The Art of Darkness

Holiday Gift Idea (Woo-Hoo)

December 3rd, 2016 by Cobwebs

ShellHawk of ShellHawk’s Creations makes beautiful ceramics, both for Halloween and for the rest of the year. Right now she’s got some great ceramic spider and jack-o’-lantern ornaments, as well as some gorgeous impressionistic ornaments.

She’s doing a special promotion right now for the Holiday season so you can pick up a few things for yourself and those special people on your shopping list. Use code HOLIDAY2016 at checkout for 15% off your minimum purchase of $25.

You can find her store here.

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Animated Halloween Doorbell

October 10th, 2016 by Cobwebs

This animated doorbell decoration is pretty neat in its own right, but also seems ripe for a DIY makeover.

The case could easily be repainted and embellished with extra doodads to make it look spookier, but it’d be especially neat if you could wire it up to your actual doorbell. I’d just leave it up year ’round.

It’s manufactured by Gemmy, and if you can’t find it locally (the video and comments mention Big Lots and WalMart) it’s available on BoingBoing)

Update: The fabulous Anne found these suckers at Target for ten bucks. Thanks, Anne!

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The Most Horrifying Tarot Cards You’ll Ever See

March 22nd, 2016 by Cobwebs

Lisa Frank TarotThose of us who grew up in the 80s and 90s will recall the horror that was Lisa Frank: You couldn’t swing a cat without hitting a Trapper Keeper that Frank had vomited psychedelic rainbow unicorns all over.

Now, years later, when we thought we were free of the Lisa Frank scourge, artist Ariel Hart has brought the twee rainbow animals to tarot, and it is terrifying.

She’s done the entire Major Arcana, and even the most curmudgeonly amongst us will have to admit that her artistic choices are brilliant. If you were the kind of person who had a Lisa Frank poster hanging proudly in your bedroom (in which case, what are you doing reading this site?), these are the tarot cards for you. What better way to take the edge off a prediction of gloomy fate than with a grinning, denim-clad koala?


(via Pixel Pixie)

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Super-Terrific Giveaway Thing

March 2nd, 2016 by Cobwebs

Demon RatI’ve mentioned Ursula Vernon’s artwork previously. I was recently overly-gifted with some of her prints, and currently have an extra Demon Rat of Vercingetorix and Bog Unicorn which I would love to share with someone who thinks having a print of a demonic rat hanging in their house sounds like a good idea.

If you are that kind of person, leave a comment here by Friday, March 18 and two people will be chosen at random.*

Whee! Free stuff!

*Non-US readers are welcome to play along, although shipping will probably be by banana boat so you might have to wait a couple weeks.

Update: – And we have winners! spat back numbers 14 and 5. Those folks will be emailed separately for their snail-mail addresses. Thanks to everyone who commented!

Posted in Needful Things | 14 Comments »

Subversive Embroidered Tops

November 11th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Lochers Blouse
Online retailer Locher’s has a line of tops embroidered with feminine, floral detailing and messages like “Allez tous vous faire foutre” (“You can all go fuck yourselves”). They’re currently on clearance, but they’d also be very easy to DIY.

There are a zillion tutorials for adding cross-stitched or embroidered accents to clothing, but if you’re completely hopeless with a needle you could also use fabric paint.

My single quibble with the Locher’s messages is that they’re a little too obvious. I think it’d be funnier to have them worked subtly into the design so they’re overlooked at a glance, and only noticed when someone looks closely. Working the words in amongst flower stems or twining ivy would be one way to do it; so would alternating letters with some other design; say, along a collar edge: “star – F – star – U – star – C…” and so on.

These would also make an amusing gift, either for someone with a good sense of humor who’d appreciate the joke or to give to (for instance, just hypothetically) your mother-in-law and see how long she wears it before she notices.

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Consider the Smallrus

September 22nd, 2015 by Cobwebs

Spider Walrus

Prepare for a trip down the rabbit hole on this one, kids.

BoingBoing recently mentioned a mobile game called “Spider: Rite of the Shrouded Moon,” in which you play as a little spider. Since some people (for some ridiculous reason) think spiders are icky instead of adorable, there’s a cheat code that lets you play as a tiny striped walrus instead.

In the comments, someone noted that this would properly be called a “Smallrus” and linked to Ursula Vernon’s drawing of said creature.

This is the rabbit-hole part.

