there are people just all getting along. We were there when the UK security alert was at critical. There is nothing makes you smile more than a heavily armed police officer talking to children about the Giant Jumperee. (OK a child and me….)

And, there are many talks and shows you can go to. Ted and I went to one.

We went to see Julia Donaldson – author of (you guessed it) The Giant Jumperee and The Gruffalo – and many others of course. This was inspirational – she talked about her process, how she works with illustrators – we saw a video of Illustrator Helen Oxenbury in her studio – got to see snippets of Axel Scheffler’s sketchbook…

Julia and her family even acted our the Giant Jumperee for us all, and we all sang along to the Jumperee song. I met Julia afterwards – got her autograph – and she even spoke to Ted. (She was lovely)

The day Ted met Julia Donaldson
The day Ted met Julia Donaldson

To see the faces in that audience – see how the children were engaged.

Some say books are dying out due to e-books and online content – well if that day at the Hay Festival is any indication that is very far from the truth. Books and story telling are very much still with us – and the future looks great.

 

Find Your Happy Place
Find Your Happy Place

As you know – my dream is to be an illustrator of children’s books. Well – that day – that one special day, I felt like I was one step closer to that dream.

Hay – we loved you – and we will be back!

 

PS – don’t forget, you can find me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Keep Believing…

I type this from my studio.

After a leisurely coffee and croissants for breakfast, I’ve strolled through to the desk. I’ve left the main house – all clean, tidy and organised – washing and ironing all done for the day.

My board is sitting on a beautiful whitewashed antique table, next to my matching shelves, adorned with pretty and colourful keepsakes.

As the sun streams through the window – my personalised bunting casts a faint shadow over my current piece of work.

I pick up a pencil form the array of jars full of colour coordinated pencils, and begin to sketch out ideas for my latest book…..

OK, OK – that’s not really what it’s like. Really it’s grab a coffee, do a bit of social net working with breakfast in one hand – schedule posts for the day and rush out the door to day job. (with the house covered in a layer of dust and the ironing in an ever growing mountain :D)

Day job over I am at the desk – which is circa 1980, and not whitewashed – but is surrounded by pretty items – and my pencils are all in jars and are (almost) colour co-ordinated. And I do have personalised bunting, courtesy of a very lovely friend.

But – you have to have a dream. A goal.

And that’s mine – to spend my days drawing, painting and writing – my evenings at home with friends and family. And I know one day that scene won’t be a dream any more. And the first stage was to write it down. Here in my blog – because now you know – and now I have to do it, because you will all be watching. (Although I have to warn you – the bit about all the ironing being done may be a little unrealistic…)

Of course – I can’t do any of that without you, so I want to take a moment to say thank you to everyone who has, and continues to, support Jac’s Little Welsh Studio. I cannot tell you how wonderful it feels when someone hits that”like” button, or Re-tweets a picture – it’s all of you lovely people that have allowed me to start truly believing in myself, in the studio.

I’m continually working on new designs – listening to what you like – and creating things i hope you would like to buy. Things that make you smile. Things that make the word just that little bit happier.

Dream Big
Dream Big

My book? Well, that’s a bit more of a distant dream – that’s pretty much in my head. But – there are lots of short story ideas in there, I’m trying to persuade them to come out. Of course, many involve Ted – so he needs to be persuaded to…. maybe next week…let’s see shall we…

In the meantime – dream big everyone – and believe!! 🙂

(Don’t forget to check out all my social media channels – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest – and of course my online Etsy shop. There is no escaping me!)

Love Jac xx

Christmas in October

I know, I know – it’s October. I have no right to be blogging about Christmas. I’m sorry (truly I am), but I love it – and anyway, I have to start planning now so that my Christmas range is ready when people need them!

And this year, I have had a little extra inspiration, in the form of a book – Christmas at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan.

Candy Canes
Christmas Candy Canes

I first came across Jenny Colgan’s work when I was looking for some light summer reading. I was browsing the book shelves in my local bookshop (one of the few remaining ones sadly), and I found The Cupcake Cafe.

Regular followers of Jac will know that I love both coffee and cake – so this book just called to me. And it was fab – but that’s not what I am here to write about today.

So, where was I…  oh yes, Christmas.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I just really fancied some quiet time curled up on the sofa, and everyone knows you need a good book for that. So, off I went in search of a good read. And then I found Christmas at the Cupcake Cafe (the sequel to my summer read).

Coffee, cake and Christmas – what more is there!!

As I am sure you can imagine this is not a heavy read (it’s not going to help in my quest to score more than 12 on University Challenge), but it’s a nice easy, can’t put it down till you’ve finished it kind of book.

It’s a story of love, conflict and cake. It features Issy (who owns the café) and

Festive cupcake
Christmas Cupcakes

her boyfriend Austin – and this book is set in both London and New York (I’m not saying any more than that, you’ll have to read it yourself)

And this book has a real atmosphere, I swear I could literally smell the coffee and cinnamon – see the steamed up windows of the café and feel the snow falling around me… and, for those bakers amongst you, this book also includes recipes for the featured cakes (not that I have attempted any of those yet).

If you are looking for a feel good cosy book this Christmas, it’s just perfect….

Christmas Pudding
Good Old Christmas Pud
The illustrations featured in this blog are Jac originals – available to order as cards. See Jac’s Facebook page for more information.

Of books and bull dogs…

Hi There – and welcome to another edition of Jac’s blog – written in Jac’s Little Welsh Studio.

 As part of “Doggy Doodle Week” I was privileged to meet Henry Percival (HP) – a bulldog with a passion for books, who kindly agreed to be interviewed. Most of the questions were posed by Jac’s Facebook fans – a very inquisitive lot!

Henry - the Bull Dog Librarian
Henry – the Bull Dog Librarian

 Jac – Hi Mr Percival – pleased to meet you.

 HP – Likewise. But please, call me Henry.

Jac – Thanks Henry. So – you work in the local library – what do you enjoy most about that?

HP – Everything! It’s an amazing place to work. I’ve met some great characters through my work here. Dotty the Sheep, Horace the Hedgehog, Daisy the Cow – just some of the customers that have become my friends. And of course, I do love to read. Working here means I get to see all the new books as the arrive and get the pick of the crop!

 Jac – so what are you reading at the moment?

HP – I’ve just started the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime by Mark Haddon – it’s a fascinating read.

 Jac – and what would you say is your favourite book?

HP – Mmm – I would have to say the Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. But – as a pup I did love 101 Dalmations.  These days I love reading it to the children who visit the library. And I always love watching the Disney animation whenever it’s on TV!

Jac – I notice you have your glasses on at the moment. Do you wear those all the time, or are they just for reading.

HP – All the time (must be my age!). I have lots of different pairs though – I love changing the colour to match my mood!

 Jac – Finally – what do you think of e-readers – and do you have one?

HP – I do have one. I do actually prefer a real book – you can’t beat the smell of a book, or the feel of flicking through the pages. But the e-book is a little bit more practical when I go travelling – it really reduces the weight of my luggage!

 Jac – thank you Henry for a giving us a little insight into you and your work – perhaps you’d come back to see us again in future?

 HP – That would be a pleasure. I look forward to reading your future blogs and seeing which of my friends will be featured next!