Amelia’s Magazine | Snarfle is One: Celebrating Baby, Motherhood and Work

Snarfle by Kirbi Fagan
Snarfle by Kirbi Fagan.

A few weeks ago my baby Snarfle celebrated his first birthday, so now seems like a good opportunity to look back on my first year as a mum running this website: after all Amelia’s Magazine has always reflected what is happening in my life.

Snarfle Sheep Cake by Claire Kearns
Snarfle’s Sheep Cake modelled on one of his favourite fluffy toys, by Claire Kearns.

I know it’s the biggest cliche of all, but nothing, nothing, can prepare you for becoming a parent. So when I was pregnant I made a big effort to prepare only for the birth, imagining that I would follow my instincts like every other mother down the millennia and everything beyond would just fall into place somehow. Sink or swim, right? I read nothing about parenting and bought the bare minimum, instead making good with second hand offerings from relatives and friends. Then all my great birth plans were thwarted… and I was left with a baby.

Snarfle and me swimming
Snarfle was ripped out of my stomach covered in poop, whisked away for tests, prodded and poked, and for the first days kept apart from me in a plastic bed, a huge cannula held aloft in his tiny hand. For the first month breast milk was forced into him via various artificial methods, and yet I instinctively knew I wanted to be as close to him as possible, and soon discovered that the common parlance for this is ‘Attachment Parenting‘. I even started reading a book about it. The world of parenting is rife with differing opinions, but my approach has been to follow what feels instinctively right: I always think about what we might have done for many thousands of years before we had so many gadgets to help us out, believing this to best from an evolutionary perspective. This has meant that I breastfeed on demand and intend to continue until he wants to stop, I carry him wherever I can, we sleep together most nights, I have followed baby led weaning techniques, we are learning baby signing, he wears non-disposable nappies (most of the time) and I have made attempts at elimination communication…

First birthday by Bethany Wigmore
First birthday by Bethany Wigmore.

Those endless baby bits and bobs scared me so much before I gave birth that I could not even look in a brochure, never mind go into a store. So many buggies to chose from! We have a family hand me down but we rarely use it. I was determined to get by with as few purchases as possible, which was probably why we had no clothes small enough for Snarfle when he arrived. He was so tiny that the only sleepsuit that fit properly for the first few weeks was a tiny scrap of material that my mother found in a charity shop. Inevitably, our lives have since filled up with baby paraphernalia.

Snarfle One by Jane Young
Snarfle is One by Jane Young.

Before birth my baby could only ever be an abstract notion: in fact although I have always loved children (and have spent a lot of time being a leader on FSC children’s camps) I never much liked babies – that is, before my own arrived. I had imagined them boring so avoided time with them, and in more recent years they have made me feel a bit sad as I feared I would never have one of my own. So nothing prepared me for the visceral physicality of having a baby: falling in love with this tiny person who is all my own creation, who has remained so closely attached to me as he has woken up to the world. Breastfeeding on demand, co-sleeping (sleeping in the same bed) and baby wearing have helped make motherhood an intoxicating physical experience that I will miss as he grows up and away from me: I now understand why some women are addicted to babies.

Baby Snarfle by Kim Jenkins
Baby Snarfle by Kim Jenkins.

And the love I feel for Snarfle is unquantifiable despite the many hard and tedious parts of being a new mum. Even when rocking him for hours every night (he is not an easy sleeper) I stand there and think: this, this, is amazing. He’s my greatest creative project, this little person who has somehow appeared in this world as though he was always meant to be, perfect, somehow, despite the flaws of his parents, despite his demanding ways. This time, it will be over so soon. I love every aspect of being a mother and feel I have to soak up every moment, for before I know it he will be 18.

Rainbow Cake by Christine Charnock
Rainbow Birthday Cake by Christine Charnock.

I started working again two weeks after Snarfle was born, with him sleeping against me as I typed. We didn’t leave the house until some time later: I was scared about how I would cope with him in the outside world when he seemed so precious and vulnerable. In the beginning getting on with work was relatively easy – he slept so much that I became very good at multi-tasking. But things change rapidly when you have a small baby and this year has passed ridiculously fast, routines constantly shifting to adapt to Snarfle‘s needs. Seen from afar it seems daunting, but you manage, there’s no alternative. Despite the constant tiredness and many small frustrations I have never been bored. I love learning a new skill and this is no exception – I have found the process of becoming a mother endlessly fascinating.

Neopolitan birthday cake by Jo Ley
Neopolitan birthday cake by Jo Ley.

I started work as a lecturer at Middlesex University one day a week in January (I am lucky enough that Snarfle can stay with my parents, so we commute down to their house in South London). This means that work on Amelia’s Magazine is squashed into ever decreasing time slots: currently these include a two hour stretch in the morning (if he sleeps) and after he goes to sleep at night, until I am too knackered to continue. My creativity has gone into overdrive and I have big plans for the magazine yet little time to carry any of my ideas out, but my frustrations are tempered by the knowledge that this time is so short and so precious: even though my mind may drift it is more important for me to be present with Snarfle than building my business. I have at times been jealous of other mums revelling in maternity leave for a full year, but ultimately I feel blessed that I can carry on being a (nearly) full time mum for much longer. I could not have had a child and sent him straight into the care of others – I want to be with him, to watch him grow. To listen to the birds together, help him learn animal sounds and primary colours (his current interests), and tend to our little garden now the weather is warming up. Baby sessions are now full of other mothers who have their own businesses… and lots of childminders and nannies.

