Over Easter I went to St Ives, Cornwall, staying in the aptly named cottage ‘Labour in Vain’. I was very pleased to find on the harbour front, the ‘smock shop’, less pleased to find it was the maritime and fishing version, rather than that of the agricultural labourer. Nevertheless, it was quietly thrilling to walk past such a retail establishment every day and come to terms with the fact that I am perhaps not the only one obsessing over smocks, be they of different varieties.
I even found the shop reproduced on one of Poppy Treffry’s fantastic quirky print tea towels. As I spend most of the my life at the moment searching for the words ‘smock shop’ in a nineteenth century context, a sliver of excitement was definitely there!
Of course the word smock also has connotations for the artist, particularly those who settled in of St Ives. Using local fishermen’s smocks as protective overalls – they were strong, durable and washable, the artist’s smock has become a whole different subsection of the smock genre. The sculptor Barbara Hepworth made her home in the town and her smocks hang alongside her unfinished work in her workshop, now a Museum. Today fishermen and sailors seem to favour the waterproof all-in-one, although this comment is just from observation so please let me know if amiss. I am neither a sailor nor a fisherman – only a smock obsessive!