In addition to the drawing, Vernon describes their behavior, typical call (“Inhale a good lungful of helium and yell ‘GRONK!’ and you’ve about got it”), and many other silly factoids. And she’s got an entire site full of the same kind of thing. There’s the Bog Unicorn, far nobler than the disgusting common unicorn. Throggle the demon’s stuffed Beelzebear. St. Dodus the Intolerant, who isn’t the patron saint of anything but his medal worn around the neck will warn off hugs from well-meaning strangers. There’s the Demon Rat of Vercingetorix who avenges particularly ill-treated mice, and a depiction of Where Zombie Babies Come From.

And that doesn’t even begin to cover the happy little shoggoths, Battle Hamsters of the North, potato priests, and a couple of paintings illustrating the adventures of, quote, “Happy Little Capybara in the Mayan Underworld” which litter her site. I spent a whole afternoon going through her gallery, and if you click over there you probably will too.

Her whimsy and imaginative descriptions shouldn’t be surprising; Vernon is a Hugo Award-winning author, and also accidentally spawned an internet meme when her Biting Pear of Salamanca was transformed into the LOLWUT pear.

She’s got a deviantART gallery too, so when you’re done with her site you can click over there and blow another couple of hours. She sells prints of her work quite inexpensively–I think I may have to get the tea label set for the kitchen–and occasionally does commissions (although her FAQ suggests that right now she isn’t doing many non-commercial ones).

The art is great and many of her descriptions also include interesting information about the materials and techniques she used, so clear an afternoon and go have a look. And keep an eye out for Smallri in your garden.

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Singing Pumpkins

August 26th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Singing PumpkinsI recently ran across a HauntForum post about The Singing Pumpkin, which sells animations that can be projected on uncarved pumpkins to make them appear to be singing Jack-o’-lanterns. It’s a neat idea, but since all they’re selling is the animation (they don’t license the song, so you have to supply that yourself), it made me wonder if there were any DIY versions out there.

Indeed there are! There’s a fantastic Instructable by David Andora which goes into detail about the materials and equipment you’ll need. Halloween Underworld also has some tips on setup and some specific information on connecting the projector.

Both of those tutorials use commercial animations by AtmosFEAR or Window Creeps, but if you’d rather do the animation yourself check out Karlfalcon’s video on DIY pumpkin animation; briefly, you film yourself in Jack-o’-lantern makeup and then do some video processing. There seems to be some free downloadable animations as well, like these at MP3li. (They may be ripped copies of commercial products, in which case, don’t pirate, kids!)

It’d be expensive to buy the projector and other equipment needed for this illusion, but if you’ve already got that stuff (or have been looking for an excuse to buy it) this would be a really arresting addition to a Halloween yard display.

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Octopus Hats

July 21st, 2015 by Cobwebs

Octopus HatTPF Faerie Wear created this adorable octopus hat with long fleecy tentacles; it clings to your head and keeps you snuggly warm. The hat is available in different colors, sizes, and tentacle lengths in their Etsy shop (and also check out their dragon scarves for an extra hit of cuteness).

Although I love some of this design’s features (particularly the realistic-looking eyes and curvy tentacles), I have to admit that $160 is more than I’d probably spend on a fleece hat. Fortunately, there are some other options.

There’s a basic pattern for a squid hat on Instructables. The tentacles could be combined with a slouch hat pattern like this one for a softer octopus-body look.

Fabrics and Chopsticks has a great tutorial on a more complicated squid hat with longer tentacles.

Grains of Earth has a roundup of crocheted octopus hat patterns; there’s a simple knit pattern here, and a pattern for a stuffed octopus here that could probably be converted into a hat.

Although there are no instructions, I quite like this cloche octopus hat; it seems to be felted tentacles attached to a hat of the same color. The suckers are pearly beads, which makes it rather elegant.

If you want realistic-looking eyes, you could use the plastic eyes sold for plush toys or even taxidermy eyes (you could go quite realistic with slit pupils or choose a red iris and make it a vampire squid). Suckers could be beads, buttons, appliqued fabric, or even puffy paint.

There are lots of ways to create an octopus hat, but the point is that you need an octopus on your head.

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The Adventures of Samurai Cat

June 23rd, 2015 by Cobwebs

Samurai Cat

Sixteenth-Century Japan — a land suffering through the long night of Sengoku Jidai, the Age of Battles, a period of constant civil war, of anarchy and terror, of savagery and bloodshed and lots of other good stuff. The social order was shaken to its core; class distinctions blurred as military prowess became all-important. With luck, even a peasant could slash a place for himself among the mighty.

