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.
Mixed media artist Rebecca Reeves’ work is intricate and enthralling, delicately wrought with thin black thread and fraught with powerful, piercing themes of family and loss. Some pieces work to contain and preserve their contents–poignant heirlooms or other meaningful objects– while others encapsulate their interior in a suffocating struggle of sorrow and grief.
More recently, these pieces instead of items obsessively enveloped, incorporates the idea of mirrors and portals, a connection with another world, and–unlike her cocooned works of familial preservation and protection–embraces the notion that we must not allow the spirits of the deceased to become trapped within.
I own one of Rebecca Reeves works, it sits on a shelf in my office and quietly watches me work every day. A sweet, eerie-eyed porcelain doll head atop an antique milk glass jar, to resemble a flower festooned with softly glimmering petals and leaves, each one painstakingly hand-beaded. It is a rare treasure.
And what treasure, too, the opportunity to delve deeper into these works of grace and grief and better get to know the sensitive soul who created them! See below for an interview with artist Rebecca Reeves.
Unquiet Things: In repeated viewings of your work, I am struck by how you have taken a thing as vast and fathomless and amorphous as grief and fashioned it into a tiny, tangible keepsake to treasure. You have bound it snugly in thread, embellished it with glass beads, pinned it in place like a rare specimen, and protected it under glass. Here, you seem to say. This is the enormity of your staggering grief made small, manageable, secure. It is fragile and delicate. Your grief is not only a thing you can face, but it is a thing to be cherished and preserved.
Now…this is just what I see when I gaze upon your work, of course, I am bringing the weight of my own grief and experiences with loss to the table. But you didn’t make your work for me. Your pieces are intensely personal works inspired by overwhelming emotions experienced when you attempt to live around your grief. And to an extent, we all grieve alone, and our experiences reflect that. What did I get right, in my initial assessment (if anything)? Where do I lose the thread? How are your personal experiences with grief manifested in your creations?
Rebecca Reeves: Thank you for interpreting my work perfectly and for connecting with it on a personal level. When my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer, we were also caring for my grandmother who had vascular dementia and my grandfather’s debilitating, nerve damage from shingles. We all had our roles and worked as a team. As my dad’s cancer metastasized to his brain, tough decisions had to be made for the safety and care of everyone. Within one year and four months, we lost three of our dearest loved ones. There wasn’t a moment to grieve, as one died, another person needed our full attention. After nearly three years, those life-ending decisions both haunt me and bring comfort. It’s a never-ending personal battle of emotional highs and lows, reassurance and self-doubt. Grief surrounds my every day life. I’m now finding that I struggle to live in the moment and see the bright side of things. My art is my outlet.
Working small is the ultimate way to gain control over something that is uncontrollable. Incorporating fiber-related materials into my work reminds me of my family and all of the good memories. Ever since the beginning of my college education, I have channeled loss and grief into my art. My loved ones are my entire world. They gave everything to me and in return, I give everything to them. So it was only a natural progression to create work about the love I have for them. My work comes straight from my heart and more times than not, my emotions get the best of me while working on pieces.
Your art incorporates “fiber-related processes” and your “obsessive qualities”; can you expand upon those ideas and how they are embodied in your work? And perhaps how they may have evolved over time, as your grief may ebb or flow, as your different inspirations shift or unfold?
For as long as I can remember, I have been an obsessive person. When I was little, I found comfort in pouring my wooden puzzles together and completing them all at once. I had a Tupperware container with compartments that I would organize and reorganize beads according to size, color, or favorites. When I was 8 or 9 years old, I hung shelves up in my closet in order to organize my toys/games. They didn’t last long since I had no knowledge about drywall anchors. But, it was when I was 10 years old that my life forever changed. My paternal grandfather passed away. It was a life-changing experience because I wished him away. My fascination with death and the need to control the uncontrollable has altered my life and given me comfort.
My grandfather was one of many painters in my family and I once considered this as my medium, but it was the women in my life that influenced my fiber-related processes. From crocheting, knitting, darning, beadwork, and sewing – it was inevitable that fiber took its hold on me.
