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Flipping through Swedish artist Johanna Öst’s vibrant, fanciful illustrations is akin to curling up with a beloved book of favorite fairy tales and finding them now populated with B-movie dames, monsters from the pulpiest retro sci-fi magazines, and ghostly apparitions from other dimensions. Folk tales meets Weird Tales, if you will.

In Johanna’s portfolio one will spot swamp girls and jungle queens, moth ladies, spider women and mermaids. A closer look reveals sorceresses and witches, warriors and seductresses. Whether they’re haunting some poor jerk senseless, blasting their enemies with laser guns, or just chilling with their coven of devastatingly gorgeous cronies, one thing’s for sure: these are some tough broads who truck in badassery, and if you don’t watch your step, they will fuck your shit up.

A painter, sculptor, and a costumer with a sublimely extravagant aesthetic, Johanna keeps especially busy. We are thrilled that she took the time to talk with us about her art and her love for the brash characters and outlandish creatures that she paints.

She-wolf The-Spectre-In-the-Woods

Has art always been a passion? When is your earliest memory of creating such things and how did it lead to the path you now find yourself on? I’ve read that you are not really a social creature as far as classroom settings are concerned–how do you think that affected your artistic training, such as it was?

Yes definitely, it’s probably the most important part of my life, and it always has been. I don’t have any specific early memories of creating since I’ve simply been doing it all the time since my first baby doodles.

Making art for a living was never a conscious decision when I was younger, just something I’ve always fallen back on. I never thought of it as a valid option or a “real job,” and I very much still struggle with that, but now it’s my dream to keep this my profession for as long as I can.

I don’t really have any formal art training. I have learned from constant drawing and from studying books and other people’s art. I did try going to an art class for a year when I was about 18, but for personal reasons I don’t think I was around enough to actually learn anything, which is a shame. Having had some formal art training would have probably been good for me, I’m definitely lacking in the technical areas.

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You’re always into something! If it’s not your amazing illustrations, you are creating dolls and figures, or costumes. What fuels your creative drive?
I have far too many ideas than I will ever have the time and energy to make. I think I’m very lucky to never had experienced artist’s block or anything like that. I constantly have at least three big half-finished projects lying around the flat annoying my boyfriend, not counting all the paintings I’m working on.

I don’t know what fuels it really, but I’m constantly inspired by things I see and hear about, adding to the unending list in the back of my head of things I’d like to make.

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From the moment I laid eyes on your work I’ve been fascinated by the fairy tale meets pulpy B-movie world that you conjure: full of glamour and danger and lush, dreamy mythical scenes. Can you speak to your influences in this regard?

Thank you so much! Myths, folklore, and fairy tales of all sorts are some of the things that influence me the most, and I love mysteries, horror, and the supernatural. These things have probably inspired the majority of the narratives in my pictures.

Visually I am indeed very much inspired by pulp illustrations and B-movies, but also fairy tale illustrations and surrealists and symbolism.

Man-eater The-Web

Another aspect of your art that has always struck me as interesting is your focus on the tough broad, the dangerous dame, the bad girl. What is it that appeals to you about this archetype?

I have been fascinated by this type of woman since I was a small child. I guess she represents everything I would like to be, unafraid, independent, and not bothered by what anyone else might think, especially since in many ways I’m rather the opposite. Bad girls also tend to be over-the-top glamorous and unashamedly sexual with no concern for those loathsome concepts of “good taste” and “class.”

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It’s obvious that you have a keen interest in fashion that spans several eras; one can see that your inspirations run the gamut from burlesque and pin-up beauties to crimped, edgy punk influence, to Marie Antoinette’s dreamy-rococo-confectionary fluf, to traditional motifs found in Swedish folk costumery. From where does this interest stem and how does it work its way into your art?

Painting a picture, making a sculpture or putting together an outfit and putting makeup on my face are just different aspects of my interest in everything visual and creative. Since I draw a lot of people I obviously also draw a lot of clothes and style, and I’ve been making or altering clothes for myself since I started picking my own outfits.

Recently I’ve also ventured into making some clothes and accessories to sell. I made a small collection of completely recycled, hand-sewn, and hand-painted tops last year, and I’ve started making different types of pins.

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From murky swamps to outer space, crystal castles in the clouds to stairways descending into eerie darkness–the scenery in your works holds as much of a key to the mysterious images you present as do the characters who populate them. Do you build the piece around the background or the characters, which comes first?

It makes me very happy to hear that since I think I’m rather crap at backgrounds. I have made a conscious effort to get better at them during the last few years though, challenging myself to focus more on the scenery and add more detail even if it seems daunting.

