Archive of ‘interviews’ category

Elsewhere: An Interview With Pam Grossman

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A Woman With Power: Pam Grossman

It was my supreme pleasure to have caught up with the extraordinary Pam Grossman for our recent interview, which was up at Haute Macabre last week.  We discuss her thoughts on witchcraft and the occult as it relates to art, activism, and anger, and what it means to be a woman with power.

If you haven’t had a chance to take a peek at it yet, I highly suggest you do so now–Pam shares so much of herself and you’ll be certain to come away from it richer in spirit (but perhaps poorer in pocket, because she has *so* many good recommendations as it relates to books, movies, and music!)

Spooky Stitches: interview & giveaway with Rachel Dreimiller of YourGothicGranny

unnamed (3)Remember Ello? The social media site that, back in 2014, was predicted to be the next Facebook type thing? Or maybe people were hoping it would be, as it seemed to be a virtual utopia, built on promises of  “no ads, no data-mining, no algorithms that make decisions about what you should see, no turning users into products” — and perhaps the hype and the hope were helped along due to the fact that it came into being just as people were falling prey to Facebook’s ridiculous “real name” policy business.

Well, I remember it. If not only for the reason that if there’s somewhere on the internet to have an account and post your crap there, I want in on it. Unfortunately, it never really took off (at least as far as I can tell), and everyone still on Facebook. I think it’s a little bit like those those folks who are forever threatening that if this, that, or the other thing happens or doesn’t happen, they’re moving to Canada! No you’re not. You’re still on Facebook, just like the rest of us.

However, I do have a summer home on Ello, and I do peek in quite frequently because there are some amazing creators to be found over there. As a matter of fact, friends on facebook may recall that in March of this past year, I posted over on facebook of one such find: Rachel Dreimiller of YourGothicGranny.

I was immediately taken with Rachel’s work–embroidery is something I’d always wanted to “get around to”–and her spooky and subversive stitches totally captivated me. Her creations, a mixture of memento mori, sweet flowers + salty language, and general creepy weirdness, is an an aesthetic that is near and dear to my heart; it’s almost like she picked through the landscape of my ridiculous brain and stitched up what she found!

Actually, here is a great example of this: a dear friend of mine had, unbeknownst to me, commissioned a piece of Rachel’s work for my birthday this past year! If this isn’t totally me, I just don’t know what is…

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“Get to the point, you long-winded weirdo!” is no doubt what you’re saying at this point. I get it. I know I ramble. It takes me a very long time to tell a story, and sometimes I never even get to the point. Thanks for putting up with me.

Below is an a bit of a Q&A with Rachel, who has not only graciously endured my intrusive questions but who has also agreed to do a giveaway at Unquiet Things for one of her pieces of embroidery! If Rachel were to pick through your brains, what story would her needle and thread tell from what she found? Leave a comment if you wish and let us know, and for giveaway details, check out Rachel’s Instagram!

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I initially saw your work via Ello, if I recall. Sometimes I feel like you and I might be the only two people over there, but I’m sticking it out. How do you feel the site has been for exposure and sales? Also, do you find interesting artists and inspiration over there, in the same way, I suppose, that I found you?

I really enjoy Ello. The creators are very active and super supportive of the artist community. They’re always adding more categories for artists to share their work, which makes it easier to discover new artists and pieces. I have been featured a few times which has totally helped with getting views and also some sales. Because they are so supportive I find a lot of artists, especially photographers that I had not come across on instagram.

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I’ve read that after a few years of experimenting with the medium, you fell into the style in which you create and design now. How would you, personally, describe your style?

I would have to say that my style is still developing, to be honest. Or that I am still working on it. I have a more set style for drawing and sketching, which I’ve been doing for years, but it never made the transition into the embroideries I’ve been making. I’m very inspired by line-work and pen and ink illustrations and engravings, like John Mortensen and Fritz Eichenberg. I would like to experiment more with working some of that style into my embroidered pieces. I love some of my more recent spooky ones that have very thin line work, I would like to stick to that style while still exploring more macabre subjects.

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What do you get up to when you’re not creating spoopy stitches?

I really like going for bike rides or walking the trails in the woods by my house, especially with my pup. Recently I have been focused on organizing and tidying up my work space. My husband and I bought a house a few months ago, and now I have my very own room for arts stuffs. It’s so exciting, but time consuming. I’m looking forward to the cooler months and boarding myself up and getting a lot of work done while watching all the classic Spoopy movies.

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What are your current inspirations and how do they work their way into a new piece of embroidery? What imagery would you like to stitch that you have not so far?

I have been going through all the spooky movies and shows on Netflix to get inspired for Halloween season. I’ve watched Stranger Things twice now and keep scrolling through the B Horror flicks while I draw up ideas. Currently I’m working on the Inktober challenge to try and force myself into creating new ideas. Even doodling out simple sketches help, but it’s hard for me to make time to do them, so Inktober is really helping me set aside a little time every day to practice and draw. I would like to do larger pieces and try to get out of the confines of the embroidery hoop. I’m planning on doing some larger wall hangings over the winter months.

What’s your creative space like? What is your ideal environment like for this sort of craft? What sort of music or background noise do you like to have? Candles, incense? Night/day? 

I usually love to have movies on, the kind that you have seen a million times and can play in your head, or Buffy. I have a part time job so when I get home and if I have the energy to work on projects I will usually put on a movie and sit and work for a while. My actual work space is a bit cluttered while I ready myself and my work for a spooky market at Gypsy Warrior a few towns over.

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I understand that you live in NJ–I lived up there for 6-7 years! I moved back to FL in 2010. The autumns and springs are gorgeous there; I’m wondering if seasonal motifs end up amongst your stitches?

I love springs and autumns and the noticeable changes in the seasons. I wouldn’t say that my work reflects them though, but my mood and willpower totally does. I am much lazier in the summer months. I find it harder to focus and accomplish things, since all I want to do is swim, ride bikes and lay around. This will be my first winter out of the city (I lived in and around Brooklyn for a few years) and I am very excited for the peace and quiet that’s to come.

I know you also do commissions, as I was the recipient of something beautiful that you created for me at someone’s request. What’s the weirdest, most interesting thing that anyone’s asked you to create?

A family friend just asked me to try cross stitching for a gift for her mother. Something like, “I wish I was a guppy, because guppies eat their young.” That’s pretty strange, I’d have to say, but she had a smile while she was explaining it to me, so it seems like a fun thing to do. Besides that, the Nine Inch Nails lyrics I did, “God is dead and no one cares” was pretty great, but I got a few messages and emails from followers that did not care for that message. It seems it’s best for them to figure out what I am about sooner than later though.

Thanks so much, Rachel, for sharing with us and for the giveaway!
Find Rachel/YourGothic Granny: Etsy // Ello // Instagram

Wyrd Words with Katie Metcalfe (& a giveaway!)

13181413_1102462983151489_833798661_nFunny thing. Every time I stumble across a new morbid artist or designer of dark goods and want to do a bit of research on them, and especially if I happen to think “A-ha! Here is something really awesome that no one else knows about yet!”, 9 times out of 10  it is a “Curses, foiled again!” scenario because someone else, smarter and and quicker than me, has discovered and blogged about these macabre luminaries first. And I’ll be damned if it isn’t always the same someone!

One’s first instinct is to be a little irritated. Especially if one is sometimes weirdly competitive about these things. How dare they, right? But then one may smarten up and start to think “…hmm…this individual has an extraordinarily keen eye, utterly exquisite taste, and obviously a wonderfully engaging, compelling manner in writing about all of these things that we both seem to love. Don’t be annoyed, be curious! Who is this fascinating person? Get to know them! You guys are no doubt kindred spirits!”

And of course it was so. Katie Metcalfe celebrates the strange and unusual, the damned and unseen over at her blog, Wyrd Words & Effigies. It is “a path through the dark to wild, forbidden places”, and functions as a space for dark fashion, alternative lifestyles, dark literature, black metal, experimental and ritualistic music, offbeat films, in-depth interviews, relevant articles and links and unsettling visual art and photography.

In getting to know Katie, I discovered she also has a wonderfully enchanting personal blog, or Livslogga (Swedish for “life log”), The Girl With Cold Hands, where she beautifully documents her Nordic journey in her beloved new home. In devouring her daily chronicles, I was reminded very much of how I felt when I read Johanna Spyri’s HeidiHeidi was a favorite book and character of mine while growing up, and Katie is a little bit like a black metal Heidi. Well, except Heidi was in Switzerland, and Katie is in Sweden. But when reading about Katie’s beloved forests and daily rituals, I am brought right back to how I felt when I read Johanna Spyri’s description of the Alpine flowers, the friendly goats and the bright stars seen through a hayloft window at night. The similarity being, I suppose … that there are pure and beautiful and wonderful things in the world–many of them just small moments, little details even–but we must pay attention and open our hearts to these things!

Also–did I mention that Katie is a photographer herself, as well as a poet? Today I talk with her about all of these fascinating things and more–as well as offer you all a chance to win copies of two of Katie’s books, Dying is Forbidden in Longyearbyen and In The Hours Of Darkness. Read below for my interview with Katie Metcalfe and be certain to leave a comment to be entered in our giveaway. One week from today–October 21, 2016–one winner will be chosen at random to receive both of these books.

