Sinterklaas

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The one thing I’ve always adored about the holidays, are the rich, magical, and mythical traditions surrounding Sinterklaas.  The excitement at the thought of a magical figure of goodwill arriving to leave behind tokens and trinkets for the well behaved children of the world.  Once, a tradition of handmade, wonderful things like candles, carved wooden figures, toy dolls made out of fruit, and handmade ornaments.
Today, in 21st century America, it had seemed very much so that the magic of the myth has all since worn off and been replaced with what seems like mandatory consumerism.  Packed stores with harsh, florescent lighting, rows and rows of shiny new objects and electronics made in mass that make rich men even richer and the put poor into even more debt…with low interest… 
Until the recent support of small business and handmade resurgence.
Trendy?  Perhaps.  Back to the point of the holiday?  Absolutely. 
I quit buying in the big stores years ago and have been an advocate for handmade, local, and independent holiday ever since.  It’s just more fun.  Searching for that one of a kind, unique, quality made, perfect present is just MORE FUN and finding it is even better. 
Every year my dad gets the best fresh roasted coffee beans straight from the the roaster at Allegheny Coffee Company and I stand in line for an hour to get delicious fresh-popped popcorn in the most original flavors from Pittsburgh Popcorn Company, both located in Pittsburgh’s bustling Strip District.  The Strip district rests along the river and is rows of family owned business, fresh produce, and boutiques that have been there for decades.  Not only does my dad get those special gifts that he looks forward to once a year…I get to take in the smells and sights while supporting those small businesses that have been passed from Grandfather, to Father, to Son…
Some of my favorite places for holiday shopping in the Strip include Pennsylvania Macaroni Company (ALL THE CHEESE), Mon Amie Chocolates, Roxanne’s Dried Flowers, Loom Exquisite Textiles, Hot Haute Hot, Allegheny Coffee Company, and Penzeys Spices.
Other places that are great for unique gift finding include Boutique 208 (downtown), Most Wanted Fine Art (gallery on Penn Ave in Garfield and Bizarre! Bazaar! Boutique in the Waterfront),  Pittsburgh Antique Shops (Castle Shannon), Journey’s of Life (Shadyside), and Artisan (Penn Ave in Garfield)….there are so many more, it’s impossible to list them all…we are so fortunate to have so many amazing small businesses in Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods.

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(above: Artisan Tattoo & Gallery on Penn Ave in Garfiled   Instagram: _artisan_ )

I realize not all of my readers are local or native to my area…so I’ve also included a list of some of my favorite online purveyors of handmade and independent….

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Deadly Grounds Coffee: http://www.deadlygroundscoffee.com   Instagram: @deadlygroundscoffee
Because who doesn’t need a bag of independently roasted cinnamon coffee with a picture of zombie Santa on the front?

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It’s fairly obvious I’m a sucker for dolls, and these handmade monsters from Junker Jane are some of my favorite. http://www.junkerjane.com  Instagram: @junkerjane

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Fiendies is one of my new favorites: http://www.fiendies.com  Instagram: @enchantedrumors
Engraved Spirit Boards, planchettes, elder runes, as well as quartz candles and fire dust.  So unique, so much to choose from.

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Morph Knitwear…some of the most stunning, handmade, knitwear for dark souls.  http://www.morphkknitwear.com   Instagram: @morphknitwear

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Salt Circle Metals, hand carved and cast jewelry from Portland. The Phantoms Collection is to die for.  http://www.saltcirclemetals.com  Instagram: @saltcircle

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Again, I’m a sucker for dolls…obviously.  But Christy Kane, has always been one of my absolute favorites and I can’t do a holiday list without her.  Hand stitched and embroidered, her Sisters Kane are made with so much love and fable. 
http://www.sisterskane.com   Instagram: @christykanedolls

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Another that I’ve had the pleasure of crossing paths with recently is New England artist, Bill Crisafi.   Simplistic black and white, but detailed, dark dream like illustrations spun from witchcraft and stories only the night would tell.
http://www.billcrisafi.bigcartel.com and http://www.burialground.org  Instagram: @billcrisafi and @burialground

