Autumn begins with the appearance of these beauties on my front porch. They’re Araneus cavaticus, the common barn spider, and half-a-dozen will string their webs from the roof to the railing and sit, plump and fuzzy, each evening. Much more than a leaf color or a calendar date, these are the harbingers of fall to me.
The leaves, however, are also gorgeous. I grew up in Southern California, where palm trees abound and deciduous trees are confused. Here in Virginia the trees take autumn seriously. They burst into a riot of color, all vying for your attention, and then just as suddenly they’re gone. The trees lift naked limbs to the sky. Standing outside in the chill dark, looking at the moon through stark, bare branches, you suddenly understand why ancient cultures believed that autumn was when the year died. The veil between worlds seems much thinner now.
And the gauzy veil is the best part of all. Ever since I first grasped the notion of hinges creaking in doorless chambers and candles flickering where the air is still, I’ve anticipated Halloween more than all the other holidays combined. I loved it growing up, I got married on Halloween, and I welcome its return every year like a cherished friend.
I think it’s safe to say that I am utterly besotted by Autumn. What’s your favorite part of the season?
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Although it may be tempting to stay inside all the time (the sun! It burns!), there are plenty of opportunities to bring a little gloom to your outside environment. My front garden sports a variety of ivy, blood-red calla lilies, black ornamental grass, and a contorted willow. Someday I’d like to add a pleurant, too.
But this post isn’t about my front garden. It’s about my back garden, where my sundial has finally made an appearance. I had the sundial custom-made by Merlin Design a few years ago, when we moved into our house. They do lovely work, cheaper than you might expect, and will even add your location (latitude and longitude) and any motto that you choose (mine says, “Make the passing shadow serve thy will,” which I think is particularly nice for a sundial).
The poor thing then proceeded to sit in my garage, unadmired and awaiting a pedestal, until a couple of weeks ago when Shadow Jack went on a cleaning binge. He unearthed the cake stand we used for our wedding, and inspiration struck. The stand is plaster, so I’m going to have to get out there and seal the hell out of it lest it melt, but I think it makes a lovely base for the sundial. (Click the thumbnails to see larger images.)
The stand is simply a plaster plant stand that I picked up on clearance at a local Michaels craft store. I spray-painted it burgundy, then gave it a wash of black paint. To do something similar, check with area craft shops for chipped or broken plaster sculptures; they might be cheap or even free, and the damage would make it look interestingly ruined. If you live in an area where moss is abundant, brush the sculpture with a thick layer of yogurt (yes, really) to encourage moss to grow on it. (You can also grind up a couple handsful of moss with yogurt in your blender and brush the sculpture with the resulting slurry, if you don’t mind cleaning that mess out of your blender.)
Sundials add a lot of old-world atmosphere to an outdoor space, and they aren’t terribly expensive. If you don’t lust after a custom one, check your local home and garden store’s “outdoor decor” section. Add a creative pedestal, and you’ll have faeries dancing around the place in no time. Faeries with black wings. And teeny fangs.
Posted in Doom It Yourself, Unhallowed Ground | 7 Comments »
Saul Chernick is a contemporary artist who works with classical tropes like frisky skeletons and creepy harridans. His stuff has that WAY-too-many-squirming-lines thing that are the hallmark of artists like Dürer (I know there’s an umlaut in there; I’m just being lazy.) It’s evocative and really quite creepy.
Link (via Morbid Anatomy)
He’s got a showing in the Protetch Project Space in New York right now, too.
Updated to include the darn umlaut.
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Copro Nason Gallery in Santa Monica is hosting the “Talking Board Show,” an exhibit of ouija boards and ouija-inspired work by more than a dozen Pop Surrealist artists.
For those of us nowhere near Santa Monica, the artwork is all available online. I love this raven-skull planchette from the “Quoth the Raven” set.
Link (via BoingBoing)
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In the, “I Wish I’d Thought of That” department is this marvelous idea from Average Jane Crafter: Take an innocuous embroidery pattern and make it…well…a little less innocuous.
