Sylvia Taylor, Freeville, New York USA / Cork, Ireland


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Artist's comments ...

    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 of moss.
    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 beret.
    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 following day.
    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.