Snarfle Oh Baby London space invaders bodysuit
So Snarfle is one year old, and I will continue the juggling act that I have created for myself, for much as I love being a hands on mother I always knew I could not only be a mum; my work will always be important too. I find myself increasingly drawn to the idea of home schooling (to the chagrin of my partner and family) but I don’t know how I would manage it. All I know is that I feel ridiculously blessed by my situation, and so thankful that Snarfle has entered my life.

Snarfle with elephant
I’ve already written about the joy of using real nappies, and over the coming weeks I will be blogging about other specific baby-related things such as baby wearing, breastfeeding, cosleeping and elimination communication. I’ll also be sharing with you the best lesser known clothing brands and makers of lovely unusual toys. I might even share my Quiet Book craft ideas, if I ever finish it. I’m writing about these things because there have been many times when I have scoured the internet, hoping to find more advice and information about my choices of parenting… so if this is a subject that is dear to your heart stay tuned, these writings will be popping up in between my other design focused blogs.

Categories ,Attachment Parenting, ,Baby, ,Bethany Wigmore, ,Breastfeeding, ,Christine Charnock, ,Claire Kearns, ,Co-sleeping, ,Elimination Communication, ,FSC, ,Jane Young, ,Jo Ley, ,Kim Jenkins, ,Kirbi Fagan, ,middlesex university, ,Parenting, ,Quiet Book, ,Real Nappies, ,Snarfle

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Amelia’s Magazine | Snarfle is One: Celebrating Baby, Motherhood and Work

Snarfle by Kirbi Fagan
Snarfle by Kirbi Fagan.

A few weeks ago my baby Snarfle celebrated his first birthday, so now seems like a good opportunity to look back on my first year as a mum running this website: after all Amelia’s Magazine has always reflected what is happening in my life.

Snarfle Sheep Cake by Claire Kearns
Snarfle’s Sheep Cake modelled on one of his favourite fluffy toys, by Claire Kearns.

I know it’s the biggest cliche of all, but nothing, nothing, can prepare you for becoming a parent. So when I was pregnant I made a big effort to prepare only for the birth, imagining that I would follow my instincts like every other mother down the millennia and everything beyond would just fall into place somehow. Sink or swim, right? I read nothing about parenting and bought the bare minimum, instead making good with second hand offerings from relatives and friends. Then all my great birth plans were thwarted… and I was left with a baby.

Snarfle and me swimming
Snarfle was ripped out of my stomach covered in poop, whisked away for tests, prodded and poked, and for the first days kept apart from me in a plastic bed, a huge cannula held aloft in his tiny hand. For the first month breast milk was forced into him via various artificial methods, and yet I instinctively knew I wanted to be as close to him as possible, and soon discovered that the common parlance for this is ‘Attachment Parenting‘. I even started reading a book about it. The world of parenting is rife with differing opinions, but my approach has been to follow what feels instinctively right: I always think about what we might have done for many thousands of years before we had so many gadgets to help us out, believing this to best from an evolutionary perspective. This has meant that I breastfeed on demand and intend to continue until he wants to stop, I carry him wherever I can, we sleep together most nights, I have followed baby led weaning techniques, we are learning baby signing, he wears non-disposable nappies (most of the time) and I have made attempts at elimination communication…

First birthday by Bethany Wigmore
First birthday by Bethany Wigmore.

Those endless baby bits and bobs scared me so much before I gave birth that I could not even look in a brochure, never mind go into a store. So many buggies to chose from! We have a family hand me down but we rarely use it. I was determined to get by with as few purchases as possible, which was probably why we had no clothes small enough for Snarfle when he arrived. He was so tiny that the only sleepsuit that fit properly for the first few weeks was a tiny scrap of material that my mother found in a charity shop. Inevitably, our lives have since filled up with baby paraphernalia.

Snarfle One by Jane Young
Snarfle is One by Jane Young.

Before birth my baby could only ever be an abstract notion: in fact although I have always loved children (and have spent a lot of time being a leader on FSC children’s camps) I never much liked babies – that is, before my own arrived. I had imagined them boring so avoided time with them, and in more recent years they have made me feel a bit sad as I feared I would never have one of my own. So nothing prepared me for the visceral physicality of having a baby: falling in love with this tiny person who is all my own creation, who has remained so closely attached to me as he has woken up to the world. Breastfeeding on demand, co-sleeping (sleeping in the same bed) and baby wearing have helped make motherhood an intoxicating physical experience that I will miss as he grows up and away from me: I now understand why some women are addicted to babies.

Baby Snarfle by Kim Jenkins
Baby Snarfle by Kim Jenkins.

And the love I feel for Snarfle is unquantifiable despite the many hard and tedious parts of being a new mum. Even when rocking him for hours every night (he is not an easy sleeper) I stand there and think: this, this, is amazing. He’s my greatest creative project, this little person who has somehow appeared in this world as though he was always meant to be, perfect, somehow, despite the flaws of his parents, despite his demanding ways. This time, it will be over so soon. I love every aspect of being a mother and feel I have to soak up every moment, for before I know it he will be 18.

Rainbow Cake by Christine Charnock
Rainbow Birthday Cake by Christine Charnock.