Most of the time the characters definitely come first, but it depends on my initial idea. My pictures usually start as a sort mini-narrative in my brain, and most often the characters are the important part, but sometimes it can be the scenery. I think you can usually tell from looking at them!

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Many of your works also focus on frightening, violent legends and folklore–The Geast of Gévaudan, for example, or Spring Heeled Jack. Others feature ghosts and mythological monsters, some familiar, some I suspect, entirely made up! I’d love to hear about some of your favorite tales in this regard–the ghost stories and creatures from legends that keep you awake at night and haunt you.

My favourite unexplained mysterious creatures are definitely the two you mentioned. Spring Heeled Jack possibly being my absolute favourite because he’s such an outlandish creature. The fact that the sightings were in plain sight in urban areas and Jack is such a brash character yet never found or explained, makes it especially fascinating. Another favourite tale of a similar type is the devil’s footprints in Cornwall; look it up! It’s such an eerie occurrence even if it could have a rational explanation.

Swedish and Nordic folklore of course has a special place in my heart since it’s what I’ve grown up with, but there are too many fantastic stories to pick favourites.


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Tell us about your creative space. What is life like in your studio? Do you set aside a specific time to create or is your muse on full-time? Do you listen to music or podcasts, or have a movie on in the background or do you prefer silence as you create?

Oh I wish I had a studio! I live in a small flat so there’s no room for that. I usually work in the sofa or by the kitchen table. I try to be disciplined and work at specific times but I’m not always great at it. And of course I do lots of creating in my “free” time as well.

Most often I watch movies at the same time as I’m working, but I listen to audio books as well. I’m a bit picky with the readers, though. There was a period a couple of years ago when I listened to every Agatha Christie audio book read by Hugh Fraser I could find. They were perfect listening to while painting. At the moment I’m listening to Irish Fairy and Folk Tales by W.B. Yeats, and I think I’m going to look up some classic ghost stories next.

fc65c2a3-b89c-480c-a18d-21e1cb67bce0Where can we see your work right now? Are you involved in any current or future projects or collaborations that you can tell us about?

Me and my artist friends Liselotte Eriksson and Naomi Nowak are planning a big joint exhibition in Stockholm in March, and I’m working on some new things for that. I’l be releasing a new pin soon, and I was just contacted about possibly making a really exciting fanzine featuring illustrations to classic horror literature.

Find Johanna Öst: website // etsy // instagram

(This article was originally posted at Dirge; the site is no longer active.)

 

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Doing: attending birthday parties in public places –the idea of which which will never fail to freak me out because: people & conversation. However, I always forget that in this particular group there are also people like me who are similarly freaked out, which is great because misery (and anxious weirdos) love company. We always seem to find each other, and a corner to cozy into, cringing away from the crowd.  Look at this guy! It’s a Mexican Salamander, or Axolotyl. He is a cold-blooded, live-in friend of my corner-companion and her husband. These are the kinds of things we talk about.

 

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Reading: Beautiful Darkness, a thoroughly charmingly illustrated graphic novel that is savage and unsettling and not at all what I expected.  Although I kind of figured out what I was in for by the second or third page.  Beauty, also illustrated by Kerascoet and is supposedly an “immersive”, “dark, feminist parable”; I’ll know more tonight, after I’ve settled in with it!  And lastly (well, not really lastly, I’ve got stacks and stacks of unread books) is Wylding Hall, by Elisabeth Hand.  Here’s the synopsis–doesn’t it sound dreamy?

“After the tragic and mysterious death of one of their founding members, the young musicians in a British acid-folk band hole up at Wylding Hall, an ancient country house with its own dark secrets. There they record the classic album that will make their reputation but at a terrifying cost, when Julian Blake, their lead singer, disappears within the mansion and is never seen again. Now, years later, each of the surviving musicians, their friends and lovers (including a psychic, a photographer, and the band s manager) meets with a young documentary filmmaker to tell his or her own version of what happened during that summer but whose story is the true one?”

 

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Knitting: Terpsichore Street, by Romi Hill.  This pattern gave me extreme agita around this time last year, and I eventually called it quits and felt like a failure and moped about it for the next year. Well, this year I am attempting it again, and I am seeing that a great many of my issues are directly related to misreading the pattern, misinterpreting the instructions, and making assumptions that aren’t accurate.  So far progress is slow–we’re talking a glacial pace– but I am reading and re-reading and correcting myself every time I go astray. Except for a potentially huge mistake that I made at the beginning…but I think that’s only going to affect the size of the finished shawl, and I’m over that.  I’ll just give it to one of my tinier friends.  Problem solved!

