I still can’t get over the beautiful vision that Alyssa Thorne brought to life with the darkly flamboyant gorgeousness of these promotional photos for The Art of Darkness. I mean…JUST LOOK AT THEM.

I realized that I’d shared them everywhere except for here on the blog, so today I am rectifying that oversight. And once you are done gorging your eyeballs on the profound beauty of these images, I entreat you to have a look at Alyssa’s website, where she has this week released her stunning Autumn Collection!

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One of my very favorite things is to work closely with a beloved artist whose work I adore and together, we endeavor to bring a weird vision or dream to life. Granted, my input is minimal and vague and probably not too helpful, so trust me when I sing the praises of these creators’ brilliance. Taking my infinitesimal, unformed inkling of an idea and somehow these makers are able to coax forth, conceptualize, develop, construct and create exactly what was in my head? What witchcraft, what wizardry!

But not really magic at all, as fun as that is to think about. It’s the hard work of *really* listening when someone shares their dreams with you, and the knowing which are the important questions to ask to tease out further details to gild the lily of that special dream. Its dedication and diligence to excelling at their craft, and all of the hard, sometimes weird, and vulnerable work that goes into it. Knowing this as I do, I am so appreciative every time someone has wrought something beautiful from my reveries!

The Midnight Stinks Patreon vanity banner by Becky Munich is one such meeting of minds and the fabulous artistic consequence that ensued. Today I wanted to share another such dreamy bit of synergy: this glorious Midnight Stinks tableaux by Alyssa Thorne, photographer of lustrous blooms and kindred glooms in the fluttery signs and tenebrous twilights of her gorgeous midnight floriography.

I am a firm believer in accessible art for everyone, and I am always so pleased when artists offer smaller-sized prints, postcards, and even bookmarks. Working with Alyssa, we have made a limited number of postcard-sized versions of this piece, and they are not for sale. They are *only* for the stinkers on my Patreon. I hope to get them in the mail for patrons sometime in the next few weeks and I hope that you love them as much as I do.

P.S. if you would like to read more about Alyssa and her work, I interviewed her last October!

 

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18 Aug
2022

MY BODY IS READY

categories: art

The Pond at Versailles in Autumn, Henri Eugene Augustin Le Sidan

It’s mid-August. I am ready for you, Autumn. Any time now, okay?

Well, until you see fit to grace us with your presence, I’m just going to slip into the warm, waning light of these paintings and the shadowy autumnal promises of a few poems. Care to sit quietly with me for a while?

 

Autumn Sun, Egon Schiele

 

The Harvest Moon, Charles Rennie Mackintosh

UNDER THE HARVEST MOON BY CARL SANDBURG

Under the harvest moon,
When the soft silver
Drips shimmering
Over the garden nights,
Death, the gray mocker,
Comes and whispers to you
As a beautiful friend
Who remembers.

Under the summer roses
When the flagrant crimson
Lurks in the dusk
Of the wild red leaves,
Love, with little hands,
Comes and touches you
With a thousand memories,
And asks you
Beautiful, unanswerable questions.

 

Falling Leaves, Ivan Goryushkin-Sorokopudov

 

Autumn Leaves, Tom Scott 

 

Autumn Morning by John Atkinson Grimshaw

FALL, LEAVES, FALL BY EMILY BRONTË

Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen day and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night’s decay
Ushers in a drearier day.

Still Life with Mushrooms, Apples and Blackberries, Alice Wilson

 

Still Life with Pumpkins, Sientje Mesdag van Houten 

FIRST FALL BY MAGGIE SMITH

I’m your guide here. In the evening-dark
morning streets, I point and name.
Look, the sycamores, their mottled,
paint-by-number bark. Look, the leaves
rusting and crisping at the edges.
I walk through Schiller Park with you
on my chest. Stars smolder well
into daylight. Look, the pond, the ducks,
the dogs paddling after their prized sticks.
Fall is when the only things you know
because I’ve named them
begin to end. Soon I’ll have another
season to offer you: frost soft
on the window and a porthole
sighed there, ice sleeving the bare
gray branches. The first time you see
something die, you won’t know it might
come back. I’m desperate for you
to love the world because I brought you here.

 

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Note: this interview with Han of Handsome Devils Puppets was a collaboration between Maika and I for Haute Macabre, a few years back. I love writing with Maika, they are the most thoughtful and imaginative partner-in-crime to work alongside, and I know this interview was a dream come true for both of us. Unfortunately, the Haute Macabre blog is gone and it broke our hearts to think that no one would read Han’s marvelous insights or get to peer inside her big, weird, beautiful heart again. So, we fixed that. And so now you can find it here, at Unquiet Things, eternally. We love you, Han.

Maika:

Speaking from a writer’s perspective, interviews are funny things. Although this introduction is what you’re reading first, it was the very last thing written. It was also, somehow, the hardest part for me to write. Sarah and I had a wonderful time composing questions for Han. The hard work, as far as I’m concerned, was for Han herself, answering all our queries, which she did so thoroughly and thoughtfully, with grace and humor, with beautiful frankness and vulnerability. Sarah and I were both a mess of tears while reading her answers. (Consider yourself forewarned: have the tissues handy.) All I’m supposed to do here is get you from the top of the screen to those Qs and As. But I have such deep, intense feelings about the work of Handsome Devils Puppets. I’m so ensorcelled by Han’s every creation and performance, and I’ve been fortunate to grow to count her as a dear friend, that I don’t know how to verbalize any of those things.

Thank goodness you’re not here to listen to me rhapsodize about how much I love Han and everything she does. You don’t actually need to know that I first began interacting with Han when I contacted her in hopes of commissioning Eve and Adam from Only Lovers Left Alive.

Or about how last year I sat down and lost myself in the process of describing a piece of my heart to her and how she has since created an exquisite vessel for it.

You also don’t need to know that I finally got to see Han perform here in Portland during her 2018 West Coast tour. Or how my cats met Pips. Okay, maybe you do need to know that. My cats met Pips! Mutual nose sniffing took place. Who am I kidding? I met Pips! And I got to give Han hugs, which I want to do pretty much every time I exchange messages with her.

I hope you enjoy reading Han’s interview as much as I did. It might seem straightforward and simple, but I find there’s something magical about coming up with questions for another person – someone you consider extraordinary – and having them answer those questions and trust you with their answers. Sarah and I so enjoyed this co-interviewing process that we’re hoping Handsome Devils Puppets marks the first in an ongoing series of cooperative interviews with singular people who endlessly inspire us.

