Better Late Than Never: Work From Home Tips

96681855_1547689345389523_6507882601796075520_nEarly on in our days of self-isolation and social distancing during this pandemic crisis, my baby sister asked if I would write a guest post for her blog about how I’ve worked out the kinks of working from home over the past decade. I happily agreed.

In classic Taurean fashion, it took me about eleventy billion hours of ponderous thought and laborious execution, but here we go– some work from home thoughts from “one of the most beguiling and original voices to echo across the Internet.” But she’s my sister, so she has to say nice things about me!

Mosey on over and have a peek at my guest post for her, and while you’re there, poke around a bit! She’s dedicated herself to recording a daily pandemic check-in with her Plague Diaries series and I think you’ll find some relatable stuff there and a great deal of keen insight and heartfelt sentiment. And I’m not just saying that because she’s my sister!

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Last night I woke every hour on the hour, troubled by tummy terrors and dreams of my sisters frustrating me in the classic ways that they relentlessly do in my dreams. I rolled out of bed and the sunlight was cheerily streaming through the windows, anyhow. There’s a squirrel out there hungry for my tomatoes and I hear a woodpecker tok-tok-toking high in the branches of our neighbor’s pine. Another year around the sun, today. I guess I would have preferred a rainy morning but I’ll take what I can get and be glad of it.

Today I am eight years older than my mother was, when I realized she had been 36 for a suspect amount of time. Even though it’s really no one’s business, I don’t see the point in lying about one’s age. I know a lot of younger people who are smarter than I will ever be, and I know some folks with a few years on me who are absolute morons. It means so little, that number. Meaningless or no, it keeps climbing and adding up. Another year around the sun. I’ll do my best not to fritter away, act a fool, or fuck up this new year of mine.

Fingers crossed.

Things That Scare Me

 

In this week’s YouTube upload, I chatter about a topic that’s near and dear to my heart, and one that’s held a lifelong fascination for me: the things that scare me and strike fear into my heart! From a very young age I’ve been obsessed with the things that frighten me and in this video, I share a few of those things, which, as an adult, I find mildly unsettling, or straight-up freaky.

Pull up a chair, pour a bracing libation for your stout heart, and let’s have a chat about the nightmares and dreadful imagery that haunts our subconscious and lurks in our individual shadows. What scares you? Please feel free to share in the video comments!

Books/stories mentioned in this video:

💀 The House Next Door by Anne River Siddons
💀 The House Next Door Lifetime adaptation
💀 Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edogawa Ranpo
💀 “The Human Chair” LP by Cadabra Records
💀 “The Lady Maid’s Bell” by Edith Wharton (read online)
💀 “The Wendigo” by Algernon Blackwood (read online)

My mother is a poem I’ll never be able to write

momI share with my mother a profound love of beautiful things, gorgeous fragrances, an obsessive appreciation for visual arts and the written word, and a fascination with the mystical and arcane. From her, I also received some decidedly unlovely things: soul-deep self-esteem issues, heaps of childhood trauma, and what I think of as our family’s ancestral depression, which some are marked with more than others, but we all suffer from it.

My mother died in 2013 (or was it 2014? It’s getting harder to remember and this both scares and saddens me.) I am no longer as angry with her as I once was. And to be honest, more than anything else, now I just miss her. You did the best you could, Elaine. I’m doing my best, too.

I just read something so sharp and true, it cleaved my heart clean in two.

My mother is a poem
I’ll never be able to write,
though everything I write
is a poem to my mother.

― Sharon Doubiago

I hope I’m making you proud, mom. I used to feel that was a weird and fraudulent longing, but I now know it is not. It’s the truest thing, and it always has been. Every word I have ever written has been, in some way or another, for you.

The Art Of The Occult And The Elusive Rosaleen Norton

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There’s a lot of different moving pieces that go into an image-heavy book like this that I never even thought about before I began work on The Art of the Occult. Obviously you must obtain permission from the artists whose work you wish to include… but it turns out that is not at all a straightforward process.

Between tracking down contact information for the artist (if they are still traversing this mortal plane, that is–otherwise, you might be dealing with galleries, estates, etc.) and actually finding them and receiving those permissions, you then have the concern of whether or not the artist can provide a high-enough resolution of the work, whether it fits with the layout of the book, and to backtrack a bit–whether or not the publisher even agrees that the images you’ve suggested will be appropriate for the overall project.