Oh, and what’s that, you ask? Another book?  Yes, you caught me.  This one is Death’s Summer Coat by Brandy Schillace and touches on a subject close to my heart: death awareness and death acceptance.

“Death is something we all confront―it touches our families, our homes, our hearts. And yet we have grown used to denying its existence, treating it as an enemy to be beaten back with medical advances.

We are living at a unique point in human history. People are living longer than ever, yet the longer we live, the more taboo and alien our mortality becomes. Yet we, and our loved ones, still remain mortal. People today still struggle with this fact, as we have done throughout our entire history. What led us to this point? What drove us to sanitize death and make it foreign and unfamiliar?

Schillace shows how talking about death, and the rituals associated with it, can help provide answers. It also brings us closer together―conversation and community are just as important for living as for dying. Some of the stories are strikingly unfamiliar; others are far more familiar than you might suppose. But all reveal much about the present―and about ourselves.”

 

Listening: Daughter, Not To Disappear. I am happy to report that Daughter’s second album sounds very much like the first, which is to say: lush, beautiful sadness. Hushed, desolate dream-pop. Heartbreak and doom and gentle glooms.  Perfection.

 

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Wearing: Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s Mother Ghost, from their Crimson Peak line {a cold, sheer white musk gleaming with black orchid, benzoin, labdanum, and blackened amber, and embraced by white rose, tea leaf, and vanilla flower.} This is a pearly, translucent delicate scent that reminds me very much of my lost (discontinued) love, the delicate, gauzy, Antique Lace.

 

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Anticipating: The release of our Occult Activity Book! Co-conspirator Becky Munich and I have been working with several splendid several artists and writers to conjure forth this wicked little book …and for true believers we have concocted a Deluxe pack which includes the 24-page Occult Activity book, two 5×7 color prints and a sticker by contributing artist Casket Glass Studio .

We should have them available for purchase sometime in the beginning of February, but be forewarned! Only 250 of these marvels will be printed, so you’ll want to nab them while they are available on this plane of existence!

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Bonus! Another one from the cutting room floor, from How To Wear A Séance over at Dirge. That dress is utterly killing me.

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West Coast-based artist Caitlin McCarthy illustrates pale, spectral beauties, languid of limb and with milky, blind eyes belying the secrets and mystical knowledge they possess. Visions of dark, dreamy romanticism, these sibyls and seers gaze impassively at the viewer, their delicate bones and bloodless visages hinting at a bygone era of melancholy and loss, and of mysteries glimpsed from beyond the veil.

Though among her inspirations she’s noted a fascination with otherworldly pursuits–the occult, fairy tales, uncanny oddities, etc.–and this clearly includes a fondness for Victorian aesthetic and Gothic sensibilities, there are also whispers of the natural world to be found in McCarthy’s work. The quartz crystals, lush flora, and thorny crowns paired with and adorning these spellbinding enchantresses suggest more than a few earthly adorations, as well.

Caitlin graciously gave of her time for a brief Q&A; read more and learn of this artist’s love for the odd and the unusual and how the mystical and macabre manifests itself in her work.

Beyond-The-Veil

Has art always been a passion for you? Can you tell us how you got started on this creative path and how it has lead to the work you are producing today?

I’ve always felt a pull to create, and I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. I loved that art gave me the magical ability to transport my imaginary world into something physical and real. I kept drawing through childhood and into my adult life. Eventually I became tired of working at a coffee shop and decided to go to art school. I graduated a few years ago with a BFA in studio art and was lucky enough to get a job in a creative field. I’ve been blessed to have family, friends, and teachers in my life that have supported and encouraged me to continue creating and find my own artistic voice.

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Your Tumblr blog and your Etsy site both mention that you find beauty in the odd and the unusual. Has it always been this way for you? When did you notice this curious appreciation and what forms did it take for you?

I would say I have always been drawn to magic, the unexplained, and the mysterious. When I was younger it was an attraction to fantasy, and as I got a bit older I began veering towards a darker aesthetic. As a teenager, I developed a love for dark music, black clothing, vampire novels, and cemetery walks. I like to think my taste and style have evolved, but I suppose I never really outgrew any of it. Things that are considered spooky or macabre inspire me. Perhaps it’s the idea that surrounding yourself with reminders of death will lessen the fear of it, or maybe it’s simply the aesthetic I find myself naturally drawn toward. I do my best to fill my life with the odd and the darkly beautiful and I channel this into my art, my style, my travels, and my home.

