Time on one’s hands…itchy fingers…new website

It’s been a while…a long while. My blog has been dormant, collecting digital dust. Regrettably, I’ve not had the inclination or time to share my whimsical thoughts…until now.

In recent weeks I have experienced what is known as ‘post-op recovery’, which I have been told means to ‘take it easy’ and basically rest and do nothing.

Anyone who knows me knows this is a laughable concept when applied to me…a true stress pot, with too many jobs! But regardless, I have knuckled down…and ‘taken it easy’…kind of.

Side thought: I was an anaesthetic virgin and had never spent a night in hospital before. Quite an experience and I have learned one needs to leave inhibition at the door, especially when faced with a crowd of faces in an operating theatre and bed pans! Also, being put under is like some kind of time travel…you go out and wake up…with no concept of time passed…air is good!

I’ve been stuck in bed for a weeks with a window to the world via my laptop (the film Rear Window came to mind)

21671_okno-vo-dvor_or_rear-window_1600x1200_www.Gde-Fon.comThe inevitable ‘itchy fingers’ to apply myself to something productive crept up. Playing Age Of Empires II multiplayer (and losing as the noob I am) lost its flavour and so I thought it was time to address my to-do list, which included creating a new website, for Celyn Cooke Millinery & Design. This is something I had been putting off for a while, as it’s a big job, especially when you don’t have time…but now…I did.

I thought I would share some of my findings as I navigated the world of self-publishing websites.

Which hosting Provider?

My-website-is-terribleAn obvious first question, as there is a daunting amount to choose from. Through the years I have had dealings with many website platforms. My earliest experience was early 90’s HTML coding, very fiddly! luckily things have become far easier and you can create something slick  quite simply and quickly. I cannot deny that I do miss animated GIFs and Flash! Maybe, like vinyl, they will make a come back.

Some of these current providers that I have played around with are WordPress, Weebly, Squarespace and Wix. They all have their pro’s and con’s so really it depends on what you want your website to do. I thought about the following things and then compared each provider:

  1. What is your website for and who will be visiting it?

You should think about the content of your website and how you want to present it. For example; a portfolio or an online shop? What are the key elements of what it should do? Then think about all the things you want it to do…then just jot them down on a napkin or the back of a bus ticket or whatever…this is your wish list.

adult beautiful elegant eyewear
A lady who loves shopping…who might buy one of my hats

In my case my website is going to be an online shop.  It’s also a representation of my brand, Celyn Cooke Millinery and Design, to potential press (one can dream!) So it needed to be stylish with visual impact and a professional  e-commerce set-up.

As it’s the first impression, so has to be good



In particular, with e-commerce, I was looking for the following key points:

  • Easy to use system when adding too and designing my product pages, something that would look clear and slick with not too much effort or formatting.
  • A clear order processing system, as I did not want bad design or over complicated technical design to come between myself and a sale. I looked for things like Postage options or customisation options that could be added on my products, as with selling my Hats, postage varies and customers often want bespoke options.
  • Integrated data collection options, as it’s good to be able to collect customers details (with their permission first, obviously) so that I can build up a good customer base, with hope of creating a mailing list (another thing on my TO-DO list!)

You may be looking for other e-commerce options such as ticket/online booking, live calendars or streaming, these elements should all be on your ‘wish list’ when you are investigating providers.

When it comes to visuals, I looked for following:

  • Good selection of themes (as this is a good starting point when designing)
  • Lots of flexibility with editing the themes whilst building.
  • Good formatting options for images and layout, as with my hats the photography is very important, so want to show it off as best as I can.
  • I also wanted some movement on my website, so looked for good animation options.

If you are looking to create an online portfolio then you will be looking to present your work in the best possible way. Maybe you have a show-reel or sound files you want to include, so have a look at what options the providers have.

Note: most of the provider’s offer a freebie trial or very least a free basic level subscription, so you can play around on each and check what is offered in relation to what you need. You will have to go through the hassle of registering to them all, but needs must!

2. Technical need-to-know, Usability

photo of green data matrix

Not everyone knows coding…not everyone wants to…that is a fact and that is why these ‘drag and drop’ style online design platforms exist. Saying that, some are easier and smoother than others. I was looking for a design program that lends it’s self to visual design, as I also have a Graphic Design background. I wanted to have flexible options so I could put things where I wanted, with as little restriction as possible.