"Black Magic." Rosaleen Norton

“Black Magic.” Rosaleen Norton

In the course of this process of research and reaching out, which was never tedious, believe it or not–I live to track down elusive art and artists!– I got a lot of email bounce backs, and oftentimes even if the email appeared to go through, there were a handful of artists I never heard back from. Sometimes I did get a response and received a “no” right off the bat. Sometimes, too, this occurred after some back and forth between myself and the artist, and we arrived at the determination that maybe my book wasn’t a good fit for their artistic vision. And that’s OK! It really is. It’s not all going to work out, and you can’t always get everything you want, and after getting over a bit of initial disappointment, I frequently came to the conclusion that it was probably for the best.

With regard to those artists who are no longer with us, sometimes I couldn’t track down an estate contact, and when I did I never heard back from them.  If it was the publisher reaching out, sometimes they either couldn’t come to an agreement or they were perhaps unable to acquire a high enough resolution image that would work for this particular print medium.

"Lucifer," Rosaleen Norton

“Lucifer,” Rosaleen Norton

Sadly, such was the case with Rosaleen Norton, a fascinating artist and human I’ve long been enchanted with, and who was one of the very first individuals I had on my list for The Art Of The Occult.

Norton, an Australian artist who became widely known in the 1950’s as The Witch Of King’s Cross, was a natural trance artist who experimented with self-hypnosis and whose visionary explorations resulted in supernatural beings cavorting across the canvas; “pagan” art, which earned her continuous criticism and controversy. Occult writer Neville Drury wrote a detailed and thoroughly compelling account of the artist’s life in his book Pan’s Daughter: The Magical World Of Rosaleen Norton; I read it a great many years ago and was heartbroken when I lost it in hurricane-related flooding. I repurchased a copy early last year to pore through again when I began initial image research for this book, and even though in the end I’m unable to include any of Norton’s wildly evocative work, I am glad that I’ve got a copy of this book in my possession again. It’s quite a treasure.

"Lilith," Rosaleen Norton

“Lilith,” Rosaleen Norton

It’s quite frustrating to imagine (and I’ve got a good, catastrophizing imagination) that once the book is released there are going to be readers or critics who say “oh, I can’t believe she didn’t include X/Y/Z artist!” Well, the thing is, nine times out of ten, I probably tried to! And when you’re that reader, I get that you might be frustrated or disappointed to see a lack of representation when it comes to your favorite art and artists– so I just wanted to share a glimpse into why that might not always be possible.

At any rate, I like to think that there are a great many fabulous, fantastical artists who are illuminated betwixt and between the shadowy nooks and crannies of this forthcoming tome…and if you are one of those lovely and brilliant artists whom I directly interacted with, you have my sincere and profound thanks. In future posts I hope to give some sneak peeks into the art that will actually be in the book, as I realize it’s pretty unfair to show the stuff that didn’t make it!

I am told that despite the unstable, unsettling state of the world right now, we are still on target for a September 2020 publishing date and that is such a thrilling thing to look forward to right now. Thanks for coming along with me on this weird, wild ride.

Preorder links for The Art Of The Occult can be found here!

Occult Fashion Files: The Spiritual Dimensions of Lenny Niemeyer’s Summer 2018 collection

Lenny Niemeyer 2017In researching something-or-other last week, I fell down an incredible occult couture rabbit hole, and I wanted to share my findings with you in case you hadn’t already seen some of these mystical catwalk marvels from designer Lenny Niemeyer. The collection is from a few years back, São Paulo Fashion Week on August 29, 2017, to be accurate. But it was totally new to my eyes, and I was pretty thrilled to have serendipitously stumbled across these wondrous pieces!

Hilma af Klint, Group X, No. 2, Altarpiece, 1915, oil and metal leaf on canvas

Hilma af Klint, Group X, No. 2, Altarpiece, 1915, oil and metal leaf on canvas

Untitled, 1940, Emma Kunz

Untitled, 1940, Emma Kunz

The 2018 Summer collection was meant to be a “tribute to feminine strength,” according to the designer, and takes inspiration from Swedish artists Hilma Af Klint and Emma Kunz, visionary artists born in the late 19th century and pioneers of geometric abstractionism who arrived at their innovative artworks through “conscious collaboration with spirit.”

