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Outdoorswomen: The Craftswomen

words Liz Seabrook

26th May 2015

The following piece is an outtake from issue 25, which you can buy here or subscribe to here

I have this thing where I feel at home in more places than a normal person probably should.

Cornwall is one of those places. Growing up in Gloucestershire, Cornwall was an easy place to get away to on family holidays, or to escape to when I was older. There's a beautiful train journey along the shores of the River Exe and coastline, with an abundance of boats that, stuck in the mud, have been left to rot to ghostly skeletons which sit in eerie juxtaposition with the blue sky overhead.

I'm here again to visit Franki and Ali, who together form Francli. Franki picks me up from Penryn station and drives me over to the farm where they're based. They share a workshop with coffee roasting company Yallah who are in the process of testing out a new (and noisy) grinder when we arrive. Ali is tidying up the workshop, sweeping dust and loose threads from fabric into a neat pile by the doorway. Hanging around the workshop are various versions of the butchers apron that Francli are working on in collaboration with wild food expert Thom Hunt, which will shortly be added to their craftwear collection alongside beautiful artist tool-rolls and functional backpacks.

Everything Francli make is crafted from scraps and salvage material from other industries; their phone cases are made from the material used for inflatable ribs, for example. There’s a real sense of a creative community in Falmouth, which is exemplified in this space within the first five minutes of arriving. As rent prices soar in London, creative startups are setting up elsewhere and Falmouth - with its abundance of arty types graduating each year - seem to be staying put. This is certainly the case with Franki and Ali who both studied in Falmouth and fell in love with what the area offers, from the people to the landscape.

After some time snapping at the studio, we head out for a walk to the sea. We jump in the car – including Fred the sheepdog – with backpacks loaded with coffee and mugs, and head for a walking route that snakes through Holm Woods to Rosemullion Head. We go over a style and we're on the rocks by the sea.

It's perfect. The light’s low, it’s warm and Fred’s chasing any stone or stick that anyone will throw for her ensuring that her tail or snout appears in every other photo. Franki and Ali get the coffee on – with only a minor eruption of scolding water – and the day is complete.

I am continuing this series as a personal project: if anyone would like to be involved, or knows of anyone that might be suitable, please get in touch at liz.seabrook@ohcomely.co.uk.

Francli's new craft apron will be available from the 31st of May. Take a look here

Photos by Liz Seabrook

An Interview with Flo Morrissey

words Linnea Enstrom

22nd May 2015

“Show me the way it used to be,” goes the first lyric on Flo Morrissey’s debut album Tomorrow Will Be Beautiful. The song was written five years ago, when Flo was only fifteen, and thereby fulfils its own wish. Her eerie vocals, reminiscent of Kate Bush, sweep above a woeful guitar melody, searching for an answer perhaps too close to heart to be found. But the singer songwriter has had time to reflect upon her past; the record has become a journal of sorts, of her development as an artist and individual.

Growing up in Fulham and Notting Hill with nine siblings, Flo’s dreams of becoming a musician persevered amidst a comfortable chaos of babies, French classes and family commitments. She always knew she wanted to make music and built up an online network by uploading songs and videos from an early age. Her manager first came across her work on a Japanese blog three years ago, around the same time she dropped out of school to delve wholeheartedly into a career. The jump was “kind of on a whim,” she says when we meet in a Walthamstow garden borrowed for the afternoon, yet was still a decision that had evolved subconsciously over time. Flo doesn’t strike me as an impulsive person. Her eyes are curious and calm as she ponders her deep emotional attachment to music. 

The album is a collection of songs written over five years. Can you still relate to the older songs?

Some songs are about experiences I’ve had two or three years ago and I don’t feel the same way anymore. I’m removed from them and at the same time I have to give myself to the song when I’m singing it. One lyric on Show Me goes “Show me the places where we hide / Show me the places where we died”. Coming from a fifteen year old, it sounds really depressing. I don’t know where it came from, but now I feel like I can relate to it in a stronger way, because I can see the journey of the song. It’s almost like a journal or giving advice to yourself. 

