This interview was originally posted at Haute Macabre on January 17, 2020

Embroidery is not for the impatient. Those tiny stitches, painstaking and precise, individually add up to a practice and a pastime that quite literally passes a lot of time. I tried it myself nearly a decade ago, and it took me all day–probably 6 hours total–just to stitch seven words.

Web weaving textile artist Lyla Mori of Moonflesh is well acquainted with this deliberate, decelerated passage of time, and observes it as a vital piece of the slow, ritualistic process comprising the stitches of her embroidered still-life tableaux. These thread-veined creatures and ghostly botanicals, embellished with precious found objects, are ideas and dreams transformed into something tangible through Lyla’s unhurried handiwork and are imbued with measured intent & the most patient of magics.

I never again attempted embroidery, but through a few collaborative commissions (featured above, and immediately below) Lyla has brilliantly captured and brought to life a handful of my own shadowy ideas and spectral dreams. I can’t help but admire these visions anew each time I catch sight of them on my walls; so many dainty, diminutive stitches, the results of which cast a hushed and bewitching spell on the viewer–a feat which is made that much more impressive when you have an awareness of and firsthand experience with (even if it’s just a day’s worth!) of the toil and trouble that goes into this type of craft.

I had so many questions for Lyla about her Moonflesh embroidery, which she has set aside her needle and thimbles for a moment and generously lent her cushion-hearted occasion to respond. See below and learn more about the human behind these darkly expressive offerings, and the countless eternities spent with each stitch in the practice of this timeless craft.

How did you start embroidering? What initially captured your imagination about textile art?

Lyla Mori: Embroidery came to me at a time when I felt incredibly lost in the world. I had just moved to a new state that I had only visited once before. I worked a minimum wage job that left me feeling completely depleted and unfulfilled. I felt lonely the vast majority of the time due to having no friends in the area. One of the few solaces I had was creating art — mainly drawing in pencil and ink, or painting.

Even in trying to actively recollect now, I can’t remember what specifically drew me to embroidery. Why embroidery, and not some other fibre art, or jewelry-making, or sculpting? I’m not sure, but I think a part of me felt intrinsically drawn to it. I never meant for it to become a business for me as it is now — it was just a way for me to relieve stress and channel creativity in my free time. What really inspired me about this art form was its capability to hold the intention of the creator. I remember the very first piece I ever created was a protection sigil, actually. I wanted something to hang up on the wall to protect my home, but I never imagined that the slow process of bringing the piece into tangible space would feel like performing a spell or ritual!

What were some of your early inspirations? And do these themes and motifs continue to show up in your work today or have they changed/evolved over time?

Once I started seriously practicing embroidery, the motifs and imagery that I like to explore had pretty much been set in stone — mainly mythology and folklore, witchcraft, herbalism, creatures of all forms, tarot, Victoriana, spiritualism, etc. In the beginning, I created a LOT of moths. They were a spirit and creature that brought a lot of joy and comfort to me at the time, so my work reflected that. In the past few months, I’ve been conjuring up many a snake. As is often the case with human nature, I find my interests in these specific subjects ebb and flow — something will take the forefront of my mind for a long while, and then fade away – only to revisit me again in the future.

I also find it interesting that the subject matter that people request to be commissioned often reflects what inspires me at the time. Because of this, I find that I hardly ever have to turn down a request! I truly believe that the imagery I desire to manifest is met by the right person who is looking for just that thing — we find each other at the right time and the pieces click into place.

Tell me about the materials that you work with (beads, keys, crystals) and what significance their inclusion lends to the piece.

I knew pretty early on in my journey with embroidery that I wanted my pieces to include objects that hold meaning for me. I love crystals and learning about their specific correspondences, power, and historical uses. I’m fond of the idea of the subject matter and the crystals collaborating on summoning a certain desired energy — whether that be bringing about protection, love, prosperity, magic, etc. Antique keys were a later inclusion into my work. I started collecting them mainly as a devotional practice to the goddess Hekate.

Eventually, an idea struck me — either directly from Her, or Spirit, or the Universe, etc. — to incorporate them into my pieces. I search for antique keys in my journeys and adventures to antique shops and flea markets. I’m pretty picky about the ones I choose. I often have to wade through bowls and buckets of keys, some too modern, some far too rusty, to find one or two that feel right. Once they come home with me, they live on my personal altar until I feel like it’s time to create something. I find that this slow, ritualistic process imbues each embroidery piece with a particularly sacred energy. Beading is a pretty common component in all kinds of embroidery, but I like to include it because I’m an actual magpie and like all things sparkly and shiny. It’s lovely when I come across antique beads that were made before a time when the factory process was more streamlined — so each bead is slightly different from the next. I think it provides a certain kind of magic and whimsy to my work.

