The Art of Darkness

NASA Scarves

August 13th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Witch Head NebulaDesigner Celine Semaan Vernon has created a line of gorgeous organic silk scarves and clothing using open-sourced images from NASA’s Hubble Telescope.

Everything is consciously made in collaboration with craftspeople using sustainable practices: Our natural fabrics are sourced from a socially and environmentally responsible company in India, and each limited edition piece is handcrafted in Montreal and New York from NASA’s open data collection of satellite images.

These are the perfect intersection of “goth” and “geek” because many of the photos are nebulas like the Witch Head (pictured above), the Tarantula, the Caterpillar, and the Cat’s Eye.

In addition to astronomical images there are designs based around high-altitude photos of sea ice, lava flows, and plankton blooms. There’s also a neat series of “cities by night,” showing London, Paris, and New York all lit up in the dark.

The collection really is lovely, and is a splendid, subtle way to let your geek flag fly.

(via Laughing Squid)

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Modest Urns

August 6th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Modest UrnNovelty purveyor Archie McPhee has just released its “modest urn;” an inexpensive cremains repository for the thrifty.

Everybody has a cheap relative and death can be expensive. You know when they die they’d be mad at you if you spent thousands of dollars on a fancy urn! That’s why we made our Modest Urn for the frugal. This metal can, which mysteriously resembles a coffee can, comes with a sticker sheet so you can customize it for the deceased. It’s 5″ tall, 4″ diameter and has a volume of 62.8 cubic inches. In addition, there’s a reusable interior metal seal and an exterior plastic cap to keep the ash from falling out. Includes a fill-in-the-blanks eulogy for easy mourning.

The coffee-can resemblance is more than accidental; the urn is labeled “Hallowed Grounds.” They also have a pet version bearing the legend, “Freshly Roasted.” The backs of the urns also have an Ingredients label listing the contents as “Dearly Departed” and “Beloved Companion” respectively.

Here’s their promotional video:

If the deceased had a sense of humor, this would be sort of an awesome receptacle for their ashes. You could also just use it to store coffee and make guests vaguely nervous.

(Hat tip to Pixel Pixie)

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Moth Mail

July 15th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Moth MailFabulous commenter xJane belongs to the Letter Writer’s Alliance, a “member based organization dedicated to keeping the art of letter writing alive,” which means she writes physical letters with pen and paper like some kind of savage. If you have similar recidivistic tendencies, the LWA is a fantastic resource for all things correspondence-y; they offer interesting workshops, promote local events, and even provide a clearinghouse for finding a pen-pal. However, even if you’re an inveterate e-mailer, the site is worth checking out.

The LWA offers a number of exclusive products to its members (and at a mere $5 for a lifetime membership, it’s certainly a good deal), but also has a few items for sale to the public. One of these is the glorious Moth Mail set, themed around the (mythical) Stellate Moth.

Stay up late and write letters. We’ve harnessed the power of the Stellate Moth to deliver your insomnia-driven musings. Our eclipse of moths has been trained to serve as letter carriers through the ingenious scientific manipulation of naturally occurring soporific pheromones.

This carefully packaged set comes with:
• six handmade lunar envelopes
• a rubber cancellation stamp as large as a Stellate Moth’s wingspan (3.5″x1″)
• twelve artistamps that follow the moon phase
• Stellate Moth field notes, as written by our expert, in-house lepidopterist Dr. Shoggoth.
• paper model of a Stellate Moth

The phase of the moon during which you order your set purportedly affects the type of stamps you receive: Black for the new moon; white for full; and a combination of both black and white for waxing/waning moons.

The LWA blog has a “behind the curtain” post about the making of the package, with closeup photos of some of the elements. It really is lovely, and even if you don’t write letters it’d make a wonderful display piece or gift (you have to admit that night creature-themed stationery is pretty darn gothy).

The public-facing site has some other amusing items, like the Pigeon Post “envelope” (send someone the gift of mild perplexity!) and a small selection of free downloads; I expect there are more available to members.

The LWA is an arm of 16 Sparrows (“Sarcasm folded in half”), and that shop is also worth a look. I particularly like their Blood Money stationery and Misanthropic Calling Cards.

(Thanks, xJane!)

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The Wonder Room

July 3rd, 2014 by Cobwebs

Stonehenge TerrariumIntrepid commenter Sisifo pointed me to this Etsy shop full of “terrarium-style” dioramas.

As a child, artist Tony Larson was heavily influenced by the special effects of Industrial Light and Magic, Ray Harryhausen, and similar movie magicians, and grew up to create miniature “worlds of wonder” to display. His miniature vignettes are lovely little glimpses into fantasy worlds, depicting ancient ruined statues, fairy landscapes, and lost worlds.