What feeling do you get out of making music?

It’s my favourite thing to do. There’s an indescribable feeling you get when you know you’re doing the right thing and it’s fantastic when you’re in your rhythm. I don’t know what else I would do. But it can be tricky, too, because it’s a very introverted and sometimes lonely job.

Have you always wanted to share your music? 

Some of the songs, like Show Me, have been with me for a long time and I’m ready to share them. It has been nice recently to be on tour and meet people that have heard my music and gone through similar things. When I first created the songs they were for me, but now I think that the best thing is when people can relate to them in some way. 

How do you find the discrepancy between writing something personal and then sharing it with others?

I’ve only started to think about that recently. I write the songs for myself and then now, over the last couple of months, I’ve realised it’s weird that people can hear them. But it’s very special if someone can connect to a song. It doesn’t make it less personal for me, but instead expands the song. 

As humans, we all have parts of ourselves that are unexplored. It’s almost impossible to explain why something has an effect on you or brings up something in you. Often people don’t have to explain it. Actually, I don’t want them to explain, because you just get it. I can see it in their eyes.

Is that what you want to communicate with your music - a sense of common ground?

Definitely. That’s the overall theme of my music. I don’t want people to look down on it as teenage love songs. I like it when music is timeless. I’m not trying to replicate a certain era, it’s just what feels natural to me. And wherever it stems from, people will make it their own.

Do you feel like you have control over your creative output?

I’m lucky. My label completely trusts me and has let me steer the way. I’m thankful to have been able to go with a label like that, because nowadays the music industry is so… not evil, but artists are moulded or taught to be a certain way from a young age and I want people to like me for being me.

How do you write songs?

For the most part, I start with a title and then the lyrics and the music develop from that. I believe titles are very important and hold the songs together. But recently I’ve started on the lyrics and have to wait for the music to follow, so you just have to adapt. The message for the album has become a song called Tomorrow Will Be Beautiful. As I get older - with anything, not just music - I’ve realised that you have to work with the ordinary and see the beauty in the ordinary.Anything can be beautiful, but it might not be what you expected or as exciting as when you were fifteen. Sometimes you put so much expectation onto life that you forget what’s around you. I want everything to be an experience.

Tomorrow Will Be Beautiful is out on the 15th of June.

Photos by Francesca Jane Allen.

Recipe Friday: Tamara's Coconut Pancakes

words Tamara Vos

22nd May 2015

A bank holiday weekeend calls for one thing: pancakes!  

I have to admit (and I admit this with some reserve) that I'm not the world's biggest fan of pancakes. They're usually lukewarm and kind of flabby, and are just too much of the same stodgy thing. That said, adding dessicated coconut brings some much-needed flavour and texture to what would otherwise be - to me - a very beige pancake, and topping them with tropical flavours makes them slightly special. 

These coconut pancakes with pineapple and passion fruit are the perfect, zingy wakeup to a sleepy morning. 

Ingredients

1 cup self-raising flour
1 cup whole milk
1 egg
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
6 tbsp dessicated coconut
2 pineapple rings
A handful frozen blueberries
1 passion fruit
coconut flakes

One. Whisk together the flour, milk, egg and bicarbonate of soda until they're well combined. Add the dessicated coconut and mix well. Set aside in a cool space. 

Two. Put the frozen blueberries in a small pan with a splash of water and put over a low heat. Mix every now and then. 

Three. Heat a griddle pan (or a frying pan if you don't have one), and grill or fry the rings of pineapple until they're golden brown on both sides. Put to one side. 

Four. Put a large frying pan on a low heat and add a knob of butter. When the butter starts to foam, add a small ladle of the pancake batter (about the size of a golf ball), and let it spread into a circle. Repeat this until there's no more room in the pan (I managed three at a time). 

Five. Flip the pancakes when they're golden brown on the bottom. 