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Mlle Ghoul: I’ve been following Wyrd Words & Effigies for a long while and love how you consistently and thoughtfully share art and music with the world. Can you tell me a little bit about the things you choose to share? The imagery, aesthetics, and sounds that ensnare and obsess you?

Katie Metcalfe: Wyrd Words & Effigies embodies my lifelong obsession for the strange and macabre, and works as an archive for all of my shadowy finds. I want to offer my readers a path through the dark, a journey across boundaries which separate this world from others.

Everything featured on the blog, ever since the very first post back in 2013 (a review of the gloriously horrifying book The Ritual by Adam Nevil), has been very carefully considered. Whatever it is that I’m presenting, it needs to be able to raise the hairs on the back of my neck. If it keeps me awake at night, even better.

I’m devoted to unearthing art which honours the eerie and untamed, and strengthens the blog’s ‘wyrd’ vibe. Creatives such as Bill Crisafi, Darby Lahger (Old Hag) and Valin Mattheis have been ensnaring me with their work for years. More recently I’ve become infatuated with the freehand, worlds-away-from-anything-else tattoo art of Noel’le Longhaul (Laughing Loone), the gorgeously grim embroidery of Carrie Violet and the moody photography of Anna Ådén.

I’m also a curious bugger. I like to creep underneath the skin of those who inspire me and find out what makes them tick. I’ve interviewed dozens of inspirational souls over the years, including Ragnar Bragason the director of the Icelandic cult film Metalhead, Dayal Patterson author of Black Metal : Evolution of the Cult and Sara Larocca-Ramm co-founder of Sisters of the Black Moon.

Black Metal is an essential part of my everyday life, and is very much at the core of Wyrd Words & Effigies. It offers what other music is unable to, and grants me passage to a deeper understanding of myself. Whilst Black Metal is the leader of the pack over at the blog, anything that snags my heart strings, and introduces me to a new kind of darkness is always introduced and celebrated. Recently I’ve been obsessing over the sounds of Anna Von Hausswolf, Graveyard Train and Phosphorescent.

Side Note : A few years back I created a magazine to accompany the blog. It was my intention to release this publication several times a year, but complications with the second issue saw production grind to a halt. For the first issue I decided to tackle death because, despite my fascination for everything surrounding the subject, it was something I greatly feared. By creating the magazine I was able to confront this fear, and learn to embrace the coming end. You’re able to find a promo video and download link for the magazine here. It’s entirely free to download and read.

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With regard to inspirations and obsessions, do you find that they seek a place in the poetry that you write, or are your poems a space for say, emotions, or other bits of internal flotsam that you are working through?

My devotion to the Far North sees me returning to it time and again in my work. It’s through this devotion that I managed to find my voice as a writer. I’ve spent many years researching into the Inuit and their culture, as well as the folklore of North America and Scandinavia.

Living in Sweden gives me the opportunity to embrace the North tight, and become even more curious about its cold secrets.

Death is an extremely valuable resource for my writing. I’ve used my own experiences with death in my work on many occasions, and have gained from the therapeutic benefits. Through writing poetry about loss, I’ve found the capability to grieve for those who have passed, to heal myself and move forward.

The occult has a powerful influence over what I’m creating, and I’m always looking for the next strange thing to investigate and write about. I write poetry with the hope that it will unsettle the reader, and slip them a chill which is practically impossible to shrug off.

I’m also greatly inspired by the everyday. Spiderwebs embellished with dew, sunlight bleeding through the trees late in the afternoon, or the rise and fall of my boyfriend’s shoulders as he sleeps. By being shackled to our phones we miss so much. I’m making an effort to spend less time in front of a screen, and more time being present and noticing the life I can touch.

I burn to perform, and relish bringing my visualization of the North and its dark wonders to the stage. I tend to don furs and bones when I’m performing. They assist in empowering me, and enable me to better embody the characters in my poems.

As someone who has spent more than half of her life living with mental illness, I often look for new ways to explore the effects of depression, anxiety and eating disorders. Nothing repairs my soul better than creating a poem I can feel proud of. Poetry is an extremely effective way to reach out to people who are struggling, so I always share what I write with the hope that it will cross the path of a person who needs it.

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Have you always written poetry, or is this a more recent creative outlet? What other kinds of writing do you engage in?

I was four years old when I decided that I was going to be a writer, and penned my first poem when I was under double figures after being inspired by a National Geographic documentary about wolves in Yellowstone National Park. My Grandmother used to video tape hours of wolf documentaries for me, and I would spend whole weekends drinking tea, eating beans on toast and sitting wide eyed in front of the TV.

All through my childhood I wrote stories and poems inspired by the supernatural and nature. I would write longhand in books I’d stolen from school, and on a typewriter which my Grandfather found at a carboot sale for a couple of quid. I can remember my Mum complaining about the noise of my typing coming through the kitchen ceiling.

When I was fourteen years old I developed anorexia nervosa, and at fifteen was admitted into a psychiatric ward where I stayed for nine months. It was during this time that I started to write furiously. I would write shitty children’s stories, and poems about my experience with ‘The Voice.’ I kept two diaries, one for the nurses – full of lies, and one for myself – full of self-hate. I spent several hours a day writing my diaries using an elaborate gothic font. If I wrote a word wrong, I’d tear out the page and start again. I’d also write lengthy letters to another anorexic who had a room down the hallway, and the nurses would be our posties, bringing out letters back and forth. Both of us were on bedrest, and walking down the hall to each other’s rooms was forbidden.

Five months after I was admitted into hospital, I felt an urge to recover, to abandon my anorexia. It was then that I decided to write a book about my experiences, and started what was to become my first published book Anorexia : A Stranger In The Family. Writing about my experiences with an eating disorder though poetry and non-fiction, combined with years of CBT and continual support from my family enabled me to eventually make a full recovery.

Writing about my life continues to be a valuable creative outlet for me. I established my first blog in 2004 and have been blogging almost continuously since.

I have completed several (fucking terrible) novels over the past twenty years, but thankfully they never made it to any bookshelves.

13285365_1159277707468966_257380726_nI’ve immensely enjoyed reading your Livslogga, or life log, chronicling your experiences in Sweden. What are some of the things you love most about this beautiful country that you’ve found yourself in? What’s been the most difficult adjustment? And tell me all about the concept of Fika, because I am completely obsessed.

My biggest love is for the man I wake up next to every morning, my True North, and his beautiful daughter. I love his family and friends who’ve welcomed me into their lives with every blessing. I love the forests that surround us, and how I can still, after nearly a year, find secret places to explore. My man is originally from a small town in the middle of Sweden called Hagfors, a place which has cast a spell on me. The town is surrounded by dense forests populated by moose, bears and wolves. We currently live on the outskirts of a city, and when we start the four hour journey to visit his family, I become giddy with happiness, anticipating the roads becoming quieter, the forests thicker and the night sky darker.

The most difficult adjustment I would say has been the language. I love the Swedish tongue and can happily listen to it for hours. However learning it has been more difficult that I imagined. But, my confidence is growing small bit by small bit. The Swedes are also quiet. Very, very quiet, and as a Brit who is used to almost constant chatter, this has taken some getting used to.

Fika is one of my favourite aspects of Swedish culture. To non-Swedes Fika may appear to as simply ‘having coffee,’ but it’s so much more than that. Fika is all about taking a moment to slow down and truly appreciate the moment. If you’re with friends, you enjoy their company. If you’re alone, you can sit quietly and contemplate with your coffee and cinnamon bun. I take a Fika by myself every afternoon or on the rare occasion with a friend, but when we visit my man’s family, it’s a big family affair. We sit around the table with freshly brewed coffee and something delicious made by his mother.

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John Bauer, Elsa Beskow– I see these artists referred to lovingly on your blog quite often. Talk to me a bit about what they mean to you.

I went to a Rudolf Steiner School from the age of 7 – 14 and it was here that I first encountered the worlds of Beskow and Bauer. I grew up surrounded by Germans, Dutch, Swedes, Norwegians and the odd Dane. Scandinavian culture played a pivotal role in our education, from the food we ate, to the decor we crafted at Yuletide, and, of course, the books we read. Nature was an invaluable part of my schooling, and the attitude that everyone around me had towards nature was greatly influenced by the Scandinavian mind-set.

I can remember sitting on the couch at my best friend’s house, working my way through her collection of Beskow books. I would stare for hours at the richly detailed illustrations, imagining that one day I would live amongst similar trees and lakes. My obsession with Bauer’s art was rekindled in 2001 when I listened to the music of Mortiis for the first time. (The video for Parasite God was featured on a video tape I received free with an issue of Kerrang!) I noticed that his logo was in fact a Bauer art work from a popular Swedish Christmas annual Bland Tomtar Och Troll (Among Gnomes and Trolls). Since then I’ve written widely about Bauer and have made numerous pilgrimages to his hometown of Jönköping and Jönköpings Läns Museum which holds the world’s largest collection of Bauer’s work.

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I know that you are an avid thrifter, I’d love it if you could impart of bit of thrift wisdom to us…what’s your secret for finding such amazing things? Do you go shopping with something in mind, or do you go with an open mind and let the shelves and racks of goodies speak to you? Do you have a holy grail item that you’re always on the lookout for?

