An Interview with Grace Nuth

TTW: Tell us a little bit about your job as Deputy Editor at Faerie Magazine. What kinds of work do you do for the magazine?

Grace Nuth: As Deputy Editor of Faerie Magazine, my job is basically to assist the Editor-in-Chief, Carolyn, with her editorial duties. I am here to help her brainstorm ideas and contact potential subjects for articles, to provide a second opinion on layouts and copyediting, and to proof the complete issue when Lisa, our art director, completes the layout. In addition to this, I also research and write at least two or three articles in every issue, and help provide content for the Faerie Magazine Facebook page, with over 1.6 million followers.

I’ve also recently helped with planning and directing two photo shoots for upcoming issue spreads.

TTW: Why are you so drawn to the idea of Faerie and to fairy tales and folk narrative? Why do you think fairy tales are important?

Grace Nuth: Oh my. That’s quite a loaded question. Well, first, I have to explain that I rather consider myself to be a 21st century aesthete. I believe that the visceral reaction we have to something beautiful can do more than merely provide a moment’s diversion. Beauty, as a contrast to all the destruction and devastation so rampant in today’s society and politics, can remind us that there is still good in this world to fight for. And Faerie, and fairy tales, and folk narrative, hearken back to a time when…I’m not going to say it was a simpler time, because the struggle between good and evil was still there, but it was a time when we seemed to lean more heavily on the beauty of a story, of a moment, of imagery inherent in fairy tales, to help provide a path through the dark forest into the light of hope. As I’ve heard it said, fairy tales don’t tell us that evil doesn’t exist. It tells us it does, but that it can be conquered. To provide such a timeless message, with such beautiful symbolism and imagery, and still manage to entertain…fairy tales are truly magical.

TTW: What fairy tale/ folk narratives have influenced you the most on a personal and creative level?

My three favorite fairy tales are “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Twelve Dancing Princesses,” and “The Snow Queen.” My favorite ballads are “Lady Isabel and the Elf Knight” and “Tam Lin.” And my favorite poem is “La Belle Dame Sans Merci.” All of these stories have influenced me massively. What do they have in common? Extremely strong heroines. But in what ways do they show their strength? A huge variety of ways.

Belle shows a gentle courage, a sensitive and kind nature that helps overcome the Beast’s wild nature and rage. The Twelve Dancing Princesses may at first seem like a passive tale, and it’s true that a large part of why I love it is the incredible imagery. But in the version I tell myself, the youngest daughter shows resilience and an awareness of her surroundings even when enchanted by the strange land she enters. The Snow Queen of course has Gerda, but there’s also the Queen herself, a character who I feel is labeled as “the bad guy” far too readily, when she acts more as an amoral force of nature in the story. Lady Isabel’s tale I adore for one simple reason: The absolutely brilliant retort she gives the Elf Knight as she kills him. (“If seven king’s daughters here have you slain/then lie you here a husband to them all”) And Tam Lin provides Janet, the true hero of her own story who holds fast to the father of her child even as he is transformed into all manner of hideous creatures.

Then there’s the Lady in the Meads, who is perhaps the heroine to whom I relate the most. I could joke and say that as an introvert, I relate to her desire to just be left alone. And in a way that’s actually quite true. But on another level I just feel drawn to this ethereal faerie woman, this “faery’s child” whose “hair was long and…eyes were wild.” We never hear her utter a single word directly in her own story, nor do we get any of the tale from her perspective. And yet I am as entranced by her as the knight claims to be. I feel an overwhelming urge to defend her, so often described as an enchantress with evil intent. I want to shout at the skies, “we never hear her story!!”

Ahem. I do go on. The point is…these stories have captured my imagination and my heart, and each of them contains elements that have helped influence the person I am today.

TTW: The Folk Owl and Lalabug spread is the result of the first photo shoot that you’ve helped execute for Faerie Magazine. How did the idea for this particular shoot evolve?

Grace Nuth: I have to give credit to my dear friend Briony. I was already an admirer of the work of felt artists Lalabug Designs and Folk Owl, and had thought in passing that it would be lovely to feature them. But she persisted in suggesting the idea of a feature spread sharing their work, and even offered to send a package of her own personal items she has bought from these artists for us to use in the shoot. I loved the idea of sharing an article with the magazine that would encourage people to see how they can incorporate faerie style into their winter wear accessories.

I contacted Lalabug and Folk Owl, and both of them loved the idea. Both sent me items specifically for the shoot. With the approval of the editor-in-chief, we were in business!

TTW: How did you select the models who took part in the shoot?

A few months ago, I got together with photographer Winter Kelly and model Ruby Randall to do a shoot featuring the gorgeous gowns of Romantic Threads. As Ruby (who is also a stylist and makeup artist) was doing my makeup, they were telling me about a friend of hers who has Down Syndrome. Lily loves feeling like a princess, and they had planned for a while to do a shoot with her sometime. They would do her makeup and hair, and dress her up beautifully, and take pictures. I had to ask Ruby to stop talking about their plans, because my eye makeup was starting to run from my tears.

