Though popular media (or, you know, your friends on Instagram) might lead you to believe that autumn’s return is heralded by Halloween décor at Home Goods or the the-much-reviled-by-a-certain-idiot-food activist (and therefore much beloved by me) Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks – well, no. You are all wrong. Those in the know have come to recognize that with the arrival of Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s annual limited edition Halloween scents, or “weenies” as they have affectionately been called, we can now officially welcome the start of the fall season.
For the uninitiated: Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab specializes in formulating darkly compelling fragrance blends and “masterfully molded scent environments that capture legends and folklore, poetry, and the stuff of dreams and nightmares.” By utilizing their knowledge of homeopathy and aromatherapy, the conceptual theories of hermetic alchemy, and the aesthetic artistry of perfumery, they have “mastered the art of encapsulating allegorical ideas into singular olfactory experiences.” In short, they make things that smell good for weirdos like us.
“The skies have darkened, and summer’s last bright green leaf has turned”; thus begins the introduction to the 2015 Halloween collection on their website, and my melancholic poetry loving, fragrance fanatic fangirl heart is already ensnared and dreaming of darkened myrrh and icy funeral lilies – but they’ve got something for all Halloween children, I assure you! Whether you’ve a hankering for ALL PUMPKIN EVERYTHING, candied fruit and sugar skulls, or piles upon piles of sweetly rotting, desiccated leaves, you will without a doubt find your holy grail for All Hallow’s Eve in this deliciously haunting line up.
This year’s offerings include several favorites from ‘weenies past, including the aforementioned Sugar Skull, All Souls (incense mingled with the soft, sugared currant soul cakes) and Samhain (damp woods, fir needle and black patchouli, pumpkin, spices, and sweet red apple) – just to name a few.
Or perhaps you’d prefer bobbing for apples (razors here? Pffft!) Try Apple I (apple with oats, honey, sweet cream), Apple II (green apple with pink pepper, juniper, lemon) or Apple III (Appalachian black apple with tobacco, patchouli, orange blossom).
Do your tastes run to less complex scents? BPAL offers Halloween “single notes”, their cheeky interpretations of iconic autumnal scents. Less treat and more trick, here: Clown White, Stage Blood, and Polyester Spiderweb certainly sound like they could layer together and create some interesting olfactory imagery!
Most intriguing to me was this year’s Pickman Gallery scents: Hecate’s Inheritance, inspired by thirteen exquisite depictions of witches and their craft, and Sympathy for The Devil, an interpretation of seven visions of He Who Shuns the Light. Some of my favorite BPAL ‘weenies include:
The Sorceress by Jean van der Velde II: An evocation incense of frankincense, styrax, lavender buds, mastic, and white sandalwood mingled with moonflower, violet absolute, tuberose, and dark musk. Truly the dark floral to end all dark florals, people.
La Femme de Satan by Nikolai Kalmakoff. Red musk and cacao with clove, caramelized tobacco, aged patchouli, red currant, black leather, and vanilla-infused amber. This is the scent of a party girl possessed by a demon and she will fuck your shit up.
And lastly, Witches’ Kitchen by Frans Francken. Belladonna accord, sprigs of rue, crushed hyssop, white sage, beeswax, mandrake leaf, bay rum, black honey, hemp, and myrrh. Sweet herbs steeped in dark honey and the delicate scent of infernal hexes wafting on the breeze.
I’ve got an unfortunate case of the blarghs. You know that feeling – nothing you do feels good enough, you feel like all of your friendships are the built upon pity (for you are a sad, pathetic creature) and you really just don’t amount to much of anything. Why are you here? What’s the point? You just can’t even, and it feels like maybe you never could and never will again.
The blarghs have plagued me for going on a week now. I took ill with a wretched head cold and it all went downhill from there. When you’ve low energy and feeling unwell I think it’s a lot easier for those fat-dumb-ugly thoughts to start sneaking in, and man, I am afraid they’ve hit me super hard.
I know you are supposed to be kind to yourself during times like these, but I really just feel like slapping myself in the face and maybe lying down in the middle of the road. I mean I don’t want to get run over or anything – Jesus, calm down, I am not that bad off – but I sort of feel like I just need to lie face down in a muddy puddle or something. Like, rub my own nose in how bad I am feeling. Why would I feel like that? Why would I want to do that? I don’t rightly know. But I can tell you that I am having a hard time mustering kindness for myself at this moment in time.
It’s funny though…I always think that when I am feeling badly about things and myself and life in general…maybe kindness toward others will help. Maybe I should be giving away what I need the most? I don’t know. My brain is fuzzy and dumb today and I can’t think straight or articulate things real good.
What do you do when you’ve got the blarghs and the ughs and the blues and the worst feelings? I could use some suggestions folks, because I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, this is not a nice way to feel.