All I can really suggest is to experiment. Try and create the same looking design on each platform and see what obstacles appear (there will be some) Also look at what design elements are available on each, maybe things that you have not thought of (like hover over buttons or page dividers etc) and try them out. The platforms will vary in what they offer. You will find your ‘Wish list’ may grow onto two napkins!

Important Side Note: RESEARCH PEERS/COMPETITORS. Go find some websites you like, and in particular websites of people or organisations that are similar to what you are doing. This is where I got lots of ideas; for things I didn’t know I even wanted. It can be overwhelming, as ideas flood in, but also comforting when you find some really bad websites and your like ‘I can do so much better than that!’ 

3. Price…show me the money!!!

200.gifThis will inevitably be a huge crux of your decision-making and rightly so. If like me, you are a creative trying to get a small venture off the ground you won’t have a huge budget to work with.

I would suggest only after playing with each platform can you make a semi-educated choice. It will come down to numbers per month on what you can afford, but after experimenting with each on their ‘free’ or ‘basic’ subscription will you know what your money will get you. All of the ones I tried have ‘Tier’ price plans and you discover what is available (or not) on your ‘tier’ as you are trying to design. I experienced this learning curve whilst setting up and designing a website for someone. I signed up and paid for the year on one ‘Tier’, but discovered that an essential part of what was needed on the website, was not included in that ‘tier’ (and it was not obvious until quite far along the design process) So look out for that! To be fair this was quite early on in the days of such platforms, generally they all seem to be better at listing and communicating what each ‘Tier’ gives you, maybe advertising standards stepped in! This is another reason why your ‘wish list’ is handy.

Note: you can always upgrade down the line if you need to add something more to what you initially offer.

Here are some things that will affect which price plan you need and you should consider:

  • Storage: If you plan to display lots and lots of images and video then a good amount of hosting space will be factor
  • e-commerce: They will offer different things and usually start with a basic small business package, with a standard Store and checkout design. This package may not include things such as ‘Gift voucher’ creation, ‘Abandoned cart’ reminders, which are all nice details, so think if you may want them.
  • Domain: You might get one included with the package, for those who have not already got one. If you have a domain already, you will need to look into linking it up with the platform you choose, and they all should have either automatic link options or easy to follow instructions.

I am not going to bore you with another blog about choosing a Domain. My advice (which has been passed on to me) is keep it punchy, but not so short and abbreviated that it makes no sense in relation to what your page is. In my case, the one time my unusual name was useful, is I could grab Celyn Cooke.com quite easily. Also, try to get .com before anything else. The provider I use is 1&1 internet and they are well priced and quite simple to use, but I don’t have any particular feelings on where a domain should be purchased.

animal bear bored close up
Me…researching GDPR and SEO

Other key points you will need to research in relation to any website you are making are: GDPR compliance (YAWN!) and Privacy Policy and SEO and Meta Tags…all a bit dull but important so Google these.




Final thought and my choice reveal


So, after all my own comparison I chose WIX as my platform. I find that they give great design options with lots of visual examples as your scroll through options. Things like animated banners or interactive buttons all give a nice motion to my website, which is what I was after. I chose and initial theme, but by the time I was done customising it, it no longer looked like its former self. It also gives you handy little hints about elements your are yet to complete, in particular SEO tagging, which is vital to getting found in search engines. Wix gave easy to follow instructions for optimising the SEO which I had not experienced on the other platforms. Their e-commerce design is very easy to use and I could create a slick online store quickly. They have an integrated portal to keep in contact with customers, and gave good explanation of what I needed to be GDPR compliant and how to create a privacy policy…I feel so legit!

I wanted to leave the answer to which company I chose until the end, as I have no agenda here. You will be guided by your own research and comparison and by what you want from your website. As I said before, I have used most of the platforms on offer and still run a few websites (quite happily) on these other platforms, such as Squarespace and Weebly.

I am happy to answer any comments or questions about my suggestions and hope it may of be of use…to someone. At the very least building the website and writing this blog has saved me from day time T.V whilst stuck at home!

Blank canvas…now what?

On February 2nd I moved into my own little creative space. This is not my first venture into renting a studio, I have had studio shares (until buildings were sold/demolished or evicted) in the past as I mentioned in my previous post, but this is my first lone venture. Basically meaning I have to find the cash for it all on my own (carefully counts pennies in purse) So pressure is on to make it pay!

