In Conversation With… Catie Wilkins

Catie Wilkins

Catie Wilkins is a writer, comedian, screenwriter and children’s books author. ‘My Best Friend And Other Enemies’ is a series by Catie for 8-12 year olds and has been published by Nosy Crow.

Catie has also written for the BBC, The Independent, New Humanist, Tantrum, Standard Issue, Matador Films, and she appeared on ITV4’s Stand Up Hero. Catie lives in London with her husband, baby daughter and two rescued cats, Liono and Smithers.

 

How did you end up doing the job you do?

It was kind of a meandering path. I was working at various normal jobs, mainly admin based, and in my spare time, writing. I also started doing stand up comedy. I gradually met other comedy writers and more like-minded people. I wrote lots of different things, eventually a sitcom got optioned, then ultimately rejected, but that led to me meeting the person who is now my book agent. She liked a book I’d written and knew some publishers who were looking for a similar voice but younger. I came up with something at her suggestion, wrote the whole thing on spec, and they decided to publish it.

What are you working on right now?


New books, a comedy documentary, articles, my one-year-old baby. Not literally working on her. With her? Either way she is work. But lots of fun too.

What was your B plan if this career didn’t work out? 

There was no B plan as such. I’ve done lots of different jobs: delivering pizza, developing photos, bar work, admin. Lots of admin. I would probably still be temping and trying to get paid for writing. But I would always be writing, even if it was only for me.

Who or what has been your biggest source of inspiration to date? 

I always loved comedy and stories. So when I was a kid, Roald Dhal, Victoria Wood, French and Saunders, The Simpsons, Roseanne, Father Ted. Now I love Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, Sarah Silverman, Amy Schumer, Kristen Wiig, SNL, Douglas Adams, Margaret Atwood, Kurt Vonnegut and loads more.

Where do you feel most inspired? 

My bed at night time when I’m trying to go to sleep. When I did more stand up and before I had a baby I was a bit more nocturnal. Now my day starts at 6am but my brain still hasn’t got the memo. I end up making loads of notes on my iPhone in the dark. But at least the next day I can go through them, so I’m rarely staring at a blank page.

Catie Wilkins

What did you want to be when you were little?


A mermaid.

What was the best piece of advice you ever received?


“Keep going, it’s hard, babe.” – My husband.

What has been your career highlight to date?


I never had particularly high aspirations for myself, so my career has already surpassed my fifteen year old self’s bucket list. Which seems to be the secret aim of how I’ve lived my life. Sometimes when things are happening I think, ‘Fifteen year old me would be so excited we just did a gig with that comic we used to watch on TV.’ For me there’s been a constant series of mini highlights, which make up for all the tough bits and rejection along the way. Things like performing at the Bloomsbury Theatre, winning the Gong Show at the Comedy Store, or being bought pints by vanquished hecklers at the Edinburgh Festival during our first gang-show run. Being published was definitely a stand out highlight.

Which one thing would you like to change about your industry/working life? 

WELL. OK. I’m not being anti-my-industry, BUT… Firstly, more review space for children’s books. Children’s books currently get 3% of all book review space in newspapers, even though they account for 30% of the UK book market. A brilliant campaign called #CoverKidsBooks has been launched by children’s literature critic, Imogen Russell Williams to help rectify this. Everyone would benefit if children’s books were more fairly represented. Parents would be able to buy more than the same Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton and David Walliams, if they knew more about what was available.

Secondly, it’s very hard to get paid to write or develop a script in the UK, in part because there’s no set schedule or budget for development. In America it’s a proper business with a pilot season, writers unions and things in place to help protect and develop new talent. Sometimes I wish we could bring some of that over here.

Thirdly, unpaid internships and the fact that new writers coming up are expected to do so much work for free is pushing out the voices of a huge section of society, from journalism to TV.

Who is your favourite fictional female character? 

Liz Lemon.

Right Now I’m…. 

Watching: Better Call Saul on Netflix (and also re-watching Community for the millionth time)

Reading: ‘Modern Romance’ by Aziz Ansari

Listening to: The Adam Buxton Podcast (and Elmo’s Song)

http://catiewilkins.com

@Catiewilkins

Pass it on: 

Who would you most like to see featured on this blog?