Six. Stack the pancakes on a plate with the pineapple and coconut flakes. Top with blueberries, passionfruit and more coconut, et voila! Serve immediately with maple syrup. 

We're Turning Five!

words Sarah McCoy

20th May 2015

Birthdays come but once a year, and this time round it's even more special: Oh Comely turns five this year! 

That’s right: no longer found crying into our jelly and ice-cream, we’re big boys and girls now. And to celebrate a half a decade of our curious magazine, we're inviting you, our wonderful readers, to our 5th birthday party.

Hosted at beautiful workspace Founder, there will be sweet treats provided by the wonderful Hummingbird Bakery and one of our very own Coffee Shop Partners White Mulberries. Our in-team cooks, Sarah and Tamara will be putting together some other savoury bites.

And if that’s not enough to get your taffeta party dress out for, there will be fun and games, a nostalgic look back at our last five years as a magazine and a special keepsake for each of you from Rachel at Prickle Press.

Tickets are limited, and are on sale now! Buy them here.  

Details:
Date: 
Saturday 20th June 2015.
Time: 14:00-18:00 (blowing out the candles at 16:00-ish) 
Place: Founder, 16 Palmers Road, Bethnal Green, E2 0SY
Ticket Price: £10

#ohcomelyfive

Outdoorswomen: The Arborist

words Liz Seabrook

18th May 2015

The following piece is an outtake from Issue 25, which you can buy here or subscribe to here

The weather was terrible when we went to Westonbirt Arboretum to buy our Christmas tree a couple of years ago. When Dad and I had selected our usual six-footer, a woman, smiling in spite of the cold and wind, hauled our tree off, wrapped it up and brought it back in to us at the till.

It was a small thing, but something about her stuck with me: a woman carrying out what could be seen as a typically masculine job with ease and grace. Inspired by her, I started searching for every-day heroines: women working outdoors on boats, farms or anywhere under the sky. The following project, which is printed in the new issue of Oh Comely, celebrates the Outdoorswoman.

Looking back, it was that one woman who sowed the seed for this project. Serendipitously, it brought me back to the same arboretum to meet Fiona de Wert who’s just finishing a coppicing* apprenticeship.

As I drive in I notice that a lot has changed: all the muddy bays have been covered with tarmac, and an enormous visitors centre appears to have been installed. I park the car and hop into Fi’s van, which proudly bares the Kernow flag – Fi’s not Cornish but studied Biology in Falmouth, and anyone who’s studied there will understand the Cornish affinity that sets in.

After a few minutes we arrive at the area that Fi has been coppicing; there are varying lengths of silvery-barked hazel in neat stacks and a number of sizable stumps left from old oaks. We sit and talk for a while and Fi begins to carve out a spoon – when she’s not working as a coppicer or in the woods, she specialises in Greenwood Design, crafting anything from small spoons to beautiful wooden armchairs. 

In between photographs and whittling, we talk about Falmouth, favourite tree types and sleeping in vans. Fi also tells me that at 2000 years, Westonbirt is home to the oldest coppice in the country. We then hit the subject of women working in forestry. During my research for the project, I came across many male perspectives about women working as arborists. Some men – primarily old boys – were of the opinion that women were less able at climbing and chainsaw wielding, where others challenged them, throwing forward names of champion female climbers. Fi admits that it’s a tough physical job – her hands covered in scars from thorns and the occasional rogue axe attest to this – but adds that strength is quickly built, regardless of gender. The simple love of being outside, working within nature, as opposed to studying it, is enough of a drive to push against any gender prejudice. Besides, coppicing is an art that was almost lost for a while, so it’s a trade that’s up for grabs for anyone who’s passionate enough.

As the sun dips down behind the trees, we wander out of the copses. Fi presents me with the spoon she’s been working on. You can see every mark and cut she’s made, and it’s slightly fatter on one side than the other. It's beautiful. 