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Sacra Luna goods from the sacred moon and gifts made in nature.  Another new recent favorite artisan of jewelry, crystal grids, and all things mystical.
http://www.sacraluna.etsy.com   Instagram: @sacraluna

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Lastly, some of my favorite illustrations are those of Jon MacNair.  His work speaks entirely for itself. 
http://www.jonmacnair.com  Instagram: @crispycopper

There are so many artists, artisans, clothiers, jewelry makers, and more…I could go on all day.  But, here is your start.   Now you have to do the rest of your digging for yourself.  Go have fun, find that perfect and unique, one of a kind present that someone will never forget while supporting the little guys who work hard to bring you that special something without the use of factories and advertisement.

Happy Holidays.

The Inevitable Change of Seasons…

My hermit-like winter in…quickly changed into a fast spring and summer.  I barely noticed the seasons change.

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My focus shifted over the spring/summer to a massive design job as the art director with one of the countries leading haunted attractions, The Scarehouse.  I spent my days submerged in the year 1932, as they took on one of the largest re-designs in their history.

With the passing and completion of the project, I find myself slowing back down and being able to delve back into my own world and the monsters within it and am shifting my focus back onto my artwork.

New pieces have been emerging daily and will continue as the Autumn months turn to Winter.

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Darkness Peering…

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It’s been a long, cold, snow covered winter and we’ve been tucked inside working diligently.  I had taken the entire month of December, and most of January, off from performing and traveling to focus on my art work.  This is something that was long past due, as my art was starting to fall by the wayside and taken a back seat to sideshow and burlesque.  Although I love performing, traveling, meeting new people, and challenging myself on the stage, I am happiest when I am locked in with my thoughts and my creations.  So, with a large gallery exhibit and Atrocity Exhibition on the horizon, I felt it the best decision to take the much needed time off to be in my studio and create….and it has been a glorious vacation for my mind and soul.

“Darkness Peering” is the first gallery exhibit I will be a part of in 2014 and I have been paired up with one of my favorite artists and people, Steph Sciullo of Brainsick & Damned (www.facebook.com/brainsickanddamned).  This will be the second exhibit we’ve done together and we are a well working match, both in personality and artistic aesthetic.  Since Aaron (aka Dr. Morose of Morose & Macabre’s House of Oddities) had left for California, she’s the only artist I’ve been able to connect with and be inspired by, so working with her is a welcome comfort. 

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“Darkness Peering” is a world of night creatures, but also refers to the people who chose to stand on the outside, where it’s safe….peering into the darkness, rather than exploring it.  Fear of the unknown.  Fear of what can’t be seen.  Making assumptions of what rests in dark depths, manifesting fear within themselves.  Being ignorant and sheltered in light and false ideals of safety.

I have been taking on new challenges with this new collection of pieces.  The first piece, being The Collector.  He is the first full skeletal structure piece I’ve created and it has been a challenge figuring out how to make him a solid structure with no weak points in his spindly, lil legs.  He’s built out of layers of virtually every material I work with as he was an experimental process.  Now that he is nearing completion with mere detail work to finish, I think I finally have a solid process that I can use in future pieces.  Speaking of detail, that’s what he’s all about.  “The Collector” or “Finders Keepers” is just that, a collector of lost objects.  His detail work has been a never ending project of found object layering, and as I lay each layer, a different piece of his story is laid down with it.

(PHOTO ABOVE, THE COLLECTOR WITH NO DETAIL AFTER BASE WAS COMPLETED AND PAINTED.  PHOTO BELOW, THE COLLECTORS FINISHED CROWN HEAD PIECE.)

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Due to some serious financial set backs over the holiday season, I began to panic as I slowly began to reach the bottom of Magic Sculpt epoxy bucket.  Now I have to figure out how to complete a full collection of work, with a next to zero dollar budget, while running out of the expensive materials that I work with.  My ideas are huge…..budget and supplies….not so much and I had blown most of my budget on The Collector. What to do?

