Vintage restyled: Cardiff’s Castle Emporium

Cardiff Castle Emporium general outside shotFor the past two years, the old converted cinema opposite Clwb Ifor Bach was home to Cardiff Fashion Quarter, the go-to place for vintage clothing and knick-knacks. While it had a lot to offer fashionistas, it was perhaps quite limited, both in its offering and the layout of the space.

Relaunched by new owner James Morgan-Rees, CFQ has transformed into The Castle Emporium. While some of the old traders remain (Rock-ola Reborn, Eagle Eye Vintage, AMARAS), there is a new range of stalls, i.e. a whole lot more vintage-gem-hunting to get excited about.

We took a walk around the Emporium, snapping some of the independent businesses that have set up shop.

Cardiff Castle Emporium aerialThe view from the first floor – the colourful stalls are a treat for the eyes

Cardiff Castle Emporium candle tinsRoughneck Candles recycle pocket sized tins by turning them into kitsch homeware

Cardiff Castle Emporium minotaur booksJust some of the bookshelves at Minotaur Books, who stock everything from popular poetry to obscure dystopian literature

Cardiff Castle Emporium Al's Musique BoutiqueCardiff Castle Emporium bow ties suitcase Cardiff Castle Emporium horse whiskyAl from Al’s Musique Boutique poses alongside vintage clothing and accessories for gentlemen

Cardiff Castle Emporium mario kart yoshi playstation 2Cardiff Geek Party‘s shop houses games memorabilia, retro consoles and stacks of bargain computer games

Cardiff Castle Emporium Super Mario Bros gaming stationWe’ll be heading back here for the Mario Tournament. There’s a different game leaderboard each month; Matt’s hoping he gets a chance to show off his Crash Team Racing expertise

Cardiff Castle Emporium vegan chocolate cake Cardiff Castle Emporium vegan snacks chocolateSo many yummy treats at Simply V, including marshmallows, wagon wheels and chocolates – and they’re all vegan!

Cardiff Castle Emporium vintage clothes Rock-olaCardiff Castle Emporium vintage jumpers Cardiff Castle Emprium shelves of bric a bracFor fans of upcycling and vintage fashion, there are stacks of menswear, womenswear and accessories to dig through

With the rejuvenated vintage haven sitting firmly at the top end of Womanby Street, it makes what is already a culturally busy passageway even more exciting. Take a stroll winding around the Emporium then down to Urban Tap House; you won’t be disappointed.

Know any other great spots in Cardiff for finding vintage treasures? Comment below or tweet your suggestions @Creative_Hacks.

Amy sig

14 alternative date ideas for couples on Valentine’s Day

15018392488_59306af6c0_kIf you’ve got someone to share the annual day of love with (wahoo!), you’ll want to make the night memorable. Picking one of these alternatives to the traditional wine-and-dine dinner date will ensure you both have lots of fun, get to spend quality time together and have something to look back on in the future. There’s no expiry on these ideas, by the way, so even if it’s not February 14th you can still win hearts in a creative and thoughtful way that beats the norm.

1. Complete a jigsaw puzzle

indoorAs a society, we have forgotten the joy of connecting oddly shaped pieces of cardboard together to create a picture. Yes, jigsaw puzzles are still as fun as they were when you first assembled those 25-piece pre-school masterpieces. Allow your date the honour of putting the magical final piece in place and watch their heart melt.

2. Buy tickets for a band you’ve never heard before

Discovering something new together is always memorable. Seek out a hotly-tipped band that neither of you have listened to and buy a pair of tickets. If the band’s great, you can show off your best (or worst) dance moves, pretend to know all the words and listen to their album together next time you hang out. If they suck, you can chill by the bar and discuss your superior music tastes over rounds of shots.

3. Borrow a dog

Dog walkies on lead - credit to amtaylorphotographyIf you and your date both love dogs but aren’t able to have one due to other life commitments, Borrow My Doggy is for you. The website links up dog owners with eager animal lovers, hosting a massive network of pooches that need someone to play with. It’s a perfect opportunity to get outdoors and do something different together while bonding over a shared love of puppies.

4. Host a themed movie night

Cuddling up on the sofa and sticking on a DVD is cosy, but we know you can do better. Take your movie night to another level by preparing themed drinks and snack foods to nibble on while you watch. For example, a viewing of The Big Lebowski can be accompanied with a pair of classy White Russians, while Tarantino fans can knock up their own version of the infamous ‘Five Dollar Shake’ or build a tasty ‘Big Kahuna Burger’ while watching Pulp Fiction. Bonus points if you wear fancy dress.

5. Enrol in a class

Watercolours and brushEven if you have completed your formal education, that doesn’t mean you have to stop learning. Plenty of extra-curricular classes are out there to teach you skills and help you to find new hobbies. It can be nerve-wracking going alone, but invite a date along and you’ll have a great opportunity to reveal a different side of your personality.