I am conscious to not make my creative productivity into some kind of mercenary pursuit (bit of a buzz kill)…but I also conscious that I need to be a realist! (even more of a buzz kill) For me, it’s about making the transgression from creative hobby to creative practice. A creative practice that I can be proud of…and that I can confidently declare when I get asked that same question ‘What art do you do?” This question is usually only triggered because I have made some stupid  attempt to make excuses for my day job. This need to excuse is completely self imposed (and not based on any reason or comment from others) It’s like i’m trying to prove to the little eyeliner wearing teenager/art student within…that I didn’t lose it….I’ve still got the spark!

Me..as a eyeliner wearing art student…full of hope and creative spark!

In reality, we all have bills to pay. Actually, my ‘day job’ is something that I should be very proud of. I am paid well; I am given a huge amount of respect and responsability; my boss and co-workers are hugely supportive and flexible…and I feed the homeless! (bonus karma points). There is nothing to be ashamed of and certainly no need for excuses. So my little inner teenager, frankly should shut-up!

Also, nothing wrong with liking the feeling of getting paid for something you create. So applying a bit more of a business and commercial mind to my projects is not a bad thing. As long as it’s not the only incentive…that feels a little cynical.

The way I see it is like a creative curse. If you’re a creative person, it’s not just a whimsical hobby, it’s part of you and how you view and engage with the world. When you can’t express this part of yourself it hurts! (Sounds so dramatic, but I have had this discussion with other artists/creative people, so I know I’m not the only one) When life or creative block takes over, or you end up in repetitive loops, you just don’t feel like your being yourself. At times, I have almost thought about my creative pursuits and idea’s with a sense of nostalgia, like an old lover. I feel so far removed from it that my creative self just feels like a memory…it’s crap! You then build up resentment when you see your peers for-filling creative pursuits, though the truth is that they have more than likely experienced the very same feelings as you at some point.

I would say these feelings of creative inadequacy are something that comes and goes and you learn to overcome it and get on with it. Change is a good catalyst and taking new steps and challenges is how I move forward. A relative said to me once ‘to make it in this world you need to show up’

So, I show up at my new space and am faced with blank canvas (or walls)..now what?

Tea break investigate the building? (It’s a bit spooky working in this place at night)

I have busied myself with getting moved in. This is a nice practical distraction. A great opportunity to sort through all the stuff I had accumulated (my bedroom at home actually feels so much more spacious with all the ‘art stuff’ moved out)  I have been skip hunting for furniture and have been donated a cool projector stand and computer table which is now a sewing machine table. I put up some shelving and have plans for a large folding table and bean bags. It’s not the largest of spaces (I was spoimage_124_0ilt in previous studios) so I’m being precious about what I take in. I have scoped the area for hardware shops and found a great charity shop, literally on the round-about in Archway. I bought an old easel for £10! I  am now on nodding terms with the homeless guy who hides his booze behind an electrical cabinet next to the building entrance. I feel settled in.


For sure, having a new project or idea to work on is a pretty immediate remedy. Having a space and being able to say ‘My studio’ feels pretty good! I only realised this weekend, that I woke up on Saturday morning without a feeling of guilt/doom/pressure that I should be doing something worthwhile with my time. I had spent most afternoons at the studio,  making my creative practice part of my working week, giving it due diligence and concentration. I meant I could actually spend my relaxing guilt free.

The past few weeks have been productive. I have had my usual illustration and banner commissions from Creative Movements and hope to get more work like this from other francisee’s of the company.

I adorned one wall with imagery from Alice in Wonderland and Wizard of Oz for some inspiration, and from that I created my first embroidered patch…a flying Monkey. I have been wanting to work on making patches since I took a free-hand machine embroidery class last year. So much fun. I want explore further into the fairytale themes…firstly because they are rich subject matter and I wrote my dissertation on their importance on our moral mapping and the symbolism they convey…secondly they contain accessible themes that an audience recognise and can tap into. It’s working for Hollywood at the moment, with films like Maleficent, Into the Woods and Cinderella…and Burton made a career out of such iconic themes!

The flying monkey patch then led to a ‘Sacred Heart’ patch which  then led onto a ‘Bowie’ inspired hat for my Itty and Fee partner and very close pal Imogen. She popped over to the studio and we discussed a Bowie party she was going attending that weekend and what she could wear for it. We then collaborated on a design for a hat, which once photographed and put on Facebook, resulted in an instant order! We pulled a late one  getting the second one finished ready to take to Brighton the next day, for the Bowie party.

Imogen and I have usually worked and sold our own individual item’s under the umbrella of Itty and Fee, but these little bursts of spontaneous collaborative inspiration are great. We hope to create some more of collaborative ‘show stoppers’ in the future in conjunction with the usual pieces we create. There are some idea’s in the pipeline. With a little networking  we could get more commissioned pieces to build our unique style while also working to a brief. Great fun!