Pamela Butchart @Pamela_Butchart (award winning author of some very funny children’s books)

Wendy Wason @Wendy_Wason (very funny comedian, writer and actress)

Vikki Stone @vikkistone (very funny musical comedian)

My Best Friend and Other Enemies

my great success and other failures

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In Conversation With… Charlie Brown

Charlie Brown

Charlotte (or Charlie) Brown is a wine merchant and wine importer.

She opened Vino Vero, a specialist wine shop, tasting room and importer of wine in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex with her husband Sam in 2013. Charlie is 31.

 

 

 

How did you end up doing the job you do?

A drunken conversation at 2am. My husband Sam and I were working in London but pretty miserable, both with our jobs and living in the metropolis. I was working for Mind, the mental health charity, but wasn’t working in a position that I enjoyed. We’d both been getting more and more into wine, blogging about it etc and we made a decision, just like that, over a few bottles of wine to move to Leigh-on-Sea, where Sam is from and open a shop. Eight months later, we moved to Leigh and six months after that, we opened Vino Vero. We had a lot of support, but we also had a lot of people who thought we were crazy. The words ‘you’re very brave’ came up a lot. We didn’t feel brave, we just saw it as black and white, we don’t like our lives, and so we’re going to try something different.

Describe your first job

My mum is an artist who exhibited at a lot of agricultural shows and craft fairs in Norfolk and then Wales, where I grew up. I worked from her from when I was about 8, doing things like putting her greetings cards into plastic wraps, and also selling to the public. My first proper job was working in a sword shop (yes, they exist) when I was 16, in my home town of Conwy in North Wales, opposite the castle. I guess selling is something I’ve always done!

What would was your B plan if this career didn’t work out?

Without a doubt, I would stay in the wine industry, but if the shop folded, I have two plan Bs – one is to work a few vintages and learn how to make wine ideally in France or Spain. Or I would hope to develop the importing arm of our business and live off that, rather than the shop. Perhaps I could even amalgamate the two! Retail is a tough game and I can’t see myself in it forever, so these plans may well become reality in the future.

Who would you most like to work with?

There are so many winemakers I’d love to do a stint with – one that really stands out is Dirk Niepoort, who is a Port producer but one of the most interesting winemakers I’ve ever met. He works not only in Portugal but Germany, Austria, Spain and everything he does tends to be magic. If he mentored me, if and when I finally get to make wine, I feel that I wouldn’t go far wrong.

Where do you feel most inspired?

Travel is a hugely important part of my life – I find myself at my happiest when in Europe, particularly France and Spain. They are inspiring places and visiting wineries over there really reminds me why I do what I do, why I love the industry I’m in. Sitting in the sun drinking beer is when the inspiration really hits and things crystalise in my mind.

charlie brown 2

What did you want to be when you were little?

I wanted to be a journalist. English was the subject I enjoyed the most, so much so I studied it at university. I changed my mind when I did work experience at BBC Bangor when I was 16 and decided it might not be for me! Wine is far more fun…

What advice would you give your children (or nieces/nephews/young people)?

You don’t have to go down the path that schools and society lay down for you. You don’t need to go to university if you don’t want to. Live abroad, do something different. I think so many young people – especially now with the lack of affordable housing, jobs etc  – are scared of the future and want to secure it. I’d say that having less money is actually more liberating than having more, so try not to worry so much about it. Learn a different way of living that isn’t shackled to the linear path of: go to uni; get a job; get promoted; have a family; retire; die. There are so many more opportunities out there once you forget about doing the ordinary and learn to live on less.

What was the best piece of advice you ever received?

Don’t let the bastards get you down. That was from my usually clean-mouthed father who said it to me when I was about 18. There is so much negativity in the world, and unfortunately it seems, a lot of people who want to see other people fail. It’s taken all of my 20s to actually believe the advice, and really spend no time thinking about negative people. It works – one’s wellbeing vastly improves once one stops caring what others think!

What has been your career highlight to date?

We won Newcomer of the Year at the Drinks Retailing Awards in 2015. It was amazing to get that recognition as we felt like we were just a small shop, outside the wine bubble of London, just working our butts off but not knowing if it was something that would be respected outside of the local area. We were shortlisted with two other shops that are much bigger than us, both in physical size and turnover, but they chose us due to the innovative nature of the business, and the ethos that we stick to when it comes to choosing our wines (we’ll only work with small independent wineries). The buzz from that is was pretty big.

charlie and sam

What’s the biggest challenge you face in your day to day?