I started working again two weeks after Snarfle was born, with him sleeping against me as I typed. We didn’t leave the house until some time later: I was scared about how I would cope with him in the outside world when he seemed so precious and vulnerable. In the beginning getting on with work was relatively easy – he slept so much that I became very good at multi-tasking. But things change rapidly when you have a small baby and this year has passed ridiculously fast, routines constantly shifting to adapt to Snarfle‘s needs. Seen from afar it seems daunting, but you manage, there’s no alternative. Despite the constant tiredness and many small frustrations I have never been bored. I love learning a new skill and this is no exception – I have found the process of becoming a mother endlessly fascinating.

Neopolitan birthday cake by Jo Ley
Neopolitan birthday cake by Jo Ley.

I started work as a lecturer at Middlesex University one day a week in January (I am lucky enough that Snarfle can stay with my parents, so we commute down to their house in South London). This means that work on Amelia’s Magazine is squashed into ever decreasing time slots: currently these include a two hour stretch in the morning (if he sleeps) and after he goes to sleep at night, until I am too knackered to continue. My creativity has gone into overdrive and I have big plans for the magazine yet little time to carry any of my ideas out, but my frustrations are tempered by the knowledge that this time is so short and so precious: even though my mind may drift it is more important for me to be present with Snarfle than building my business. I have at times been jealous of other mums revelling in maternity leave for a full year, but ultimately I feel blessed that I can carry on being a (nearly) full time mum for much longer. I could not have had a child and sent him straight into the care of others – I want to be with him, to watch him grow. To listen to the birds together, help him learn animal sounds and primary colours (his current interests), and tend to our little garden now the weather is warming up. Baby sessions are now full of other mothers who have their own businesses… and lots of childminders and nannies.

Snarfle Oh Baby London space invaders bodysuit
So Snarfle is one year old, and I will continue the juggling act that I have created for myself, for much as I love being a hands on mother I always knew I could not only be a mum; my work will always be important too. I find myself increasingly drawn to the idea of home schooling (to the chagrin of my partner and family) but I don’t know how I would manage it. All I know is that I feel ridiculously blessed by my situation, and so thankful that Snarfle has entered my life.

Snarfle with elephant
I’ve already written about the joy of using real nappies, and over the coming weeks I will be blogging about other specific baby-related things such as baby wearing, breastfeeding, cosleeping and elimination communication. I’ll also be sharing with you the best lesser known clothing brands and makers of lovely unusual toys. I might even share my Quiet Book craft ideas, if I ever finish it. I’m writing about these things because there have been many times when I have scoured the internet, hoping to find more advice and information about my choices of parenting… so if this is a subject that is dear to your heart stay tuned, these writings will be popping up in between my other design focused blogs.

Categories ,Attachment Parenting, ,Baby, ,Bethany Wigmore, ,Breastfeeding, ,Christine Charnock, ,Claire Kearns, ,Co-sleeping, ,Elimination Communication, ,FSC, ,Jane Young, ,Jo Ley, ,Kim Jenkins, ,Kirbi Fagan, ,middlesex university, ,Parenting, ,Quiet Book, ,Real Nappies, ,Snarfle

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Amelia’s Magazine | What Does Colour Mean To You? Submit Your Story For A Chance To Make A Film And Win £250

This is Orange by Sarah Edmonds
This is Orange by Sarah Edmonds.

A recent chat with friends led to a discussion about what colour we intrinsically ‘were’. Fascinatingly we all agreed on the colours that came to mind, as if subconsciously they were obvious to us all. Colour is absolutely intrinsic to the way we feel, the way we look and the way we act. And for illustrators and artists it plays an enormous part in the creation of work. Of course many of us see colours differently (a huge amount of men, for instance, suffer some form of colour blindness) and colours also mean different things to different people. Why, for instance, do I love bright red and green, but dislike orange brown? I find it absolutely fascinating.

Now a major lifestyle brand is planning to collect stories of how people have been positively impacted by colour. They would like to know what your relationship is with a particular colour, what three words you would associate with it, and what kind of details from your life, your culture and your home have played a part in your opinion of that colour. To get involved you can submit your story as words, photography and video: the most compelling one will be filmed by leading film makers Blair & Oliver and edited into a short documentary about how colour has affected lives. If you submit the best story you’ll win £250.

What better way to get you inspired than a series of illustrations exploring what colour means to some of my contributors. To take part in this open callout send your stories to renewalstories@redant.com along with your contact details. The deadline for submission is 1st March 2013.

Green-by-CissyHu
Green by Cissy Hu. When I see green, my eyelashes will become a forest. The creatures of imagination will come out and play. Everything goes lively above the lake of heart (the eyes).

The Colour Pink by Christine Charnock
The Colour Pink by Christine Charnock. The colour pink has so many beautiful and versatile shades – from vibrant and bold, to calming and subdued. In the natural world, the colour pink is present in many fascinating forms. The sky of a sunset, flora and fauna, and the flamingo bird are particularly memorable and beautiful examples. Pink always seems to create a positive, uplifting and cheerful vibe, and this is one of the reasons why I adore this colour.

green is such a relaxing colour by Joanna Boyle
Green is such a relaxing colour by Joanna Boyle. My favourite time of year is spring time, when everything starts to get green after months of rain and cold. I associate the colour green with feeling calm and refreshed. As a result I love visiting green houses and like to keep lots of plants in my flat!

Turquoise Planet by Laura Redburn
Turquoise Planet by Laura Redburn. I absolutely love all colours, and colour is my world. Turquoise is my favourite, though. It both gives me energy and keeps me calm. I like to always have this colour around me because it also helps me feel creative but not overwhelmed. I feel as if there’s something magical about it that other colours don’t possess. To me it’s representative of earth and life.