Easter Bonnet!


Last year we made a Easter Bonnet, inspired by Baa Baa Black sheep, as part of a Easter treasure hunt in Primrose Hill. Combining idea’s gives you a great pool of knowledge and also a bigger promotional network (there is that mercenary in me talking!)

I’m excited if not a little overwhelmed by the possibilities, but am very happy that I am actively fighting the creative downer.

Watch this little creative space!

One year on, a New year and the creative ‘shed’

So, we are well into 2016 and I feel like taking a little moment to reflect on 2015, which seemed to evaporate like the lit booze on a Christmas pudding!

If I can be honest, 2015 was a hard year. It’s frustrating as it had all the ingredients of a great year!

  • Road trips in the US with my best friend (I am very aware of the blog never being finished, and it seems stupid to do it now so sod it)
  • Country walks in Wales
  • Getting a new Kitten and naming it Steve (highlight)
  • Sunny beach holidays in Spain
  • Engaging Graphic design projects with my uncle (2am edit chats on the phone!)
  • Curry in Birmingham

…and to top it all off a magical Christmas in Sweden with friends and family. Let it be said, that each and everyone of these experiences were wonderful in their own right!

But, 2015 was a year of grieving. I lost my older brother on Boxing Day to his long fight with drugs and mental health, and no matter what I was up to in 2015 there was a cloud of sadness.

Living in the city and the same house that my brother and I grew up in, I found myself tripping over ghosts on every corner…and it always takes me by surprise. I found myself crying in the car as I drove past KFC (his favourite) or one of the millions of pop culture references that air on the T.V or Radio that I will forever associate with my childhood and him. He has ruined Star Wars forever!

I would be enjoying myself in some kind of activity and then the grief/memory would hijack my brain at every given opportunity. Walking down 5th Avenue in New York, checking out the buildings and the people…then it creeps in…”last time I was in New York he was alive…I bought him some trainers at Dirty Rat Bastard” or I’m eating a banana split in a cafe on the Costa Del Sol…boom “I remember stealing the chocolate sauce from the bottom of his glass while he was not looking, when we were on holiday as kids” I was probably far to emotionally involved while watching Escape from New York, with a live score performance at the Union Chapel…a film that Simon and I would recite the script to. Should the sight of Snake Pliskin make we want to break down and sob!

I also realise I have become so self-conscious of mentioning him too much amongst friends or colleagues. I will mention him in some anecdote or nostalgic tale and then feel awkward or worried that I am making the listener awkward, they know I’m talking about my dead brother. I am then also more aware of when I do mention him, so then I wonder if I am talking about him more than usual, which could be true. Now I am wondering if I am mentioning him too much in this blog!!!! Aaaaaah!

There is also the fact, that I spent the whole year hurtling towards the anniversary and thinking about my Mother and my Niece and how they would feel. How I would feel. How should it be acknowledged….should it be acknowledged. Will Christmas ever be OK again…You just cannot predict how it will effect you.

I don’t have any choice words or advice on any of this by the way. These are clueless observations. I guess just fill the year with stuff and eventually the veil will lift? I hope.

Anyhow, I try an consider myself a glass half full kind of girl. So, with one year on also comes the New Year. I try not to get caught up with all the resolution making, but there is this sense of ‘fresh start’ that is quite intoxicating. Also death makes you think about life and the things that are important to you. These thoughts do send me into moments of self inflicted panic, ‘what am I doing with my life’ moments. But I don’t always see these as a bad thing, if used productively.

I had one of those moments while sat in a beautiful apartment in Stockholm, two days before New Years. I fantasised about having such a home and filling it with collected furniture and things, having space and place to entertain (My partner and I still live at home with my mum, and though after reading an article about the rising numbers of 25 -35 year olds still living with a parent, and the fact that I have low outgoings and am very lucky….it’s still not an ideal long term plan…fact)

Issue one is about space and more importantly a creative space. Sleeping, eating, entertaining and working in one room is tough. Every activity you do, you must then clean up and put away in order to do the next. When working on creative projects this is a killer. Non-existent is the luxury of leaving any piece, to return to it the next day with fresh eyes and carry on. In my house a cat will walk on it or it will end up with a tea stain! Also, I can never remember what ‘Bits’ I have in stock. Any crafter/artist will know that we are all professional hoarders. We keep all the ‘bits’ we can find, as in our heads we have some future project that that ‘thing’ will be much needed. Without having my ‘bits’ on view I will never use them. I found 10 polystyrene balls the other day in a dusty box on top of my wardrobe. This was after I had just bought more online.

