Tuesday, 17 February 2015

The Charcoal Burner

Hello! Wedding fever has ceased and I am back in the realm of living. I spent the last weekend hanging my latest exhibition, Gilding the Lily, in collaboration with my mum, Penny MacBeth. It's at The Glorious Art House in Exeter until February 27th, do go along if you're in the area (they do an excellent coffee in the cafe downstairs!) I'll post some pictures of it later this week too.

On my mind today though is British folklore, more specifically English Folklore. I've long been fascinated by the rich selection of folk customs and traditions that Britain has to offer. Cornwall has a whole host of weird and wonderful events; the Obby Oss at May Day in Padstow, Cornish hurling in St Columb Major (a truly terrifying event) and the Furry Dance in Helston to select just a few.

The Obby Oss- illustration by Barbara Jones in English Fairs & Markets by William Addison
Source: 1

On Saturday I'm off to a symposium dedicated entirely to West Country folklore. I couldn't be more excited, there are whole number of speakers and exhibitors speaking on an amazing array of topics (should you wish to attend you can find out more here).

In aid of the symposium and the imminent arrival of spring, I donned a suitable sprightly outfit and set about creating some pictures with a spring in their step. I was loosely influenced by the costumes of morris men and mummers but mostly I just wanted them to encapsulate the wonderfully English love of trees and all things green. I love folk customs that use foliage and flowers as adornment; wrapping their faces with twigs and leaves, could there be a better way to welcome the new season? 

British Folklore, Tim Walker, Vogue UK

Source: 2, 3

My own ensemble consists of entirely vintage items, mostly gifts with the exception of the pantaloons which were a purchase last week from a vintage sale. They are incredibly comfortable and an item I have been after for many many months!  

The outfit (I nearly forgot this influence!) is also in part an homage to my forefathers. My mum has recently been investigating our family lineage in order to make family trees for various elder members of our family. I've always loved folk stories and a favourite from my own family is about my great-great-grandfather (I think that's right..) on my maternal side. He was a charcoal burner who one day went off in to the woods, only to return 30 years later and die three days later. I've always liked the idea of wandering off into the woods, barefoot and fancy-free so here is my version of that (all be it at the top of the stairs in my house..!) 

Outfit Details

Embroidered Hungarian shirt - belonged to my Aunty

Ex-theatre cotton pantaloons -  Vintage Flea Market

Embroidered felt waistcoat - birthday present last year

1950s fake flower and net hat - car boot sale



  1. Oh Lally. I have no doubt that you come from a long line of adventurers and dreamers and makers of beautiful things.

  2. I agree with Connie. The stuff of fairy tales. You take such beautiful photos.

  3. I'm not surprised that you come from a long line of fascinating people!
    Love that sweet little waistcoat and bloomers but the green faced thing scares me! xxx

  4. So amazing!! I love these pantaloons you're wearing, so cute :)) Fascinating line of people you come from too :)) xxx

  5. Doing one's family tree is such a wonderful exercise. Even the most humble detail is fascinating, but when you get a story like that you feel like you've won the lottery. I wonder what he got up to during that 30 year spell, and if he knew his time was up or whether coming back to civilisation was too big a shock. I love your gorgeous embroidered top/waistcoat/bloomers combo, can't beat anything folk as far as I'm concerned. Xxxx

  6. There you go again - mesmerising me with your artistry again! How interesting to learn more about your lineage. I am enthralled about this lady that sauntered off into the woods.

    I would like to learn more about my own but have come to a complete dead-end. The husband's side is really interesting! So much so that I recently stumbled across someone on Twitter who is using one of his ancestor's names as as his user name! Funny no?

  7. I love the hat, reminds me of my handmade Easter bonnets as a child (maybe I should get making some).It's great to read your musing and historical thoughts on clothes/culture, wonderfully broadens my though in relation to the outfits you put together . Also really intrigued/excited to see you post your artworks on here.
    Sofie :)