 

S. Elizabeth: Do you recall your first knowledge of the existence of puppets? I sure do. It was lady Elaine, the eccentric and (to my three-year-old brain) oddly glamorous old broad who ran the Museum Go Round in Mister Roger’s neighborhood. I was both captivated and vaguely disturbed by the stillness of her ruddy wooden features and unblinking blue eyes fixed in an eternal semi-squint, as contrasted by the scratchy, but lively, and very human voice asking the silly questions and posing ridiculous solutions that came out of her inanimate scarlet smirk.

This initial awareness of these uncanny vessels that we can bring to life by manipulation and mastery of their tiny movements has led to a life-long…not quite fascination…but a sort of hushed reverence, stupefied awe, really, for puppets, and puppetry, and the artists who create and control them. The idea that we can give voice to our thoughts through the mouth of a completely separate entity, even and especially when our thoughts aren’t actually very nice, seems to me like a fantastical catharsis, and is partially what brought about the idea to commission Han, whose Handsome Devils Puppet work I had quietly admired for ever so long, for a mini marionette version of Sei Shonagon.

Shonagon was a brilliant diarist, poet, and courtier, but also a bit of a Heian-era mean girl and guru of gossip, rumor, and scandal. I have long loved her writings: her elegant lists, her acerbic observations, her beautifully intimate and wonderfully catty diaries; these strangely random and tangential stories have informed and inspired my own writings for many, many years now, but if I am being honest, it is this mean streak that appears throughout her beautiful, clever writings that fascinates me endlessly.

Now, though, this marvelous vessel that Han created from the wisp of an idea and from what beautiful bones and scraps I could scarcely guess, I have an exorcist for my unkind scrutinies, my snarky opinions and observations, and my highly critical notions. Little Sei Shonagon with her clever brush and invisible ink coaxes my ugliness into the ether and leaves no trace of its unflattering existence. From her perpetually suppressed smile, I almost believe that she derives no small amusement from the expulsion of my cranky demons, and, while indulging myself in daydreams, I often recall the long-ago Lady Elaine’s tiny sneer and I am quite certain these two would either be great friends, or great rivals, or both!

But back to the business at hand. As Maika mentions above, we had such great fun in our back and forth brainstorming and bouncing ideas off of each other for this Handsome Devils Puppets interview. It was terribly daunting but so massively thrilling to put together these questions for Han about her inspirations and processes and great loves and wonderments– and for me, who has not yet had the opportunity to meet this incredible artist in person yet, it was an extraordinary look into a dazzling mind and a heart so big, there seems no end to the pieces of it you’ll find in her remarkable creations.

Prepare to be thoroughly enchanted and to have your heart broken and humbled and reformed anew as we take an intimate, emotional, and powerfully human peek at the lives of Han of Handsome Devil Puppets and her sentiment of spirits. I hope you will take as much pleasure in reading the following interview as we have in dreaming it, creating it, and sharing it with you.

 

 

M+S: Why puppets? You’ve spoken about how making and performing with puppets came to you during a particularly dark period of your life. Without prying into what was going on in your life at the time, why do you think it was through puppetry that you found your voice, as opposed to another creative outlet or form of performance?

HDP: I actually fell upon puppets quite by accident while accompanying a friend to a craigslist audition to be her ‘muscle’ (because what screams ‘murder’ louder than a puppet show audition in a warehouse?). I was recovering, floundering, alone, reclusive and without a voice in a city that was far bigger than anything I’d ever experienced. Life seemed a fanged, gaping mouth and I a mere scrap in its teeth. The audition ended not with murder but with an offer to help build the upcoming show. I wasn’t an actor, I had previously wept my way through a failed semester of 2D art, quit ballet after 6 years, piano after 10. I had so much to say, so much to feel and suddenly there was clay in my hands aching to sing and dance, to do everything and say everything I thought I couldn’t. There were no rules here. It was salvaged components and salvaged people weaving the silliest, saddest stories. It was all so heavy and so light.

 

Do you find yourself expressing things through your puppets that you’d never say otherwise? Not even necessarily things you’d dare not say, but simply things that wouldn’t have occurred to you until the puppet brought them forth. Conversely, do you ever find yourself saying things to puppets that you wouldn’t say to a human?

This is one of my first and favorite things I learned about puppets. Being a ragtag group of starving, drinking artists, how we were going to get people to listen to us? The city was full of us, how do you make them listen? One beautiful example of our solution came when we performed a piece based on the Tom Waits song “Georgia Lee.” It tells the true story of 12-year-old Georgia Lee Moses who disappeared in ’97. She had a troubled home life, she was poor, she was African American, she was not reported missing, there was no front-page news story and no rallying cry. Georgia’s body was found under a tree next to the highway far too late and her killer has yet to be found. How do you address that? How do you bring people together and force them to care, force them to listen to this sickening, heartbreaking example of a much greater problem? Our solution was puppets, a little girl made of sticks, buried in the earth who emerged to dance with the moon before her twigs shattered and she returned to the earth. How could we have accomplished that ourselves? How else would we have made people face this darkness?

(And now a shorter answer if you prefer! I often will not address certain darkness in me until suddenly it’s coming to life in my hands, or until it’s being written in song. You become so accustomed to your own particular melancholy that you sometimes fail to feel its subtle shifts. I trust no one, connect with few, but I have poured forth every shadowed corner of my Self to a puppet on many a night.)

 

 

Why do you think it is that puppets appear to connect with people differently than humans connect with each other?

Puppets cannot lie! What you say, they say. What you do, they do. They are honest little vessels. They look like us, but stranger. They are us, but innocent. They are both cosmic and primitive. We want to believe in their magic. It may not make any sense right now, but I spent most of my life screaming into an abyss of faces and never truly felt heard until those screams were screamed by a puppet.

I had so much to say, so much to feel, and suddenly there was clay in my hands aching to sing and dance, to do everything and say everything I thought I couldn’t. There were no rules here. It was salvaged components and salvaged people weaving the silliest, saddest stories. It was all so heavy and so light.

 

 

Have you ever found a puppet? Something you didn’t make with your own two hands, perhaps something that one wouldn’t necessarily even recognize as a puppet, but you knew it for what it truly was when you saw it.

Are we counting Pedro, The Man Stuck in a Coffee bag? (….it was my child-hand…in a coffee bag…a riveting living room dramatic performance). Every single day. Everything is a puppet, I say this at all of my shows. If you feel powerless, pick up the nearest thing to you and literally have power over it. Make it fly, make it scream, make it dance. There is actually a form of performance very similar to puppetry call Object Theatre in which everyday, found objects are manipulated to tell the story. In a way it’s very therapeutic, to imagine how this plastic bottle would ‘breathe,’ watching the rise and fall of your own chest to and mirroring it in your little plastic pantomimist. In a different way, I also have a crippling need to puppet when I people-watch. There are some people who would make the most incredible puppets! (I was reprimanded at a job long ago for telling a woman that her “baby has good shapes.” …In my defense that baby was round and adorable and cartoonish and was just begging to be a puppet. Y’all, I haven’t an ounce of social grace…)

 

 

You have previously observed that, “The power of the puppet is vast, but it is little without the power of your person.” What, in your opinion, is the role of the puppeteer?