*For those of you who aren’t entirely down with your land management jargon – coppicing is a traditional method of woodland management which cuts back certain trees to near ground level stumps for re-growth to control the density of the forest. Basically, it helps to prevent an area of woodland from becoming a strangled, dark place that resembles something from a Tim Burton film.

I am continuing this series as a personal project: if anyone would like to be involved, or knows of anyone that might be suitable, please get in touch at liz.seabrook@ohcomely.co.uk.

Photos: Liz Seabrook

An Interview With Writer-Director Olivier Assayas

words Jason Ward

14th May 2015

Clouds of Sils Maria is a film 30 years in the making. Olivier Assayas and Juliette Binoche – its writer-director and star – first met while working on Rendez-Vous, Olivier's earliest writing credit. Rendez-Vous was a breakthrough for both of them: the film turned Juliette into one of the biggest movie stars in Europe, while Olivier was able to transition from screenwriting into a successful directing career.

Three decades later, Juliette approached Olivier about working together again, pitching a loose idea about three women in different phases of their careers. A character study of someone reluctantly moving into a new chapter of their life, Clouds of Sils Maria draws on their shared history: the actress plays Maria Enders, a decidedly Juliette Binoche-like star who faces a crisis after agreeing to appear in a restaging of the two-hander play that made her famous, except now playing the older woman rather than the ingénue. Ahead of its release we spoke to Olivier about making the film. 

Superficially at least, there are clear similarities between Juliette Binoche and the character she plays. Did you try to differentiate between the two, or was that tension interesting?

Juliette and I are friends but we're not that familiar or intimate – I've never known what her everyday life is like. I know her but I also fantasise her. I imagine things about her. Some of them are true, some are totally off the mark. So when I'm writing a character like Maria Enders I know that I'm playing with my own assumptions as well as the assumptions of the audience, the way the audience imagines her. I'm playing on this border between fiction and reality. I'm also opening a space for Juliette because it's something she had never really done before, playing someone who's similar to her. She could have fun simultaneously being herself and the actress she might have been.

The film depicts the logistical side of being a movie star. Did you feel an obligation to show that world as you've experienced it or could you be speculative about that also?

I describe it more or less as it is, the business side of it. When you're a movie star you become a cottage industry, selling yourself. You have to continually respond to offers to accept or turn them down. You have to attend functions, film festivals, for which they provide the hairdresser, the make-up, the Chanel dress, and you have to look glamorous. You're a movie star for a few hours and then you go back to your everyday life, which is mostly about hard work. Maria is struggling with a role that questions her own essence and identity, but sometimes you could be in a plain bad film where you have to try to find a way of lifting it up, or at least surviving it.

Clouds of Sils Maria asserts the idea of the primacy of the actor, where a shining performance is almost something above the actual text. Did that come from a natural sympathy for the character, or is that that how you feel about acting?

What I wanted to express  first is how tough it is to be an actor and the sympathy I have for them. Their job is ultimately about understanding fellow humans. They have to find within themselves the path to those emotions, to experience them if only to understand what's going on. It's not a path towards artificiality, it's a path towards the very texture of human nature, and that's something actors are left alone with. When you're a writer you try to invent complex characters but you're on both sides. You're doing the questions and the answers. When you're an actor you deal with the reality of specific emotions. You have to transform what the writer has devised into truth.

Throughout the film Maria debates modern film-making and superhero movies with her assistant Valentine, played by Kristen Stewart. Does either character represent your thoughts on the subject, or were you showing the viewpoints these characters might have?

I have to agree with both of them because their conflict is not really a conflict. It's a difference of perspective. It's the take on those movies from two women of different generations – one who is a curious viewer and one who is in touch with that culture because it's her generation and she's never really questioned it. The film doesn't really embody my views on blockbuster film-making but instead my view on the passing of time. What happens when time passes is not that you lose touch with the world but that your experience it is different from someone twenty years younger than you. In terms of blockbusters I'm really on both sides too. I can enjoy watching them even if I'm usually slightly disappointed because they're very repetitive. I certainly don't look down on them. At the same time I can see that they are a manifestation of our obsession with teenage culture.

