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What Penguin Book Cover Designer and Illustrator Holly Ovenden Can’t Live Without

Photo-Illustration: Courtesy

If you’re like us, you’ve probably wondered what famous people add to their carts. Not the JAR brooch and Louis XV chair, but the stain-remover pen and the tongue cleaner. We asked Holly Ovenden, a book illustrator who works for Penguin (she’s designed covers for Jenny Zhang, Elif Shafak and more), about the sea-salt truffles, the vegetable trug, and the hand cream she can’t live without.

I first saw this blanket on the Instagram page the Modern House; it was in someone’s beautiful lounge just draped over a sofa, and I just thought God, that blanket is gorgeous. I was determined to find it. I searched and searched and eventually found it, and it was worth it. It’s a soft organic cotton, perfect to snuggle up in when I’m watching TVNormal People and Unorthodox have been on a lot recently — and it’s reversible. Monochrome is timeless and goes with everything. One side is black with white crosses and the other side is white with black crosses, which I love, because we have two British blue cats, and their fur gets everywhere.

My parents used to actually own a chocolate shop in Oxford when we were growing up, it was like a tea room with a shop on the side, and I used to work there on Saturdays. We sold these Charbonnel chocolates and I’ve loved them ever since; they’re expensive, definitely a treat, but I got a box of them for my birthday which was just perfect. I think with my job it’s no surprise that I’m drawn to things that are beautifully designed, and I think the packaging is just gorgeous, with the gold foil around the edge. I always keep the empty boxes, too — I currently have one on my desk, I use it to store paper clips and other bits and bobs.

I like to do pen and ink drawings when I have time. I started during school, I’d draw pineapples and random objects. This paper is made on a cold press, so it’s not smooth — it’s got a lovely texture to it. When you draw on it, the texture it creates is really cool. It’s not like some watercolour papers, where the ink sort of seeps into it; instead, the ink just stays on the surface perfectly. You can buy it in huge A1 sheets, which is the size I like to work with, so I’ve drawn a couple of big illustrations that I’ve recently hung up. I’ve been really hoping I would have enough time to start a new drawing, because each big illustration probably takes me about 60 hours.

As for the pen, I like to use the uni fine liners.

We recently bought the perfect coffee machine that does crema and milk frothing and all sorts. And so I thought I’d treat myself to some nice espresso mugs to have a macchiato in the morning. These are a shade called meringue, and what I like about them is they’re just a really good weight. They feel very substantial when you’re holding them.

I really like Le Creuset kitchenware — it was actually my birthday last week, and my husband bought me a salt pig in the same shade. I’ve got a very black-and-white kitchen.

This is the coffee machine we got — it really has made isolation more bearable.

I tried quite a few different creams before settling on this one; some are quite oily, or gritty, or too perfumed. I was actually buying a Chanel mascara when I saw this, I thought the shape of it was so unusual. It’s a perfect handbag size, and the cream itself is a lovely texture. It’s sort of rich, and you can really feel it sink into your hands when you apply it. It’s light, not overpowering, but still has a nice scent to it, like you’re at a spa. At the moment, washing your hands a lot, my hands are getting very dry, so I’ve been using this quite a lot.

Wacom Graphic Tablet

I use this to design and illustrate book covers on, and it’s just like a big mouse pad that you use a ‘pen’ on, rather than a mouse. It’s much easier to illustrate, you have more pin-point control. The Wacom Intuos Pro is pretty much the classic model — I first started using one about five years ago, when I got my first job at Bloomsbury publishing. Everyone was using one. Now I even use it as a mouse substitute for non-work things, like browsing the internet. I don’t think I could go back to using an actual mouse — they feel like a bar of soap in your hand.

This is probably the best thing I’ve bought recently. It’s a huge trug on legs — I’d say it’s nearly the size of my dinner table. I’m growing loads of vegetables in it, like cucumbers, beetroot, tomatoes, and radishes. And because it’s at table height, you can just go into the garden and pluck what you need. Normally I don’t have time to be growing things, but during lockdown my husband and I are both keen to try and enjoy our outside space, which is just a small garden, as much as possible, so we have a home-grown salad for lunch most days.

I have all of Sabrina Ghayour’s cookbooks, but this is the one I turn to. There’s all kinds of dishes in here, but I’m fond of the mezze and salads, and there’s a courgette fritter recipe with tahini dip that is really good. I also recommend the prawns with sumac.

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What Illustrator Holly Ovenden Can’t Live Without