Just be honest. Above all things be honest, be human. You are bringing something to life, there cannot be any insincerity, there cannot be any pretense. I am just up there crying and sweating and manically jiggling a puppet around and there is truth in that, there is vulnerability despite me being in ‘control’ of them. It’s not about power in terms of skill, it’s about your willingness to pour your soul into this little vessel.


In your experience, do you find that puppets have a will of their own? Do your puppets develop opinions about each other? Do some prefer each other’s company or need to be kept apart?

Ooooh this is such a shameful bit of me. Maybe it’s a symptom of being a recluse, maybe I’m just unhinged but yes, yes and yes. With the increase in film and book characters in my work the strangest friendships are forged between puppets who share time on my table. Frida Kahlo mingled with Vincent Price. Tom Hiddleston chatted with a conjoined sheep.

If you feel powerless, pick up the nearest thing to you and literally have power over it. Make it fly, make it scream, make it dance.

 

 

 In a 2017 interview, you shared that you started making puppets when you felt you didn’t have a voice, and that you “…sculpted powerful, magical women to dance and sing and cry and give me that voice.” This lends to a curious question on our part regarding that voice and how it factors into the genesis of each new creation. Do you start with that small soul’s voice, and give it form? Or create a vessel for it to take root? Further to that question (or perhaps to ask it another way?) at what point in the creation of a puppet do they come to life/wake up for you? Or are they alive from the moment you conceive of them?

It honestly happens in each of these ways, depending on the puppet. Sometimes while idly fiddling with clay it will take form and begin telling its own stories. Sometimes I sculpt from dreams. Sometimes I will experience something unbearable and the only way I can process it is by creating a puppet capable of doing so. In those instances the intention and the emotion are so potent it feels the puppet is crying out from the moment the mouth is carved. Now that I’m working with original songs more it has happened that a melody came first, the melody searches for the right voice to embrace it, and a character takes shape. It honestly can take some time for that spark of life, sometimes longer than I’d like. But oh when that spark catches tinder, I just cradle that little soul and let forth a litany of coos, cries, praises, affirmations, and REALLY embarrassing giggles.

 

Tell us about Grannie Good-Witch’s jewelry box! I believe this is a box of heirlooms that you incorporate into your various creations as are working on them, even to the point that you travel with it and it accompanies you on the road. We’d love to hear more about these precious pieces of your family history and are interested to know how/where/why you decide to parcel them out.

(I am coincidentally typing this on Granny’s birthday!) My Granny was an absolute bat. She had her faults, she had her lows, she was forgiven, she was accepted, a pattern for our gene pool. She would take my sister and I on adventures across the state in her car, “Pokey,” made of cigarette smoke and dog hair (or so it seemed to be to me) and tell us stories of her childhood adventures in China. Fortunately for me, grannie was a hoarder and I inherited many a box of her trinkets from jewelry to small toys. I, on the other hand, move around far too much to amass very much, so when I first needed puppet accessories I pulled from this magical tiny wooden chest. Since then my collection has grown to include other boxes of the baubles of a few other powerful, magical, misunderstood women who have left this plane. Some pieces I can’t bear to part with (great-grandma’s itty-bitty miniature pink hand-fan) but others are so special they beg to be shared. A fingernail-sized bird to perch on the edge of a victorian infant’s coffin, a tiny silver cross on a commissioned memorial piece, a snippet of her hospital bracelet in a Plague Doctor’s pouch, an onyx earring post becomes a brooch. The possibilities are as vast as the depths of her strangeness.

 

Most of your work is individually commission-based, but every once in a while we’re delighted to see a HDP small collection of roses, skellingtons, animals, or wee babies. What sparks the ideas/motivations for a limited release of these coteries of clay creatures?

There’s a technical, business reason behind them as well as emotional. I try to have a few releases a year to give people who cannot afford a marionette a chance to welcome a puppet into their home. It is so important to me to drown the world in puppets and I don’t want anyone to feel excluded due to finances. Once I feel it has come time for a release I keep a little portion of my brain open to receiving little whispers of what it should be, but you can’t rush it. They have to be simple but effective. They have to be puppetable. They have to tell a story. I think of themes or visuals that are accessible to people who are taking baby steps into strangeness but that are also of meaning to me. Often times you can catch a glimpse at where my life was by the collections i was releasing at the time. Conjoined animals when I longed for closeness. Post mortem victorian infants when I was coming to terms with my unpromising body. Little Roses that blow kisses when I decided to scoot the gloom aside for a moment.

 

 

What is your favorite thing about making and/or working with puppets? Between painstakingly creating these creatures, vs. animating, storytelling, performing with the pieces–which do you prefer? What do you get out of performing for an audience that you can’t from creating your puppets and working with them solo?

I know it’s cheating but I could never choose! They are such different beasts. When sculpting I get to be alone, crawl into myself and create and it is heaven, soothing. I learn so much about myself while creating. I learn so much about the world while researching for them. By all accounts I should hate performing. People everywhere, looking at me. Me making an absolute dingus of myself, spilling my guts, singing through stage-fright tremors, the opposite of the solitude of creating. But despite all of the terror, stress, anxiety, and vulnerability that comes with a show, I am addicted to it. The shows are a humbling chance to keep sacred the sorrows and needs of strangers. Yes, it is wonderful to get to sink into my own world, but there is a whole world of people out there just as human as me. And if just one of them leaves my show feeling heard, feeling healed, feeling something, then it is worth it and I will never stop. I will always come out of hiding for it.

Some puppeteers are actors more than puppeteers – their puppets serving as props more than anything else – but the puppets of other performers seem to either be living individuals or extensions of their puppeteers. How do you view your own method of performing?

I have seen some incredibly effective shows where the puppeteer is fully shrouded and the illusion of a sentient being is achieved, or where the puppeteer acts as their own character opposite the puppet. Both are effective and respected by me, but I make it no secret that I prefer to treat them as an extension. I believe in the magic of the illusion, but I don’t want that to become a distraction. You know it’s a puppet, you know I’m back here moving it, let’s focus on the story as opposed to the trick. These puppets are small and they can only emote so much so I make sure I’ve got a big ol’ face chock full of feelings. I feel their pain because it is my own, I celebrate their joys because they are my own, if I make a mistake, they make a mistake. It’s a far far cry from performing, it’s really just a conversation. That being said I (being the consummate professional) sometimes catch myself congratulating a puppet during a song for completing a move well, or console them if they look especially sad. It’s accidental (and embarrassing) but it helps me be easier on myself. If I can have empathy and love for these little creatures while they tell my story, shouldn’t I be able to love myself? Basically shows are my therapy and I am the most undeserving dirt-person to be able to do them for a living.

