Stocksy – curated with love

Stocksy is so much more than an image library. Its website is home to a curated selection of royalty-free photographs, illustrations and videos that have changed our expectations about what stock images can do. They’re also a co-operative believing in creative integrity, fair profit sharing, and co-ownership – every voice is heard.

We'll be meeting some of their artists over the coming months to find out more. First up, Liliya Rodnikova, a photographer who also loves body art and glitter…

*This is a sponsored post*

Photo:  Liliya Rodnikova

Photo: Liliya Rodnikova

Where do you live?  "I live in a small city called Penza in Russia. There are lots of young, talented and creative people here, so it’s easy to collaborate and make my ideas a reality."

What inspires you?  "I like the quote: ‘Inspiration exists but it has to find you at work’. I’ve tried to figure out my personal list of inspiring things a thousand times, but I’ve never finished it. Anything or anyone may become my source of inspiration, but the most important is not to miss this unique and powerful feeling and start working before the magic is gone."

Why do you love photography?  "Photography is dream work! I’m the only person who decides how much and when I should work, and how much time I can spend on my passions like drawing or painting – or I can even unite them all! Another important thing for me is the fact that photography should document reality as it is, but it never does. There is always a difference between what your eyes see and what is in the photo. And this difference is the artistry for me. Something totally unpredictable and amazing. I’ll never get tired of it."

Photo:  Liliya Rodnikova

Photo: Liliya Rodnikova

Stocksy: stock photography + cinematography, made with love

Support Oh Comely at Waitrose

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Exciting news – Oh Comely's early spring issue will be available in lots more Waitrose stores from Thursday 21 February 2019. Take a peek at the list below, and if you’re nearby, please do show your support by picking up a copy.

We hope you love the issue, as much as we have loved creating it.

Thanks so much x

Waitrose issue 47 stockists

Berkshire
Bracknell
Maidenhead
Reading
Twyford
Wokingham

Buckinghamshire
Milton Keynes, Middleton
Oakgrove

Cambridgeshire
Peterborough
Trumpington

Cheshire
Cheadle Hulme
Chester
Northwich

Cornwall
Saltash, Tamar View

Devon
Exeter
Okehampton
Sidmouth

Dorset
Parkstone
Wimborne

Essex
Admiral park
Colchester
Southend on Sea

Gloucestershire
Cheltenham

Hampshire
Locks Heath
Lymington
Ringwood
Waterlooville

Herefordshire
Berkhamsted
St Albans

Kent
Beckenham
Canterbury
Gillingham
Sevenoaks
Tonbridge

Lancashire
Preston, Walton le Dale

Lincolnshire
Lincoln

Leicestershire
Oadby

London
Balham
Battersea Nine Elms
Bayswater
Bloomsbury, The Brunswick Centre
Bromley South
Camden
Canary Wharf
East Sheen
Finchley, Ballards Lane
Gloucester Road
Greenwich
High Street Kensington
Holloway
New Malden
Ruislip
Swiss Cottage
Wapping
Wandsworth, Southside Shopping Centre
West Ealing
Westfield White City
Wimbledon

Middlesex
Harrow
Twickenham

Norfolk
North Walsham
Norwich
Wymondham


Northamptonshire
Rushden

Oxfordshire
Abingdon

Somerset
Bath
Portishead
Wellington
Weston Super Mare

Staffordshire
Lichfield
Uttoxeter

Suffolk
Ipswich
Newmarket
Sudbury

Surrey
Cobham
Farnham
Richmond
Sanderstead

Sussex
Brighton
Burgess Hill
East Grinstead
Horsham

Warwickshire
Kenilworth
Worcester

Wiltshire
Salisbury

Worcestershire
Malvern
Worcester

Yorkshire
Hull
Leeds, Meanwood
Sheffield, Eccleshall Road
York

Guernsey
Rohais
St Peter Port

Jersey
La Route Orange St Brelade
Red Houses
St Helier

Scotland
Edinburgh, 38 Comely Bank
Edinburgh, 145 Morningside Road
Helensburgh, Cardross Road
Stirling

Wales
Abergavenny
Barry
Newport
Pontprennau


Of course you can also order a copy from our shop, free postage in the UK


A celebration of women in contemporary art and tattooing for IWD 2019

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Tattoo shop The Circle in London will be celebrating International Women’s Day on Friday 8 March 2019 with an exciting exhibition featuring the work of seven female artists: Athena Anastasiou, Pang, Heleena Mistry, Laura Callaghan (whose artwork is on the cover of issue 42 ), Sally Hewett, Linzie Elliott and Catriona Faulkner.

By Laura Callaghan

By Laura Callaghan

Their work ranges from collages and paintings to assemblage and textiles. Rather than prescribe a theme, each artist has created pieces which celebrate womanhood and what this means to them. Their work will be on display in the ground floor gallery space.

By Athena Anastasiou

By Athena Anastasiou

By Sally Hewett

By Sally Hewett

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Meanwhile downstairs in The Circle’s basement, tattoo artists Paula J DaveyKenzie  and Liz Clements will be holding a tattoo flash event, tattooing pre-drawn designs from £50 for the evening.

All proceeds from the flash will go to the charity Refuge.


Register for IWD at The Circle here

Say hello to Vel-Oh

We meet Greta and Zulfi, the husband and wife team of designers who created Vel-Oh. We love Vel-Oh bags because they are designed with the cycle to work commuter in mind, but you certainly don't have to own a bike to enjoy them. Greta and Zulfi focus on giving each of their handmade products versatility – for example a totebag that converts to a backpack – but also keeping them super stylish. We had a chat with them to find out more…

Pssst, keep reading because we have a competition to win £100 of Vel-Oh goodies too.

*This is a sponsored post*

Greta and Zulfi

Greta and Zulfi

Can you tell us a little more about when you first had the idea to create Vel-Oh?
Greta: “One day a friend was packing up his life in London and moving onto his next adventure – and he left me his bike! It was an old racer that had been hand painted gold. I started cycling to work the very next day. Zulfi also came into a bike not long after, so we were now both commuting to work by bike – which was great. But we struggled to find a stylish bag that made us happy and was also practical to cycle with. I’m quite a ‘do it yourself’ kinda person, always have been, all my friends and family have had gifts that I made – hats that I knitted, trousers, skirts, purses etc… So we went to the pub one evening, drew up a design on a napkin and created a prototype not long after that. Of course, it took a few prototypes to get the bag to look and do what we wanted but we got there by around number three. We loved wearing our own creations. We intended to just make one each for each of us, but we both got quite a thrill from the whole design process and we thought why not try and take it to market?”