The artwork of both painters can be seen through their “remarkable elements such as lines, spheres, and triangles”, present in the collection’s tessellating geometric prints. Soft colors such as Sky Blue and Rose Morocco provide a mysterious counterpoint for the vibrant hues of Tomato Red and Lime Green. Additionally, fashion critics noted an “80’s revival” which “shows strength through low-cut swimsuits and draped garments.” Complimenting the mystical mood are accessories showcasing different stones and sacred shapes, perhaps recalling the phases or the platonic solids, providing even more esoteric personality to the season’s pieces.

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Lenny Niemeyer 2017 (6)

Lenny Niemeyer 2017 (7) Lenny Niemeyer 2017 (8) Lenny Niemeyer 2017 (9) Lenny Niemeyer 2017 (10) Lenny Niemeyer 2017 (2) Lenny Niemeyer 2017 (5) Lenny Niemeyer 2017 (4)

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The Top 10 things I Love About Animal Crossing New Horizons

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Last month I put out a call on Instagram, pleading with my friends to fill me in on the appeal Animal Crossing, and what is it, exactly, anyway? Don’t get me wrong, I do understand the appeal of escapist video-games (I mean, we’re entrenched in the FF7 remake right now!) but I just knew absolutely nothing about Animal Crossing, and I was SO curious. Not curious enough to play, mind you–I know how easily I get sucked into games and I don’t need that temptation right now–but I just wanted to hear, from someone’s personal perspective and experience, just what is it that makes Animal Crossing so special? If nothing else, I can live vicariously!

My friend Shay rose to the occasion. Shay and are internet friends who have actually met in real life, and to say I adore her is a vast understatement. She and I were in somewhat similarly bad places in our lives when we first crossed each other’s path on the internet in the comments section of a blog that we both loved. As we became friendly and learned more about each other over the years, I’ve really come to lean on her friendship and cheer and perpetually bubbly nature, and I am happy to say that, while we switched places geographically (when we first started chatting she was down south and I was up north, and now the reverse is true) we chat at least once a week, and are always cheerleading each other on in our various goals. Shay–much like my Best Good Friend–is a very Aries Aries and as a slow, shy, sort of detached Taurus, I really need those dynamic, enthusiastic Aries energies in my life.

Thank you, thank you, darling Shay for taking the time, especially right now, which is a super weird and scary time, to have given this some thought and to have shared it with me. See below for Shay’s Top 10 things I Love About Animal Crossing New Horizons I hope you guys found this as illuminating and enjoyable–and fun!– as I have!

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Hello, I’m Shay and I’m a casual gamer that has found a little place of zen in a game. I have played puzzle, design, and sim games for years. I played Animal Crossing beginning on the GameCube and have played every iteration of the game since. It’s the game with no rushed goal, no actual end, it’s a game where you just exist. There is something special about the town and now it’s an island that you get to create and curate.

The Sounds and Songs

Kazumi Totaka has created something amazing with Animal Crossing. The ASMR is being recorded and people are making YouTube videos of his hard work. The Washington Post described it as “a blissful 24-hour lullaby that’s helping countless players weather countless hours of forced downtime.” Totaka recorded the sounds of the island that you hear while out in nature. The ocean waves, a crackling campfire, walking through wet grass, the sound of the mole cricket, cicadas and he changed into sandals to get the sound just right for walking through sand. There is also a theme song that changes throughout the day starting slow chill in the morning and building up to a pop song around noon, happy hour sounds a little jazzy and then as you get late into the night and the dark sets in the tune takes on a slow gothy sound. It’s all so lovely and thought out.

My island celebration for the museum expansion! Hooray!

Cute Anthropomorphic Characters

If you have played the game before, most of the characters are still here and there are quite a few new additions as well. I’m pleased to say my islanders so far are enjoyable but if they weren’t you could go to the town hall and submit a complaint to Isabelle, she’s the dog that works there. There are different animals and they all have different personalities. Personality types tend to be nice, hard workers, lazy, jocks, rude and some are just eccentric. I currently have 2 that think they are a pop star & a superhero (a panda and a rabbit).