I’ve been thrifting since I was under double figures, as my family could rarely afford new clothes. My wardrobe has always been 90% second hand. I always go thrifting with an open mind and think that the best pieces of advice that I can provide are to go with plenty of time to spare and go through everything. Don’t leave one rail untouched. If you find something really special and it’s too large, consider getting it altered. I’ve recently started to explore colour, and this has opened up a whole new world for me. Don’t be afraid to step outside your box.

img_6023You spend a great deal of time, it would seem, in your beloved forests, both ambling leisurely and taking it all in, as well as running. I’m not a runner by any means, but I do like a brisk walk, and I am always looking for the perfect sound to accompany my exercise. Do you listen to music when you run? I can imagine you listening to the blackest medal as you traverse through the icy winter trees, but I am totally ok with being wrong! Tell me about some of your favorite music to listen to while running and stretching your limbs in the cold.

Sadly, I don’t have access to music when I’m running! The wind through the trees is my soundtrack. But if I were to choose, I would have my boyfriend’s band Rimfrost blasting in my ears. It has the energy that a lot of black metal lacks.

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I understand that you are also fan of horror films! Is there anything excellent that you’re watching right now and would recommend? And does your choice of reading material fall into the same category? What’s on your bookstand right now?

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t infatuated with horror. As a child I would regularly stay with my auntie who was a horror fanatic. I always pillaged her bookshelves before bed,and would lose myself in The World’s Scariest Ghost Stories and Misty annuals from the late 70’s.

While I could read her books, her extensive horror VHS collection was off bounds. I’d hang around it, studying the tape covers obsessively, willing the years away. Having already encountered Anne Rice on her bookshelf, I was particularly taken with Interview With The Vampire, and made the decision that when the day came to choose a video to watch, that would be the one. The day arrived when I was twelve. Needless to say, life was never the same afterwards.

My boyfriend and I have been looking to the past and its offerings in recent months, and have been binging on Stephen King – Thinner, Needful Things and Cujo. The TV series Rose Red and The Langoliers have also made for immensely satisfying binge watching.

I’ve been disappointed with much of the horror released in recent years. Less tits and more atmosphere please. One of the best new(ish) horror films that I’ve seen recently is The Babadook. After twenty years of a diet consisting almost strictly of horror, it takes a lot to unnerve me. But that film…it had all the right ingredients. I was left feeling deeply disturbed and content. Shit, several months after I still get chills when I think of it.

My choice of reading material is generally pretty dark, but at the moment I’m struggling to state my appetite for horror as the library in town has limited English stock! I’m close to finishing Tracks, a haunting tale by Louise Erdrich. I’m looking forward to going to England soon and bringing back some of my favourites, including Dark Matter by Michelle Paver. One of the most unsettling stories that I’ve read in a long while.

12627948_970241439733000_1070742583_n You’ve touched briefly on your blog and elsewhere on issues you’ve struggled with– depression and appearance related insecurities/anxieties, for example–and how you are taking steps to overcome these things. Can you talk about these things, how they’ve affected you, and how you are slowly conquering them? 

I was first diagnosed with depression when I was fourteen, the same time as I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. Mental health issues run in my family on both sides, and I can remember displaying OCD tendencies when I was a small child. My ill mental health meant my teenage years were spent being lonely, thin and terrified. I was teetering on the brink between this world and nowhere for such a long time that I still get surprised that I’m here at all. A good part of my twenties were spent building myself back up from the husk I had become.

Being open about what’s going on in my head is extremely important to me. I spent many years trapped, unable to talk about how I was really feeling. I used to feel ashamed and broken. But I’m no longer afraid to reveal the workings of my head. The stigma that is attached to mental health sickens me, and I want to do my part in pulling down the barrier that separates and alienates people with mental health problems.

I was advised to start taking medication when I was fifteen, but refused. It was only several years later in my mid-twenties when I agreed to start taking meds. They changed my life and helped me to have a quieter head. I came off my medication which helped with anxiety and depression several months ago. But it was a mistake and I went to a bloody dark place for an awfully long time. I’m back on my medication now, and am slowly recovering my true self. My concentration and creativity is still on the weak side but I’m trying to be kind to myself, and accept that it takes a while to get back to full strength. I believe that if we can access help to be the best versions of ourselves, be it medication or talking therapy, we need to fully embrace it.

Thanks very much Katie, for your candor and your openness and for sharing of your life and loves and inspirations with us!

Follow Katie Metalfe for more dark discoveries at Wyrd Words & Effigies and livslogga magic at The Girl With Cold Hands, and don’t forget to leave a comment to win both books of her poetry–Dying is Forbidden in Longyearbyen and In The Hours Of Darkness!

All photography courtesy Katie Metcalfe

Interview & Giveaway with Aubrey Bramble, songstress, scenteur, and crystal-slinger.

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Isn’t a wonderful thing when you discover that someone you admire for one particular reason actually has another, previously unknown-to-you facet that is equally, fascinating?

Captivating songstress Aubrey Rachel Violet Bramble is one half of the duo Golden Gardens, whose shimmering, shadowy sound I became aware of through my dear friend and ghost poet, Sonya Vatomsky. I can think of few greater pleasures than new music to obsess over! Few, that is…except for fragrance. And so you can imagine my surprise when I realized that Aubrey is also a crystal worker, an aromatherapist, and the proprietress of Swan Children Alchemy for which she creates and sells “Oil blends, crystal magic, and herbal wisdom for personal empowerment and maximum luminosity.”

Well, am I the grandchild of the world’s nosiest woman, or what? You know my interest was piqued to a fever pitch and of course I had tons of questions for Aubrey. She has graciously indulged my curiosity below, as well as generously offered a few of her scents for a giveaway here at Unquiet Things!  One winner will be chosen at random on September 23rd and will receive two fragrances listed below. To enter, just leave a comment about your current obsessions, or recommend to us something that you adore! Nothing to repost anywhere, and no, you don’t have to be following either of us on instagram, but I mean, why wouldn’t you want to? Well, just in case, here we are:

Aubrey Rachel Violet Bramble @primaesq
Unquiet Things/S. Elizabeth @ghoulnextdoor

Red Room from the Twin Peaks Collection {Terror. Shadows. Doppelgängers. And a strange little dancing man. The scent of danger, unfiltered. Top notes: hallucinogenic incense smoke; Middle notes: motor oil, scorched wood; Base notes: tobacco ash, ambrette, murky forests}

The Morrigan from the Goddess Collection {A dark and mysterious forest calls to your inner crow through a deathly blend of dragon’s blood, juniper berry, black pepper, fir needle, patchouli, and sweet almond oil with an inky black onyx obelisk holding queenly court in the center of the vial.}

And now…tiptoe past the swan for my Q&A with Aubrey!

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You’re a self-professed perfume addict–I am curious about the fragrances you loved when you were younger, how your tastes have changed and evolved, and what scents you are obsessing over now.

The very first “fancy” fragrance I can remember falling in love with (and one that I just wore yesterday) was Cacharel’s “LouLou.” I remember my parents purchasing it for me on a cruise ship vacation we took when I was 11. A couple of years ago, it popped back into my mind after reading Luca Turin’s and Tania Sanchez’s Perfumes: The A-Z Guide, and I went on a mad search for it. I now wear it regularly and always get stopped by people wanting to know what I’m wearing. It’s so oddly sweet and dark and juicy and musky and intoxicating. It’s a gem.

As for the progression of my scent addiction over the years, it wasn’t always tasteful. I had an embarrassing spell of time when I wore “Exclamation!” in middle school and a peer-pressure-inspired “CK One” phase in high school (hard to type that without rolling my eyes). Luckily, post high school I seemed to be a little more mindful and discerning in my scent selections, though clearly there’s been a maturation over time. In college and directly after, I was obsessed with the original self-titled Anna Sui fragrance. The bottle and design just captured my little romantic goth heart! My early 20s were dominated by Givenchy’s “Hot Couture” and Hanae Mori’s “Butterfly.” My mid-twenties were all about “Lolita Lempicka” and Narciso Rodriguez’s “Her.” Later I became consumed by Tom Ford’s “Black Orchid: Voile de Fleur” and Fresh’s “Cannabis Santal” and “Cannabis Rose.” I’m probably still in my peak obsession phase; I currently have (and wear and love) Diptyque’s “Volutes” and “34,” Atelier Cologne’s “Orange Sanguine,” Fiele Fragrances’ “Viola,” Raw Spirit’s “Smoke,” Chanel’s “Sycomore” and “Coromandel,” Serge Lutens’ “Fille en Aiguilles,” and Santa Maria Novella’s “Gardenia.”

I tend to gravitate towards more woodsy, incense-y fragrances and super rich, dark florals. And I love strange combinations/unusual pairings of notes. I like to think of my perfume style as one part Josie Packard, one part Bjork, and one part Elizabeth Taylor – mysterious, avant-garde, decadent. My absolute favorite current perfume house is Byredo. I love and regularly wear their “Oud Immortel.” My number one signature scent of the moment is their “Black Saffron.”

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Your Twin Peaks inspired line of perfumes is such an intriguing idea! Tell us what was it about Twin Peaks that captured your imagination? Twenty five years later have you found anything else that measures up?

