A little bit about me.
I had never considered becoming an illustrator, I wanted to be a knitwear designer, well, actually I wanted to be a veterinary surgeon, but, you know...science.
Don't get me wrong, I was quite good at the science subjects at school but it was the maths that let me down, not basic maths, that's easy, but place bonding chemicals equations in front of me and I get a little bit faint.
So I went down the art and design route, with and avid interest in photography and fine art.
My father, Gwyne Howell James, is also a writer and artist, and although I didn't take a great deal of inspiration from his own art, growing up with art (also music and books in vast amounts) all around was inspiring.
Living in Wales, you cannot help but notice the world around you, surrounded by a whole wealth of colour, texture and pattern, and I spent a long time cycling and sketching, carrying around with me those little Collins' Guides, learning about wildflowers and little insects. I helped out friends on farms as often as I could and spent as little time at home as possible! (oh, how times have changed).
At college I discovered that all these previous experiences had seeped into my unconsciousness and I was steered in the direction of textiles, because of the textural nature of my paintings I expect and my love for pattern and colour. So, after a diploma in textiles, I went to Carmarthenshire College of Art and Design and completed a HND in Design crafts, specialising in woven, knitted and printed textiles and taught by the amazing Cefyn Burgess among other artists and designers.
Another interest I had since I could read was knitting. I could say my mother taught me to knit, but really, she bought me the tools and left me to get on with it, helping when required as she was working on her own projects.
By the time I was in college, I was designing my own patterns, but disliked being constrained to straight rows. Nature didn't work like that, and nor did I want to.
To further my knowledge, I went on to went to De Monfort University Knitwear Design and Production and came out again with a BSc (hons).
I loved the multi cultural aspect of city life, the colour, the noise, the food. The music and the museums, the history and the future. I absorbed it all, took in the opportunities available and decided I preferred the countryside. I was married and had two of my four children by then, working for a fashion warehouse, advising buyers and sellers, but this wasn't what I wanted to do.
Eventually I moved back to South Wales, back to where I grew up and enjoyed being back on familiar soil, but jobless, penniless and two children to feed, I had to retrain. I worked in the local school, mostly with 2-3 year old and autistic children. I got involved with many community art projects, giving me the opportunity to work with Pip Lewis, George Manson, Ivan Black, Ben Lloyd and many more. Tutoring felting, painting, science and literature workshops either with the Springboard Project or employed by the school.
I gained better computer knowledge and set up a little business designing bespoke knitted and crocheted garments.
Teaching children to read was by far my favourite subject, recognising the importance of illustrations to a story, whether it's picture book or middle reading stage. The illustration can help to firstly, engage a reader and secondly help the reader understand the story, even if they are not fully understanding the words.
I began playing with my own illustrations. Hare and Snail were very useful in teaching my children about the nature around them and far more engaging than the Collins' Guides. I found I could let them know what flowers were friendly, which shouldn't be touched, which were the non stinging insects, just by the expression on Hare's face or where they were placed in a picture.
I now had four children and life was changing, rapidly for the worst. I was becoming more and more ill by the week and for seemingly no reason. Backwards and forwards to GPs and hospitals. I had to give up any repetitive work because of the damage it was doing to my tendons and joints, this meant knitting and crochet, I couldn't even write for a while. After some years I looking into the cause of Fibromyalgia, I felt another big upheaval was required and being the strong willed woman I am, that's what I did.
I now live in a remote village in Pembrokeshire, I have a large wild garden to tend, I work as a weaver, part time, and the rest of the time is filled with painting commissions and developing Hare and Snail.