Illustrated Christmas Ghost Story: The Mistletoe Bride

For this year’s first festive tale we visited Bramshill House in Hampshire for the tale of the Mistletoe Bride. The house is rumoured to be the most haunted in Britain, with a whopping 14 resident ghosts. These include a Green Man, a Knight in Armour, a Tennis Player and a Ghostly child. If you check out the video I cover all fourteen of them!

The focus of our story though is on the White woman. This ghost is said to haunt the Fleur de Lys room and harbours a particularly tragic tale. One set at, and often told during, Christmas time.

Ghost Stories at Christmas 

The tradition of telling ghost stories on Christmas Eve was hugely popular during the 18th century. A newly formed middle class with extra time on their hands would need a way to pass dark, cold nights. Nights where anything could be imagined to lurk in the corners of fire lit rooms . Nights where all the family are gathered around the fireplace for warmth. Dicken’s ‘The Christmas Carol’ is clearly the most popular of these festive tales. Another author of note is M. R. James whose tradition of Christmas Eve storytelling at Kings college is a famous one. As are his tales, such as “The Signal Man” and “Whistle and I’ll Come to you My Lad”. 

The Misteltoe Bough

This tale begins Christmas 1727. Anne Cope has just married Hugh Bethell of Yorkshire. Anne is the eldest daughter of John Cope of our discussed Bramshill House. After celebrations drew to a close and before retiring Anne proposes a game of Hide and Seek. Her guests permit her a five minute head start after which they will hunt for the new bride in her hiding place. Minutes pass and the bride is deemed to be quite the champion. Hours passed and the guests grow concerned. There is neither head nor hair of the bride to be found. Hours turn to days, days to years. Rumours spread that the bride regretted her marriage to Hugh immediately. That she ran away rather than face a life with him. Hugh, however, never gave up on his bride.

Fifty years since the mystery of the vanishing bride on Christmas Day and Hugh is searching the house, as he often did, for clues to her disappearance. He finds himself in the attic. Hugh taps an oak panel that revels a previously unseen door. Through the secret entrance lies a chest. Within the chest, the answer to the mystery. A grisly sight! A skeleton, wearing a wedding dress and clutching a bouquet of mistletoe. Inside the lid, the scratch marks of a poor soul attempting to escape her tomb.

It is said that Annes ghost walks the Fleur de Lys room of Bramshill House at night. Hugh is believed to be responsible for another spirit. That of a man, glimpsed staring at the chest where his bride had remained so close to him all those years.

Points of Contest

There are a few debated points within the stories claim to authenticity. Beyond the obvious whether or not ghosts exist, that is! The story is associated with a number of stately homes in the UK although Bramshill House is the one deemed to be most credible. Although it is said that the chest that stands in the hall today is not the one from the story, The original best having been removed by an earlier owner of the house. 

It is also said that the tragic tale did not actually happen to Anne Cope or within the house at all. In fact, it is said that the ghost arrived to the house with the chest itself. The story of an entombed bride true but having already happened. The theory is that the tale pertains to Genevre Orsini, an Italian woman from a well to do family. Genevre too married her beloved in 1727, as Anne and Hugh did.  It is said that after Genevre died encased within the chest the chest was sold to an English man and brought to Bramshill. The ghost of the White lady in this case is thought to be that of Genevre herself.

Remember to like the video if you enjoyed it and subscribe to my YouTube channel to be updated about future Illustrated Ghost Story releases.

Last Christmas, I gave you my Art

It’s my illustration birthday!

At Christmas time 2017 I accepted my first commission. I didn’t have a plan to become an illustrator at the time. As I come up to my first year I have been reflecting on the last twelve months. I want to share what I have learnt and my reflections with you.

This week, my focus will be on my first Christmas season as seller. This has been my busiest time of the year as you might expect. I was surprised to find that it seemed to start as early as October. This was when my first commission for Christmas came in. I also found that, in line with recent shopping trends, bespoke presents are in demand at Christmas time. Over the Christmas period I have been commissioned to produce the most house portraits in a similar given time window, with a total of 3 requested before December had even begun.

