Welcome to 2020 and its time to restart our blog. Its been a pretty hectic run up to the new year for us. To start with we have moved to a much larger shop at the other end of town. We waved goodbye to our little shop in Mansel Street in November and opened our new one in King Street a couple of weeks later. We are delighted with the move. The new shop is airy and spacious (no doubt we will manage to fill it up!) and it has a huge deep window which means we can really pull the stops out on our window displays. In keeping with our championing of heritage skills here is our local signwriter http://www.jenkins-signs.co.uk/ hand painting our new signage.
We have also acquired another pair of hands and what a fabulous pair of hands she is. Meet Lou, textile artist and crochet queen, Lou has been working with Pearl teaching her dressmaking over the last year. Between them they have some really exciting plans for the next year – all will be revealed in due course.
Pearl and Lou are also our window dressers. Obviously, we wanted to open with a bang. We designed the Christmas window to reflect both the antique and vintage aspects of the shop and our handmade elements. We have 14 makers, all local and ranging from ceramicists to jewelers, artists, a blacksmith, a woodworker, textile artist and photographers. The Christmas window was a panorama that took passers by from the wild outdoors to a cozy indoor setting. Pride of place was our Christmas goddess made from one of our vintage mannequins, fresh greenery and topped with one of Lou’s fabulous headdresses. She proved to be a great attraction with people stopping to take her photograph.
At the time of writing this blog we have just completed our January window which features one of Wales’ most unusual seasonal traditions - the Mari Lwyd.
The origins of the Mari Lwyd are lost in time but it seems to connect with the changing of the season. She is usually active from Dec 18th (Epona day) through until early to mid-January though sometimes the Mari stays out a little longer.The Mari Lwyd is an ancient custom. It consists of a person who wears a sheet and carries a decorated horses skull on a stick, usually accompanied by an ‘ostler’ or handler who carries a bird on a stick (Aderyn Pica Lwyd - The Grey Magpie). The Mari Lwyd comes to a dwelling (which must be locked), they knock and demand entry. A ceremonial exchange of verses, accompanied by musicians, takes place, called a pwnco. The people in the dwelling must give reasons not to let the Mari in, The ostler and Mari repeat their request for entry until eventually the people in the house run out of reasons and open the door whereupon the Mari enters and much entertainment takes place, including dancing, singing and the consumption of offers of food and drink. Mari can also be quite mischievous, running after people and snapping her jaws – its all in fun though.
Our Mari Lwyd was kindly lent to us by our local Mari Lwyd – Phil and Vivien Larcher, who have done much to revive the tradition on the Carmarthen area. You can read more about Phil and Vivien here https://indieshaman.co.uk/indie-shaman-interview-the-mari-lywd/ and watch Phil and Viv in action here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7tbXdaVMlI
We were not sure how our Mari was going to go down with customers and passers by (it’s a bit niche) but it seems to be generating lots of interest. Many people seem to have heard of the custom. We’ve heard people saying “oh look there’s the Mari Lwyd”. Others have come into the shop to ask about it, we had a visit from an artist who wanted to paint it and more than one person wanting to buy it (the Mari Lwyd if not for sale). Children seem to be especially fascinated by it. Its been great to have the opportunity to do our bit for raising awareness of this fascinating piece of Welsh history.
If you havnt been to see us in the new shop yet do call in soon, we're looking forward to seeing you.
Trudi, Pearl, Aaron and Lou x