When did we realise that you knew we could really make it happen?
”That’s a tough one. We didn’t – and on some level we still don’t! We’re just happy living in the now, using our creativity and making things come to life.”

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We love your ethos about working and creating wherever you go – where’s your dream location? We know you recently moved to Ireland from London. How different is riding a bike there?
”Ah, I think our dream location would have to be where it all started – London. Maybe we’ll migrate back one day. When Vel-Oh started we both still had full-time jobs – because, let’s face it, London rent ain’t cheap – and after a while working two jobs just got to be too much. But we weren’t ready to give up so we had to rethink our living situation and see where we could compromise. Suddenly a family-owned holiday home in Ireland became available to us and we didn’t think twice before we jumped onto the possibility of living in the country. Giving Vel-Oh a real good go without any distractions or the need for day jobs. We’ve been here for just over two years now and we don’t regret making the move. We put all our energy into Vel-Oh, and now we’re at a place we couldn’t have ever been if we stayed in London – unless we suddenly won a lottery. But rural Ireland did come as a shock. Cycling is certainly not a popular thing to do, especially not for commuting… Roads here can get a little bumpy and so it required us getting different bikes. But we love it, it’s so beautiful.”

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Tell us a little about the process of making each of your products? Do your skills complement each other’s?"
”Zulfi tends to do all the prep work as he’s more meticulous and patient, and I then put all those puzzle pieces together. We like doing different things in the studio so it works very smoothly – most of the time.”

What's it like working with your husband? 
”Our battles are mostly about who’s turn it is to make tea – and they can get pretty heated.”

Do you have a favourite Vel-Oh bag or product?
“My favourite has to be the first bag we’ve ever produced, which is the Commuter bag, now reworked as the Worker bag. It is a totebag / backpack hybrid, because it’s why and where it all started!”

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What does a day at Vel-Oh HQ look like?
”Our alarm goes off at 7am, but we’re usually only up at 8am. We put a pot of coffee on, check our emails, do a little Insta post and after checking the weather app we decide whether we’ll be going straight out on the bikes to post orders or whether we go into the studio first and do some manufacturing. Our days are quite similar but never the same as they’re dictated by the weather. We have to cycle 12km to the post office and another 12 back, and although we don’t mind getting wet depending on the volume of orders we can’t always protect them all from the rain. There are some days of course where we don’t manufacture and simply plan the next show, design some flyers or do research or work on a new design. But our days always end when our tummies start rumbling, asking for dinner.”


To be in with a chance of winning £100 to spend at Vel-Oh, simply answer the question below.

What's special about the Worker bag?
1. You can only use it for work.
2. It's a totebag / backpack hybrid and Vel-Oh's first ever product.
3. It's glow in the dark.

Give your answer here.

Good luck.

Iceberg T&Cs: The competition closes 22 March 2019. A winner will be chosen at random from all correct entries after this time and notified shortly after. Full terms and conditions are at icebergpress.co.uk/comprules.


















Silly Girl Club

Ayoola Solarin meets Nikki Millar, founder of nostalgic brand Silly Girl Club, which turns old bedding into the most fabulous clothes…

Nikki Millar, founder of Silly Girl Club

Nikki Millar, founder of Silly Girl Club

You’re most likely to find Nikki Millar in her home studio, face to face with some of the most well-known celebrities of our time. With her flat stacked wall to wall with hundreds of Disney bed sheets, Nikki hardly has any time for real-life people as she spends her days with Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Buzz Lightyear and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Her sharp sewing skills and childhood penchant for all things ’90s has manifested into career passion project, Silly Girl Club – a brand dedicated to upcycling nostalgic fabric to produce eco-friendly, affordable fashion. Nikki, the one-woman team behind the Leicester-based project, has been collecting long-forgotten fabrics of animated heroes since she was 14. Silly Girl Club has now grown into a fully-fledged business, producing dresses, bumbags, playsuits, patches and more, while maintaining an ethos to encourage recycling and ethical sourcing.

How would you describe Silly Girl Club? Carefree, fun and nostalgic. And I think the recycling also has a big part. Well, I like to think so because it’s the part I’m most passionate about!

How did it begin? I used to go to car boots all the time when I was younger. I love cartoons and whenever I saw fun bed sheets, I’d collect them. I had piles of them around my house. I started sewing in 2004 and making my own clothing because there was nothing I liked in the town that I lived in. And the bedding was just so bright and amazing.

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When did you start making stuff for other people? I hadn’t made or sewn anything for years after I left university because I absolutely hated studying fashion. But then my make-up bag broke and I made a replacement and put it on Instagram. People loved it! I put something on Depop and it sold within minutes – I couldn’t believe it. I made a few more bits and they sold again, and that’s when I figured there’s a demand for this. I kept making things alongside my full-time job as a hobby to get myself back into sewing again.

I managed a bar for eight years but as Silly Girl Club developed a stronger online presence, I would end up working a 9am-6pm shift at the bar and then sew before work and afterwards – it was exhausting. I thought something’s got to give and I didn’t want it to be Silly Girl Club.

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What’s the deal with nostalgia, anyway? Nostalgia takes you back to a carefree time when you didn’t really have any worries, when you felt more free. It’s got that lovely feeling about it. This a major reason why I started Silly Girl Club – nostalgia makes people happy and I just feed off people’s excitement. Cartoons are fun! I love the colours and how anything can happen in a cartoon. It makes life less boring, doesn’t it?

How do you source your fabrics? I’ve accumulated so much over time. I’ve been collecting fabrics for years so I used to have suitcases and boxes full. But now I’ve been getting through it really quickly. There’s a guy in America that goes thrift shopping for me, he is my absolute hero. Other than that, my favourite hobby is charity shopping and nowadays, followers send me stuff too. They’ll say “Oh, I had this in my cupboard and I don’t use it anymore, do you want it?” – it’s the nicest thing in the world.

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How does recycling and sustainability factor in? For me, I don’t really buy anything new from shops unless I really have to. I’ve always bought secondhand and it’s been a conscious decision for me because I don’t like waste. Recycling and knowing where something’s come from is a massive deal to me, I don’t think I could make clothing that I knew wasn’t recycled.

There’s a quote from a BBC report that hit me hard – it said if clothing consumption continues as it is, by 2050, fast fashion  will account for a quarter of our total impact on climate change. And ethically speaking, I always look at my clothing and the stitch lines and think, a human has made these. They’ve probably worked the same amount of time as me, maybe more, and they are most likely not getting a fair wage. I don’t think people often think about it. People are very enthusiastic about recycling but they don’t think of fast fashion in the same context.