It’s not about power in terms of skill, it’s about your willingness to pour your soul into this little vessel.

During your live performances, you don’t use particular voices for your puppets, rather you serve as their respective voices. It’s as though you’re a puppet medium, a channeler. That represents a great deal of trust between you and the puppets. And there is clearly a great deal of affection between you and most of your puppets. But you also speak directly to them during your shows – do they speak back? We won’t ask you to divulge any of their secrets, but is there a language we cannot hear, that only you can?

The puppets are true professionals, I’m up there drinking and crying and talking, but I’ve never seen one break character. Even though I perform the same songs on each show of a tour, every show is different. Audiences respond differently to different songs, to different puppets. If I see certain faces reacting more I feed off of it and in turn the puppet does. The puppet becomes tasked with gaining that person’s trust, carrying them through to the end. I often find myself comforting a puppet when a piece is over or congratulating them. They pick up pieces of every person who connects with them. It’s a blessing and a burden and their little clay shoulders must carry it with grace night after night. Yikes, I’ve never sounded crazier than I do when I talk about puppets. With friends like these who needs hallucinogens?

 

 

Have you always performed solo? Or perhaps you’ve previously performed as part of a troupe/ensemble? Have you done other sorts of performances besides puppetry?

I never performed with that troupe I started out with, I only built. Used to having absolutely no organized idea of what I’m doing, I stuck to solo performing once I made my own company. I attempted theatre in high school (we don’t talk about it) and spent a good deal of time on stage during my ballet years (we can talk about half of those) but really my shows the past couple of years are my first attempts at singing/puppeting in public.

I spent most of my life screaming into an abyss of faces and never truly felt heard until those screams were screamed by a puppet.

 

Your live performances are very small and intimate. Do you see yourself ever performing in larger venues or is small and intimate your preference for the foreseeable future?

Every once and I while there will be a flash of that fantasy, a vague little pipe-dream of something bigger. But I really don’t think it suits me right now. The puppets would have to be larger and in turn I would likely have to recruit company members, something I am strongly opposed to doing. I’m too stubborn and horrible and intimately attached to this to subject innocent humans to the complete disaster that is my methods/life.


What do you hope your audience members get out of your performances?

HDP: Anything, any little thing. A glimmer of hope, a moment of levity, an assurance of their power. Hell even if it just brings them joy to see me making an ass of myself, I’ll take it. I’m genuinely floored each time anybody chooses to leave their house for what, on paper, sounds like an evening of watching that crazy old man on the street corner rave at you except he’s holding puppets and you have to sit on the floor. I open each show with a song I heard at a time in my life when I needed it most. It seemed to be written just for me, it calmed me, it gave me strength, I held it close until I didn’t need it anymore and now I have to believe that somewhere in some city is somebody who needs it as I did. I am humbled by the stories people bring to me after shows, completely reduced to rubble by their ability to so beautifully and purely be a part of this bizarre little journey.

 

If it’s alright with you, Han, we’d like to switch things up for a moment and ask a few questions of Pips and any other members of your menagerie who’d like to participate in the conversation.

 How did you feel the moment you first opened your eyes, and what was the first thing you saw?

P: “Familiar. They say I had closed them for such a long time, but this same familiar face pressed close to mine. There was that same familiar feeling of being the only two creatures in the world. I saw my legs in a pile, my patient body waiting, I saw tears in two familiar eyes, two unfamiliar cats, curtains of lace. I felt real.”

Do you consider yourself a puppet?

P: “I do but it isn’t a bad thing. I’ve spent a longer time on this earth as a puppet than I did as a deer so, in a way, to be a puppet is to be more alive than ever before.”

In your opinion, what is the role of the puppet?

HDP: From a box in a corner comes a chorus of dusty voices, “Yes, tell us, Han! When comes our role?!” From atop a makeshift stage a wearied woman cries, “To mourn when the human heart can no longer bear to.” A ball of clay with the suggestion of a face mumbles through carved lips, “She had a recurring dream that plagued her, I’m here to understand it.” Pips glares, irritated at being interrupted, but softens to say “To tell a story, whatever that story may be”.

What have you learned from Han?

P: “I helped her survive. And my story could help others do the same. It seems like quite a task for a wee fawn that creaks and crumbles but I am powerful. Oh also, you can get out of a traffic ticket if I’m riding shotgun.”

What’s your favorite thing about working with Han/performing?

P: “The post-show chin-scratches from the audience! But mostly the post-show nighttime campsite/stranger’s house/cheap motel/truck stop cuddle times. I don’t want to embarrass Han but…she might have more successful relationships if we didn’t spoon so much…”

 

Now back to you, Han, what have you learned from your puppets?

I am powerful. I am incapable of sculpting ears but I am powerful. I am a great writhing, unstable mass of flesh and boiling blood who really didn’t need another excuse to stay inside and talk to herself but I found one and it made me powerful.

 

HM: Can you share any puppetry-specific influences? For those who don’t know much about puppetry, who else should we check out?

So many! Kevin McTurk and his company The Spirit Cabinet are creating the most truly breathtaking puppet films. I learned of them when I was just starting out on this journey and I remember thinking “Welp, I’d better just give up now cause I’ll never be this good and the real world will never be as perfect as the one he’s created.” Bruce Schwartz created and manipulated some of the most achingly beautiful puppets in the most poignant pieces. When I first learned of him my heart leapt to see a puppeteer whose methods were so similar to my own, from his decision to show his hands to his desire to force folks to feel. Watch his performance in The Double Life of Veronique and his bunraku feature on The Muppet Show and get ready to see what makes me cry. Ilka Schonbein will show you her viscera and make you like it. Handspring Puppet Company will make you question reality. Ugh, puppets are great.

 

 

Knowing that you’re a self-taught puppet-maker and puppeteer, do you have any advice for someone looking to get into puppetry themselves?

There is no wrong way to puppet. That’s the whole point of puppetry, it’s limitlessness. Learn from those who came before you, those you admire, but always count yourself among your muses. If what they did doesn’t work for you, do it your own way. Keep your eyes more open than ever before to the world around you, to muscles, to movements, to faces, to moments; you will then become your greatest resource.

 

 

Any tours or other big projects planned at this point?

A million things planned but nothing on paper! A North/Northeast tour or two for sure. A west coast return for sure. Writing more music, some longer pieces. Hoping to gather up the courage/abandon my stubbornness and record audio of some of my songs (but no promises). Hopefully some music video work (fingers crossed). Other than that, everything in the world. I want to do everything.