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The-Crown

Your work appears mainly colorless, rendered in black and white, perhaps some shades of grey and the occasionally pale blushing pink background. The effect is delicate, nuanced–almost elegantly anemic. Can you speak to the muted tones and lack of color in your work?

In college I worked primarily in watercolor. After school I began working in comics and training as a colorist. I spent my days working on the computer, staring at screens glowing with vibrant colors. I have found my personal art began naturally drifting in an opposite direction. Drawing with graphite has become a bit therapeutic for me. I enjoy the act of using my hands to create something. After I’ve completed a drawing, sometimes I’ll add faint tones of color to match the personality of the piece. Other times, the piece just seems complete, so I’ll let it be. Color can be a very powerful tool, but I find that the lack of it can be as well. I use contrast, texture, and line to create the moods I wish to evoke with a piece. Absence of color lends itself well to creating the melancholy, eerie, or mystic atmosphere that I am trying to summon in my work.

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The-Priestess

Your portfolio is peppered with priestesses, seers, and witches; mystical females as well as an obvious interest in the occult feature heavily in your works. I would love to hear about your influences in this vein, and how they inform your art.

The occult is a pathway into exploring the paranormal, the unknown, and hidden secrets. I often draw the women I wish to be or that I admire. These are often strong women with magic in their eyes, ladies who are tapping into, channeling, or manipulating things we can’t even begin to understand. Instead of being passive, they are mastering and shaping the world around them. I find the idea of controlling what is believed to be uncontrollable both comforting and terrifying.

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Can you give us a tour of your workspace? What sorts of objects do you surround yourself with ? What rituals do you use to put yourself in the mood to work?

My home is my shrine and my safe space. I do my best to surround myself with inspiration and things I love. I collect antiques, mourning memorabilia, taxidermy, old photographs, and religious paraphernalia. My walls are covered in work created by artists I admire, and I have more books than I have shelf space, or time to read. I do nearly all of my drawing at night when I’m home alone. I’ll settle in with a cup of tea or a glass of wine on my couch, and snuggle up with my two dogs. I like to turn on a favorite film or music, and the colder and stormier it is outside, the better.

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Other than your Etsy shop, where can we find your work?

You can also find me on Instagram @CaitlinMcCarthyArt. I have found Instagram to be a very inspiring and supportive place for artists. I like to share photos of what I am currently working on, glimpses into my home and life, as well as information on sales and such. I’m also extremely fond of Pinterest. I find myself pinning inspirations nearly every day. It’s my virtual bulletin board, and if you’re interested in a peek inside of my head, it’s the place to go.

Step into the role of prophetess or seer for a moment, if you can. What do you predict for 2016 in terms of your art?

I had a lot of personal life-changing events last year and I’m curious to see how those will seep into my art. I really am hoping to challenge myself throughout 2016. I’d like to push myself to sketch more, and to share more on social media. I too often get caught up in thinking things aren’t good enough, and that is so toxic. I’d also love to participate in some group art shows. I think it is such an amazing way to meet and connect with other artists. Unfortunately, I am not able to predict the future, but I am excited to see what it may bring.

(This article was originally posted at Dirge; the site is no longer active.)

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map-1A Logarithmic Map of the Entire Known Universe created by musician Pablo Carlos Budassi

 

tumblr_inline_nwu56e1CLl1qf7w4f_500Chapter two of Katie Skelly’s My Pretty Vampire is up!

 

best-of-2015Headphone Commutes Best of 2015 lists are becoming available, one at a time.  For those who love: ambient, modern classical, field recording, experimental type sounds.

 

Pimped-PeepPunk Rock Squirrels and Peep-a-lopes: The Rogue Taxidermy Art of Sarina Brewer

 

ec-steiner-1024x461Emperor of Nightmares: The art of EC Steiner

 

isadoraduncan-SCREEN-e1450281835184Great Moments In Historical Sluttery: Isadora Duncan, The Ritual of Dance and Freedom

 




The Most Risqué Moments in Silent Cinema
68 fantastic names gathered while watching BBC credits
The bloodiest Shakespeare play: all 74 of the Bard’s on-stage deaths in one show
Essay on Claude Cahun from The Dead Ladies Project
A library’s quest to save the history of fandom
Hot Toddy Recipes to Scald the Mouths of Your Enemies
2016 Books SF/F Editors Want You to Read
Katamari Damacy for your iphone or android! 
PJ Harvey shares new album teaser
Support the dark and strange content you love over at Dirge Magazine’s Patreon page – and have a chance to win some really cool stuff! (Including goods from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, a favorite over here.)