What does Silly Girl Club represent? I want it to be fun, but also conscious and inclusive. I try as much as possible to make things that are easily worn and affordable. When I first started SGC, a few people emailed me to say how much they appreciated no fastenings on the clothes. It’s important for everyone to feel included. Even monetarily, for people who are less able to afford things, I’ve started prices from as little as £2.50 so that anyone can be part of Silly Girl Club.

What does running a small business mean to you? Honestly, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done. Every day I wake up super happy and I jump up into my sewing room straight away because it’s crazy, I’m doing what I love. It’s given me some confidence I never thought I had, which is amazing.

Follow Silly Girl Club on Insta @sillygirlclub

Chef Kim Alter

We were very lucky to meet chef Kim Alter and try her wonderful tasting menu, while she was making food magic for a short guest spot at Carousel London. She’s the founder of Nightbird in San Francisco, and creates a fortnightly tasting menu inspired by ingredients from the rich Californian coastline. We had a chat to find out more about her inspiration.

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Kim, tell us about your tasting menu, can you talk us through its creation? How do you decide what to use and how? It was a little hard in London, since I base my menu on what I can physically pick out at a farmer's market in San Francisco.  But I just based it on what was in season and what could I make best in an unfamiliar kitchen.  

We know you're very inspired by San Francisco, what is it that you love most about the place and the food? The product is probably number one.  I go to the farmers’ market every day and have strong relationships with every farmer, to the point of knowing the name of the animal or what the captain's name is on the boat that caught the fish. The community is amazing too, we always take care of each other – whether it is stopping by for a drink or to borrow something when needed. I have travelled a lot, and our hospitality in SF is at the top I think.

What do you most want Londoners to learn from your menu? Is it different to what you have created in SF? I guess I would want them to see that you can be in a casual setting and have a plate of food that isn't too precious but showcases technique and tastes delicious. That is what we try to accomplish at Nightbird.  I wouldn't say the menu done was a 360 from Nightbird, but you would get a very different experience in SF.

When did you fall in love with cooking? Do you remember the moment you knew you wanted to be a chef? I fell in love with cooking early, not through family traditions, but I like making people happy.  Cooking for school projects and seeing the excitement on people's faces when you made something was very gratifying. 

What's it like being a woman in what is traditionally a male-dominated industry? Do you think it's changing? I mean I could go down a #metoo road here, but I think our business is very hard and if I am treated unfairly or in a way I wouldn't treat someone, my mind always goes to, "Is it because I am a woman?".  Maybe it is, but all that does is make me work harder to prove to myself – being a woman only makes me stronger.

What do you love to do outside your cheffing world? How do you relax? There isn't a lot of time when you own a small business. I work every day, but when there is a break, I normally try to look after my health. Lots of acupuncture, barre class and then drinking and eating with friends

What are your hopes for the future? For you and your food? I have a lot of hopes. I hope hospitality isn't dying! It's getting harder and harder to be in this industry so I hope I can grow with the changes and technology, but not lose who I am as a chef.  I only can hope for evolution, always. Being stagnant is not an option for me, my staff or my food.

Next time, we’d like to try Kim’s food against a San Franciscan backdrop. Give Nightbird a follow on Insta @nightbirdsf and head there if you’re in the area.

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams at the V&A

Ahead of its opening on Saturday 2 February, Terri-Jane Dow gives us a sneak peek around the dreamy new exhibition opening at the V&A.

Christian Dior with model Sylvie, circa 1948. Courtesy of Christian Dior

Christian Dior with model Sylvie, circa 1948. Courtesy of Christian Dior

"I have designed flower women."

Opening 2 February, the V&A’s latest exhibition looks at Christian Dior’s influence on the fashion world, from 1947 until now. With more than 500 pieces, over 150 items of which have never been publicly displayed before, it’s a fitting tribute to the fashion house which completely changed the idea of what style was.

In post-war Paris, Christian Dior genuinely became a hero figure, creating full skirts and wide shoulders in a display of abundance where for years there had been a lack of. Women who had been making do and mending no longer needed to. With no more fabric rations or shortages, Dior used padding, corsetry and petticoats in his designs – and reams and reams of fabric. In 1947, he presented these voluptuous new shapes in his first collection, named Corolle, but termed “the New Look” by Carmel Snow, editor of Harpers Bazaar. With its full skirt, cinched-in waist and wide-shouldered jacket, the Bar Suit redefined what fashion could be, cemented Paris as the heart of the design world, and changed the direction of fashion design forever. Dior’s designs influenced the fashion world so much that the Corolle dresses and his other silhouettes – the Zig Zag line, the Tulip, the Winged line - seem ubiquitous of the 1950s. It’s stunning to see these as sketches and early illustrations, to really see where they have come from.

Christian Dior (1905–57), Bar Suit, Haute Couture, SpringSummer 1947, Corolle Line.  Photo (c) Laziz Hamani. Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Christian Dior (1905–57), Bar Suit, Haute Couture, SpringSummer 1947, Corolle Line.
Photo (c) Laziz Hamani. Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Dior: Designer of Dreams was opened first in Paris, at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs two years ago, but has been expanded in its move to the V&A’s new Sainsbury Wing to include a British section – fitting for a couturier whose love for British tailoring was evident from the start. He wrote, "There is no other country in the world, besides my own, whose way of life I like so much. I love English traditions, English politeness, English architecture. I even love English cooking." Christian Dior had fallen in love with England as a visiting 21-year-old from Normandy, working on his English fluency. He went on to stage secret shows for the Royal Family (famously dressing Princess Margaret for her 21st birthday in 1951) and included British high society women in his personal client lists.

Princess Margaret (1930-2002), photo Cecil Beaton (1904-80), London, UK, 1951. © Cecil Beaton, Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Princess Margaret (1930-2002), photo Cecil Beaton (1904-80), London, UK, 1951. © Cecil Beaton, Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Just ten years after founding his fashion house, Christian Dior died in 1957, and so although there will be inevitable comparisons with Savage Beauty, the V&A’s incredible Alexander McQueen retrospective from 2015, this is not just about Dior himself. This exhibition is much more a collaboration of the design house’s founder and its six succeeding artistic directors – Yves Saint Laurent, Marc Bohan, Gianfranco Ferré, John Galliano, Raf Simons, and Maria Grazia Chiuri (Dior’s first female, and current, director).