The Action Of Memory, Andrew Hargreaves | A Glimpse, Rafael Anton | The Path, Zoë Keating | November, Max Richter | The License To Interpret Dreams, Antonymes | their memories, harold budd and brian eno | Grounds, Poppy Ackroyd | Reverie, Ludovico Einaudi | Krómantík, Soley | Idlewild, Julia Kent | Bedded deep in longterm memory, The Caretaker | Ritual, Adam Hurst | Strange Dreams, The Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation | Lament, Jacaszek | Déjà vu, Fabrizio Paterlini | Stille, Lucy Claire by ft. Alev Lenz | Les Soirs, Oskar Schuester
“Music to wear perfume by” – upon reading the title, this would seem to be my most frivolous playlist yet…or is it? I believe that if you listen closely, within these sounds you’ll find my true heart.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Now it’s a week that I have been back from Portland and these experiences are not nearly as fresh in my mind …so I think this will be a massive photo dump along with some recommendations. Sound good? OK, let’s go!
As with our stay in 2012, we paid Voodoo Doughnuts a visit. I think a lot of the locals will tell you this place is over-hyped, and maybe waiting in line for a half an hour with a bunch of derpy tourists will certainly color your experiences a bit – but we were in and out of there in 5 minutes, so I still think it is a pretty okay spot for morning (or whenevertime) pastries. Pictured are the Maple Bacon bar, The Loop, and the Cock-n-Balls. Which we group shared. Of course!
Other doughnut places visited:
Blue Star – these doughnuts seemed… little more high-brow? If you can even say that about doughnuts, I guess. We shared the blueberry bourbon basil, which was understated and lovely.
Pips – these guys are tiny fried bits of deliciousness. A member of our group took it upon himself and hunted them down at 6 in the morning to take advantage of a birthday special that they offer. I had the honey and sea salt, which was a sweet, salty, greasy revelation.
After stuffing ourselves full of cheese samples and wine at The Wedge fest (watch the video at the top of that site and you’ll see two of my favorite beardos!) we wandered around the city looking for a proper meal. I am not sure how we ended up at the Bit House Saloon, but I am glad that circumstances led us there, for we had several rounds of wonderful cocktails between games of Fluxx. I used to feel sort of weird about showing up at a bar and playing card games, but now I find that I really enjoy it – how about you? My favorite cocktail of the afternoon was The Grandmaster Flowers: bourbon, nectarine, chamomile, grapefruit, lime, and dandelion & burdock bitters. Also, that punch bowl. Gimme!
Still not having put food in our bellies, we attempted to get seated at Katchka right across the street for “Russian food in a space that looks like your communist grandmother’s basement”, but once we heard about the 3-4 hour wait, we decided to hoof it down to Noraneko for some ramen. And who should we accidentally run into but our friend’s husband, with whom we had just shared drinks at Hale Pele the previous night! We all cozied up for noodles, but to be honest, it was the few light bites we enjoyed beforehand that really made me happy. Who knew that dried squid could be so sweet and chewy and delicious? Paired with an oolong highball, I felt like Murasaki Wakkako in Wakakozake! Pshuuu….!
I think we all can agree that no trip to Portland is complete without a trip to Powells, but what trip to Powells is complete without purchasing a copy of Kanye West – Reanimator? Ponder that, if you will.
Early on I knew that I would want to make a sojourn to ALTAR which boasts a magical collection of “Northwest Alternative Handmade” objects and apparel, home goods and body care items. When she rung up my purchases, the lovely owner (whose name I sadly did not catch. Or even ask for. Whoops!) assured me that I had picked out one of all of the best things in the store. Among my favorites: dark, wild scents from lvnea, dreamy tees from Wolf Child, jewels from Morgaine Faye, and the gorgeously illustrated wooden tarot deck from Skullgarden. What I did not bring home with me, though I wish I could have, was one of Tyler Thrasher‘s beautiful crystal encrusted creatures. So exquisite! So delicate! So not going to make it home in one piece! It was a treat though, to be able to see them in person and up close.
The first place – and one of the last places -that I visited in Portland was my beloved Paxton Gate. A treasure trove of taxidermy, oddities, curiosities and natural wonders, I could spend hours upon hours in there taking in all of the delights and grotesqueries! I would then of course become bankrupt and have to live in a cardboard box…but these are just minor inconveniences, you see. Just look at those fancy mice! I would love to have them cavorting with me forever! And that raccoon – his face! Ah, I love this place. On my first visit, a silver tentacled ring wrapped its way around my finger, and upon my last, my heart was stolen by a wee mummified bat. Too many good things!
Oh, Portland. I already miss your weirdness and your fantastic happy hours and your wonderfully friendly folks. We will be back again, mark my words!
Back in 2012, my fella and I visited Portland, OR and had a lovely time -delicious foods were devoured, delightful cocktails were quaffed, old friends met for the first time. It was a marvelous trip and we have been talking about it ever since.
It only made sense then, to make a return visit -this time with several friends in tow! And since I have a dreadful habit of glossing over the human aspects of my adventures, let me say that I could not hope for finer traveling companions. Everyone’s personality is so different in our group – boisterous and exuberant; clever and droll; taciturn and brilliantly observant -but they all add up to the most wonderful circle of friends! And it feels strange to say that, “friends”. These gentlemen were originally comrades of my beau* but over time, as I’ve gotten to know them, I feel like they might actually be friends of mine, as well.