Motivation to work on wider projects and goals when it’s quiet in the shop. Retail means long periods of time where no one is in the shop, particularly during the week when people are at work and not drinking. Motivation when you work for yourself can be difficult – Facebook gets looked at a lot. It’s a bit of a battle every day. I’ve learnt as time has gone on to accept that some days will be more productive than others and that’s OK!

Right Now I’m….

Watching: House of Cards

Reading: The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving A F*ck – by Sarah Knight

Listening to: Spending a fair bit of time in southern Spain means that I’m a bit of a Flamenco addict. My current playlist is full of Cameron de la Isla and Jose Merce.

Pass it on:

Jo Overfield from Beep Beep Pop. She’s another local entrepreneur who has a local pop up food business in Leigh-on-Sea and the food is excellent!

Instagram @beepbeeppop Twitter  @beepbeeppopup

Laura Conlon from Made @ 94 just a few doors up from us. It’s a great furniture and gift shop that showcases local talents

Instagram @made94_ Twitter @made94leigh

Elisa Adams, a jazz singer from Leigh who also juggles a day job – I love people who manage to do that!

Instagram @sleepingonmybooks Twitter @ellefromthebar

In Her Words… Memories of my Nan

My much-loved nan passed away two weeks ago.  Today would have been her 92nd birthday. Like so many of her generation, my nan lived through an incredible time in history, witnessing the devastation of the Second World War and raising her family in the years that followed.

Peggy Norton and her four children

My nan was known to everyone as ‘Peggy’, I’ve no idea why, her real name was Elizabeth. She was born in the East End of London and I remember her telling me how she was crossing the Thames one day when she stopped to watch a series of planes flying along the river towards central London.  This was the start of the Blitz.  She ran all the way home to find that half of her street had been demolished.  Her own house was still standing but her relief was short-lived as she was then blown off her feet by a subsequent blast.  She was unhurt and I’m sure this is where my nan’s mantra ‘There are plenty worse off than me’ must have taken root.  This was a line she lived by and one that served her all of her life.

Peggy Norton and her son
Nan with my dad

But my nan’s life was far from idyllic.  She fell out with her mother when she was in her teens and went to live with her spinster aunt, a story we still haven’t quite gotten to the bottom of and no doubt ever will.  She had four children, my dad and his three sisters and my nan nursed her eldest daughter, Sally Anne through cancer before she died at just 36. My granddad never got over the loss of his daughter, he had a heart attack and a series of strokes, which left him suffering from dementia and in need of 24 hour care which my nan provided at their home in Hornchurch.

Peggy Norton and her daughters

Never complaining, stoic in nature, fiery and feisty, Peggy Norton was absolute in her conviction that life was for the living.  She was a force to be reckoned with and full of courage.  After my granddad passed away, she would go up and down the steep stairs at home on her bottom as she was riddled with arthritis.  So she took herself off to Belgium after the NHS offered to fund her trip and transport her there by ambulance.  The first her family knew of it was when my dad received a call from her in Brussels letting him know that she was getting ‘new knees’.  She hadn’t wanted to cause a fuss by letting us know before.

One of the many family anecdotes that I love hearing my dad retell (and there are plenty) was when one of my aunts locked herself in the bathroom as a child.  Without hesitation, my nan jumped into action, climbed out of the neighbouring bedroom window and inched along the drainpipe towards the bathroom window.  (My nan was a ‘sturdy’ lady so this was by no means an easy task).  By the time she got there, my aunt had freed herself and run downstairs, instructing my granddad to get the ladder to rescue my nan who was now, ironically, left clinging to the pipe outside.

One of the qualities I most admired about my nan was her strong work ethic.  She couldn’t abide laziness and was always keen to understand what we were doing to advance ourselves and to pass on her own advice whether invited or not!  She absolutely wanted the best for us and she believed passionately that hard work would pay dividends.

Nan was an enthusiastic, if not especially gifted cook.  She would produce her latest and frequent offerings with a pre-emptive, ‘Here you go, only I’ve.…’, followed by an unfortunate catalogue of disasters that might include the burning, dropping or the even more bizarre ‘putting a curtain pole through it’ of said item.  My sisters and I would rearrange our faces before the annual mince pies were unveiled, charred and oozing blackened mincemeat; they became a great source of amusement between my family as we joked that there was more filling on the outside than the inside.