With lack of a dedicated space, comes lack of productivity. In all honesty I know i’m not giving my creative pursuits enough time to make them viable, or move them from Hobby to an actual business, making money…which is the other (rather damning) factor in any future dreams/prospects. (But do not take that as me thinking only money can make someone happy….but it certainly helps you get there)

So after my self-induced life crisis, in that flat in Stockholm, I took to the internet and began looking for studios for rent. I have rented spaces previously with a friend several years ago. These were short lets in buildings that were under planning talks. We had a habit of causing every building we moved into to be bought or planning approved for development/demolishment within a few months, though it could just be me. I also used a space at a friends 30 year old squat, which within 6 months of me being there the eviction letters came…ooops!

I found some likely candidates via Gumtree and other artist space listings. Prices have indeed risen and square meters of space have lessened, space is a premium! Three weeks later I had a viewing and after one sleepless night and boring everyone with the ‘should I, Shouldn’t I’ questions I placed the holding deposit! Take that life!

As I am now paying for this premium, very well located, space, I have quite the incentive to make it worthwhile. I guess I have kind of set myself an enforced resolution, which rather than focused on my stomach fat (though there is certainly an issue there!) is focused on my creativeness (if that is a word?) A space to explore my talents and idea’s. A dedicated space. I plan to use it (amongst other project) as focused space to develop the Itty & Fee brand (which did take quite a few rows of back seats last year) It will also become my shed…I need a good armchair and stove in there!

So grief and the feeling of coasting along with no horizon in sight, is slowly being replaced with excitement and some panic to get my shit together.

I don’t want to end on the cliche theme, that I do these things in honour of my brother. Because, to be honest, I was getting on with my life way before he passed. We were very different creatures, but I take the sense of loss and the new appreciation for relationships, opportunities and new ideas in my life, as I get on with it. Instead of New Years resolutions….I want New Year inspirations.

I move into studio this week and will keep a diary of progress…if that fails…lots of photos of me drinking tea in my ‘Shed’





Trains, Planes and Automobiles: Itty & Fee go stateside (Part 2: Out of town)

No! Imogen…you cannot have the Giant dog!

I did not want to lead us out of the big city with my story, before I mentioned FAO Schwarz. Sadly, I have read reports that the store is under threat of closure.

To escape the city heat, and use the loo, I led Imogen to this large toy emporium that sits just off Central Park….we were going to visit the Met, but queue’s were mad and well…this is a toy shop!

It reminded me so much of trips to Hamley’s. Huge plush animals, airborne toys being demonstrated by enthusiastic staff members and giant gobstoppers in the confectionary section. They also have the BIG piano….yes, it’s the piano from the movie BIG. As you can imagine this is a hit with the kids, who queue to run up and down on it. I observed with some disappointment. Not one kid attempted the tune from the movie, let alone a bit Chopin!


I can’t recall actually ever wanting a doll as much as I did on seeing the creations on display, 11042692_10153009122448759_5934166436085680298_nparticularly the TONNER dolls. These things are mesmerising!

Imogen, a while ago, wrote a poem about Alice in Wonderland and Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz meeting in later life and we have always planned on doing some kind of project on it…Some day (over the rainbow and when life gets out of the way) Much to our delight we found our girls in doll form peeking from inside a glass cabinet…We like to think they look like us 😉 Though, with a bit of investment Tonner will create the doll version of you. Funnily enough, we also encountered the Tonner workshop in Kingston, NY, later on in our adventure. I am thinking about making dolls clothes…just because tiny versions of things are great! (in most cases 😉

Freeky, life-like baby doll things….

We came across the life-like baby dolls section…they are so real looking…and hideous! We watched little girls and full grown women cooing over these rubber monsters…It brought to mind the fascinating documentary, ‘My Fake Baby’ aired on channel 4 a while back. I guess they are easier and cheaper than a real child…and they won’t grow up into teenagers and hate you for several years.

Get out of town!

I consider myself a experienced, knowledgable driver. This is why I was able to take the executive decision that I was not going to hire a car from Manhattan…no way in hell! So we had to come up with a starting point. We knew we wanted to road trip, but had no idea where…USA is quite big…where to start? Imogen was quick on the mark (Google saves the day) and found a National Geographic prescribed route. The Hudson Valley. So we booked our car hire from Nyack, NY for the following day.