Even a cat…

You guys. You guys. How have I run this silly blog for 8 years without ever mentioning Samurai Cat? That is simply inexcusable.

Miaowara Tomokato is a cat. Who is also the best samurai in the world. He returns from visiting his brother to discover that his (human) master Nobunaga has been murdered by…everybody. Martians. Nazis. Al Capone. Cthulhu. Morgan le Fay. Joseph Stalin. Darth Vader. Everybody. (Nobunaga made a lot of enemies in his youth.) As any noble samurai must, he sets out to avenge his master’s death by tracking down the killers.

Tomokato’s quest, in which he is frequently accompanied by his psychotic kitten nephew Shiro, spans six books: The Adventures of Samurai Cat, More Adventures of Samurai Cat, Samurai Cat in the Real World, The Sword of Samurai Cat, Samurai Cat Goes to the Movies, and Samurai Cat Goes to Hell. They’re written and illustrated by Mark E. Rogers, and sort of stray into graphic novel territory in that nearly every page features a color illustration depicting the events being described.

Each book is comprised of several standalone stories parodying movies, books, or historical events: In the first book, for instance, Tomokato travels to thinly-disguised versions of Middle-earth, Innsmouth, Hyboria, and Valhalla. The stories are prefaced by a relevant excerpt from a fictional biography of the Tomokato’s life, Cat Out of Hell: A Biography of Miaowara Tomokato, by William Shirer and A.J.P. Godzilla.

Although sadly out of print, the books are widely available through secondhand resellers like Amazon and AbeBooks.

“The Spad,” Arthur said. “The plane Joseph of Arimathea flew the Holy Grail to Britain in.”
Merlin nodded. “Only a knight of the Round Table who has achieved the Spad can defeat Mordred.”
“But achieving the spad …” Arthur said. “No one’s ever come close. Not even Jacques Cousteau … Of course, he kept looking for it in the South Pacific, so what do you expect?”

Really. These books are worth digging up.

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Mysteries by Mail

June 10th, 2015 by Cobwebs

Mysterious Package“It began one evening with a strange letter from a law firm I’d never heard of. Inside, I was informed of the passing of my Great Aunt Hanna – I didn’t even know I had a Great Aunt Hanna – and she had left a note for me. It was handwritten, and contained within a frail, ancient envelope. It was written in longhand, a warning about ghosts, and some coordinates that seem to be from a small island in the South Pacific. There was a map fragment of the island as well, but none of this makes any sense.”

The Mysterious Package Company is a members-only service that allows you to arrange “unannounced deliveries of a strange and otherworldly nature” that will draw the recipient into a quaint and curious story which might involve anything from crossword ciphers to medallions with cryptic symbols. With the slogan, “We tell stories you can touch,” here’s the company description from their Facebook page:

The Mysterious Package Company provides unique and custom-made gifts delivered by mail, and wrapped in a hand-crafted experience unlike any other. Custom made crates, letters and telegrams from long-lost relatives, and seemingly innocuous newspaper clippings add a richness to the curious goods contained within. Each experience is uniquely tailored to each person.

We are a members-only service. Membership is free, but you must fill in our application form in order to be considered as a member. We are more than simply a way to send packages, we are a community of like-minded people who believe that life needs to be less mundane.

An application does not guarantee membership.

It is the policy of The Mysterious Package Company to neither confirm nor deny our involvement with any specific packages. That would be telling.

This sounds really, really awesome.

There are some glowing reviews of the service: The Nerdery Public bought a package for himself so he knew the origin of the mysterious mailings, but he was still enthralled by the details and had a great time “solving” the puzzle. Mark Ramsden started receiving items when a friend arranged a package for him, so he had no idea where these things were coming from and was completely flummoxed. He detailed the whole thing in a series of blog posts titled, On Being Haunted, and it’s fun to read his accounts as he tries to figure out what the hell is going on. Strange Girl in a Little House got a different storyline, and there are several photos of the various package contents.

Having to apply for membership before seeing what the company offers is a little dismaying, but “The Curator’s” explanation in this article about the company makes a lot of sense:

membership is a layer of protection between the person sending the gift and the person receiving the gift. If one were to receive something unusual in the mail and do a web search for it and find out that, yes, it’s from The Mysterious Package Company, and it cost such and such, with a big buy now button, that would destroy the mystery. With membership, even if they discover that it’s from us, it’s a gift that you are unable to buy for yourself. This makes the experience priceless, something that we think our members appreciate.

If you need a gift for “someone who has everything,” this would be a very cool option.

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