The Art of Darkness

Secret Santa Can Suck It: My Gift

December 17th, 2015 by Cobwebs

The matches for our Secret Santa Can Suck It exchange have been made and sent to their assignees. After everyone posts about their “gift,” I’ll list all of the entries to peruse. To kick things off, here’s mine.

Potter T-shirtMy giftee is Shellhawk, who makes all sorts of lovely ceramics. She’s mentioned that she’s always on the lookout for new ways to expand her skills, so we’ll give her some different avenues to explore.

Kiln First, she’ll need a fancy kiln. The Janus Dragon is a dual-media unit that will let her experiment with firing both ceramics and glass. If she’s new to working with glass, the Corning Museum of Glass offers classes to help get her up to speed (obviously, the gift will include travel expenses to New York so she can attend).
Ceramics Since there’s no such thing as having too many books, we’ll also expand her library with all kinds of texts on glazing techniques, the history of pottery, unusual methods of producing ceramics, and various pottery bibles.
Tools There might be certain tools or other equipment she’s been dying for, so we’ll give her a shopping spree at her favorite supplier and let her pick up anything she’s lacking.
China Finally, for additional inspiration, we’ll send her on a world tour of pottery-related destinations. A cruise on the Yangtze river with a stop in Jingdezhen (the ancestral home of porcelain production); a survey of Europe to spend time in Meissen (the German city where the first European porcelain was developed), Majorca (the Spanish island which gives its name to majolica ceramics), and Faenza (the Italian town famous for faience); plus additional stops in Greece, Egypt, Japan, and India to tour museums full of ancient pottery.


Happy holidays, Shellhawk! I hope you like my “gift!”

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A Wealth of Wreaths

December 16th, 2015 by Cobwebs

During a recent attempt to find the original source for some orphaned image or another, I fell into a thicket of spooky wreaths. There’s still time to make some of these before Christmas if you hurry; if not, you’ve got plenty of time before next Halloween. (Click the images to view larger.)

Ant Wreath

Ants

This is from Better Homes and Gardens (whose site I almost hate to link to because it’s such a mare’s nest of intrusive advertising and poor navigation). It’s super-easy, consisting of oversize plastic ants hot-glued to a foam wreath base. Tie the ribbon in place before you start attaching ants, so you don’t wind up with lumpy bits where they overlap.

Spider Wreath

Spiders

Another one from BHG, this is pretty much the same idea as the one above. Spray-paint the wreath base black (make sure you use paint that won’t eat styrofoam) before gluing on the spiders.

Spider Topiary

Spider Topiary

This would be a nice companion to the spider wreath. The balls are just spray-painted styrofoam, and the stems are probably either wooden dowels or PVC pipe. Anchor the stems with floral foam/oasis, then cover over with candy corn. (I’m not sure about the original source for this project; a couple of sites mention Craft Town, but I don’t see it there.)

Eyeball Wreath

Eyeballs

Country Living has instructions for making this wreath out of bouncy eyeballs. Get the glow-in-the-dark kind for extra nighttime creepiness.

Raven Wreath

Ravens

This super-easy design is by Maker, Baker, Glitter Shaker and uses those inexpensive crow ornaments that pop up around Halloween.

Feather Wreath

Feathers and Spiderwebs

I can’t find an original source for this, and it looks like it’s maybe a premade commercial job instead of a DIY project. However, feather wreaths aren’t hard to make, the central bit appears to be very similar to this Kurt Adler decoration, and the other glittery bits could be made with dollar-store Halloween props and spray glitter.

Mask Wreath

Masks

Yet another super-easy idea. There doesn’t seem to be a wreath base; the masks may all be attached to a wire circle, but they’re lightweight and stiff enough that they might just be all stuck together with dabs of hot glue.

Yarn Wreath

Yarn Spiders

This would be a fun wreath for a knitter or crocheter. It was made by whimsyworkshop, and unfortunately has sold. The yarn balls are most likely yarn wrapped around styrofoam cores, and the spiders are probably made in a similar fashion (with the addition of pipe-cleaner legs and googly eyes). The central web could be made using a technique like this.