We ventured to Grand Central Station to find a train to get us to Nyack. For anyone who has ever been to Central Station…Wow, right? And for those who have not been…Wow! In particular the cosmic ceiling fresco.

Fun fact: The elaborately decorated astronomical ceiling, conceived in 1912 by French portrait artist Paul César Helleu. The starry ceiling is astronomically inaccurate in a complicated way. While the stars within some constellations appear correctly as they would from earth, other constellations are reversed left-to-right, as is the overall arrangement of the constellations on the ceiling.

We approached a ticket booth and purchased a two tickets to Tarrytown, where there we would take a bus across the Tappan Zee Bridge (excellent name!) to Nyack. With our bagels, apple turnovers and coffee, train ride was smooth, taking us from a dense metropolis to countryside in just over 30 mins!

We rocked up in Nyack, like proper out of towners. On the hunt for the Enterprise car hire, we met a man called Sunny in the local Subway (as in sandwiches) We chatted with him as we had a drink (and used wifi) and we talked about our backgrounds. He was Pakastani born and had lived and worked in London previously, which he greatly missed and was not so happy living in the States. Hearing our voices seem to set off a familiar nostalgia for him. He talked about how he was always made to “feel like a terrorist” when he travelled anywhere (yikes), that the USA was a hard place to live and he missed Tesco!  He even invited us for dinner with his wife and family that evening…but we politely declined as we were only in town for the night.

We entered the car hire establishment…..hot and red faced from the walk with our bags. The staff seemed amused by the fact we walked at all, as we could have been picked up.There seems to be a real allergy to the concept of walking in the US, and it’s

Our upgraded chevvy...we named her Tracy
Our upgraded chevvy…we named her Tracy

very easy to pick up the symptoms. The cars are big and comfortable with cup holders everywhere. Parking is not an issue generally (this exclude major cities other than LA), everyone drives and a comfortable pace and there is a drive-thru for almost anything…WHO NEEDS LEGS! Also…the girl working in this place was so on form, with her two slightly confused man/boy assistants. They were all nice, but she was getting all the jobs done while those guys were getting schooled!

TIP: Buy a road map…I know you may think it’s old school, and that a Sat Nav is better and who uses maps anymore yadda yadda eider…but I will tell you this:

1. It’s great to be able to actually geographically place your self in such a huge country and be able to see where there are mountains and national parks (Sat Nav will usually guide you the most direct and probably boring route)

2. Nothing was more un-attractive than the big beefcake jock guy at the car hire place, smirking when I asked if they had maps and then going on to boast that he couldn’t even read one and had never used one. Sad sign of the times (I sound so old)….Sat Nav is all very good…..until the apocalypse happens and I will be finding the next best person to Ray Mear’s to team up with….I bet he can read a map!

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We got settled at a local Best Western that was famous for cheesecake and salsa nights…we did not try either. However we did sample other delights of Nyack!

Childhood Home of Edward Hopper

A quaint wooden slatted and classic porched dwelling in the town centre. This was the birthplace of the famous realist painter. We were greeted by two women, one a fun and feisty Californian who seemed to be the manager of the place and a more gentle and local lady, who guided visitors around the space. (She got told off by lady number one for putting lights up to high in print room,  oops)
There is not ta huge amount of work displayed here. They explained that they had in the past exhibited some of his more DSC_0309 DSC_0311 DSC_0312

famous works, but it involved hiring 24 hour security and was of great expense. Now, they have his early sketches and prints. You can also wonder the upstairs rooms, though most of the rooms are actually rented out to artists. Oh for a studio in that place!


They also host work by other artists that have either a local or Hopper link. We saw work by photographer/filmmaker Jordan Matter. Work featuring dancers in urban settings, using a Realism style, referencing colouring and lighting similar to Hopper’s work. The exhibition was called Hopperesque Dancers Among Us

We got a photo on the porch, eventually, by careful guide from Imogen to the lady on how to use the iPhone. It was not the best photo ever taken.

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We wondered the local boutiques which sold things such as  gems and crystals, Hippy clothes, native crafts and comics. The DSC_0293owner of Funny Business comic shop is building a life size lego version of the Tardis and hosts Lego building workshops! Imogen teased him with the concept that Lego may stop manufacturing blue bricks. I am so impressed at how local independent businesses seem to thrive/survive in these US towns. It makes each place so unique, and is something we are losing quite rapidly across the UK.

