ANARCHY, WITCHCRAFT AND ART

ANARCHY, WITCHCRAFT AND ART

Artist Karen Strang talks to REEK about her latest paintings,
The Scottish Witch Trials Testament Series and what
inspired her work.

Who are you, Karen Strang?

I’m a visual artist / painter / anarchist working from Alloa in the Forth Valley of Scotland. It isn’t always easy being a flaneuse in the Central Belt! I take obsession with my subject matter to heart. Previously it was Rimbaud in the latter half of 1874 that rocked my boat. Currently I’m obsessing with the local Witchcraft trials of Glendevon and the Forth Valley. I see feminism as a transitional position, I’d be heading for an agendered non-speciest world, if that could exist.

What makes you a feminist?

Experience. Simple as.

What equality campaign is most important to you and why?

Too often it seems being born with a cunt automatically puts you into a livestock category. I am continually horrified by the treatment of women around the world. One has to start somewhere in addressing these issues. I do it with my paintings in the hope that what I express physically provokes a change in thinking. A starting point is the female gaze on another female. It seems a gentle enough approach until one realises the strength of reaction. Self-possession and recovering ownership of one’s sexuality in one’s own terms.

What inspired you to create the Scottish Witch trials paintings?

Over decades I have been fascinated by aspects of female knowledge of nature, which has been seen through history as a threat to order. The outcome of this fear, envy and misogyny is the epidemic of witch-hunts and in Scotland this was a particularly aggressive and brutal period, known as the Killing Times. I seek to redress the balance between the forgotten victim and the torture and murder which until recently has been swept into indifference or quaint superstition. More and more facts and numbers of victims are being unearthed. We may never get to know how many people were murdered under the excuse of religion and superstition for what was ultimately a culling under the socio-economic needs of a patriarchal system.

Do you have a favourite painting from this series? Why?

I am in constant dialogue with each of them as they develop. I work with a number of pieces that seek out their own conversations, creating an energy force. For example, the series of five paintings, “Tides”, rely on each other to create a dynamic narrative. So possibly, just for this moment, I would select “Jetsam”. Tomorrow it might be another.

What has been your personal experience of gender equality?

I was the first female school pupil at my comprehensive school to be allowed to sit in a technical drawing class. I spent five years attempting this. Finally I got to sit in the class but not to take the O-Grade. A small early victory for me against the State! But I still couldn’t wear trousers to school.

How do you feel about the way images of women are represented in the media?

I am not convinced that the abundance of staged selfies expresses self-ownership. A lifetime of gazing into the eyes of others as an artist makes these “portraits” appear to meld into an algorithm which caricatures sexual commodification, objectifying rather than opening a genuine dialogue with the viewer.

Are you a witch or a bitch?

Witch never bitch.

So what makes you a DAMN REBEL WITCH?

Society doesn’t fit me, I don’t fit society. (Maybe it’s ‘cos I’m a left-handed sinister sorceress!)

Several of Karen Strang’s witchcraft paintings are currently exhibiting as part of a collaborative show called “Seasons of the Witch” at Front Room Galleryin Alloa. A large solo exhibition of her witchcraft works, called “The Burn and the Tide”, will follow at the Lillie Gallery in Milngavie in February 2018, exploring the psychological as well as the factual effects of women accused of witchcraft.


WE ARE MOODY, WE ARE HUMAN

              WE ARE MOODY, WE ARE HUMAN

Jade Mordente attended a MOODY event about a new digital ecosystem for hormones, cycles and moods that aims to help women have the best periods possible.

When was the last time you were moody? You probably felt kinda guilty about it, right? Someone might have made a ‘time of the month’ joke and you probably giggled with your head down or even apologised. We have all been there, but why? Since 50% of the population are female, 50% of us have felt uncomfortable because of our natural monthly cycle. Feeling agitated, tearful, fat and grumpy for at least five days out of every single month – that’s a big ask of women who have much better things to do with their time (i.e running the world). Entrepreneur Amy Thomson, journalist Laura Weir and nutritionist Lola Ross are three women who have felt our pain. Together they are fighting for us, as females, to reclaim the word ‘moody’ and revolutionise the way we talk, treat and feel around our period. Born out of the frustration we have all felt when we can’t find answers to solve our period woes, the trio decided to found an integrated web platform which not only connected women, but armed us with the emotional intelligence to know our cycle, harness our mood and maximise productivity, no matter the date. Answering a quick and easy questionnaire on sign-up (which is free!) allows the platform to place you into a specific Moody tribe. This then enables the Moody team to carefully curate a profile for you and offer natural solutions to help you through your personal hormone cycle. Knowing your cycle, and how your body works during your cycle is the key ingredient that wearemoody.com encompasses.