You see, I have two family members with Down Syndrome who mean the world to me. My Uncle David passed away a few years ago in his 50s, and he was one of the most incredible people I’ve ever known. And my sister has a young daughter, Abigail, who is the apple of her Aunt Grace’s eye. I casually mentioned to Ruby and Winter that day that I would love to see if there might be a way to incorporate their plan into something the magazine could use.

So…when I thought about creating this shoot to showcase the gorgeous accessories of these two felt artists, I immediately thought of that earlier conversation. The other two models, Chay and Keilah, were suggested by Winter and Ruby. Chay we have actually featured on our Faerie Magazine Facebook page before, and her photos were quite well received. And lovely Keilah has a gentle spirit that Ruby felt Lily would respond well to.

faeriemag0371v2.JPG

Lily in an outtake from her Faerie Magazine photo shoot

TTW: Why is fostering diversity in magical images important to you?

Grace Nuth: When you asked me above what fairy tales resonated with me personally, I mentioned the importance of strong female characters in the tales I most admire. I honestly am not sure how much these women in the stories have always reminded me of my own character, and how much their character helped to mold me into the person I am now. But either way, we all put ourselves into the narratives we read. It’s only natural. And the last thing I want is for someone who is Desi, or handicapped, or curvy, to look at our magazine and get the idea that only skinny young white women can be magical, can be faeries.

Now, the problem with this is that until just recently, Faerie Magazine has had to rely solely on pre-existing photo shoots for our features. We’ve been limited to sharing what already was around. But now that we’re starting to coordinate our own photo shoots, you might notice that there has been quite a bit more variety in our recent issues. We’ve featured women of color on our magazine covers in the recent past, and will again with our upcoming fall issue. Lily’s inclusion in our winter issue is very exciting for all of us. And we only want to continue to push these limits of diverse imagery in our magazine.

A few weeks ago, we shared a photo on our Facebook page of a beautiful “Fairy Godmother,” the photographer’s mother who was about to celebrate her 80th birthday. We received a huge response…over 1,600 comments, 50,000 likes, and 9,550 shares. People want this reminder that wonder has no age limit, no limitations. We can all be a part of magic, no matter our age, color, size, or disabilities.

TTW: What do you hope will result from including photo shoots like this in your magazine?

Grace Nuth: I have a very strong image in my mind of what I want to see happen as a result of Lily’s photo in our magazine. I want, more than anything in the world, for there to be a young woman or man with Down Syndrome who opens up our magazine and looks through it. I want him or her to see the photographs of Lily, and to point to them and say “look mom, I can be a fairy princess too!” People with Down Syndrome have been hedged in by societal limitations for so long. When my grandma had my uncle, she was considered revolutionary simply for taking him home with her instead of putting him in an institution. It is only recently that shows like “Born This Way” and individuals like model Madeline Stuart have begun to show the world just how unlimited those with Down Syndrome can be.

Because of my personal experience with family members who have Down Syndrome, this particular topic is very close to my heart. But I believe that the steps we are taking by including this photo shoot in our magazine have ramifications to more than just that singular community. The reminder that everyone has magic inside of them is one that I hope everyone who sees this photo spread carries away with them.

TTW: Do you have any advice for other editors and creators who want to promote diverse voices and representations in their spaces?

The more photographers realize that there is a demand for diverse images, the more variety of this sort of image we will have available to us to share. I would still love to see the top level of elegant fairy tale photographers creating more imagery with women of color, older women, large women, and disabled women (and men!). The ethereal images we want to feature in our magazine are just as beautiful, just as moving, and just as inspirational if they celebrate diversity: sometimes even more so. We just have to make it clear that there’s a demand for images of this nature, and hopefully we will see more like it as a result.

    *          *          *          *          *

Grace Nuth is a writer, artist, model, and blogger who moonlights as a librarian. She is deputy editor at Faerie Magazine, where she has also published her poetry and short fiction. She lives in Ohio in a fairy-tale cottage, surrounded by a fairy-tale garden, with her husband and her black cat.

Sara Cleto is a PhD candidate and writer. She is currently writing her dissertation on representations of disability in 19th-century fairy tales and fantastic literature. Her creative writing can be found in Faerie Magazine, Goblin FruitCabinets des Fees: Scheherazade’s Bequest, Rhonda Parrish’s Alphabet Anthologies, and others.

Photo Credits:
Photographer: WinterWolf Studios, https://www.facebook.com/winterwolfstudios/

Makeup Artist/Stylist: Fox Fawn and Fauna / The Fabled Fox, https://www.facebook.com/FoxFawnandFauna https://www.facebook.com/TheFabledFox/?ref=py_c 

Models: Chay, Keilah, and Lily

https://www.facebook.com/KeilahKJude/

https://www.facebook.com/Lilianna-1530027987301236/?fref=ts

Felted Accessories: Folk Owl, Lalabug Designs

https://www.facebook.com/folkowl1/

https://www.facebook.com/lalabugdesigns/

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