*(I don’t mean to sound pretentious, but I hate the term “boyfriend”, so I’ll use just about every other descriptor I can wrangle.)
We found a fantastic place to stay via Air BnB, a spacious and welcoming spot to call home base whilst exploring the city. A renovated 1920’s bungalow, it offered four bedrooms and two bathrooms, a large kitchen, and plenty of community space for boardgames and D&D and Dark Adventure Radio Theatre (we’re a nerdy group, you know). Again, we stayed in the Mississippi neighborhood and reveled in the chance to revisit some previous loves while staking out some new favorites with my fellow travelers.
If you’ve a hankering to visit the City of Roses, perhaps you will consider the following suggestions? Portland friends, commence the eye-rolling now.
At Mac! you’ll find all sorts of macaroni and cheese related shenanigans. We shared enormous plates of their Truffle Mac, Cheeseburger Mac, Artichoke & Spinach Mac, and Cordon Bleu Mac. Somehow we lived through it.
We had a few breakfasts at Sweedeedee, a small corner cafe which is an excellent place for people watching and listening to records and eating pie – if you get there early enough, before the place starts to fill up. Recommended: the egg sandwich with shredded lettuce and avocado on the most delicious thick-cut, molasses bread. Also, salted honey pie. Skip: the breakfast burrito (too much mealy, undercooked potato).
At Hale Pele, in the lurid glow of torchlight and under the baleful glare of the gods, we sacrificed our dignity with friends and fellow fire drinkers. I am fairly certain I had just about one of everything on the menu, and I will admit, near the end I am not even sure what I ordered. I have to recommend, however, the Corn ‘n’ Oil, which as the menu would suggest, is indeed a strange name for an amazing drink. If you are looking for a nosh, they have several things to munch on; my favorites were the fried taro chips and the tuna poke. I love tiki bars for their kitschy escapism and potent cocktails, and Hale Pele now sits at the top of my list.
Elsewhere in the city, I met thesetwo magical humans for art and cocktails; at Antler Gallery for the Unnatural Histories show – where I finally got to see one of Jessica Joslin’s exquisitely crafted bone and brass menagerie in person – and at Victoria Bar, where the drinks were Princess Bride inspired!
Normally I am not keen on photos that other people take of me, because I have only like, 1/8 of a good side and no one knows how to capture it properly. That’s not their fault, of course. I just don’t photograph well. I shudder to think that I might actually look like a poor photo all of the time… but I suppose that’s a possibility that I can’t rule out, no matter how much it bruises the ego. I do love this picture, however, taken at Tidbit Food and Farm food truck pod thingy whatever you call it. I don’t recall what we were discussing, but the look on my face is ridiculous and I love Minna for meeting up with us to visit, and for making me make that face. I also do not recall what was eaten, but there was rice and noodles and karaage and takoyaki and I felt like the heroine of an action packed food anime trying to stuff it all in. Afterward, Minna marched us over to Fifty Licks for boozy adult ice cream super fun times. Pictured above is the Velvet Shiso made with plum wine, Riesling, and their Coconut Lemon Saffron sorbet with is spiced with saffron, star anise, and cardamom. It was amazing as it sounds. The only thing missing from this wonderful evening was our good friend Robyne, who was nursing a cold. Hopefully we will see you in January, Robyne!
The Lan Su Chinese Garden is a beautiful spot to gaze quietly upon art, architecture, design and nature, and I was just enamored this time around by the mosaic courtyards with their poetic names – “Plum Blossom On Cracked Ice” being the best-loved by my ear and my favorite to speak aloud. I have heard that the guides sometimes suggest walking barefoot on the stones to feel the different patterns and such, and I think that sounds like a lovely idea and a pleasant exercise in mindfulness (…or something? At least it sounds like a nice massage for the feet!)
Also, if you ever wonder if I actually wear the things that I have purchased from Stitch Fix, I present to you Exhibit A: the Everly Peter dress from Fix #10. I wore it with leggings and an asymmetric black Helmut Lang jacket and it was super cute. This photo, by the way, was taken in a startlingly clean nerdy game shop bathroom.
Next up: roses! more cocktails! doughnuts All of the shopping!
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!
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)
And because I am nutty and can’t write about someone without wanting to dress them up myself (or even play dress up AS them) here are two interpretations of some modern day Countess of Castiglione ensembles!
A new mix for the autumn equinox, inspired by the bitter business that follows shortly thereafter.
Näkin Laulu, Tenhi | serpents in the dawn, Neutral | Black moth, Of The Wand And The Moon | Sweet Olga,Moon Far Away | A Ballad, Eltan Renaxy | Tunguska, Golgatha | Paralysie Générale, Sub Luna | Lacrimosa, Spiritual Front | Hewers of wood and drawers of water, Kiss the anus of a black cat Where At Night The Wood Grouse Plays, Empyrium | A Sadness Song, Current 93 | Bunter Staub, Darkwood | Leaves Of Autumn, Backworld | Urla (Frammenti DInfinito), ARGINE | Hollows of Devotion by Death in June | Under The Yew Possessed, Sorrow | Over the Stone by Sonne Hagal