Moody founder and nutritionist Lola Ross will inform each tribe of specific dietary advice to conquer their issues – stress, bloating or sadness – and discuss a range of vitamins and supplements for inner balance. The Moody team have also joined forces with post-chemical pharmacy, Biocol Labs, to demystify the vitamin arena and they will soon offer mineral and plant based hormone vitamins and supplements through a retail section of the website. Organic period products such as biodegradable tampons from TOTM will also be available, with more products launching on the site soon.

Sign up, discover your tribe, learn your body and embrace being moody.


WITCH HUNTING

WITCH HUNTING

Suzy Nightingale writes about the late night,  cabinet of curiosities event about the witch hunts at the National Archives in Kew.

Poisonous gossip accusing women of witchery, the mysterious scent of Egyptian mummies during a theatrical ‘unwrapping’ and the ‘First Ladies of Egypt’ – fearless Edwardian women and their pioneering work in Egyptology were merely three of the fascinating topics covered at Kew’s National Archives at Night event. Hosting a suitably macabre itinerary for Halloween, the Archives building was bustling with hundreds of guests eager to delve into the darker side of history. Of course we felt most drawn the witches, on which we’ll focus here; and oh, it certainly got dark…

The persecution of women during the infamous Pendle witch trials is well known, but did you know that, twenty years later, it all began again thanks to the accusations of a young boy and his pushy father? Setting neighbour against neighbour, poisonous gossip, suspicion and superstition entwined to create a volatile atmosphere that once again cast a dark shadow over an entire community. In a talk entitled The Second Pendle Witch Scare: The Lancashire Witch scare of 1633-43, Dr Jessica Nelson read a letter sent by one William Conway, describing in a state of some excitement, the fact that a pack of up to nineteen female witches had been “discovered” in Lancashire. Witch scares were not uncommon, the previous Scottish scares inspiring Shakespeare to include them as malevolent characters in Macbeth; but this was a witch hunt with a difference. The finger that pointed at the women this time belonged to a ten year old boy.

Encouraged by his father, Edmund Robinson declared he had seen witches congregating in their small community, and was toured around communal gatherings with the claim he alone, for a fee, could point them out in the crowd. One of the accused was an elderly woman called Margaret Johnson, who came to be known as ‘the penitent witch’ as she was the only one to ‘confess’ to her crimes. Under interrogation by the Privy Council, she claimed a man dressed in black had repeatedly approached her, offering the power to hurt humans and beasts as she wished, in exchange for her soul. At first she turned him down, she said, but his seductive offers eventually persuaded her to sign her name in his book of captured souls. As the interrogation continued, it became clear (even to The Privy Council, who expressed their concerns in a report) that Margaret was a very confused and frail old lady, perhaps with what we’d now recognise as dementia, who changed her story many times. Interestingly, no matter how hard and how often she was pressed to ‘admit’ the other accused were fellow witches, she strongly protested their innocence, citing their daily prayers in the cells and stating they were true, godly women.

Another of the seven women Edmund accused, Mary Spencer aged 20, gave a spirited defence and denied outright being a witch. Her male neighbour, a man by the name of Nicholas Cunliffe,  said she’d bewitched a bucket, bidding it run to her (as Dr Nelson wryly pointed out during her talk, one might think this a ‘rubbish use of witchcraft’), but Mary explained she liked to roll her bucket down the hill and race it to the bottom, the court record showing she “…prays God to forgive Nicholas Cunliffe, who having borne malice to her and her parents these five or six years has lately wrongfully abused them.” Her parents having both been condemned to death in the previous assizes. During the court proceedings, Mary often complains the overwhelming noise from the public gallery is so loud she couldn’t even hear many of the accusations against her, so how could she properly defend herself? A chilling reminder of the mass panic and blood-lust that had been whipped up by this pervasive atmosphere of malice among neighbours. In yet another case of a woman being accused by a male neighbour with whom she’d had a previous disagreement, Francis Dickinson stood firm in her denial of witchcraft, passionately using attack as her form of defence, and detailing the disagreement she’d had with her male accuser over the purchases of a cow and, later, some butter that led to bitter arguments culminating in her eventually being accused of being a witch.