Yellow Portrait of Silvia Pezzati by Rosa Crepax, Illustrated Moodboard
Yellow Portrait of Silvia Pezzati by Rosa Crepax, Illustrated Moodboard. My friend Silvia is the ‘yellowest’ person I know. Yellow is a very happy colour, I’ve always associated it with sunshine, cheerfulness and intellectual creativity. She is enthusiastic about everything, warm, bright and she actually smiles sun!

Green by Gemma Hampton
Green by Gemma Hampton. Green is my favourite colour. To me, it represents growth and freedom. As a keen gardener, I am forever fascinated when planting a seed and watching it spring into life, growing stronger and healthier by the day. I enjoy studying this process of development and feel a deep sense of satisfaction in the knowledge that I am nurturing this new life. 

Red by Gemma Cotterell
Red by Gemma Cotterell. I chose to illustrate red shown as a ‘mothers love’ – to me the colour projects power, warmth, love, strength, passion, and permanence. The beating heart is life itself, protected unconditionally by the flowering cactus, which symbolises maternal love.

Categories ,Blair & Oliver, ,Christine Charnock, ,Cissy Hu, ,colour, ,Colour blindness, ,competition, ,film, ,Gemma Cotterell, ,Gemma Hampton, ,Illustrated Moodboard, ,Joanna Boyle, ,Laura Redburn, ,Open Callout, ,Rosa Crepax, ,Sarah Edmonds, ,Silvia Pezzati

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Amelia’s Magazine | Mothering Sunday 2012: an illustrated ode to Mothers everywhere

Mothering Sunday by Libby Burns
Mothering Sunday by Libby Burns.
She helps me grow!

As Mothering Sunday (or Mother’s Day, as it has been rebranded in recent times) approaches this year, I felt compelled to put together a special blog, made possible by an open brief to my contributing illustrators which asked them to draw what came to mind and accompany it with a short paragraph about why their mother is so special.

As many of my readers are probably aware I am about to become a mother myself for the first time, and in the run up my own mother (and granny-to-be) has been incredibly helpful, loving and patient with me. She has offered me so much invaluable support that I really can’t imagine what it would have been like without her to lean on and it makes me realise just how much this child will rely on me, most likely for the rest of their life, just as I still rely on my mum. Here’s to mums everywhere x

A Mothers Love by Rebecca Higgins
A Mothers Love by Rebecca Higgins.
My mom is so special to me as she will instantly know how I’m feeling or what I’m thinking without even asking me, she’s always there to listen, to talk to, and will never judge what I may have done, she’s always the hand that appears in photographs to make sure I’m holding the birthday cake properly, or if I was steady on my little legs. My mom never wants for anything as long as her children are safe and well. And that’s the most priceless thing in the world.

Me and my mum by Gareth A Hopkins
Me and my mum by Gareth A Hopkins.
My Mum’s nickname with her aerobics friends is ‘Hardcore Helen‘, because she pushes herself harder and further than anyone else. She was quite blasé about my son being born, and was then surprised by how much she fell in love when she first saw him. She scoffed when I suggested she might read ‘Watchmen’, because comics aren’t literary enough for her, but she quite happily tells everyone she’s on Team Jacob. She’s second-guessed nearly every secret I’ve ever had. When she makes macaroni cheese she puts a layer of broken crisps on the top. And those are just a few of the ways in which my Mum’s great.

Mothering Sunday by Tessa McSorley
Mothering Sunday by Tessa McSorley.
My mom is my last call of the day before I go to bed, and she is my first call in the morning when I wake up. Not only is she my mother, but she is also my best friend, my therapist, my business adviser, my mentor, my inspiration, and my biggest fan. To say that I need her in my life would simply be an understatement. She is my backbone. She is vital. She is unconditional love personified.

My Mum for Mother's Day by Sam Parr
My Mum for Mother’s Day by Sam Parr.
Meet my mum Heather. She is 73 next birthday, and believe it or not, I haven’t actually made her look (much) younger here! My mum is not only young looking and a true beauty, she is young at heart, and full of life and energy, always eager to see and experiences new things. I drew this from a photo of mum at the Uffizi in Florence where she, I and my sister went a couple of years ago. Most years all 3 of us go on a “girly” city break. Often me and my sister can’t keep up with mum! Apart from being great company, mum has been a fantastic friend and great support to me through the years in good times and bad. Don’t know what I would have done without her during some tough times. I am so lucky to have a mum like her and I love her very much. Happy Mother’s Day Mum! xxx

Mothering-Sunday-Illustration-by-Christine-Charnock
Mothering Sunday by Christine Charnock.
My Mum is such a fantastic and special person. She is always supportive, caring and kind every single day. Whenever things get tough, I know that my Mum will be there to listen, to help and to give loving advice. She has always encouraged me to work hard, to be creative, and to not worry so much and be happy. I appreciate all the lovely things that my Mum has done for me, and I hope that on Mother’s Day and every day, that I can show her how much she means to me.

Mothering Sunday by Soph Backhouse
Mothering Sunday Wildflowers by Sophie Backhouse.
An illustration to remember my mum Mo. She was full of creativity & loved wildflowers.

I know I’m pregnant and therefore hyper emotional, but these dedications are so lovely and personal that they bring a big lump to my throat and kind of make me want to cry. I hope they will inspire you will do something special for your mother this weekend, even if it is just to tell her how much you love her in whatever way suits you.

