The Art of Darkness

Fun with Buttons

March 30th, 2007 by Cobwebs

Spiderweb ButtonI have a big box o’ buttons that stares forlornly at me every time I go in my sewing room. Some of them are from clothing that I’ve loved to death, some of them are novelty buttons (which I have a terrible weakness for) that I’ve bought before thinking about what I might possibly do with them, and some seem to have just appeared randomly one day, in a reverse of the way that socks spontaneously vanish.

If you’re like me, let your buttons be forlorn no longer! Here are some easy ways to reuse them.

  • Push pins – If the button has a shank, cut it off flush with the back using wire cutters. Lay the button face-down, put a drop of hot glue on the back, and carefully center the head of a thumbtack in the glue. Let cool.
  • Kitchen magnets – As above, except use a small magnet instead of a thumbtack. This works best for larger buttons, as small ones will be too petite to hold anything up.
  • Hair clips – Using heavy thread, sew a button or two to the top of a bobby pin.
  • Napkin rings – Sew the ends of a piece of 1″-wide elastic together, then sew on enough buttons to cover the elastic. (If you’re entirely hopeless with a needle, use wooden napkin rings or short chunks of PVC pipe and hot-glue buttons instead.)
  • Art – Use a ruler to carefully draw a grid on construction paper. Hot glue a button in the center of each square of the grid (hint: use a pencil to very lightly draw an X in the grid to help find the center, then erase). Frame and hang on the wall. This is especially good if you have really interesting, vintage buttons that you want to show off. If the buttons are unusually thick you may need to use a shadowbox instead of a picture frame, or just remove the glass.

If you run out of buttons, or–heavens!–don’t have a stash, check out garage sales and flea markets. You can often find boxes of loose buttons, and it’s rather soothing to pick through them.

(Spider button image from Button Drawer.)

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Learn the Tarot in 5 Minutes

March 21st, 2007 by Cobwebs

Whether or not you believe in the efficacy of tarot cards, being able to do a reading is ever-so-cool. Don’t be daunted by the seemingly endless number of cards; use these simple mnemonics to help you keep everything straight, and you’ll be piercing the veil to the Other Side in no time.

There are zillions of tarot designs available, but something like the Rider-Waite or Morgan Greer decks are a good starting point because the images are fairly standardized and classic. (By contrast, my Halloween Tarot deck replaces the standard suits with Imps, Ghosts, Bats, and Pumpkins, and it took me forever before I stopped thinking, “Wait, are Bats supposed to be Swords or Pentacles or what?”)

Let’s start with the four “suits,” also known as the Minor Arcana. There are:

  • Cups – Emotional matters. Memory aid: Cups are filled with water, emotions such as tears are watery.
  • Pentacles – Financial or material concerns. Memory aid: These are usually illustrated as a pentacle inside of a circle, which looks like a coin. (In older decks, this suit is sometimes called Coins.)
  • Rods – Spiritual and intellectual matters. Memory aid: Old illustrations of spiritual leaders (Moses, Buddha, and whatnot) often depict them as carrying a rod or staff.
  • Swords – Authority and conflict. Memory aid: Actually, this one ought to be pretty obvious.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Cemetery Flickr Set

March 16th, 2007 by Cobwebs

The Shadow Family visited the UK in 2005, and in Bath I was delighted to discover that our hotel was right next to an old graveyard. I took lots of pictures, and have posted a few as a Flickr Set. The one with the raven atop the tombstone is one of my all-time favorite photos; I converted it to black-and-white and use it as desktop wallpaper. (I also used it to make customized photo checks, which almost makes paying bills fun. Almost.)

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Decoupage TV Trays

March 14th, 2007 by Cobwebs

I like to give a pair of hand-decorated TV trays as a wedding gift, but in case you don’t want to creep out the bride you can keep these for your ownself.


  • Wooden TV tray or breakfast tray
  • Fine-grain sandpaper
  • Black gloss enamel spray paint
  • Decoupage medium (such as Mod Podge)
  • Sponge brush
  • Paper for decoration. This can be interesting wrapping paper, pictures cut from magazines, or photocopied/printed artwork. Tarot cards might be fun (use color photos; real cards are too thick), or one of the Durer woodcuts. The Holbein Alphabet of Death is nice, too, and gives you the option of spelling out words.
  • Craft paint – black, red, silver (optional)
  • Silver metallic finish (such as Rub ‘n Buff) (optional)

  1. If the tray has a glossy finish, go over it lightly with the sandpaper to roughen it a bit and make sure the paint and decoupage will stick. Wipe down carefully to remove all the dust (a tack cloth works well for this).
  2. Working in a well-ventilated area, spray-paint the tray black. Dry overnight.
  3. Carefully cut out the images you wish to use. If using black-and-white drawings, hand-color portions of the picture if desired.
  4. Lay out the images in the design you want. Once they’re gummy they’re hard to reposition, so make sure you’re satisfied with the arrangement.
  5. Pour some decoupage medium into a shallow container (a disposable aluminum pie pan works well), and use the sponge brush to paint the back of one paper piece with the medium. Lay the paper down in position on the tray, and lightly brush the front of it with more decoupage medium. Repeat for all paper items, then brush a light coat of the medium over the whole design. Let dry, then add one more coat of the decoupage medium.
  6. Use your fingers to accent the edges of the tray with the silver metallic finish.


