Last month I had the privilege of interviewing Sarah Faith Gottesdiener, a designer, art director, and artist whose artwork and design is based in the spiritual, feminist, and mystical. Sarah is the creative force behind Modern Women, an intersectional feminist gear company, combining the different elements of designing, art-making, publishing, editing, and collaborating under the unifying umbrella of Feminist and Queer philosophy. We spoke specifically about one of her wonderful offerings, The Many Moons workbook, and how the moon and its magic influences her creative practices.
If you missed it when it initially went live on Haute Macabre, I highly encourage you to give our interview a read now–Sarah is a brilliantly inspiring luminary and no doubt this workbook, which imagines a world where witches, women, femmes, & weirdos make their dreams come true, is relevant to all of your interests! You know, all two of you who read this blog.
Kaleidoscope Color editorial shot for Interview Magazine by Gregory Harris, 2011
It’s well and truly summer. Sigh. I guess that means hemlines rise and colors lighten up. SIGH. You know I have a very difficult time with these concepts.
But sometimes it’s good to go with the flow, right? Experiment a little? Maybe don’t go too crazy (as the title of this post suggests), but perhaps…just one crayon at a time? I think we can do this.
Find a slip of a dress that whispers the soft pink of the dawn before the day’s heat begins to blaze; a sheer tank top that reflects the cool, clear blue of a secret swimming spot, a weirdly patterned frock in the bold shades of children’s pool floaties or another echoing the hues of a deep red rose, a tee shirt screaming the lurid orange of the sun’s dying rays on a late July afternoon, or a dress the vibrant green of grass clippings that stick to your feet when you walk outside barefoot to get the mail, after the lawn man has cut two weeks worth of growth…
Below you will find a few suggestions in this vein; as always click each image for more information on the items used and where to purchase.
A long, long time ago, I had a livejournal account. As a matter of fact, I had several. I was always moving around, and purging and deleting and recreating myself. Mostly because I was living with a despot, an utter bastard of a human being who could not bear the fact that I had connections beyond the tenuous and yet tyrannical connection that he had with me. I had few friends beyond those I developed online, and I would be damned if he ruined that.
Thusly, a new livejournal name every three months or so (and again, my apologies to those who had a hard time keeping up with me.) Before all that, though, in the early days of LJ, I became somewhat friends with a certain LJ user. You know what I mean by “somewhat friends”; you thought they were really cool, so you friended them, and then eventually they friended you back and every once in a while you’d comment on each other’s posts but you never exchanged email addresses or AIM account info, so you probably weren’t really good friends, right?
This person, we will call her A.–and I am refraining from using real names or even online usernames or monikers, the reasons for which I will explain shortly*– was an artistic sort, and i loved seeing the creations she chose to share, and the evolution of her work. I enjoyed reading about the new techniques that she employed, and the snippets of whimsical, surreal poetry and prose that would sometimes accompany a new piece. I rejoiced with her when her work was commissioned as cover art for a work of speculative fiction/fantasy. I looked forward to every time something she posted in my feed…until one day, after noting a prolonged absence on her part, I realized her journal had been purged and her site had been taken down.
I grieved in a quiet sort of, hopefully non-creepy way. I barely knew a thing about this person, and we certainly weren’t true friends, but I found myself strangely bereft not knowing where she was or what was going on with her. Every few years I half-heartedly peek around the internet to see what turns up; one year, through a blog I thought belonged to her partner at the time, I briefly saw her appear under a new username. I found that same username listed in a popular fragrance forum which I lurk about frequently. I reached out to the user and never received a response. A few years after that, while searching for her older user name, I saw that she commented frequently on a certain blog over a decade ago. It appeared that the blogger and she were on friendly terms and seemed to be personally acquainted, and what excited me is that the blog had been consistently updated and was current. I found the blogger on twitter and contacted him. He wrote back to me! He knew who I was looking for, and thought she was well and said that he would pass my information on.
I never heard back.