6. Volunteer for a cause you both support

Doing good for somebody else is one of the most wonderful feelings in the world. If you don’t have a lot of money to spare for charities, volunteering can be a great way to support a cause you care about. If you and your date are passionate about the same issues, helping to make the world a better place while spending time together is an absolute win-win.

7. Play board games together

7366181556_9201aa0f3d_kDust off those classic board games in the cupboard (or find some treasures in a charity shop) and prepare to get competitive. If you want to get really geeky with it, draw up a league table and invite other couples along for regular board game nights. Plenty of pubs and bars keep a collection of games for punters to play with if you fancy getting out of the house – our favourites in Cardiff are Brewdog and Porter’s.

8. Watch live action sport at a local arena

It doesn’t matter if neither of you are hardcore followers of your regional wrestling team or even whether you know the rules; it’s the taking part (in the crowd) that counts. Buy last minute tickets on the cheap, pick a side and shout along with the devout fans around you. We tried this at a Tiger Bay Brawlers roller derby bout. I had no idea what was going on but had an absolute blast.

9. Venture somewhere new

338796_10150984867020270_496608346_oGrab a map of the local area and pick somewhere at random to walk or drive to. Treat the excursion as a mini-adventure, taking photos of landmarks along the way and any funny incidents that happen. One of my favourite pictures of Matt is one of him cleaning cow dung off his shoe, partly because it was hilarious (sorry, Matt) and also because it was taken on a lovely walk we did (mostly the first point).

10. Seek out something neither of you care about

Here’s the logic: by going to something neither of you would ordinarily opt to go to, you’re both starting on the same clueless and neutral footing. Pick a film at the cinema that sounds like something you’d usually ignore, watch a play by the local am-dram circuit or wander around a random exhibition at an art gallery. You may both love it, both hate it or have different opinions. Whatever the reaction, it’ll get you talking and experiencing something new together.

11. Complete a computer game together

crash3Video games are not just for boys. Game-fearing girls, now is your chance to impress. Grab the second controller, speed-read the manual and let your other half guide you through the imaginary pixel world that stole his heart years before you were on the scene. Once you know what you’re doing (or even just kind-of get it), kick digital butt together. You’ll probably find you have your own special role in the tag team. I like collecting things and running away from the baddies on platform games (pacifist/sucker for animated trinkets).

12. Visit an animal sanctuary

2604954713_9c0859548d_b“So cute!” “So cuddly!” “Awh, look at his face!” You too could find yourself cooing over fluffy friends with your other half. Feel the fuzzy excitement and mushiness that comes from perusing corridors of big-eyed pets calling out for an owner. A word of advice: leave your bags at home, or else risk the urge to sneak off with a kitten on your way out.

13. Get crafty for each other

Gather some crafty bits from your old art cupboard (or some items with crafty potential out of the recycling bin, like cardboard or bottles), Google an easy craft project and follow the tutorial together. Your lucky partner will be the proud owner of your masterpiece and vice versa, so even if it’s ugly as roadkill it doesn’t matter. It’s the thought that counts, right?

14. Set up camp

marshmallowIt’s relatively easy to book an overnight stay in a nice hotel, but it’s also costly and somewhat traditional. Go off the beaten track to a luxurious campsite – one with running water and hot showers. Here you can bond while putting up your tent, heating a hearty meal on the fire and snuggling up under the stars. Bring plenty of yummy food and travel games to keep it fun, and lots of wet wipes so that you both feel fresh.

If you find success with any of these, or if you have your own recommendation for a humdrum-free date, share it with a comment below or tweet @Creative_Hacks. Spread the love!

Amy sig

Craft comes to Cardiff at Made By Hand Wales

Scene 3 copyThe idea of a craft fair may conjure up childhood memories of being dragged around musty church halls commandeered by older generations’ knitting collections. While these village pop-ups still happen, the recession has left us with an appreciation of the artistry of homemade handcrafted goods. Contemporary craft fairs house locals’ labours of love that you would genuinely want to own and would happily display in your home.

Made by Hand Wales is the first of a number of creative events and opportunities sponsored by the Welsh Government. The government scheme supports small creative businesses across Wales, like the SME crafters at this event. Made by Hand Wales also gave attendees the chance to get closer to crafting through public workshops, exhibitions and demonstrations. Here, we round up five of the most eye-catching craft stalls of the fair.

Treefall Design

ARTIST Treefall Design 2 resize ARTIST Treefall Design 9 resize ARTIST Treefall Design 11 resizeTreefall Design, the creations of Manda McGrory, sells clothing, accessories and cuddly toys for little ones. With one of the best dressed stalls at the fair, their bold and unconventional wares were impossible to ignore.

