The Art of Darkness

Creepy Collections

April 10th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Vampire ShadowboxWant a super-easy, super-cheap wall decoration for Halloween that’s attractive enough to leave up year-’round? Look no further than shadowboxes, baby. A shadowbox can elevate a cheap rubber novelty to the status of artwork, and could hardly be easier to put together.

I made a couple as gifts for this year’s Secret Pumpkin exchange using (humanely collected) animal teeth, but the technique is suitable for practically anything small enough to stuff in a frame.

Full instructions and photos are right here.

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Easy DIY Apothecary Decoration

March 11th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Skull UrnThe inestimable xJane sent this link to me recently under the heading “Things It Strikes Me You Could DIY.” She’s right–this is eminently DIY-able, and would take almost no time to put together.

The assembly could hardly be simpler: It’s polished stones, Spanish moss, and reindeer moss (which the blogger calls “moose moss”), layered in a jar with a prop skull and skeleton hands. All of that stuff is readily available at your local craft store or online (Save-On Crafts is one of my favorite online sources). I really like the footed glass-and-metal apothecaries in this example, but you could use pretty much anything with see-through sides: Large canning jars, goldfish bowls, vases, brandy snifters, and so on. You could also vary the ingredients for different effects: A nautical-themed “Davy Jones’ Locker” decoration layered with dried seaweed, seashells, driftwood, and beach glass and housed in a tarnished brass lantern would be quite striking.

The site mentions a Pottery Barn decoration as the inspiration for this project. I did some looking, and as nearly as I can tell they’re referring to this, which isn’t a purchasable item but instead just a “serving suggestion” for their skull vase fillers (also available in glitter). Other bloggers have been inspired by the same catalogue photo: The Gathering Place uses smaller skulls and Spanish moss for a simpler design; I like the “Arsenic” tag on top. Strawberry Chic layers the skulls with candy corn and dollar-store Halloween trinkets for a kitschier effect. Homespun with Love adds spiderwebs and some kind of coarser floral material that they refer to as “fiber filler;” looks a little like pine needles.

The only difficult bit, this time of year, would be digging up the skulls (so to speak). It’s annoying that so many items which we consider to be year-round decorating accessories are viewed by the wider world as seasonal props. They’re available online a few places like Skeleton Store, Amazon, and Oriental Trading, and they may still turn up in dollar-store clearance bins, but for the greatest selection your best bet would probably be to wait until closer to Halloween when all the skulls come out of hiding.

A couple of these would look lovely on a fireplace mantel or used as a table centerpiece, and they really are attractive enough to use as permanent decor.

(Thanks, xJane!)

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Dead and Breakfast Sign

March 5th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Dead and BreakfastThis is one of those projects that’s been languishing in my Drafts folder as other shiny objects catch my eye, and it’s languished so long that its original source has vanished. I’m fairly sure that I originally saw it in Better Homes and Gardens’ outdoor Halloween decorations, but after slogging through their insanely irritating slideshow it ain’t there, and all other roads lead to Pinterest. Oh well; I don’t recall the original source including instructions, so we’re on our own anyway.

(Click for larger.)

Although probably intended as a seasonal Halloween prop, this is attractive enough to leave up year-’round (although I’d probably just put the crows up seasonally, lest they mildew). The upright appears to be a reclaimed porch column, and the crossbar is a piece of recycled 2×4. There are numerous places to buy or salvage recycled wood (google around for a local source), or you can fake-distress lumber from the hardware store.

Putting this together would require some tiny amount of woodworking skill–you’d need to be able to drill holes to attach the chains, and nail pieces to other pieces–but it wouldn’t require great depth of knowledge. You don’t have to saw anything for the sign (although if you are a woodworker you can get fancy and make your own custom shape): There are plenty of reasonably easy tutorials for making simple signs from precut wood. I particularly like this one, which uses a small tabletop, but this and this are also good resources.

Stencil the sign with your name, and you’ve got a wonderful yard decoration. If you intend to leave it up permanently, you’ll probably want to dig a proper post hole and sink it there. For a seasonal decoration, nail the post to a wooden base large enough to stabilize it; you don’t want it knocked over by the wind or errant trick-or-treaters. The sign by itself would also be an attractive wall decoration in a rec room or kitchen.

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Hand Lights

February 5th, 2014 by Cobwebs

Hand Lights

I’m not sure what you’d call this, but it’d be a hell of a light fixture.

I saw it online, unattributed, and finally tracked the original photo down to Something Created Every Day: It was a display created by Tim Holtz for his booth at the Craft & Hobby Association trade show:

Tim said that his neighbor painted the hands, the lights are from Ikea and either the bulbs are special or the glass is colored (I don’t remember exactly how he described this). Either way, this display was fantastic.

