Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Cults & Communes

I've been fascinated with communal living for a long time; in particular communal experiments of the late 1960s early 1970s. It began when I was an early teen watching re-runs of The Good Life with my brother after school and coming across Lloyd Khan's amazing Shelter book. More recently I've discovered Andrew Rigby's Communes in Britain- a complete steal on amazon and a very interesting read (although there are sadly hardly any photographs).  The Modern Utopia by Richard Fairfield is a truly wonderful book but very sadly out of print and tricky to get hold of, if you ever see a copy grab it! It has the most fantastic selection of pictures and lots of wonderful accounts from communes.

Communal living of course has encountered many problems over the course of it's history. How does one bring up children? How to share tasks? Do you let others join the founding members? etc etc. So many brilliant communes went down the pan only a few of years after having started. A particular favourite of mine is Drop City in the Californian desert, it was extremely pioneering in it's use of solar energy and of course it looked great.  It started in '65 and lasted under a decade. A victim of it's own success, too many people wanted to descend on it and it caved due to uncontrollable numbers.  

Drop City, California
Source: 1

Utopian vision's are hard to sustain. A method that communes have often opted for is the use of religion/spirituality to keeps members in check. The Source Family headed by Father Yod, is one such experiment that's gained a lot of recognition of late thanks to a seminal documentary of the same name. The Source Family are a fascinating bunch, bizarre and beautiful in equal measures. Father Yod started one of LA's first health food restaurants (he owned health food restaurants both during and pre his foray in to religion), and he also headed Ya Ho Wha 13, the commune's band (listen here!)
Source: 2
The Source Family borrowed iconography and customs from so many other spiritual methodologies; they used tarot cards, practised yoga, engaged in mass meditation. 

Father Yod
Source: 3
Salvation Mountain created by Leonard Knight, although not a communal cult, is another project which engaged a utopian vision in the hope of converting others. Aesthetically the mountain is extremely pleasing with it's stripes and naive flower shapes. I'd love to visit one day. Leonard Knight died several years ago and it seems the future of the mountain is in question so I better get there quick! Have any of you been? I'd love to know more about it.

Salvation Mountain, Colorado
Source: 4
Salvation Mountain, Colorado
Source: 5
My photographs were heavily influenced by the high colouration and psychedelic nature of both The Source Family and Salvation Mountain. Although I do not count myself as religious, I am a spiritually engaged being and I often meditate in the mornings; I find it extremely helpful in centering myself for the day ahead. When I was writing my undergraduate thesis I got very interested in Buddhism and Hinduism, and for a while thought about studying theology (I realised quickly that it might not be for me.) I'm still very interested in it's uptake in the 50s, 60s & 70s and in particularly the ways in which artists, writers, musicians and poets used it within their disciplines, people like: Alan Watts, Timothy Leary, Christopher Isherwood etc. There has definitely been a return of interest in the use of spiritual symbolism of late. The blog Prism of Threads run by Traci Conti McCarty and the work of Alia Penner are just two amongst many who make use of it in their work. 

For extra high colouration I hand-tinted these photographs, it was a very lengthy process but one that I am increasingly drawn to. I like the process of having a printed image and editing it manually rather than digitally. 

 In a similar vein I wanted my outfit to reflect the the patterns and colours of 60s & 70s communes. It's almost entirely crocheted. I've just learnt how to crochet, after years of being useless at it I turned to youtube and forced myself to learn! I wish I could say I crocheted this frock but alas it was from a charity shop on Finchley Road. It appeared in a post on here several years ago but I felt it needed another outing. 

In news aside from communes my ADULTS zine is now available to purchase through my shop in either PDF or Paper format. 

The next zine  I'm compiling is on Green Living. If you have any thoughts on the subject, drawings, writing or ideas for content please email me. I'm interested in content on all aspects of being green, so think outside the box. 

It's crazily hot in most places in the UK today, luckily for once Cornwall seems to be having a break from the heat, it's only 20'! In London it's 35', I'm pretty glad not to be there right now. Hope you all stay safe and hydrated. 

Linking up with Hat Attack over on Judith's blog Style Crone.

Outfit Details

1970s rainbow crochet dress - Charity shop

Waistcoat made from crochet doilies - Penny MacBeth

Floral headdress - Penny MacBeth

Crochet gloves - Dents

Crochet & felt choker - Penny MacBeth

1990s red shoes - Hobbs via my mum

Giant badge with crochet picture - Car boot



  1. I'm actually convinced people are crazy- who gives the most amazing rainbow crochet dress to a charity shop!? ah well, their loss and your gain ;)
    although the tinting and editing process for these photos would have taken a long time they look spectacular and it was well worth your time. another amazing blog post with great outfit and interesting background :)

  2. Don't you look ace? That dress was a fantastic find. Make that the cult uniform and I'll move in straight away.
    Check out Tim Guest's My Life In Orange.
    A few years ago we met an Argentinian guy in India who'd spent 15 years living in the Poona commune. He seemed quite nice at the time and we invited him to look us up if ever he was in the UK. Big mistake. He turned up on our doorstep and we were stuck with his odd ways for weeks. xxx

    1. Thanks for the recommendation- will check it out, it sounds great. Oh goodness!! I have made that promise so many times, luckily I'm yet to have received any knocks on the door but I'm a little worried now! XX

  3. Love these pretty festive photos! I always thought it would be fun to live in a family commune. I'd love to talk my folks into buying a plot of land and all working together!

  4. Your blog is spectacular! Your writing and the topic of cults and communes had me enthralled. Thank you so much for linking with Hat Attack and sharing your beauty and your floral headdress I can see that you're creative in many ways.

  5. I love that you hand-tinted these photos. I wasn't sure at first how you managed it. Hurrah for analogue - well, and digital so you could share these here. Communes freak me out. While I love the concept, people are so unpredictable. I'm curious about your investigations, though. Great post. Incredible crocheted dress and hat.

  6. You look magical doll, love this dress. Have always wanted to go to Salvation Mountain, maybe one day I will get there :) x

  7. How coincidental. I just saw a photo of Salvation mountain for the first time ever before looking at your blog. Communes sound like a good idea, but there's one basic flaw. All those people! :) love the rainbow crochet frock, what a find. Can't believe you got that in a chazza. Your middle name must be Lucky. As for cults, aparently our French house mother (''Madame') at school lost her husband to the moonies in the 70s. She told us the devil lived in the TV set and had us making chalets out of lollipop and matchsticks all weekend instead. Nutter! :)))) xxx