Old toys – some find them a little creepy, whilst others rejoice in the quality of their craftsmanship and their delicate, vintage details. Here at Whim we belong to the latter category (just take a look at that little deer’s adorable face!), and so too does Jen Evans – they are her childhood toys featured above after all.
Not only does Jen write some of the dreamiest prose we have ever come across (which has been featured in two digital issues of Whim now), but she also creates timeless, antique-inspired items from old objects such as zoological specimen boxes and recycled paper goods. Recently, Jen has also began a photographic project where she captures images of beloved, vintage toys from her childhood.
Whim recently interviewed Jen about her unique designs and nostalgic photographic project, and you can read the inspiring interview below:
Q: How would you describe Mayfifth 1935 Designs and what kinds of items can readers find for sale in your unique store?
A: I created Mayfifth1935 Designs nearly 10 years ago. My father passed away in 2007 and he was a great influence on me. All his working life he was an electrician and engineer but in his retirement years he built and sold doll’s houses and wooden toys and as a tribute to him I used his birth date as my business name. Therefore, amid all the flowers, toys and butterflies, there is an underlying melancholy in my work, and I actively endeavour to keep it that way.
In my dreams, if I had a physical store, I like to think of it as an atmospheric and slightly dusty Edwardian bazaar, full of wonder and mystery with glittery magical things twinkling down from dark corners.
I work mostly with paper, the older and more fragile the better. I love the feel, the sound and the smell of it! I’m always looking for objects to decorate and my most recent discovery is old tabacco tins and jam jar lids. I also create pieces of jewellery, gift boxes and greetings cards.
Q: When did your love of antique and handmade goods first blossom?
A: I believe it originally stemmed from two events; the first was falling in love with the illustrations of Margaret W. Tarrant. Her dreamy landscapes teeming with exquisite faerie folk transported me to another realm, that I never fully returned from; and through her, I discovered the works of Arthur Rackham, Cicely Mary Baker, Dorothy M. Wheeler and a host of other artists.
The second event was discovering a beautiful town on the border between Wales and England called Hay on Wye, made famous by its rare and antiquarian bookshops. I remember being gloriously overwhelmed at a very young age by beautiful dog-eared copies of the works of Lewis Carroll, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien and George Macdonald alongside studious works on the science of fairy tales and mythology. I make a regular pilgrimage there at least twice a year and always at Christmas.
Q: We understand you have also begun a beautiful photographic project involving precious childhood toys. Can you please tell our readers a little more about this project?
A: As a child, I had a small set of bookshelves in my bedroom where I created a village out of all manner of tiny toys. There was a palace at one end, with a little white teddy as king, a Victorian peg doll as queen and little plastic pencil top toys in the shape of vegetables as palace courtiers. I had hours of fun leant up against this bookshelf, dreaming up adventures and scandals for the inhabitants of my very own toy kingdom.
To my delight, I recently rediscovered these toys packed away in an old box and seeing them again brought my childhood back to me with such a ferocious rush of nostalgia, I was inspired to photograph them, and they form the basis of this project.
To some, this portfolio will appear creepy [many people do not like images of doll faces] but I love this; I am more than happy when people say my work can be a tad Gothic!
Q: Is there one item in particular, either from your online shop or photographic project, that you particularly love or that remains special to you? If so, why?
A: By far, my favourite items are the ones where I use this image of my beloved cat, Marlon Savage [always known as Savvy]. We had him for 18 years and even though he could be very moody, we loved him so much and were broken hearted when he passed away. This is my favourite photograph of him and I have used it over and over again [see images below].
Q: What do you hope the not-too-distant future holds for your creative endeavours; Do you have any exciting, upcoming plans that you would like to share with us?
A: I work in a busy Museum library and am surrounded by treasures from the past and these inspire so many exciting ideas it’s difficult to find the time for making plans!
However, I am currently working on my first commercially printed Christmas card. Another gem from my past, it is a photograph of my mother’s Christmas tree fairy from the 1940’s [see attachment “Troedyrhiw Angel”].
I’m also focusing on a few Christmas Markets through November and December…all details can be found on my Facebook page (please feel free to ‘like’) https://www.facebook.com/Mayfifth1935Designs.
Oh yes, and I have also started writing poetry and prose but, more of that another time…
We want to say a huge thank you to Jen for taking the time to answer our questions and we encourage you to view more of Jen’s amazing work, either by visiting her Etsy store or checking out the beautifully nostalgic photographs of her childhood toys here. Enjoy!