I should learn a lesson from this, I imagine. Some people don’t want to be found. Perhaps some people don’t want to be found by me. Or, at least they don’t want to be found by revenants from their past, good, bad, or otherwise. And so I stopped searching, and poking, and peering and prying. My intentions were good, but I don’t wish to hurt anyone. I don’t wish to be a reminder of a life someone has tried to leave behind…I mean, I think I understand that almost better than anyone. And so I am not linking to anything I have found, or referring to this person by any of the names I know them by–that’s not fair, and who knows, it might even be dangerous for them. I don’t know their circumstances, do I?
But I do hope they are well, and that they are happy, and that they continue to create. I’m afraid for her, and for many artists, I suppose, that once they disappear, their work might too. And I thought it was so beautiful, and that she had so much potential, and it nearly breaks my heart to think that one day there will be no evidence of it. That it will be as if it, and she, never existed.
If you read this one day, A.,you’re probably going to be weirded out. Our exchanges were so brief… the only one I actually even remember is our mutual complaint of over-sized SUVs in the tiny parking spaces of small apartment complexes. Why do I care so much? Why do I care at all? I think maybe you were (are?) a sensitive soul and I that you will understand, even if I can’t articulate it. Are you still creating? I hope so. Be well, where ever you are.
This is me letting go.
(But I wanted to have a record of some sort, of your fantastical works, just in case. I hope you are okay with that. )
*though I have refrained from using names, etc., I have left the watermark on the art, because I think it’s kind of rude to mess around with that stuff.
Last week on Haute Macabre, I reflect upon the transformative magic in endings, and other thoughts surrounding Sabat Magazine’s final offering, The Crone Issue.
I very nearly had a piece in here*, myself, but alas it was submitted too late and there was not enough room. However! My wonderfully talented friend Sonya Vatomsky contributed not one, but two pieces in this issue, so that makes me feel pretty good. (Also I did actually sneak something kind of small into this issue after all–let me know if you see it!)
Described as “a David Lynchian fever dream on Beatrix Potter terrain”, Christiane Cegavske’s exquisitely-crafted stop motion tale Blood Tea and Red String is a macabre delight and a labor of love that was 13 years in the making. The film, a dialogue-free, avant garde “fairy tale for adults” follows two groups of anthropomorphic creatures in fancy costumes -the aristocratic White Mice and the rustic Creatures Who Dwell Under the Oak – and the “struggle over the doll of their heart’s desire.” This struggle, notes one critic, is so fascinating because the actions and emotions of these bizarre creatures “so uncannily resemble warts-and-all human behavior”. We find a “disturbing comfort” in these unconventional characters, and we see ourselves in this magic world that Cegavske creates.
This beguiling, nightmarish, deceptively whimsical world extends far beyond the phantasmagoric fable that is Blood Tea and Red String. Cegavske, also responsible for the animation in Asia Argento’s The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things, began dabbling in film making and animation at an early age (5th grade!) with an oddly satisfying-sounding claymation short about trick-or-treaters whose candy is stolen. Not only is she an extraordinary film maker, but a talented artist in several mediums and a self professed “Creator of Many Things” with an Etsy shop full of delightful oddities as well.
See below for a tête-à-tête with Christiane in which we parley on the subjects of muses and myths, future dreamscapes, and fancy edibles.
It took 13 years to make this film – is that typical of this sort of venture? During that time were you working on other creative endeavors or was your sole focus dedicated on this particular project?
Christiane Cegavske: I don’t really know. Most people aren’t crazy enough to attempt such a long project without funding and a crew. The high budget animated films get done a lot quicker, of course.
It was my primary focus, but I’ve always got other projects going. I continued to paint and write and sew. Side projects can invigorate a primary project. By letting your mind wander to less overwhelming work, solutions to previously insurmountable trouble can suddenly appear. The thing that really slowed this project down, was earning a living. It can really be a challenge to produce artwork after you are exhausted from working all week.
Blood Tea and Red String, 2006
Blood Tea and Red String, 2006
Blood Tea and Red String, 2006
I have heard tell that Blood Tea and Red String is part of a trilogy – is there any truth to that, and if so…can you tell me a bit about what we might expect to see in these sequels and when we might expect to be able to view them?