Nyack felt like the kind of place that you would make friends in seconds, if you moved there. We were there for a few hours and got into nice chats with lots of people…

Imogen also enjoyed the largest burrito I have ever seen…I reckon it was almost the size of here head…She managed half…the rest may still be in the Best Western hotel room fridge.

Question: Do you think it’s good idea to eat something the same size as your head?

Onward on our Road trip….to be continued

Trains, Planes and Automobiles: Itty & Fee go stateside (Part 1: NEEYEEEW YAAAAWK)

A one dollar bill…crudely affixed to the ceiling of the Snafu bar in midtown. Itty & Fee 4 eva!

Imogen Miller Porter and myself (also collectively known as Itty & Fee) recently embarked on a two week stateside adventure. I want to share a little about the places and things we saw on our excursion…and the fun two very very old friends got up to!

The last time we both had a holiday together, just the two of us, was in 1997! We were very much due some new memories. Imogen had been working for several months in Toronto as Sybil in Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience, so was due a holiday. I just wanted to get out of the grey (London)…we decided on our meeting place…New York City!

I have visited the Big Apple a few times, for Imogen this was a first time…I was excited to be able to share my minimal knowledge and enthusiasm for the place. It’s such a filmic city and so familiar in an iconic way, I was confident that Imogen would love it. We did not really have a plan in place. All that had been booked were 5 nights of accomadation. So I got my flight from Heathrow to JFK and she took the bus from Toronto to Port Authority.  Our meeting point was the YMCA Vanderbilt

The slightly 70’s foyer of the YMCA Vanderbilt.

Tip: When arriving at JFK, you can take a shared shuttle bus to most of the midtown manhattan hotels…if the friendly guy asks you which bus you want , blue or green (two different companies) take the blue one (shuttlebus)…..I waited 45 mins for mine, while several blue buses came and went….I was eager to see my pal!

Arriving at the YMCA, I was welcomely surprised. (You never really know what to expect with accommodation, no matter how much review/photo research you do online.) It’s like arriving at a sports centre, with gym and reception in full view. People working out with headphones on. I would like to think they are all working out to the Rocky theme tune. Reception staff were friendly and I checked in and headed up to my room, to be greeted by Imogen who already nabbed the top bunk!

Original Factory was on the fifth floor at 231 East 47th Street

Trivia: Whilst we discussed Andy Warhol, as us arty gals are bound to do, Imogen discovered (google) that the site for The Factory was actually on the same street as the YMCA…and had since been demolished and replaced with apartments…Pop fail!  We didn’t waste much time, out into the city looking for adventure and food!

Imogen, Times Square dazzled and in need of dinner

First thing was to show Imogen Times Square, in all it’s illuminated (blinding) glory. It really is just Piccadilly Circus, on some very strong and probably illegal steroids. As soon as you arrive, I find you just want take your pictures, make no eye contact with the badly dressed giant Disney characters and get the hell out of the throng of people.

The next few days we explored the city. I am always impressed at how New York is never the same experience twice. Always something new to see, and the classic icons of the city never get old.

Opinion/Fact: We think the Chrysler building is sexier than the Empire State. Smoke coming out of the sewer system is ALWAYS exciting and the New York accent just rocks!

The Brooklyn Bridge is a hybrid cable-stayed/suspension bridge in New York City and is one of the oldest bridges of either type in the United States. Completed in 1883. FACT!

We took the D-train express….and ended up at Brooklyn Bridge by happy mistake…

Tip: Check which lights are illuminated on the train map…these are where the train will stop. Also, the London Tube is really well designed, Fact.

…We followed the mass crowds across the magnificant structure, pissing off the cyclists who tried to pass. We also witnessed a British ‘do-gooder’ tell off a local man who was out with his pet snake and offering photo’s. Not sure if berating a local and then going on further to complain to the cop (who was not interested) up the road is too wise….though I guess he had balls to stand up against something that upset him.  Though I get a vibe in New York that everyone is enterprising and there is a dollar to be made at any-time. I think maybe the Snake may have enjoyed the sunshine warming up it’s blood, rather than a uv light in a tank

Beer and Pizza..This is one of Little Italy’s oldest establishments, it features in the film Donnie Brasco, don’t ya know!

We visited China Town…a smooth but swift walk through avoiding buying knock-off tat whilst enjoying the change in architecture. We then had pizza (after much discussion with various proprietors vying for our custom) in Little Italy at the Mulberry Street Bar. Sitting in the sunshine in such an iconic surroundings was quite lovely. Imogen and i have a favourite game of telling one another entire plot lines of films….In Paris I told her the whole of Interview with a Vampire…This time she told me A View with a Bridge, very fitting.