Nan, sisters, AC.jpg
My nan, sisters and Auntie Chris

Apparently when my sisters and I were too small to remember, my nan served up a pie for dessert, announcing that she couldn’t remember what was inside.  It was covered in custard and dished it up before my family realised that we were eating sausage meat pie for pudding.

Undeterred, my nan continued with her love of cooking and baking, never wanting to turn up at my parents’ house empty handed.  And then, when my sisters and I left home and started university, she continued to shower us with food parcels; weighty homemade fruitcakes, value packs of baked beans that were ‘just out of date’ and the infamous and most anticipated, boxes of broken biscuits that she’d bought from Romford market.  These legendary boxes of delights were received with squeals from my housemates who still speak fondly of them today.  In true Forrest Gump style, you really never did know what you were going to get.

My nan’s legacy is her three remaining children, her three granddaughters and her six great grandchildren.  We share a wicked sense of humour, especially in the face of adversity and a bizarre collection of private jokes.  These jokes would be lost on anyone outside of our immediate family but will reduce us to tears of laughter, even my own husband is often left entirely bewildered by the nonsensical impressions and expressions that leave my sisters, aunts, parents and I in hysterics.

My nan would always encourage us to ‘laugh at yourself’ at the first sign of self pity and right until the end, nan proclaimed she had lived a ‘wonderful life’ even though she had endured experiences that I pray I will never have to.  I hope my children inherit her steadfastness, her humour, her devotion to her family and her generous spirit.  If not her dubious cooking skills.

She was the matriarch of our family and we will miss her.

Peggy Norton 1924 – 2016

In Conversation With… Fiona Gibson

fiona gibson2-1

Fiona Gibson started working on magazines at 17 years old when she landed a job on Jackie. She has edited more! and Just Seventeen, writes for Sainsbury’s magazine and the Telegraph, and is the author of ten romantic comedy novels. 

Fiona has twin sons who have flown the nest, and lives in Glasgow with her husband Jimmy, their daughter Erin and rescue collie cross, Jack.  As well as writing, Fiona loves to run, draw, cook and is a recent convert to the joy of yoga. 

 

How did you end up doing the job you do?

Even since I was a Jackie reader, I have always been obsessed with magazines. One day, when I was around 15, I was lying on the living room rug reading my mag and said to my Dad, ‘I want to work on Jackie.’  Dad’s great – he’d worked for a magazine himself (Architect’s Journal) and knew that Jackie was published by DT Thomson in Dundee. He was totally encouraging. I started firing off comic strips and jokes to various DC Thomson comics – which they paid me a fiver a time for – and when I’d finally finished school, I applied for a job at Jackie.

I worked on various magazines throughout my twenties – after Jackie I went to Just Seventeen, then more! – but when I had my twin boys at 32 I decided to go freelance and have a stab at writing a novel. I was still writing features for magazines by day so I had to write the book at night. The way I looked at it, I was chronically sleep deprived and looked terrible anyway – so it didn’t really make much difference! An agent who’d spotted my features in Red magazine asked if she could represent me.

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What are you working on right now?

I am at the very best part – starting a brand new novel. I write two a year, for Avon (a division of Harper Collins) which is quite a stretch and means there’s not much of a break between finishing one and starting the next. But that’s okay – after a few days I’m usually itching to get started on something new.

Describe your first job

I was a junior writer on Jackie which involved writing bits and pieces – like the horoscopes (which I made up) and the multi-choice personality quizzes. To be honest, I couldn’t believe my luck. I’d left home and moved into a bedsit in Dundee and found myself working with a fantastic team of lovely people who were my age, or a tiny bit older. I never went to college or university. Jackie was my training for life and I loved every minute of my three years there.

Jackie Magazine

What was your B plan if this career didn’t work out?

I’d had notions of studying art – I have always loved illustration. But although I applied to art college, I didn’t get in. My portfolio just wasn’t good enough. Apart from that, I had no idea of anything else I wanted to do.

Where do you feel most inspired?

I work mostly in my workroom in our Glasgow flat. However I can get a bit cabin feverish and that’s when I take myself off to a cafe, which really helps. I like writing with lots of chatter – plus good music – in the background. I also love working on trains. Working at home can be a little dreary as I am, by nature, a pretty sociable type! And I do miss all the hi jinx and chatter of office life – although friends tell me there really isn’t time for those sort of capers any more.

What advice would you give your children?

