Prints by Niki Pilkington

 

Niki Pilkington is a Welsh illustrator based in New York with a lively and incredibly detailed style. Although her work is focused mainly on fashion and the people who wear it – her client list includes TOPSHOP, Ted Baker, Sir Paul McCartney & MTV – what appeals to me is her love of incorporating Welsh phrases, idioms and quotes into her pieces.

Despite now living a world away from Penllyn, she continues to use a language so few of us speak so you feel like a smug ninja just for understanding. She has such pride in her heritage, and I respect her use of status as an internationally renowned artist to educate the world about our little country (YES, FOR THE LAST TIME IT’S A REAL COUNTRY) and the language – yep, it has an actual living language that people speak!

Her social media pages are littered with why-the-hell-not doodles and it’s evident she draws for the love of it. Her art is spontaneous and playful, reflected in the unpredictable and isolated use of striking neon colours in the context of her pencil drawings.

She herself appears in many of the portraits, whilst many original pieces are 3D. Her work is unpretentious and reminds of what being young is all about: fun.

The print below was my first. I’d been helping a family friend choose one for her daughter’s birthday and loved this one so much, it re-appeared a few months later as my graduation gift:

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My absolute favorite is the rainbow birds above (‘birds of a feather flock together’). Here are a few others I own:
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These are the ones I received for Christmas…

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…and this is the latest I have my eye on:

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And just for fun, here’s one that cheered me up on a miserable Welsh morning:

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If you’re based in Wales, you can find Niki’s work at stockists including Lotti & Wren in Caernarfon (cont) and Mooch Etc, Carmarthen. It’s such a treat browsing at Galeri, Betws-Y-Coed and always finding new collections because she draws so darn much. The internet just doesn’t do them justice.

If you can’t get to a shop or gallery visit www.nikipilkington.com for the snazziest site you’ve ever seen and a huge selection of work.

 

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Please Do Not Set Yourself on Fire

Having spotted an ad for fire dancing classes a couple of years ago and, intrigued, I went along. At the grand old age of 22 it was time to face my fear of fire; no longer would it dictate whether romantic nights in featured candles.

I instantly liked Szymon, a Polishman with dreadlocks, endless patience and a passion for risking his life. My brain just didn’t GET one of the most basic moves, a 3-beat weave, and he didn’t judge me for taking four months to learn.

You may have spotted Bring the Fire Project at Light Night, Brouhaha festival (minus the fire) or gone along to the Liverpool Fire Arts Festival.

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At the www.alternativefashionfest.co.uk

These classes were my introduction to the alternative world of Liverpool, where socialising didn’t just mean Ring of Fire in a student flat. I made friends and acquaintances, who hung out in different places and did different things, and I discovered an alternative Liverpool which helped me manage that awkward transition from full-time student to young professional.

I’m still dead scared of fire – lighters have no place in my life – but I conquered my fear of big flaming balls of paraffin swinging towards my face, and new people.

And in case you’re worried, it’s really quite hard to hurt yourself. I’m clumsy with zero coordination and still have never been burnt – so give it a go! (with supervision, of course).

My Friend was Diagnosed with Cancer and I Ignored Her

After Christmas I learned second-hand that an old school friend has cancer again. An optician first suspected a brain tumour during our first year at uni because her vision was blurred; she dropped out to receive treatment and wasn’t allowed to drive a car even when she recovered.

I went to send a message of condolence, but I was ashamed. I had made a vague effort when she was sick, but over the years it gradually petered out. I didn’t know what to say because we weren’t equal any more; she had looked death in the face and kicked its arse, whilst I was playing hide and seek in the dark with knives in Liverpool. Was it wrong to only make an effort when you were at risk of losing someone?

I’m the kind of person who lets friends come to me, otherwise they’re forgotten. I assume everybody knows I care – no need to shout it from the rooftops.  It didn’t quite click in my mind that relationships are a two-way street; maybe the reason people weren’t asking me to hang out was because I wasn’t asking them. So, I decided that in 2016 I wouldn’t take friends for granted.

I wrote a list of every single person I consider a friend or potential friend. It’s going up on the wall, and when I’m bored (or preferably just out of the goodness of my heart) I’ll mail my pal Matt who I met in Thailand because I’m still in awe of ginger Aussies, or tell Alex from college how jellyfish surviving 500 million years without brains gives me enormous hope for him.