  • If desired, you can hand-paint additional detail with the craft paint (or use a rubber stamp dipped in the paint) and let dry before adding the final coat of decoupage medium. This works best for lap trays with a glass or plexiglas insert, since you don’t have to worry about the paint cracking through use.
  • If the tray will see heavy use, spray it with a clear waterproof sealant to keep liquid from damaging your art.

Viola! A unique item that is definitely more Edward Gorey than Eddie Bauer.

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March 8th, 2007 by Cobwebs

These are cute decorations for a bedroom or to accessorize a baby-doll dress when clubbing.


  • Plastic baby doll (look in thrift stores for second-hand ones)
  • Paint that will stick to plastic
  • Doll clothes. Depending upon your craftiness level, you can make your own (there are a zillion patterns for doll clothes at fabric stores) or purchase something that will fit. Remember–black dye is your friend; if all you can find are pastels or bunny rabbits, don’t despair. Or, um, do despair, if that’s your thing.

General Method:

First, decide on a look for your dollie. Do you want a zombie? An impish demon? A possessed Linda Blair knockoff? Or just a sweet little Goth? (The doll pictured here is from a classic Night Gallery episode that is responsible for who knows how many cases of the fantods. She’s an excellent source of inspiration.)
Night Gallery Doll
Apply a base coat of paint to the face and any other parts that won’t be covered with clothes. Something pale and greenish might be nice for a zombie, and you’d probably want dark red or black for a demon; you get the idea. Take care not to get paint into the joints on arms and legs, lest they stick shut.

Once thoroughly dry, paint the details. Use a bluish-grey to draw veins all over. Give her intricate eye makeup and scarlet lips. Paint his face like an evil clown. A hint of fang is always appropriate, as are interesting tattoos.

Whilst the paint is drying, decorate the clothes. Splatter red paint on them. Give them a few judicious rips. Bedizen them with bits of lace (use a hot glue gun if you’re entirely hopeless with a needle).

Dress, and done. Easy! Don’t forget to give him or her a pretty name. If you’re feeling extra-kitschy, you can make up a nice death certificate, suitable for framing.

The Vampire Damien has similar dollies for sale under the name Broodlings. Check out his gallery for inspiration, or simply buy one of your very own.

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Minor Amusement

March 7th, 2007 by Cobwebs

I was looking for an “Anarchy in the Pre-K” T-shirt for Shadowboy this afternoon, and ran across this T-shirt. A bit of googling tells me that I’m hopelessly late to the party where this slogan is concerned, but it made me giggle anyway.

Posted in Funny Peculiar | 1 Comment »

The Anatomical Chart Company

March 6th, 2007 by Cobwebs

Here’s a resource I wanted to share: Anatomical ( sells high-quality life-size models of human bones for research and teaching, but they’re very haunt-friendly and have excellent prices. Of particular interest are their “fourth quality” bones, which have some kind of manufacturing defect (frequently nothing more than some discoloration) and are very inexpensive. I got several of their skulls a few years ago, and use them as serving bowls (the calverium comes off) for chips and candy at parties. They’d also be fun to paint–any paint that sticks to plastic should work–or adorn with faux jewels and use as decorative elements around the house.

They also sell a number of novelty items such as scale-model skeletons and anatomically-correct chocolate hearts. And although their first-class life-size skeletons are fairly pricey, they sometimes have sales and offer deep discounts; I got one a few years ago for a quarter of the list price.

Always wanted your own Yorick?* Anatomical is the place to go.

*I had a model skull in my room as a child. I’d dress it up in hats and put a nightcap on it every night. My mother really shouldn’t be surprised at how I turned out.

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Paint It Black

March 2nd, 2007 by Cobwebs

“At the end of the day, if in doubt, paint it black and slap a skull on it.”
— Voltaire*

Although items in this category may stray into home decor from time to time, such items will more likely be found in Doom it Yourself (if homemade) or Bad Things (if purchased). Instead, Paint It Black will focus on ways to subvert shiny, happy things into gloomy things you don’t have to throw a blanket over when you have houseguests.

This is especially useful if you have well-meaning relatives who can’t quite wrap their heads around your decorating choices. (In my case, it’s my mother, a very sweet woman who didn’t let out a peep when my formal wedding pictures were taken in a graveyard and who remained unruffled when the very first item of clothing I purchased for Shadowboy was a onesie that said “Spawn of Freaks.” Despite these subtle hints as to what my decorating choices might thus be, in my mother’s head I’m forever Pollyanna and she gives me gifts accordingly.)

Here’s a quick one to get started: Say you’re given a large pillar candle in an unfortunate color (such as pink), on a similarly unfortunate wooden base. Apply a faux finish to the base (many craft stores sell kits for this) to look like marble, and stamp-decorate the candle (Trystan Bass has excellent instructions here) with images of gargoyles or Victorian ghosts. This goes a long way toward making it look less like a gift from Aunt Mildred and more like something that would be at home in Mina Harker’s boudoir.

*The goth artist, not the philosopher. He’d more likely have said “A la fin du jour, si en doute, peindre le noircit et gifle un crâne dessus.” Or possibly “Noir? Un crâne? Merde!” But I digress.

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