The Art of Darkness

Origami Bat

July 16th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Origami BatFabulous commenter Pixel Pixie pointed me to these instructions for making a very cool origami bat. (I commented that I wondered if the folds would be suitable for a fancy dinner napkin and she replied, “One way to find out: vampire dinner party. BOOM.” I like the way she thinks.)

This particular fold is a little bit fiddly, but it’s fairly realistic as origami goes; many of the simpler designs are sort of, “It’s a bat! Or maybe a crane! Would you believe a pigeon?” However, it’s not so complicated as to be completely beyond the amateur origami-ist, so with a little practice you should be able to turn out flappy paper bats on demand. A miniature one would make a cute brooch.

Upon closer examination I’d say it’s definitely too detailed for a napkin fold, but fortunately googling “origami bat” turns up loads of easier designs: This one is nice (although the napkin would have to be pretty stiffly starched), and these look especially straightforward. A couple of others worth noting (probably a tad too complicated for napkins) are the flapping patty bat and this compact design.

The same search also turned up this list of Halloween-themed origami, so you can expand into folded ghosts, witches, spiders, and even tombstones. Some of these would make really interesting placecards or gift toppers, and since all you need is a piece of paper you can practice your craft nearly anywhere.

(Thanks, Pixel Pixie!)

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Seven Deadly Sins Mosaic

June 26th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Notre Dame Mosaic

If you’ve been looking for a new cross-stitch or similar artwork idea, check these out. The fogbound site recently posted this set of images taken at the Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière in Lyon, France. They’re mosaics representing the seven deadly sins, plus an additional reptilian critter with the legend Vade Retro Satana (“Get thee behind me, Satan”).

There’s a set of photos of the same mosaics (minus the Satan one) on Wikimedia Commons; the resolution is a little higher on those, but the colors seem a bit washed out.

These would be splendid patterns for cross-stitch, beading, or (if you’re particularly ambitious) quilting. There are several online converters which will translate photographs into patterns: MyPhotoStitch, Pic 2 Pat, PictureCraftwork, and Stitchboard will all allow you to upload a photo for conversion, either for free or (if the stitch count is above a certain size) for a small fee. You can google “cross stitch pattern converter” for others.

A set of cross-stitched sins would look great on framed a wall or even used to decorate throw pillows. You could also choose your favorite sin to decorate everything from book covers to pocket patches.

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Dark Side University

June 17th, 2014 by Cobwebs

DraculaIf you have any free time and value its continued existence, you’d probably better skip this post.

Venerable goth internet fixture Dark Side of the Net has recently branched out into a goth-centric online university which teaches free classes with titles like, “History 103: The Life and Work of Edward Gorey,” “Horticulture 101: Gothic Gardening,” and “Mythology 102: Dark Goddesses.”

Dark Side University is a goth community offering free classes on gothic, horror, vampiric, and Halloween topics. You don’t get credit or a grade, just the fun of learning new things and discussing dark topics alongside other cool people from the subculture.

Our instructors are knowledgeable, passionate people who donate their time to share information with students.

The site is a trove of resources and fascinating subject matter, and provides several avenues for interacting with like-minded people. Particularly nice, of course, is that geographic boundaries are no limitation for this type of study.

If you have passion for some particular aspect of goth culture and want to share your knowledge, the university is also looking for instructors. The position is unpaid, but it’s a fantastic opportunity to connect with others who share your interests and value your contributions. You can view information about that here (requires registration/login). They’re particularly looking for “practical” instruction with real-life applications: Goth-oriented sewing or baking tips, how to get one’s horror stories published, and ways to promote and manage a festival or other event.

My single quibble about the setup, and it’s a relatively minor one, is that everything beyond the front page requires registration. (Additionally, the registration has to be approved by a human being so signup is not instantaneous.) I can understand things like the forums and classroom areas not being open to the public, but I would expect the FAQs and possibly the base course descriptions to be more accessible. Since the university is hosted on Ning, I’m going to assume that’s a limitation of the platform itself.

The university also has a Facebook presence which posts news about upcoming classes and shares interesting gothy tidbits.

(via Cat)

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Martha Stewart Looking for “Monster-Makers and Fairy-Fabricators”

June 4th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Martha StewartMartha Stewart is looking for students and/or recent grads for “a special opportunity to help create Martha’s 2014 Halloween costume.”

