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What Does Home Mean to You?

words Tamara Vos

22nd October 2014

Our next issue is themed on The Great Indoors and we're setting out to collect your stories of home.

What does home mean to you? Is it the sound of perking coffee in the morning? The soft mumble of the radio? Maybe it's a specific object, the thing that's seen you through both good days and bad. 

And what about when things turn sour - when your home doesn't feel like "home" anymore, when certain people leave, or when you feel like you don't have a place to go home to? 

We want to hear about your experiences of "home", whatever that word might mean to you. Write about your experiences and send them through to rosanna@ohcomely.co.uk by the 3rd November, with the subject headline "Stories of Home". Our favourites will be published in the issue.

Photo by Maga Soto

Swap A Letter, Swap A Parcel, Find A Friend: The Perfect Strangers Project

words Liz Ann Bennett

19th October 2014

Does anyone remember last year's November Care Package swap? It was a present-swapping bonanza of epic proportions. Oh Comely readers and friends from Poland to Peru were paired up at random. We prepared packages of wintry surprises. We popped them in the mail. And the results were adorable.

Well, the swap is back. And this year it's a little different. It has a home of its own and some special activities for parcel-packing.

How it works

1. Pop your details down for The Perfect Strangers Project, links below.

2. On 10th November, you'll receive your swap partner's details. This is your cue to prepare your box!

3. Post off your box by 24th November, and cross your fingers for receiving your own.

4. Share photos of your box with us on Twitter or Instagram with #OCswapbox.

How to sign up

New to the swap? Welcome! Have a poke around and sign up here.

Did you take part last year? You've got an account all ready on the site under the email address you used before. To get inside, just click 'forgot your password' here. Then click "I'm in!" to join.

Got a question? Email swaps@ohcomely.co.uk.

Above: Melissa Reid's box from last year ready to go.

Introducing A New Series: The Words In My Head

words Liz Ann Bennett

16th October 2014

These days I have more and more of a soft spot for inspirational phrases. Their glibness and worthiness used to irritate me. Sometimes the messages seemed so simple as to almost lose meaning.

But life is often simple and difficult at the same time. Some things I find difficult include: getting out of bed on time, being kind to people when I'm in a bad mood, answering the phone to unknown numbers. None of these are complex.

This is where the gentle encouragement of proverbs comes into its own. In this series, I'll be asking artists, writers and other creative people about the phrase they write in the front of every new notebook or stick on a post-it at the side of their computer screen.

Here is one of my own favourites to begin with:

It ought to read, "You get eat, you get to fuck, you get to read To Kill A Mockingbird," but I had run out of fridge letters. It's from a Louis CK show about how life even in its most basic form is really rather fabulous.

Louis' somewhat crude humour won't be to everyone's taste (and isn't entirely to mine), but I love the point he is making here: even on the worst of days, there is so much about life to enjoy.

A Pea-Sized Creative Challenge

words Liz Ann Bennett

14th October 2014

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to explore your house while the height of a five-penny piece? Probably not. It was probably just me who spent too long reading The Borrowers as a child.

But, if you harbour fantasies of being teeny tiny, we'd like to invite you to take part in a pea-sized challenge.

Here's what you do. Send some tiny people on an adventure around your house: swinging off the loo roll, perhaps, or using a mixing bowl as a make-shift diving pool. Turn your home into the epic wilderness it would be if you were only 1cm high.

Take some photos of your people on their adventures and send to me at liz@ohcomely.co.uk by November 3rd with the subject "Pea-sized challenge." We'll print our favourites in the Great Indoors issue, which will be out in December.

You can obtain a set of five tiny people in our shop, where they come with a set of art cards, or buy a load by searching for N Gauge people on eBay (just watch out for lengthy international shipping times).

art

Pretty Lovely at the Festival of Crafts

words Tamara Vos

14th October 2014

This weekend, Farnham - a town rich in crafting traditions - will play host to the Festival of Crafts. There'll be lino-printing, book-binding and wooden necklace-painting galore, so if you're of a crafty inclination then this isn't to be missed. 