Categories ,2012, ,Christine Charnock, ,Dedication, ,Gareth A Hopkins, ,illustration, ,Libby Burns, ,Love, ,Mother’s Day, ,Mothering Sunday, ,Múm, ,Rebecca Higgins, ,Sam Parr, ,Soph Backhouse, ,Sophie Backhouse, ,Tessa McSorley

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Amelia’s Magazine | Favourite Christmas Indie Tunes for 2012: listen to the best here!

christmas olive grove by bex bourne
Christmas Olive Grove by Bex Bourne, based on As A Child I Awoke by Jo Mango.

A hugely successful Christmas tune is the holy grail for many musicians: just think how many times Fairytale of New York has been played. With royalties like that you’d never need to work again, not that this is the only motivating factor for the majority of musicians. It would just be nice, wouldn’t it, to have a song played every year… welcomed back like a much missed friend and enjoyed once more as if it were new. All of which is great because it means that every time the Christmas season swings around there is a host of brilliant new themed tunes to add to the mix, each hoping for a slice of immortality.


One release that is raising money for charity is the Olive Grove Records EP which features three original recordings and a cover of that famous Muppets song One More Sleep ’til Christmas.

For Folk's Sake it's Christmas 2012
For Folk’s Sake it’s Christmas 2012 cover illustrated by Sarah Oxley.

For Folk’s Sake It’s Christmas returns with another album featuring an absolutely stellar mix of tunes by the likes of Goodnight Lenin, Boat to Row and many others I don’t know but probably should. If you buy one thing this season make it this: the hard copy album has long since sold out but you can get the digital version for a piddling £7 and all profits go to the Evelina Children’s Hospital. It’s also worth downloading previous versions too.

Zombie Christmas by Lorna Scobie
Zombie Christmas by Lorna Scobie.

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Other returnees are Tim Wheeler and Emmy the Great, who have created a new video to celebrate their Zombie Christmas, just one track from last year’s fab Christmas album. Armed only with an assortment of decorations they must defend themselves from their foes, mid gig.

Kate Nash adopts that most seasonal of instruments, the sleigh bell, for Faith, her lo fi paen to the end of a tough year. It’s a taster of her new grungey sound, with a bass driven melody that segues into some pretty retro style harmonies.

Holiday Joy by Jacqueline Valencia
Holiday Joy by Jacqueline Valencia.

One of my favourite new tracks this season is a cover of Mary Margaret O’Hara’s Evermore by Cold Specks, a gloriously cosy song that makes me want to curl up next to a roaring log fire.

Tracey Thorn has released a collection of Christmas songs entitled Tinsel & Lights which comes accompanied with an innovative bit of marketing: open the doors on this virtual advent calendar to find a series of links leading to exclusive material. I like Joy… which is a self-penned tale of defiant seasonal celebration and In the Cold Cold Night is suitably frosty.

In the Cold Cold Night by-Christine-Charnock
In the Cold Cold Night by Christine Charnock. Tracey Thorn’s ‘In the Cold, Cold Night’ has dark and mysterious undertones to it which I wanted to reflect in my illustration response. The song creates an atmosphere of longing and loneliness, and a determination to find companionship in whatever way possible.

You can always bank on Darren Hayman for something a bit different: this year’s seasonal ditty concerns Oliver Cromwell‘s efforts to ban the festive occasion. He failed, luckily.

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A really sweet video accompanies Dog is Dead‘s cover of Paul McCartney‘s classic Wonderful Christmastime.

Dog is Dead - Wonderful Christmastime Music Illustration by Sharon Farrow
Dog is Dead – Wonderful Christmastime by Sharon Farrow. I tried to take elements of the song and I wanted to include several Christmassy things: reindeer, snow, the tree, crackers, along with the humorous elements of the video. Hence the Christmas jumpers and the veneration of the humble (but essential Christmas delight!) brussel sprout. Where would be without them this time of year? The Christmas jumpers are also a nod to the Save the Children Christmas jumper campaign.

Tender Trap‘s Christmas tune Leaving Christmas Day tells the tale of a girl who discovers that her boyfriend is a Creationist Christian.

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Rock band The Hype Theory cover Winter Wonderland with silky female vocals

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The Other Guys is an A Cappella choir from St Andrews University and their Christmas Gets Worse Every Year is a beautifully sung reminder that sometimes nothing beats a classic bit of choral singing at Christmas time.

Christmas Gets Worse Every Year by Suky Goodfellow
Christmas Gets Worse Every Year by Suky Goodfellow.

The Voluntary Butler Scheme have released seasonal melody Quinzhee (Building Us A House Out Of Snow) with a grainy film of wintery figures building an igloo.

Katy Edelsten illustrates The Voluntary Butler Scheme
Katy Edelsten illustrates The Voluntary Butler Scheme – House out of Snow. I wanted to create something that mixed the breezy tone of the song with the simple lyrics, I settled on the castle made of snow because i thought it captured both the the air of the song and the dreamy-Beach Boys-esque haze of the lyrics. The colours and naive style were also executed for this reason. 