The Workbasket Jitterbug Girl always seemed a little creepy to me. Something about her face … that smile … those somewhat vacant eyes. On the surface, she seemed like a clean-cut, wholesome gal, but I saw her true identity underneath those carefully placed dimples.
I’ve got a ton of saccharinely cutesy needlework patterns that I’m suddenly looking at in a whole new light.
Link (via BoingBoing)
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Chris’s Invincible Super-Blog has a wonderful post about the skeletons-in-unexpected-places thing that comprised about 90% of all horror comics in the 70s.
Skeletal bus drivers, skeletal ski instructors, skeletal lighthouses… The madmen creating these terrifying tomes would stop at nothing to ambush the reader with a shot of osteological dread, and with the climax of Spooktoberfest rapidly approaching, I thought it might be time for another gruesome gallery of things… that are actually skeletons!
I’m somewhat dismayed to realize that I’ve read almost every one of the titles he lists.
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New York’s Impetuous Theater Group, in a flash of utter genius, has combined zombies and Shakespeare in a production entitled “Twelfth Night of the Living Dead.” I may need to go lie down for a few minutes to recover from this.
When a strange meteor smashes into a ship en route to Illyria, the bodies pile up as fast as the romantic complications. Will true love prevail? Can a zombie be made to understand the affairs of the heart, without eating it? Or will the fools of Illyria never live to see another dawn?
Link (via Sci Fi Scanner)
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November 1 is Dia de los Muertos, the Mexican Day of the Dead. Sugar skulls are decorated with colorful icing, little skeleton figurines are everywhere, and traditional foods are consumed graveside.
Sounds like a good excuse for a celebration to me.
AZ Central has a feature section on traditional foods, including the important Bread of the Dead. If you’re not feeling that ambitious, you can’t go wrong with chips, salsa and margaritas (this actually applies to any day of the year).
The eHow Website has some suggestions on throwing a themed Day of the Dead Party, but a more generic Latin-themed event would work just fine.
You can also make sugar skulls as party favors, or give an unadorned one to each guest and let them decorate their own. A company called, unsurprisingly, Mexican Sugar Skulls sells the molds for creating sugar skulls, and provides instructions on mixing and packing the molds. They also offer more intricate molds for chocolate skulls.
If you’d like to do something a little more permanent, use the molds to create plaster skulls, then paint them up pretty or bedeck them with sequins and rhinestones. We at Shadow Manor use similar skull molds to create our bath bombs, and can attest to their durability.
So invite some friends, living or dead, and celebrate!
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Memarielane has presented me with an award (below) for knowing a lot about crotches.
That seems uncannily accurate to me.
Since we’re on the subject of brownies–and we are, if you squint–here’s a way to spook up your favorite brownie recipe*:
- Bake brownies in a round pan, such as a layer cake pan or a foil-lined pizza pan.
- When cool, frost with white frosting. A cream cheese frosting like this one is nice.
- Use a tube of brown cake-decorating icing to draw a spiral design, starting from the center and working outward. Keep the lines an inch or so apart.
- Starting from the center, drag a toothpick or a butterknife in a straight line out to the edge. Do this at regular intervals around the circle, creating the “struts” of the spiderweb.
- Perch a black gumdrop in the web and give it legs with black licorice whips. Or use red for both, if you want a more festive spider and/or hate licorice with all of your icy black heart (which is certainly the case with me).
- Snarf down in one sitting. (This step is optional.)
*C’mon, no cheating and using a boxed mix. Brownies are absurdly easy to make. Even easier than cookies, because you don’t have to do anything with little wads of dough. By the time you opened a box and followed the directions you could make some from scratch, and they would be, at conservative estimate, ten zillion times tastier. Here’s a recipe to get you started.
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SciFi Scanner brought this to my attention with a post entitled “You Will Believe That Frankenstein Can Sing,” and I think that just about sums it up.
This off-Broadway musical is currently playing at Theater 450 in New York. No word on tour dates yet. If “Puttin’ on the Ritz” doesn’t make an appearance in here somewhere, I’m sad.
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