Find Handsome Devils Puppets: Instagram // website 

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An supernova disco ball dreamscape of lavish esotericism glitters across the Zuhair Murad Fall 2022 Couture this season, about which the designer notes, “I am really attached to this world, and I am curious to know about the future and about this world that is really mysterious and really old, you know. You don’t know if it’s true or not, or the meaning, and I love signs and symbols.” Well, that’s great, and this is gorgeous, but I am really just here for the surprise lobsters.

 

 

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I was today-years-old when I discovered the otherworldly alien surreal and shadowy architecture of the ANCESTORS virtual couture collection from threeASFOUR. Created in collaboration with digital artist Shingo Everard, the collection “bridges the gap between the real and virtual worlds to create a new way of experiencing fashion and fashion ownership.” Taking inspiration from ancient and current technologies threeASFOUR has created a collection of virtual garments that leverage the power of VR, 3D printing, and couture techniques.

Note: I was listening to this song at the time I was gazing at these photos, and it made for a really, really perfect experience.

 

 

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Image: Sara Darcaj via Unsplash

This interview at Luna Luna Magazine with Lisa Marie Basile was such a marvelous opportunity to dive deep into my inspirations, to bring a mirror to the darkness of my metaphorical innards, and give you a peek. This was both fun & a little scary, and I got to be candid & vulnerable. I hope you all give it a read.

(I interviewed Lisa a few years ago, and now she has interviewed me! Wheeee!)

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11 Aug
2022

Thomas Edwin Mostyn 

If I were to send out a semi-weekly newsletter about current favorite stuff and things and little tidbits & treasures and such…would you be interested in such a thing? If so, please subscribe below!

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Noriyoshi Shin’s witch target Written by Kazumasa Hirai Kadokawa Shoten 1974

Have you ever come across a piece of art so bold and breathtaking, so heart-stopping and jaw-dropping, that you feel dizzy and faint but also wildly ecstatic and a bit crazed, all at the same time? Perhaps a souçon of le Syndrome Stendahl?

I’m sure I must have, at some point, seen some of Noriyoshi Ohrai’s works; a prolific master illustrator of iconic film posters for movies that we all know and love–Star Wars, Mad Max, Goonies, etc. But somehow he flew under my radar until last month I saw his Godzilla movie posters and frankly, I lost my shit. They are freaking fantastic! So beautifully vivid and detailed, gorgeous and terrifying all at once! More than an artist of poster art approved by George Lucas, Ohrai created thousands of illustrations, usually in the genre of science fiction and special effects films like the Godzilla series, as well as numerous artworks for pulp fiction books and video games.

Elusive and somewhat mysterious, he was known to be an immensely meticulous worker who immersed himself in an incredible amount of research before working on a commissioned piece. It is said that moviegoers would comment that his illustrations of Godzilla looked even more powerful and violent than the real thing. Ohrai passed in 2015, sadly before I had even heard of him. He’s left behind a vast body of work to discover though, and I have been having an absolute blast scouring the internet to see all of it! This post took me a while to put together because I like to be able to share both the artist and give some details about the work itself if only just a title. It took a little digging and a lot of Google Translate, but here are some favorites, below. Please forgive any errors in translation, I tried my best!

 

Movie poster for Godzilla vs Space Godzilla in 1994

 

The Empire Strikes Back

 

for Noriyoshi Shin’s Shingenma Taisen 6 big interlude Tokuma Shoten, published 1983

 

Noriyoshi Shin’s Shingenma Taisen 1 Encounter with the Superconscious Tokuma Shoten, published 1980

 

Godzilla vs. Biollante

 

Noriyoshi Shin Orai’s Shingenma Taisen 4 Messiah Maker Tokuma Shoten, published 1982

 

from BEAUTIES IN MYTH

 

Shin Orai Noriyoshi’s Shingenma Taisen 14 Phantom Book Tokuma Shoten, published 1985

 

from Shin Orai Noriyoshi’s Shingenma Taisen 2 ESP family Tokuma Shoten, published 1982

 

Noriyoshi Shin Orai’s Shingenma Taisen 15 immortal warrior Tokuma Shoten, published 1986

 

poster for Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla (2002)

 

Noriyoshi Shin Ourai’s Shingenma Taisen 8 super medium Tokuma Shoten, published 1982

 

from Noriyoshi Shin Ourai’s Genma Taisen 9 blue darkness Kadokawa Shoten 1981

 

from BEAUTIES IN MYTH

 

from BEAUTIES IN MYTH

 

Godzilla vs King Ghidorah (1991)

 

Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992)

 

Aura Battler Dunbine Roman Album Extra book (poster insert, 1984)

 

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Between the years of 2016-2020 I wrote several reviews of the wildly imaginative aromatic enchantments from visionary indie perfumer Solstice Scents. Sadly, the site which hosted all of these reviews shuttered its bloggy doors last year and so the reviews are no longer available for curious scent-seekers to find and read. I thought that was a shame, so I gave them a new home, here, at Unquiet Things! Below you will find a collection of all of these reviews. I have linked back to the product page on the Solstice Scents site where possible, but please keep in mind that some of these scents are seasonal and not available at the moment…

After The Rain: (Lilac, Wisteria, Blue Lotus, Rain, Green Accord, Wild Violets, Earth) Is a misty watercolor painting of a fragrance, conjuring romantic visions of an elegant lady of the manor looking up from her ledgers to wistfully gaze out at her garden on a cool, rainy morning in early spring. Delicate, purple florals, restrained greenery, and the ghostly tracing of rainwater on a chilled glass windowpane. I wouldn’t quite call this an aquatic, but I hesitate to call to call it a floral. Can we pretend that there is a category of fragrance called “haunting breeze?”

Cameo(Almond, Rose, Yellow Cake, Tonka Bean, Coconut, Ginger and Red Orange) Creamy almond cake batter with rose petals, softly folded in. The oven is still heating and as the kitchen warms, the fragrances of lightly spiced ginger and milky, vanillic coconut waft from the bowl. On my skin, this confection never bakes fully through, and all the notes all remain slightly separate throughout the duration of the scent.

Blossom Jam Tea Cakes(Southern Tea Cakes, Petit Fours, Floral Infused Jams & Preserves and a Delicate Aroma of Tea)  I am not generally a fan of gourmands, but I do know that Solstice Scents always hits the mark with their delectable dessert-influenced fragrances… and though perhaps Blossom Jam Tea Cakes is not–initially– my cup of tea, I can recognize that it’s a lovely portrayal of these dainty tea-time delicacies. Fluffy cakes, jammy preserves, and, later, the rich sweetness of buttercream round out this fragrance. Several hours later I catch whiffs of a plastic-y vanilla from wrist, and that is fine with me; it reminds me of sniffing the heads of my Strawberry Shortcake dolls when I was a little girl, and it’s a comforting reminder that sometime a little sweetness can be a very nice thing.