Monsieur Dior travelled extensively with his work, often taking trips with models to showcase his designs, and there is a room dedicated to the influences and inspirations from other countries outside of French couture. With a mixture of dresses from all seven designers in every room, Galliano’s turquoise Egyptian dress with its Anubis head greets you as you walk in, and Chiuri’s Mexican inspired gowns are reminiscent of the V&A’s Frida Kahlo exhibition last year.

Galliano’s designs are, perhaps unsurprisingly, the most outlandish – pulling your eye toward them in every room. Chiuri’s lines are softer, closer in similarity to Bohan’s designs than anyone else’s. The dresses by Yves Saint Laurent, just 21 when he took the helm at Christian Dior, make the 1960s swing shape feel timeless. It’s interesting to see the threads which run through all of the designs, and what each of the House’s directors has chosen to emphasise or minimise. Though the vast majority of the exhibition mixes the directors designs, there is a section dedicated to each individual designer. It feels very special to see the influences each designer has had on the next, and how the last 70 years at Dior have shaped fashion elsewhere.

V&A Christian Dior Designer of Dreams exhibition, Ballroom section (c) ADRIEN DIRAND

V&A Christian Dior Designer of Dreams exhibition, Ballroom section (c) ADRIEN DIRAND

As the biggest V&A installation since Savage Beauty, there are 11 rooms to walk though, and each dress here is completely made by hand. Especially in light of that fact, the scale of the exhibition is breathtaking. As well as the finished haute couture dresses, there is a room of cotton toiles on display, and a film of Dior’s staff, Les Petits Mains (literally, “the little hands”), at work. The ‘garden’ room, decorated with thousands of paper flowers, is truly spectacular. The Ball Room, with a centrepiece of glittering gowns, changes lighting as you walk around it – from bright daylight, to a glitzy party, to a night sky complete with shooting stars dancing across the ceiling. Handily, there’s seating, from which you can sit and watch the show.

The exhibition runs until July, and I’ll definitely be back for at least three more visits before it closes.

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams, supported by Swarovski, runs from 2 February – 14 July 2019 at the V&A Museum, South Kensington.







Mother, Monster

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In our
midwinter issue Intan Paramaditha writes about her mother and the different people she can become.

My mother has played hide and seek all her life. Sometimes she is around, sometimes she isn’t. A year ago she was diagnosed with a serious illness. Through some divine or devilish intervention, she has been showing signs of recovery in the past two months. The mind, however, is a delicate matter. ‘Sometimes I feel she’s someone else,’ said my father, a former abominable patriarch now turned nurse. This was not the first time. My mother had gone to another space before, and had returned as another woman.

My mother was the one who taught me to read, write, and tell stories. When I was a child, she bought me many books but never read me bedtime stories. She invented her own. She would tweak fairy tales by adding new characters, contexts, twists. I, too, wanted to create my own stories, so when I was in fourth grade, my mother bought me a typewriter. My writing journey began with the voice and words of my mother. 

It was a hot ordinary day in Jakarta when the other side started to reveal itself. I was in my bedroom when I heard a shriek from the kitchen. My mother had broken a plate in the kitchen sink, on purpose, and was wailing like an animal. I sat in silence. I finally came out of my room to ask her, in a meek voice, if she was ok. I received no answer. In the evening she acted as if nothing had happened. And I wondered: who was that madwoman in the kitchen? Did a monster, for a brief moment, enter her body? Was she kerasukan, possessed?

I have lost my mother several times since then. Each time she returned, she became another person. And another. And another. I lost her for the first time in 1997, when I was seventeen. I cannot reconstruct fragmented memories; all I can say is that I spent a lot of time in the hospital’s ICU, waiting for her to wake up. After a week she finally opened her eyes, and she held me. I was crying, but I wasn’t sure if it was my mother that I embraced.

Not long after that, I lost her again. I could not find her at home. ‘Your mother needs some time to recover,’ my father said. I was angry that my mother constantly played hide and seek, and I believed my father was to blame. He was the tyrant in the house, and it took me a long time in my adult life to make peace with him. I decided to stay at a friend’s house, seeking refuge with another family until my mother returned from her hiding place.

As I write this, I am probably playing hide and seek, too. I conceal many things about my mother, but I reserve the right of the storyteller: we tell some stories and erase others.

This was the official story of my mother’s absence: she went to a remote place to learn about Islam and spirituality with a Muslim teacher. I imagined that an exorcism was performed to force the demons out of her body. When my mother returned, her eyes looked empty, but she became more religious and started to wear the hijab. 

I observed her day by day and concluded that she had been bitten by wild beasts in the wood. This woman with a hijab was not her; it was another woman, another mother.  Yet there were times when I noticed an eerie smile on her face, furious and remorseless. In a strange way, the sight gave me comfort. She had not been bitten by wild beasts. She was the beast. The monster is always with her, playing hide and seek, and I just need to wait and see whose face will appear: mother, or monster.

As I grew older, I learned how my mother navigated unfulfilled dreams and motherhood, her relationship with my father, and many layers of oppressive patriarchal structures.  I saw my mother’s face in many stories. I read Charlotte Perkins Gilman and recognised her as the woman behind the yellow wallpaper. She was Bertha in Jane Eyre, Calon Arang the Balinese witch, the nameless monster in Frankenstein. Isolated, obsessed with motherhood, dreaming terror, my mother reminded me of Mary Shelley, though she had no environment in which to turn her ‘hideous progeny’ into a creative force. Yet resistance, like the goddess Durga, has many faces.

When, in my early twenties, I started to fight against everything – my father, religion, cultural expectations – I began to see clearly the yellow wallpaper that entrapped my mother. And becoming a woman was the true horror; I realised I was not an outsider looking in – I was inside the wallpaper too. I saw my mother’s face in the mirror. 

And so my journey with monstrous women began. I write about them to make sense of my mother, her monster, and other women who traverse and disobey. We might have taken part in the culture of patriarchy by idealising motherhood, nurturing the fiction that separates mothers from monsters. But motherhood is messy and, as I have learned in my journey, hide and seek is tactical. 

Intan Paramaditha’s collection of short stories, Apple and Knife is out now (Harvill Secker).

We love Lynnie Z

We caught up with artist Lynnie Z about her exhibition at The Book Club, her plans for the year ahead and where her inspiration comes from.

