The Art of Darkness

Anti-Valentine’s Day Party

January 21st, 2016 by Cobwebs

Voodoo PincushionThat Holiday is coming up soon, and Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena has the cure:

Valentine’s Day does not have to be the most dreaded holiday of your year anymore. Stop by after 7pm and join us for our Anti-Valentine’s Day party. Make your own voodoo doll, swap stories of dates gone wrong, and enjoy a little food and drink!

This would also be a fun party theme to try at home: Supply your guests with the materials to create their own voodoo doll pincushion and let them decorate as desired.

The photo above is Valentine, the patron saint of “romance-resisting, Hallmark-hating, Cupid-cursing folks everywhere.” He was originally featured on a site called IndieSpotting, which sadly seems to be as dead as chivalry, but fortunately WonderHowTo has a materials list and a copy of the original pattern. There aren’t any instructions, but the photo makes it reasonably clear how it should all go together: Sew buttons on one of the body sections and then add a stitched mouth and a few “scars.” Stitch the two heart pieces in place, then blanket-stitch the two body sections together and stuff with fiberfill. If you’ve never worked with felt before, Lit’l Brown Bird’s Ideas has instructions for basic hand stitching, and you can find lots of tutorials by searching “DIY felt toys” (look at this adorable felt clam!)

Serve conversation heart sugar cookies with messages like “Drop Dead” or “Meh.” Make Stupid Cupid cocktails with extra bitters. Play a party mixtape like I Hate Valentine’s Day or have a movie marathon featuring Fatal Attraction, What Lies Beneath, and My Bloody Valentine.

If you want to be a little more ambitious and throw a dinner party, start with a salad featuring chopped hearts of palm and artichoke hearts. The main course could be jerked chicken or back-stabbing shish kebab (for extra points, shape your favorite meatball recipe into little hearts, bake or fry as usual, then serve on skewers as “shots through the heart.”) Finish up with chocolate skulls (linking more for the shape rather than the recipe, since I’m still not sure how I feel about chocolate-covered bacon).

Send your guests home with tainted love soap or a broken heart pendant. Much more satisfying than pink rosebuds and lace.

Posted in Paint It Black | 2 Comments »


November 17th, 2015 by Cobwebs

CatloafUK confectioner Lou Lou P’s Delights recently decided to take the common feline paws-tucked-under “catloaf” pose and turn it into the real thing. The result was this sleepy mama cat and her yeasty litter of kittens, which would be reasonably easy to re-create at home.

She recommends using Donna Currie’s recipe for Bunny Bread, which produces a dough that’s easy to shape, but any recipe which results in a fairly stiff dough should work. You could try a black bread recipe if you wanted a darker-colored cat.

She doesn’t supply instructions for shaping, but it looks to me like the general method would be to take slightly less than 1/3 of the dough and set it aside. Form the remaining dough into an egg shape, and flatten the narrower end. Shape the other piece of dough into a ball and press it onto the flattened part of the egg to make the head (I think you could probably brush the flat bit with a little beaten egg to ensure that everything sticks together). Pinch up triangular bits on the top to make ears (it might help to use a razor blade or a baker’s lame to cut shallow triangles into the dough); be careful not to make them too thin or they’ll burn before the rest of the bread is done. Optionally, make slashes on the front of the head to form whiskers; you could paint them on later too.

After baking, use food-safe decorating pens to draw features. The big cat would be a nice centerpiece loaf and the kittens are perfect for dinner rolls.

Be sure to check out the rest of Lou Lou P’s feed (just Facebook, unfortunately); she has all kinds of macabre creations. She apparently sells a few downloadable tutorials as well, like these spider cupcake toppers. My favorite comment, from a visitor to her page: “Did you make a Voldemort-au-vent or was that just an awesome dream that I had?” I don’t even know what those would look like, but I may have to try to make some.

(via Geyser of Awesome)

Posted in Paint It Black | 2 Comments »

“Name Your Poison” Glassware

November 12th, 2015 by Cobwebs


Kitten Herder recently pointed me to this Etsy listing for a set of highball glasses by designer Georges Briard, which takes the common bartender’s question a little more literally. I did a bit of looking, and apparently the original set also included a similarly-themed ice bucket.

Briard’s designs sometimes can be found on eBay and other auction sites, and similar sets by other manufacturers (such as Cera) are also occasionally available. However, they tend to be fairly pricey–around $300US–and unless you’re setting up a retro-themed bar there’s no point in buying originals.

Modern glasses with the same theme can be found on Etsy–these and these are nice–but it should also be possible to DIY a set using stencils and etching paste (or glass paint, for a more colorful look).

A set of glasses (and/or an ice bucket) would make an attractive gift, and who doesn’t need more skulls in their life?

