Sylvia Taylor New York USA and Ireland
The fairy tale I have chosen to work with is called Mossycoat. When
I read the word "Mossycoat", I was captivated by the image
it evoked and I knew that my print would be a coat made of moss. I love
moss - and good thing too because I live half the year in Ireland and
half in the woods of New York state, where there is no shortage of moss.
Last spring my father passed away and I created a mossy quilt in my garden
in his memory. My son helped me gather hundreds of little pieces of moss
from our woods. They were pieced together on the earth and in the end
it looked like a patchwork quilt, a lush blanket with many shades of
greens from the different mosses. It's so soft, too. I can think of no
nicer material for a blanket or a coat.
In my search for a fairytale for this exchange, I found many references
to magical garments made of odd materials like wood and skins of wild
creatures. The theme of clothing made of unexpected materials has been
present in my work for years. A baby bonnet made of leopard skin, a bunting
made of twigs and fur, and now, a coat made of moss and snails. I find
the tension between one's expectation of clothing in general, and the
associations one has with the unexpected materials both interesting and
provocative. A coat of moss suggests protection and warmth because it
is a coat, as well as sensuality and earthiness because of the qualities
In the tale of Mossycoat, the moss coat has magical properties. She who
dons the coat can wish to be anything, anywhere, and it will be. I am
charmed by the notion of enchanted clothes and the reference to shelter
and transformation - no doubt because I could use one of these coats
myself although I do have a lucky shirt, lucky scarf and a super lucky
Mossycoat is an English fairy tale about a beautiful young woman. The
young woman, known as Mossycoat, lived with her mother in the country.
One day, a hawker came to the door and wanted to marry Mossycoat. She
really did not want to marry him. Her mother said to put him off by asking
for a white satin dress that would fit her perfectly. The hawker did
what she asked, bringing her the perfect white dress with the perfect
fit. She then asked for a dress made of all the colors of the birds that
fly. The hawker returned with another perfect dress. Perfect colors.
Perfect fit. The next request was for silver slippers that fit perfectly.
The hawker complied. The mother then told the hawker to come back the
What was Mossycoat to do? Run away! Her mother, a poor widow herself,
decided to send her daughter off to work as a servant where she was very
likely to be mistreated. But first the poor widow sewed a "wishing
coat" for her daughter to take on the journey. It was a magic coat
made of moss and golden thread. Put on this coat and you can go absolutely
anywhere and be absolutely anything you wish!
Mossycoat was treated poorly day in and day out by the other servants.
One night she used the magic coat to go to a dance. She wore the perfect
gown. Nobody recognized her as the servant girl. The prince fell in love
with her, but Mossycoat disappeared after their meeting. After some time,
Mossycoat used the magic coat to attend another ball, this time wearing
the second perfect dress and the silver slippers. The prince had been
waiting for her. He was so totally in love with her! Afraid of her true
identity being discovered, she ran away from the ball. In her haste she
lost a silver slipper.
The prince searched the land for the young woman whose foot would fit
the silver slipper. When it seemed all hope was lost in ever finding
the mystery silver-slipper-woman, the Prince heard about Mossycoat. She
was the only one in the kingdom who had-n't tried the slipper on yet.
Alas, the slipper fit Mossycoat and a royal wedding occurred soon thereafter.
Mossycoat now had whatever she fancied. Word has it that Mossycoat and
the Prince lived happily ever after and had a basketful of kids.
Linocut on Kitakata paper using Lawrence linseed oil relief ink.