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Dan Croll gets into the spirit with his cover of Low‘s Just Like Christmas, accompanied by a kitsch video in which he smears his face in chocolate and luxuriates in a bubble bath whilst wearing a woolly jumper and smoking a pipe. Go on, watch it. It’s Christmas time everyone! Enjoy x

Katy Edelsten illustrates Dan Croll - 'Just Like Christmas'
Katy Edelsten illustrates Dan Croll – Just Like Christmas. I was inspired by the artist himself- as the video is pretty captivating! I wanted something quite whimsical, with no line breaks, as the lyrics repeat and continue. I used a continuous line, in conjunction with pale colours, to depict the artist as Father Christmas. Inspired by the song (and Movember perhaps) I incorporated the song title into Dan Croll’s beard.

Light the Night by Roshni Annia
Inspired by Light the Night to accompany the new film The Snowman and The Snowdog by Roshni Annia.

Categories ,2012, ,A Cappella, ,As A Child I Awoke, ,Bex Bourne, ,Boat to Row, ,Choir, ,Choral, ,Christine Charnock, ,Christmas, ,Christmas Gets Worse Every Year, ,Cold Specks, ,Dan Croll, ,Darren Hayman, ,Dog is Dead, ,Evelina Children’s Hospital, ,Evermore, ,Fairytale of New York, ,Faith, ,folk, ,For Folk’s Sake It’s Christmas, ,Goodnight Lenin, ,In the Cold Cold Night, ,Indie, ,Jacqueline Valencia, ,Jo Mango, ,Joy, ,Just Like Christmas, ,Kate Nash, ,Katy Edelsten, ,Leaving Christmas Day, ,Light the Night, ,Lorna Scobie, ,low, ,Mary Margaret O’Hara, ,Muppets, ,Olive Grove Records EP, ,Oliver Cromwell, ,One More Sleep ’til Christmas, ,Paul McCartney, ,Quinzhee (Building Us A House Out Of Snow), ,Roshni Annia, ,Sarah Oxley, ,Save The Children, ,Sharon Farrow, ,St Andrews University, ,Suky Goodfellow, ,Tender Trap, ,The Hype Theory, ,The Other Guys, ,The Snowman and The Snowdog, ,The Voluntary Butler Scheme, ,Tim Wheeler and Emmy the Great, ,Tinsel & Lights, ,Tracey Thorn, ,Tunes, ,Winter Wonderland, ,Wonderful Christmastime, ,Zombie Christmas

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Amelia’s Magazine | An interview with Haiku Salut and review of debut album Tricolore

Haiku-Salut-by-Christine-Charnock
Haiku Salut by Christine Charnock.

They may have an exotic band name, but Haiku Salut are in fact a multi-instrumentalist trio of girls based in the Derbyshire Dales. Gemma, Louise and Sophie met at university in the mid noughties, but only started creating music in their current form during 2010: a first show was infamously booked before they’d written a tune, and an intense period followed during which they wrote the songs which appear on their debut EP. Haiku Salut combine influences from a bewildering variety of sources on their inventive new album Tricolore which features electronic bleeps and squelches galore with melodies played out on accordion, synth or guitar. It’s a sound that follows in the footsteps of mournful modern folk such as Beirut and the jaunty Folktronica of Tunng. A quirkily beautiful video accompanies single Los Elefantes, filmed in forest and city and featuring a forlorn male character, confused and befuddled by the females who outfox him at every turn.

Haiku Salut Press Shot
Firstly, what’s the idea behind your name? I had imagined you were far more exotic than you actually are (no offence) when I first heard it! (as in maybe Icelandic or Japanese)
We actually had the name before any of the songs! As a band we write many lists, we spend more time writing lists than we do writing songs and that’s how it started at the beginning. Firstly there was a list (a spider diagram to be exact) of what we wanted to sound like. A lot of the influences were from French and Japanese cinema and it soon became apparent that whatever we were going to create it was going to be outlandish, niche and definitely something our parents wouldn’t understand. We wanted a name that suggested these things so we went on to write a list of many words. Words we liked the sound of and words that reflected what we thought we were going to sound like in our heads. There were many contenders but Haiku Salut seemed to encompass it all. Annual Snaffle Tank, however, did not.

Haiku Salut by Katrine Brosnan
Haiku Salut by Katrine Brosnan.

You describe yourselves as “Baroque-Pop-Folktronic-Neo-Classical-Something-Or-Other” which is pretty amazing.
What are your influences, and do you all have quite different tastes?

That’s a difficult question really, at first we had a lot of influences which helped us find a direction but more recently when we’re writing, one of us will play something and the question is “does that sound like Haiku to you?” rather than “I’d like this one to sound like so and so”.
 
Haiku Salut press shot
At the very beginning the reason we started Haiku Salut was because Louise got an accordion for Christmas and at that time she had been listening to a lot of stuff like Beirut and Jonquil and so it seemed natural that the music would have a folk element to it. Gemma has played classical guitar since she was little and she leaves many homages to classical pieces in our songs and Sophie being an avid listener of glitch mainly (but not always) tends to add the electronic stuff. So we threw that all together to see what would happen. Our music tastes are constantly shifting and are all so varied but there are some areas of crossover, the Spice Girls being a prime example.
 
Haiku-Salut-illustration-by-Shy-Illustrations
Haiku Salut by Shy Illustrations.

Where did you all learn to play so many instruments and genres?
We all play piano on varying levels and the skills from that are all transferable to the melody horn, glockenspiel and accordion. We all play a bit of guitar and if you can play guitar you can play ukulele! We seem to have learnt the instruments as we go along, some songs just seem to need a certain sound so we learnt it and did it. One song needed trumpet so Gemma learnt that particular melody on the trumpet. We wanted some beats so I learnt how to make some beats. The drawback to this being the only things that we can play on these instruments are our own songs, no adlibbing!

