An Interview with Alys Jones

Mar 23, 2015

An Interview with Alys Jones



Aly Jones is the Bristol-based illustrator behind the wonderful Beyond The Wire  a meta-fiction based on the First World War, a visual conversation with the poets and our collective historical knowledge of the years 1914-1918.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work.

I live in Bristol and work as a freelance illustrator (and shop assistant!). I studied on the B.A Illustration course at Falmouth a while ago, and returned for the M.A in Authorial Illustration in 2010.

Your book, Beyond The Wire, takes us to the trenches of World War I in a narrative you created based on historical research and your own personal response to the war. Can you tell us a bit about the motivation for this book, and how you approached the subject matter?

It started as a panicked response to being on an M.A and feeling that I had no ideas and was a bit lost, so I started drawing characters who were also lost, or abandoned or edited out of a story by their author. They were a mixture of sort of archetypal literary types who were kicking around in book limbo. Eventually I focused on one story, which was set in an unfinished World War One poem. At that point I had to do lots of research into uniforms, locations and equipment etc.

Each edition of Beyond the Wire is carefully handmade, and contains 117 hand-cut holes, which alter the images as the pages are turned. Do you think the craftsmanship and care that go into each book add something to the experience of the reader? If so, what?

I hope so, I think it’s a good way to explore meta-narrative, as you can break in and out of different levels of fiction and alter images by turning pages, to give a sense of shifting places and periods of time. I hope it’s visually interesting and also an unusual way to form a narrative structure. If not it’s just a way to give myself finger cramp and a headache. At least if someone looks through it, they know each copy has had lots of attention!


What was it like working with a small publishing company like Atlantic Press during the production of your book?

I really don’t think any other publisher would have taken on a book with so many hand cut holes in each copy. They were insistent we didn’t compromise the unusual qualities of the original, in order to make reproducing the book simpler. They also helped me a huge amount with the overall look and feel of the book.

What is your process like when beginning new work?

I have to make a lot of coffee that will go cold, light a joss stick, stroke the cat for a bit…basically procrastinate until the sense of panic and confusion boils over into a great big mess in my sketch book.

Sometimes, if I put a calming radio 4 play on, and don’t get distracted, I can turn this into actual artwork.


Any insight you could offer an aspiring illustrator?

Find a way to shoehorn your own interests into every project or commission and don’t be put off when everyone else’s work seems better! Just do your own thing and draw things you like to draw I suppose?

Do you have a favourite pencil?

0.5 HB mechanical pencil maybe… or 2B…and I like red colouring pencils!

Extracts taken from an interview originally posted by Amy Chalmers on as part of the Atlantic Press and Tiny Pencil exhibition and series of events at 64 Killigrew St in August 2014, photos from Alys’ blog: and website:

Read Andy Oliver’s excellent Broken Frontier Small Press spotlight on Alys Jones and Beyond the Wire here! 


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