One of my favorite pieces is Gathering My Ghosts, which was, I believe, created with the idea of connecting to your ancestors on the other side–” mini portals for time traveling.” Can you share how this idea came about and how it all came together?
I can’t remember exactly when the piece began and how far along cancer had its grips on my dad. When I was creating the piece, loss was already setting in and I was thinking about how I could communicate with my ancestors – the ones I love and the ones I’ve never met. I was thinking about the occult during this time. Not practicing, but mulling over the idea of the black mirror; thinking about how my family would cover the mirrors in black cloth during funerary visitations as a superstition. The use of black-colored threads in my obsessive wrapping process is directly attributed to those darkened mirrors.
I do remember finishing the piece and gathering up the details for a large show that I was curating titled, “More Beyond”. My dad was on steroids and looking great on the outside. My parents attended the show and we had the best time. They were so proud. The piece stood in a glorious spot as you walked through the gallery entrance. The piece was also exhibited in a chance-of-a-lifetime show alongside 150 Victorian hairwork pieces at the Kemerer Museum a few months later. “Gathering My Ghosts” now resides in a loving home with a dear friend who also suffered the loss of a parent.
In a previous interview, about both you and your husband’s interest in collection Post Mortem photography, you stated, “We respect the artistic expression of death”; I am curious as to what other mediums or forms of artistic expression extends with regard to your collection (or perhaps things you might be interested in collecting.)
Over the 30 years together, we have the typical collections: Victorian mourning jewelry and hairworks, religious items, funerary pieces, post-mortem photography, and human bones. Within my personal collection, I have antique silver and beaded purses, porcelain doll legs, and fire king ware. We have always been avid antique collectors, doing the circuit of shops and markets. I’ve learned all I know about antiques from generations of my family. Our home is filled with our loved ones’ items. I refer to it as a living museum of my family’s heirlooms. There’s something about touching an object that was once loved by a family member. I like to believe there’s an energy that continues on within.
I’ve inherited an extensive collection of antique glass bottles, tins, books dating back to my great-grandparents, vintage postcards and honeycomb Valentine’s Day cards as well as my great-grandfather’s Independent Order of Odd Fellows memorabilia, just to name a few. We’ve come to the point in our collecting where something really has to strike hard for us to buy more. We question, “How will this piece inspire our art and music?” rather than just expanding a collection.
In 2018, your Garden of Grief collection was exhibited and sold through the Creeping Museum (whom I love dearly, I think they do such good work!) How was your experience with that? Can you share anything about that particular collection and how that collaboration was born?
The moment I met Alyssa, she found a special place in my heart. When I was introduced to her tiny museum, I knew right then that I had to be a part of what she created. The night of the opening was so memorable and she made me feel special. The series came from a memory of my great-grandmother’s art. When I was little, I remember a beaded bouquet of flowers that she made on her kitchen windowsill. She was an incredibly talented potter, painter, bead artisan and everything in between. From this memory, I began researching and creating beaded flowers with a lot of trial and error. The title to the series came naturally from my heart. As difficult as it was to part with them, I wanted to incorporate some of my dad’s milk glass collection into the series. They then became the foundation for the sculptures.
To give your poor hands a break from all the obsessive stitching, intricate beading and tiny wire wrapping that you do for your art, what sort of things do you get up to in your spare time when you are not creating?
Well, you would think I would try and relax my hands and elbows, but no. There just isn’t enough time to get it all done. My brain never stops and our house to-do list posted on the refrigerator just gets longer and longer. I have the most patient husband and he goes with the flow on all of my crazy ideas. He has banned me, though, from renting any more heavy equipment due to my obsession with moving boulders.
One of my favorite things equivalent to creating art is home design/décor and organizing. I love to rearrange the furniture placement and I specifically designed our home with limited interior walls just for this reason. I adore structure magazines and thank my grandmother for this appreciation. She and I shared subscriptions for decades, earmarking our favorite pages and then discussing how we would incorporate them into our homes. My heart grows heavy when I look at them today without her. My family is everything and taking care of them is first priority. Enjoying a night out to dinner with my love at our favorite haunt or just sitting next to each other in our chairs, watching comedies over and over brings me joy. Spending time with my mom, either working on going through our loved ones’ possessions, having lunch at our favorite teahouse or just simply talking about the daily happenings. Time spent together no matter what we do is precious.