Posted in Paint It Black | 1 Comment »

Halloween Awards

November 4th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Skull ScoutsTo my vast and ongoing dismay, we live in a non-trick-or-treat-friendly location.* This means that I have no reason to decorate my yard (sob!), and Shadowboy has always trick-or-treated with friends in their more candy-accessible neighborhoods.

For the past several Halloweens we’ve tagged along with the same friend, and every year the neighborhood has become more and more lackluster, with long stretches of darkened houses and few decorations. This year, since Shadowboy and a different friend were dressing as Marty McFly and Doc Brown, we accompanied that friend instead. Walking into that kid’s neighborhood was like Dorothy getting her first look at Oz: Nearly every house was lit and there were decorations galore. Several people had done such a bang-up job of decorating that I walked up and thanked them for putting in the time and effort, and that’s when it occurred to me: Next year I need to carry a supply of “Good Job on Halloween!” awards to give out at particularly sincere houses.

My first thought was a merit badge-type patch; various scouting organizations have “unofficial” patches for holidays, which can be ordered inexpensively, and it’s even possible to have custom patches created. There’s also an Etsy shop which sells “Mythical Merits:” A variety of spooky merit badge designs that can be ordered as buttons or magnets (there’s a full list of designs here).

I like the idea of a small, lightweight item, since they’d be cheap to order in quantity and easy to carry around–you could keep a few handy all year, just in case you feel the need to reward someone displaying the Halloween spirit in the off-season–but it turns out that trophies and medals are also surprisingly inexpensive. Online suppliers like Trophy Depot and Crown Awards have a large selection, and if you wanted to bring along one or two as awards for particularly well-done yards, you’d probably make some home haunter’s whole week. (If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, you could even hand out a different design each year so dedicated haunters could collect the whole set.)

People who spend the time and money to decorate certainly like to have their efforts appreciated; this would be a neat way to thank them for making the neighborhood a little spookier.

*It’s a hugely long driveway immediately off of a highway, with swathes of woods between it and the nearby houses (which are all arranged similarly). To trick-or-treat in our neighborhood, you’d need a compass and a bloodhound.

(Image from Skull-a-Day)

Posted in Paint It Black | 8 Comments »

Tim Burton Zoetrope Cake

October 19th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Food artist Alexandre Dubosc created an edible zoetrope as an homage to Tim Burton.

There are “making of” photos here.

Dubosc did another caketrope recently, this one a playful pairing of popcorn and pop culture.

(via Geyser of Awesome)

Posted in Paint It Black | 1 Comment »

Chinoiserie Pumpkins

October 15th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Chinoiserie PumpkinI’ve run into several recent articles about decorating pumpkins with blue-and-white Chinoiserie patterns, so there’s apparently some new trend in the Collective Design Unconscious (a.k.a. the marthastewartsphere). I like them; it’s a subtle, elegant way to include pumpkins in your decorating scheme.

There’s an Etsy store called IndigoHome which sells them (there’s only one current listing, but several others in their Sold list), but if you’ve got a little patience it should be possible to DIY a simple design.

You could decorate one of the “White Ghost” varieties of real pumpkin for a temporary display, or use a fake one for something a little more permanent (I’ve seen white craft pumpkins, but if you can’t find one, just spray-paint an orange one). Draw the patterns with blue, black, or brown permanent marker or paint (which is easier to wipe off and re-do if you make mistakes).

The Relished Roost has a bunch of lovely designs that she’s painted, and Chinoiserie Chic has some photos of an oversized pumpkin decorated with a simple tree design. I dream of did a painting of a painted pumpkin (meta!) which included a witch on a broomstick amongst more traditional patterns. Although not Chinoiserie, I quite like this octopus too.

If you’re completely hopeless at drawing (a category I definitely fall into), Between Naps on the Porch has a tutorial for a decoupaged version that looks great.

Two or three of these would be a lovely centerpiece for a dinner party, and are pretty enough to use as decoration all year long.

Posted in Paint It Black | 1 Comment »

The Great Pumpkin Project

October 7th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Lonely JackExcuse me whilst I jump up and down with glee at this marvelous idea.

Over at Pumpkinrot, one of Rot’s regulars has suggested a splendid way to spread some October cheer: “Jack O’Lanterns left anonymously in lonely places, near abandoned buildings, alongside roads…anywhere that’ll give the passerby a burst of Halloween, and some questions.”

Adam, the originator of the project, has a suggested “calling card” design to be attached to the stem of each lonely Jack; he’s said that he’ll supply Rot with a downloadable file that others can use to stencil a similar card, so keep an eye out for an update on Rot’s post. On the one hand, it seems sort of a shame to do anything that will give away the fact that this is part of a larger project rather than a drive-by pumpkining; but on the other hand it’ll probably keep the pumpkin from being mistaken for a bomb. (Lookin’ at you, Boston.)