Looking around my studio, you will find a lot of abandoned pieces.  Creatures and paintings that I’ve created that simply weren’t going the direction I needed them to go in and were set aside for “later”.  One of these pieces, is the lady that we’ve referred to as “Her”.  She’s been a torso and face sitting on a shelf above my work table for well over a year, if not two.  The thing with “Her” was that her face was absolutely disturbing in ways that were not good and she had a habit of “jumping” off of her shelf and landing in the middle of the studio at odd hours of the night.  In my “oh, shit I’m almost out of supplies” fury, I decided that it was time to for “Her” to be completed.  Since the awful face was created with a reasonable amount of expensive epoxy…..some reconstructive surgery was my only option.  With a small ball of epoxy, I began to build out her face and sculpt it over the already existing piece.  Needless to say, when she was completed, she took on a new life and a new soul.

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(PHOTO ABOVE: “HER” AFTER A RE-SCULPT AND NEW BODY STRUCTURE.  YOU CAN FOLLOW HER PROGRESS ON MY INSTAGRAM.  USER: MACABRENOIR)

So, that brings us to roughly 2 weeks before the show deadline…now with a renewed faith in myself to be able to salvage old work, breathe new life into it, and still be able to create a cohesive collection that is true to who I am as an artist.  It’s getting crunchy, but I’m confident in January to keep me snowed in and creating up until the very last minute.

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PHOTO ABOVE: HECATE IN PROGRESS

If you are interested in seeing this collection of work in person, you can visit the exhibit opening on Friday, February 7th, 2014 at Most Wanted Fine Art – 5015 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15224. 

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Exquisite Corpses….

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2013 has brought with it, a serious lack of motivation on my part. It is partly because I am still adjusting to my chaotic city life, and partly because my schedule as an entertainer has been pretty intense with taking me out of state every other weekend. However, the one sure way to light a fire under your ass is a deadline.

I was recently partnered up with Steph Sciullo, a fantastic artist of similar aesthetic, by 2 different galleries over the course of the next year. We’ve not only partnered up on these shows, but also “exquisite corpse” pieces for the shows. Essentially, we’ve taken on the task of working “blind” with each other, passing a collaborative piece back and forth with no discussion on it’s direction. The great part about being paired with Steph is that it is both intimidating and inspiring, as well as getting to know her outside of the “show” realm. We are similar creatures with similar work habits, and that has made this a wonderful partnership and overall experience. It’s also a comfort to know that the other artist is in as much as a frenzied panic as yourself and feeling the pressures of the approaching deadline looming on the horizon.

In my panic, I took the past weekend to escape to one of my favorite places on earth, The Grand Midway Hotel (www.iliveinahauntedhotel.com). I found myself taking a long, late, Friday night drive with a poet in the passenger seat over this last weekend in an attempt to find the inspiration I needed. I settled in a room on the third floor, and that is where I stayed. I let the hotel and the spirits that dance in the hallways and hidden corners be my guide through the following 2 days. And guide me, they did. On Saturday, I left my room only to drag on the occasional cigarette and find food. I worked for a solid 14 hours without hesitation. I came back to Pittsburgh feeling accomplished, refreshed, and full of new ideas with new pieces in tow.

I’m feeling pretty confident for the opening this upcoming Saturday (June 22nd) at Artform. I have a few pieces that are going to be completed very last minute and sort of giving me anxiety, but for the most part, I believe I’m ready.

Lastly, I have to thank all of the awesome people on my facebook and instagram profiles for the encouragement and excitement over the newly progressing and finished pieces. In some sense, we are strangers, yet you’ve offered me a level of support that I haven’t gotten from people who I have known and worked with for years. You, are partly, what has made me feel most confident in the animals I have created.

Also, my ever patient and supportive partner who puts up with my mania on a day to day basis, I would be lost without him.

2013…new beginnings….new ghosts manifesting….