Tell us a bit about your process and what environment you like to work in?

I always have to have a cup of tea or some other beverage, with a candle burning close by before I start embroidering. I also have to be in the right mindset to embroider. I stop embroidering if I feel overly tired, drained, or sad — I take the intention that I put into my pieces seriously, which means that it sometimes takes even longer to get a piece completed! However, I feel that this keeps the process clear and genuine.

My process is a little different when working on a commission, but when I make the pieces I personally desire to create, I always start with research. I like to read about the subject matter online, or go digging through the books I have at my disposal. I study references and determine how the subject can best be created with thread, as it’s different from working with pencil and paper and translating what you see directly. I usually make a few different versions of a specific design, then pick a favorite, transfer it onto fabric, and then the actual embroidery part begins!

Taking into account my Libra sun and rising (and Libra’s association with Venus), I have a great desire to be surrounded by beauty! I’m surrounded by plants growing tendrils up the walls, crystals of all shapes and sizes, olde objects, book stacks assembled haphazardly, art filling the walls, etc. My studio holds my workspace and my personal altar. The two inform each other, which I think is pretty appropriate with how I create my art.

Did you undertake formal training in college or within the industry, or did you find your ways into embroidery via a different route?

I am definitely self-taught in regards to embroidery. Frequently I get asked about what stitch I used for this or that, and I often have to respond that I honestly don’t know. I know there are places that people can formally study embroidery (like the Royal School of Needlework in the UK – how fancy does that sound!) and I’m sure the people who study there would scoff at my methods and techniques, haha! I wouldn’t mind, as I know that some of my techniques must be strange and round-about. But I think there’s a charm and a unique quality in pieces created by artists that are self-taught, and I hope my work has some of that.

How would you describe your work and artistry within the world of embroidery and craft?

Because of my penchant for things that seem dark and scary to others, I feel like a bit of an outlier in the world of embroidery! I often feel inundated with photos of embroidery pieces emblazoned with trendy words and cheesy, tongue-in-cheek phrases, surrounded by a smattering of bright florals. Don’t get me wrong, there’s certainly a place for that sort of thing, just as I believe there’s a small place for my art – spooky/dark/macabre as it might seem.

What currently inspires you and which other artists do you admire and why?

I’m currently (/always) inspired by tattered old books, mysterious doorways, portals in nature, creatures sharing our plane of existence and creatures that only live in dreamscapes. I’m inspired by my talented artist friends and their creativity, passion, and work ethic. I’m inspired by women surrealists, my first loves: Leonora Carrington, Frida Kahlo, Remedios Varo. I’m inspired by the works of black femme writers and poets: Octavia Butler, N.K. Jemisin, Lucille Clifton. I’m inspired by the yokai of Japanese mythology and the prophetesses, seers, and sybils of Greek lore. I’m inspired by images of ancient relics and artifacts from across the world, and I’m inspired by the way the land I live on can still seem so alive underneath a thick blanket of ice and snow. I’m eternally inspired by this gracious, wondrous community that I’ve somehow found myself to become a part of!

What would be your dream commission?

I would love to create something HUGE, like a tapestry! Something that I can work on over the course of several months… I truly desire it but I simultaneously know that it would test my fortitude and composure like nothing else, haha! I believe the opportunity will come to me sometime in the future when the right benefactor comes around!

What’s something a lot of people don’t know about embroidering?

That it takes a damn long time! A lot of people are aware that it takes a ‘somewhat foggy, indistinguishable amount of time that probably requires a lot more patience than they care to put in’, but it’s hard to get a good grasp of it until you’re embroidering yourself. Even to this day it still surprises me. Sometimes while I’m working, I look down at the piece in my hands and realize that what I’ve spent the entire day embroidering is not even the length of my finger!

I think it’s a good lesson in valuing the time a person puts into their craft. Artists and art in general are wholly necessary to the health of humankind,  yet it often goes underappreciated and undervalued. This is exacerbated tenfold when it comes to fibre arts, due to the fact they have been historically thought of as woman’s work. This fact just amplifies my love and passion for embroidery, and is a big driving force in why I desire to continue honing and tending to my craft.