EllyMental Jewellery

ARTIST EllyMental 2 resizeCardiff-based EllyMental Jewellery caught my eye with beautifully displayed pug and bear necklaces (oh, Santa…). Elly layers her illustrations (drawn on paper) onto shaped metal, then finishes them with resin to form brooches, pendants and other delicate jewellery.

Megan Alice England

ARTIST Megan Alice England 4 resizeCheltenham-based textile and screenprint wizard Megan Alice England makes cute, witty gifts and accessories. Her simplistic designs make an impact on the natural materials they are printed onto.

Print Garage

ARTIST Print Garage 1 resize
These prints by Iain Perry – a.k.a. Print Garage – are made by hand in Iain’s Stafford garage (hence the name). The pastel colours contrast with injections of neon, while the pop culture references push you to notice their understated appeal.

Samantha Bryan

ARTIST S Bryan 3 resizeSamantha Bryan crafts 3D mixed media fairies going about their everyday lives, each with their own back story.

The artists featured here are just five of the 130 companies that attended the Made by Hand Wales fair. It’s really promising to see such a wealth of talent coming from the UK, and even better to see hoards of visitors enthusiastically supporting the exhibitors. To find out more, visit the Made By Hand website.

Next time you see a pop up craft fair or stall, pop in and have a browse. You never know what you may find!

Amy sig

Street art spotting at Empty Walls, Cardiff


Since late September, Cardiff has become one giant canvas, inviting over 20 different artists to display their distinct styles on public walls for all to see.

This arrival of outdoor creativity is thanks to the Empty Walls project, an annual street art festival run by the Art Council of Wales in a collaboration with creative groups like Made in Roath and Cardiff Contemporary. The event has injected some much needed colour and creativity into the city’s dingiest corners, made a range of artistic styles more accessible and given talented artists the space to show off their skills.

With the advice of a well informed lady working at The Abacus gallery (a handy centre point for much of the art on show), we set off hunting for inspiration on the streets. As you can see, we weren’t disappointed!


This freaky depiction is by Dutch artist Jo¥, who works by randomly flinging paint on to a surface until a form emerges


One of the most ambitious artworks to pop up was this freaky skeletal beast by North Wales born illustrator Phlegm


Another of Phlegm’s creations – this one was lurking behind a multi-storey car park


Amy took a break from street art spotting on one of The Abacus’s upcycled crate chairs – surprisingly comfy!


Local artist Philip Morgan painted this cross-dressing Welshman for Empty Walls


Here’s me hanging out with Welsh accordionist Guto Dafis, who was pasted up by local photographer Dan Green. He must be there to liven up this rather grotty car park with his music, although we didn’t hear a peep from him


This huge, cartoonish mural by Italian artist Zed1 was our favourite – fun and imaginative in equal measure

If you’re in Cardiff and fancy seeing these artworks up close and personal, we recommend paying The Abacus a visit – several of these pieces can be found on or around the building, and the gallery offers handy maps showing you how to find the rest.

We’d like to check out some more inspiring street art, so if you’ve seen a masterpiece in a public space and snapped a photo of it, be sure to tweet us @Creative_Hacks and show us!

Matt

Blackberry picking on Cumnor Hurst, Oxfordshire

mamyonhurstI think everyone should have somewhere they can go to feel like a kid again. For me, Cumnor Hurst is one such place.

hurst2This wooded hill on the outskirts of Oxfordshire isn’t too far from my parents’ house, and is perfect for an autumn adventure. It’s best known as the site of some famous dinosaur discoveries: Europe’s first fossilised Camptosaurus was discovered here, along with sea dwelling monsters like Plesiosaurs and Ichthyosaurs.

The Hurst has more to offer than ancient lizard remains though – nowadays, it’s home to a couple of amiable Dexter cows who wander freely to graze on brambles, and the top of the hill boasts spectacular views across the Oxfordshire countryside.

The two of us wandered up there last weekend to hunt for conkers, but found something even better – turns out it’s the perfect time of year to pick blackberries, and we weren’t about to let the opportunity go to waste.

picking
So many berries!

bbs
Amy did most of the harvesting…

stuck
…but her enthusiasm led to a few thorny situations.

log
Blackberries are full of nutrients, and can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet. Oh snap.

fieldview
Fields and trees as far as the eye can see.

IMG_6399
Dexter cows have short legs, so enjoy snacking on low-lying vegetation. This guy didn’t mind us taking a few berries.

For us city dwellers, this stroll through the countryside was a welcome break. The blackberries tasted ten times better in the knowledge that we found and foraged them ourselves. I highly recommend making the most of the season’s new arrivals and finding a local patch to pick your own. If this post hasn’t persuaded you, hopefully our upcoming recipe for wild fruit crumble will!

Matt