The materials he uses are all either artificial or dried, so the landscape won’t change, but it might also be fun to do something similar with real plants. If you’re handy with polymer clay you could sculpt your own ruined towers, gravestones, ancient idols, or other interesting features. If not, pre-made miniatures abound; take a look at model train hobby sites as well as dollhouse miniature suppliers for various scales.

You can either make the miniature the focus of the piece–perhaps a temple slowly being reclaimed by the jungle–or tuck them away in the foliage to be stumbled upon; something like a dinosaur skull weathering out of the ground or a fairy staircase hidden behind a fern could suggest a much larger story that the detail only hints at.

This kind of desktop ornament would make a splendid gift, particularly if customized to the recipient’s interests. This is also a gift that can be made well in advance, since it’ll give the plants time to settle in and look more cohesive.

(Thanks, Sisifo!)

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Canary Suicides

June 24th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Canary SuicideThe Canary Suicides (a.k.a. “Tiny Demises”) are a series of assemblage pieces by artist/taxidermist Catherine Coan. They’re macabre little dioramas featuring suicidal canaries, and each contains “money, a suicide note, a pet owned by the resident canary, and unique surprises.”

They’re marvelously detailed, with loads of miniatures setting the scene, each housed in a vintage-y birdcage which complements the interior. (The canaries, incidentally, while real, are birds which have died of natural causes, obtained from a reliable breeder.) One of my favorites is Contact, which tells a whole story with just a few details.

There are a few pieces in the gallery still for sale, and she also does commissions. There’s no mention of pricing, so I have no idea how much of a splurge a dead canary of your very own might be.

Coan also has a Facebook page where she shares lots of amusing stuff, including some of her non-canary taxidermy. I adore her You Are Unique in All the World hyrax.

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Addams Family Papercraft

May 27th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Papercraft MansionWell, this is très adorable.*

Papercraft artist Alan Ronay creates teensy little paper replicas of famous TV interiors: The apartment from I Love Lucy, the house from The Golden Girls, and this, the Addams Family mansion.

He’s gone to great lengths to match fine detail, even noting that he used a slightly purple tint “to give it that 1960s CRT nostalgia feel.” Some of the model’s highlights include:

– You can see the shadow of Kitty Kat, the family lion, coming down the stairs.
– A portrait of Gomez’s business partner is hanging on the wall.
– Pierre the moose is hanging on the wall over the fireplace.
– Thing is popping out of a box on the harpsichord.
– Morticia’s peacock chair.
– Cousin Farouk is hanging on the wall.
– A copy of TV Guide with the Addams Family on the cover.

It even includes standee cutouts of Gomez, Morticia, Lurch, and Cousin Itt (although there’s no explanation of why the other characters were excluded).

He’s selling the model, fully assembled, for $345, but you can also buy a downloadable DIY version for $7.95. Even if you don’t have the patience to carefully cut out and assemble the full kit, it seems to me that certain elements would be fantastic incorporated into artwork or party invitations. You could also print out a bunch of single easy-to-assemble pieces like Thing and his box to include in goodie bags.

It’s a nice-looking kit, and if you’ve already cut your teeth on papercraft projects like the ones at RavensBlight and are ready to move up, this looks like it would be a fun project.

(via Geyser of Awesome)


*Tish! That’s French!

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Horror in Clay

May 22nd, 2014 by Cobwebs

Cthulhu Tiki MugCthulhu was an ocean-going sort of critter, so if you ignore the fact that Innsmouth is just a teensy bit too far north to be tropical a themed tiki mug sounds like a perfect fit. Horror in Clay is there to make it happen for you.

The shop (which, incidentally, takes its name from the title of the first chapter of Call of Cthulhu) got its start when tiki-and-Lovecraft fan Jonathan Chaffin commissioned a Cthulhu tiki mug from sculptor Kristina Lucas Francis. Response to the mug was so positive that Chaffin decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign to produce a run for sale. That was so positive (the goal was $12,500 and it received nearly $80,000 from backers) that it spawned a whole shop.

They’ve recently finished up another Kickstarter for the Innsmouth Fogcutter, with an in-the-round design depicting a pretty tropical diver’s transformation into a Lovecraftian fishwoman. The mug also bears the logo of the fictional Gilman House Hotel, a nice touch.

The shop also carries a bunch of other great barware and accessories: Check out their Pickman’s Cove collection for tentacly swizzle sticks, jiggers, and bar spoons.