I was going to leave flowers on the doorstep, but grew some balls and asked if she was in – and I’m so glad I did. It would have been incredibly stupid to let pride get in the way whilst I had a chance to redeem myself. I’m sorry for being self-centered, and for expressing guilt through my own blog post.

One NYE a couple of years ago, my pal said whilst watching fireworks in the town square, ‘I’m just happy to still be here’. This year I’ll make sure my friends know I’m happy they’re still here.

Illustrations by Hazel Bee

When we’re bored in town without fail we’ll wander into Utility and chuckle at these cards by www.hazelbee.co.uk. I’ve seen the same ones countless times but they’re still boss. If Hazel created a comic I would read it.

This is my go-to design for basically anyone that needs a card whether they’ve died or given birth (Hazel, please replace ‘hangover’ with ‘popped out another didn’t I.’)

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Each card is 100% recycled, fair trade and printed with vegetable oil in case you get hungry. Here are a few more of my faves:

And I don’t usually buy into Valentine’s commercialism (that much) but WHERE ARE MY RALPH & ALAN PILLOW CASES GOD BOYFRIEND YOU’RE SO NEGLECTFUL.

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If that’s not your cup of vodka, here are some more sensual designs:

For the full range of items including temporary tattoos HAHAHA DAD THIS IS THE 21ST CENTURY NOBODY CARES ABOUT FOREHEAD TATTOOS ANYMORE visit /www.hazelbee.co.uk.

Do One, Gobshites

Tobias was tall, had dirty blonde hair and thought the soundtrack to my favourite movie, The Virgin Suicides, was boss. I met him on Plenty of Fish when I was 21. We went for drinks (yeah, I know what you’re thinking) at the Pilgrim because the only thing I like better than vodka Slushies is multiple vodka Slushies.

This is where it gets ambiguous, but I want to emphasise: I remember what happened. I’m not someone who drinks and forgets. We were having a good time, but his last train was at 11pm. I was used to letting anyone and everyone stay over because I had a swish pad on Duke St pretty much all to myself. I was used to people crashing on the couch, and I’d think nothing of letting a pal I trusted share my bed. So I let him stay so we could watch movies.

But I always made the deal clear, and this time was no exception: this isn’t a veiled invitation for nookie. I’m not being coquettish and thinking we will inevitably hook up – I am genuinely letting you sleep on the sofa for convenience. I recall emphasising it one more time at the door to my apartment complex. He chuckled and said it was fine.

Fast forward and we’re sat on my bed deciding on a movie when he whacks on some porn. I gave an awkward ‘heh, heh…turn it off’.

I remember him pushing me down onto the bed and the sound of my underwear ripping. I remember saying I didn’t want to have sex – I don’t know whether to him, that meant everything else was free for all. He was rough.

He stuck his head down there (hope I hadn’t washed, at least). He wasn’t stopping so I moaned a couple of times to convince myself it didn’t count. Maybe I should have kicked and screamed more, but putting up with a little was better than potentially putting up with a lot.

When it was over I slipped out of bed. The next morning he found me on the sofa and kissed me goodbye with a guilty look.

I wandered around L1 in a daze. I couldn’t stop the tears and plucked up the courage to tell someone. They said I was attention seeking.

Not to be crude, but he didn’t actually make me do anything to him. It was all for my “benefit”. Free sexual favours! Awesome! I thought nobody would take me seriously. Before, I never understood why people were afraid to tell anyone. Surely your word was enough? But all of a sudden I was questioning everything. Did drinking imply I was up for it? Did wearing a dress mean I was definitely up for it? Was I being a tease letting him stay? How could I be so naive?

It hurt for days. A few weeks later I texted him spelling out what he had done. He’d apparently had no idea, but blocked me anyway.

A woman on Crimewatch today was talking about her own Boxing Day sexual assault back in 2004 – how it had felt, how it made her feel now – and I felt funny and agitated. I couldn’t understand why.

What’s disturbed me the most is that I did such a good job of forgetting it ever happened. I’ve blocked out particularly scathing things people have said in the past, but to go so long without this crossing my mind seemed bizarre. I’ve seen countless invasions of personal space on TV in the intervening time, but I could never empathise and they never brought memories back. It seemed like it happened to someone else, and the only thing that reassured me it really did happen was the funny feeling in the pit of my stomach.