Are there any gallery shows or exhibits where we may see your work right now, or perhaps further into 2019?
Currently, I am working on a few new pieces that will be exhibiting in two different shows at Gristle Gallery in Brooklyn this year. At the same time, I’m in the beginning stages of a new piece for an upcoming show at Arch Enemy Arts Gallery in August. I’m thrilled to announce that “Slipping Below,” the two-woman exhibition with Danielle Schlunegger-Warner, is now traveling to the West Coast to Ghost Gallery in September. Also, I’ll be vending at a few different venues this year including the upcoming Oddities Market in Chicago, where I received my graduate degree. I’m excited to see the city again.
Can you share any projects that are percolating, or ideas that are coalescing for the upcoming year?
I’m working on the gathering stages for a ghosted sea captain series. It is a continuation of the work that is dedicated to my dad and his service in the Navy. There isn’t a planned venue as of yet, but I have been mind-sketching this series since the close of the “Slipping Below” exhibition at the end of last year. New wearable pieces and tiny originals, incorporating beaded flowers and porcelain hands are brewing for a couple of the upcoming markets this year. When grief and anxieties get the best of me, I find that my greatest distraction is collecting materials and working out ideas in my mind. It helps me justify that I’m still being productive during emotionally hard times.
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!
Some days I can barely manage to change from my pajamas into my human workday clothes before stumbling to my desk for another day of drudgery, and if that’s the best I can accomplish, I’ll call it a win. Actually it kind of feels like a win if I can even make it out of bed in the first place, and okay, if I am being honest, most days are like that for me. I’m a steady plodder and I’ll get there when I get there and I certainly can’t multitask worth a damn. But then I’ve got these fantastically brilliant friends who are always moving and shaking and hustling and making and I’m constantly marveling at not only the amazing creations they bring into the world but the regularity with which they conjure forth these wonderful things. And then! And then! There are some friends who somehow, on top of everything else they are doing, surprise you with an entirely new endeavor, and it’s like “HOW ARE YOU DOING THIS? Do you have an army of clones? It is sorcery?” How do you crazy-clever people have the time and energy and focus to keep all of these fabulous projects going at once?
The answer is probably that they get out of bed in the morning, they change out of their pajamas into their human clothes….and keep going. They don’t stop!
One such unstoppable human creator is Harlow Skalwold; you may recognize her name from her involvement as art director with Dellamorte & Co., purveyors of high drama gothic eccentricities and décor…but did you know she can now supply you with an otherworldly brew to fill that eerie, eldritch, meticulously sculpted coffee mug with?
Grounded in the most vital of mortal experiences–that first taste of a dark, steaming cup of coffee on a chilly morning– Banshee + Cinderis a small, woman-owned business offering a “bespoke roast-to-door experience.” And having tried it their coffee myself, in a roast and a grind that I picked out with some help from them (because I’m pretty clueless about both), I can speak to the fact that it is delicious! I haven’t quite learned how to talk about coffee but I will say that it tastes beautiful on it’s own–no sweeteners or milk needed. And my partner, who never likes the coffee that I make as much as he likes the coffee that he makes, exclaimed, “wow, this is good! Are you sure that you made this?”
And I do know exactly what they mean when they speak to that first magical sip of coffee in the morning; it is, they share, “the profound intimacy of this ceremonial sip so imperative to our daily ritual” that inspires their passion for coffee. And I know we are not alone in our mutual passion for coffee and that transformative first sip–which is why I thought it imperative to talk with Harlow Skalwold all about her new venture and to offer a giveaway for Unquiet Things readers!
Read below for our invigorating, highly-caffeinated (well, at least on my part–I think Harlow naturally runs on some sort of high-octane genius-juice) interview and leave a comment for the opportunity to win a bag of Banshee + Cinder coffee (medium roast, medium/coarse grind, just like mine!) as well as a Banshee + Cinder coffee mug, with art by Saint Calluna. A winner will be chosen on Christmas eve next week!