Do you love Halloween? Do you have the creative vision, design, and production skills to make a costume for Martha to rival her best? If you’re a current student or recent graduate in art, costume design, fashion design, or a related field, and you think you’ve got what it takes, we want to hear from you.

There really aren’t any details beyond that blurb, and there’s a catch in the fine print at the bottom: “If you are selected, you must be willing to travel to New York City for several days (which may be nonconsecutive) in the months of July and/or August (as scheduled by Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia), at your own expense.”

However, if travel to New York isn’t a problem–you could work it into a vacation, if you’re from out of town–this could be a really interesting opportunity. It would certainly look good on a resume.

The sign-up form is here. To give you an idea of what she’s looking for, a gallery of costumes she’s showcased in the past is here. In general she features costumes made with materials that aren’t difficult or expensive to acquire, and which don’t require advanced skills to put together; they are, after all, intended to be DIY-able by her audience.

If you meet the criteria and can conjure a costume from common materials, this is definitely worth checking out. There’s no deadline listed on the form, but from the legal wording it looks like things will kick off on July 18, so presumably they’ll cut off registration at least a couple of weeks before that date to decide on a winner. Best to sign up ASAP.

(via Cult of the Great Pumpkin)

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Paper and Salt

February 25th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Shelley and KaleWhat a neat idea to hang a site on: Paper and Salt seeks to re-create (and sometimes reinterpret) “dishes that iconic authors discuss in their letters, diaries and fiction.” Nicole, the site’s author, describes it as, “part historical discussion, part food and recipe blog, part literary fangirl-ing.”

It’s a fascinating look at authors, the edibles with which they were familiar, and their eating habits. A recent post about Mary Shelley, for instance, points out that Modern Superfood kale used to be a common comfort food. The entry includes a yummy-sounding kale-and-egg tartine which would be a lovely breakfast dish.

The site’s archives are broken out by both recipe category and time period, so you can browse the 18th Century and find a molten chocolate cake inspired by the Marquis de Sade or look through Drinks for Edgar Allan Poe’s eggnog.

Some of the relationships between author and recipe seem rather thin (“Jane Austen once mentioned cheesecake, so here’s a custard tart“), but the mini-history lessons more than make up for it.

There are the makings of an interesting themed dinner party here as well: A meal with each course inspired by a different author. It’d be fun to start with a soup mentioned by Bram Stoker and end with a Stephen King-inspired dessert.

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Semi Sweet Designs

February 20th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Skull CookiesClear your schedule before clicking any of these links, because you’re going to be browsing for a while.

I discovered Semi Sweet Designs a couple of days before Valentine’s Day, when ThinkGeek pointed to these awesome Star Trek Valentine Cookies. It turns out that those were just the tip of the frosting-covered iceberg.

The site is the brainchild of Mike, an aerospace engineer who discovered cookie art a couple of years ago when he was looking for a unique gift idea for a friend. He notes that he is, “constantly imaging ways to turn my love of TV, Sci-Fi movies, and pop culture into cookie form,” and from the stuff he’s created I’d say he’s succeeding admirably: When he isn’t making Game of Thrones-inspired dragon eggs, he’s ringing in the new year with steampunk gauges.

There are loads of Halloweeny projects, from elegant fall leaf cupcake toppers to spooky skulls-with-candles sugar cookies. He includes plenty of recipes and step-by-step instructions, plus great tips like adding ghosts to any cookie.

Some of the designs are (obviously) detailed and time-consuming, which makes me wonder about the possibility of making them from polymer clay and turning them into pendants, brooches, or even Christmas tree ornaments. Faux sugar cookies seem to be a fairly widespread thing, and there are plenty of tutorials which provide tips on materials and techniques.

Do check out the site; his enthusiasm is infectious, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself surrounded by sugar cookies in the near future.

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Disney Villain Cocktails

February 18th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Sea Witch

Mixologist “Cody” of has created a collection of Disney character-themed cocktails: Several princesses and heroes, sure, but also plenty of villains. There are photos of many of his concoctions, along with their inspiration, at Incredible Things and more on his Facebook page.

I love how well he’s matched the colors and garnishes to the characters: The “Hades Hatred” is black, blue, and on fire; the “Grand Vizier” is crowned with a piece of orange peel reminiscent of Jafar’s staff; and the “Sea Witch,” well, just look at it.

He’s working with Tipsy Bartender to create how-to videos of each of the drinks, but until then the ingredients listed on each cocktail should be enough to get you started.

