At this time of year, my thoughts turn to holiday destinations and where we are going to escape to this summer. I love planning a week away and discovering new places. In a couple of weeks time, we are off to the South of France with friends and I cannot wait!
With all this talk of travel, who better to catch up with than Penarth based maker Alex Hughes of Stitch City who is a cartophile (a person with an interest in maps). Alex creates beautiful stationery from old maps and also recreates maps using embroidery.
I started by asking Alex where her love of maps came from....
"I can't really remember where my love of maps came from, I've always been obsessed with them. I remember a book I had when I was a small kid, about different countries of the world. Each page featured a different map of a country and talked about different cultures, clothing and food. I remember being particularly fascinated by flags (my favourite when I was tiny was Uruguay because... well look it up, it’s pretty cool!)
"Many years later, when I knew I was going to London to study my degree in Illustration, I became obsessed with the Underground map and the London A-Z. I loved looking through for interesting landmarks, parks and museums that I might soon visit. It was the A - Z map that really heightened my excitement for moving away and when I got there it was my constant companion, guiding me around the city. It was only in my second year in London, during a project working with paper ephemera and bookbinding, that I got hold of some beautiful vintage maps of Europe and I really began to use maps in my work.
"Working with maps these days is still fascinating, but more from the standpoint of finding out what they mean to other people. I have made custom maps for people celebrating a first date, a proposal, wedding or anniversary, or the life of a close family member. I love how personal they can be, they evoke strong memories in people and it's always interesting to me to find out the story behind a project; what a specific place, street, park or footpath, means to someone whether it’s an old home or much-loved holiday destination."
I love holidaying in the UK. We are so spoilt with the beautiful scenery, especially in Wales. What is your favourite UK holiday destination?
In recent years my partner and I have been going with some friends to stay in a chalet in Ullswater in the Lake District. We usually go in spring so there is still snow on some of the higher peaks that surround the lake, like Helvellyn which is nearby. It's a great place for walking, driving and relaxing. Last year I went canoeing on Ullswater for the first time which was brilliant, I can't wait to go back.
What is your favourite day trip?
It's been years since I lived in London and I'm a bit less of a fan these days of the noise, crowds and expense of it! But it still makes for a great occasional day trip. I love to go on my own, early in the morning and just get lost for the day, wandering through the parks or going to see an exhibition. My favourite place to visit is the V & A, which always has interesting shows on and is so huge that it's always possible to find a quiet, previously unexplored corner.
You are lucky enough to be based in the beautiful town of Penarth. But if you could live anywhere other than Penarth, where would you live?
Well I do love Penarth! But if important things like jobs and money didn't matter, I would love to go somewhere out in the Welsh countryside in Ceredigion or Gwynedd. It’s a really wild part of the country with spectacular mountains and beautiful lakes, forests and coastlines. I was lucky enough to visit Portmerion last year and that was a really lovely experience, and I'm heading back to North Wales this summer. This time we’re going to Denbighshire, which I have never visited before and am really looking forward to exploring!
Thanks Alex and happy travels.
To find out more about Alex and her work, please visit her page on the Little Otter Events directory.
Do you have any travel plans this year? We love to know where you are off to - let us know in the comments below.
April Liddell. Founder of Little Otter Markets. Lives a crafty life. Loves going for walks with her dog Betsi, listening to music, and eating chelsea buns.