During their investigations, the Privy Council took it upon themselves to carefully examine the bodies of the women, looking for signs their familiars had suckled from hidden teats, even examining the cervix for unusual markings or dried blood from a recently suckled spot. Somewhat surprisingly, the concluding report of surgeons and midwives stated nothing unnatural was found on any of the women, no extra teats (in the cervix or elsewhere), no signs of evil-doing. And so, the Privy Council had nothing to go on but one confession from an old, confused woman whose word they already seriously doubted. In the end they resorted to interviewing Edmund Robinson, without the presence of his father (who’d previously refused for his son to be questioned alone). Eventually (we don’t know how long) Edmund confessed he had made up the whole thing up. But why? He’d first invented the tale as he’d been told to collect the cattle in for his parents, but went to play instead. To evade punishment he thought back to the stories he’d heard of the first Pendle witch trials, thereby getting himself out of trouble and enjoying the attention they afforded him. When others then surged forward to further accuse the women he’d named, it became clear rumours and suspicions had long been bubbling beneath the surface against any women who dared to argue with a male neighbour or caused trouble in any way. Edmund didn’t know what a bandwagon to be leapt upon his stories would cause, and Dr Nelson made the point that his father was most culpable, as he’d been the one to seize on the money-making opportunity in which his young son could now, for a pocketful of coins, travel around looking for and ‘recognising’ witches.

So what became of these women once the Privy Council had Edmund’s confession, confirming what they’d already feared was a case of hysteria following false accusations? Were the doors to gaol flung open as the women were triumphantly released? Far from it. In fact, from what records we have, we know most of the accused women died in prison. Despite their now assumed innocence, they’d been kept imprisoned in such devastatingly terrible conditions they became ill and died there. There are no records of what became of Margaret. We can only suppose that, already elderly and frail, she’d succumbed early to the vile conditions she’d been kept under. Pontificating on why the women had not been released, Dr Nelson assumes their deaths provided a convenient underlining of the whole, poisonous affair. Had the women been released back into the community, we can perhaps imagine their righteous fury at the neighbours who’d accused them, the continuing whispered suspicions, an on-going miasma of malice. A sad, stark truth we must consider is that these angry – innocent – women who’d refused to back down were seen as better dead than making mischief. A community washing their hands of blame by turning their heads. A wiping of the slate with bloodied hands…


WOMEN IN THE MEDIA

WOMEN IN THE MEDIA

Tori West, Editor of Bricks magazine, spoke to the bitches about women in the media and her vision of how to do things differently ie better

Tell us a bit about what you do?

I always find this question difficult because it always turns into a long-winded answer, but I’ve recently settled for the terms publisher, writer or editor. I started BRICKS magazine three years ago and I just launched the platform Neighbourhood.tv for Village, a fashion communications agency in London. Both of them, although different, support emerging talent. I want to share the voices of people, regardless of their social following, those who I think deserve to be heard. I make content that I think needs to be made. I hate this entire ‘journalism needs to be click-bait’ attitude, screw the stats, I want a more honest media. I’ve also started organising day events outside of London, where I bring editors/writers from titles like Vogue and Dazed to network with creatives outside of London. I want to make the publishing/magazine industry less exclusive – there’s an entire world of artists and creators out there, outside this bubble and I’m determined to find them all!

How was it shooting with the REEK team and knowing the images have no retouching? You work a lot with the curation of editorials, was it strange being on the other side?

Yeah, it is actually, I get asked to model for things quite a bit but I’ll only do it if it’s a brand I truly relate to or if I love the photographer. I appreciate REEK because I know you won’t manipulate my body in any way. It must feel awful being a model and receiving the images back and you’re looking at an unrealistic version of yourself in the photograph.

Do you think it’s important for more campaigns and editorials to step away from retouching?

Yes, definitely! At the end of the day, if there was no retouching, we’d have a much healthier vision of our own bodies. What’s the point in marketing society’s – well I may as well just say it – man’s ideals and unrealistic expectations of how a woman should look? I don’t understand it. I relate much more to companies like yourself, you’re working with real people to promote your product, you’re not trying to represent them in your way – you give it back to them and allow them to choose how they’d like to be portrayed. That’s my idea of empowerment.

Tell us about what gender equality causes mean the most to you and why?