Explore all sorts of things so you can discover the general areas of ‘stuff’ that inspire and appeal to you. For me, it was always writing and art – and I loved French at school too. From this, you’ll start to get a feel for what you might like to do in life. There’s terrible pressure to say, ‘I want to be a such-and-such’ at 14 years old, which is nonsense. There’s no need to decide on a specific career path so early. But it is important to be open to trying things so you discover where your passions might lie. I am very lucky in that I love my job and it doesn’t actually feel like work. I would love my sons and daughter to have this sort of life too.

What was the best piece of advice you ever received?

This came from Dad, who is still fighting fit at 81 years old and sailed from Scotland to Antigua after retirement! He said, ‘Do a bit extra, give a bit more than is expected of you.’ He said it would help me to stand out and get places. I am quite a grafter and so is Dad – he was a freelance architectural photographer and I saw the passion he had for his work. He didn’t mind working late down in his darkroom to get a job done, and he was often driving at breakneck speed to the post office in order to get a set of prints in the post on time. We are similar in that we are a little harum-scarum in our approach, but we both get the job done!

What are you most proud of?

I’ve loved working on magazines and I also love writing novels. Professionally, I guess it’s finding something I enjoy and making a living out of it since I left school 34 years ago, all through raising three children. Personally, it’s being Mum to my three lovely kids – Sam, Dex and Erin. I’m very proud of them all.

What has been your career highlight to date?

I have worked on some wonderful magazines but I have to say the highlight was editing more! at a time when it was flying off the shelves. At its peak – this was early 90s – we were selling half a million copies per issue. There was no competition as such and I had a brilliant team – features meetings were often held in a tawdry wine bar just off Leicester Square and would dissolve into hilarity and chaos. I came up with the idea of Position of the Fortnight – actually, it was semi-nicked from a feature She magazine used to run called ‘Function of the Month’, a kind of icky old sexual thing that we turned into something cheeky and fun. It was a unique and magical time and, happily – thanks to Facebook – many of my workmates from those heady days are still in my life now.

fiona gibson and cathy cassidy
Fiona with Cathy Cassidy during their Jackie days in the early 80s

What’s the biggest challenge you face in your day to day?

Keeping my mind on the job and not allowing distractions to lure me off track. Generally, I can focus pretty well, but writing the middle section of a book is definitely not easy. It can feel like wading through concrete sometimes. I just have to keep going, battering onwards, then something clicks and writing the last few chapters is heaven. But I’d never say that writing 100,000 words of engaging prose is easy!

Right Now I’m…

Watching: Homeland.  My husband Jimmy and I are addicted

Reading: Moranifesto by Caitlin Moran – I just love her

Listening to:  All kinds of soul stuff: Al Green, Lou Rawls, Shuggie Otis. I’m a soul girl at heart.

Pass it on:
Who would you most like to see featured on this blog?

Sarra Manning is a fantastically funny woman and a brilliant author of both adult and YA fiction. We worked together on Just Seventeen and she’s a marvel!
Twitter: @sarramanning

Cathy Cassidy is a hugely successful children’s author and one of my oldest and closest friends. We met at Jackie magazine in the mid-80s and get to the point when we need to see each other.
Instagram: @cathycassidy
Twitter: @cathycassidyxx

Fiona latest novel, The Woman Who Upped and Left was published earlier this year.

the woman who upped and left

 

 

In Conversation With… Kelly Brennan

img_1074Kelly Brennan lives in Leigh on Sea, is 47 years old and is a mother to two girls.  


She has had an incredibly successful career as a model and commercial actress over the past 30 years and has featured on magazine covers including Just 17, Woman’s Journal, Red and Cosmopolitan and was a ‘mannequin’ in Robert Palmer’s ‘Simply Irresistible’ video*.

 

 

How did you end up doing the job you do?

I started modelling when I was 17. I was walking through Covent Garden when I was spotted by an agent. I was modelling until I was in my early 30s when the work started to dry up. I’d always wanted to act and I loved filming commercials so I decided to combine the two.

What are you working on right now?

Like the majority of actors, my work is quite sporadic. I’m not cast in anything at the moment but recently I shot commercials for Honda and Cadbury’s Milk Tray. Both were very surreal but great fun. Honda was shot in Lisbon over six days, which is quite a long time for a commercial shoot. I had to learn Karate, fire an arrow from a bow, carve a piece of wood with a chain saw, play the drums plus many other activities, with literally ten minutes training before filming. It was challenging but hilarious. My co-star wasn’t an actor (he’s an artist who got lucky) and he was great to work with – we pretty much laughed our way through it. It certainly shows in the ad.

