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  • Writer's pictureDee Crute

On Black Shuck Legend and Love of Folklore

Updated: Apr 17

The Introvert has the utmost pleasure of presenting to you Matt Willis, the illustrator of Shuck Zine and founder of The Folk Lore Box!

I was super excited to learn how Matt's passion for ye olde lore came to be and how two successful indie businesses were born from it - definitely inspired me to carry on with my own endeavours!

But enough from me!

There you are - Matt Willis:

The Shaping

I’ve always had a love of drawing, which was instilled in me by my dad. He used to draw little pictures of animals with me when I was very young, showing me how to create animals from a few basic shapes. He also introduced me to comics, buying me my first copy of 2000AD, a weekly British science fiction comic, when I was six or seven years old.

I was instantly hooked on the amazing art and have harboured a desire to be a comics artist ever since (My submission when I was 16 was very politely refused with a lovely letter beseeching me to keep trying).

My other passion when younger was scary stories.

We would often go on walks in the countryside and when I got too tired, my dad would sit me on his shoulders and tell me stories of Black Shuck and other local legends.

He also had a copy of the Readers Digest Folklore Myths and Legends of Britain – now the bible for folklorists and selling for a pretty penny!

I’d spend many an afternoon looking through the pages, reading the stories, but mostly marvelling at the amazing illustrations.

This love of drawing eventually led to art college and a degree in Graphic Design.

The Creation

The Folk Lore Box is an online shop where I sell prints of my illustrations and other items.

It was started during the end of the lockdown in 2020.

I’m a graphic designer by trade, but I have always had a love of drawing, illustration and folklore.

These three things came together at the end of the lockdown when I set up a zine, SHUCK, with a couple of friends. The zine is centred around the folklore of Norfolk, the county that I live in and is named after the infamous Devil dog, Black Shuck. I provide the illustrations and design for the zine to accompany the articles.

We had never attempted anything like SHUCK before and had no idea how to go about it.

The whole thing was very daunting. In the end, we decided to use Kickstarter to raise the funds for the first issue as it seemed a low risk and they didn’t take a huge amount of the money raised.

We had a very modest target of £300 to cover an initial print run.

It was a huge success, raising nearly £2000 pounds!

The first issue was very well received, with many comments praising the writing and illustrations.

This was a huge boost to my confidence as an illustrator, as up to that point, I had drawn mostly for myself and hadn’t had the courage to submit my work to any magazines or publishing companies. I had taken on freelance design jobs from time to time, but my real passion was always for illustration.

The Folk Lore Box

With the success of the first issue of SHUCK, I realised that my illustrations might have some commercial value. I decided to set up my own shop, and The Folk Lore Box was born.

As with SHUCK, I had no real idea how to go about setting up a shop. I did the usual research around the net, and it really came down to 2 choices – set up a shop on a website or open an Etsy shop. I opted for an Etsy shop as it’s very simple to set up, and they drive a lot of business to it. At some point, I may move away, but for the time being, it works for me.

I named it The Folk Lore Box, as the initial plan was to release a different themed box each month focusing on a different character or story from folklore. The initial box was the river-dwelling witch – Jenny Greenteeth. I offered a print, a small 8-page zine, 3 stickers and the choice of either a second print or a laser-engraved plaque, depending on which box you bought.

The box sold well, but I had lots of people asking if they could buy the items separately, and I realised I’d sell more that way. So, the box element fell by the wayside, but I kept the name as I feel it conjures up a kind of Pandora’s box, full of creatures and tales from myth and legend.

I also had access to a laser cutter and engraver, which allowed me to produce some of my illustrations as decorations engraved into wood.

After Some initial success with the decorations I purchased a laser cutter for myself. This allows me to fulfill the orders a lot faster as I don’t have to wait for the decorations to be cut and then delivered to me.

It also allows me to experiment with different items and techniques. I have so many ideas and not enough time to work on them all.

100% Me

What I love about The Folk Lore Box is that it’s 100% me. If I feel like illustrating a certain story or maybe a standing stone, then I’m able to do it.

I’m not beholden to anyone else.

Having said that I do often get asked for commissions from people – logos, beer labels, book covers – which I’m always happy to take on. These are from like-minded folklore fans and have all been amazing to work on.

I still feel excited when I see something I’ve designed and illustrated out in the world somewhere.

It’s a great way to relax in the evenings. I put my headphones on, select some music and set to drawing in my sketchbook or on my iPad. I’m never happier than when I’m immersed in the folklore!

The Creator

You can find Matt on Instagram:

And purchase his art and zine on Etsy:

I, myself, proudly possess Matt's creations!

My Red Dragon Tote Bag has a special place in my collection (yes, I do collect them!), being a keeper of my Manuscript! Okay, Draft 1 of the manuscript!

I love it so much! It's of great quality and perfectly symbolises the protection of my hard work! My bedroom wall is adorned with Mari Lwyd and The Mushroomist prints, but I want more! The only problem is making up my mind which one, as all of them are fantastic!

Have you got your favourite one? Let me know in the comments!



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