At the moment, what’s bothers me most is the gender segregation of sex education in schools. People are still confused on the differences between the terms gender and sex. I was taught issues and the logistics of hetero-sex only, but I grew up so confused about my sexuality because of it. I’m 24 now and I’m still not sure how I identify, but it wasn’t until a few years ago I realised that was ok, I didn’t need to be placed in a box, I still don’t need to answer yes or no to whether I’m straight or not. I think if kids were being taught same-sex education and the emotional relationship we have to our own bodies rather than labelling us ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ and sex is for straight people to make a baby, we’d be a lot less confused and more open to having conversations about it growing up. And also, same-sex marriage being legal in every single country, it’s still shocking that only around 25 have legalised it.

Do you feel women are represented well in your industry? Is there more work to be done?

No, not at all. We’re still valued on our outward appearances way more than our inward qualities.

What women have inspired you both in your personal life, career and style?

I’m so grateful that I’ve been surrounded by such inspirational, phenomenal women throughout my life. Every single one of them has motivated me in some way and made me feel more human.

What are your favourite smells and why?

The smell of a new book or a printed page, because it means new content.

Are you a bitch, a witch or a bit of both?

WITCHES UNITE!


WITCHES BREW, BITCHES BREW BY RACHEL VETTE

WITCHES BREW, BITCHES BREW BY RACHEL VETTE

Beer is now considered the quintessential masculine drink, with some men even eschewing wine or cocktails for fear of their feminine connotations. So, it may come as a surprise to know that beer and brewing were once considered the sole domain of women.

Due to its low alcohol content and high concentration of nutrients (such as carbohydrates and proteins), which could be readily-absorbed in liquid form, beer was the drink of choice for centuries when clean water and nutrient-dense foods were scarce. Relished by parents and children alike, it was a staple of most meals and  since the home and everything associated with it were considered the responsibility of women—it was also their duty to brew beer for the family. As historian Marianne Hester notes, ‘women did the brewing of ale needed for immediate consumption by the household, and prior to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, women also brewed ale for sale’ (Hester, 303). Women who needed additional income commonly sold any excess at local markets and the occupation of ‘brewer’ was, consequently, considered as an exclusively female one.

The formation of the guilds in Middle Ages Europe, however, saw the swift decline of female crafts and trades: removing women’s role in production and inserting men in their place. It was the dawn of a new economic system—capitalism—which created a struggle between men and women for the ability to make a living. Men were concerned with retaining dominance in the developing society, and excluding women from production was a good way of ensuring their economic dependence on men. Foremost amongst the trades taken from women was brewing, removing it from the household and placing it in the hands of male factory owners.

In order to ensure the complete transition of brewing from the hands of women to those of men, it was paramount to depict women as incapable of brewing; or worse, as doing so with malicious intent.

Enter, the witch-hunts. Witch-hunting was already well underway in Europe, and it became an easy way to denounce women who dared to subvert emerging gender roles. Soon, it was popular to depict the alewife negatively, and this theme occurs in a variety of literature, music and art of the period, showing her as a grotesque old crone of dubious virtue. These representations ‘undermined the position of the alewife by questioning her general trustworthiness, while at the same time allowing men to be seen in a much more popular light’ (Hester, 304). Fermentation had previously been thought of as a kind of magic, and now this association took on a much more sinister tone.

Interestingly, much of our current imagery concerning witches comes from these unsavoury depictions of alewives. Black cats, broomsticks, bubbling cauldrons and pointy hats: all were traditional tools of brewing that were turned against women to denounce them as witches and discredit their trade. Cats had long been used as pest-control, preventing mice and other rodents from spoiling the wheat, but now they became ‘familiars’: animals the woman could use to converse with the Devil and carry out her sadistic work. Broomsticks, used both to clean and to denote the location of an alehouse (a bundle of wheat tied around a stick on a building was a sign used since Roman Britain to display that beer was for sale inside—especially important in a society where only the aristocracy could read), now became marks of debauchery and women’s supposedly insatiable sexual urges. The image of a bubbling cauldron, used to boil the malt and hops for ale, was turned into a vessel where all manner of grotesque ingredients were combined to create potions of evil intent—notably included in Shakespeare’s Macbeth: ‘double, double toil and trouble, fire burn, and cauldron bubble’ (Act 4, Scene 1). The pointy hat, too, was co-opted. Previously used by alewives in the market as a practical way of making themselves seen in a crowd, its reputation soured, becoming something reputedly worn by women during their Satanic rituals.