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Hi Lynnie, we loved seeing a glimpse into your studio space back in issue 38, what's changed? Are you still in the same space? We have since moved our studio to Peckham/South Bermondsey. I share a studio with Hattie Stewart, Sara Andreasson and Annu Kilpeläinen. These dream women make it a lovely place to be!

Do you think where you work is important? What does your desk look like? For me, I need to change it up quite a lot. I used to think this was a neurotic trait but actually I realise it’s a freeing privilege that fires my productivity. 

I work between my home studio and my shared studio. With some projects I am energised by being in a collaborative environment, with other ones I crave the solitary mind flow, and I can find it immensely mediative working in my own space. 

My desk is often messy, because it feels like the work’s never done! I tend to keep sketchbooks and pens out, ready for my return so I can just slip back in the same creative state – the invite is there! But the truth is I like to finish a drawing in one sitting.

Your latest exhibition at The Book Club gives a glimpses into your creative flow, so where's the starting point for each of your pieces? Where do your best ideas come from? Each day and night, working into this collection, I wanted to keep an uninhibited approach and let the drawings lead me into new and unusual places. A lot of this has to do with not thinking at all, which I imagine is trickier for everyone as the years go on. When work is created out of instinct, personally I find it to be the strongest. Whatever you have created has made its own journey and it feels like some sort of alchemy has taken place. 

Sketchbooks have always been an integral part of my process, I love delving in and seeing all the ideas cooking up amongst each other. They’re always a great place to revisit with a fresh perspective

What can we expect from your exhibition? What's your favourite piece, or is it impossible to pick? I want the exhibition to be an intimate experience that displays the fluidity of the creative process in a joyous light that people can connect with. The work takes the form of bold paintings, stripped back ink drawings, experimental collages and large wall murals. I also got to collaborate with The Art of Ping Pong to create a customised ping pong table. I wanted to share a spectrum of my process and how I get from A to B as I think it’s a more relatable experience for whoever’s watching. 

The collages are some of my favourite pieces. They serve as a bridge from loose ink work to my fuller bold work, constructing these visuals ideas into a plethora of possible outcomes. They also resemble the state of my desk or the energy of my sketchbooks.

Did you make any new year's resolutions? I think I aim for the same thing every year, just being more present, reaching higher and having endless fun. 

What does 2019 have in store for you? Hopefully a ton of good surprises! There are a few exciting projects in store which I can’t wait to share. Other than that, I would like to get a good solid art residency in this year, the aim is to work in Greece for a month. 

Lynnie Z Studio is a free exhibition at The Book Club curated by Liat Chen running until 17 February.

Win £100 to spend at Joanie

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Oh Comely has teamed up with nostalgically inspired clothing brand, Joanie to offer one lucky reader the chance to win a £100 spend on their website.

Known for sweet styling, unique slogan knits and pretty details, the brand has quickly gained a cult following of style bloggers and celebrities who love Joanie’s individual look and affordable pieces.

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Launched in 2016 and inspired by all things nostalgic, Joanie cuts through the noise of uninspiring fashion to create vintage-style clothing with a twist, giving a nod to the retro look (think peter pan collars, classic stripes and feminine silhouettes) – all in sizes 8–22.

Joanie’s bestsellers don’t stay online for long, so we’re giving you the chance to snap up their signature styles with a £100 voucher to spend on the website

To be in with a chance of winning, simply answer the question below.

In what year was Joanie Clothing launched? 2007, 2014 or 2016. Give your answer here.

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Follow Joanie on Instagram

Joanie T&Cs: Winner’s voucher will be issued as a code for use on Joanie’s website: www.joanieclothing.com. This code will be one-use only and must be used in its entirety in one single transaction. Non-transferable, no cash alternative. Entrants opting in for brand communications will receive periodic marketing emails – these can be unsubscribed from at any time. Winner must claim prize within 72 hours or another winner will be drawn.

Iceberg T&Cs: The competition closes 20 January 2019. A winner will be chosen at random from all correct entries after this time and notified shortly after. Full terms and conditions are at icebergpress.co.uk/comprules.

Last chance to see Renzo Piano: The Art of Making Buildings at the Royal Academy of Arts

Renzo Piano: The Art of Making Buildings  installation view, 2018. Photo: David Parry.

Renzo Piano: The Art of Making Buildings installation view, 2018. Photo: David Parry.

Last chance: see the Royal Academy of Arts’ uplifting architecture exhibition, Renzo Piano: The Art of Making Buildings, in the New Year.

This January, escape into the world of Renzo Piano, the inspirational architect behind The Shard in London, the Pompidou Centre in Paris, and the 1.7-kilometre-long Kansai Airport in Japan. During his 40-year career, Piano has made a huge contribution to the modern city centre, not least on his own hometown of Genoa, where his regeneration work truly transformed the industrial harbour into a public space.

This stirring exhibition is like walking into one of Piano’s architectural logbooks. Daylit, bright and airy, the gallery houses 16 tables filled with original sketches, technical drawings, detailed models and in situ photos of some of his most important projects. Highlights include the first sketch of The Shard (which Piano drew on the back of an envelope in a restaurant), as well as 1:1 mock-ups of engineering elements, which his 150-strong team produce to test their scale and surface.

Renzo Piano: The Art of Making Buildings  installation view, 2018. Photo: David Parry.

Renzo Piano: The Art of Making Buildings installation view, 2018. Photo: David Parry.

Each of these reveal the vision and invention behind Piano’s pioneering constructions, and the truly global scale of his work. Designed and curated in close collaboration with Piano himself, join us for the first exhibition in London to put the spotlight on Piano in 30 years.

At the centre of the exhibition is a darkened room screening an intimate documentary with Piano, as well as the most imaginative object in the show: a metropolitan ‘Island’, created by Piano and his team, which brings together over 100 of his buildings at a 1:1000 scale into one landscape.

Renzo Piano: The Art of Making Buildings  installation view, 2018. Photo: David Parry.

Renzo Piano: The Art of Making Buildings installation view, 2018. Photo: David Parry.

Renzo Piano: The Art of Making Buildings is open until 20 January 2019. 

Book now

Exhibition organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London, in collaboration with Renzo Piano Building Workshop and the Fondazione Renzo Piano.

Oh Comely readers can enjoy 20% off tickets using the code ARCHI18.

*This is a sponsored post*

What we're loving this Christmas

Need some last-minute inspiration for presents or what to do on your festive break? Here’s a round-up of what we’re loving this Christmas…

Clara Bow in Dangerous Curves 1929. Photo by George Hommel. Source: BFI National Archive

Clara Bow in Dangerous Curves 1929. Photo by George Hommel. Source: BFI National Archive

We’re laughing out loud with the pioneering women of clowning in the BFI’s Playing The Fool exhibition, which draws on photographs and publicity materials from the BFI’s Special Collections. You can view it on the mezzanine gallery.