I remember being allowed to watch Twin Peaks when it first aired, when I was about 11 years old. (11 seems to be the magic age for this interview, huh?) It was just so completely imaginative and non-traditional. It mesmerized me, and began a lifelong David Lynch crush. I have yet to find anything that holds the intensity of magic in my heart that Twin Peaks does. I suppose being introduced to it at such a young and impressionable age has a little bit to do with the intensity of romanticism I give it, but I also think part of the magic of it all is the window of time it originally unfolded in – before that sort of adventurous programming was a regular occurrence, and before some of the more restrictive and bland/formulaic standards of modern media really dug into society. My line of Twin Peaks perfumes came about because I always found myself wondering what each of the characters smelled like, what certain environments reeked of, etc. It’s been a really fun project to explore, asking myself questions like, “Would Shelly with all that amazing spiral-curled 90s hair smell like mousse and curl spray?” Probably.

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If you could choose to bottle a scent right now capturing the essence of current artistic zeitgeist or inspired by a piece of 2016 pop culture, what do you think that might be?

I’d have to say what inspires me most about current events/current arts/the current evolution of humanity is the dissolution of and breaking free from the more restrictive and traditional ways society “expects” people to exist in the world. Despite the increased persecution and destruction and authoritarian control and trauma, people seem to be having these beautiful personal transformations in the way they express themselves both internally and externally. There seems to be a heightened commitment to authenticity and reclamation of individual power. I look at what is going on with the resurgence and rebirth of witchcraft, gender roles, self-expression, ways of earning a living. It’s really exhilarating and motivating and exciting. If I were to “bottle” that feeling or movement, I like to imagine it would be something incredibly animalistic and wild, something strangely juxtaposed and with an unmistakable presence. I immediately think of notes like aldehyde, vinyl, galbanum. Those notes that either turn you off or turn you on. It’d be a very cilantro fragrance haha.

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You mention the healing power and wisdom of stones and crystals with regard to your mystical education. I am wondering when you first noticed this deep connection and how did it develop? And personally, I am always interested in practical applications of metaphysical and psychic knowledge–I am wondering how you might utilize these philosophies and principles on a day-to-day basis?

I have always loved a pretty, sparkly crystal. My cousin used to bribe me with loose rhinestones that he told me were diamonds when i was really little, and of course I always took the bait. In my early teens I began to immerse myself in witchcraft and metaphysics, so that’s when my current connection to the magic of stones and crystals really began. What I love most about working with crystals and stones is that they are three-dimensional, physical tools – objects you can hold in your hand or place on your body and actually feel energy around. I regularly add whole crystals to my perfume/oil blends, or infuse them with a handcrafted gem essence, to add an element of vibrational magic to the potions. I wear crystals and stones as jewelry everyday, for specific intentions around energies I am trying to manifest, balance, be shielded from, increase, etc. I dream, journey, and meditate with crystals; I have conversations with them. If you intentionally tune in to the crystals and stones, they have a lot of information for you. Just sitting and holding one in your hand and asking it to share its magic with you can be pretty transformative and powerful. We all come from the Earth; sitting with a crystal is a beautiful way to reconnect with that energy.

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In addition to a perfumer, aromatherapist and crystal worker, you’re also a musician! Can you tell us as to how that came about?

I’ve always wanted to sing in a band. Always. All of my idols are dreamy vocalists (Kate Bush, Elizabeth Frasier, Harriet Wheeler, Julee Cruise). Lucky for me, my friend Gregg was looking to start a dreampop project a few years ago but was having trouble finding a singer. I asked if I could give it a try, and voila! Golden Gardens was born. We wrote one song, three more immediately followed, and within a month or so we had our first EP (Somnambulist). Now we’re working on album number three! I really love collaborating with Gregg – I feel like we are psychic music twins. We each have a very independent and unique way of working that – when combined in a final composition – creates a beautiful complexity of sound and harmony with a depth and intricacy all our own.

Photo credit: Jonath Ochs

Photo credit: Jonath Ochs

Dark, lustrous, shimmering–these are just a few words to describe Golden Gardens’ shoegaze/dream pop sound, billed as mystical music for “ghosts and shadowy spectres.” What’s your inspiration for the forthcoming album, and would you say that your sound or tone has shifted with the new stuff? And if so, why the shift?

The new record “Reign” is all about dismantling the Patriarchy and reclaiming personal power. All of the songs were inspired by fierce female archetypes throughout mythology and history. It’s an invocation to the warrior queens and the enchantresses, the priestesses and the mystics – those parts of ourselves that the status quo works so hard to shame and contain and erase.

Our sound has definitely shifted over the years, but I feel like it’s been a slow, continuous shift. We were definitely more “shoegazey” when we first started, and these days our sound is decidedly more pop-oriented. But if you’ve listened to us from the beginning, or if you go through and listen to the releases in order, I think you can hear that progression unfold in a natural, intelligent way. No matter what genre we are playing with I think one thing is always consistent, and that’s our dark mood. Everything we create has a bit of a somber overglow, even the so-called happier songs. And I absolutely love that about us. Doom and gloom 4eva.

Jumping back in time a bit, I saw that you worked with Marissa Nadler and Leslie Hall (!!!!) on a few projects; these are two wildly different musicians that I think I can say that I adore equally. Can you tell me what it was like working with them?Do you have any dreamy, pie-in-the-sky wishlist musicians or artists that you would like to work with? Who are they, and why?

Before I moved to Seattle in 2009, I was living in Tampa, FL and writing for a regional arts and music publication which provided me the opportunity to talk to/work with some of my favorite artists and musicians. Marissa Nadler and Leslie Hall were two of them. I got to interview Marissa a couple of times around the release of her album “Songs III,” and later create a music video for one of her earlier compositions, “Virginia.” (My background is in film and television.) She was always really lovely to interact with, and I’m so glad she’s become a more well-known musical name in recent years because her work is always fantastic. Meeting and working with Leslie was also pretty spectacular. She is a smart lady, that one.

As for dreamy, pie-in-the-sky wishlist artists, from a musical perspective I would love to collaborate with Max Richter or Dirty Beaches. If I could convince Gregg Araki to direct a Golden Gardens music video that would be magic.

Tell me about the art/music scene in Seattle. Do you find it to be a relatively welcoming, supportive community? And is there anything good coming out of Seattle right now that we should know about? Also, if a kindred spirit, someone with similarly gothy inclinations wanted to visit your fair city (HINT: IT ME), what are some things that you’d recommend or suggest for them?

The Seattle art/music scene is very supportive. Or, rather, it’s very encouraging. I feel like the opportunities are endless here if you’re willing to do the work to make them happen. I feel very lucky to be in a place where I can make my art and have an audience for it, feel support from the community-at-large. That is definitely a gift. The journalists, the DJs, the promoters in this town are all art and music lovers (and many times artists and musicians themselves) which makes the “scene” even stronger in my opinion. It’s a very creative town.

There are so many great things coming out of Seattle it’s hard to select a few. I am definitely loving all of the local female, trans and non-binary magic being created in this town at the moment. And I do have to say we have our witchy wares on lock with so many rad local independent witch-owned businesses (do a quick #seattle search on IG or Etsy). As for a mini-list of local-gem specifics, everyone should read Sonya Vatomsky, listen to Belgian Fog, buy art from Kirk Damer and Heidi Estey, and gaze at anything made by Allyce Andrew.

If a kindred spirit was in Seattle for 24 hours, I’d recommend they hit the following spots: Gargoyles Statuary in the University District for gothy delights, The Cunning Crow Apothecary in Greenwood for witchy wares, The Belfry in Pioneer Square for all things undead, Essenza in Fremont for luxe perfume magic, Ballard Consignment for amaze vintage treasures, Sun Liquor Lounge on Capitol Hill for a decadent cocktail, Pony on Capitol Hill for Bloodlust and/or Hero Worship, Easy Street Records in West Seattle and Everyday Music on Capitol Hill for music finds, grocery shopping at Uwajimaya and book shopping at Kinokuniya in the International District, and you must visit the grave of Brandon Lee in Lake View Cemetery because, duh.

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Between ‘fuming and crystal slinging and singing and songwriting, what do you get up to in your spare time?

Witching, Netflix binging, black cat cuddles, skinnydipping in alpine lakes, being out in nature, cooking, reading everything by Dion Fortune, drinking mass quantities of La Croix, overfilling my social schedule, worrying about everything, buying $30 lipgloss, thrift shopping to find all the All That Jazz 90s dresses a girl can uncover.

I’m always curious as to what folks are currently into/digging on: are there any books/music/movies/television/whatevers that you’ve indulged in recently and that you would recommend to Unquiet Things readers?

Books: I read a lot of witchy reference books, too many to list; Essence and Alchemy – Mandy Aftel; The Magdalen Manuscript – Tom Kenyon; I am also finally getting around to reading The Mists of Avalon and I love it
Music: Been digging Samaris recently, also “Lost Boys” by Still Corners has been my jam this summer and even though it came out awhile ago I can never get enough of iamamiwhoi’s Blue album
Movies: The Neon Demon on repeat; Teen Witch always; The Sisterhood of Night; White Bird in a Blizzard
TV: Marcella, The Ascent of Woman, Stranger Things, Penny Dreadful, The Night Of, and The Great British Baking Show
Etc: I am currently obsessed with the weekly Pele Report by Kaypacha. Everyone should watch it. He’s on YouTube, you can look it up.

Thanks again, Aubrey, for your time and generosity. And darling readers–don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway!