Mirror Wreath

Mirror

I can’t find an original source, so I can only guess at what this is made of. A similar round mirror might be found at a thrift store (a chipped frame or cracked glass would only add to its appeal here). The twigs look like natural lichen-covered branches, but something suitable might be found in a craft store’s floral aisle. The mossy stuff is probably Spanish moss, also available at craft stores; look for black flowers there as well.

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Creature Comforts

December 15th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Bug SoapHere’s an easy, mildly creepy, stocking stuffer idea that’s a particularly big hit with kids: Soap with a big icky insect embedded inside.

The project uses melt-and-pour soap base, which is easy to work with and doesn’t require any specialized equipment. You can make lots of these in a single afternoon and they’re ready for giving the next day.

The soap base is available at many craft stores and can also be found online at soap supply retailers (I like Bramble Berry) or Amazon. You’ll want to choose a transparent base (instead of something like goat’s milk) to be sure that the bug is visible.*

For nice, uniform bars you might also wish to purchase a silicon soap mold (which should be available at the same suppliers which carry the base); you’ll probably want just a plain bar mold for this project, but they also come in all kinds of fancy styles. You can also use margarine tubs, plastic food-storage containers, or similar items; just make sure that your molds will “give” slightly when twisted, to make it easier to remove the solid bars.

Then all you need are some novelty plastic bugs. You can find these in toy stores, party-supply places, or online. Choose ones that are fairly flat–you don’t want to displace most of the soap–and which don’t have legs or other bits that extend to the edges of the mold.

The soap base will probably have instructions on the package, but the basic method is simply to cut it into chunks and then melt it; either stir the chunks in a saucepan on low heat, or heat them in bursts in the microwave, stirring occasionally. The Dummies site has detailed instructions.

Place the molds on a flat surface. If desired, spray them lightly with vegetable oil to help the bars slip out easily. Pour a thin layer of melted soap into the bottom of the molds and let it sit for a few seconds, then carefully position an insect belly-up in each mold. Slowly pour in soap until it reaches the top of the mold. If bubbles rise to the top, carefully scrape them off using the edge of a knife or spatula.

Let the soap sit undisturbed overnight, then pop the bars out of the molds. They’re ready to use immediately. If you plan to store them for a while, wrap them in plastic wrap and store in a cool dry place. To give as gifts, put them in cellophane bags and tie a plastic magnifying glass to each bag with a bit of ribbon.

You can vary the basic project by coloring the soap and using different inclusions: Embed a spider in a bar of radioactive green, or a set of plastic vampire fangs in blood-red. You could also color the bars to resemble amber and add “fossil” insects for a more Jurassic Park-like vibe.


*If you’re feeling evil, you can use an opaque base instead and not mention the bug. They’ll find it when the soap wears down far enough to expose it.

(Image from Country Living)

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Ghosts And Gadgets : Communicating with the Spirits

December 14th, 2015 by Cobwebs

This neat mini-documentary by the Morbid Anatomy Museum features collector Brandon Hodge, who has the largest collection of ouija board planchettes in the world, plus lots of other devices for talking with the dead.

(via BoingBoing)

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The Secret Life of Link Dumps

December 11th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Hello from the Magic Tavern – This improv podcast, featuring a guy who’s accidentally fallen through a portal into a fantasy kingdom, sounds like a lot of fun.

Fossil Coprolites – You can buy dinosaur poop for as little as $3. Jewelry made out of this would be an amusing gift.

Ways to Turn Goth – This ‘toon is marvelous. (Hat tip to Pixel Pixie)

Abbie’s Anchor – Etsy shop selling interesting jewelry, including sweater guard/brooches resembling Death’s Head moths and bats.

The Only Christmas Carols That Are Any Good, A Definitive and Absolute List, Fight Me – Roundup of carols, with thoughtful commentary like, “If you do not know the lyrics to this one, go look them up, for verily they are BONKERS.”