Creepy Zipper on Bunny Day

Creepy Zipper on Bunny Day

The Ever-Changing Seasons and Holidays

Depending on if you choose to play the game in your own hemisphere and time zone your game will follow the current seasons. The fish, bugs, and flowers change with the seasons. There are a number of holidays that come along with the season change. We just had Bunny Day that had the CREEPIEST bunny I have ever seen. It really topped the charts in its creep factor, right down to the zipper in the back of his suit. Cherry blossoms bloomed with the beginning of Spring so all the hardwood trees turned into trees covered in pink flowers and at the end of the season the town was raining in pink blossoms.

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All The Outfits!!!

My character is nothing but stylish. She has a packed closet and since you get Nook Miles for changing the outfit….she pretty much changes daily. I have been stuck on a retro 1940’s look lately but I have so many to choose from. The Able Sisters show up on the island and start selling you clothes from a stall, but soon get a store and you can go daily and buy new pieces. I have hipster outfits, gothic lolita outfits and some of my favorite are my punk outfits.

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Fishing and Bug Catching

Part of what drives the game is catching fish and bugs and digging up fossils that eventually start being collected by Blathers, an owl that runs a museum. You also get to sell these items to help pay off loans that the island creator Tom Nook (in the American version of the game they call him a raccoon but he is actually named after his Japanese likeness…a play on words, he is a tanuki which is a raccoon dog that lives in East Asia) give you when he helps you set up your house. Tom Nook continues to help you build up the island with loans for expanding your house and costs that the island creates as a whole to build bridges and inclines to easier get around the island. The money is called bells and you get bells when you sell items to Nook’s Cranny, the local general store. The fishing and bug catching is very much like the real thing. A relaxing pastime that allows you to clear your mind a bit and focus on a task that requires sneaking up slowly to a butterfly or outwitting the tarantula.

Watching the fish from the tunnel in the museum

Watching the fish from the tunnel in the museum

The Museum

As mentioned above, part of what drives the game is the seasonal comings and goings of fish and bugs. This makes the collection to help fill the museum have time frames (again, a few months’ time that isn’t rushed by any means). You have a few months to catch a Marlin. Come May 1st that fish leaves along with the elusive hard to catch tarantula. Taking the place are a scorpion, catfish, and rainbow fish just to name a few. Filling the museum is probably one of my favorite activities. Once Blathers has taken the item from you he adds it to the museum. You can wander through the many halls anytime you like. The museum is quiet. The music is in hushed tones. You can hear the splashing of the water recycling through the tanks, you can hear buzzing from the bees and chirping of crickets. It’s part of the game that feels the most like a meditation. You can sit in the museum and watch the fish swim in schools. It all feels very natural.

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Decorating the Home & Island

Islanders share recipes with you and you can collect flowers, stones, clay, and iron to create furniture to fill your home and the island. You can also buy things from Nook’s Cranny to fill your home. There are multiple random ways to get furniture or designs for furniture. Filling your home and making the island feel cozy lead to happy homes awards and visitors deciding to stay. I tend to like decorating games, so with this part of the gameplay I end up taking a long time changing up wallpapers, flooring, rearranging the furniture in my home and all over the island.

Moon gazing from the cliffs

Moongazing from the cliffs

Terraforming

One of the final tools you unlock allows you to then take your designing even further. Terraforming allows you to change the shape of the island. This allows you to build cliffs, create waterfalls, and lay down paths. I spent days building paths. I found myself cutting down trees and moving flowers so that everything moved in a flow that felt like a little village I would want to live in. I carved a waterfall into an area I dubbed my zen garden. This game has become an escape from a world that is troubling. When the news is too much I find myself turning off the TV and picking up my Switch.

My husband was my first visitor .We play on separate consoles.

My husband was my first visitor. We play on separate consoles.

Connecting With Friends and Visiting Islands

Finally, the last thing that I love about this game is sharing the fun with friends. You can swap codes and fly to each other’s islands. Here you can swap recipes, trade fruits (you start with only one type of fruit and build all the fruits by traveling and visiting other islands), and get ideas for all the many ways you can design your island and make this game your special Universe. I find myself watching YouTube videos of the 5-star islands. If any of this interests you, you must look up the Zelda island and the Twin Peaks island. These are both spectacular examples of people taking an idea and making it so wildly, wonderfully weird. I hope when my friends that are playing visit my island they feel the love, glitter, and weird I have added to make this place something that takes me away from all the bad in the world.

