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stories / culture / curiosities / makers / ideas

Self love, surrealism and forever friendships Vegan beauty • Backstage at the ballet Make your own ketchup issue 47  £6

What we’re loving A curated selection of what’s in our diaries, shopping baskets and on our minds this issue

Excellent exhibitions

words frances ambler, alice snape and bre graham

One of our favourite art spaces, Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge, has a stellar pairing of artists this spring. An exhibition of work by Louise Bourgeois traces pivotal moments from her career, from fabric sculptures to giant spiders. While you’re there, don’t miss New York-based artist Julie Mehretu’s first solo UK exhibition. Until 24 March, COUPLE I, 1996, by Louise Bourgeois. Fabric, hanging piece Collection ARTIST ROOMS: National Galleries of Scotland and Tate

Benevolent beauty

Fill your kitty

Save your pennies in this pretty kitty cat – each one is handmade in Staffordshire. £27.50,

Cleaning products that look great and also help the planet. Designer Morag Myerscough’s limited edition eco range includes non-toxic washing-up liquid, hand gel and cleaning spray, all with a watermelon scent. Available at Tesco. *Psssst, turn to page 68 for some ethical beauty products

Happy-making baskets available from 1 March, featuring Jacqueline Colley’s designs, handwoven and embroidered by Kenyan craftswomen. From £32,

New British lingerie brand, The Underargument, labels each item with an ‘underargument’ reminding you to be happy with who you are. The first collection is named ‘For awesome // Against perfect’. From £35,

Surreal shades Spring sunshine calls for a big coat and sunglasses. Specifically, these by Adele Mildred (who we met in issue 44), named after fashion surrealist Elsa Schiaparelli.


Stand together What would the future look like if there were more women in Parliament? We posed that question to four female MPs, who were all photographed for the groundbreaking exhibition: ‘209 Women’

portraits 209 women project interviews alice snape

A collective of women photographers formed to make and mark history, to celebrate the centenary of women’s suffrage and to champion the visibility of women – particularly in environments that are still largely male-dominated. The ‘209 Women’ project, featuring all 209 of our female MPs, has been on display in Westminster and will be moving to Liverpool on 28 February. Its visual impact is powerful. “It’s amazing to see all the faces of women overlooking parliament,” says the exhibition’s curator, and one of the photographers, Hilary Wood. This exhibition marks a significant moment: 100 years since women first gained the right to sit in parliament as MPs. And the portraits were unveiled in time for the anniversary of the first election where some women could vote. “The exhibition is collaborative, like the Suffragettes,” explains Hilary. “The 209 portraits of women MPs, are all taken by

209 different female photographers. It’s a big statement.” However, ‘209 Women’ also highlights the need for further gender equality across society. There are 650 MPs in parliament, meaning that over twice as many are men. “There seems to be a great deal of ignorance about how many women are working as MPs, often juggling several roles in their lives,” says photographer Clare Park, who shot the portrait on page 29. “Now we have an inclusive public photographic exhibition that acknowledges this fact. We need more equality in government. The photographs of the 209 members of parliament taken by the same number of women have also highlighted a similar comment: ‘I didn’t know there were so many female photographers!’ Now is a time for change and progress.” Over the following pages, we meet the women shaping history...

Chi Onwurah, MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central portrait tereza červeňová “When I was younger I remember thinking that being the MP for the place you grew up would be a most amazing thing. I just did not see anyone like me who was an MP. Getting more women into politics matters as a fundamental point of democracy – how can a representative democracy work if the representation is not representative? But it also matters in practical terms. Women today are struggling in low wage, temporary and insecure work: one in four women are now earning less than the living wage. Men can have the best will in the world – though not all of them do – but if women aren’t in the room, taking the decisions, our interests will not be reflected in the outcomes.” 