A Very Scary Cthulhu Christmas – Roundup of Lovecraftian holiday wares.

Sparrow Coin Purses – These little coin purses made by Japanese crafter Left Thimble aren’t even slightly goth, but I’m wondering how hard it would be to convert a plush toy like a raven, bat, or tarantula into something similar.

Coffins vs. Caskets – A “Morbid Minute” discussion of death receptacles by The Order of the Good Death. (Hat tip to Burning Prairie)

Christmas: A Ghostly Gathering – Midnight Syndicate has a new collection of spooky Christmas-themed music.

Self Organization – This tentacular typewriter sculpture by Courtney Brown is oddly soothing. I sort of want to type long letters whilst tentacles wave lazily around my head.

Posted in Link Dump | 2 Comments »

Birdbath Table

December 10th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Birdbath TableThis is one of those neat no-skill-required projects that can be put together in just a few minutes, but can also be embellished to your heart’s content. It’s nothing but a birdbath topped with a glass round, in which you display stuff. (The sand and seashells in this particular version aren’t goth, but that’s easy to fix.)

If you don’t already have an old birdbath handy–everybody’s grandma used to have one–they can often be found cheap at nursery and hardware stores’ end-of-season clearance sales. You can also ask if there are any cracked or chipped ones available at a reduced price; it doesn’t have to hold water, and an old, worn appearance is spookier anyway. Leave it in its natural state or spray-paint it black.

Round glass tabletops can be found at hardware stores and various dealers online. You can also check thrift stores for glass-topped end tables and discard the rest of the table (or use it for storage).

You don’t have to line the basin with anything, but it might give your display a more finished appearance. Decorative sand and gravel comes in a wide variety of colors, including black. You won’t need a whole lot just to cover the bottom, so a bag of the stuff they sell at pet stores for aquariums should be adequate. You could also try Spanish moss or even something like crumpled velvet.

And there are, of course, all kinds of creepy things to display within. Small animal skulls (plastic props are fine) would look good, as would a smaller-scale version of this exhumation cocktail table. You could also use dollhouse miniatures to create a teensy cemetery under glass.

If the glass fits on top of the birdbath without much overhang you probably won’t need to secure it (although you may want to get some of those little rubber feet to keep it from slipping). However, if you’re afraid of someone leaning on the edge and upending the whole thing, you may want to run a line of a glass adhesive around the lip of the birdbath; make sure you carefully center the glass, because you don’t want to move it around and smear it with adhesive.

Projects don’t come much easier than this, and if you’ve got a collection of small treasures you want to display this is a unique way to do it.


Note: The original photo for this seems to come from a hardware site called Jones Paint & Glass, but I’m not linking it here because my virus software reported a Javascript injection attack.

Posted in Unhallowed Ground | 2 Comments »

Stuff I Found While Looking Around

December 9th, 2015 by Cobwebs

It’s time for another bunch of random stuff I want to share but can’t hang a whole post on. Some of them have no attribution, so if you happen to know the source for any of these please leave a note in the comments. (Click to view larger.)

Cheesecake

“Bloody Good” Cheesecake

This chocolate cheesecake with “bloody” topping is from sugardish. The presentation is nice, but I’m horrified at the idea of using red gel frosting for the blood. Instead, put 1/2 C raspberry jam and 2 T brandy in a small saucepan and stir over low heat until the jam melts. Strain through a sieve to remove seeds and pour over cake.

Reindeer Bun

Reindeer Bun

Unsettle your co-workers with this festive hairstyle. Given the new craze for “man buns,” fellas can get into the act too. There’s a video tutorial here.

Steampunk Terrarium

Professor Alexander’s Botanical Vasculum

Etsy shop SteamedGlass specializes in these steampunky moss terrariums. They’re currently closed with no re-open date, but this might be useful as inspiration for a DIY version.

Corgi Swarm

Corgi Swarm

The “spell failure” caption on the photo has been floating around for a while (and it makes me laugh every single time I see it), but somebody actually went ahead and formalized the conjuration and its effects. Next time I run a D&D campaign, this sucker’s going in there.