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ECW

I am so excited to be working with a talented group of friends and artists on a thrilling collaborative project that we hope to make available early this year.  My co-conspirator has begun releasing wee sneak peeks at some of the artwork included in our cooperative creative devil-baby so I thought I might follow suit and start generating some buzz (Beelze-buzz?) about the project!

I’m won’t say too much about it…I don’t want to spoil any surprises…but you’ve perhaps become aware of this adult coloring book/activity book trend, yes?  Maybe you are intrigued, sure, you love the idea of soothing zen activities and mindfulness and all that sort of thing, but well…you’ve not jumped in because you’re not exactly all sweetness and light, are you? And these cutesy, cornball books currently on the market aren’t quite geared toward your darker sensibilities, eerie aesthetics and esoteric interests, are they?

Be patient for just a little while longer, friends. In the meantime, collect your demon-summoning colored chalks… you’re about to find your Zen moment on the dark side…

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Occult activity book art {artist: Becky Munich}
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Occult activity book art {artist: Becky Munich}

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I have a weird habit wherein every time I write something, I feel compelled to design an outfit around it. Obviously in the virtual sense – my wallet could not possibly withstand this peculiar compulsion!

Below are 15 (okay, it’s actually probably more like 20-30) ensembles created in 2015, including links back to the articles, essays, or ramblings that inspired their creation. As always, click through the image to find details on the items included.

15 things I did in 2015

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15 things I wrote in 2015

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15 things I liked in 2015

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Merry Hexmas to you!

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The New Faces of Death

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Kintsugi

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Alchemical Catharsis

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Queen of Hearts

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Travel Journals: Portland

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Feral Mysticism

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Terrible, tragic beauty

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but I brought you flowers!

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les neiges d’antan

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Darkly Dreaming

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Krampusnacht 2015

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Perfume of the Dead

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Hag Couture

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Summer scents for those who shun the sun

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wind & stone, fire & bone

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The Scent of Evil

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Vögguvísa, or: There is much that darkness knows

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hexmas

Listen, I’ll level with you here.  There’s no one who can shop for you like you can.

Unless you are providing your friends and loved ones with highly detailed lists which note exactly what something is and where it can be found (which I’ve come to think of as kind of tacky, but your mileage may vary!) it is unlikely you are going to receive that weird/macabre/grotesque/OH DEAR GOD WHAT IS THAT item on your list for which you have been longing intensely.

So here’s what you do. Your holiday shopping is, I assume, done and over with, correct? You can breathe a sigh of relief.  Pour a glass of wine…or a shot of whiskey…or whatever your poison is – except – please, for the love of all things holy, not one of those vulgar energy drinks.

It is now time to focus on you and what you want – and no, I am fairly certain it is not that Bath and Body Works gift basket in some gross, fruity scent you’ll never wear or that gaudy hummingbird wind-chime from someone who learned 20 years ago that you liked hummingbirds and never listened when you told them gently that your tastes had changed since you graduated from high school.

(And don’t get me wrong – I love it when people think of me enough to buy me a gift, and I am grateful…I just don’t ever expect someone is going to get me that thing that I really, really, want!)

It is now time to throw a few gifts for yourself under the tree! Consider the following items and please note that they all have the mlleghoul stamp of approval, for they have been purchased solely by and for myself.

Books

amil If you are not already entranced by Segovia Amil’s dark, captivating beauty on instagram, you’ll be bewitched by her words in Ophelia Wears Black, her first published book of poetry. “Ophelia Wears Black is a collection of poetry and prose focusing on the shadow aspects and dark side of the human experience through the eyes of a young girl. Divided into four parts, each mirroring the cycling seasons, we follow Ophelia into her own re-imagined Underworld where she learns to make sense of and find the perfection and necessity of her own inner darkness.”

 

folkI have not been able to put down Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies since receiving it a few weeks ago, it is some of the most compelling, fascinating writing I have ever read on one of my very favorite subject.  Featuring essays and interviews by many great cinematic, musical, artistic and literary talents, Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies is the most comprehensive and engaging exploration to date of the sub genre of Folk Horror and associated fields in cinema, television, music, art, culture and folklore. AND 100% of all profits from sales of the book will be charitably donated to environmental, wildlife and community projects undertaken by The Wildlife Trusts.

 

Music & Art & Baubles

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Lost Voices: Volume 1 – Keening and The Death Wail: Lost Voices explores vocal improvisation in folk culture.  Volume 1: Keening and the Death Wail considers Keening (a traditional improvised vocal lament) practised by women in ancient Ireland and worldwide. Includes a 31 page booklet exploring the history of the art of keening with a cd of audio examples.