I’m assuming that the hands are probably mannequin hands. I don’t see that particular style of light at Ikea’s site, but they’re also called cage lights. Searching for “industrial hanging light” or “workshop cage light” turns up loads of styles to choose from; I thought this and this were pretty.

The hands are mounted on simple wooden plaques, easy to find in many shapes and sizes at craft and hardware stores. The frame is just a big, rather banged-up picture frame.

This project is certainly DIY-able and would be a really interesting lighting treatment for a room. I assume that since this was done as a temporary decoration the lamp cords are simply hanging loose and plugged in near the floor. For a more permanent fixture you could fasten them all together with cable ties for a slightly less messy appearance.

You could also do individual hands, each with its own frame, for a different take on the same idea.

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Make a Haunted Mirror

December 26th, 2013 by Cobwebs

Haunted Mirror

Here’s an easy makeover for a mirror to hang in the guest room and unnerve visiting relatives. It’s not only a very uncomplicated project, it also has the advantage of being cheap: You can look in thrift stores for (depending upon the method you use) mirrors that already have some of the silvering worn off or glass-fronted picture frames that have been banged up a bit; either should be sold at a discount.

There are two main methods to achieve the effect; the first one involves removing some of the silvering from the back of a mirror and pasting a picture in the clear spot. Mitzi’s Collectibles has a good tutorial for that method, and suggests using oven cleaner to help remove the silvering (you’ll probably have to scrape or scrub a little, too). You’ll want to take care not to make the scraped-off edges too jagged, since the effect you’re after is a sort of ghostly fading-in.

The other method involves a product of which I was hitherto-unaware: Looking Glass spray paint by Krylon. It can be sprayed on glass surfaces to “mirrorize” them, which is pretty neat (I can think of a number of other applications for this stuff). You simply spray several layers on the back of a glass picture frame, adding less where you want the image peeking through, then finally attaching the image. Cre8tive Compass has a fairly good tutorial for that (and I like the idea of misting water in some spots to create a more “antique” effect), but is somewhat unclear on the image placement. Domythic Bliss has slightly better instructions for that (and I like her image choice).

The only other thing you need to do is a choose an appropriate picture. You can google around for vintage-y images, use a copy of a family photo if you’re lucky enough to have an acceptably-creepy one, or create something using an image tool like Photoshop. I like the Victorian kids with blacked-out eyes that Ghost Hunting Theories did (shown above), and you could also alter an image in a Travis Louie-esque fashion.

This would, of course, be a wonderful Halloween decoration, but if you choose an attractive mirror (or frame) there’s no reason why it couldn’t be left up year-round.

Bonus Link: For a different, more complicated (but also cooler-looking) effect, check out this haunted mirror using two-way glass done by Aidtopia.

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Scopophilia Chair

November 13th, 2013 by Cobwebs

ScopophiliaDesigner Fiona Roberts, in an attempt to make sure nobody ever sleeps again, upholstered a chair with plastic eyeballs.

The eyes on the Scopophilia Chair are held in place by folded red-velvet “eyelids” secured with brass tacks. The result is both fascinating and flesh-crawly.

Even better, the technique is simple enough that something similar should be DIY-able. Upholstering a whole chair might be a little daunting (hey, these would make a cute set of dining chairs, wouldn’t they?), but something smaller like a throw pillow or a decorative table runner should be reasonably easy.

If human-looking eyes aren’t your thing, there are dozens of other varieties used for taxidermy; reptile eyes would be particularly effective. You could also obviously use other fabric besides velvet (with the caveat that it can’t be too stiff to fold and snuggle nicely around each eyeball): Leather or a scale-print vinyl would add to the “this chair is alive…and watching you” illusion.

With the holidays coming up, this technique could also be used to make a really arresting wreath. It’d also be a cute way to make a little toy shoggoth.

(via Old Fashion Halloween)

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Creepy 3-D Wall Decor

October 30th, 2013 by Cobwebs

Wall Ghost

So this is kind of awesome.

I saw this photo online (unattributed, natch) and did a reverse image search in hopes of finding the source. Weirdly, I can’t seem to locate an original attribution; there are lots of instances of this particular image, plus a few sites which have what appears to be a whole set.

I thus can’t provide any insight on how this was done originally, so I did the next best thing and asked my dad, who is a home-repair ninja. Here are his thoughts:

Get the hands, etc. from a Halloween store. Cut them so that the back is semi-flat. Fasten them to the wall with hot glue.

1. Use spackle, plaster or paper mache to smooth over them and add the “wrinkles” at the side. Paint wall color paint over them.

2. Use wet paper towels or newspaper to form the wrinkles and fill in where you want. “Feather” the edges of the paper with sandpaper. Paint over the paper with Gesso to make it smooth. Paint with wall color paint.

3. Use plastic sheeting to cover them and heat soften/shrink to form. Spackle the edges to blend into the wall. Paint with wall color paint.