Bonus! The Moonflesh shop update, “Wintertide Creatures” is scheduled for January 24! Lyla shares, “I’m forever captivated by creatures with wintery white cloaks — pale furs and feathers that help them go unseen in this cold time of year. There will be three pieces in this collection: a white barn owl, a white raven variant of my Clairvoyant design, & a white elk (major Emperor vibes)”

Find Lyla Mori / Moonflesh: shop // instagram // patreon


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At Haute Macabre this week, I interview Jordan Shiveley, who I am definitely in no way obsessed with, no way have you seen me RT thousands of his eerie Dread Singles tweets and I can guarantee you have never seen me wearing one of his magnificently peculiar Voidmerch tees or using them in my How To Wear posts.



Get the Big Mood shirt here!

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15 Aug


I cannot even remember the last time I was excited about new music as I am La Femme Pendu’s debut album All Of Them Witches, four French lounge horror ballads,  inspired by women in horror cinema– for feminists, film freaks, and creatures of the night. For us!

I got a chance to chat via email with La Femme Pendu for an interview at Haute Macabre, which went live today. I highly suggest you give this glorious album a listen while perusing our Q&A!

Also, La Femme Pendu did a cover of Danzig’s “Mother,” and I have been listening to it for two weeks straight.



I initially grew to love digital collage artist Robin Isely’s work in 2017 and in my ensuing obsession, I reached out to them for an interview. Unfortunately, In the time that passed, their Tumblr-hosted site was heavily censored, their URL was hacked, and now the entirety of it has vanished. With their permission, I published the piece anyway at Haute Macabre, so that I may share a bit more about the enigmatic artist and their works. Somewhere along the way, I decided to ditch the traditional Q&A format in lieu of the artist’s thoughts and comments themselves, so that they might be unfiltered through the veil of my own perceptions.

Also upon reflection, my questions might have been a little over-the-top.

An Obscurum Of Secrets: The Lost Art Of Robin Isely

I had, for a time, sadly shelved the idea of a feature on digital collage artist Robin Isely, aka sliplead. I first mentioned this artist in my 2017 Needful Things roundup and I was immensely thrilled at the opportunity to connect with them for an interview, but unfortunately, their gorgeous Tumblr-hosted gallery–an obscurum of secrets, elusive of precise description; a sensualist’s delight of surreal grotesqueries–had vanished into the ether in late 2018. This was due, in part, to Tumblr’s ridiculous censorship nonsense at that time, and– if that wasn’t bad enough– the artist’s URL had been hacked by some porny bots and their whole virtual salon of loveliness was eventually deleted.

Understandably heartsick at the loss of their body of work, as of today, they still have not found a new space on the internet for their creative portfolio. This left me with a dilemma, and I was hesitant to proceed; I generally try to be pretty scrupulous when it comes to sharing website/store/social media details regarding the artists I write about; but regrettably in this instance I would not have anywhere at all to direct those readers who may have been keen to learn more about this artist and see more of their work.

However. Blog content across all platforms runs rampant with imagery shared out of context, sans artist credit or relevant source data (and no, I’m sorry, but “sourced from Pinterest” does not count!) I guess it must be hard to believe that artists as creative beings actually exist, right? You’d think most artistic content springs fully formed from the dashboards of microblogging “content creators.”  In addition to this particularly annoying form of artist erasure, many sites (I’m looking at you, Tumblr, Facebook, and Instagram) practice a puritanical form of censorship under the guise of “community standards”–especially when it comes to those wily and dangerous nipples on female-presenting subjects. Here today, gone tomorrow– sorry about your content, artists! Shoulda kept them titties covered! It’s absurd and infuriating and I hate it. This is in part what happened when Robin Isely’s work started to disappear.

Digital Archivist, Digital Curator, and Art Consultant Samantha Levin shared with me, “As Tumblr and other sites disappear or change over time, we’re looking at losing our history,” and I can’t even begin to tell you how distressing and urgent this notion feels to me (see my lamentations concerning the great Polyvore disappearance of 2018, for one example of this type of occurrence.) With this realization, it is more important than ever that we bolster and keep alive this conversation and the push-back surrounding these types of censorship, the lazy lack of artist sourcing and citing, and the responsibility of giving credit where credit is due.

…and so I concluded that regardless of whether or not Robin Isely has an online gallery for their work right now, it is of paramount importance to me to share both their work and their story, right here. While there is still a place for it, and a person who cares to tell it, and people interested in witnessing it and learning more.

As someone who writes about people and their artistic practices and processes, I probably ask a lot of dumb questions. But occasionally I get lucky and hit on some really good ones! And I’m always gratified when the recipient of my queries takes the time to provide me with some thoughtful answers. That’s not always the case, though, and I won’t lie to you–every once in a while I get a bit of a dud in terms of maybe one-word or canned responses. Is that unprofessional to admit? Well, maybe. But it happens and that’s the truth and I guess you’re not supposed to take it personally (but I do, because how else are you supposed to take things?) Also, I’m sorry, between this gripe and the tumblr thing, it’s become a bit of the old airing of grievances, whoops.