Easeful Death labradorite coffin ring from bloodmilk (sorry for my hands, I know those pointy witch claws are en vogue right now, but I can’t knit with those nails and I’d probably put my eye out.)  “Cast immortal in sterling silver, bat wing and leg bones molded from the real thing, are composed into a beautiful setting cradling a labradorite coffin cut jewel.”

Death and the Maiden art print, by artist Tenebrous Kate of Heretical Sexts: “The virginal blush of youth and the icy hand of death, Eros and Thanatos, vanity and decay. Emerging from the imagery found in Medieval depictions of the Dance of Death, the motif of Death and the Maiden is at once macabre and erotic.”

 

Catcoven

Littlest friend bat cloisonné pin from Cat Coven. Perfect for lapels – whether they’re gracing leather jackets or spooky granny cardigans!

 

Hand

A ghostly white resin hand pendant on recycled black leather from artist Alice Rogers of Trances and Portents.

 

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Eau de Mort parody ad art print by the incomparably lovely Becky Munich. This one is a bit of a cheat since it was a gift, but I have several prints from Becky hanging on my walls and there is space for several more -so no doubt many purchases from this talented artist will occur in the future!

 

Fragrant Fripperies

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There’s not a Yule that goes by wherein I am not sorely tempted by Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s seasonal winter holiday scents, and how could I resist this years offerings, which included the Icelandic Yule lads (not pictured). The answer is that I could not.

 

House of Orpheus

I also treated myself to a sampler set from The House of Orpheus, which is something I have been meaning to do for a while.  Enodia is lovely beyond compare –
“… ancient goddess of the streets.  She is the Nachtfalter, the moth, the night butterfly. Guided by the moon and associated with Artemis, Hekate and Persephone.  Black Storax would have been in the incense burned in offering to this goddess of the street and so we base this perfume in Black Storax, with notes of Black Agars Wood, Moroccan Myrrh, and Vanilla.   It is exalted by the alchemical oil of silver”.

Also! I’ve loved the candles from Burke and Hare for awhile now, so much so that I tend to burn through their offerings much too quickly.  On a whim, during a recent sale, I picked up Dragon’s Blood: “…fragranced with the precious red resins that create the alluring scent known as Dragon’s Blood. It is a potent and earthy fragrance, infused with cedar wood and patchouli essential oils. The scent combines sweet and spicy notes to form a sophisticated complex blend. “

 

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Lastly some Blackbird incense from CatbirdNYC, in the exclusive fragrances of Violet Hour and Russian Caravan, in addition to a small wooden tealight holder crafted by Peg & Awl for Sisters of the Black Moon.

Have you already been generous to yourself this season?  Well, Merry Hexmas to you! I’d love to get a nosy peek into your loot and see what I might be missing!

 

 

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Claudia is a wee porcelain doll born in 1944 who loves whiskey and dancing. I love peeking in on her sweet adventures

 

Where did 20 years go? Sigh. The dark, wounded magic of Boys for Pele.

 

 

Great Northern Knitting Pattern Book Inspired by Twin Peaks

 

 

Artists from Poster Posse pay tribute to Crimson Peak

 

 

Witch Please: Why Witches are feminist icons. A fascinating chat with Pam Grossman and Kristin Korvette, certain to be of interest to both witches and the witch-adjacent.

 

 

10 of the scariest ongoing horror comics you should be reading right now

 

 

I could stare at this eerie photo of dancer Martha Graham forever.

 

 

…and then I can stare at this stark, haunting painting by Finnish artist, Väinö Rouvinen

 

 

Ethereal folk and dreamy psychedelic songs from The Left Outsides

12 Horror icons reading scary stories that you can listen to right now

Free Love and Frankenstein, The Remarkable Life of Mary Shelley

The Surprising – and kind of boring – truth about FLORIDA MAN 

Lapham’s Quarterly Fashion 2015 is a thoroughly excellent read (h/t Carisa)

Dressing Lady Gaga for American Horror Story – Are you watching this? I was going to pass but I feel myself getting pulled in again by The Countess’ striking, glamorous outfits…

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Crisafi

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Bill Crisafi;in addition being a marvelous, magical artist, he is one of the nicest humans I have ever had the opportunity to chat with. Thanks so much, Bill! This interview was originally published at Dirge Magazine.

An artist’s ability to not only move with ease between mediums, but to transcend them, is a rare talent. Illustrator, photographer, and sculptor Bill Crisafi is adept in this regard. In summoning his uncanny inner narrative and powerful visions, Crisafi draws inspiration from nature, feminine strength and energies, and the, “remaining echoes of the Victorian era that haunt the landscape” of his native New England.