In Search of Lost Literature: Unearthing Gothic Gems at Valancourt Books

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(This was originally written for and posted at After Dark In the Playing Fields in 2010, by my partner in the enterprise at that time, who shall henceforth be known as A Kindred Spirit)

‘Valancourt? and who was he?’ cry the young people. Valancourt, my dears, was the hero of one of the most famous romances which ever was published in this country. The beauty and elegance of Valancourt made your young grandmammas’ gentle hearts to beat with respectful sympathy. He and his glory have passed away. Ah, woe is me that the glory of novels should ever decay… Inquire at Mudie’s, or the London Library, who asks for ‘The Mysteries of Udolpho’ now? Have not even ‘The Mysteries of Paris’ ceased to frighten? Alas! our best novels are but for a season…“

–William Makepeace Thackeray

Several years ago, I returned to upstate NY after spending several months living in semi-tropical Taiwan. That winter was particularly cold and I spent much of it huddled under woolen blankets on the couch reading anything that was within arm’s reach. Eventually, I had to venture out to an actual bookstore, where on a whim I picked up a reprint of Sheridan Le Fanu’s Victorian gothic thriller Uncle Silas (1865). To my surprise, I became completely engrossed in the plot twists set in its creepy conspiracy-laden corridors. All too soon, the book was finished and I was unable to find anything remotely like it.

Fortunately, thanks to the wonders of the Internet, I had two newly reprinted gothic novels from Valancourt Books in the mail before I could despair too much. (As you can see from above, more have followed.)

Valancourt Books is an independent small (micro) press founded in late 2004 and presently based in Kansas City, specializing in quality new editions of rare literature from the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. They now have over 102 books in print, with many more on the way, in a variety of genres, but mainly focusing on Gothic, Romantic and Victorian literature.

Recently, I had the opportunity to ask James D. Jenkins, the publisher and editor of Valancourt Books, some questions about this type of literature and the appeal of this genre to readers in the twenty-first century.

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OTB: What makes these types of works considered “gothic”–and how did you become interested in this type of literature? What is your favorite work of this type?

JDJ: Really, looking back, I think I’ve always been drawn to the Gothic. I remember one summer as a child when my dad sent me to the public library and told me to bring home a classic book to read. I came home with Dracula, which apparently wasn’t what he had in mind. But, as far as the types of Gothic works that Valancourt Books specializes in, I first became interested in those as an undergraduate. I recall being in the university library one afternoon and stumbling across this old book in a black binding called The Castle of Otranto. Something about it intrigued me, and I took it home and stayed up late that night reading it. I was totally riveted by it (and still am!) I started reading other Gothic novels and was completely fascinated by books like Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer. The press, of course, is named after the hero of Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho, which I first stumbled upon in the bookstore at the Roma Termini train station when I was 20. I read it for the first time in a medieval castle I stayed at in a place called Montagnana, Italy. I’ve really been hooked ever since.

As far as what makes them Gothic, I guess that’s a little hard to define. It’s one of those things where you know it when you see it. Most of them do share common elements, such as being set in ruined castles or monasteries and featuring heroines in distress and dastardly villains, as well as common set pieces like skeletons, phantoms, rusty daggers, old manuscripts, and the like. Typically in the old Gothic novels, those published between 1764 and 1830, there are two main types-–the “terror Gothic,” which attempted to terrify the reader through mystery and suspense, and the “horror Gothic,” which tended to shock readers with explicit sex and violence. As for a favorite, I don’t know if I could pick one. I really love The Castle of Otranto, which I’ve read repeatedly, and The Mysteries of Udolpho, which always amazes me. Among the minor Gothics, I’m a huge fan of The Necromancer; or, The Tale of the Black Forest (1794) and Francis Lathom’s The Midnight Bell (1798), two of Jane Austen’s “Horrid Novels.”*

What made you decide to found a press? I know I was fortunate enough to stumble across your website several years ago–there really were no other publishers of these kinds of novels at that time. Have you encountered any particular difficulties unique to this kind of business?

I think you were actually our first customer! I’m glad you found us! The short story of how the press was founded is that I graduated law school in 2004 and couldn’t find a job. I had a lot of time on my hands in between applying for work, and by that time I had read all of the dozen or so classic Gothic novels published by Oxford and Penguin. I wanted to read more, but they just weren’t available. I started thinking, “Someone should be publishing more of these,” and then somehow it just hit me that rather than wait for someone else to do it, I could start doing it. So, I started spending my free time typing The Animated Skeleton and The Castle of Ollada from microfiche, and now, over 100 books later, I’ve never looked back!

 Some of these works could rightly be considered, for lack of a better word, the “bestsellers” of their day. Why did the majority of these works go out of print, in spite of their original popularity? Why did certain works like those of Radcliffe or Walpole, remain in print over the years? Were they really that much better in terms of story quality than the ones that faded into relative obscurity?

That’s a great question, and I don’t think there’s an easy answer to it. Just like today, I’m sure a lot of these books were published back then to critical disdain and poor sales and didn’t go into a second edition. Many of them quite deservedly fell out of print. But then there are some that make you scratch your head. Eaton Stannard Barrett’s The Heroine (1813), which we are preparing for the press at the moment, comes to mind. It was hugely popular and went through several editions, and found numerous admirers, among them Jane Austen and Edgar Allan Poe. It’s also incredibly funny, even two hundred years later. Why did satires of Gothic literature by writers like Austen and Thomas Love Peacock survive in print into the 21st century, while Barrett’s did not? I don’t know. The great thing is that with the greater availability of rare old texts through sources like Google Books and other electronic and print sources, more and more of these books can be rediscovered and those that were undeservedly lost can be republished in new editions.

 Despite their sometimes initial popularity, these works were often marginalized and dismissed by the critics of the time, considered pulp or cheap entertainments. Over the years, they only became of interest to academics or other specialists–do you see a value in bringing these works back into print for something other than scholarly pursuits? Are they worthwhile to the modern reader simply as historical artifacts or for an intrinsic entertainment value?

I guess that depends on taste! A lot of our readers enjoy these works simply for their entertainment value. In fact, I’ve never liked to think of them as historical artifacts and I’ve tried to encourage our editors to avoid that sort of thing in their introductions. I mean, with all the books available-–both classics and contemporary literature – why would you want to waste your time reading something that’s only worthwhile as an historical artifact? That said, I think I’d have to concede that we’ve published one or two that were of more interest for their rarity than their literary value!

Why do you think gothic literature could still resonate with readers today?

I think the Gothic has always resonated with readers. Even in ancient texts, you find mention of such things as ghosts and apparitions, and of course in early British literature, such as Shakespeare’s plays, you pretty regularly find things like phantoms and witches. These sorts of works of course gave rise to the Gothic works of authors like Walpole and Radcliffe. But I think it would be a mistake to assume that the Gothic ever really went away. In the Victorian era, you had mystery and supernatural works by writers like Wilkie Collins and Sheridan Le Fanu, and a little later popular novelists like Richard Marsh and Bram Stoker. Even in recent years, we’ve had Stephen King, Anne Rice, and now Stephenie Meyer. I think something about the Gothic, about scary stories and tales of horror and mystery, is a universal impulse-–it’s something that has always existed both in our literature and other countries’ literatures, and that I think always will.

What are your most popular titles? Do any have a surprising popularity or affect readers in unexpected ways? I would imagine that the lesser known works of Bram Stoker or perhaps the previously mentioned “Horrid Novels” would have especial appeal to someone interested in this type of literature.

You’re absolutely right. The Horrid Novels and works by authors that are better known, like Sheridan Le Fanu and Bram Stoker, tend to be among our best sellers. One book that, year in, year out, is always among our bestsellers, though, and which I always find surprising, is George Brewer’s The Witch of Ravensworth (1808). It’s really a wonderful little book and I’m happy that people have discovered it, but I’m nonetheless always a little perplexed at the levels of its sales.

 I have noticed over the last few years that Valancourt Books has been expanding in scope to include titles from the later Victorian period as well as the twentieth century. What was your motivation to include these sorts of books in the catalogue? Are there still more areas you might decide to cover in the future?

Well, one thing that tends to happen when you have your own press (and especially when it’s a one-person press) is that what the press publishes tends pretty much to be whatever you’re interested in. As I’ve gotten older and read more widely in other areas, I’ve discovered new areas of interest and other obscure works that I wanted to bring back into print and share with readers. One of these is the popular literature of the 1890s, which is just an amazing decade. It’s in the 1890s that Sherlock Holmes rises to prominence, that we get characters like Dorian Gray, Dracula, and The Beetle, and perhaps even more importantly, it’s the decade where the three-volume novel that had dominated publishing for a century or more and had made books largely unaffordable to everyday readers was finally abandoned in favor of inexpensive, one-volume editions that were accessible to all. So we start to see just an explosion of popular, thrilling, cheap novels, many of which are truly fascinating and worthy of new attention. We’ve also started doing some gay-themed literature from the early 20th century, which is another interest of mine, and something that’s getting a lot of scholarly attention these days. Presently we don’t have plans for any new series, although we plan to continue expanding our 18th century and Victorian collections, which have been gradually growing.

What titles will be forthcoming over the next year or so? Is there anything particularly intriguing or obscure that you’re still trying to track down for future publication? Are there some known works so hard to locate that original copies to work from do not exist or are too rare to even get access to?