Yes that is true. I am currently working on Seed in the Sand which is part two. I don’t know when this one will be completed. I have a few other projects that were on hold during production of Blood Tea and Red String, that I want to complete first. My main focus right now is a series of 8 paintings that have been plaguing my mind for the last 10 years. A few months ago, I finally started to work on them. It feels so good to see them developing now.
In devoting so much time to a project it must be inevitable that you run across other amazing artists with whom to collaborate -is this how you came to know Mark Growden, for example, who provided the haunting soundtrack for Blood Tea and Red String?
I am very fortunate to know some amazingly talented people.
I first went to see Mark perform with some friends of mine. I really liked his music and he gave me a CD at the show. Later, I was watching my work print of my film and my friend started playing Mark’s CD. There was a scene where the music matched up to the visuals so well, I just knew I wanted him to compose the music for my film. Luckily he was interested and agreed to do it.
Mark gave me a copy of his new CD, “Saint Judas” and asked if I wanted to make an animated video for him. I listened to it and chose “Coyote”. I told him that was the one I wanted to do, and he said to just follow my inspiration and do what I wanted with it. In return for this music video, Mark is going to create the first song for my new film, Seed in the Sand. With this song, I hope to animate a portion of the beginning of the movie. I am almost ready to begin animating. I just have to get the set finished and find a way to purchase the camera. I hope to get the Canon EOS Rebel T2i EF-S, but at this time I don’t have a way to purchase it. If I get everything ready and still can’t get the camera, I can still shoot a short promotional scene with the equipment I have. The quality just won’t be adequate for the final film, so I would have to reshoot that part.
You call yourself “a creator of many things” – off the top of my head, and in addition to being a film maker I know you are also a poet, a painter and a seamstress – what else are you involved in? Where else can we see your work?
I came up with the title Creator of Many Things because I was at a loss to categorize myself since I do make art in so many mediums. You’ve listed my primary pursuits nicely. I guess you might add “creator of fancy edibles” and “doll maker” in there. So far the edibles are just for family and friends, but more than one person has suggested that I make a cookbook to share my inventions. That is pretty far down on my staggering to-do list though. Maybe I will put one together for my little girl when she goes off to college in about 13 years.
There are currently two books of my poetry available, and I am working on illustrating a short story called “The Black Cloak”, no publication date set at this time, and the series of paintings that I intend to release as an art book when finished.
Have you found that your recent move from the city (LA) to the woods of Oregon has helped or hindered your creative process?
It has been severely disorienting. Since I have a child, it helps to have my family around for support, but I am not sure how I feel about staying here long term. I don’t like the isolation from my peers. If I just consider it a temporary hermitage it helps. I am able to work on my paintings out here and I have a nice sized garage studio. I didn’t have a studio for shooting film in LA. So that is a big improvement.
“Cat’s Cradle”, Oil on Canvas
Crows, ravens, ragdolls – these things show up quite frequently in your work, in almost every medium. What draws you to these items, what meaning do they hold for you?
That is a little tricky to answer as putting a definition to them takes away from some of the symbolism that hits the viewer behind the rational mind, but I will comment. Crows and ravens are like my muses, my familiars or my alter ego. They watch and tell and illustrate. They are usually portrayed as helpers, sometimes mischief-makers, sometimes just witnesses. Ragdolls are like the outer mask of a person. That which is seen and judged and must be discarded to reach authenticity. It is a danger to identify with the doll. Dolls don’t grow, dolls don’t love, dolls don’t feel. It can be tempting to hide inside of one or to love one, but is not a good idea to forget that it is only a thing, not a being.
“Giant Crows at Meat Table”, The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things
There are, of course the obvious comparisons of your work to surrealist Jan Švankmajer and Jiří Trnka, and perhaps to a lesser extent, the Brothers Quay –would you consider these folks among some of your influences ? From where else, or who else, do you draw your inspiration?