4. Use thin rubber (like that used in makeup bald caps). Blend in the edges. Paint with wall color paint.

The last two are the least durable.

So. This is clearly completely out of the question if you rent, but if you want to do something super-spooky with a room in your house, it would be hard to beat ghosts coming out of the walls. It sounds like this is one of those “more time than money” projects, and it would certainly be a conversation piece. Bonus points if you make over a guest room.

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Beaded Halloween Decorations

September 25th, 2013 by Cobwebs

Crystal DecorationsI ran into these magnetic beaded decorations recently, and although they’re cute I take great exception to the vendor’s assertion that $39 for three is a “Budget-friendly way to decorate.”* These are just glass beads with a magnetic hanger, and for $39 you could make a hojillion of them.

Any decent-sized craft store should have most of what you need, but you can also find materials online: Beading thread, rondelle beads of your choice, a magnetic end bit (for which you could use magnetic jewelery clasps or magnetic beads; or skip the magnet and just tie a loop in the thread), and a Halloween figure of some sort.

Glass beads with a Halloween theme are plentiful and cheap; searching for “lampwork” or “glass bead” with your chosen shape will turn up ghosts, cats, bats, eyeballs, and whatever else your heart desires (you can also find hearts). The ghost and bat/cat shapes are also simple enough that they could be easily made of polymer clay.

These are so simple and cheap, you could make a bunch to hang or give as gifts. They’d be a great party activity for older kids, too; supply them with the materials and let them bead their own decorative favor.

*I also take exception to the “bat,” which looks a hell of a lot more like a cat with wings, but that’s another issue entirely.

Posted in Bad Things, Bittens | 2 Comments »

“Rocking” Chair

September 18th, 2013 by Cobwebs

Rocking ChairWhat a great idea for recycling old band T-shirts. ElderGoth Tina commissioned Anno Domini to upholster a chair using her collection of vintage band T-shirts. I’ve heard of turning beloved T-shirts into quilts or throw pillows, but the upholstery idea is new.

I don’t know how much the professional job cost–my guess is “lots”–but it’d be possible to DIY without enormous difficulty. Chairs with stained or torn fabric are cheap at thrift stores, so this project involves more time than money.

There are a number of tutorials for reupholstering chairs; a couple are here and here, and you can google up plenty of others. If re-covering a whole chair seems a little too daunting, you could do just the padded seats of dining chairs.

You’ll want to make careful measurements to decide how best to place the shirt elements in order to show them off to advantage. When cutting the T-shirts make sure to leave enough space around each design for a hem. Since the jersey-type fabric of most shirts is both stretchy and thin, it might be a good idea to anchor the pieces to a heavier-duty fabric intended for upholstery; your local fabric store can suggest good candidates.

This is a great way to both show off T-shirts that would otherwise languish in a drawer and add an interesting accent to a room.

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Book Spine Stair Risers

September 10th, 2013 by Cobwebs

Stair DecalsCrikey; I decided to spend five minutes looking for an attribution and wound up going down a rabbit hole.

BoingBoing recently mentioned some whimsical decals for stair risers that make a staircase look like a stack of books. Their post pointed to a listing at Fancy, a third-party crowdsourced catalog, which displays three oddly-disparate detail photos and mentions the manufacturer as “Vinyl Impression.” I eventually tracked them down here (Edit: It looks like that page has been newly removed); their site lacks one of the Fancy photos and the comments* there are illuminating, blaming the vendor for lifting the pattern designs from Coralie Bickford-Smith and also noting that the (missing; presumably removed) photo which looks hand-painted was in fact hand-painted by someone who has nothing to do with the company or its products.


All of this is a very long-winded way of saying: Hey, what a neat idea; stair risers that are decorated to resemble book spines. Bet it could be DIY’d cheaper and better. And maybe less copyright-infringy.

The spines of favorite books could be scanned or simply re-created in your favorite image editing software (much easier than book covers, since the spines tend to mainly just be words and simple patterns). Most copy shops offer oversize printing, and many will print on vinyl as well as paper. Trim the printouts to fit the stair risers, glue or stick in place–if they’re printed on paper, you may also wish to seal them–and you’re done. (Peel-and-stick vinyl, incidentally, is a great choice for renters, since you can just peel the panels back off when you move.)

If you’re feeling more ambitious you can also paint the stairs, either freehand or using stencils for a more “printed” appearance. Paint them in uniform colors and fonts to resemble collected works (a burgundy-and-gold “Works of Shakespeare” staircase would be elegant and dramatic) or paint each riser a different color for a more eclectic library.

The nicest thing about making your own custom designs is that the choice of title is up to you: You could select books from a favorite author, or works that are particularly meaningful to you.

*Why they’re allowing user comments in their catalog is a question for the ages.

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