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stories / culture / curiosities / makers / ideas

The feel of clothes on skin Pets that rule What life models think about

issue 37 ď‚&#x; ÂŁ5


oh comely 37: touch

From clothes that make us feel great in our skin to tales of the worst things we’ve ever had the misfortune to lay our hands on, this issue has been inspired by the idea of ‘Touch’. But, as we were exploring the theme – sharing stories, speaking to artists, writers, actors and musicians, even when we were trying our hardest to get thrown out of the British Museum – we realised that an additional message emerged. Really, it’s about the power we all have to touch other people’s lives. We may not be Pharrell Williams boosting Maggie Rogers to YouTube stardom or Sadako Sasaki, whose paper cranes have become a global symbol for peace, but making an impact can be as simple as a note left to cheer a stranger, the recommendation of a good book or an experience shared that helps someone realise that they’re not alone. And, actually, that’s what every issue of Oh Comely is about – meeting new people, exploring new ideas, making these new connections and celebrating the #onegoodthings of the world. To adapt a quote from our Josie Long feature, which discusses how to find comfort and keep going in times of gloom, we’d like to think of ourselves as “one small republic of unconquered spirit”. Come join us.















124 contents issue 37




stories to make you feel

the here and the now

stories to make you think

14 F  our interesting women: what life models think about when they’re nude

54 M  usic: singer Maggie Rogers talks life after Pharrell

22 W  hat we’re reading: banned books

30 Three questions with a stranger Stories from life: Touch 28 Therapy 50 Kiss 68 Thread 88 This 98 F  linch: the worst things we ever touched

56 Notes to strangers 78 Fashion: textural clothes that make you feel good 96 Television: actor Sophie Cookson on how she gets under the skin of a part 104 Curated: fashion that cares 119 O  hCo book club 123 W  hat we’re listening to: the Touch playlist, with added Mariah



creative people doing great things

stuff you can't just google

09 What you wrote: letters from you

26 T  ake one feather duster: we explore the science of touch

12 Curious things: products we love 36 T  he artist creating through her compulsion 70 People who work with their hands 112 What we’re eating: Jackson & Levine’s rooftop picnic 116 What we’re making: origami cranes 126 The contributors who made this issue

40 Captured: moments before touch 52 What I stand for: Josie Long 62 O  vercome by nature: abandoned buildings 66 Women who changed the world: Japan's Sadako Sasaki 76 How we experience pain 90 How to lose touch with people 102 Girls rock school

38 Six pets who came to power 92 W  underkammer: an ethnographer's colourful collection 110 What can you actually touch in a museum? 124 We have a go at winning village show competitions 130 Mischief: a page to have a play


Helen Boyd took the beautiful photograph on the previous spread, as well as the image on pages 128–129. Turn to page 126 to meet her.



Life models Throughout art history, the figure of the model has been a consistent but anonymous presence – both a visual reference and an inspiration for the artist. We photographed four women who work as life models in their favourite poses and spoke to them about their career, motivations and what they’re really thinking when they’re nude

interviews frances ambler portraits liz seabrook

Sophie Cleaver, 27, Glasgow I walk into a room with strangers and take my clothes off, but I’m not body confident at all. People aren’t drawing me, they’re drawing some shapes. It’s performative, like dancing or acting. I’d slouch on a couch but when I’m posing, I sit up straight. There are thousands of images of me out there but I don’t see them as me. My mum was a life model. When I turned 16 and needed to get a job, it seemed a good option. I’d grown up around it – when mum couldn’t get childcare, I’d sit in the corner with my crayons – so I wasn’t nervous. I joke that I’ve had 11 years of art classes – I find myself repeating bits back to people. I used to do it around lots of other things, but now I can’t. I have MS and it’s completely draining. Modelling is good for that – you can recline and have a rest! But I couldn’t do it every day.

