Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday Freakout: Eerie on Etsy

It's Friday. I'm ready to blow up. So it's time to calm things down and frolic around Etsy, especially since today is the Etsy Global Craft Party. I'll be attending the Houston party tonight. Of course, I'm always looking to have my imagination fired by creepy things. This is my OCTOBER Country.

But! It's not October yet. So I thought I'd explore some fun products that have all the requisite creepiness, with the whimsy of summer equally represented. Here we go:

Grichels leather deluxe bi-fold wallet

This is one boss wallet. It reminds me of being a kid in the summer, and spending all my time in the woods, swearing I saw faces in the bark. I picked this one since it's a tad less sinister than some of the other designs (though they are equally awesome). For me, this calls to mind all the watchfulness I experienced in the woods, and in a way, it's right out of a Disney fairytale. Ya know, the kind where the princess has reached that bad part of the woods where the trees grab at her and there are eyes in the shadows. Exactly the spot I hope to retire to!

Cemetery Raven box/ aged wood trinket box

RavenofSkys has the market cornered on creepy housewares, jewelry and lots of other goodies. I'm always impressed by her work. This one felt appropriate since I love visiting cemeteries, even in hot weather (watch out for my report on Houston's Glenwood cemetery next week). I've got my eye on this little treasure, since I've got so many similar treasures to place in it.

Haunted House Antique Picture in Metal Frame

You might call it dilapidated, but we all know any house in extreme disrepair is that way because it's clearly haunted. I love this little vintage portrait, with a mix of emptiness and foreboding. It definitely needs to hang in the hallway.

Dark Sky Dock - 8x12 Fine Art Photograph

How many of us went to the lake in the summer as kids? Many of us probably, and those days were carefree, sunburned and full of memories. Some of us went to the ocean as well, but as I always say, that's an entirely different ghost story (which I'll get into another day). There are many fabulous tales of terror, or ghost yarns that center around the lake. I can think of one by Ray Bradbury that is chilling but heartbreaking and warm all at once. Water is always a place where we tend to dwell on eerie subjects, perhaps because we are always aware of how dangerous and powerful an element it is. I spent much time up in the foothills of New Hampshire's White Mountains as a child, at woodland cottage that my grandparents owned on the shores of a small lake. It was a beautiful and peaceful place, but when night came, I was always frightened unless my cousin Kim was with me. Together, we always turned the darkness on itself and used the night hours to spin our own creepy yarns and let our imaginations dance in the shadows. I find that hard to do as an adult. I take myself too seriously now, or maybe not seriously enough. But I remember the way the dock looked at night from the windows of the cottage, and how there were always strange lights on the water, and stranger noises coming through the trees.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Gulf Coast Graveyards

So I've barely had a day off since October of last year, when I took a birthday trip to the beautifully wicked city of New Orleans, LA. While there, I obviously soaked up the creepy, and spent my days rooting out the authentic from the tourist. There is plenty of both in this old city, and much of it remains despite the high waters of 2005. That being said, I sadly did not venture out from the quarter, and restricted my activities to investigations of old horrors, instead of recent ones. That is another pilgrimage all together. I managed to find the legit voodoo and occult shops, avoided the ghost tours, and sought out all the spots in the quarters known for macabre histories, and sometimes regaled bystanders on the grim history all around them. Never pay hard-earned cash for an official tour when a well chosen book on the area and a willingness to converse with strangers can get you an even better experience.

But I am veering off course.

There is no better place than NOLA to start an examination of Gulf Coast graveyards. The water table of this bowl-shaped berg on the edge of the Mississippi and Lake Pontchartrain (two bookends that proved devastating to the city) makes burial in the ground impossible. Thus we have the magnificent Necropoles of New Orleans. We visited one such as the last stop before piling into the car for the 5 hour ride back to Houston. It was a toss-up between Lafayette Cemetery and one of the St. Louis Cemeteries. Being close to the edge of the Quarter and one of (if not the) oldest cemeteries in NOLA, we chose St. Louis Cemetery #1. At 9am, the graveyard was open, serene and approachable. The sky was overcast, and the black cat that counts the necropolis as part of his territory, is friendly and affectionate. Many of these photos are available in my Etsy Shop.

There's plenty to appreciate in this cemetery, from founders of the city, voodoo queens with several rumored burial sites (you'll know these vaults because of the many markings and offerings from visitors), and entire families wiped out by Yellow Jack (yellow fever) that gripped the Gulf Coast port towns throughout the early settlements through the 19th century.

Though the cemetery is kept in good repair by the a city-based organization, many of the tombs are in disrepair, cracked or in pieces. But I doubt even the highest of human effort to keep up with nature could stop the decay of a place like St Louis #1, especially with the kind of nature New Orleans experiences. It's also fairly standard for vegetation to grow anywhere it can in the subtropical climate of the Gulf Coast. Above you'll see I took a shoot of a wildflower vining out of a crack in one of the tombs, a good four feet above the nearest bit of soil.

I had hoped this photo would have a good story behind it, but I've not been able to find out where this statue's head has gone off to, or when it took a hike, or why, or how. This is part of the large Italian monument and vault. A similar alcove on the other side of the rounded vault has a statue made famous in scenes from Easy Rider.

In some cases, age adds a lot of charm. This intricate wrought iron fencing around a family plot has rusted over so completely that there is new dimension to the design. I was immediately drawn to it, and, if monuments and decoration on graves are intended to draw attention as much as to pay tribute to the dead, this gate served better than the vault itself.

Higher up, there are fewer signs of rust, but wrought iron, so often identified with Louisiana and French architecture, was found throughout the cemetery. I imagine some of these lighter pieces may be restored or replaced as nature attacks over the years.

The signs of wear also add interesting dimensions of color to the older tombs and vaults. I did notice that there were some newer graves (they definitely stand out among the ancient ones). Some of the newer burials have been in the 21 century even, and being a popular cemetery that takes up a mere city block and has been in use since the 18th century, I can't help but wonder if bodies are displaced to make room for the new. And of so, who is chosen to go, and how much does a family pay to stay?

Though all in all, the cemetery is peaceful and well-respected, I will leave you with one small note of disquiet, as my mother pointed out when we turned the corner to see the line of poorer vaults lining the western end of the cemetery. Strangely, very little about St. Louis reminded me of death. Though sometimes austere, and ornate, it always seemed a celebration of life (which seems in keeping with the spirit of the city itself). But this last row took me far away from New Orleans, and to a much darker past than this city, post Katrina or Pre, can conjure.

Are you not also reminded of crematory ovens?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Back from the Dead!

Yes, I'm Back! It's been a crazy busy eight months, and I'm sure I don't have to tell you that running your own business and working full time at the same time leaves little time for extracurriculars. But, I've so missed my little blog project, and I've got some material with which to jump back into the fold.

I'll also be changing the scope of this blog a tad to focus on artisans, crafters and designers that I admire. Many will be right in line with the online graveyard I like to explore, but others will deviate into new territory. I'll also be showcasing my own art projects from time to time.

So, we've got some lost time to make up for. Shall we dance?