Indeed, nearly every symbol we now associate with the ‘wicked old witch’ comes from this era and men’s frenzied attempt to discredit women and their economic independence. Gradually, women’s involvement in ale-making dwindled, and, by the beginning of the 19th century, brewing was almost exclusively done by men in large-scale factories for widespread consumption by a predominantly male workforce. Women’s contributions to the art of beer-making were forgotten but their image as sinful crones endured, relegating them to the pages of spooky children’s stories rather than history books, and beer drinking became synonymous with masculinity and the disavowal of all things feminine.

This modern conception, however, could not be further from the truth, and a crucial change is needed to reassert women’s their involvement in brewing to its rightful place. So, this Halloween, as you pass storefronts and houses riddled with cartoons of witches with broomsticks, cats and cauldrons, remember where they came from, and lift a pint with your sisters to commemorate the long-lost and much maligned alewives who gave us this eminent drink.

Rachel also contributes to The Fly Trap – check out their instagram feed.


PERFUME SOCIETY'S SUZY NIGHTINGALE

PERFUME SOCIETY’S SUZY NIGHTINGALE

”Suzy Nightingale, fragrance expert and freelance writer talks scents, female strength and about her favourite smells with REEK Perfume. This is the kind of smelly chat that dreams are made of…

What brought you to the world of perfume?

Firstly, my mother. She has always been incredibly glamorous, and as a child I had that classic hankering for a dressing table filled with intriguing bottles and jars of mysterious, scented lotions and potions. We’d often go on holiday to Jersey – a duty-free haven of perfumeries – and my favourite memories are of spending hours in dimly-lit, velvet-clad spaces filled entirely with women, talking in hushed tones about secretive things while sniffing perfumes and exchanging beauty tips. I felt like I’d been given access to an inner sanctum of adulthood, a perfumed cabal of possibilities! I was allowed to choose miniature bottles of perfume to try, and my first full-size choice, aged ten, was Chanel’s Coco. Hardly a ‘suitable’ choice for a young girl, I suppose, but I wanted to grow in to it, and I’ve always actively revelled in being perceived as ‘unsuitable’! Later, when I was already a writer, I stumbled across the online forums of Fragantica (an online encyclopaedia of perfume) with people reviewing and discussing their own collections of fragrance. I enthusiastically joined in, and was asked by the editors to contribute articles to the magazine section. I became their UK Correspondent for a while, and quickly realised I loved the challenge of describing the artistry of perfumes – the stories behind them, the emotions inspired by them. Now I’m freelance as the Senior Writer for The Perfume Society website and magazine, The Scented Letter, as well as writing for industry magazines like Esprit, creating trend reports and fragrance forecasting for corporate organisations and providing expert consultations. It’s a fusing of creative writing and journalism, just as perfumery is a fusing of science and art; and all without a language of its own. There are hardly any (positive) words for smells alone. We are constantly forced to allude to taste, texture and deep-rooted feelings in those descriptions, to pass on a message. It makes my brain itch and my soul ache and I adore it.

Do you feel that women are celebrated in your industry? Tell us about some of the women who have inspired your own career?