If you are interested in becoming Animal Crossing friends, you can find me on Instagram @shaynovinnyc and send me a DM for my friend code. I sometimes make stories about my island, but most of the time what you see is what interests me on my walks through the New York park near my apartment or something cute my cats did while we are in quarantine in a tiny apartment. Take care, stay safe, stay weird and happy gaming.

Haunt Your Own House Instagram Giveaway (NOW ENDED)

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Our friends at Roses And Rue Antiques have teamed up with some of their favorite colleagues, all-female small business owners, for an Instagram giveaway of truly epic proportions. This has been a challenging, frightening, and uncertain time for all of us, so they have put together a selection of ghostly goodies which will hopefully lift your spirits, and make your time isolated at home a little happier.

Read further for a massive list of the marvelous items you will receive accompanied by some truly beautiful photos, along with links to the various vendors. At the bottom of the post, you will find the rules for the giveaway, along with the links you will need to enter. It’s not complicated, but please be sure to read! Also, please note, this is not a giveaway hosted by Unquiet Things, so any comments you leave here won’t be counted as entries. I just wanted to make sure you were aware of its existence, and point you in the right direction!

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The winner of the giveaway will receive:
– 2 Victorian hair keepsakes, 2 antique miniature religious books, and an antique magnifying paperweight from @rosesandrueantiques
– A pair of antique crochet gloves and a funeral card from @blackcatclothiers
– A lock of hair in a paper box and funeral card from @lleyak
– A vintage candle holder with a crystal ball from @darknorthcraftandcurio
– A “You have been poisoned” teacup and Salem postcards from @emporium32
– A Victorian post mortem photo, 2 Victorian prints, and 2 funeral cards from @funerealephemera

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– A Victorian book on home gardening from @ghost_era
– 2 prints and 10 postcards from photographer and lecturer @girlduality
– Victorian casket plate soap and perfume samples from @littleandgrim
– 2 Victorian mourning cards from @pittandpendulum
– Haunted House room spray and Parlor Ghost perfume from @seanceperfumes
– Vintage doll parts and Victorian photos from @weepingwidowantiques
– 3 vintage funeral fans from @witchfingersantiques

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To enter the giveaway:
1. Follow all accounts listed and linked to above on Instagram
2. Tag 2 people in @rosesandrueantiques original post, linked here and above
3. For an extra entry, repost this photo on Instagram and tag it #HauntYourOwnHouse

You can enter as many times as you like. They will announce the winner on Friday, May 1st at 12 PM EST. Good luck, and thank you for supporting small businesses!

Down A Dark Haul (YouTube series!)

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So I am plugging away on my little youtube channel, which I know, it’s sort of a vain little project, but that’s okay, and I am okay with it. The world is nuts right now and I can’t just allow myself to freak out and shut down, so it’s a nice time to learn some new skills and do a thing I was gearing up to try my hand at, anyhow. And P.S. it’s also okay to freak out and shut down, but I know me, and if I allow myself to get into that headspace, then I might never make it out again.

Anyway, as all good Youtube channels do (as well as the really bad and annoying ones, or basically, well, all of them) I thought I might include a little “haul” video. But mine would, naturally, be with the kinds of things that I like to see! No basic, grocery store hauls here, GTFO with those frozen Tyson chicken breasts! No $5K Gucci sneaker hauls here, either! Although OK maybe I am just jealous about those!


This weekend I shared the first video from my Down A Dark Haul series, and because I am so very new to all of this, I forgot nearly everything I wanted to share about the marvelous things I mentioned. I thought I might stop back by the ol’ blog and share some photos and additional information.

And please don’t worry! I still plan on updating this blog and it will always be my first love. I’m just juggling one more personal project right now, is all. Social media platforms are sort of like Pokémon for me (I don’t play Pokémon, but) I feel I have to “catch them all,” so to speak!

two books witch woman seance

The first two items were two books from Fulgur Press :
UK based Fulgur Press is the leading independent publisher for esotericism and magic in visual culture. Founded in 1992 by Robert Ansell, the press works with artists, writers and editors who explore ideas of agency and enchantment through scholarship and practice.