JDJ: Probably the two that are the most highly anticipated are the final two “Horrid Novels”: Horrid Mysteries by Carl Grosse and Eleanor Sleath’s The Orphan of the Rhine, probably the two rarest of the lot. Although probably twenty, thirty years ago, there would have been works so rare that you couldn’t get copies of them, that’s not really the case anymore. With online library catalogs like Worldcat and COPAC, it’s pretty quick and easy to find out what libraries hold a given book. And although the books we publish are usually so rare that the copies do not circulate, with modern reproduction and scanning technology, the books can usually be copied or scanned for us (for an often lofty price!) For example, The Forest of Valancourt (1813), which we published in hardcover, survives in only one known copy–-at the Bodleian Library at Oxford, and we were able to get a photocopy of it so we could republish it. There are a couple old Gothic novels mentioned in reference works that we have not been able to track down (the most notable is probably W. H. Ireland’s Bruno; or, The Sepulchral Summons), but for some of these lost works, we have been unable to verify after extensive research that they ever really existed in the first place.

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. As always, I wish you and everyone at Valancourt Books every possible success for making these titles available to everyone.

JDJ: Thanks, Jessica, always a pleasure. Thanks for the opportunity to share some info about Valancourt Books with you and your readers!

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Valancourt Books’ list of currently published works can be found here; they are widely available at Amazon or other booksellers.

*The “Horrid Novels” refers to a selection of 18th century Gothic fiction mentioned by Jane Austen in her gothic satire, Northanger Abbey. Most of the ‘horrid novels’ were believed to be inventions of Austen until the early twentieth century. For a complete list of titles, see here. Valancourt Books has published five of the seven and has plans to release the other two in the future.

Elsewhere: Keening and the Death Wail

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I recently interviewed musician Gemma Fleet of The Wharves on her project “Lost Voices” Volume 1. “Keening and the Death Wail”. Gemma provides us with a fascinating look at a dramatic mourning tradition as it relates to the Irish funeral and other cultures worldwide, as well as tackling it from a feminist perspective, and how it ties into the grieving process.

Keening & the Death Wail | Death & the Maiden

Will Errickson’s resplendent horror fiction reviews

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(Originally posted in 2011 over at After Dark In The Playing Fields)

Perhaps a month or so ago whilst puttering around on the internet late at night, a memory, unbidden, came to mind. A book I had read when I was younger.  Though I could not recall much of the plot (except that it was a riveting combination of almost-unacceptably-unbelievable and strangely compelling),  or the story details, or even the names of the characters – the cover, and the title were for some reason burned indelibly into my brain.

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On a whim, I thought I might poke around to see if what, if anything, other readers had to say about The Manitou, and it was then that I stumbled onto Will Errickson’s Too Much Horror Fiction blog.  Will’s sharp, smart, and endlessly amusing synopsis of the story and review of the book compelled me to dig deeper into his site, and in doing so I came across many strange, moldering titles that I had not thought of or seen in years…some I barely remembered and some which were so bizarre that I actually thought I  had dreamed them up. Before I knew it several hours had passed and it was 2:00 AM in the morning; I was exhausted but full of a sort of demented exultation –   I think it is safe to say that I have never in my life been excited to stumble across a corner of the internet as I was when I discovered Will’s blog, which is dedicated to “reviewing and collecting horror literature and celebrating its resplendent paperback cover art”.

Will graciously agreed to do a bit of a Q&A with us over at After Dark in the Playing Fields; read on for, among other things, his thoughts on terror in the formative years, his picks for a compellingly horrifying read and a top ten list of his favourite deranged horror fiction book covers!

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Mlleghoul: To quote you, paraphrasing Poe and Lovecraft: “Horror… is that singular frisson of terror itself”. Can you hearken back to the time when you first experienced that dread feeling and share with us the details surrounding that, and the myriad ways it has manifested in your life up to this point?

Will Errickson: I’ve tried before to nail down early moments of fear and horror from when I was a kid, and I just can’t. All I can really say is that growing up in the 1970s and early ‘80s there was no lack of spooky stuff on TV that you couldn’t avoid, whether it was IN SEARCH OF… or a commercial for movies like SILENT SCREAM, THE PROPHECY, THE SHINING and ALIEN. I remember finding a horror movie magazine that a teenage relative had that completely freaked me out; I couldn’t even look at the cover. Christopher Lee’s Dracula was pretty impressively scary at that age. Of course JAWS was inescapable, but once I actually *saw* the movie when I was 8 or 9 I became obsessed with it. Can’t quite remember how I began reading horror, because those trashy old paperbacks with skulls on the covers unsettled me. Think I just picked up one of my mom’s Stephen King novels when I was about 13 or so. So ever since I was a kid I’ve been into horror as well as the people who create it.

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Back to the above referenced paraphrasing – what are some of your favourite books or stories that evoke such a feeling for you?  I believe I culled the quote from your post on The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy, so I imagine that might be one of them?

Several of Ellroy’s novels have been disturbing, not just BLACK DAHLIA but also L.A. CONFIDENTIAL–the parts that *didn’t* make it into the movie version. Books such as DRACULA and THE AMITYVILLE HORROR were perhaps the first scary things I read; later Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror” and various stories/novels by King (especially “The Mist”) and Peter Straub. SONG OF KALI by Dan Simmons, THE CIPHER by Kathe Koja, FINISHING TOUCHES by Thomas Tessier, THE SEARCH FOR JOSEPH TULLY by William Hallahan. I read tons and tons of short stories in different anthologies as a teen and in my early ’20s; some of my favorites from that era are “Night They Missed the Horror Show” by Joe Lansdale; “His Mouth Will Taste of Wormwood” and “Calcutta, Lord of Nerves” by Poppy Z. Brite; “Dread” by Clive Barker; “Old Man and the Dead” by Mort Castle; “Sticks” by Karl Edward Wagner; “Orange is for Anguish, Blue for Insanity” by David Morrell; “The Answer Tree” by Steven Boyett; various Shirley Jackson and Thomas Ligotti tales. It’s difficult to pin some down. Rereading them now is cool because many hold up and are still effective. I’m slowly making my way through the two-volume Library of America’s AMERICAN FANTASTIC TALES… Short stories really show the horror genre in its best light. There are great novels, of course, but short stories… yeah. I’m sure I’m forgetting some right now.

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In this vein, what is your general criteria for a satisfying read?  Can you give some examples of the books which might fit this criteria?  And this may be a silly question, but how much does the cover art play into this for you?

Pacing is probably the single most important aspect. Atmosphere is great too. I don’t need great writing but it does have to be good. A lot of ’70s horror novels, and even going back further, had a real professionalism about them; you knew you were in the hands of masters. But by the ’80s more horror glutted the shelves so many, many books were very poorly written and edited and conceived. You can forgive a lot if the author is sure of himself, which is the case with Graham Masterton’s THE MANITOU. It was rather ridiculous but his conviction carried it. THE AUCTIONEER by Joan Samson is a wonderful example of strong writing and story, as are Michael McDowell’s works. You can’t ever go wrong with Shirley Jackson. I loved THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR by Anne Rivers Siddons. Fritz Leiber’s OUR LADY OF DARKNESS was excellent as well. ALL HEADS TURN AS THE HUNT GOES BY by John Farris. THE RATS by James Herbert. As for supernatural violence and the like, I like a quiet chiller as much as a gory thriller. Joe Lansdale’s THE NIGHTRUNNERS blew me away back in the day but I haven’t read it since. As for cover art, it doesn’t play into my interest in reading a book; I’ve gotten past that these days and if the books has a truly terrible cover, I try to imagine I’m reading it in manuscript form! So yes, I guess cover art can color your imagination as you read.

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You reference John Farris’ Son of the Endless Night as a quintessential 80’s horror novel, with its “blurb from Stephen King and a review quote comparing it to The Exorcist, and its artwork of both a scary-looking young girl as well as a black-winged demon” –I’d be interested in hearing more about this idea of a quintessential 80’s   horror novel.  Also, do you feel there are elements of the story itself that make it a prime example of the decade’s horror offerings?  So…what would be a quintessential 90’s horror novel?  70’s?  60’s?  Ok, I’ll stop there.

1980s horror to me is big and badass, influenced by more graphic horror movies. Huge set pieces of bizarre horror carnage, lots of characters, a go-for-broke attitude. Another cool ’80s novel is THE SCREAM by Skipp and Spector: big, bold, vivid, outrageous, energetic. A bit dated in a fun way. Let’s see… for the ’60s I’d say ROSEMARY’S BABY by Ira Levin: ironic, cool, blackly comic, lightly satirizing modern mores. The ’70s quintessential horror would probably be ’SALEM’S LOT, but I think an argument could be made for HARVEST HOME or THE OTHER by Thomas Tryon. Quieter and more reserved than King, but still creepy; a mainstream bestseller kind of vibe before the paperback horror boom of the ’80s fractioned off the audience. For the ’90s, that’s tougher, because I stopped reading contemporary horror in about 1993 or ’94. Kathe Koja’s THE CIPHER turned horror around by taking the focus off “regular folks” as it’d been in the ’80s and made it about artists, slackers, young people on the fringes of society. What can I say, I identified!

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For as long as you’ve been running your blog, what would you say are the top 10 most ridiculous/absurd/batshit insane horror novel covers you’ve featured? 