Well that’s a very interesting question, because ostensibly they are, or at least they appear to be. You could argue the majority of the fragrance world is devoted to celebrating aspects of womanhood, with a perfume along the way for every stage of your life, your every mood. But in the past these were devised and decided almost exclusively by men, from the brief given to the perfumer to the perfumer composing the scent and through to the men making the advertising campaign, right up to men buying the perfume as a gift for their wife or lover. Now a lot of these companies are being run by women, many more perfumers are women… I think there’s still a very long way to go, particularly with advertising that can render what’s potentially an interesting fragrance in to yet another woman in a bra or a bikini looking breathless on a beach; but things are happening. As for women in the industry I admire – there are so many! I’m particularly inspired by characters such as Germaine Cellier, who was a pioneering nose in the 1940s, creating outstandingly new (and then scandalously daring) perfumes such as Balmain‘s Vent Vert – overdosed with galbanum and considered the first “green” perfume of its kind – and Robert Piguet‘s Fracas, a bombastic, room-filling, man-terrifying tuberose (which sadly I can’t personally wear as it feels as though I’ve been shot through the head with a silver bullet, but I love the mere fact it exists in all its audacity). She seems like a formidable woman who barged her way through at a time the entire world was otherwise dominated by male perfumers, forging the way fearlessly and stamping her mark in scent history. Cellier very much believed in doing her own thing. I’d love to have met her. Estée Lauder, too, was a perfume and beauty pioneer. Before Youth Dew was released in 1953 as a scented bath oil that could also be used as a perfume, it was seen as socially unacceptable for women to buy their own perfume – it marked you as some sort of whore, as opposed to nice, respectable ladies who used delicately scented dusting powder and perhaps dabbed their temples with rose water or Cologne after an exhausting day of looking decorative. Lauder was an incredible saleswoman – she knew what women wanted and how to give it to them. She forged an empire and paved the way for women to buy their own perfume and cosmetics, not just passively waiting for some husband or potential paramour to present it to them. I’m also really inspired by women like Monique Remy, who founded LMR (Laboratoire Monique Remy) in 1984, a manufacturing and processing facility for natural perfume and flavour ingredients. Her foresight guaranteed fair trade, good working traditions and long term investment in vulnerable communities worldwide. She strove for quality and sustainability at a time nobody else was really considering these values, and forced the closed world of Grasse to begrudgingly accept and carry forward her demands. And Chantal Roos! She’s legendary in the fragrance world for commissioning and launching some of the biggest fragrances of all time – seeking out the best of the best way ahead of her contemporaries. Lovers of Yves Saint Laurent‘s Opium and Kouros, Jean Paul Gaultier‘s Classique and Issey Miyake‘s L’Eau d’Issey have the gutsy marketing savvy of Roos to thank. Now she’s working with her equally talented (musician and composer) daughter Alexandra on their own perfume line, Dear Rose. Ballsy women with a vision, all of them, and there are countless others…!

What gender equality causes mean the most to you personally and why?

I’m really moved by young women highlighting issues of concern for their generation – I think for my (Generation X) contemporaries, we’ve seen this gradual backwards slide in equality, young girls feeling uncomfortable about identifying themselves as feminists, putting up with terrible abuse on all forms of social media just for being female and having an opinion or not conforming, being objectified and sexualised at an early age… I’m heartened the younger generations are increasingly not only aware of this, but trying to address it in their own way. It gives me hope.

What women do you most identify with from history to the present day?

Good grief, where do you start?! I’m going to have to begin with Aphra Behn – one of the first women to earn a living as a professional writer. I’m with Virginia Woolf when she said “All women together ought to let flowers fall upon the tomb of Aphra Behn, for it was she who earned them the right to speak their minds.” Harriette Wilson has always seemed like a bit of a goer. An infamous courtesan, she seduced men with her passionately worded letters and – in later years – made a pretty penny by offering them a special chapter in her memoirs unless they paid up. We all owe a huge debt to the brilliance of Ada Lovelace, who ushered in the digital era. I was the first girl in my class to get a computer, and used to pretend I was Ada while attempting to program my ZX Spectrum. I wonder what she would have made of my failed attempt to make an American flag digitally wave while playing a tinny tune? I admire the biting sarcasm and wit of women like Dorothy Parker – how glorious it must have been to be part of the Algonquin Round Table – and Bette Davis. Now there are two women you didn’t want to cross. And my god, who doesn’t adore women like Helen Mirren and Judy Dench, who continue to excel at an age most women in their profession have long been sadly discarded? I am inspired by women who speak their mind, ask difficult questions and don’t attempt to hide their cleverness.

What signifies female strength to you? 

Refusing to shut up. Bravery balanced with dignity. Persisting through everyday battles perceived as trivialities. Being yourself, whatever that means to you personally.

What smells remind you of femininity?

Outrageously opulent and musky smells that are seen as ‘a bit much’ are the very essence of what femininity means to me. Women have long been told they should smell clean and simple – nothing to startle the horses or children or tremulous men. I say dare to at least sometimes wear a fragrance like a weapon or a suit of armour and leave crowds trembling in your wake! I’m not really a clean and simple sorta gal.

What are your five favourite smells and why?

I can’t possibly do this in order, as that fluctuates depending on my mood and what I need… but here we go.

1 – Vicks Vapour Rub. I used to rub it into the fur on the neck of my toy rabbit (which I still have, though she’s a bit of a bald rag now, bless her) and sniff it until I fell asleep. It makes me feel comforted and cared for. My mum also used to slather me in it when I had one of my many rounds of childhood pneumonia and various coughs and colds. I associate it with a cool hand on a fevered brow.