Close as kin Intertwined and knitted together, what we keep closest to our skin is even more important as we watch the season shift

photos janina fleckhaus assisted by dan line stylist gabriella stival assisted by aminata diallo models lex, ava and bimpe from premier models make-up billie mckenzie using dr. hauschka hair akiko kawasaki


FROM LEFT, LEX WEARS: Dress, from Naya Rea AVA WEARS: Top and trousers, both from Zarvich BIMPE WEARS: Dress, from Moon Lee Artwear at Young British Designers


Scents and sustainability Making you feel good and doing good for the world we live in, here are some of our favourite beauty brands with a conscience

Avocado & Calendula Conditioner, £6.70 (border image), A'kin Incense Cones, £16 for 20, Haeckels Midnight Facial Oil, £21, Montamonta Face Wash, £23, The Gentle Label The Gentle Label believes in simplicity, only including ingredients that are essential to its formulas. Deodorant, £25, Modern Botany Approved by Cruelty Free International, all Modern Botany formulations are made using naturally grown products.

photos kristy noble styling gemma therese pearce words alice snape

I consider myself to be clued-up on recycling and always have a reusable cup at the ready for takeaway coffees. But beauty is a little harder to navigate, especially considering the industry is responsible for around 40% of all landfill in the UK. So I’ve been on a mission to make my beauty more kind, to myself and to the environment. I gave up my obsession with face wipes a while ago and now take my make-up off with a flannel. And switching to a menstrual cup changed my relationship with my period. I tried Mooncup first and it was my go-to for years, but the Intimina Lily Cup is just as good, plus it’s pink and folds up so small you could fit it into your purse. Here are some of my other favourite brands, new and old, who are truly making a difference to us and the planet… 68

Spring Meadow Organic Soap, £3, BeCo (under deodorant) BeCo is a social enterprise, 80% of its staff are visually impaired or disabled. If everyone in the UK switched to BeCo, it could employ 45,000 people with disabilities. Exfoliating Seaweed Block, £18, Haeckels Margate-based Haeckels has a coastal licence, which means they harvest ocean vegetables direct from a chalk reef. Locals can also bring a bag of beach rubbish into their shop for a free cleanser. Measuring tube and Jasmine Osmanthus scent, £25 for 8ml, Experimental Perfume Club Your favourite scents needn’t be made from nasty chemicals. If you don’t have a signature scent, Experimental Perfume Club invites you to mix your own. 





Opposite page: Dorothea Tanning Birthday, 1942. Oil paint on canvas. Philadelphia Museum of Art. © DACS, 2018

This page: Dorothea Tanning Endgame, 1944. Oil paint on canvas. Collection of Harold & Gertrud Parker. Courtesy Gertrud V. Parker © DACS, 2018

“Women artists, there is no such thing – or person,” said Dorothea Tanning in 1990 (when she was 80). “It’s just as much a contradiction in terms as ‘man artist’ or ‘elephant artist’. You may be a woman and you may be an artist; but the one is a given and the other is you.” However, for me, her disturbing, creepy and striking images are inextricably tied to issues of gender. Her world is female-dominated, a contemplation of what it means to be a woman. So timeless, and yet ahead of its time and more relevant than ever. Dorothea Tanning was born in 1910 in Galesburg, Illinois. She studied painting in Chicago and went on to become one of the great surrealist painters of her time – although that was another label

she refuted. In a 2002 interview she said it made her feel like a “fossil”. Her first encounter with surrealism wouldn’t be until the 1930s, in New York. However, when Tanning was a child, she shocked her family by painting a naked woman with leaves for hair. “Was I a tiny surrealist? [...] Maybe surrealist painters were children with years, playing with the irrational,” wrote Tanning in her memoir Between Lives: An Artist And Her World. Tanning’s artworks enchant me; they pull you in with all their layers and details. They speak to my own thoughts and, for me, feminism is at the heart of that. There are endless open doors and there is chaos in domestic spaces. She subverts our expectations. Mothers

reject their nurturing roles. Women escape the boredom of married life. Fathers turn into giants. Familiarities are made strange. You see this in her 1954 painting Family Portrait. Tanning plays with scale, making the whole scene quite weird. The mother is only slightly larger than the dog. The daughter at the dining table is almost twice the size of her mother, and the father is so huge he doesn’t fit on the canvas. In her self-portrait Birthday (1942), Tanning depicts herself with bare breasts and no shoes standing behind a monkeylike creature with wings. She’s wearing a skirt of long, green tendrils, which you only realise when you look closely are tiny human bodies. She’s not smiling, yet  87