Chiffon(Vanilla, White Amber, White Musk & Lemon Myrtle EO) At first spray this is LEMON– a bright, tart, enormous face-punch of tangy yellow juice and sour, citric acid. What’s interesting is that it dissipates almost immediately and an airy sweetness emerges, which becomes a whipped cream/marshmallow note as it lingers upon the skin. Chiffon is a “dual concept fragrance” that brings together the sweet and refreshingly tart taste of Lemon Chiffon pie and the wispy beauty of chiffon fabric.

Cliffside Bonfire (Conifers, dry woods, rain, saltwater, seaweed, ambergris (vegan), charred wood, smoke) is a woody, coniferous aquatic fragrance–and before you immediately tune out at “aquatic”, let me assure you that this is not the sort of milquetoast, watery “aquatic” that you may remember from high school in the 90’s, though anecdotally, this does remind me of certain high school experiences. This is dry woods, sea spray-kissed skin, and the barest hint of pine and spruce; I don’t get very much smoke or fire or char from this at all. It vividly recalls for me sunset streaked summer evenings after spending from noon until nightfall at the beach with my freshman year-boyfriend. Skin too hot to the touch from sun and hormones, sand in our hair and on our tongues, salt-tinged kisses and the impatient, inexperienced fumbling at damp swimsuit strings..twenty five years later this perfume causes a sweet, clenching ache, low in my stomach (and a strange, sexy nostalgia for a dude that kind of turned out to be a turd.)

Corvin’s Smoked Apple (Applewood Smoke, Apple, Caramel, Benzoin, Guaiacwood) I  am not a huge fan of apple scents, I guess I’m afraid they’re going to smell like those horrible green apple martinis, which in turn smell like those super gross Jolly Ranchers. And don’t get me wrong–I actually love apples, that is to say, the real thing. I don’t much care for the eating of fruit overall (don’t fear for my health–I love vegetables!) but I have been known to say that the apple is the only fruit worth a damn. So it’s not that I don’t like them! I generally just don’t like apple-scented things; they’re typically a neon, cartoon parody of their true selves. So, knowing this about myself, the sampling, then, of Corvin’s Smoked Apple is such a marvelously wonderful surprise; this is the most sweetly nuanced smoke-scent I have ever encountered: woodsmoke; smoldering apple bits, if you, say, roasted a Honeycrisp over a campfire; the burnt caramelized edges of a brown-sugar-y baked thing, and a touch of earth and detritus from the forest floor that has crept into the flames. Unexpected and utterly delicious.

Desert Thunderstorm (Desert Sage, Pinyon Pine & Resin, Petrichor, Sweetgrass, Creosote Bush, Sand, Ponderosa Pine, Smoke) Richard Thomas explains that many natural dry clays and soils “…evolve a peculiarly characteristic odor when in contact with moisture,” and notes that this odor is particularly prevalent in arid regions and widely associated with the first rains after a period of drought. Thomas, working with partner Joy Bear, discovered a yellowish oil–trapped in rocks and soil but released by moisture–that appeared to be responsible for this smell, and the oil itself came to be named petrichor (from the Greek petra, meaning stone, and ichor, the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology.) This scent of petrichor –the blood of the stone– is the powerful opening blast of Desert Thunderstorm. Steaming gusts of hot stone and earth, upon which beads of moisture dance and sizzle, and release a fizz of aerosols resulting in the scent of wet dirt and minerals. Later, the fragrance of peppery, sun-baked sagebrush and pine’s verdant astringency mingles with the dusty, resinous scent of distant canyon fire and the subtle sweetness of milky, musty sweetgrass. I’ve never spent time meditating in the desert (or any time in any desert at all, actually) but this is precisely how I envision a strange desert journey alone, curling inward with myself and my demons, for a spell of mediation and healing.

Estate Vetiver (Estate Vanilla, Vetiver, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Lime) A perfume for vetiver and patchouli lovers, Estate Vetiver is a dank, dream of a scent that is raw, and narcotic and strange. With this one I smell only what I see in my mind’s eye, which is the damp, rotting splinters of a ship wreck, portentous dark skies and piercing sea breezes, and the lost and vengeful ghosts of two young women haunting a band of rogue pirates. As you can imagine, Estate Vetiver is my favorite among Solstice Scents Spring Collection.

Gibbon’s Mischief Night (Sugar Cookies, Vanilla Frosting, White Chocolate Popcorn, Toasted Marshmallow, Graham Crackers, Gibbon’s Boarding School, Cream Soda, Bourbon, Pear Brand) Having spent a goodly amount of time in the kitchen baking, I can assure you that I know a thing or two about invoking the temptations of a sugary-sweet atmosphere, a beacon to thieving, sweet-toothed bandits everywhere, and their corresponding rotten, sneaky fingers. And also, yes, I know, I began this piece talking about fall feelings and autumnal observations and all that, but, whatever it is that the weather is doing, I cannot overlook that it is, in fact, already the second week of December and these seasonal treats aren’t going to bake themselves! At any rate, the masterminds at Solstice Scents far exceed my admittedly scant expertise when it comes to alerting the tummies to rumble and calling forth the midnight cookie sneaker. The scent’s backstory: “The austere and formidable Gibbon’s Boarding School will be opening its doors for the annual Mischief Night: a night of Halloween costumes, live music, apple bobbing and games of hide-and-seek within its extensive rooms and gardens.” Now, I (sadly) don’t live in Solstice Scents’ fictional town of Foxcraft, nor have I attended anyone’s Mischief Night celebratory revels, but just as with anything else in life–if there’s an abundance of free food, I will accept your invitation. I envision a refreshments table staggering under the weight of a multitude of mouth-watering promises: sugar cookies iced with orange-colored vanilla frosting, popcorn smothered in creamy white chocolate, charming little toasted marshmallow pillows studded with graham cracker crumbles, and vanilla cream soda punch spiked with golden, oaky bourbon and a nip of pear brandy. This enchanting combination of confiture, though it needs no embellishment, is subtly enhanced by the hallowed halls and history of the sprawling brick school, itself. Dry, cracked leather, dusty woodwork, and autumn air round out this complex, gourmand fantasy