Milk Tray was a far different experience, insofar as the ‘humour’ came from the script. I was working with Shaun Williamson (best know as ‘Barry’ from Eastenders), Ex-footballer Robbie Savage, Joey Essex (Towie), Spencer Matthews (Made in Chelsea), ex-ruby star Thom Evans, athlete Denise Lewis and the original Milk Tray man, James Coombes. A rum bunch but again it was a lot of fun and I loved every minute, especially watching Shaun. I don’t think many people realise he’s a classically trained actor. His comic timing was incredible. A lovely chap and very professional.

Describe your first job

My first paid job was as a checkout girl in the local ASDA. Years later, I did a photographic shoot for their ‘George at ASDA’ range. I’d come full circle!

What would was your B plan if this career didn’t work out?

I went to college not knowing quite what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to travel in some way so luckily, modelling provided me with more travelling opportunities than I could have dreamed of.

Who or what has been your biggest source of inspiration to date?

I couldn’t put that down to one person, or place but a lot of people I’ve come across, whether personally or professionally, have inspired me.

Who would you most like to work with?

I always wanted to work with Peter Lindburgh. An amazing photographer who did the most incredible photo shoots with the ‘Supermodels.’ I met him in Paris but alas, never got booked by him!

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What did you want to be when you were little?

I was quite a shy child but inwardly I always had a desire to perform. I wanted to be a dancer and even set up my own dance ‘troupe’ when I was eleven. I think it was the desire to wear footless tights, which were very fashionable in the 80s! I wanted to be in Hot Gossip but I wanted to be a ballet dancer as well. Neither dream was realised but I took it upon myself to take up tap dancing a couple of years ago. It’s certainly scratched that particular itch!

What advice would you give your children?

Be yourself. Try everything. Open your heart and your mind to whatever life throws at you.

What was the best piece of advice you ever received?

Two pearls of wisdom from my late father: ‘Never ever think you’re not good enough’ (said to me when I was about to go on a date with a guy who I thought was too good for me) and ‘The best time of my life was in my forties.’ When I hit my forties, I actually got what he meant. I’d had one child and then had another at 43. I also finally felt secure in myself. Sadly, that one will run out in two years time when I turn 50!

What are you most proud of?

My children who make me laugh every day (they also make me want to scream sometimes, too)! My bizarre career and where it’s led me, especially the amazing people I’ve met and the places I’ve visited. I certainly don’t think I would have got to do this had I not started modelling. Living in Japan and New York were highlights but I’ve shot in Bali, Thailand, South Africa and all over Europe.

Riding an elephant for a Tesco Mobile commercial was quite something and even now I go cold with fear at the thought of it! Passing my first tap exam and getting a medal was a very proud moment too. Our group started as beginners nearly three years ago and our first exam was in December 2014. We all passed with flying colours, which is a real achievement considering most of us hadn’t danced before.​

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Which one thing would you like to change about your industry/working life?

I think many industries, not just fashion, need to have a duty of care, not just for the physical wellbeing of young men and women but for the psychological care as well. It’s a subject I’m fascinated with and I hope to take a course in counselling to help young people with self esteem and body image issues.

What’s the biggest challenge you face in your day to day?

Feeding the children and staying awake!

Who is your favourite fictional female character?

Anna Karenina. My favourite book. Whilst I don’t agree with throwing oneself under a train, I think we all may, at some point, have been so consumed by love that it’s driven us mad. Anna is not a ‘heroine’ in the classic sense, perhaps the opposite, but giving up everything for the man she loves makes for a fascinating character and an incredible story.

Right Now I’m….

Watching: I’ve just watched War and Peace – beyond amazing and Deutchland 83. Both historically fascinating.

Reading: I’m just finishing ‘The Insult’ by Rupert Thomson. It was on David Bowie’s 100 favourite books list, so our book group thought it a fitting tribute to read it. A rather bizarre story but the flow and pace is incredible and it really draws you in.

Listening to: I’ve made a great dance music based playlist to listen to whilst running. It may not get listened to that often…
Pass It On

Who would you most like to see featured on this blog?

Jane Dolby – writer and creator of Fishwives Choir @twistandtrout (both Twitter and Instagram)

Fiona Gibson – writer @fiona_gib (Instagram) @FionaGibson (Twitter)

Charlie Brown – Co-owner of Vino Vero @charlievinovero (Instagram) @CharlieVinoVero (Twitter)

 

* Amazing! See below.