The exhibition is on until 6 January. Find out more here.

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We’ve been burning this Christmas Koppraia candle every day in the office to get into the festive mood. All Koppraia candles are made with a signature coconut, rapeseed and soy wax blend, which produces a cleaner burn than paraffin alternatives. Plus, they’re cruelty-free, vegan and sustainably produced.


 
 

Were you as obsessed as us? We devoured every single story in the Sweet Valley High and Babysitters Club collections when we were teenagers? And so our fave book of the moment is Gabrielle Moss’s Paperback Crush which is taking us on a trip down memory lane… It’s a totally radical reflection on teen fiction of the ‘80s and ‘90s.


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We want everything from Wanderlust Life Jewellery. The collection is inspired by travels past and present, and features gold rings, necklaces, studs, hoops and bracelets. The shapes are all simple and gorgeous.

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We reckon this peanut butter jar bauble will look really sweet on your tree.


Get one from
wagreen.co.uk

 

Liam Gilliver wrote a first person story about Coming Out, Twice in issue 43. He’s now written his debut novel, We’re Worried About Him. It’s a book about falling in love and self-discovery, inspired by Liam’s travels to Italy, his experiences with men and the personal barriers he has overcome. A heart-wrenching read.

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Re-Fashion is our new go-to for charity shopping. They believe the future of fashion is circular, inspiring us to recycle the clothes we no longer wear and buy pre-loved clothes.

You can order a donation bag from their website, and browse donations too.

 
photo: Justine Desmond

photo: Justine Desmond

Wandering Womb is a thought provoking display at Royal College of Nursing’s Library and Heritage Centre in London until 22 March, exploring the history of women’s health – and how how women have long been seen as at the mercy of their own biology –and the roles nurses have played in challenging such generalisations. The title comes from a belief in the ancient medical world that a “wandering womb” could cause suffocation and death. Find out more in the display, and its series of associated events.

 

We found out about A Printed Wardrobe thanks to our friends at the excellent daily newsletter Domestic Sluttery. Sets of kits with everything you need to put together one of their designs – backed up by online tutorials to guide you through each make. Just one question: which skirt should we make first?

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Courage Calls to Courage Everywhere makes for an inspiring stocking filler. Jeanette Winterson’s call to action about how much women and men alike need to do for true gender equality. You also get a copy of Emmeline Pankhurst’s landmark Suffragette speech ‘Freedom or Death’ as a reminder how far we’ve managed to come since 1913.

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Finally, we’d like to think that Oh Comely is exactly the kind of thing you’d like to find under the tree come Christmas day. You can order a hand gift-wrapped subscription here, or treat a friend (or yourself) to an issue here.

Mapping 100 Years of black and asian history

We sat down to talk to Kaia Charles, the curator of Another England: Mapping 100 Years of Black and Asian History which was displayed at NOW Gallery in November.

“We had archival imagery and new pieces that were commissioned for this exhibition on display. The contemporary commissions are so lovely to show how these communities are represented today. It’s across the UK but a lot of these images are focused on London because that’s where a lot of these communities were first based,” says Kaia. Another England is a project that Historic England launched over a year ago and it maps places of significance to black and asian communities.

“The new commissions are from artists that I find really interesting. They expand on themes that we know the archive touches on. It’s evident when you walk around the exhibition that they’re in such a dialogue with the archive images. It’s so important to document this history that’s still in living memory. The amazing images of Olive Morris from the Squatter’s Handbook are so incredible. She wasn’t celebrated in her short lifetime so it’s amazing to showcase her work. She endured a lot. It shows us how important it is to conserve these archives.”

If you missed it, the photography can be viewed on the NOW Gallery website.

Three young girls chatting outside a Methodist chapel, 1950-59, from Historic England Archive

Three young girls chatting outside a Methodist chapel, 1950-59, from Historic England Archive

Photo by Sarah Maple

Photo by Sarah Maple

London market, from Historic England Archive

London market, from Historic England Archive

Protection exhibition for Amnesty International UK

We’re can’t wait to go and see Protection, which is a new exhibition curated by our friends Riposte in partnership with Amnesty International UK. On display at Coal Drops Yard in London from 10 December.

by Jasmin Sehra

by Jasmin Sehra

To mark the 70th anniversary of the declaration of human rights, Riposte, in partnership with Amnesty International UK, has curated a group exhibition featuring women and non-binary artists. It will run from 10-16 December at Coal Drops Yard.

There’s a line-up of 30 inspirational artists (some who have graced the pages of Oh Comely over the years), including Guerilla Girls, Esther Mahlangu, Erin Aniker, Hattie Stewart, Juno Calypso, Lotte Andersen, Lynnie Zulu, Maisie Cousins, Mona Chalabi, Nathalie du Pasquier, Phoebe Collings-James, Steph Wilson and many more. All contributing artists have been invited to create work in response to the theme of “Protection”. All profits from art sales will be donated to Amnesty International UK.

Drafted in 1948 following the atrocities of the second world war, the declaration provides a universal set of minimum standards for how people should be treated worldwide. It is rooted in a desire for dignity, equality and fairness for all. It has been translated into over 300 languages and it laid the foundation for the human rights protections that we have in the UK today.

by Steph Wilson

by Steph Wilson

As part of the Amnesty Collective, Riposte wanted to bring together a global collection of artists to reflect on important human rights issues that affect us all. On the global spread of the artists involved in the show, editor of Riposte and curator of the exhibition Danielle Pender said, “We made sure that the artists involved were a global mix to reflect the myriad of ways that we’re affected by the issues around human rights. We invited established artists and designers such as Guerilla Girls, Nathalie du Pasquier and Esther Mahlangu alongside younger artists to explore the generational reaction to the issues covered in the declaration.”

The exhibition opens on Monday 10 December, RSVP here.

by Hattie Stewart

by Hattie Stewart

Long live kitsch, long live Ana Ljubinkovic

Tahmina Begum travels to Belgrade to meet Ana Ljubinkovic

Ana Ljubinkovic is something special. That’s how she was described by Nenad Radujević, founder of Belgrade Fashion Week earlier this October as we headed to Ljubinkovic’s show. It’s also what I thought when her first model walked out.