Haiku Salut Live
How do you write songs together?
Generally one of us will bring an idea acoustically, often a phrase on the guitar or a ukulele loop and we’ll go from there. We very rarely write a song in one sitting. It took us months deliberating over “Sound’s Like There’s a Pacman Crunching Away At Your Heart”. Some people have said that our songs are unpredictable and that’s probably why! We’ve all got different ideas of what music we wanted to make at the end of the song to when we started it. Sometimes we’ll have a part that we can’t shoehorn into the song no matter how hard we try and these parts can be ignored for what seems like forever until we begin writing something else and suddenly that other bit drops in perfectly. The beats and electronics come after. 

haiku salut samantha eynon
Haiku Salut by Samantha Eynon.

Why have you decide to remain mute when you are performing?
It was never really a conscious decision, none of the songs have vocal parts and it just seemed weird to be saying anything at all between songs. We don’t have anything of interest to say that will enhance the set so we don’t say anything at all. We swap instruments a lot on stage and at the beginning the silences made us feel awkward so we introduced the glitchy interludes to ensure we didn’t feel under pressure to babble a load of utter rubbish at people. It works!
 
Haiku Salut Live
Apparently a defining image of Haiku Salut live involves the three of you playing with six hands at a grand piano, how does that work in practice? (any violent clashes?)
We have a song called “Watanabe” where all three of us play the piano (not often a grand one though unfortunately!). We all have a range of notes and generally keep off each others turf, no altercations yet! But if ANYONE steps on my f# by Jove will they know about it. Actually, we have a T-shirt design with an illustration of six hands on a piano. It was done by Katrine Brosnan who did all the artwork for our album. She’s an incredibly talented artist and she really brought the whole thing together. Check her out if you’re that way inclined. 

Haiku Salut Press Shot 2013
You met quite awhile ago at university – what were the ties that bound you together then and kept you together until you decided to create Haiku Salut?
Amongst others we lived together for a couple of years in Derby, which was quite a beautiful and turbulent time. At that point we played in a different band that chronicled all this stuff and was very, very different to what we’re doing now. Also Louise and I DJed together weekly in Derby. The band came to a natural conclusion when Gemma and I went travelling for a few months but when we came back I returned to DJ with Louise and Haiku came along shortly after.

Haiku Salut Tricolore by Katrine Brosnan
Haiku Salut Tricolore by Katrine Brosnan.

What is it like being on tour with Haiku Salut?
We tend to talk utter, utter nonsense. But I suppose that’s a by-product of spending long periods of time with each other. Our last tour included me entering a hotel in a suitcase. Twice. With that act of debauchery behind us there was the minor issue of the nervous breakdown in the service station over the lack of bananas and the misdemeanour of accidentally driving the wrong way down a slip road. 


Your current free download is called Los Elefantes – why, and what’s the story behind the video?
It was a name we had in mind for ages. Other songs were written and Louise would be like “No. This is not Los Elefantes”. The name originally came about when Louise was au pairing in Spain and one the little boys was shouting “LOS ELEFANTES! LOS ELEFANTES!”. Profound, I think you’ll agree! With regards to the video we gave the guys at Albion Sky productions our thoughts on how we wanted the video to feel and let them run with it creatively. We told them we wanted something a bit creepy and inconclusive and they wrote a storyboard, found the locations and ultimately made something absolutely stunning. They’re very talented people.

What next for Haiku Salut?
We’ve got our first album Tricolore coming out on CD and 12” vinyl on March 25th on How Does It Feel To Be Loved? which is available for preorder now here. We’ve also got our album launch parties, one in London on March 28th and the other in Derby on April 13th, where we’ll be unveiling our mega lightshow!

Categories ,Albion Sky, ,Annual Snaffle Tank, ,beirut, ,Christine Charnock, ,Derby, ,Derbyshire Dales, ,Folktronica, ,Haiku Salut, ,How Does It Feel To Be Loved?, ,interview, ,jonquil, ,Katrine Brosnan, ,Los Elefantes, ,review, ,Samantha Eynon, ,Shy Illustrations, ,Spice Girls, ,Tricolore, ,tunng

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Amelia’s Magazine | Best Alternative Christmas Songs of 2015

Charlene Man christmas cat
Christmas scene by Charlene Man.

Tis the season for my annual festive tune round up: my favourite alternative Christmas songs and albums laid out all in one place. As has also become ritual I am also very late in the day – this year the excuse being that I had a baby in August and I’ve also just published my fourth book, Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion. Still, I could not let the opportunity pass me by to dig out the best Christmas tunes for 2015, so here’s what I’ve found on my trawl around the internet.

Brett Beardslee wrote this lovely song about the importance of family for his wife Jesse, Pickin In Pajamas, with a simple but evocative video featuring nostalgic Christmas photos.

American country singer Darryl Gregory is writing a new Christmas song every year, find a whole album here. All proceeds go to Ben’s Lighthouse, supporting youth in his local home town.

Winter_Scene_by Christine Charnock
Winter Scene by Christine Charnock.

The Ragged Flags release an EP called Christmas At My House which features all their Christmas tunes recorded since 2012. The songs are uniformly fab, featuring lyrics such as “the turkey’s too dry but the booze won’t run out”. This year’s offering is a catchy little ditty called Crackers & Maracas, all about the joys of heading abroad for warmer climes during the holiday season.