Songs For The Witch Woman is an evocative book of art and poetry, a collaborative effort between a fascinating couple who were utterly consumed by each other: Jack Parsons, an actual rocket scientist, and a prominent figure in the Los Angeles occult world of the 1940s. And Marjorie Cameron artist and actress and an iconic part of LA’s early mystical underground. I believe this though this book is meant to be both a window into their love story, it’s more art book than a biography and I am dreadfully excited to dig in.

Séance by Shannon Taggart. I am also very excited to pore through Séance, a gorgeous book by photographer, lecturer, and writer. Shannon Taggart. Shannon is the world’s foremost contemporary spirit photographer and Séance is the culmination of an 18-year long exploration of spiritualism and which contains hundreds of photographs of her subjects channeling, table tipping, spoon bending, and having other spirit encounters. And a foreward by Dan Akroyd who is –wow!–a fourth-generation spiritualist!

dark north nun

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This darling little nun is from Dark North Craft and Curio, who was recommended to me by another wonderful online antique seller whose wares I adore, Kate at Roses and Rue Antiques (and whom you may remember from a previous installment of Ten Things!) I love it when small businesses lift each other up and have each other’s backs! I will link to both shops below. And as a matter of fact, the pale madam in the second photo is from the Roses and Rue shop! Though I have not interacted much with the owner of Dark North (who it turns out is also a Kate), I do know that she specializes in items with an air of gothic romance or occult origins, and likes to stock items for witchcraft, altar spaces, ritual magick and divination.

I am not sure if this particular nun has a story, or if nun dolls, in general, have any sort of origin story. I started doing a bit of research and fell down a series of rabbit holes and didn’t find anything definitive after two minutes, so I gave up. But I did find a place called in Indian River, Michigan called The National Shrine Of The Cross In The Woods, which is apparently the home for the largest collection of dolls dressed in traditional habits of men and women religious communities in the United States. If I were to go on some sort of zig-zaggy cross country road trip, visiting all sorts of eccentric sites along the way, this would be near the top of the list! At any rate, I am not sure why I am obsessed with nuns, but for whatever reason, I find them absolutely fascinating, and I had to have this little lady for my shelf.

Later, someone on twitter gave me a bit of an answer as to my original line of query!

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Speaking of obsessions, I think anyone who knows me either knows or will soon find out that I am obsessed with Portland, OR, which seems to me a wonderful little oasis for weirdos. I’ve only visited a handful of times, but each time I do, I am always sure to stop by AltarPDX, an alternative handmade fashion boutique dedicated to beautiful clothing and accessories that are inspired by the natural world and the spirit of the Northwest. The shop curates an edgy, dark aesthetic and celebrates “a new generation of American artistry and manufacturing.” 

RANT: As an aside, I keep hearing fashion and makeup bloggers and vloggers say something really annoying, and I don’t know if they are using the word in this way to be cheeky, or maybe…they just think this is how the word is used. And I get that the English language is ever-evolving, but come ON. Anyway, I often see people’s Instagram captions in which they declare that something is SO AESTHETIC. No! You can like or prefer (or not prefer) something because you either do or do not appreciate it’s *particular* aesthetic; Like… you prefer a dark gothic aesthetic or a colorful boho aesthetic, or a highly elaborate baroque or a more natural, minimalist aesthetic. Generally speaking, I guess you could say you appreciate something for its aesthetic qualities, or that you recognize that something has aesthetic appeal. But. Something can’t JUST be SO aesthetic. I mean…what does that even mean?? If I am missing something or am way off base here, feel free to let me know. I just think it sounds weird…and not in the fun way we like around here. In a dumb and wrong way.

ANYWAY. That has nothing to do with this lovely box of small-batch apothecary items, hand-selected for this particular “discovery box.” Not all of the scents or products are things I personally would have chosen for myself but I really do love these kinds of surprise boxes, so it was a fun purchase! Take a peek at AltarPDX’s website for the items above, and order your own apothecary discovery box here.

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From the Haute Macabre crystal shop, I ordered this massive carnelian bowl, about which, the site shares: “Carnelian, once known as “the blood of Isis”, emits a warmth, recirculating the blood in your veins. In ancient times, Carnelian was worn to give warriors courage in battle, something not energetically different than our modern uses – Carnelian ignites a passion, gives a bold voice to the timid, and builds power within.”

This bowl is a beautiful, bold behemoth, and I have placed it on my desk where I can gaze upon its valorous vibes all day long!