In a rare and unforeseen circumstance, though, the subject of my questions might not really answer anything I’ve asked them at all! Which is a little confounding! But in certain wonderful instances, what they’ve chosen to share instead serves to open a door to a completely different way of thinking about the artist and their work. Such is the case with Robin Isely, this dear human and extraordinarily imaginative creator whom, true, I don’t know very well, and yet of whom I have grown incredibly fond– and this fondness, I don’t mind sharing, lends an extra layer of tenderness to how I view their art.

In any case, I am ditching my questions and eschewing the traditional Q&A format to share with you Robin’s words, as they shared them with me.

Describing themselves a “something of a hermit, a completely unsocialized beast,” Robin wrote to me that they dropped out of art school to spend a life riding and training horses and dogs. Making art seemed stifling, they thought; they wanted to make something beautiful with other minds, animal minds. “It’s a more experiential, physical art form– dancing, if you will,” they divulged. Upon reaching a point in their career where they became physically incapable of working with and caring for animals, it was then that they were given the tools to access a new chapter in their life’s story, a portal to entirely new worlds:  an iPad!

Regarding their discovery and creation of digital art, and its strange and surprising similarities to a former life, they reveal: “I use a simple app and I much enjoy the feeling of my finger sliding across the glass; there’s a place on a horse’s mouth, you slide your finger there and they relax–and so it is with me.”

I had asked a convoluted question about themes involving frames and thresholds, pertaining to the notion of navigating between worlds in her art. In one sense, Robin candidly demurred to go there:

“You were asking about thresholds and frames, and that’s the thing with words, don’t you think? They force you to put a frame around an idea and leave out all the other possibilities. I must confess I like the idea of the pictures having the freedom to evoke any and all interpretations…after all, I do believe we see the world as we are.”

But they went on to illuminate most beautifully :

“The thing about art and thresholds is important…you have to cross over to that mind-place that forgets the names of things; remember Alice in the forest with no names? Of course, you have to surrender yourself, completely. It’s the being there and sometimes you come back with something of a bit of that place’s shine. That’s what you respond to in art, music, dance, really everything worthwhile: the resonance of the experience of that state of being.”

About their childhood and early life, Robin disclosed the following:

“I was an only child and lived in books. I memorized the Alice poems and was wont to recite them at inappropriate times. I absorbed the language and spoke like a proper Victorian child. Obviously, I had few friends of the human variety. My mother fed me a diet of Vogue magazines and Aldous Huxley. As a teen, I was quite prepared for the sixties in San Francisco and enjoyed dressing in thrift store velvet gowns and dancing at the Avalon Ballroom. I’ve shared a life with horses and dogs that a king would envy. Many nights have found me passionately debating the meaning of Meaning with the man who became my life partner. I lived a life and can highly recommend the experience to all of your readers.”

“So, for me,” Robin expresses in continuance to a previous thought, “the pictures are a memoir, a spiritual practice, and a way to quiet the tiresome narrative voice in my head. I was never afraid on a horse and if I can cross over to that place with the art-making, there is no fear there either. Most of all, as a child, I admired Alice’s bravery confronting the absurd, scary world she found herself in. If my pictures had any power at all, I would wish some of her courage to come through in them, to the viewer.”

And finally, a prescient and poignant conclusion to our communiqué:

I do not post the pictures beyond tumblr but I know they have wandered off on their own adventures. Perhaps one day I will find a more permanent home to provide them with.

I’d like to think that Robin Isely’s incredible art has a home here at Haute Macabre for a time and that there are those amongst you who wish to gather it all as close to your heart as I do, while we can. Continue scrolling for some of my personal favorites, and Robin, we wish you all the very best in your continued journey.


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19 Jul


My summer 2019 edition of Needful Things is up over at Haute Macabre this week! I love to put these lists together every quarter (or season, or twice a year, or whenever our fancy takes us) because they’re really just the personal stuff we’re into at the moment. No one’s really trying to sell you anything or promote various products, it’s just stuff that we honestly love. Stuff that we actually use! Heck, some of it’s not even tangible “stuff,” per se. Head on over to the Haute Macabre blog today to read about my personal, current Needful Things and feel free to leave a comment and tell me all about what you’re into right now, as well.