Unquiet Things: I know you initially through your art–both in your role as art director for Dellamorte & Co., in addition to your own personal work as Saint Calluna. So the coffee connection was a bit of a surprise for me! Coffee + art? What’s the link?
Banshee + Cinder: Interior decorating, obviously! It’s funny, at the time I was thinking about opening an online boutique with curated items for home decor. A witchy, dark lifestyle brand. I thought it would be an interesting and generally unexplored niche to fill. I started doing a lot of research into opening an e-commerce site, finding suppliers, running logistics, etc., and I randomly stumbled upon this coffee supplier. It was love at first sight, and complete happenstance. I thought, I love coffee, why couldn’t I do this? And so gears shifted and I was suddenly researching coffee. I learned everything I could about coffee varieties, growing, farming practices, roasting, brewing, even the countries the beans came from to get an idea of the social and political climates. I was able to choose some incredible coffees from around the world, with plantations committed to organic and sustainable practices, while providing fair wages to their farmers. And then I found a roaster in Chicago to partner with. Before I knew it, I was running a coffee company!
What’s the inspiration behind the name Banshee + Cinder?
Banshee and Cinder are my cats- tortoiseshell sisters from the same litter. I adopted them when they were three years old, and Banshee claimed me right away. We were inseparable for a decade until her death last year. Losing her was devastating… Naming the company after her is just one of the little ways I continue to honor her. Thankfully Cinder is still going strong.
Tell me about your first experience/s with coffee. What’s your earliest coffee memory?
When I was very young I hated coffee, and through much of high school I just drank tea. I remember exactly when I started drinking coffee. I was out late at a diner with my friends. I ordered tea and poured in some creamer and it curdled. It was disgusting… and sad because I really only had pocket change to buy anything with! Someone offered me their coffee after getting it refilled, and I discovered quickly how to make it more palatable with milk and sugar. I’ve been a fan since, and I adulterate it much less now.
What’s your coffee drink of choice? What do you pair with your coffee?
I like the American style, regular coffee (as opposed to espresso drinks) that I make at home. Either drip or pour over, as long as it’s brewed with a paper filter. Paper filters produce a brighter, sweeter cup of coffee with little or no sediment or oils. I primarily drink my Brazilian blend, roasted dark to bring out the chocolate earthiness. I have come very far since I was a child! My favorite way to take it is with whole goat milk and raw alfalfa honey, sometimes with a dash of organic pumpkin pie spice.
Tell us about the coffees and the roasts that you offer at Banshee + Cinder? Any tips for preparing and drinking your brews? How would you advise folks to best enjoy them?
All of my coffee is single-origin, meaning they come from one location in a specific country. It’s incredible how much a change in location, terrain, and climate can affect the flavor beyond bean varieties. A flavor profile is listed on each coffee’s page to help customers decide which region suits their palate best.
Now we’re called a “bespoke” coffee company because we roast in small batches, to order. This coffee is fresh. We will roast any coffee light, medium, or dark, and grind it to your specifications. Or it can be ordered whole bean, if you prefer to grind it yourself. The grind depends on your brewing method, and the roast just depends on your taste. We have guides for the roasts and grinds as well so you can pick the perfect coffee for your needs.
As far as preparing and drinking… make sure your equipment is clean, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Otherwise drink your coffee how you like it best. I suggest sipping it black first so you know what you’re getting into, and then lightening and sweetening slowly until you achieve your perfect coffee to adulterant ratio.
I also offer a decaffeinated blend. I want to drink coffee all the time, except I really need to sleep at night. I’ve never really understood the decaf taboo. I can personally attest to the quality of Banshee + Cinder’s decaf!
Is there anything else you want people to know about Banshee + Cinder?
Do you love coffee? Have a favorite way of taking your coffee? Perhaps you maybe even have a morning ritual dedicated to this most sacred of morning beverages? Tell us all about it in the comments and be entered for a chance to win a bag of Banshee + Cinder coffee and a Banshee + Cinder mug?