Definitely they have influenced me. Beyond my own mythic imaginings that have drawn from many sources in the world around me and sources lost to my conscious memory that I can’t identify, inspirations include Bosch, Botticelli, Frida Khalo, Jan Svankmajer, Ladislas Starewicz, Ray Harryhausen, Joseph Campbell, the ancient myths of many cultures…
“Skeleton Doll with Secret Mouse”, photography by Robin Loznak
What are you currently working on? What can we expect to see from you in the future?
In addition to getting Seed in the Sand ready, I am working on a series of eight small paintings that I want to release as an art book, and I have just finished a script for a live action film I would like to make. There will of course be a little animation in it. My next step is to do a few storyboards and prepare a pitch for it so I can start to search for financial support. I really hope to find a way to make this film. Since it is live action it will require a team to make it. That is a little different than toiling away alone in a garage for years, so I can’t just dive in without help.
One of my friends who read the script liked it so much that he suggested I write more stories. So you may see new publications from me if inspiration takes hold. Time will tell.
My list of projects is excitingly long and sometimes daunting. But, given time, health and support, they will all be accomplished.
A gathering of death related links that I have encountered in the past month or so. From somber to hilarious, from informative to creepy, here’s a snippet of things that have been reported on or journaled about in or related to the Death Industry recently.
I love it that you’re enthusiastic about your babbies and your doggos, and I live for seeing all of your beautiful selfies. Your political talk doesn’t bother me one iota! Sometimes, though, I got a lot of problems with you people. And now you’re gonna hear about it.
A List Of Reasons For Which I Have Unfollowed People On Facebook, Ranked
10. Too many photos of your boring food (delicious looking food is okay).
9. Vaguebooking. Jesus. Either say whatever, or don’t. Quit dicking around.
8. Run-on sentences with no punctuation. Your poorly constructed shit gives me vertigo.
7. Your stupid drama. Work that out privately. You’re causing me the fremdschämen willies.
6. Animal abuse. WTF is wrong with you, you fucking psycho?
5. Your themed engagement photoshoot.
4. Folks who are purportedly #soblessed. You are the literal worst.
3. That friend from long ago who I thought might still be decent, but you posted a Ted Nugent photo.
2. You shared a video of that woman on instagram who is always eating exotic fruit & smiling vacuously
1. You tagged me in something really dumb, in a very public way. You’re dead to me.
SO, yeah. Wow. Man. This past month. I was knocked out for about 2.5 weeks with bronchitis, and so it’s mostly a blur of coughing and hacking and more tea drinking than I have ever done in my life. I put a serious dent in our supplies (which is good, because we had a surplus anyway, and it wasn’t moving very quickly.)
Before I took ill I did manage to finish this beauty. Behold, the Blue Dahlia from the book New Vintage Lace: Knits Inspired By The Past by Andrea Jurgrau (details on my Ravelry page). Once I got the hang of the pattern, it was actually a lot of fun to knit on, and even though at one point I ran into a snag, it seems after seven years of practicing this hobby, I finally have enough confidence in my abilities to say “hey…you know…I don’t think this is actually my fault…let’s check for errata!” And sure enough, there was an error that was fixed in an update, and it was related to the exact issue I was having! The lesson to be learned here is that sometimes other people are actually to blame. It’s not always me!
In an interesting turn of events, I was present at a Death Cafe…as an actual attendee! Up until this point I had only organized and facilitated the events (which I have written about before), and I have to say…it was much easier to be an attendee. So much less pressure! Hardly any stress at all! Although the day I go into something completely anxiety free is a day of miracles. But It helped that it was held at a lovely friend’s home, and that I had more than a passing familiarity with the charismatic facilitator. So many interesting things were discussed, and innovative ideas and concepts were bandied about–I cannot say it often and loudly enough: if you have the opportunity to attend a Death Cafe, either locally, or perhaps in a city that you are visiting, you absolutely must. Every single time, I walk away from one invigorated and enlightened, and despite what might be perceived as a morbid subject matter, it is a truly life affirming experience.