Ljubinkovic has made a name for herself outside of the Serbian walls she grew up in, in all honesty, she was the only fashion designer I had heard of before heading to Belgrade. Her shows in London tend to be packed as everyone wants to see a Ljubinkovic creation. They are never ‘clean cut’ or ‘streamlined’ and, at first, they don’t seem practical for everyday, even though you could most definitely wear all her pieces outside of the catwalk. Seeing the effects of the 1999 Chinese embassy bombing in Belgrade and experiencing the solely heteronormative culture, walking around beautiful, binary and broken Belgrade, I was curious to understand how Ana Ibrinchovich came up with such queer designs: sleeves mimicking puffy wings, gay dicky bows and fine art portraiture slammed in the middle of medieval lace-trimmed gowns.

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“Art is important for me,” she says while describing the birth of her collection, “that’s the part of the collection that holds a part of me”. This comes as no surprise, Ljubinkovic studied painting at the University of Belgrade and fell into fashion design accidentally while dreaming up fashion sketches, never really thinking they’d ever come to life.

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What is a surprise is how keen the fashion designer is to keep kitsch culture alive. Fifteen years ago this wouldn’t be a problem as the pre-Instagram world had designers like Meadham Kirchhoff who cared about the whimsical. But Ljubinkovic who still lives and designs from Belgrade (and when asked why when she could live anywhere with her international recognition, she reflexes with “why not?”) cares about bringing the art via clothing to Serbia, then to the rest of the world.

“I really love kitschy details. To play with kitsch as an element, you have to have the aesthetic knowledge to do it the right way. From the pearl drops to the diamantes. Great designers have to feel the rhythm, proportion, balance, form, to know the colour theory, to know the fabrics, the technology”. And Ljubinkovic is right in that for those who don’t understand kitsch style and culture, for those who just see it as ‘bad taste’ fail to see the irony in not taking yourself too seriously in fashion – an epidemic that seems to have spread even more so as fashion has become about the numbers thanks to social media.

Ljubinkovic favourite kitsch designers are Manish Arora, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac, Pam Hogg, Mary Katrantzou, Vivetta and “of course, Gucci” – they are “the real superstars” as, in her book, it’s all about the attitude. “You have to be brave and humble at the same time”. The kitsch style would suck if in the process of having fun – but also making fun of yourself – you had an entitled personality to go with it. It’s only then that the oversized earrings and obnoxiously feminine pieces can make you look dated.

There’s a sense of heritage that comes to play with Ljubinkovic’s pieces. She loves to learn about art, architecture, technology and read the biographies of Nikola Tesla or Marina Abramović  – hence the history lesson across her puffy dresses – she makes it clear that she doesn’t have time for anyone else’s fashion. She’s interested in people’s stories and in response, what they put on their back and in their minds. Her sense of tunnel vision when it comes to only her fashion enables her fashion shows to have a strong narrative but also for there to be a consistent house style. You know an Ana Ljubinkovic dress when you see one.

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So when I ask her what does the future look like for her and kitsch culture, she responds matter of factly with the way trends work. “Now is the time to be brave, to experiment and to be eclectic. But even in a house like Gucci, trends get boring. There will be the nude basic craze [as in the normcore trend] all over again”. But that doesn’t seem to be the case with kitsch style, maybe it’s Ljubinkovic’s lime green peplums, her doggy illustrations or the sweetheart dresses, or maybe it’s because it’s so out of place that people always search for it. In a way, being kitsch seems to be trendless.

Or what it really could be is how aspirational is the confidence it generally takes to wear an Ana Ljubinkovic trouser suit for example. To that, the fashion designer says, “real avant-garde is to really be yourself and be unapologetic about it”.

The designer is currently working on her next collection

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Issue 46 playlist: midwinter

illustration:    honey debney-succoia

illustration: honey debney-succoia

The history of pop music is filled with cruel twists and turns. Stars that burn brightly for one dazzling moment that proves to be sadly short lived. Our midwinter playlist celebrates those artists who enjoyed only a brief blaze of glory, as well as those with long-lasting careers that continue to be defined in our collective memory by just one song.

Turn it up loud to enjoy their musical gifts, which encompass everything from poignant ballads to dancefloor fillers. And, in this festive period, join us in raising a glass to these musicians who gave it – and us – their best shot.

Take a listen here.

Come join our craft workshop weekender

Get yourself in the festive spirit, and perhaps also ahead on the pressie front, with our craft workshop weekender held in London on Saturday 1 and Sunday 2 December. 

We’re delighted to have teamed up with Birdsong and Beyond Retro to offer a weekend filled with sessions run by some of London’s most brilliant designers, illustrators and makers. 

Pop along to Beyond Retro’s Dalston Store, and you can join social enterprise Juta to make your own reclaimed leather or vegan shoes, have fun block stamping your own sustainable top with Gabi & Maya and learn more about natural dyeing with SALT Textiles. Get your fingers celebration ready by crafting party rings with accessory and prop maker Rosy Nicholas, while crochet queen Katie Jones will be sharing her pom pom tree decorations (pick up a copy of our forthcoming midwinter issue – out 13 December – for more Christmas treats from Katie).

Grab your friends or come along to make some new ones. Prices start at £10 and you can buy your tickets here. Look forward to seeing you there!

Muslim Sisterhood

Tahmina Begum introduces Muslim Sisterhood, a photography project capturing Muslim girls and women in the UK

Zeinab, Sara & Lamisa, founders of Muslim Sisterhood

Zeinab, Sara & Lamisa, founders of Muslim Sisterhood

As I scroll through Muslim Sisterhood’s Instagram account, the first question that comes to mind is “what have we all be doing all this time?”. By “we all”, I mean mainstream media outlets and magazines that can choose to have a variety of women and non-binary faces across their pages. Yet it’s been the work of Zeinab Saleh, Sara Gulamali and Lamisa Khan that’s allowed us to see a range of Muslim women the minute we log into Instagram.

The DIY photography series, which chronicles the breadth of Muslim girls and women in the UK, began when Lamisa Khan was working at Amaliah, a platform for millennial Muslim women, and wished to see “normal Muslim girls who aren’t bloggers, fashionistas or British Bake-Off winners” represented as well. Inspired by the way Saleh incorporated her faith with her art and Gulamali’s campaign with Variant Space where the women were “unapologetically Muslim” (and decked out in Adidas of course), Khan approached Saleh and Gulamali and only a few months later and a few Muslim Sisterhood photography exhibitions down, they are already alumnus of V&A’s Friday Lates.