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In Conversation With… Jo Nicolson

Meet Jo Nicolson, AKA QueenieDot, crafter and papercutting artist extraordinaire.


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Jo Nicolson, AKA QueenieDot, is a crafter and papercutting artist extraordinaire.

She lives in Frinton-on-Sea with her husband, rescue dog and vintage cat, and she runs her successful business from home.  

 

 

 

How did you end up doing the job you do?

Well, it was completely by accident! I didn’t even know papercutting existed ten years ago. I stumbled across it and thought I’d give it a try when making a card for my now husband. I really enjoyed the process so kept practising and trying new things and evolving my style. The nature of papercutting really appeals to me, starting off with a humble sheet of paper and turning it into something beautiful. 
 When papercutting, you always end up with less than you started which appeals to the minimalist in me!

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What are you working on right now?

I’m currently working on a lovely 50th wedding anniversary commission for a special couple. 
Also, I’m creating a series of miniature papercut dioramas along a Wes Anderson theme!

Describe your first job

It was at an Insurance Brokers in the town where I grew up, based in an old house on the high street. A group of us brokers used to work in the lounge area, the secretaries were in the bedrooms and there were mice in the kitchen! The owner would, when the mood struck him, put the phones on silent, lock the front door and play Irish music at full blast!

Who would you most like to work with?

I would love to work with an author on a papercut book cover design. Books are a huge part of my life and to see a design of mine on the front of a novel would be incredible.

Where is your favourite place to find inspiration?

I find inspiration everywhere. It can be a song lyric, a line from a book, something someone says. I always keep a notebook handy to jot down ideas that can be padded out at a later date.

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What advice would you give your children (or nieces / nephews / young people)?

I don’t have children but I do have a wonderful niece and nephew who are both brilliantly creative and inventive. I would say to them that they should never stop creating. Never let a teacher tell you what is wrong or right, just enjoy it.

What did you want to be when you were little?

A hairdresser!  I always thought that was exactly what I’d do and didn’t really have a back-up plan.  Then, when I was fourteen, I got a Saturday job working at a local hairdressers and realized it wasn’t for me, so had some serious rethinking to do!  

What was the best piece of advice you ever received?

My lovely Grandad always used to say ‘Get wet, get dry again’.  He was very outdoorsy and whilst he mostly meant it literally, it has become a bit of a metaphor in other areas.  Meaning that everything is temporary.  Don’t take things too seriously as it will pass soon enough.

What are you most proud of?

It might sound cheesy but I am proud of every single order I receive, the fact that someone has found and chosen my work makes me incredibly happy and I’m grateful for every single lovely customer. I particularly love working on bespoke orders and understanding a little bit about the special recipient so I can incorporate that in the design is very special to me. I recently had the honour of working on a 70th wedding anniversary papercut for a couple who had met and fallen in love while working as decoders at Bletchley Park. To be a very small part in their special celebrations was so lovely.

Who is your favourite fictional female character?

I have always really loved Little My from the Moomin books. She is small, brave and fearless with a meddlesome nature. She won’t be swayed by others, always preferring to make up her own mind about things and likes a little chaos in her life, but she is overall very sweet and a reliable friend. Not a bad way to live your life really!

Right now I’m…

Watching… I really don’t watch much TV. Now that the Great Interior Design Challenge has finished, there’s nothing else I watch regularly. I’m awaiting the return of the Great British Sewing Bee. Basically, give me a creative competition, run it for a few weeks, throw in a couple of judges and I’m happy!

Reading… ‘Spill, Simmer, Falter, Wither’ –  An utterly beautifully-written debut novel by Sara Baume.

Listening to…. It’s rare for me to listen to any one artist, so I always have an eclectic playlist on the go, usually heavily influenced by the 70s, which is my favourite music decade.

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Pass it on…

1. Jane Tibbetts – @chattynora1 – Jane is a typographic artist based in Yorkshire. She is incredibly talented, plus I’ve known her for years in real life and she’s a thoroughly lovely lady too!

2. Jennie Maizels – @jenniemaizels – Illustrator, patch designer, online sketchbook club tutor and queen of colour!

Jo Nicolson (QueenieDot)

Instagram and Twitter – @queeniedot

www.queeniedot.co.uk

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