Sooooo…turns out four years of caring for close family members who keep dying one right after the other is not good for one’s well-being, neither mental nor physical. You’re shocked, right? Well, I was shocked when, a week before my grandmother passed, I stepped on the scale and discovered that not only had I gained back any weight I’d lost three years ago, there were many, many extra stowaway pounds as well. Caring for people you love, putting their needs above your own, and then watching them die one by one, tends to be a disheartening, depressing, and demoralizing process. Not cool, grief and depression (and laziness and apathy). Not cool at all.
As someone who is an emotional eater even in the best of times, well, I’m here to tell you that ever since December 2012 when I discovered my mother had cancer, and going forward from there to care for her, and then both of my elderly grandparents, it’s been taking a severe toll emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically. What I’m saying is basically I ate my way through the past four years, and I’m fairly certain that with each death, my give-a-fucks for my own well-being dwindled significantly.. I stepped on the scale in early February, a week before my grandmother died, and was utterly horrified. Ten weeks later, I have lost 17 pounds, but I have got quite a while to go and a long journey full of hard work ahead of me. This “creature of the night” tee is one of my favorites. When I bought it, several years ago, it was pretty boxy and very loose. In 2016 I noticed that it had become uncomfortably tight, and I resembled a creature of the night stuffed sausage. It’s getting loose again, and I can tell it fits differently, more like it did when I first bought it. That’s where I’m at right now, friends. Hopefully there’s many more loose tee shirts where I am headed. And so, you know what that means. There’s going to be a lot more Weight Loss For Weirdos posts around here
Currently binging on: Steven Universe. These past two weeks of bronchitis have laid me pretty low, but this sweet, kind, beautiful show has cheered me immeasurably. I’ve been slowly catching up on it since December, but we took in half of season two just this past weekend! I woke up the next morning feeling better than I have in a long time, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence. The week before the Steven Universe marathon, I mainlined all of Taboo, and while I loved Tom Hardy’s grim, grimy, bleak British drama and was over the moon to find out it was renewed for a second season, Steven Universe was a welcome palate cleanser afterward. I’ve also been watching Supergirl. Don’t laugh! I really enjoy its dorky optimism.
And of course, my one-word movie reviews. Because brevity is the soul of…the really lazy person.
* I had really been looking forward to The Void, but somehow Amazon tricked me into watching the wrong one, and because the time between reading the synopsis six months ago and watching the film a few days ago was long enough to forget what it was supposed to be about…I didn’t even realize until the end I’d been duped. I was doing a lot of head scratching throughout, but I was determined to see it through. Even though it was a disappointment. And when I figured out my mistake and watched the one I meant to watch in the first place? That was kind of a disappointment, too. Though I think the popular opinion was that it was a really incredible film, a friend of mine summed it up best: “…it collapsed under the weight of its influences. It checked a bunch of boxes but didn’t have a voice of its own.”
I have been stricken by a sudden sickness; a miserable spring cold that arrived out of nowhere and has rendered me scratchy-throated, fuzzy-brained, and with a wretched, wracking cough. All I want to do is put on some fuzzy socks, curl up under the covers and prop myself up on a fluffy pillow, sip a lemony hot toddy, and lose myself in the restorative properties of good book. And if I’m not cured by the last page, well, at the very least, I’d like to think that from these beloved books and treasured tales, I will have been inspired in some small way.
Sometimes my mind wanders as I am reading, and I find myself wondering all kinds of ridiculous things. But things which certainly require answers, I am sure you will agree! What sorts of clothes were the tenants from the grotty apartment building wearing, in that thoroughly unsettling tale? What sort of fabulous frocks might the witches from that mystical manifesto caper and cavort in? Did that invisible wind-based demon who tormented lonely travelers wear a sweater to keep warm?
See below for the culmination of these feverish thoughts involving sartorial suggestions for selected sick-bed stories. Some of them, because my nonsense cannot be contained, even have accompanying soundtracks!
As, always, click the image for a detailed listing of the items used, and links to books and texts and music have been provided as well.