NIGHTSCAPE by Stephen George

ROCKABYE BABY by Stephen Gresham

SANDMAN by William W. Johnstone

DEW CLAWS by Stephen Gresham

SEE NO EVIL by Patricia Wllace

DEAD TO THE WORLD by J.N. Williamson

TRICYCLE by Russell Rhodes

LURKING FEAR & OTHERS by Lovecraft

WAIT AND SEE by Ruby Jean Jensen

RESURRECTION DREAMS by Richard Laymon

But there are still many, many more out there! I will always be on the lookout to feature them on my blog…

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What is your opinion of “pulp” and what purpose it serves–what can we learn from it about our culture that isn’t a part of canonical literature? “Pulp” novels are considered low-end and sort of disdained, but obviously they are popular to read.  What about the lurid themes found in them resonates with the reader? 

When it comes to the worth of any kind of pulp or genre fiction and its status, I like to turn it around and posit that lots of literature, the high-end, culturally-sanctioned stuff, isn’t nearly as profound or insightful as some people like to think it is. There is just as much cliche, lack of imagination, and poor–as in pretentious–writing in that kind of fiction as in pulp or genre fiction. Writers who began in the pulp fields are now considered major American authors, crime writers like Raymond Chandler as well as a horror writer like H.P. Lovecraft. Horror fiction deals with the same themes as any other kind of fiction: families, history, love, sex, death, violence, grief, guilt, etc. Sure, a horror novel might accentuate the less savory aspects of these themes, but I’d say a classic writer like Dostoevsky, for instance, is also exploiting them as well. I *think* that literary critics these days are little more amenable to that idea, anyway.

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Finally – The Nursery, by David Lippincott (a cult favourite here at After Dark in the Playing Fields) – any opinions?*

I’m unfamiliar with that title but the cover art is awesome! Added to my to-be-read list.

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A heartfelt thanks to Will Errickson for taking the time to answer our questions and share his thoughts!

 

A super fucking interesting chat: Sonya Vatomsky

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Sonya Vatomsky, lovely new friend, and author of Salt Is for Curing, has been interviewed previously by some very smart people who have asked some excellent questions of this ghostly poet of the witchy and intense.  I am not one of those people.

In my initial spurt of nosiness about this exquisite creature, I uncovered  a handful of informative, well-written and wonderfully interesting interviews with our subject today. And my conclusion is that there’s not much I can ask Sonya Vatomsky about poetry and the writing process that another more intelligent and more articulate person has not already shared with us. And as a matter of fact, I encourage you all to read these previous interviews when you can, because they offer fantastic insight into Sonya’s works.

I am, however going to ask some fun questions, which I have shared below, and we are offering a giveaway consisting of a signed copy of Salt Is For Curing, –so I hope you will continue reading!

I became acquainted with Sonya in early 2016 when I noticed that a user on Instagram calling themselves @coolniceghost started following my account. Normally I don’t pay a lot of attention to new followers on social media but an interesting username always piques my interest.  And come on…. COOL + NICE + GHOST!  That sounded too good to be true–I wanted to believe this mystery internet person is all of these things!

I discovered, with just a little bit of poking around on the internet, that this indeed all true. @coolniceghost turned out to be a poet named Sonya Vatomsky, (A POET! You know my heart exploded with this knowledge) whom I found on facebook and reached out right away to say hello. And here we are.

Sonya has written two collections, My Heart In Aspic, a book of :”sensory-rich poetry investigating the body, decay/fracture, rich marrow, salted flesh, and breathing in all the dark things”, as well as the more recent Salt Is For Curing, which is described deliciously by author Ariana Reines as “a feast, a grimoire, a fairy tale world, the real world. It’s also too smart for bullshit and too graceful to be mean about the bullshit”.

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{Apotheosis / Salt Is For Curing by Sonya Vatomsky}

In my reading of Salt Is For Curing, it took all that I had not to devour this small book of spooky delights in one greedy instant. I feared that to do so, to ingest all of these potent magics at once, would give me a terribly heartsick sort of heartburn and yet leave me with the very worst sort of emptiness, knowing there is no more to be had. I drew it out for as long as I could stand.

Anyway, I do go on, don’t I?  We are going to talk about stuff and things and I trust that you will read further and enjoy. After having done so, please leave a comment to be included for the giveaway of one copy of Salt Is For Curing, signed by Sonya Vatomsky.  Do you have a favorite collection of poetry? A beloved fragrance? Maybe a strange ritual you’d like to share? Tell us all about it in the comments and a random winner will be divined by esoteric methods exactly one week from today.

Sonya Vatomsky

Sonya Vatomsky

 

Mlle Ghoul: The other night I had a dream that I peeled back the onion skin of my toes to uncover chocolate bonbons, which I plucked and ate with relish (I knew they’d grow back). What have you been dreaming about lately? What sort of stock do you put in dreams, if any? Are they signs, guide-posts for you? Or just brain-blips? Do they ever make their way into your poetry?

Sonya Vatomsky: Honestly, I kind of just have a lot of nightmares. I always have. They range from the basic psychopath-on-a-rampage kind to the crueler twists of, say, killing someone while blacked out and then having to explain that you’re a murderer to your parents who, against all mounting evidence, are maintaining your innocence during the trial because they know you, you would never. Because of this, I learned how to wake myself up from dreams when I was very young.When I’m really scared, I reach a sort of lucidity where if I force my eyes open really wide in the dream-state I’ll wake up. Besides the waking up trick, my lucid dreams are pretty useless. There’s a sort of misconception in lucid dreaming tutorials where people equate them with control over your dreams, which is just not accurate. Being self-aware doesn’t automatically make you God.

Speaking of dreams and sleep, you mentioned that you suffer from sleep paralysis. Can you talk a little bit about your experience with that?

Sure! It first happened in my late teens — scared the shit out of me, but I figured it was a freaky one-off nightmare. Then it occurred every few months for several years. I have an “all the toppings” version of sleep paralysis: aural hallucinations, visual hallucinations, and the cherry on top is an overpowering sense that there’s a demon in the room. I first read about sleep paralysis when I was 24 — 6 years ago — and since then it hasn’t happened much. Reading about it was very surreal. I was going through the Wikipedia pages of Japanese horror movies and reading the synopses and clicking links and ended up reading a medical paper on kanashibari. Having this frightening, seemingly-inexplicable, and deeply-personal thing medically explained (and experienced by other people!) was such a relief. In terms of the impact on my daily life, sleep paralysis was far more isolating than terrifying… or, rather, don’t we all have a very visceral fear that our mind has chosen an utterly unique kind of madness? That we’re somehow inherently blocked from ever being understood by another?

In Salt Is For Curing, the thread that ties so much of it together is food, but I get that it’s not really about food. You’ve said, and I am paraphrasing, that at the very root of these themes you write on– women, and bodies, and autonomy, and trauma, and power– it’s you exorcising your demons while “making people think they’re reading a witchy little book of folklore.” Which I think is fantastic and I loved that aspect of it. The role of food in folklore is such an interesting subject, though, and not one that I’ve thought on overmuch until now. I guess what I want to ask is how did you make these connections in relation to your own personal mythology and go about incorporating it into your poetry?

I think food and folklore both fall into my writing through the simple fact of me being Russian. Specifically a Russian immigrant, so my sense of culture has basically been distilled into those two things, partially because they’re such cultural building blocks but also because food and folklore are all you really have awareness of when you’re a child. I was six when I moved.

… but I am also obsessed with food, so we have to come back to that. Would you consider food/cooking a fascination for you, and has that been a constant fixation throughout your life or something that developed around the writing of these particular poems? What do you like to cook for yourself? What do you like to cook and serve to other people?

I’m impatient and busy so I usually cook things that can be done in 30 minutes, ideally with most of that time away from the stove. Baked fish with lemon, rosemary lamb, duck breast, tuna steak, that sort of thing. Also sandwiches. Always sandwiches. My current favorite is some kind of nice bread, gravlax, sliced hardboiled egg, tomato, mayonnaise, and hot sweet mustard. I’ll usually make the same type of dish for other people, because hosting means I’m a) stressed from accepting too much responsibility for the personal happiness of my dinner guest and b) drinking a lot, though I might upgrade my put-it-in-the-oven entree to cornish game hen. I can do piroshky and vareniki and pelmeni and borsch and all of that too but would need a third party to mind the guests because I’m very leave-me-the-fuck-alone in the kitchen.

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Sonya Vatomsky

Another thing you mentioned in an interview and I am taking it totally out of context here so that you can expand upon and play with it however you like, is: “I’m interested in myself quite a lot.” I cannot tell you how refreshing that was to read, and how excited, and well, RELIEVED I was to hear someone actually say that. You know, as a writer, I am extremely interested in myself, as well (I’m my favorite subject!)…but that’s not always something people are comfortable expressing, I don’t think. I was hoping that you could talk a little more about this.

My coolness and my writing ability have just never been things I questioned. Which doesn’t mean I assume everyone will adore me (why would it?) or anything; I’m just stressed out by starvation economies. Impostor syndrome is a thing I deal with, as are various insecurities about success, but I don’t conflate feelings about my movement through the world with my intrinsic sense of self, I guess? I think I’m super fucking interesting, and I get chills re-reading my own work, but that ego also frees me up to feel joy at the genius of others. There’s not a finite amount of coolness. I find books all the time that reduce me to Facebook-messaging incoherent “omg… you are disgustingly amazing”s to people and that’s a real pleasure.