Backstage at the ballet Ballet has the power to transport you to a world of pliés and pirouettes, but behind the scenes is a team of makers busily sewing on buttons, repairing rips and creating wigs...

words alice snape photos joanne crawford

You can feel the magic as you step into the home of the Northern Ballet in Leeds. As the photographer and I sit in reception ready to be taken into the wardrobe department, we can hear a rehearsal behind some closed doors. A dancer walks out elegantly, wearing leg warmers and a backless leotard and it feels like we’re on a film set, a childhood dream come true. It’s beguiling and you can’t help but get swept up in the romanticism of it all. It’s such an honour to be invited backstage at the ballet. When we are taken upstairs, we are met with endless rails of period costumes, from The Great Gatsby (which tours in May 2019) and also their upcoming new show Victoria – the first ever ballet about Queen Victoria, which is set to coincide with the 200th anniversary of her birth. It will tell the monarch’s story through the eyes of her youngest daughter

Beatrice, who controversially edited and made revisions to her private diaries before publication. Mikhaila Pye, senior wardrobe manager for the Northern Ballet, meets us by the costumes. She tells me she’s been with the company for 20 years. But despite the glamorous job title, she describes it as mostly “pants and spreadsheets”. Mikhaila’s a queen of organisation, and ensures all the dancers have plenty of pairs of ballet shoes, including their preferred brand of pointe shoes (the dancers often have a new pair every performance). “I also do breaking down, which means distressing costumes to make them look old,” explains Mikhaila, who has even done a ‘breaking down’ course. “You can’t buy clothes looking ratty and worn, so I literally get a cheese grater or some dye and make them look old. I sometimes feel bad about it as someone 


What I learnt from whales Stirred by a recurring dream, one writer pursues her fascination to the edge of the world words elizabeth sulis kim illustrations sonia alins

As a child obsessed with adventures, novels and atlases, I remember how vast the new world seemed. The unknown is enticing, for it allows us to dream, to imagine our own visions of western lands beyond the sea. In my late adolescence I set off, at first exhilarated by every border crossing. Yet over the years, wanderlust gave way to world weariness. The novelty wore off, differences became similarities, unfamiliarity morphed into recognition. In some ways, this is a good thing. As the world becomes smaller, we develop crosscultural understanding. But as the world becomes smaller, so might our imagination. Gone is the allure of sailing to the edge of the world – it’s a well-trodden path. America was long ago discovered, men have walked on the moon, and seemingly every journey has been documented and archived. *** Dream recollection is seldom interesting to anyone other than the dreamer, but in last night’s, I returned to a place I’ve been to many times before, a place where I learnt to dream again. I was floating in the middle of the deep ocean, above the great void. Though I wasn’t alone there; a whale surfaced metres from me, exposing its tail before returning to the depths. This dream has come and gone over the years,


re-emerging in different forms. Sometimes the water is turbulent. On other days, I’m looking down at migrating whales from a cliff edge, or watching them from a beach. The protagonist is always the same, the whale, close yet distant. At one time, these dreams recurred so frequently and were so insistent, it made me wonder whether we should be more interested in what our unconscious minds tell us. Cormac McCarthy, author of Blood Meridian, asked a similar question in his essay The Kekulé Problem; might the unconscious mind, he speculates, have information “we might well envy”? When interpreting dreams, most stray away from literal interpretations. Dreaming of death, for instance, is seldom a predictor of what will happen in waking life. I know this, but since my whale dreams started ten years ago, I’ve felt a need to see these animals in the flesh. Thinkers of the past did not think about the world as we do today. Natural philosophy, thought to be the precursor to modern science, comprised philosophy alongside a more empirical approach to nature. The world was considered in more holistic terms. In the 19th century, the Prussian naturalist Alexander von Humboldt wrote about the interconnectedness of 



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Profile for oh comely magazine

Oh Comely 47 early spring  

We're feeling the love this issue. We're reliving the moments we fell in love with our mates, the ones who are always there for us, no matte...

Oh Comely 47 early spring  

We're feeling the love this issue. We're reliving the moments we fell in love with our mates, the ones who are always there for us, no matte...

Profile for ohcomely