As the mornings grow chilled, and the days shorter; when the nights are impossibly dark and very possibly haunted–we must acknowledge that the time has come to pack away our blithe, breezy summer beach reads in favor of material more in keeping with the pall of gloom that has been cast by the season’s brittle, dying days. I know that none of us are particularly unhappy about this.
We yearn for those books whose spines hint at an eerie atmosphere of mystery, and titles encompassing all the metonymy of melancholy and strangeness and horror! Pages upon pages encrypted with ancient prophecies, ominous portents, infernal curses! Ghosts, phantoms, and strange sinister spirits! Abandoned monasteries, isolated castles, unquiet graves! Dreams, illusions, obsessions, and murders! And if the book’s cover art features ridiculously over-the-top visions of fiendishly cavorting ghouls and disembodied eyeballs glowing with hellfire and horror…all the better.
The good news for us is that we can find all of these tales and more at within the cobwebbed, crumbling vaults of Valancourt Books. An independent small press located in Richmond, VA, Valancourt specializes in the rediscovery of rare, neglected, and out-of-print fiction, and I am over the (skull-faced, grinning maniacally, and dripping with blood) moon to share our interview with publisher, general editor, and co-founder James D. Jenkins of Valancourt Books. See below for a glimpse into what makes a title worthy of the Valancourt catalog, our enthusiasms regarding favorite authors and crazy book cover art, and to learn more about their current collaboration with the publishers of PAPERBACKS FROM HELL!
Unquiet Things: Valancourt’s beginnings focused on bringing forgotten, neglected, and overlooked 18th and 19th century gothic fiction back into the light, in a cost effective sort of way… which eventually led to unearthing the titles from the Victorian era — penny dreadfuls and the like, before moving onto excavating works of 20th century fiction. Most of these titles are works of horror or weird fiction, but other than classifications of genre, what is that special something a work must possess to capture your attention and cause you to exclaim, “ah, this is one for our catalog!” And is there any sort of common thread that you feel runs through the crusty titles that you exhume and bring to life again?
James: One common thread that runs through most of the books we republish is that they were once either very highly regarded by critics or else very popular with readers but nevertheless somehow mysteriously fell out of print at some point over the years. These days, we’re focusing mostly on horror/supernatural/weird fiction, although we also have a secondary focus on LGBT-interest literature, and we also reprint a small number of great books that don’t fit in either of those categories.
In terms of more recent authors, I think we share some beloved favorites! I adore both the strange, disquieting writings of Robert Aickman, as well as Michael McDowell’s unpretentious but thoroughly imaginative and sharply-crafted stories. What is it about these author’s works that resonates with you? And if one admires the works of Aickman/McDowell, what else from Valancourt’s catalogue might you suggest along those lines?
Aickman and McDowell are obviously very different sorts of writers, but one thing they have in common is that their reputations have been kept alive over the decades by a group of devoted fans, even when their books were long out of print or, in Aickman’s case, only available as expensive collector’s editions. I think you put it well: Aickman’s works are strange and disquieting, oddly unsettling even if sometimes their precise “meaning” seems to elude us. McDowell, on the other hand, said he never aspired to posthumous fame or to be considered a “literary” writer: his only aim was to entertain and frighten readers, and judging from the responses we’ve gotten to our reissues, it’s pretty clear he succeeded!
Those who enjoy Aickman’s more literary style might want to give our reissues of Forrest Reid’s subtle supernatural fiction a try, or possibly David Case’s books, which are not as subtle as Aickman’s but are written in a traditional, more literary style with vocabulary that will have you frequently reaching for a dictionary. And, obviously, you’ll want to read the Victorian-era horror fiction we’ve published by Richard Marsh, who was Aickman’s grandfather! Fans of McDowell’s fiction should find our reissues of Ken Greenhall, Bernard Taylor, Michael Talbot, and Alan Ryan — all of them (like McDowell) neglected masters of ’80s paperback horror fiction — to their liking.