Make America Goth Again

Make America Goth Again

Onto lighter things! One of the things we initially bonded over was our huge goth-y tee shirt collection–do you have any favorites right now?

MAKE AMERICA GOTH AGAIN, which I discovered through fellow goth Deirdre Coyle.

I don’t want to assume you are a fellow perfume enthusiast, but I sort of get the feeling that you might be. What sort of scents do you find yourself drawn to? Do you have a particular beloved fragrance?

Ha! I am definitely a perfume enthusiast. Except I find the alcohol in alcohol-based perfumes really overpowering so I mostly wear oils. My everyday stink is Sugar & Spite’s Brewster (buttercream frosting, candied violets, vanilla cake) with Common Brimstone’s Petite Mort (caraway, cardamom, leather, honey, rose) on top. I also really love BPAL’s Vixen (orange blossom, ginger, patchouli) but I’ve had it forever so it kind of just smells like the summer I was 21 at this point. My gotta-have-it oils are anything that mention campfires, dirt, or cardamom, and lately I’m really enjoying rose as well. Oh! Another always-favorite is Debaucherous Bath, though I purchase more lotions than perfumes from that shop. The Queen Bee (milk, honey, cardamom) is delightful.

I did read your post about perfumes the other day and am thinking of treating myself to Norne or De Profundis (though for those prices maybe I’ll just come over for a weekend and smell you a lot).

I think you and I have something else in common, too–that you don’t really love showering, because you don’t like getting wet. Me too, I hate it! I sort of have to trick myself into the shower, make a ritual of it with fluffy towels, fancy soaps and potions and unguents. This made me start thinking about our own individual, personal rituals. I was wondering if you had any that you might like to share? Whether with regard to getting your hair wet, or writing, or …whatever, really.

Showering is the worst. I exercise every morning and that does make me more inclined to shower, though I soaps and potions help as well. I like to have a creepy soap (gunsmoke, seaweed, rotting wood) and a sweet lotion. An off-putting handsoap is nice, too. Blackbird used to do a really strong, salty licorice one but since they discontinued it I’ve been using Nevermore Body Company’s Sacred Ground (chamomile, oak, black currant, dried leaves).

My other rituals are secret, for now.

You just traveled to Iceland! What did you love about it? Did you find any inspiration there? Anything that you might recommend to a fellow traveler on a whirlwind journey?

Iceland! The best thing we did was go to the Secret Lagoon which, first off, has a Facebook page so how secret is it really? The lagoon is an hour or so outside Reykjavik, and we did a night excursion where we got there around 9 or 10pm — it’s dark and freezing cold and next to the lagoon is this scary-looking cement shack structure and there’s a reddish light coming from somewhere that makes the entire scene look like the first result of when you go to a website of free desktop wallpapers and search for “creepy shit”. It was incredible! You get little floaties and float in the water, which is really warm, and there are these underwater speakers playing fucking Sigur Ros, and you can drink wine and then get a massage. Someone also brought a dog so I was petting this giant fluffer while drinking wine and being up to my waist in a hot lagoon.

Perfect. Then when you’re done soaking you get to have a little meal of cucumbers and tomatoes and black bread and schnapps and softboiled egg and the rotting piss shark thing which, I don’t know, definitely needs a lot of schnapps after it.

Photo credit: Sonya Vatomsky

Photo credit: Sonya Vatomsky

I am led to believe that you may have some great poetry recommendations. If one loved Salt Is For Curing, for example, what else might you suggest?

I HAVE SO MANY POETRY RECOMMENDATIONS. Recently I have read and loved:

Kate Litterer – Ghosty Boo
Janice Lee – Reconsolidation
Natalie Eilbert – Swan Feast
Segovia Amil – Ophelia Wears Black
Emily O’Neill – Celeris

Finally, closing on a more serious note– elsewhere, you referenced a J.G. Ballard quote:

“’I wanted to / rub the human face in its own vomit / and then force it to look in the mirror’—and that’s basically what I’m trying to do. Except with my vomit. In a nice way.” I know that our motivations and inspirations are constantly in flux, so I am wondering if this is still what you are trying to do? Or has this changed?

No, that still sounds about right.

Thanks again, Sonya, for entertaining my curiosity and indulging my nosy nature. And readers, remember to leave a comment below in order to be eligible for our giveaway of one signed copy of Salt Is For Curing.

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Chase and Scout Q&A and Giveaway

IMG_1962Austin-based Chase & Scout creates beautifully crafted jewelry for those for those who walk a path between the dark and the light.  Blending ancient symbology, natural objects, and modern design aesthetics, designer and creator Elle Greene creates jewelry for kindred spirits, pieces that she hopes will resonate deeply with the wearer. Inspired by meditations on nature and the possibilities of unseen realms, these adornments are designed with an appreciation for the past while always looking forward.

Today I am thrilled to be sharing a recent interview with the lovely Elle Greene of Chase & Scout and hosting a giveaway over on Instagram for one of her gorgeous pieces, a stunning oxidized, sterling silver and labradorite pendant.

Read on to learn more about Elle and her creations and a chance to win!
…and P.S. there’s a 20% discount code for Unquiet Things readers at the bottom of the page, as well!

Mlle Ghoul: Tell us about Chase & Scout – the company, the aesthetic, and the vision.

Elle Greene: Chase and Scout was created in 2008, and is based out of my studio in Austin Texas. It’s a bit of a one woman operation. I conjure up, design, and hand craft every piece in the C&S collections. It’s very important to me that each component of my work be made from raw materials and by hand. There is a certain coldness to machine manufactured jewelry that is cranked out by the 100’s. I want the people who wear my work to feel its depth. Each piece has been in my hands, on my bench–it’s a closeness that I hope resonates with anyone who holds or wears my jewelry.

Aesthetically, I’m naturally drawn to the dark, but I let a little light in, as well. The mystique of ancient symbology, botanicals, and modern design are all aspects of my inspiration. I tend to steer clear of obvious inconology so that each wearer can ascribe their own meaning. A little mystery can be very powerful.

When you look back at the primitive roots of jewelry, it was used not only for physical adornment, but to announce tribal affiliation or provide spiritual protection. I see much of my work in this way. I am creating amulets and talismans that are charged, not only with what I have put into them, but also with what the owner brings to it. My vision is that these pieces become fixtures in their wardrobe and part of their daily armor.

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You mention that your jewelry is “with a bit of light and a bit of dark”, and that in your pieces you like to “ explore the duality of our own nature” – these are fascinating concepts and I’d love to hear more of your thoughts on this and how it relates to the adornments that you create.

For me, it’s about the depth and breadth of the personality I am designing for. Personally, I like quirky and weird; I dig dark humor but not gore. I lean more towards a Victorian Gothic sensibility over graphic horror films. I think that the people who gravitate towards my jewelry have that same broad sense of attraction to all facets of this style. The term “Gothic” is too often dismissed as “all gloom, all the time”, and that’s simply not the case.

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You also refer to an appreciation for the past and an interest in ancient symbology with regard to your jewels – what are your influences and inspirations in this vein and can you give us an example of how you might incorporate them into a design?

I was really fortunate to grow up in an artistic family. My father was an archaeologist and we always had a museum’s worth of cultural relics around the house.

I gravitate towards items used in funerary rites and burial customs. All cultures have a series of mystical rites that need to be performed and objects ascribed solely for funerary use. One of the attractions to ancient cultures is that almost every object created contains decorative elements of form and function.

Ceremonial knives are quite beautiful, every tribe has at least one style that is specific to the region or era and I find a lot of inspiration in them. In New Guinea the warriors would carry these elaborate fighting clubs with shark teeth embedded along its edges: a seriously evil-looking object. The shape of that club, combined with the shape of the federal shield (iconic during the US Civil War and Victorian era) came together in my Skull and Shield earrings.

Shield Earrings

The Frida earrings from the same collection are derived from the Incan tumi axe. The tumi was used for ritual use in burials, and was also used in sun worship ceremonies. Your average passerby will simply see a pair of cool feathered earrings, but the owner knows they’re wearing an interpretation of a 2,000 year old sacrificial knife.

Frida Earrings

I know that you’re getting ready to release a new mini collection -what can we look forward to with this?

Mini collections are a lot of fun for me! It’s less pressure than a full line, which allows me to play and try out new ideas. Right now, I’m creating a small group of orchids and flora, just in time for the spring. For me, orchids carry a real presence that tiny flowers just can’t convey. Capturing something as fleeting and fragile as a flower in metal is definitely a technical challenge. I’ve found a Japanese alloy that allows me to achieve a deep patina in the metal. This Black Flower collection currently consists of pendants and earrings. I’m really excited to bring this collection to life!

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Where can we find your creations for purchase?

My website is the best place to find my current designs and collections. Anyone can visit Chaseandscout.com and purchase their favorite pieces directly from the site. Should you find yourself in Austin, stop by Blackmail Boutique on South Congress Ave. to see a selection of C&S jewelry in person.

Follow me on Instagram (@ChaseandScout) for a peek into studio life at the bench and my daily inspiration.

Thank you Elle, for graciously answering my questions, and for offering this generous giveaway!  Be certain to follow, tag, and repost for a chance to win!

P.S. Get 20% off of everything at Chase & Scout with code: UNQUIET now thru 3/20.

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