He shares this otherworldly imagery with the viewer through a variety of lenses, both literal and figurative. Feral witches and their familiars frolic, mystical woodland rituals are illumined, and the deeply dreaming, fog-shrouded forest holds sway over all in his starkly surreal, whimsical illustrations and eerie woodland photography. These themes can also be found in the earthy mysticism of the jewelry he creates for Burial Ground, with long-time friend and collaborator Jamie Mooers.

I recently caught up with Crisafi and chatted about his melancholic art and dark obsessions, the eternal autumn otherworld he inhabits, and his deep love for the magical New England landscape.

Bill Crisafi Atop The Brocken

 As an illustrator, photographer, sculptor, and jeweler – and soon to be a tattoo artist – you’re very much a visual storyteller. Where do you conjure the dark tales that you share with the world from – can you talk about your influences and inspirations in this vein?

Yes! I am apprenticing with my good friends who own The Black Veil Studio, that’s opening very soon. I am beyond lucky to be learning the trade from these guys.

I think I am most directly influenced by, but not limited to, film & folklore. When I was in college at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, I substituted all of my art history courses for film history. Among those courses, I was able to study the work of Alfred Hitchcock, David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, as well as take a course on German film & the Grimm Brothers, where we compared films to the tales. These courses fueled my obsessions with darker themes. I loved learning about the uncanny and German Expressionism and it has stuck with me.

It’s hard to say where my true heart is. I love all mediums for different reasons.

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I’ve read that you attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in NY for a time but the call of the wild brought you back to the woods of your native New England. Can you talk about how this woodland yearning shaped your path as an artist? Do you feel any influences from your time in the city and with FIT creeping into your work – how do you reconcile those two somewhat opposing influences?

A lot of my work at FIT was directly influenced by the New England landscapes I left behind. I have one clothing collection in particular that I illustrated which was heavily influenced by my walks through Maudslay State Park in Newbury, MA. Among my ‘fabric swatch page’ was an assortment of specimens from the park: milkweed, twigs, dead flowers, etc.

I think the aching I had to be home, in the woodland environment, made me obsessively keep it alive and breathing through my work when I had to be in the city. This theme lives on today in Burial Ground. All of the twigs & natural elements used are found in places that are sacred to Jamie and me.

I was never keen on illustrating as I was instructed to at FIT. I’ll never forget a project where we had to draw a collection for J. Crew and it resulted in big headed models with frizzy orange hair that had deer antlers jutting out of their heads.

Bill Crisafi The Coven

Crisafi Bat
Your illustrative work focuses quite a bit on witches, ritual, and all manner of creatures/familiars/shapeshifters haunting both land and air – ­spiders, bats, wolves, etc. It’s all imbued with this sense of feral mysticism. Can you talk about these obsessions ?

There is a drawing at my parents house I did in 2nd grade that is a book of “What I liked doing the most during the year” and one page says, “I liked it when we worked on the witches,” and my drawing to accompany that is a naked hag with white hair, standing over a bubbling cauldron

I remember as a child rolling around the forest in the fallen leaves by myself wearing a cloak, mixing potions at the kitchen sink, and making frequent trips to Laurie Cabot’s store in Salem to beg my parents to buy me a book, a wand, or something that I could use to conjure magic. Those are some of the best memories I have and feel like there is a dialogue between myself and nature that magic helps me communicate.

I also see a connection with these ideas and my mother. She is honestly the hardest working and strongest person I know. I see the presence of female strength, sacrifice, and wisdom in witchcraft and it is really comforting to me.

It wasn’t until I was 19 or 20 that I did really start to address it in my work and use it as a tool for communicating my beliefs.

Studio
What can you share with us regarding your work space where you create and cultivate these mythic, melancholic narratives? What sorts of objects do you surround yourself with? What’s the most vital, invaluable item in your studio?

I was spending my days in the upstairs corner of the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem drawing on a couch that had a window overlooking the grand ballroom. I love it there and will probably still utilize that space from time to time to get work done. I finally purchased a desk so now I can draw right in my bedroom.

My space is very important to me and directly determines my drive to make work. I hope to turn my room into a mixture of a Sabbath scene from the film Haxan and a Victorian treehouse, then I’ll never have to leave! I will forever be obsessed with Victorian objects, particularly mourning ones. The most invaluable item would probably be the human skull Jamie’s grandmother gifted me on my birthday some years ago. She is also an artist and used to use it as a reference when drawing. I do think it may be a close second when I pick up the taxidermy still-born goat I have been making payments on.
As you can tell, my priorities are in order.