Opinion/Fact: Fire Escapes in New York are stunning. Just can’t get enough photo’s of em! I found a blog sharing this sentiment here!

Some ‘Village’ graffiti

Greenwich Village and all it’s cute streets, arty graffiti and boutiques is the place I can fantasise about living in. Though like Notting Hill and more recently Brixton, it’s gone through much gentrification, and I am sure it’s not cheap to live there. At times it’s too cool for school but with reason. A rich history of arty, beatnik and bohemian scenes, I am sure every street corner is famous for something.

A cat I named ‘Vintage’

A particular culinary highlight was in Soho. Where, on recommendation, we visited a establishment called Marie Belle. Here we gorged on the thickest, richest hot chocolate I have ever consumed! A small cup of the Mocha 65% Dark Chocolate owned me….. Imogen was far braver with a Large Aztec 65% Dark Chocolate! Go girl!

Tip: Get Cream with it….It takes the edge off! Also, don’t go clothes shopping after this. If like me you are a size 16, you will have enough problems fitting into anything, and have to face the humiliation of asking the uber-cool, skinny shop assistants for ‘A bigger size’.  (whilst wiping the chocolate from around your mouth)

Concentrating on the chocolate intensity!

Like London, food is a real culture point in New York. You can find all kinds of cuisine and fusions of cuisine. We ate Japanese BBQ at Guy-Kaku, great value. We found a late night pub/eatery, serving a full menu until 3am at P.J Clarke’s. They also supply you with postcards that they will mail for you, once filled in. I can vouch that my mother did receive hers! High-rise (and high price) cocktails at The Kimberly was stunning and a great find thanks to the interwebberthingy.

Tip: Yelp is your friend when finding food/drinks. It never really failed us.

We had cheap nasty frozen Margarita’s at Mickey Spillanes’, in Hells Kitchen, while watching Ru Paul’s: Drag Race on several TV screens

We got ‘tipsy’ and met some friendly new Yorkers at the Snafu dive bar, where Itty & Fee remains written on a dollar bill, stuck to the ceiling…ahem,

All I want to finally say about food in New York, is DELI DELI DELI DELI! I miss them, I love them and if I had money I would open one bang in the centre of London for all the business folk. If only, so I could have access to 24 hour salad and Chinese food. As everything is done by weight, choose less dense options, ha ha! Our favourite midtown local deli was Cafe Olympia. Oh how I miss you so.

We were very good and only visited a Macdonalds establishment twice! (with our love of the golden arches, this was no mean feat!) While waiting in the queue, a woman approached me asking if I could buy her some food, as she was living in sheltered accommodation. I was more than happy to oblige, to help out someone who is hungry. We chatted in the queue together. I told her I was from London and she told me she had never left the states, or flown anywhere. I don’t know how but we ended up on some quite heavy topics, as she told me about another English girl she met who had moved to NY and was now on the streets smoking crack. The women asked me if we had drugs in England, I told her we did and explained I had lost a brother to addiction. She was shocked and sympathetic. She was also surprised we had homeless people and unemployment in England. I told her about the NHS and the minimum wage, she was impressed and told me the US minimum wage is $7.25  It was a very sobering exchange. I had come to her big city,  my eye’s all full of wonder and with the ‘grass is greener’ attitude. But in that moment I properly realised that the worlds are not so far apart. Also, as far as healthcare and minimum wage stands, how lucky I really am. On the same moment, I may have dashed her fairytale visions of England as one big tea party with the Queen! I gave her the burger and drink i had bought her and we said goodbye. I hope she gets on ok.

‘Picnic in Central Park‘ could be a movie….and it felt like one, as we sat eating our DELI lunch on a super hot day. You really can get lost in that place and forget where you are, apart from the occasional siren or top of a skyscraper amongst the tree’s.

Note: The dude playing the Erhu (Chinese two-stringed fiddle ) BADLY….No one needs to here Jingle Bells repeatedly in May! aaaaaarg, shut up!


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The High-line…easily one of my most memorable sights, this time around. A recreational space created from a old street level railway line. Perfect meeting of urban structures, nature and high design. I guess this must be haven for the New Yorkers, as an interesting escape from street level.  It runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th and 12th Avenues. You can access it at any point and it’s free! Makes me hope our garden bridge in London could be like this.

We arrived at the perfect time of day, just before sunset. As we reached the top end of the route the sun was setting and the city looked amazing. Seeing is believing really as it’s hard to explain.

To be continued….