Headbands

Halloween Headbands

These headbands/fascinators are by Grandin Road (motto: “Marking up cheap crap by 10,000% since 1991”), but something similar would be reasonably easy to DIY. The spider, in particular, appears to be just a styrofoam ball and pipe cleaners.

Trick Candy

Trick Candy

This is diabolical. (via pdq)

And here’s another, related, idea.

Wreath

Scary Wreath

I gave up on finding an original source for this; it’s all over the place on link aggregators, with and without the caption. It seems to be patterned after the Evil Wreath in NMBC, and would be easy enough to DIY. The eyes appear to be yellow Christmas lightbulbs with pupils drawn on, and the teeth look like craft foam.

Bonus links: When I was trying to track down the source for this, I uncovered a few other neat wreaths: Game of Thrones, Zombie, and Cthulhumas.

Bat Stencils

Bat Stencils

The tutorial for this project, including a downloadable pattern, is from Design*Sponge (the instructions are halfway down the page, under the wall o’ unrelated links). The bats are made of craft foam and are intended as temporary decorations, but you could also use the pattern as a stencil and paint them on permanently.

Eye Tie

Eye Tie

A friend took this photo at the SOFA exhibit in Chicago. The eyes appear to be the flat-backed acrylic eyes used to make dolls and teddy bears, and the beads are probably plastic pearls. It’d be possible to just hot-glue them to a thrifted necktie for short-term use, but if you wanted something a little more long-wearing you’d have to bite the bullet and sew them on.

The eyeballs would look pretty good on a hat or clutch, too.

Vincent Price

Vincent Price

This is here because everyone should be reminded occasionally that young Vincent Price was smokin’ hot.

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Reindeer Poop and Angel Farts

December 8th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Angel FartsYou can hark to the herald angels, but that isn’t singing.

Homemade candy is a great holiday gift: People appreciate receiving something hand-made, it’s easy to make in large batches, and for relatively little money and effort you can turn out something that looks downright artisanal. Chocolate truffles and divinity are easy candies to master, and if you can give them names that will horrify elderly aunts, so much the better. I’ve even made spiffy downloadable labels for you.

Reindeer Poop

These are chocolate-peppermint truffles since it stands to reason that, just as unicorn poop tastes of cotton candy, the poop of Santa’s reindeer would taste Christmasy. Duh.

10 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped or broken into small pieces
3 T unsalted butter
1/2 C heavy cream
1 T light corn syrup
1 tsp peppermint extract, or 1 T creme de menthe

8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
Festive sprinkles (optional): I used these, but you could use these or these or any of the other zillion search results for “Christmas sprinkles.”
OR
1/2 C Dutch process cocoa powder

Place the 10 oz of chocolate and butter in a medium saucepan and melt together over a double boiler full of simmering water. I sometimes live dangerously and melt directly over very low heat, stirring constantly, but you have to be careful not to let it scorch. Set aside.

Place the cream and corn syrup in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Pour over the chocolate mixture and let stand for 2 minutes. Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, stir gently until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Stir in the mint extract or creme de menthe. Pour into an 8″x8″ glass dish and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Use a tablespoon, melon baller, or cookie scoop to scoop the truffle mixture onto the parchment. (If the mixture is too stiff to scoop easily, let it sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes.) Return the sheet to the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

If finishing with cocoa powder, put it into a bowl or pie pan.

If finishing with a chocolate coating, you’ll need to melt and temper the remaining 8 oz of chocolate.* Finely chop it and place two-thirds of it in the top of a double boiler or a metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely-simmering water. Place a candy thermometer in the chocolate and stir frequently as it melts. Be careful not to let the temperature exceed 120°F for dark chocolate or 105°F for milk or white chocolate.

As soon as the chocolate is fully melted, remove it from the heat and wipe the bottom of the bowl to remove any condensation (water will cause the chocolate to “seize,” so it’s important to not let any drip into the melted chocolate). Stir in the remaining third of the chocolate a little at a time, letting it melt before adding more.

