Thursday, 27 August 2015

Big Dolly - Fashion & Fabulous Frocks

I would like to introduce you to someone very special, and a new permanent member of studio Van Asch. She has spent the last 8 years languishing in the dark of my attic but now has been bought into the light again... before you call the police...I'm talking about Big Dolly (as my mother christened her). She has been a faithful servant to me for over 15 years and I would like to show you a few of the things she has done for me...

Back when I lived in London, I had a clothing company, specialising in mediaeval inspired frocks. Over the years I made hundreds of crazy dresses and by the time I moved to Sweden, I needed a change so Big Dolly's days were done...or so I thought!

But due to my new collaboration with Swedish fashion designer Malin from label EMalla.S we have need of Big Dolly's slender form.

Here we all are on my stand at Formex last week

Saturday, 22 August 2015

My 21 minutes...

I had 21 minutes this morning, to wait for the train. I fear boredom, so I  filled up that time with an imaginary conversation with someone from a mediaeval village, explaining about how we live in the 21st century. I was only allowed to use words and references that someone from that time would understand, which is quite a challenge. I realized that I don't know how anything works, I may as well say planes, phones, computers, electricity is all magic, and I feel like I am living in a science fiction book... The 21 minutes went by very quickly. Job done.

Friday, 14 August 2015


I’ve always loved fairies, the idea of them, the look of them, but especially the unpindownable, ephemeral, otherworldly weirdness of them. They inhabit a world of uncertainties, even their existence is questionable. How alluring and delightful.
I am fascinated by the roots and history of fairies and I urge you to read no further if you wish to keep your beliefs that fairies are good and pretty little flitters, that play the occasional sweet wee trick and live in a timeless world of quaint beauty. All that stuff is the interpretation of fairy folklore by the Victorians via Shakespeare. Although it is aesthetically attractive, it says nothing about the true sinister history of fairy folklore and it’s place in society. I’m much more interested in why people believed in fairies and what purpose they served culturally.

I read a book called ‘Troublesome things’ by Diane Purkiss which covers all this fascinating stuff very thoroughly and I urge you to read it cover to cover as it is most illuminating. But, for now, I’ll share my interpretation of some of the book with you.
Fairies were often associated with stealing babies and replacing them with changelings. This concept helps grieving mothers cope with their infant’s death in a time when infant mortality was very high. The mother can say, when her baby becomes fretful, feverish etc, that this is not her baby. Her healthy baby was taken by the fairies and replaced with a sick fairy changeling. It means that when the baby dies, the mother can comfort herself that her baby is still alive and well which gives her a way to cope emotionally.
Fairies are also often associated with inappropriate sexual congress, rape even. Perhaps a simple peasant girl finds it easier to cope with being ‘taken’ by the fairy King than being raped by some stranger on her way home.
An errant husband pleads with his wife that his unfaithfulness was not his fault, that a fairy had come to him in the guise of his wife and only afterwards did she reveal her true form. Absolving himself of guilt or wrong doing.
Naughty children were often threatened with the words ‘behave or the fairies will take you away’ and fairies were also used to threaten mothers to attend to their children, ‘Be careful not to leave your baby alone or Lamashtu will come and steal him’.
Fairies were used by people to cope with the harshness and difficulties of life and to instil appropriate morals and social behaviour.
It’s not all dead babies, rape and grimness. Fairies were not only used as threats and excuses but they also embodied magic and hope. They could be helpful around the house, they could bring you riches, but at what cost? A dangerous mixture to be sure.
Fairies are a reflection of society and their appearance and function change through history as society itself changes. The darkness, struggles and fear of more primitive times have been replaced by brightly lit hospitals, rape crisis centres, therapy sessions and convenient household appliances. But we still need fairies. Now, in their post Victorian incarnation, they are playful, innocent, colourful and their purpose is to remind us of the playful child within who believes in magic and delights in the unexplained.
In a time of pragmatism and science, rationality, cynicism and banality, perhaps we need fairies more than ever.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream...

A friend of mine once said that she'd sleep when she was dead..  she did love to party, that one.
I always thought that sounded like some kind of torture, to deprive oneself of one of the most delicious pleasures in life... Sleep.
Forget about the boring health aspects of sleep, for a minute, and the fact that without an adequate  supply of it we'd all go quite, I'm talking about the pure indulgent pleasure of it.
See the thing is that I'm a dreamer, a big dreamer and my dream life is almost as relevant as my real life when I'm actually experiencing it. If the whole point of life is to be in the 'now' and enjoy it then surely that involves being in the 'now' when you're sleeping too?

If feel like in real life I am a bit pointy, a bit jagged. I'm always hassling my family to 'do things', to 'get on with it', 'move forward' ...Horrible naggy witch that I am, and I often feel like I'm moving at a different frequency to everyone else. Sometimes I can dampen my naturally frenetic energy, but not often and I do feel a bit sorry for my lovely family who are much better at relaxing than I am. But I don't mean to digress, my point is that in my dreams, I'm usually at a party or club or bar or something. I'm hanging out with my mates and have nothing particular to do. I just am. I am there, engaged but relaxed. So I think that underneath this hassle monster is a nice chilled out person, my subconscious tells me so, and at night time, I get to be that relaxed person. I have a great time in my sleep, chatting, walking around ruined churches, having picnics by the beach etc Sometimes they are epic space operas with huge alien invasions and sometimes I'm at fashion shows or shopping but mostly it is parties...then I'm ready to wake up the next day with a barrel full of monkeys in my head and a mad need to get busy. There is some kind of balance there and it works for me.

Images are by the sublime Kay Nielsen who is one of the greatest illustrators that ever lived, in my humble opinion.