2 – Books. Old books foraged in dusty second hand shops and found in libraries, new books with that delicious just-printed smell (particularly those expensive, small-press coffee table type arty books). I always smell a book before I read it. If they don’t smell right, I’m bitterly disappointed.

3 – Necks. That warm-skin of your lover’s snuggle smell, or the neck fur of a beloved cat or dog. Or even a toy (see my previous Rabby Rabbit scent memory), favourite jacket or scarf – I’m probably seen as a bit vampiric because I like to lean in for a good neck smell. You can’t beat it.

4 – Orange blossom absolute. It sounds as though it should be so delicate and pretty, but the properly good stuff is hypnotically indolic and utterly filthy.

5 – Oriental/vanilla perfumes. My first and forever love. I refuse to choose a favourite. Give me opulence abounding!

What makes you a Damn Rebel Bitch? Tell us what kind of bitch you are.

I always end up saying what I think, I cannot sit on something I feel to be unjust or untrue and hold my tongue. I find it physically impossible. I don’t give voice to absolutely everything I disagree with, these days, because life is short and I’ve learned to edit and prioritise my extreme displeasure. I am extremely – fiercely – loyal to those I love. I think I’m a funny, sarcastic bitch at times, but it’s nuanced with a huge capacity for love and kindness. I enjoy everyday acts of rebellion by being myself, and enjoying it. I refuse to give in to my own worst fears, which are manifold. I like scaring people, sometimes. Including myself.


AKVILE SU

                      AKVILE SU

We speak with unisex  jewellery designer, maker, part-time model and full-time activist Akvile Su about her minimalist jewellery brand, comparing UK and Lithuanian feminism and her favourite smells..

Tell us about your brand and the concept behind it?

My brand is minimalist, unisex, classic, but modern. Some of my designs are created with the intention of challenging social norms surrounding jewellery: how it is worn, and by whom it is worn. Jewellery is one of those things that are unnecessarily gendered. I think it is a very dated idea to separate adornments into either ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’. I strive for my jewellery to be for any age, lifestyle or anyone with a strong sense of style and personal aesthetic. Ultimately I just  hope my jewellery empowers people in some capacity.

There is quite a strong theme of sexuality in your jewellery collections. What has been the response to that of your customers and followers?

It’s been surprisingly good! People who understand what I am trying to say congratulate me for not being afraid to speak up about social issues through jewellery. People who approach me often love the idea of these little messages I am trying to send via my campaigns, social media and often jewellery itself.

You moved to the UK to study, do you see any differences in gender equality here from back home?

To be honest I do. Personally I think the UK, especially Scotland, is far more progressive in regards to gender equality. I was pleasantly surprised at little things that seem so casual now. Let’s say sharing housework and cooking is pretty common and normal thing here, while back home in Lithuania it’s still assumed to be the ‘duty’ of a woman. Women in many cases are still treated as accessories for men. And we are still often advised to find a good man for our bright future, pressured to have kids early and make a family.

Tell us about some of the females who have inspired you in your personal life and career?

The most inspiring females of my life have been my great grandma, grandma and my mum. They are all strong and very talented women who were true multitasking masters working to develop their careers and also raise children. I am so thankful for all the lessons they have given to me and support and love I receive daily.

What gender equality causes are closest to your heart and why?

I would like to point out that all gender equality causes are very important for me and I believe that there’s time for everything to be discussed and advocated. But at the moment my online presence and conversations with others been mainly about everyday harassment on the street & work. I aim to reflect this in my work through my use of both form and symbols to highlight how the sexualisation of the  female body is a subjective, artificial structure that does not reflect it’s organic, innate properties.

What significance do smells have in your life?

Smells play relatively big role in my life. I connect smells with memories, places I have been to, people or home.   Familiar smells give me this sense of safety and it can be nostalgic too.

What are your favourite smells and why?

My 2 absolute favourite smells are the smell of wet ground after summer rain and the smell of basement or an old house. It reminds me of my childhood, when I used to play outside all the time and live carelessly. Also one of my favourite activities was to look for ‘treasures’ in my grandma’s attic. She lived in this huge house built in 1800s and believe it or not we actually found the treasure one day. It was gold wedding ring from America hidden away between old junk, I still have it. Maybe one day I will turn it into new piece of jewellery.

Are you a witch or a bitch?

I like to think I’m more of a witch. Back in the day it was strong and forward thinking women who were called witches.

 

Website – www.akvilesu.com

Instagram – @suakvile