One of a kind presents for one of a kind people

The number of commissions I could take on and window I could create them in was always something never very far from my mind. Consequently I chose quite a conservative window of stopping taking Christmas commissions on 8th December. This meant that customers didn’t have to be a super early bird to get one, but that I absolutely knew I was able to deliver all of the commissions on time. Especially in the context of increased ‘off the shelf’ Etsy orders and markets.

I also created a range of ceramic christmas tree ornaments and generally got my stall in the Christmas spirit. You may have spotted me in Christmas jumpers on a couple of occasions recently! As for the Fair’s I chose I attended 4 between October and December. There are a lot to choose from and I wouldn’t return to all the ones I did this year. However, each one is a valuable learning experience. Plus, there is always chance to chat to other stallholders about the world of craft and illustration when a fair is quiet.

The most wonderful time of the year

The best thing I have learnt is that I see myself doing this next year. I didn’t have any horrible experiences, where everyone’s stall is flocked around except mine. I did have occasions where I forgot important items, like carrier bags or my display stands, but there’s nothing that was a true crisis. Even the day where I didn’t make back my stall fee (unfortunately there was one) serve to help me decide which stalls to approach in future.

If you came to see me at any of my markets this year, or visited my Etsy store, supported me on social media I’d like to say a big

THANKYOU!

Year one has been brilliant and I have lots of ideas for year two 🙂

Merry Christmas, Friends!

Winter is Coming…

In the world of independent creative businesses Christmas is, unsurprisingly, the busiest time of the year. It’s a season geared towards spending and artists around the world are here to make sure that you have something unique, ethically sourced and individual to give to your loved ones. Each sale is appreciated, and although of course I am biased I would recommend that everyone make an effort to support small traders and support local businesses in their christmas shopping this year. In this post I want to talk about the perks and perils of the season and introduce some tips for coping with the most wonderfully manic time of the year.

Are you prepared?

For me, enquiries for bespoke christmas gifts started coming in in October. Just about the time I started on making a batch of a brand new product, ceramic Christmas decorations with a distinct “This Is Sian Ellis” vibe (more on those soon!). It was also when I started on my first fair appearances of the season and have begun to organise the two day extravaganza which is the Whirlow Hall Farm Christmas Fayre, which I will not just be running but exhibiting a stall at too (and I did the poster artwork, in for a penny, in for a pound!).

There’s a lot of pressure that comes for a small business at Christmas, fuelled not just by the frantic marketing of other businesses around us but by the knell of a quiet January (seriously, who makes any money in January?).

As this is my first Christmas as a trader I know I need to take it slowly. I haven’t approached any stockists this year, for example, and I have limited my fair appearances to 4 fairs over 5 days. I have not just a lot to learn, but a lot to do, in both of my jobs. Rather than rush into a Christmas unprepared and stressed I have taken the decision to spend that quiet January in preparation, including for Christmas 2019.

What I would advise is that all sellers, whether you are full time or part time, remember to take stock of their energy levels and general sanity this Christmas season too. Of course we are all grateful for a busy Christmas, and it’s what we dream of when we set up our businesses, but it shouldn’t reduce us to crumbled husks by the time it’s through.

Steps to a stress free traders Christmas

1) Are you still accepting commissions?

Do you need to be? Keep an eye on your work loads, commissions are the most time consuming of all and if you have enough lined up for the Christmas season and need to focus on selling your products perhaps this is something you can keep an eye on as to when your workload gets to a point you need to put this on hold.

2) Ask around.

There are a lot of markets and Christmas Fairs and so many are on conflicting dates, plus you need to make sure you have time for all the parts of your business that aren’t sales too. Try to make sure that you exhibit at the absolute best ones for you and your produce, find out from other makers about their experiences with fairs you are unfamiliar with. A day at a dud fair can be time and money that you can’t afford to lose this time of year.

3) What are your January plans?

What can you be doing in your quiet months to prepare for this time of year? Can you work on your Christmas 2019 stock, your look book? How about in the months running up to your busiest period try and encourage or incentivise your fans to approach you for Christmas commissions early.

Whatever you choose to do, I hope you have a great Christmas season 2018!