You recently signed a deal with the publishers of PAPERBACKS FROM HELL, [reviewed in our September 2017 installment of Stacked!] to publish a PFH series of reissues of titles featured in the book, which I believe will be edited by Grady Hendrix and Will Errickson? You guys + those guys is the dreamiest dream team I could ever imagine! Can you share how this came about? How did you go about selecting the titles you’ll be reissuing? And I have to ask…what are you going to do about the cover art? Because some of those covers are bananas!
That’s definitely a project we are really excited about! Grady has written introductions to a couple of our books (HELL HOUND, THE AUCTIONEER), and we’re longtime followers of Will’s TOO MUCH HORROR FICTION blog, where we’ve discovered a few books that we went on to republish, so it was sort of natural that we’d team up. As far as how the series came about, I think we here at Valancourt, like everybody else who bought PAPERBACKS FROM HELL, were flipping through the book and thinking how great some of those out-of-print horror novels looked and what a shame it was some of them were unavailable!
When we teased the series on social media, the response was huge, and as far as the cover art goes it was unanimous: people want the original covers! So we’re going to do everything we can to use the original cover paintings. For the first book in the series, Elizabeth Engstrom’s WHEN DARKNESS LOVES US, the original cover painter, Jill Bauman, has kindly allowed us to reuse the art, and we’re hoping to be able to get permission to reuse others. There may be some cases where we can’t locate the original artist or otherwise can’t get the rights (and at least one of the titles we’re planning for the series didn’t have an interesting cover the first time around), so in those cases we’ll be coming up with something new that hopefully retains an ’80s feel.
What can you tell us about our giveaway title, Valancourt Book of Horror Stories Volume Three?
We’re giving away a copy of our new Valancourt Book of Horror Stories because the series has been one of the most popular things we’ve done over the past few years. The mix of rare and seldom-reprinted older stories with some new and unpublished material has gotten a great response from readers, and, above all, the books are a great introduction to Valancourt and what we publish. For readers who are just discovering us and wondering where to start with the 400+ books in our catalogue, our Valancourt Books of Horror Stories are the perfect place to start: Volume 3, for example, includes contributions by 16 different Valancourt authors, so you can sample a lot of different writers to see whose works you might like to read more of. One thing that’s great about our Horror Stories books is that many of the authors featured aren’t typically thought of as horror authors and aren’t often featured in horror anthologies, so you’ll find tales by literary and mainstream authors like Christopher Priest, Isabel Colegate, and Nevil Shute alongside contributions by well-known horror writers like Michael McDowell and Bernard Taylor.
Thanks very much to James and Valancourt Books, and please be certain to leave a comment below in order to be entered into the giveaway! A winner will be chosen in one week’s time. This giveaway is open to our U.S. readers
[EDIT: A winner has been chosen! Congratulations to Pauline!]
Life is so funny sometimes! How one connection sparks the next, how distant souls find one another, how reading a stranger’s words, late one lonely winter’s night, can lead you to peeking into the life of a brand new stranger–a life of haunting elegance and filled with beautiful objects and exquisite creations–and, as it happens, a stranger who is a genuinely beautiful human, and who, over the years, becomes a very dear friend.
That is how I came to know Mathyld.
In her Parisian atelier, Mathyld handcrafts potent jewels and portable magicks as Under The Pyramids, inspired by nature, magick, lost civilisations and times immemorial. Working with sustainable, locally recycled silver, each and every creation is entirely handmade, every step of the way – sawn, soldered, hammered, stamped, oxidised, polished, etc. Each jewel is thus slightly different than the next, making them all individual and unique vessels to imbue with your own, personal magic and intimate enchantments.
We have kept in touch these many years, checking in with each new project, always curious as to what the other was up to, and eternally full of support and love for one another. Mathyld is a gem and a treasure, and I am so happy to know her. And I’m especially thrilled that she has agreed to do an interview for Unquiet Things, so that you can get to know her, as well!