These could be the basis of a fun themed cocktail party; you could also make “virgin” versions using fruit juice or food coloring for a kid’s party.

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Interesting Party Idea

February 6th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Just throwing this out here because it’s a cool idea and I don’t know what else to do with it:

Last year webcomic artist Kate Leth (site NSFW) threw a party with the theme of “Elseworlds: Come As Yourself From A Different Timeline.”

Elseworlds is an imprint of DC Comics which presents stories that take place outside of canon, placing existing characters in alternate realities or imaginary stories which don’t impact the “real” continuity; one example is Gotham by Gaslight, which featured a Victorian-era Batman fighting Jack the Ripper.

The party idea is sort of brilliant, and so many things could be done with it. I love the idea of, instead of coming as somebody else, you come as yourself…who happens to be somebody else. There are a zillion science fiction stories which explore what the world would be like if major historical events had worked out differently: What if Hitler hadn’t gone into politics (The Iron Dream)? What if the South had won the American Civil War (Bring the Jubilee)? And so on. This party would instead focus on what might have happened in your own personal timeline if things had worked out differently.

The changes could be major (What if the Axis had won WWII?) or minor (What if you’d chosen a different major in college?) but in either case you’d want to think about how those things would have impacted you personally and what that “other” you would be like. You certainly don’t have to confine yourself to current reality; you could also consider what things would be like if witchcraft really worked or if we’d recently made first contact with aliens.

Depending upon how you wanted to theme the party, you could either ask your guests to choose whatever alternate reality they wanted and then explain who their alternate self is, or give them the parameters of your other timeline (“We live in a world where vampires really exist,” or “Columbus was lost at sea, the empires in South America flourished, and eventually their sailors discovered Europe”) and ask them to come as whoever they think they would be in those different circumstances.

A “Come As You Aren’t” party is a refreshing change from standard costume parties, and the theme possibilities are limitless. This will definitely be on my shortlist of party ideas.

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Incredible Image Resource

January 30th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Image from British LibraryThe British Library has released over a million images onto Flickr Commons, free for any use. They’re hoping to crowdsource the image descriptions, making them easier to search, and are asking for help.

In a post titled A Million First Steps, project director Ben O’Steen announced:

We have released over a million images onto Flickr Commons for anyone to use, remix and repurpose. These images were taken from the pages of 17th, 18th and 19th century books digitised by Microsoft who then generously gifted the scanned images to us, allowing us to release them back into the Public Domain. The images themselves cover a startling mix of subjects: There are maps, geological diagrams, beautiful illustrations, comical satire, illuminated and decorative letters, colourful illustrations, landscapes, wall-paintings and so much more that even we are not aware of.

Which brings me to the point of this release. We are looking for new, inventive ways to navigate, find and display these ‘unseen illustrations’. The images were plucked from the pages as part of the ‘Mechanical Curator’, a creation of the British Library Labs project. Each image is individually addressible, online, and Flickr provides an API to access it and the image’s associated description.

The full photosteam is here. This is an amazing resource for all sorts of art projects. There are vintage zoological woodcuts and illustrations from fairy tales and religious memento mori and loads and loads (indeed, more than a million) other interesting images. You can volunteer to help tag and describe them, or just raid the repository for your own use. Great stuff.

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Costumer’s Fantasy Vacation

January 28th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Trystan (of Gothic Martha Stewart fame) is a costumer of some note, and has a brilliant idea for an offbeat vacation: Get together with a group of friends, rent a historical home, and dress in period costume for a couple of weeks. So far she’s done Blo Norton in the U.K., Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, and Chateau de Pys in France.

She stresses that these trips do not require enormous amounts of money and time to accomplish, so they’re within the realm of possibility for us normal folks. She’s written a how-to guide for planning a similar vacation (it was done for the online costuming magazine “Your Wardrobe Unlock’d” and requires a subscription to read, but access is only $5.97 for the first month and the back issues should make that cost worthwhile).

There’s also a documentary about the Blo Norton trip, available on DVD. Here’s a trailer:

If you’re a history or costuming buff, this would be a fascinating way to engage in a little faux time travel with like-minded friends. You could content yourself with dressing the part or go even further and try to live the period: Cooking from historical recipes, using only candles or oil lamps for light, and so forth. (I’d recommend drawing the line at the use of chamber pots.)

Bonus link: Check out Trystan’s 18th Century Queen of Hearts.

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