Their blog is a tad sparse–only 9 posts over the course of a year–but is worth a glance for a couple of posts discussing tropical drinks, including their recipe for their signature cocktail, “Cthulhu Waits Dreaming.” The amounts provided in the linked recipe are for a party-size 5 gallons; I did a little digging and found a much more reasonable single-serving recipe from an interview Chaffin did with Mr. Booze:

2 oz gold rum
dash of dark rum
1/2 oz brandy
1/4 tsp absinthe
1/2 oz cinnamon syrup*
1/2 oz orgeat syrup
2 oz grapefruit juice
juice of 1/2 small lemon
5 dashes Angostura bitters
fresh seawater

Begin by rinsing your Cthulhu vessel with fresh seawater. If you happen to be trapped inland, you can use 1/2 tbs sea salt dissolved in a cup of water instead. Then, in a shaker, combine all the other ingredients over ice. Shake and strain into the Cthulhu vessel over crushed ice. Chant “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn” over the top before drinking. After a few of these, Cthulhu may well return.

*To make the cinnamon syrup: Crush 3 cinnamon sticks and place in a saucepan with 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Lower the heat and simmer for 2 minutes, then remove from heat and let steep for 2 hours. Strain and bottle. Keeps for a month in the fridge.

A Lovecraftian Luau sounds like a fine idea–you could even serve octopus or squid for extra tentacly authenticity–and the tiki mugs would be a marvelous starting point.

Bonus Link: When I went looking for the cocktail recipe I found the Call of Cthulhu, which isn’t the same recipe but it’s both tropical and highly decorative.

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Uncommon Dragon Hoards

May 15th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Hoard of CheeseSmaug was an amateur: Like many other fairytale dragons he hoarded boring things like gold and jewels. Artist Lauren Dawson depicts dragons with much more interesting tastes.

After she posted her first set of uncommon dragon hoards, she started receiving commission requests for dragons with other peculiar interests. She’s cataloging them here and they’re all utterly charming.

She doesn’t currently sell prints, which makes me endlessly sad, because not only would the stuffed animal-hoarding dragon be perfect for decorating a child’s room, I know a few people who might benefit from the gift of a dragon who hoards yarn or teacups. On the bright side, she does take commissions and her prices are really quite reasonable: A dragon of your very own will apparently run around $40 (she’s backlogged at the moment, and no wonder). She also offers a range of other options, from sketches to full paintings.

I’m endlessly taken with the whimsical quality of her drawings, and would like several of her dragons to be my friends.

(via io9)

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Artist Andre Lassen

April 24th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Bat DeskYour mind had better give me cab fare, because I’m about to blow it.

Intrepid commenter Pixel Pixie pointed me at Raven Armoury, which sells all sorts of amazing hand-forged swords, knives, jewelry, and sculptures. Specifically, she mentioned the gorgeous (and, it pretty much goes without saying, insanely expensive), skeleton cutlery that they offer. Although made by Raven, the pieces were designed by Andre Lassen, so I checked out his site and whoa, Nelly; we have found a kindred spirit.

In his bio he describes growing up being fascinated by arms and weaponry; at ten years old, a movie about the French Revolution inspired him to make model (working) guillotines. He’s friends with H.R. Giger and has fabricated pieces that Giger designed. He now owns The Tribe Gallery in Amsterdam, and sells his work there (and possibly takes commissions online as well; the site is a little unclear).

The site, to engage in riotous understatement, is a little hard to navigate. It’s worth persevering, though, because he has some insanely gorgeous stuff: Sculptures, knives and swords, jewelry, guitars (one of which Blondie played), and furniture. His overall style, including the decorative detailing on his weapons, puts me in mind of Conan-era Frazetta, with overtones of Lovecraft.

In particular, check out the gallery for his hand-carved wooden bat desk and matching chair. It has shot to the very top of my list of things I’ll own if I ever win the lottery.

Also worth a look is the “Film” section of his portfolio, which has a bunch of in-progress pictures for props that he built. They’d be a great source of inspiration for props or crafting.

(Thanks, Pixel Pixie!)

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Bluephone Studios

April 16th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Crocheted DinosaurWe’ll pause for a moment to let the utter squee-ness of this image fully wash over you.

Now then.

Talented fiber artist Kelsey creates ridiculously adorable little crocheted critters, including snakes, jellyfish, and various dinosaurs (I think my very favorite are the triceratops). She posts about them and her other artwork on Tumblr and sells them in her Etsy shop, where she also offers a small selection of patterns. I love how blorpy and winsome they all look.

One Halloween* she teamed up with graphic designer Hannah Eaton to present a trio of adorable little portmanteau monsters: The colorful Batterfly, three-headed Tortoisnail, and serene Owlpaca. They’ve sadly long since sold out, but the photos are still an excellent source of inspiration.

I’m not sure if she does custom patterns or not–the site isn’t clear on that point–but I’d love to see a little spider or bat done in this style.

In any case, if you’re a fan of crocheting and/or amigurumi, the site is a great idea resource. So cute.


*Holy carp do I hate Tumblr. Not only is there never an “About” page–I only know this artist’s name because she happens to mention it on Etsy–but none of the posts have dates. So I don’t know offhand which Halloween this was. Just…some Halloween.

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