One advantage is the thinking time. In other jobs, you wouldn’t get to sit and think for 45 minutes. When I was doing my A levels, I would do my coursework in my head while I was posing and write it all down when I got home – now it’s shopping lists or knitting. If I’m posing for shorter periods of time, like a few seconds, I do things I couldn’t hold for longer, like going right onto the tips of my toes. I always try new poses. Even if it’s similar to one you’ve done 50 times, every pose is always slightly different. Every situation is different too. When you’re modelling for A level students, there’s always one who’s nudging his mates. I’ll make eye contact with him for the entire class – it’s a sure-fire way of dealing with it. Quite often you’re in spaces that aren’t set up for modelling. There’s a lot of changing in toilets. I had

this weird situation recently with a drone with a camera hovering outside the studio where I’d been posing. That was unique, but I sometimes swap notes with my mum – you know, like, “oh, I had one of those…” Life modelling comes and goes with fashion. At the Glasgow School of Art, where I model, only 20 years ago they had about 18 full-time models with their own staff room. We’re all part-time now. But there are groups like All the Young Nudes in Scotland, putting on evenings set to music in clubs, making it cool again. I’ve recently become much more proud of what I do. I’ve made it work as a viable job. I couldn’t support a house on it, but it’s enough for me, with the help of my boyfriend. I want to keep on doing it for as long as I can – to become Britain’s longest serving life model. 



The lightest touch Those moments just before making physical contact with another person can be the most emotionally charged

photographer janina fleckhaus


What I stand for

Optimism is a weapon If the state of the nation has left you in the doldrums, don’t give up. Comedian and practical idealist Josie Long isn’t going to – you just have to take positive steps, she says. Here’s how… as told to jason ward portrait ellie smith

On certain days it’s possible to wake up in a country you don’t quite recognise. From austerity cuts to the spread of nationalism, it hasn’t been the easiest decade to believe in a fairer society. It’s one thing to lose a fight, and another to lose it over and over again. When I set up Arts Emergency I wrote a manifesto, and its final point was ‘Optimism is a weapon’. This is essential as the notion of not being cynical and resigned doesn’t feel like a mainstream concept. The whole nature of our press and even the national character is 'just put up with it'. Much of the discourse in the country and a lot of what it means to be British is to deny yourself the idea that there might be something better out there and that there might be a chance to have a more humane society. Optimism is essential but I also don't think it’s been an entirely depressing time. I’ve met so many people and been able to join in with things that have given me hope and consolation. If you look at activist organisations that have formed in the last seven years, like UK Uncut and Sisters Uncut, they’ve managed to get issues such as inequality and tax evasion onto the news agenda. I’m inspired by people who are managing to effect change on a local level. What’s happened since Thatcher is the erosion of civil society, the erosion of ways that people can feel rooted in their community and useful as participating citizens in the longer term. That’s exacerbated by the housing crisis where young


You should live like you’re already in the early days of a better society people have to move and move and move, and by pay going down in real terms so people are working harder but have less money. People are desperate and frustrated but they’re also disconnected from one another, and feel let down by those who represent them. To contest this, I'd say the best thing to do is to contribute regularly as part of something, no matter how small or seemingly disconnected from politics. I’m literally talking about joining a local group that helps young people learn how to garden. Anything where you’re engaging with people in a sphere that’s not inherently capitalist is useful to building a society that has different values. You don’t need to set up your own organisation. A small amount of googling will find something to get involved with that you don’t even need to do the work of starting. It’s hard because services are being cut to the bone, but if you do have any ideas about what might be useful and there aren’t local groups already doing them. it might be worth attempting to set them up. If you do have any sort of passions or a desire to work with younger or older people, now is the time to try. Not everyone will see your point of view or share your values. If you’re looking for enemies, you’ll find them and if you’re looking for a fight you’ll find it, but by that same reasoning if you look for friends, you’ll find them, always. There are wonderful organisations everywhere, and the people in them will inspire you and make

you feel like you can carry on. There’s a case to be made for caring for each other on a broader level. It’s not enough to say you’ll just look after your family and friends. We all have a responsibility to act as citizens. There’s a beautiful idea that you should live like you’re already in the early days of a better society. If you’re feeling particularly demoralised I’d recommend reading Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit. It's a really useful book. She says you must 'make yourself one small republic of unconquered spirit'. Remember that you're allowed to hold values that are different to your government. You’re not wrong, you’re not insane and you’re not in any way treacherous for wanting to have a kinder society. It’s important, just like with self-care and mental health, to repeat your values to yourself as a positive mantra. Don’t be unrealistic about the composition of the UK or what politics might mean at the moment. It's wrong to expect socialism to suddenly romp to victory when money and power are entrenched, but even though one political party appears to control 90% of the British media, that doesn’t mean that 90% of Britain shares their views, it just means that’s the fight to be won. If regressive beliefs are dominant, that doesn’t mean there'll never be room for a progressive social democracy. Things are difficult but you’re not going anywhere. You learn from loss and you try your hardest to regroup. You just have to keep going, because what else are you going to do?” 