My boyfriend found him on Facebook and I was disturbed to see his face after all this time.

I’ll stew on it today, then push it to the back of my mind again. I’m writing this for therapeutic reasons, but also as a reminder for you to be mindful over the holidays: respect people’s boundaries. No actually does mean no. So do one, gobshites!

Too Broke for Bulimia

I have always liked my food. I have also always liked brushing my teeth, six times a day at some points. So the thought of making myself sick just to 1) be hungry again and 2) wear down the enamel, thus have Simon Cowell smile goals slip further from my grasp – baffled me.

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But this past year my medication made me sick, and I got used to vomiting. I realised if I over ate, I could make myself sick without even putting fingers down my throat; usually just thinking about it and staring at the loo was enough.

Eating habits are split into two distinct categories in my mind: under eating causes rank breath and relates to self control, deprivation and looking lovely/trim. Over eating, on the other hand, relates to gluttony and greed. I have often fallen into camp B.

I’d been dumped and wasn’t taking it well. I would overspend on food, knowing full well I would puke it up. I ate until my stomach hurt and I felt disgusted, reinforcing the bad thoughts I suspected about myself. I ate so much, none of my clothes fit and I made excuses to avoid people or leaving my room.

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Eventually a casual comment from a pal made me go on a clean, raw diet and the weight dropped off. I would write every single thing I ate in my food diary and judge myself if I had seven almonds instead of five as a snack.

I kept a decent chunk of that weight off. I’m developing a better understanding of my body, and in a beautiful twist of pre-Christmas binging fate I’ve lost my appetite. I’m enjoying this so much though, that the thought of having to eat causes anxiety and I spend all day psyching myself up. I feel guilty for not being hungry. If I were to binge, I’d think twice, maybe three times, but still head to the bathroom. I’m trying really hard to recognise the pattern and stop myself before it gets to a vom-worthy point.

Maybe these skewed priorities are a testament to my age, but an even bigger issue than the effect on my body is that I’m wasting money. A couple of sausage rolls and a caramel-pecan donut from Greggs don’t cost that much, but I wouldn’t chuck £2.60 down the loo either.

Have Yourself a Saucy Little Christmas

Little less than a year ago I joined a Jazz-burlesque group (find Rachael Mellor Dance on social media if you’re interested!) Most of us had never danced on stage before, and as our performance dates drew nearer, we were drawn together by our insecurities – about back fat, about forgetting the routine, about whether we looked ridiculous in hot pants, about camel toes… But someone would always buoy you back up with reassurances that you definitely had ZERO back fat.

I’m a very jealous person and don’t like mixing friends and relationships. I wouldn’t even let the boy I was dating come to those performances because the thought of other more attractive girls prancing about in underwear made me insecure.

Now, that boy is my boyfriend and the other day I invited him to watch a burlesque show and support my friend Mandy, the hottie with pink hair. We sat right beneath the stage. I was vaguely jealous and uncomfortable, but for the first time, I wasn’t letting it rule my life. And I was proud to know my beautiful pal.

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Photo by Helen Basil

Joining is one of the best things I’ve ever done. I’ve never had a group of girlfriends, or even a female best mate. I was always comfortable around boys but wary of girls because they can be so damn catty. This past year has taught me what it really means to be a woman; that your self worth shouldn’t be dictated by how many boys find you fit.

When I leave the room after being with these girls, I trust them not to speak badly about me. And I don’t speak badly about them, because I have nothing bad to say. They’ve made me trust other girls again, and I love every single one.

Joining is one of the best things I’ve ever done. I’ve never had a group of girlfriends, or even a female best mate. I was always comfortable around boys but wary of girls because they can be so damn catty. This past year has taught me what it really means to be a woman; that your self worth shouldn’t be dictated by how many boys find you fit.

When I leave the room after being with these girls, I trust them not to speak badly about me. And I don’t speak badly about them, because I have nothing bad to say. They’ve made me trustother girls again, and I love every single one.

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Check out those nipple tassels on our new mascot, Fererro Rochelle! Photo by Justine Zoe.