Full Dark’s (Amber resin, saffron, black rose, black musk, oud, fossilized amber, leather, smoked amber, spice) opening notes give the impression of a scent both heavy and heady, redolent of resins, rich, earthy leather, and a subtle, animalic note that lends to a musky sweetness as the scent warms on the skin, it’s a scent that somehow leaves me feeling remarkably light-hearted. During my childhood FL summers, we would at least once, usually around the fourth of July, make a visit to our Aunt’s mobile home park. We didn’t see her often, despite the fact that she only lived twenty minutes away (I don’t think she and my mother got along very well), so these trips were a rare treat. We’d spend all day in the lukewarm community pool packed with other kids like us, and their beleaguered parents, and then we’d dine on hot dogs and pretzels for supper, with a bowl of vanilla ice cream for dessert. The kind with the tiny, black vanilla-bean flecks in it–which I had never seen before, and for a 10-year-old kid, seemed pretty exotic. As the sun disappeared for the day, I would sit with my bowl of unadorned dessert–no chocolate syrup for me, thanks– a shabby old towel draped over my head, goose-pimpled and freezing in that remarkably efficient air-conditioning, and flipping through my uncle’s Playboy magazines, which apparently no one thought was weird and for which nobody ever scolded me. Once my swimsuit was no longer sopping wet, I’d step out onto the open carport, where the rest of my family was softly chatting and waiting for fireworks to light up the balmy evening’s shadows. As the chill faded from my small bones, and I drank the sweet, milky remainder of my ice cream from the bowl, I recall idly wondering about future summers and future me and where does it all lead? As the sky came alive, alight with the glittering explosions of infinite possibilities, I took my mother’s slender hand, and I felt her smile down at me in the darkness. Full Dark recalls for me those long ago evenings of warmth and sweetness and inextinguishable wonder.

Gin Flower, pictured above: (Osmanthus, Elderflower, Apricot, Vanilla, Juniper, Lime, Manuka Honey Accord (Vegan), Pear, Citron, Hawaiian Sandalwood) Ok, so if you ever invite me out for a drink, and maybe I step away to powder my nose just as you happen to get the bartender’s attention–you can never go wrong with ordering a stiff gin & tonic for me. Ever since I took a sip of my grandmother’s G&T at the tender age of four and promptly burst into tears (I thought it was a tumbler of ice water!) I’ve been both obsessed and repelled by this crisp, classic cocktail. There’s something about the aromatic, pine-y gin, the bitter quinine of the tonic, and the sour, zesty astringence of that essential twist of lime that has me both “ahhhh-ing” with satisfaction while simultaneously pulling that “blech!” face. Gin Flower is based off a gin and St. Germain elderflower liqueur cocktail and is the first in a series of cocktail perfumes at Solstice Scents. It starts off with a piquant blast of juniper that is immediate and prominent and takes me back to that first quaff of my grandmother’s acrid aperitif, but shortly softens to a citrus-y, honeyed floral and sweet woods that wears very close to the skin.

Gunnerson’s Pumpkin Patch (Leaves, Vines, Autumn Air, Pumpkin Flesh, Lavender, Moss, Balsam, Tonka, Hay, Caramel, Dirt, Patchouli, Mushroom) I’m not sure how to talk about this scent without sounding incredibly morbid, so I have to preface what I am going to say here by telling you that I mean it in the best possible way: Gunnerson’s Pumpkin Patch smells like digging up the corpse of your grandmother in late autumn and sharing a slice of warm pumpkin pie with her. Okay. Well. Maybe not digging up her corpse, that’s a bit extreme. Perhaps picnicking at your granny’s grave? That sounds a little nicer, right? So for starters…although I don’t recall in my lifetime that my grandma often wore Estee Lauder’s Youth Dew– that iconic vintage elixir and rich, balsamic, aldehydic, powerhouse of a perfume– I do have memories of all her jewelry carrying the phantom of its bouquet, and that’s what I smell first in Gunnerson’s Pumpkin Patch: the gauzy, gossamer ghost of its resinous amber/patchouli grandeur. Next, in anticipation of my visit, I have made a pie with the requisite can of Libby’s orange puree, sweetened it with swirls of caramel, and bedecked its glossy surface with fiery-bright maple leaves; I have carried it, still cooling in its aluminum pie pan, through the rusted cemetery gates, late autumn vegetation at my feet, the sun deeply hidden in a sky heavy with clouds. I meet no one along the path to her gravestone, and as the bittersweet spectre of her signature scent mingles with the chilled afternoon air and the buttery steam rising from the crimped pie crust, I kneel, and with quiet reverence, carefully carve two slices.

Headmaster (Apple, bourbon, oak, cedar, pipe tobacco, applewood, amber, spices) opens with ripe, red fruits, the nose-tickling delight of high quality pencil shavings, and a blast of sweetened, unlit pipe tobacco. I imagine the experience of being trapped, as a sullen teenager, at a posh boarding school during the summertime might smell a bit like this; all of your classmates are jetting out to Amalfi or the the French Riviera, but your mother has remarried and is honeymooning in Egypt with her new husband; her final words to you, over a rushed, static-filled overseas phone call were along the lines of, “…garble garble I’m sure you understand, love you darling garble garble see you on Christmas break…!”

There’s a skeleton staff, all of the professors are on break except the creepy one whom no one but you has ever seen (that’s weird, right?) but the cook is very much a real, solid creature–she thinks you’re a dear and makes your favorite treat every night: baked apples en flambé, the secret ingredient being a generous nip of the headmaster’s special bourbon. You savor it at the bottom of the massive staircase every night, spoon in one hand, your other hand languidly sliding along the oaken bannisters, polished smooth by the hands of all of the young ladies over the years who have attended this strange institution. The golden glow of the setting sun glimmers through the ornate stained glass set into building’s solid front doors, and between the dust motes dancing in the amber light, vague shapes begin to take form, swirling and eddying, coalescing into an almost-human shaped cloud. You rub your eyes, sleepily, and the vision is gone.

Loggia (Mahogany, Amber, Musk, Vanilla Bean, Allspice, Cardamom, Black Pepper, Cognac & Sandalwood) Imagine the poshest, most polished home you’ve ever been invited to, recall the awe you felt traversing its passageways and the illicit delight you felt at peeking in every doorway and chest of drawers, and that may give you a minute inkling of Loggia’s appeal. Conjure the memory of those opulent wooden doors with their exacting filigree details; creamy white European linen draped on tables whose construction may be older than the country in which you’re currently living; an enormous, roaring fireplace where exotic woods crackle and blaze merrily; a silvery, bright kitchen from which the most ambrosial aromas drift, sparking visions of delicacies and confections the likes of which you, you poor sod, have never before experienced. An elegant glass snifter with a generous pour of deep amber liquid shimmers in the firelight. (You’re too young to drink that, but you’re quite certain it tastes of clover honey and sweet tea and vanilla wafers, and it will make you feel giddy and giggly and important and maybe a little sad.) Have you ever been to such a place? Have I? Or have I only read of it in books, or dreamed it?