I do hope you enjoy reading more about this wonderful creator and her extraordinary creations, and what’s more, she has generously agreed to a giveaway, as well! Please leave a comment on this post to be entered for a chance to win an Algiz Amulet, conjured by Mathyld herself, just for you! A winner will be chosen for this runic symbol of protection, one week from today, on Friday June 22nd.
Unquiet Things: You call your works “portable magicks”– I love the idea of enchantments and charms that travel with you! Can you tell me more about this concept and how it ties in with your own practice and guides your artistry?
Mathyld: If you were to open my bag, you would find many gems and crystals, neatly tucked into little pouches, as well as other tiny items I consider like talismans – a sterling pendulum, a vial of water I collected in a cave, a black miniature Swiss Army knife my brother gifted me when we were teenagers, as well as a rose-wood knife Thomas Cowgill / King Dude offered me. I instantly feel better knowing that they are with me. I have always been like that.
I gather energy from within the things I can see and feel. The seasons, the elements, the cycle of the Moon… All of these things have a huge impact on our lives and I try my best (not to influence them) but to respect them as I know that they are the forces that feed me.
The sort of Magick that we practice – I do magick with my husband – is very simple. We mostly do protection magick, using candles, resin incenses, gems and organic herbs.
So, when I started crafting jewels, it was necessary for me that they had, not only a visual elegance, but to also infuse them with a meaning and properties.
I’d love to hear about your most recent collections – the runic amulets and, separately, the handfasting cords? Are new collections inspired a by personal need for such things, or external influences/customer requests?
Some pieces were indeed inspired by bespoke jewels I have crafted. But they were never completely new pieces, rather evolutions. For example, I used to craft any Rune from the Elder Futhark alphabet and Medieval Runes of Healing and Magick. One day, someone asked for a Bind-Rune (a symbol constituted of the association of two or more Runes). I then considered adding this option to my collection.
That being said, in the vast majority, my creations do come from a personal need. Everything started with the urge to find Runic pieces that would be both elegant and discreet. I looked and couldn’t find any and so, decided to create my own. Many a time have I dreamt to visit Scandinavia and wander among the stones, discovering the petroglyphs. I was first fascinated by the runes, then came the symbols and this is how my Petrolgyph collection was born! After daydreaming about these little ships, suns, elks… I decided to bring them « to life » and within a week-end, they were born!
The handfasting cords were also the consequence of a personal need. For our handfasting ceremony in the woods, Jef and I originally planned to use a handspun yarn to which the spinner was going to incorporate some elements we sent them. These consisted of chosen gems and antique-looking charms I crafted and stamped with our favourite runes. However, said embellished yarn got lost in the Post…
At that time, far away from everything and everyone, I had an Epiphany and remembered a gorgeous yarn that my friend Drucilla spun for me many years ago. Off-white with some delicate splashes of very light celadon blue (“Something olde, something new, something borrowed and something blue”) … It just made sense! The night prior to the wedding, we embellished it with our gems and charms. We couldn’t have dreamt of a better cord!
I contacted Drucilla a few months later with this idea in mind. I wanted to offer this option to others. Handfasting echoes with nature, yet beautiful handcrafted cords made of natural materials are so hard to come by!
You have worked with some extraordinary creators over the years -photographer Ellen Rogers, and musician King Dude, for example. What was that like? How do these collaborations come about?
I am utterly lucky! (Maybe it’s all this Portable Magick I always carry).
I met Ellen through my best friend, Diane Schuh(an astounding artist herself) and was thrilled that it led to an opportunity for us all to collaborate together.
For King Dude, I once woke up in the middle of the night to find out that Thomas (KD) ordered a Nauthiz Vördr necklace from me. I was ecstatic as I had been following his work for years. When we met, he told me that the necklace already was one of his most precious possessions. I will always treasure that memory. I then asked him if he would be interested into a little collaboration and was blessed by his acceptance.
Finally, new pieces, coming soon, will be inspired by one of my favourite bands.
What’s your studio like? Do you prefer to create in a private quiet, or do you need some sort of stimuli (conversation, music, maybe a movie playing in the background?)