I also grabbed a few of the soaps that Haute Macabre stocks from Crystal Bar soap company, and they are lovely and smell wonderful.

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Lastly, I received a surprise package from indie perfumers Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab this past weekend, so as a last-minute addition, I included a few mini-reviews toward the end of the video. I thought I would give you a close-up photo here because my camera definitely wasn’t close enough to get a good peek yesterday (and I don’t know how to add in b-roll or whatever yet) but if you want to know my thought on the scent, you’ll have to you know, watch the video. Hee! Sneaky, sneaky. The two fragrances that I reference are Blueberries, Cream, and Cardamom and Caramel, Smoked Chilis, and Black Vanilla.

So that’s it for this installment of Down a Dark Haul, but I hope to have more in this series in the future!

In the meantime, while please keeping in mind that I am very new to all of this, feel free to leave comments and critiques and suggestions in the comments! And also like and subscribe and comment on my Youtube channel, so it looks like I am not a lame loser with no friends!

Beauty In The Mysterious And Pleasure In The Passage Of Time: The Photography Of Helena Aguilar Mayans

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For what feels like forever now, I have been in swoons and raptures over the misty, half-lit elegance of analog photographer Helena Aguilar Mayans’ stunning storybook landscapes and transportive, time-traveling portraits. I am very happy that, like in some wondrous, enchanting tale from a bygone era, the stars mystically aligned for us and I can finally share our interview–at least two years in the making!– with you today.

See below for our Q&A wherein Helena shares her passions and inspirations, her reverence for mystery and the passage of time, and of course, a gallery of her incredible works. Helena–thank you for your patience and perseverance, your kindness and candor, and for working with me on this and long as we have!

Find Helena Aguilar Mayans: Website // Instagram

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“Were it not for shadows, there would be no beauty.” is the quote used in your instagram bio. Can you talk about that philosophy as it relates to your art?

This is a quote by Junichiro Tanizaki, from his book “In Praise for Shadows”. It’s a very beautiful and poetic book and I always found it very inspiring. I had the chance to visit Japan lately and I could relate to everything he points on the book. It’s a book written in 1933 but I think it’s still very contemporary.

The book explores some concepts and ideas that usually in the occidental world have been understood in a very different way or not really appreciated.

I feel that in traditional Japanese culture time is understood differently and beauty is seen in many things, even in the most ordinary. The space they have for contemplation, ritual, and beauty is something that I love and I feel is not well valued in other cultures.

We are used to having everything immediately and I always felt against that, I think we should understand time in a very different way. I’ve been learning Urushi (Japanese traditional lacquer) and Kintsugi (ceramic repair with Urushi and metal dust) for 3 years now and it’s all about time and patience! It’s not only about the technique itself, but you also learn about other things. It really helps me to balance and to focus on my new photographic projects! I have a photoshoot in mind inspired by a passage of “In Praise of Shadows” and I cannot wait for it!

I also love the Japanese concept of “mono no aware” (sympathy for things) and the idea of patina, showing the time passing by, the texture, it’s somehow what I find in old and abandoned buildings and also in old garments. I love to see the time passing by all over these spaces and objects, for me it has a very special charm.

Tanizaki also speaks about the strange calm, darkness or shadows, can bring and the mystery they hold. I think a must for me is trying to get some mystery in my pictures, sometimes more subtle and sometimes more direct, but I think mystery needs to be there. Related to this I also love this quote by Einstein:

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.”

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HAM insta 8 HAM insta7 I always feel an overwhelming sense of solitude when gazing upon the lone models in the shadowy environs in your photos. But not in a terribly melancholic way–I get the feeling that these characters are content to be lost in their own worlds, and there is no place they’d rather be. Can you speak to that?

I always pictured women being alone, either between wild landscapes or in abandoned environments, it has been something very inner, it happens very naturally it has been the way I have always seen my pictures. But I wouldn’t say these women are feeling lonely, I think they are just lost in their worlds, daydreaming or looking for a shelter, away from the modern world. It’s also how I feel about the world many times. It’s probably a bit about being an outsider. The idea of trying to live in a different way, out of what’s it’s considered standard.