Set throughout a collection of buildings in the heart of town, the festival will see dozens of exhibitors showcasing their beautiful designs. We are looking forward to awarding the Oh Comely Pretty Lovely Award to our favourite artist, who we will later feature in the magazine.

To get you warmed up, here are a few pieces we already have our eye on: 

 Wooden stools by Circle 52.

Hand-printed paper by Esme Winter.

Illustrated egg-cups by Catherine McGinniss. 

Knitwear by Jules Hogan. 

Festival of Crafts is on the 18th-19th October, in Farnham. Tickets are just £3, and workshops are a further £3. Visit their website for more information. 

Giveaway: 5 Copies of Eating With the Chefs from Phaidon

words Tamara Vos

8th October 2014

Here at Oh Comely we like to be nosey.

We're curious about how you organise your kitchen cupboard, which songs rock stars sing in the shower and what the Queen likes to have for her tea. So when Phaidon published a book about the meals that chefs cook when not cooking for customers, we knew that it was right up our street.

Eating with the Chefs is a beautiful hardback cookbook that brings insight to the daily meals shared by the chefs and staff of eighteen restaurants. Filled with mouth-watering photos and easy-to-follow recipes, it's the perfect dinner guide to see you through autumn. To top it off, we have five copies to give away to five lucky Oh Comely readers. 

For your chance of winning a copy, head to our Facebook page, and leave a comment telling us about your most memorable meal. Our editor Liz leads the way with this childhood memory: 

"One evening, when I was young, my sisters and I were given Angel Delight for pudding. Angel Delight was a real treat back then because we usually only had value ice-cream. We alll poured coloured sprinkles on top and were ready to dig in, but when we looked down at our bowls we saw that the sprinkles were moving. They had maggots in them! We started screaming, and my mum made to take the bowls away, but my youngest sister - who was about three at the time - started shovelling the Angel Delight as quickly as she could into her mouth. She couldn't bear the thought that her pudding might be taken away from her."

We will announce the winners on Monday 13th. Good Luck! 

An Interview with Lia Ices

words Luisa Gra├ža

7th October 2014

American singer-songwriter Lia Ices pieced together hauntingly intimate songs for her first two albums, Necima and Grown Unknown. Her more recent album, Ices, is more energetic. Built from Persian and Jamaican beats, fizzy layered guitars and kicks of electronica and psychedelia, it’s a busy sonority. Busy yet spacious, as Lia's signature ethereal voice makes way for reflection within the experimental pop rhythms.

The daughter of Colombian and Ukranian parents, she grew up in a bohemian seaside town in Connecticut and soon began to explore her artistry through theatre and, later, music. On the road from upstate New York to New York City, Lia let me in on the stories behind her high flying record.

Where does your music grow from?

I always try to challenge where the inspiration comes from. On Ices, I wanted to learn more about software and how to make a particular sound that makes me think of a mood or something I want to say, whereas in my previous work I didn’t let myself be totally inspired by other things. I would just look inwards. For this new album I used technology as an enabler and let the ideas come, for example, from a sound that you could have never thought of before unless it grew out of a midi keyboard after two hours, you know?

I do think your new album sounds more extroverted than Necima and Grown Unknown.

It's much more extroverted. I wanted to convey a kind of freedom that I felt in the process of writing. I felt free to experiment. Borrowing things that you love from other people in music is actually really fun. And because it’s all going through me, it’s still me. I just love hip hop production and Middle East/Persian string instruments. There’s a lightness to this record too. It enables flight and levity... to be on a plane, losing yourself in someone, get high or dream. You can lose yourself!

You lived in a cabin in the woods for a while to make Grown Unknown, which turned out to be an extremely intimate piece of work. What did you do to get into this airy and wavy mental space for Ices?

My brother, Eliot, is a guitar player and he has always been in my band. After touring Grown Unknown, we got into a great groove together. We are great foils to each other and all of a sudden, by playing so much live, the songs in Grown Unknown naturally started to extrovert themselves. I wanted to follow that. We got a place in the Hudson Valley, NY, and went on this spiritual musical psychic swim retreat together... I don't think I could have gotten there myself. Ices is more of a collective, collaborative work.