The relationship between real life and the film is also raised with your inclusion of Chloë Grace Moretz's character Jo-Ann, a young movie star hounded by paparazzi. Did that enter into your consideration when casting Kristen Stewart, an actress who has lived that experience?

Kristen could have been either character and she by far preferred to be Valentine. It gave her this oblique angle on celebrity culture – there was this shift of perspective which freed her in a certain way. It's a film where you never lose sight of who's playing what. In most movies you try to forget that the actor is playing a character. Here that's part of the film. You are constantly seeing Juliette, Kristen and Chloë in addition to seeing Maria, Valentine and Jo-Ann. It's the opposite of when the Dardenne brothers made Two Days, One Night, where the whole point is about trying to forget that movie star Marion Cotillard is playing a factory worker in Belgium. What actors do is try to reinvent themselves, to make it feel like they've been always that character and nothing else, to become one. Here I didn't want them to do that. I didn't want them to become one. I was happy with them staying two.

Recipe Friday: Tamara's Baked Avocado

words Tamara Vos

13th May 2015

Baked eggs are a revelation, and there are so many ways in which to enjoy them: oefs en cocotte (where you bake an egg in a ramekin with creme fraiche), egg muffins (a recipe for which I shared last week), or an inauthentic shakshuka, where you pop the skillet into the oven rather than cook it over the hob. 

One of my favourite ways to bake eggs combines them together with one of my favourite brunch ingredients: avocado. Some of you may balk at the idea of warm avocadoes and I have to admit that I did too at first, but it doesn't affect the texture or flavour at all other than to intensify them slightly, which in my eyes is a bonus. This recipe is for baked avocado and egg is a delicious, eye-catching and very simple idea - and as the avocado acts as a bowl it also means no washing up, which is exactly what you want in the morning! 

Ingredients

1 large avocado
2 medium eggs
A small, leftover end of chorizo sausage (omit this if you're vegetarian - you can add fried mushrooms but it's perfectly delicious on its own)
Cress
A quick grating of Parmesan cheese
Rye bread to serve 

One. Preheat the oven to 180c/gas mark 4. 

Two. Cut the avocado in half, and discard the stone. Neatly scoop out a little of the flesh in each half to make more room for the egg. 

Three. Scrunch up some baking paper and place on top of a baking tray. Nestle the avocado halves on the paper so that they are level, to ensure no egg will spill out.

Four. Crack an egg over a bowl, and let about half the egg white drop away. Pop the remaining egg yolk and egg white into the avocado cavity, then top up with egg white if there's still space. 

Five. Carefully transfer the tray to the oven, making sure not to spill any egg. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the egg white is set. 

Six. While the avocado's baking, roughly chop the chorizo and fry it with a little olive oil for 5 minutes. Once the avocadoes are ready take them out the oven then sprinkle with the chorizo, cress and grated parmesan (crumbled feta also works well). Serve immediately with toasted rye bread. 

Girlhood: Friendship Against All Odds

words Jason Ward

8th May 2015

From its electrifying opening sequence onward, in which two teams of teenage girls face off in an American football match, every moment of Girlhood pulses with life and colour and youth.

Writer-director Céline Sciamma’s thoughtful yet boisterous film follows shy sixteen-year-old Marieme (Karidja Touré) as she joins a gang of girls in her economically-disadvantaged Parisian banlieue. Neglected by school, parental figures and their community, the quartet rely upon each other to weather their oppressive, underprivileged circumstances.

We spent a day in Paris with Karidja Touré and Assa Sylla, and what follows is an extract of pictures from Liz Seabrook's afternoon with them. The full photoshoot and interview with director Céline Sciamma will be published in the forthcoming Oh Comely issue 25.

Girlhood is released in UK cinemas today.

All photos by Liz Seabrook.