Josie Long is a stand-up comedian whose recent show 'Something Better' charted her search for hope in the wake of the EU referendum result. In 2011, she co-founded the charity Arts Emergency (, which works with teenagers from underprivileged backgrounds to help them access further education in the arts, humanities and social sciences.


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We loved these photos of the magazine. Thanks to: First row, left to right @coffee_photography_life, @florencemayvintage, @katinkaln; Second row: @jules_tea, @thenameisangharad, @lauramsmith11; Third row: @thislastmoment, @hannahtodd92, @wainwrightscoffee

“Posture straightening old-fashioned tailoring” Monet (previous page) wears abstract print dress, Goat “Silk, like wearing next to nothing” Mireia wears vintage ivory silk shirt, The Market Cartel; trousers, Stine Goya. Monet wears wave slip dress, Florence Bridge

Wunderkammer words and photo paula zuccotti

Ethnographer, industrial designer and trend forecaster Paula Zuccotti’s work has taken her around the world. For her ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’, we asked her to pick out some of the objects she has collected along the way and to share their stories




Flinch Four writers recall the moments of disgust, decay and betrayal that lingered in the mind long after the shock of the memory that made them recoil

illustration mirjam siim

War Hero

words jason ward In retrospect it was quite a coup for the 12th Pontypridd Scout Group to come into the possession of Lord Nelson’s body. He was down in the basement, our patrol leader swore, laid out on a table. Apparently our 50p weekly dues were stretching further than anticipated. The patrol was enthusiastic but unfazed: when you’re 11 you take a lot of things in your stride. We were told that the Hero of Trafalgar was in good condition (relatively speaking – he’d lost his arm and the use of his right eye in battle) despite dying two

can allow yourself to believe in something impossible. It wasn’t Nelson’s body, obviously, but there had to be something down there, right? The older scouts, who’d undergone this in the distant past of a year ago, met our queries with silence and amused smiles. What occurs to me now is that it wasn’t the notion of pawing a historical corpse that excited but the prospect of taking part in a rite. Others had done this before and others would do it afterwards. It was a silly game but our turn to play it. More specifically, it was my turn. The scoutmaster went into his spiel. Here lies

One by one we were blindfolded and led into the basement centuries prior. It was forbidden to look upon his cadaver. One by one we were blindfolded and led into the basement. There’s a very specific age where you’re old enough to know you’re being told a fantastical story but young enough that your conviction can falter ever so slightly. You may never say it out loud, might never admit it to another person, but just for a moment you


Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson. These are his boots. I felt the boots. These are the buttons on his jacket. I felt the buttons on his jacket. This is his missing arm. My hand was guided into the empty sleeve. And this is his right eye. I knew then and know now that it wasn’t real. Of course it wasn’t the damaged eyeball of a famous deceased naval figure. Of course it was just a tomato that had been left out in


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Fold this side over

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Completely squashed





Turn over

Squash also This is the preliminary base



Fold flaps towards the centre line. Then do the same behind

8 Lift this flap up

Open out the flaps 10

6 Fold this flap up


Fold the corner back and the sides in 11


Origami paper cranes Fold and smooth to make your own symbol of hope. All you need is paper and patience origami illustration anna bay


what we're making

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Your finished crane

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#onegoodthing The way sunblock smells precisely like summer.

Oh Comely 37  

From clothes that make us feel great in our skin to tales of the worst things we’ve ever had the misfortune to lay our hands on, this issue...

Oh Comely 37  

From clothes that make us feel great in our skin to tales of the worst things we’ve ever had the misfortune to lay our hands on, this issue...