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This article was originally posted at Haute Macabre on April 1, 2019

Life: a solitary butterfly
swaying unsteadily on a slender stalk of grass,
nothing more. But ah! so exquisite!
 Nishiyama Soin

On the one-ton temple bell
a moon-moth, folded into sleep,
sits still.
-Yosa Buson

Will we meet again?
Here at your flowering grave:
two white butterflies
– Matsuo Basho

Life, death, stolen naps, spring blossoms, and everything fleeting, ephemeral, and in between–are any of these metaphors or metamorphoses complete without a mention of our fragile, fluttering lepidopteran friends? Fortunately for fans of these exquisite but evanescent insects, Moth and Myth seeks to capture their beauty and transience in a slightly more permanent form through sustainable and cruelty-free products, in the hopes of building a world of unique objects which inspire and delight others.


In 2015, artist Redd Walitzki began creating an assortment of paper butterflies to use for a painting reference, as realistic artificial butterflies for this purpose were virtually impossible to find, and real specimens either too delicate or–strange to say– not life-like enough! These papery flutterers worked wonderfully as intended, and she began to use them for other art projects, and also wore them to events and on different costumes. Friends and other artists loved them so much that it only made sense to begin selling them in limited batches. Soon afterward, other artists and crafters responded so positively to these enchanting paper-moths and butterflies, that Redd began to offer them for sale for others to use and enjoy as well.

Moth and Myth has since become renowned for producing cruelty-free and vegan designs showcasing the unique bounty of moths and butterflies; they have been featured in a variety of media outlets, including Martha Stewart Living Magazine. Now co-run by Redd Walitzki and fellow artist and friend, Kari-Lise Alexander, the brand continues to grow and offer a variety of beautiful items inspired by insects and other fascinating life-forms.


Both artists have a lifelong fondness for moths and other lepidoptera. Through the years they’ve known each other, Redd and Kari-Lise have shared a love of painting and observing these beautiful winged creatures; they have raised and traded specimens, and even started a secret ‘Amateur Insect Society’ with some fellow artists. “Our obsession with bugs”, they note, “is definitely a wonderful component of our friendship!”

Moth and Myth believes in the importance of empowering other creatives through their designs. Their moths and butterflies have been included in floral designs, special events decor, fashion photography and more. Redd emphasizes that “…one of the reasons our creations have been so popular is because the door is really wide open for how you can decide to use or display them!” She further remarks that, “It’s often surprised us, to see all the incredible things our fans come up with–from using them in fantasy-photo shoots to encasing them in resin (even a handmade cutting board!) to including them in delicate floral arrangements. There is no ‘correct use’…whatever project seems to call for a lovely moth or butterfly is perfect!”

What’s particularly lovely is that because Moth & Myth’s creations are from printed paper, they are cruelty-free and vegan. Those amongst us who adore surrounding ourselves with splendid, charming things but who may not feel comfortable having a dead specimen in our collection, can still enjoy them! Also, as lovers of beautiful design, Redd and Kari-Lise have made the packaging quite pleasing on its own–you don’t necessarily have to take the butterflies out of the package, you can just display them as you would a print! Additionally, Redd reveals that they especially love it when people build entomology shadow-boxes and bell-jars with them (since they look so real!) And if you, like me, are intrigued by this idea but aren’t terribly creative or handy, they do sell a few bell-jars options as well.

Moth & Myth have recently released their Antiquarian Collection, with inspiration hailing from “…entomology cases preserved in dusty attics, moth wings faded with time to a ghostly whisper. Each specimen was once a bright jewel, brought to a Wunderkammer from far across the world. Yet the ages reduce even the most brilliant jewels to shadows, and each moth in this set is now a pale reflection of its living self. This pallor lends them an ethereal beauty, and their cream and rust-colored wings shine brilliantly in any specimen case. ”

The creators behind Moth & Myth shared with us how lucky they feel that their passion project is resonating so strongly with the community and that they always love to hear from their fans and see how you’ve used their moths and butterflies!

“If there’s a species you want us to make or a project with our moths that you’re proud of, please send it to us! We’re excited to see what heights Moth & Myths will fly to, and hope to take on even more large-scale projects like including them in botanical installations, or pairing them with fashion designs and event production in the future! Moths spend most of their life-cycle as ever-growing caterpillars, and hopefully, we’ll always be like that, on our way to transforming into whatever magical idea this can become.”

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I have been fascinated with the powerful symbolism and deep sense of spirit, energy, and connection in Rik Garrett‘s art, since maybe even before the release of his incredible Earth Magic book (from which a stunning Witches Sabbath print sits on a shelf in my office and delights my dark, wild, secret heart every day) so it was such a thrill to catch up with him about his recent work and inspirations for our interview over at Haute Macabre this week!

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