Master Bedroom (Soft Skin Musk, Sandalwood EO, Amber, Clove EO, Somalian Myrrh EO, Vanilla, Aged Patchouli EO and Champaca Absolute.) Delicate musks and airy vanilla, powders and lotions; this is, at first, the scent of warmed skin after a perfumed bath. The dampness from the tub, toweled tenderly, then softly massaged with fragrant oils, and finally wrapped in a silken robe redolent of the resins and incenses that had been stored nearby. A soft, spicy clove component, along with a strangely unidentifiable grassy/woody dried floral note, round out this cozy scent that is the very definition of an evening of self-care.

Midnight Marquee (Black Musk, Gasoline, Supple Leather, Earth, Tobacco, Moss, Leaves, Foxcroft Air, Vanilla Musk) makes me think of a noir-esque episode of your favorite contemporary television series (remember when they did that with Pretty Little Liars? P.S. are you a PLL fan? Let’s chat!) It’s as if a black and white filter has been draped over what might otherwise be a creamy, sarsaparilla-y vanilla musk, lending it an air of melodrama and intrigue. The gasoline and leather ride in, circling, bold, intimidating, at first, but then settle down and combine with the sweet, earthy tobacco and moss to create a gorgeously atmospheric, full-bodied femme fatale of a scent.

Mountain Vanilla(Sweet Clover, Coumarin, Vanilla Musk, Fresh Green Accord, Poplar Buds, Morning Dew) Described as  “…a coumarin-heavy scent with vanilla and light green elements,” Mountain Vanilla is…not the vanilla that I thought it was going to be! I guess that’s what I get for not reading the full description until just now. Coumarin, if you are wondering, is described as smelling of new-mown hay–and there is definitely a warm, sweetly herbaceous aspect to this fragrance. Don’t be put off by the opening notes, which smelled aggressively chemical to my nose for a few moments; it’s a stinging tang that burns off quickly before those grassy vanilla notes and subtle green nuances materialize. I don’t think I’ve ever smelled anything quite like it; it really does evoke imagery of an Appalachian meadow brimming with sweet clover and dew-dappled ferns and the soft musk of a Bambi or two.

Postprandial (Vanilla, Irish Cream, Coffee, Chocolate, Bourbon, Pipe Tobacco) is a dark gourmand fragrance, an evening’s libation incorporating a medley of liqueurs, among them sweet, creamy vanilla, and woody, oak-heavy bourbon, and which contains a true cacao absolute and an organic dark roast coffee tincture. An ice-cold thimbleful of this boozy draught is a nightcap more potent than you might initially realize–so guide your midnight spritzes accordingly, and prepare for the sweetest of midsummer dreams.

Russian Caravan (Amber, smoked black tea, leather, pine resin, Earth, smoke, black currant, black pepper) is an impressively leather-forward scent. I don’t own any leather jackets, but I’ve smelled a great many of them (I’ve lived next door to the annual Bike Week revelries in Daytona Beach for most of my life, after all) but rather than stinking of sleazy bars and unwashed summer bodies, this is a lovely, worn-in leather that smells of an early June trek through forest greenery, a soft, piney astringency mixed with the tart sweetness of woodland berry bushes. And no hike is complete without a flask of lapsang souchong tucked into your pocket, right? (Wait, is that not a thing?) The fragrance of this dark, smoky tea takes a backseat to the other notes, but is a dry, peppery constant woven throughout

Sacred Vow (Vanilla, Amber, Bay Rum, Sandalwood, Oak, Patchouli, Vetiver, Saffron, and Lime)<–I don’t know if these notes are accurate, so I will update if I find anything different! There is something delightfully old-fashioned feeling about Sacred Vow, and I mean that in the most beautiful way possible, not in the “ew this smells like old lady” sense that you sometimes see mentioned on perfume reviewing forums. Ahem. Warm, spicy, and resinous, Sacred Vow is an amber-focused Oriental blend with the faintest trace of floral notes. With its heart of bay rum and amber, touches of oak, vetiver, and jasmine, it reminds me very much of my late grandmother’s bottle of Youth Dew by Estée Lauder; her small, mirrored tray of compacts and lipsticks, and a velvet-lined, mother of pearl jewelry box that held all of her sparkling costume jewelry–all of these luxuries specific to her rituals of beautification smelled softly of Youth Dew’s heady glamour. A strange, witches brew of balsamic resins, amber’s golden glow, and soft, powdery vanilla.

Sea Of Gray (Vanilla rain, saltwater, seaweed, ambergris (vegan), white amber, roasted seashells, white sandalwood, frangipani) The concept behind this scent is that you’re strolling along the beach and as tide rolls in, the sky darkens and the first drops of rain begin to fall, you take refuge in a nearby ice cream parlor. I would take this one step further; this is a seaside ice cream shoppe in Innsmouth, and you’re on a date with of its fish-people denizens. This is not to say that Sea of Gray is a fishy scent, but there is more than a hint of murky dankness upon initial application, and, if only for a moment, you’re swept away in scents of sand, sedge-grass, and stunted shrubbery that gives way to crumbling houses and their repellent inhabitants, and a feeling of overall disquiet and decay. This feeling passes as soon as you cross the threshold into the cool, bright interior of the frozen dessert establishment; the cheery clanking of small metal spoons gently scraping faceted sundae glasses and the soft, vanillic aroma of cold, creamy confections lulls you into a feeling of well being as you glimpse the sun peeking out from behind the clouds again, and all that’s left of your brush with the murky seaside secrets of that shadowed port town is the salt-spray on your skin. Your fishy paramour is nowhere to be seen.

Travelers (Amber, Clove, Frankincense Smoky), spicy, and sweet–the camphorous clove is nicely tempered by the warm amber and the cool, resinous frankincense and I can’t help but to think this a perfect fragrance for summer time ren faires with your beardiest, dorkiest, D&D-est friends. Or maybe *you* are that friend, which makes the fragrance even more perfect! It immediately conjures imagery of drum circles and mead and mesmerizing bosoms popping out of their corsets and a man with a cloak and a feather in his cap who repeatedly calls you “mi’lady”. I just went to a ren faire two months ago, so this is all very fresh in my mind. By the end of the day I smelled like goats and pickle barrels; I could have really used some Travelers right then.

Wilcox’s (Dry Woods, Fresh Herbs, Dried Herbs, Warm Woody Spices, Sweet Annie, Sage, Rosewood) The first time I wore Wilcox’s I was surprised; it smelled, initially, of the cool gloom of a crypt–that damp, earthen, mineral smell that conjures quiet meditations on mortality in the solitude of cold, stone chambers. I don’t know that it ever warms up on my skin, but it evolves into a wonderfully soft, compassionate scent: gentle chamomile and sweet, woody nutmeg, the sort of aromas that may waft from an uncorked phial, tipped gently past your lips while a leathery, bright-eyed acorn of a woodwitch murmurs, “just a drop, dearie!”

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