Muslim Sisterhood at V&A Friday Late

Muslim Sisterhood at V&A Friday Late

Starting off as an Instagram account, Muslim Sisterhood’s following went from zero to over a thousand followers in just two weeks. Khan recollects that “we really didn’t expect it to be such a big deal but because Instagram is such an accessible and widely used platform, it’s a free place to exhibit and share work, it means that we can reach Muslim women on an international scale.”

For those who are bored by the conversation of diversity, you are either most likely already seen as the norm or you’re exhausted from constantly asking for it. Co-creator of Muslim Sisterhood Sara Gulamali explained the importance of platforms like Muslim Sisterhood is so not only are Muslim girls celebrated for once (and their representation is also shaped by Muslim women who come from a place of understanding) but that images like these are relatable.

Billions of Muslim continue to be generalised in the West and the consequence of this is the toxic stereotypes. From being terrorists to being uneducated, poor, a refugee or simply old-fashioned, Muslim women are typecast as having no agency. They are shown in only a handful of ways, resulting in those growing up Muslim questioning if they are 'Muslim enough’. “Therefore by showing the multiplicity of Muslim women,” Gulamali adds, “this helps rid any misconception of what a ‘normal’ Muslim girl looks like because that image simply does not exist.”

But Muslim Sisterhood is not just portraits of pretty Muslim women, it’s also tackling issues within the Muslim communities. One of them being anti-blackness, which prevails through many Muslim communities, both international and national. With only 10% of Muslims in the UK coming from a black background, co-founder Zeinab Saleh explained tackling these problems was crucial as the series was “made for us by us and why it’s important for us to raise these important issues that impact our Ummah (community)”.

Model: Amaal Ali / Photography: Zeinab Saleh / Stylist: Lucy Savage / Make-up: Maha and Hala / image belongs to Muslim Sisterhood

Model: Amaal Ali / Photography: Zeinab Saleh / Stylist: Lucy Savage / Make-up: Maha and Hala / image belongs to Muslim Sisterhood

“We celebrate women from all different backgrounds and also recognise colourism as a problem within our community. We don’t want to reproduce the same toxic Western beauty ideals so we constantly check ourselves and make sure we bring awareness to the conversation” explains Saleh. An example of this was when the founders went on the Islamic channel, a TV network that is broadcasted internationally, and brought up the topic of anti-blackness to an older generation of Muslims who often hold these views. In other words, to speak outside the echo chamber.

When asking the three curators what they have learned about Muslim women and people in general, Lamisa Khan simply said: “I think our community can often be quite divided because of racial and cultural sectarian differences. It’s just been so refreshing to meet women who understand where you're coming from.” The feeling is clearly mutual, as Muslim Sisterhood’s engaging supporters have meant the trio have been able to not only been able to capture the throng of different Muslim women but also to show at We Are Here UK at the London School of Economics to mark 100 years of partial suffrage and celebrate what it means to be a British BAME woman in 2018.

In the latest V&A’s Friday Late, Muslim Sisterhood collaborated with The Savage Sister Vintage in order to exhibit exclusive photographs from the project, and did I mention, their photography has been used to illustrate Mariam Khan’s awaited book It's Not About the Burqa: Muslim Women on Faith, Feminism, Sexuality and Race, set to be released in 2019? Muslim Sisterhood are putting in the work for what we all benefit from and want to see: more diversity within diversity around Muslim women, please.

Model: Yasmin Moeladi / Photography: Zeinab Saleh / Stylist: Lucy Savage / Make-up: Maha and Hala / all images belong to Muslim Sisterhood

Model: Yasmin Moeladi / Photography: Zeinab Saleh / Stylist: Lucy Savage / Make-up: Maha and Hala / all images belong to Muslim Sisterhood

Insomnia by Marina Benjamin

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Our autumn issue is inspired by dreams and sleep. Marina Benjamin’s fascinating new book explores the opposite state: Insomnia. Our book club editor Terri-Jane Dow takes a closer look.

Marina Benjamin’s slim meditation on sleeplessness makes for interesting bedtime reading. Maybe I’m leaning into the wakefulness, but I think it’s more likely that the directions Benjamin spins off into are too interesting for me to sleep on. Instead of reading myself to sleep, the musings in Insomnia keep my mind ticking over long after I have turned off the lights.

At just over 150 pages, Benjamin’s latest memoir doesn’t take long to read, but I go back and forth through it, making mental notes of sleep experiments, of theories on sleeping, of ideas of why we chase sleep so hard, and why it is sometimes so elusive. Living with an insomniac gives me an interesting perspective; I take on the sleeping role of Benjamin’s husband, only ever referred to – somewhat enviously – as Zzz, while my partner finds the snippets I read to him disarmingly accurate.

The list of sources at the end of the book is vast, and promises to keep me awake for many nights to come. Art, philosophy and science jostle together, the fragments flowing in and out of each other. Things that seem unrelated on the surface become entwined with one another. In the art world, insomnia is romanticised. Sleepless nights are full of stars and lovers, and the state of sleeplessness is evocative of something ancient and grand. Poets find a place here, as do many painters. In his early work, Edward Burne-Jones depicted ladies draping themselves all over the place, suddenly overcome by a need to sleep, and Benjamin writes about his pre-Raphaelite paintings beautifully, looping back to them at the end of the book. (Serendipitously, Burne-Jones’ paintings are the subject of a new exhibition – his first since 1933 – at Tate Britain.)

The intensity of each snippet of the book is not to say that it isn’t also very funny. Benjamin’s CBT group and attempts at sleep-aids are portrayed as torturous; exercises devised by people who have never had trouble sleeping. (“That, or they are sadists,” says Benjamin). She misses Zzz recounting his dreams to her because she has earplugs in. She refuses meditation, “terrified of the blankness”. Her book muses on her marriage, the early days of bed-sharing with Zzz, and the ways that they comfort and accommodate each other both in waking and sleep. There are many, many comparisons between sleep and love: falling, potions, and the hours of research into the science of both.

Early in the book, Benjamin writes that insomnia is as much to do with longing as it is to do with sleeplessness. “To be without sleep is to want and be found wanting.” Insomnia does not reach a conclusion, there’s no cure. Benjamin is no more able to sleep at the end of the book than she was at the beginning. Instead, she asks what it is that her wakefulness wants of her, what it is that writers and artists and philosophers have been seeking to express, and how we can find rest in restlessness.

Insomnia by Marina Benjamin is published by Scribe Books. More tales of dreams and sleep in the autumn issue of Oh Comely.