Once the chocolate is at or below 82°F, place it back over simmering water. For dark chocolate, reheat to 88°F – 91°F. For milk and white chocolate, reheat to 85°F – 87°F.

Try to keep the chocolate at that temperature when working with it; if it begins to thicken too much but is still fairly liquid, it can be gently reheated; if it solidifies you’ll need to re-temper it.

There’s apparently an alternate method, which I haven’t tried, which involves putting a heating pad in a bowl, setting it to medium, and then putting a metal bowl holding the chocolate on top of that. Melt, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate reaches 88°F – 91°F (or 85°F – 87°F for milk/white). Adjust the setting of the heating pad to maintain that temperature.

Remove the truffles from the refrigerator and shape them into balls by rolling them between your palms. The cooler your hands are, the better; using latex gloves helps with that a bit, plus it keeps your hands cleaner. Return the rolled truffles to the refrigerator for 15 minutes to firm back up.

TrufflesIf finishing with cocoa powder, roll each truffle in the cocoa until coated. Return to the baking sheet.

If finishing with chocolate, dip each truffle into the chocolate using a fork. There’s a photo tutorial here that explains how to do that cleanly.

Place the dipped truffle back on the parchment paper. If decorating with sprinkles, sprinkle them over the chocolate before it hardens so they’ll stick.

Let the truffles sit in a cool, dry place for at least one hour. Store airtight in the refrigerator. The truffles taste best at room temperature.

For a different festive flavor, omit the mint extract in the recipe above and instead stir in 1 C chopped dried cranberries and 3 T thawed orange juice concentrate.

You could also vary the flavoring and decoration for these and pass them off as the droppings of other mythical animals. Instead of mint extract, try:

  • Nightmare Poop: Add 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 tsp cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp cayenne. Decorate with Halloween sprinkles or little edible bones.
  • Unicorn Poop: Add 2 T rose water and 1 T Amaretto. Instead of dipping in chocolate, finish them with a marbled rainbow coating. (Note: I know that I said up above that unicorn poop tastes of cotton candy, but the only cotton candy-flavored truffle recipe I could find are those misbegotten crushed-up-Oreo things and those can die in a fire. I’m sure you could argue convincingly that unicorn poop tastes of roses; if anybody challenges you, ask them exactly how they know.)


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Handjob Cabin

December 7th, 2015 by Cobwebs

This faux-movie trailer follows group of young, carefree people whose idyllic cabin getaway is interrupted by a sexually-frustrated ghost who died during a jerkoff misadventure. She won’t rest until she finishes the job she started…but she can’t. She won’t even use lotion.

Sorta NSFW, doncha know.

(Hat tip to Fiend4Halloween)

Posted in Funny Peculiar | 1 Comment »

A Little Song, a Little Dance, a Little Link Dump Down Your Pants

December 4th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Ghosts on the Nog – Five “forgotten” Christmas ghost stories.

Do-It-Yourself Werewolf Kit – This parody of old comic-book ads makes me kind of sad this kit doesn’t really exist.

Nicholas Was… – A short, short story (originally written on a postcard) by Neil Gaiman.

Winter White Velvet Fudge – Anybody who could look at this and think, “Christmas!” instead of “bloodstains!” is no friend of mine.

NMBC Christmas Wrapping – This is less a tutorial and more simply inspiration, but these spookily-wrapped packages are quite striking.

Old Tom Foolery – Amusing stationery, cards, and other printed material.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Cthulhu – Heartwarming.

Living Dead Doll: Krampus – The Mezco Classics had a limited-edition German exclusive of everybody’s favorite Christmas demon.

Dia de los Muertos: The Road to Mictlan – A short documentary on the history, practices, and influences of The Day of the Dead.

Krampus Bread – These loaves are fairly simplified and rustic-looking but I quite like the idea of making your baked goods a little more demonic.

Posted in Link Dump | 3 Comments »

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