My bench is antique, made of dark, solid wood. I bought it second-hand from a jeweller who was retiring and I renovated it myself. The smell of turpentine oil and wax was intoxicating. My favourite hammer is also made of beautiful wood and belonged to my late father. I have that profound need to surround myself with beautiful, meaningful objects. The scent of resin incense or essential oils often fills the air and candles can be found burning from time to time. My studio is no different than any other room in the flat in the way that dried bouquets are scattered everywhere.
Concerning the soundscape, I definitely couldn’t create in a private quiet. However, it is difficult for me to focus on precision or dangerous tasks – like drilling, soldering, stamping… – while listening to something. I have a very intense reception to music, so most music I like tends to drive me a tad too over excited and sadly, if I try to follow a podcast my mind instantly wanders. So that leaves me with series or films that I have already seen and love. Strangely enough, series seems to work ideally. I usually don’t mind missing details because, if I truly enjoy them, I know that I will watch them again with my husband!
You note that your adornments are inspired by “nature, magick, lost civilisations and times immemorial. mist and forests, ruins and megaliths”. I’d love to hear some more about these passions! Can you give us specific examples to give us a feel for these soul-stirring inspirations? Art, literature, film, places local to where you live?
Reading about folklores and legends is one of my fondest thrills. Ancient civilisations – Native American, Egyptian, Pre-Colombian, Norse, etc – fascinate me and in particular the similarities between symbols found across different cultures. I recently got the chance to re-visit my mother’s breath-taking homeland, the Eastern Townships (Québec, Canada) and New-England. I felt an instant, deep connection. New pieces will be inspired by the history of these lands. I strangely get the same feeling of connection when I visit the UK, especially the Lake District, where the nature is tremendously beautiful. Old English lore is also truly fascinating. Ellen Rogers recently introduced me to a text that already inspired a new piece.
I also tend to get very emotional in museums, whenever I come across a piece that really touches me – usually XIXth century art, Pre-Raphaelite and suitors, Arts & Crafts movement – I start shedding tears. Art has that powerful effect on me.
Film-wise, one of my heroes is Guy Maddin, especially his work in the 90s, very early 2000s. I have admired his work since I saw Careful back in 1996. His style, inspired by German Expressionism, his painting over the negatives technique, his surreal yet elegant decors made of paper mache… Everything in his work was responding to questions I never realised I was asking myself.
That said, I also love to travel and discover areas that are closer to me, museums, house museums, caves, ruins, old Castles, churches, parks, etc. Coming from Paris there are indeed many fascinating places to visit. But I try to favour the less known, quieter places. I recently took my husband to the French Kings & Queens’ Necropolis, in the Basilica of Saint-Denis. The crypt there is painfully eerie. I love house museums, too. There is that little house and garden museum, not far from where I come from that I absolutely adore. XIXth century entomologist Jean-Henri Fabre lived there. All his life he studied nature, collecting insects, shells, plants, minerals… His house is filled with his collections, notebooks and sketches. A personal Natural History Museum nested inside a tiny Provençal house, complete with a quiet, sheltered garden. A true gem!
Not far from my husband’s hometown is a breath-taking cave. One walks through many different caves filled with stalactites and stalagmites of all kinds and even an atoll… One of the most otherworldly experiences I’ve ever encountered.
Brittany is another area that never fails to mesmerise me; the megaliths are glorious, the ocean moody and the nature so very lush…
I am unsure how all of this translates into my work, but some details are rather evident: the importance to create everything from scratch, symbols from ancient civilisations, natural history & antiques collections (vials Talismans filled with gems and elements found in nature) etc.
I am unsure how all of this translates into my work, but some details are rather evident: the importance to create everything from scratch, symbols from ancient civilisations, natural history & antiques collections (vials Talismans filled with gems and elements found in nature) etc.
Drawn to the fringes of the odd and the mundane, Tom Blunt is a brilliant writer, producer, and performer who was absolutely instrumental in the recent reprinting of the outstanding memoir, Elsa Lanchester, Herself. Head over to Haute Macabre for Tom’s wonderful insights into this striking and unusual Golden Era entertainer and his quest to ensure that so many decades later, she finally finds her people.