These women are where they are because they want, they want to be out or explore. I always included the lone female character in my pictures and when I discovered the novels of the Brontës I could feel so related to it. The Brontës had been a very important influence for that. I’ve been very very inspired by the works and lives of them during the last years and something that I really like from them is the idea that they made some revolutionary heroines just by the fact that they went out walking.

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I’m stealing a quote from an interview you did with one of my favorite writers and appreciators of art, Jantine Zantbergen; you said that you view photography as “…a medium one can use in order to make fantasies more real.” Can you tell about the sort of fantasies you try to bring to life?

I always had a deep fascination for bygone eras and past artistic movements. Usually those the “fantasies” I try to recreate, I imagine characters from the Brontë novels or paintings by the symbolists, the decadents, the pre-raphaelites and I try to make these visions live through photography.

Trying to recreate all this through photography it’s a kind of way of making everything more real. It’s also the best way I know to evade myself and connect with these bygone eras and art movements that I am so fond of. The moment just before pressing the shooter, when I am in front of the scene and everything looks like I imagined I really feel transported, it feels like time works in a very different way.

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I also sense complex stories in your photography; each frame could be a chapter in a beautiful fairy tale. Can you talk about art as story-telling, the particular stories you are trying to tell, and where you draw your inspirations from?

Yes, I think photography it’s a strong medium for story telling, usually I go with an idea about what could be the story of the character I’m imagining and then during the photoshoot it just seems to appear in my head. I like the idea that with photography you hold the mystery and leave the story more open to the viewer rather than cinema. I like this, that with just a shot or a short series you are opening the door to a world, a period, an atmosphere, you give some details, some tricks, but the rest has to be imagined. I can take inspiration from many things, but usually, it comes from painting, literature, cinema or music.

Some constant inspirations are the decadents, the symbolists, the Pre-Raphaelites. and the aesthetic movement. I am currently being very very inspired by all the 1900s art and the “Fin de Siècle” concept. Powerful women and decadentism are my current vibes, along with Catalan “Modernistes” (Art Nouveau) painters too.

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The landscape in your photography is always so stunning, whether you have shot your models against the backdrop of a foggy half-lit meadow or the ominous face of a rocky cliff. Are all of these locations local to you? Can you tell us about the role that nature and these natural spaces play in your art?

I had the chance to grew up and live in Olot, a village that’s inside a Natural Park; it’s a volcanic area that makes the landscape surrounding me very unique. This is something that has always been related to my work. I wouldn’t do the pictures I do if I were living in Barcelona, for example.

The landscape here, it’s singular but also quite varied, from basalt cliffs to English countryside-looking meadows to faerie tale forests.

So most of the places that I picture on my work are nearby locations, sometimes there are also places I visited while traveling. Searching for the place it’s always an important step before a shoot takes place.

If I work on abandoned places I then usually travel around Europe for the locations. It can take months to locate the places but it’s always worth it. I love to explore such places and being able to use them as scenarios before they are gone forever. They really transport me and I can feel the past and history of them, it’s a very special feeling.

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You’ve been involved in some gorgeous collaborations with various designers and musicians! Can you tell us a little bit about some of them (Under The Pyramids–I adore Mathilde!–Hvnter Gvtherer, King Dude, etc.), and how they came to be?

I will be always grateful for all these collaborations!

Working with Mathyld its always a dream, she puts all her heart in all her creations and you can sense that. She’s the sweetest and it’s always wonderful to work with her. We are hoping to do something together again soon! :)

I also cherish the collab I did for Hvnter Gvtherer, I think Laura’s work it’s very genuine and I did have a great time doing a photoshoot for her!

I think it’s a very nice way to support independent artists this way.

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HAM insta12I’m also very nosy when it comes to what is currently inspiring my favorite artists! Is there anything you’ve listened to, read, watched, or become aware of recently that’s sparking your creative flow?

A lot of art from the Fin de Siècle!! Now I am especially fond of Orazi and Georges de Feure. Fernand Khnopff’s art and also currently art nouveau Catalan artists like Ramon Casas or Santiago Rusiñol. The somewhat unknown and underrated Alexandre de Riquer has always been an inspiration too.

As for music, Alcest’s latest album, Nhor, and Sylvaine music are what I have been frequently listening to lately.

The poetry of Emily Brontë is always a huge inspiration and the illustrations of Selp @darkselp are always a beautiful inspiration too!

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