Nive Nielsen & The Deer Children release a gorgeous Christmas Song, all twinkly bells and soporific vocals.

Yo Sushi releases his seasonal song Happy New Year as a free download here. The Bokeh encrusted video features himself in large fur coat and plenty of tinsel.

Kirsty Almeida takes part in the Christmas album Ska of Wonder by Baked A La Ska, which gives a ska party makeover to many well known songs. Hear album teaser here.

Astrocolor are a Canadian collective who have created an entire album featuring wigged-out prog-rock psych versions of seasonal classics such as We Three Kings and The First Noel. Quite unlike anything you will have heard before. Find Lit Up – Music For Christmas here

Watch a suitably surreal accompanying video below: Love Love.

Becky Becky released Champagne On Christmas Day last year but I sadly missed out then. I absolutely love this! The three songs on this EP are a danceable collection of tunes inspired by the tale of a backstreet abortion in 1920s Paris on Christmas Eve: a typically dark take on the usual festive fayre. You can read my interview about album Good Morning, Midnight (also inspired by the writings of Jean Rhys) here.

Sharon and the Dap Kings can always be relied on to get the party swinging. This year they release It’s a Holiday Soul Party: hear the whole album here.

In the same vein as Dean Martin and Bing Crosby, Benji Hughes agrees that It’s Time to Have a Merry Christmas.

French Finnish duo The Dø sing Have Yourself a Merry Little Xmas in this Casiotone-tastic backstage iphone recording.

Part of the album Suicide Songs, Money release A Cocaine Christmas and an Alcoholic’s New Year, which is seen here performed live at the White Hotel in Salford. One for those who feel like wallowing rather than celebrating.

Ette is is the solo project of Carla J Easton from TeenCanteen. She looks forward to Spending Christmas With My Boy. The song is dedicated to her cat Bez who passed away this year, and celebrates the joy of Christmas time with family. Think jingle bells, the smell of cinnamon candles and a brand new party dress.

Honey & the Bear are a husband and wife folk duo, and all profits from their song Close Your Eyes will go to Children in Need.

Lady Low sings about a Lonely Christmas, complete with sleigh bells and yearning violins.

I am still mourning the loss of the awesome For Folk’s Sake annual Christmas compilations which were once my most reliable source of brilliant alternative Christmas songs (please come back!) but this year you can take advantage of their online Advent Calendar to download some fabulous new music including this track from new wonder Ora Cogan, the plaintive End of Nowhere.

NANNA Prieler illustration-happy-holidays
Illustration by Nanna Prieler.

The Oto Christmas Grotto features 12 Bands of Christmas covering a host of familiar songs in festive studio sessions. Watch Pat Dam Smyth sing Silent Night live on a London rooftop here and catch the rest here.

I also really like Natalie McCool on guitar covering I Believe in Father Christmas.

Irish singer songwriter Wendy Jack shares Woolly Jumpers, a whimsical tune for Christmas.

Owen Tromans has just realised Child Winter, a seasonal song that is accompanied with lovely archive footage, and he will also be releasing a new improvised Christmas song on Christmas Eve here.

Finally, I can’t wait to watch Jingle Bell Rocks! an entire documentary about the people who are crazy about collecting obscure Christmas songs… I can totally relate to these people. This is the sixth year in a row that I have done a round up of alternative festive tunes and I absolutely love discovering what springs up each year. It’s become a dream to release my own Christmas album… so do get in touch if you are a record label that would like to work with me or an artist who would like to be considered for inclusion when I eventually get around to doing this.

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. See you all in 2016!

Categories ,12 Bands of Christmas, ,2015, ,A Cocaine Christmas and an Alcoholic’s New Year, ,Advent Calendar, ,Alternative, ,Amelia’s Colourful Colouring Companion, ,Astrocolor, ,Baked A La Ska, ,Becky Becky, ,Benji Hughes, ,Ben’s Lighthouse, ,Brett Beardslee, ,Carla J Easton, ,Champagne On Christmas Day, ,Charlene Man, ,Child Winter, ,Children in Need, ,Christine Charnock, ,Christmas At My House, ,Christmas Song, ,Christmas Songs, ,Christmas tunes, ,Close Your Eyes, ,Crackers & Maracas, ,Darryl Gregory, ,End of Nowhere, ,Ette, ,For Folks Sake, ,Good Morning Midnight, ,Happy New Year, ,Have Yourself a Merry Little Xmas, ,Honey & the Bear, ,I Believe in Father Christmas, ,Indie, ,It’s a Holiday Soul Party, ,It’s Time to Have a Merry Christmas, ,Jean Rhys, ,Jingle Bell Rocks!, ,Kirsty Almeida, ,Lady Low, ,Lit Up – Music For Christmas, ,Lonely Christmas, ,Money, ,Music For Christmas, ,Nanna Prieler, ,Natalie McCool, ,Nive Nielsen & The Deer Children, ,Ora Cogan, ,Oto Christmas Grotto, ,Owen Tromans, ,Pat Dam Smyth, ,Pickin In Pajamas, ,review, ,Sharon and the Dap Kings, ,Silent Night, ,Ska of Wonder, ,Suicide Songs, ,TeenCanteen, ,The Dø, ,The First Noel, ,The Ragged Flags, ,We Three Kings, ,Wendy Jack, ,Woolly Jumpers, ,Yo Sushi

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