If you decide to play along, Adam has one request:

That is that everyone who decides to do this, please use the same name and if possible, please try and use the same tag. I will try and get a file out to Rot somehow and everyone is welcome to use the logos. The point of the project is to create a random “What The Hell?” moment in passers by, and to create a feeling of joy inside people like us when they pass a random Jack in an odd place.

Someone in the comments says that “The photos are going to be great;” I don’t see any mention of an official place to post photos of successful Jack placements, but a #GreatPumpkinProject tag on Instagram would probably work until something more official comes up.

Grab a pumpkin, get out there, and make somebody else’s day a little more surreal!

Update: Adam has posted the label for download here, and included some additional thoughts on the project. (Including a preeetty important one that I hadn’t thought to call out: Don’t use actual fire. “Flameless” LED tea lights are inexpensive and widely available; use those instead.)

(via ShellHawk’s Nest)

Posted in Paint It Black | 3 Comments »

Halloween Advent Calendar

August 27th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Halloween Advent CalendarThis is such a neat idea, and the execution is gorgeous. It’s a customized advent calendar by aptly-named Etsy shop Halloween Advent House: Each window and door opens to reveal a different spooky drawing, and the whole thing lights up at night (there are additional photos on Etsy). The house includes a plexiglass “sky” featuring a full moon and a custom message. It is a work of art.

The single sticking point is that it’s $1795US, which puts it beyond the budget of many a Halloween addict. Darn it, it’s always something.

If you’re feeling ambitious, it might be possible to DIY something similar using a wooden dollhouse kit; it’d still be fairly expensive–suitably large kits run close to $200–but the cost would be a little easier to bear and you could decorate it however you fancied.

There are dozens of kits available; some that aren’t outrageously expensive and seem to have a sufficient number of windows/doors include Greenleaf’s Beacon Hill and Pierce models, Real Good Toys’ Bostonian and Newport, Superior’s Queen Anne, and (my favorite) Laser Design’s Leon Gothic.

Since the dollhouses have more depth, you could put actual miniature monsters behind the doors and windows rather than artwork (or print designs of your choice on thin acetate and glue them in place). There are plenty of Halloween-themed miniature decorations for dollhouses, so once you’re finished with the interior you could expand your house’s grounds with a family graveyard and spooky trees. (Now that I think about it, an advent graveyard would be kind of cute too; assign a number to each tombstone and open a different grave each day.)

It’s certainly an elaborate project, but it would be a fun family activity to build your own haunted dollhouse and then use it every October to count down the days to Halloween.

(via Spooky Moon)

Posted in Paint It Black | 3 Comments »

“In Case of Emergency” Desktop Plaque

August 18th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Emergency Chocolate30 Minute Crafts has a cute tutorial for making an “in case of emergency” desktop plaque filled with candy. It’s easy to put together, and if you don’t feel like using glass-etching paste you can use vinyl letters as in this version.

It strikes me that this would be a fun Halloween-themed gift, either filled with candy corn for a more thematic version of the idea above, or with non-candy Halloween items. Change the message to something like, “In case of Halloween yearnings break glass” and fill it with plastic spiders, novelty vampire fangs, little skulls, or other spooky tchotchkes.

You could also use the same idea for an “in case of vampires break glass” plaque containing a small stake (a piece of sharpened dowel would work) and a plastic head of garlic. Make a “workplace voodoo kit” containing a little burlap poppet and some big hatpins. Or stick in some hair dye, black lipstick, and eyeliner for an “in case of pastels” emergency kit.

This would be a fun afternoon project to make a unique accent for a desk or bookshelf.

Posted in Paint It Black | 2 Comments »

Sinister Snow Globes

July 14th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Snow GlobeArtists Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz have been working with snow scenes a lot lately: Their recent works all seem to involve snow and miniature figures.

In a series that they called Travelers, they created snow globes featuring miniature people being chased by wolves, menaced by giant spiders, or threatened by even more miniature people. (Although, to be honest, my favorite of the series isn’t macabre and simply features a moose helping with the laundry.)

The artists only made a limited number of snow globes and they’ve long since been sold, but they can still serve as inspiration for weird little DIY versions. Empty snow globes are available at craft stores and online, and miniature figures for use in model railroad layouts can be found in all sorts of styles. Create a tiny, snow-covered cemetery with an open grave, or replicate the entrance to the hedge maze from The Shining.

This would be a fun group activity: Set up a supply of empty snow globes, various miniatures, and tools like glue and tweezers. Give a prize for the most creative miniature mayhem.

(via Dangerous Minds)

Posted in Paint It Black | 5 Comments »

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