My boyfriend lived in California while I was in New York, writing the album. Flying across the country to see the love of my life and listening to music on the plane, became part of my process. It sparked an energy in me. The openness and nature of the West Coast, with its huge mountains and massive ocean, contributed to that as well.

What’s been feeding you creatively lately?

I’m very inspired by gardeners right now, and people attached to the land, who dedicate their whole lives to property.

Photos from top: Jay Carroll and Jersey Walz. 

An Interview with Ron Mann

words Maggie Crow

6th October 2014

In a career that has spanned more than three decades, Ron Mann has made a name for himself as a counter-culture historian, making documentary films on everything from comic books to poetry. With his springy white hair and warm, easy smile, Ron quickly puts people at ease. In conversation he’s relaxed and engaged, but when the subject turns to one of his passions - mushrooms, say, or music - his curiosity and excitement is infectious.

In May of 2013, I spoke with Ron about his most recent project, a retrospective of the life and influence of Robert Altman, one of his heroes and a pioneer in the world of independent cinema. At the time, Ron was in the process of editing the film and he wasn’t sure how it would turn out. Since then, the film has been screened at festivals all over the world, receiving accolades for its thoughtful portrayal of an American icon. Altman has now made its way to London, and cinephiles can get tickets for the screening on October 16th at the BFI.

You’ve covered such a wide range of topics in the documentaries that you’ve made. How did you end up making a movie about Robert Altman?

Well, I’ve always made films about my heroes and Altman’s a hero of mine. Initially, it was inspired by Mitch Zuckhoff’s book, Robert Altman: The Oral Biography, which I’d read. I called Mitch and he said that if I wanted to make a film about Bob, I should talk to Kathryn, his widow.  

And it just happened that my friends in Torino were putting on a retrospective of Bob’s films that week and Kathryn was supposed to be there, so I went on the hope that I would meet her. I was there for two days and hadn’t heard from her, but then on the third day she called me. We went for lunch and she asked me what kind of movie I wanted to make, and I said, “I don’t know! I’ll find out!” A few months later, after watching my movies, she called me and said, “Bob would want you to do this movie.”

What made Altman one of your heroes?

I grew up on Robert Altman films in the 1970s. I’m an old guy, and for me he was someone who changed film-making. You always knew you were watching a Robert Altman movie in the same way that you knew you were watching a film by Fellini or Bergman. His work was really distinctive. They didn’t sound like any other movies, they didn’t look like any other movies, and they were counter-cultural. In the film, what I’m really telling, beyond Bob’s career, is how his films had an impact on independent film-making.

You’ve been editing pretty heavily these days.

Yeah, I’m knee-deep in it. The film is a compilation film, using interviews that Bob did over the last fifty years about his art and career and it includes home movies, and personal photographs, clips from his films… so there’s a lot of material that I’m going through. Kathryn has been incredibly helpful. But I’ve really been working instinctually on this film. I feel like I’ve been guided by higher powers because everything has been falling into place. I’m trusting my luck, which is what Bob would do.

So what would be your Robert Altman primer, for someone who wants to get a sense of the canon.

I like California Split. To me, that film is just loose and free-wheeling and captures the whole spirit and essence of Altman. Tanner 88 is still as relevant and fresh as it was back when it was made. I just re-watched Nashville again and was just completely absorbed by the multiple storylines and characters. I also like Brewster McCloud. It’s very of its time, but it also takes a lot of chances and it’s very, very funny.

The great thing about Bob was that he was a gambler, he took risks. These were artistic, risky projects. He really did gamble in his life, like go to the track and drop two hundred dollars on a horse, whether he won or lost. And he took those chances in his filmmaking. That’s something that people don’t do, and it’s a good message to put out there, I think, that to play it safe is not to play at all.

Altman is screening at the London Film Festival on the 8th and 16th October.