Crisafi-Burial-Ground

In 2014 you and longtime friend and collaborator, Jamie Mooers, re­launched Burial Ground with “The Way of The Mystic” collection, which, as you state, “reflects our shared path and the symbols that captivate us.” Brimming with earthy mysticism, these pieces wonderfully echo the motifs seen and felt in your other works. As your paths forge forward, what can we expect to see in future collections from Burial Ground?

We have a small collection of jewelry set to debut in just a few weeks. Our first collection focuses on familiar symbols with concrete meanings that are easy to resonate with.

As we move forward from that, we are still working with casting twigs from areas that are sacred to us, but trying to create a dialogue between the wooded sculptures and the stones we set in them. Some pieces transform from twig into limb, referencing our connection to nature. We are also branching out­ – we will be offering photographic prints, illustrations, patches, and even some really exciting housewares.
There are also some collaborations in the works that we have been dying to get started as well.

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Bill Crisafi and Kris Hatch. Photographer: Courtney Brooke

Speaking of collaborations and collections, you work with some really fantastic artists who are relatively well-­known in their own right. Courtney Brooke of Lightwitch, for example, is the first who comes to mind. She shot the look book for The Way of the Mystic and quite frequently shows up in some of your own photography. Can you tell us about your relationships in this community and the almost collective vision that you seem to share?

I feel like I am a chip off of the same block as Courtney. She is one of the most inspiring and true humans I have the pleasure of knowing. There are some people that you meet who don’t even really need to be given an explanation of what you’re going for creatively and they already get it. Courtney is that person.

The Way of the Mystic lookbook is a prime example of a dream collaboration day. It was our first time working with the makeup talent, Steffanie Strazzere (@sstrazzere), and the combined skillset she has with our art direction, Courtney’s vision, and Kris Hatch’s modeling was the most magical thing I’ve ever seen.

I think there is an understanding for artists from New England that are into similar things as us. It goes back to the rich and haunting history of Massachusetts, and although it resonates differently in each of us, I think there is a bond from that we share. I wouldn’t trade New England or its people for anything.

Find Bill Crisafi: website // Instagram // Facebook

Bill Crisafi Lantern Dreams

Bill Crisafi Witch Hill

Crisafi Queens of the Moon

If you would like to support this blog, consider buying the author a coffee?

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Restoring a Lost Psychedelic Anime Classic: An Interview with the Team Reintroducing Belladonna of Sadness, by Katie Skelly (& speaking of Katie Skelly – have you read My Pretty Vampire yet?  So good!)

This was not the world The Hunger promised me.  HA.  This is kind of hilarious. (& speaking of Peter Murphy -sort of- did you see that he is going to star in “an erotic, violent fever dream” of a film?)

Are you reading Tenebrous Kate’s Great Moments in Historical Sluttery over at Slutist? Well, you should be. In this column, Kate gives us a fascinating glimpse into the lives of brilliant, shameless feminist icons and visionaries; the last installment, Rose Kelly, Scarlet Woman, Wife of the Beast, and Oracle of Thelema, is too good to miss!

 

New music from Tasseomancy!

 


I love this review for Windhand’s new album at tinymixtapes. It’s kind of dopey and weird but I love it. These are the kind of reviews I like to read. I don’t want to hear about how technically great something sounds, I want to hear how about whatever it conjures up in your mind -whether it’s a memory or a dream or an experience or a sensation, maybe about that time you got beat up at someone’s funeral or your aunt’s pierogi recipe or your mother’s dying words. At the end of the review I actually don’t care if you’ve told me a single thing about the thing you’re reviewing if you told me a good story.

I missed it earlier in the year, but Bibian Blue’s Spring/Summer 2015 SKIN collection is fantastic! Perfect to wear for the opening night of Attack on Titan, heh! (ok, I stole that from Becky.)

Every time I look at this image of three startled kittens riding a catfish, I can’t help but to smile. (Artist: Ayako Ishiguro)

Mondo Heather writes the most marvelous reviews for music and movies that I’ve never even heard of.

Two Monks Invent Religious Iconography.  The Toast consistently kills me.

The 20 Best Horror Films Based On Folk Tales Around The World

The History of Creepy Dolls

This Unicorn Tears Gin Liqueur is really … something

Smell a Little Evil with these Five Horror-Inspired Perfumes

Drama Queen & Cultist of Personal Beauty: Countess Virginia Oldoini, La Castiglione

 

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