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2013 has definitely had a slow start for me.  I’ve been working, yes, just not a lot of completing.  I’m currently in the midst of 4 different projects.  Unlike my usual doll creations, these are larger exhibit pieces featured in shadow boxes, upcycled framing, and full skeletal dolls.  It has been a big challenge, as usually, my monsters are created to stand on their own.  Now, I am creating a habitat for them and coming across several artist blocks along the way.  So, although it may seem I haven’t been producing nearly as many pieces for the shoppe, I am still creating.  The pieces in production will be accompanying me to many exhibits and galleries through out the 2013 year and are creations that have been long boiling on my back burner.  I am excited to bring them to life and will be sure to keep everyone up to date on their progress and the places you will be seeing them in the future….

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Bees and Bones and Skeleton Keys……

I very rarely take “custom” orders.  It’s not that I think I am “above” them, as I’ve been accused of being by folks that I have politely turned down.  It’s that it is very difficult for me.  I see these creatures in my head LONG before their creation.  I have a defined picture, story, and idea before I even make one stitch.  I create to bring my ideas to life and it’s a LOT of pressure to bring some one else’s idea to life with out being able to see what’s going on in their head or the direction they want to go.  I find myself just spinning gears and pacing a lot on custom pieces and they become, in no way, enjoyable.  They become a task to avoid letting some one down, as well as letting myself down.  More often than not, I WILL formulate a definite idea and begin full throttle into the project, then hit a wall and start questioning direction about half way through, resulting in me ripping out the few precious strands of hair that I have left on my head.

However, last spring-ish, I was presented with a most intriguing concept for a custom piece that I simply could not refuse.  I was given three objects of importance to the individual and told to create a doll based around the tiny box of odds I was given.

I received the box via mail and had no idea what was awaiting me inside.  Upon opening it, I found a tiny pelvic bone, a plastic bee button, and a skeleton key.  I still, to this day, have no idea the significance of these items, only that I was to create a story from these 3 random objects that had no connection.

For days, I would sit down at my work table, empty the contents of the box out in front of me, stare at them, and then promptly put them away, completely stumped.

Bees and bones and skeleton keys…..

A queen bee with a brass bee brooch that had been passed down through her family for generations.  A killer queen bee with a trophy crown of bone that both marked her place in hierarchy as well as served as a warning to enemies that her people would kill to protect their rights and land.  A killer queen bee that held the key to the gates of the nest.  An eloquent leader that was equally a force to be reckoned with……

The Queen Killer Bee was born……

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Handmade for the Holiday…..

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The holidays have become such a monument of consumerism.  In a world driven by electronic gizmos and the want of the fanciest, shiniest material possessions, I feel more and more every year that the spirit and creativity of the holiday is slowly fading away.   Santa went from carving dolls for little girls to pre-packaging plastic, pink barbies.  When I was a kid, I was also a victim of the Toys R’ Us catalog.  I’d sit down with sharpee in hand, and begin to circle the beautiful, battery powered newness that I desired for my playroom.

Now that I am an adult, and an artist living hand-to-mouth, I have quite the different perspective.  I create and sell, in order to pay for my OWN holiday gift giving and gift creating and have been thrust into this conundrum.  I am a small business owner that struggles for my craft and my business. I, like many other independents, look forward to this time of year for the extra revenue I need to put gifts under my tree, food on my table, a roof over my head, and supplies in my work room so that I may continue to do what I feel I was meant to do.  Buying handmade for the holiday is not only an important part of my survival, I endorse paying it forward and doing the same for others.

Create you etsy wishlist to mail out to your family and friends, check out local boutiques, galleries, independently owned bookstores…..keep creativity alive this holiday and keep these independent pioneers and free thinkers going!

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(Deirdre & Lilah Human Pincushion ornament dolls/functional pin cushions in progress….check out the completed works at http://www.doctormorose.etsy.com)

Have a blessed holiday season and much love to all!

xoxo

-M

The Faun…..

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The faun is a half human – half goat manifestation of forest and animal spirits which would help or hinder humans at whim. Romans believed fauns inspired fear in men traveling in lonely, remote or wild places. They were also capable of guiding humans in need.
This little faun, is a trouble maker. He has a mischievious, experimental curiosity….
His body is made from muslin and chopped laces. He has hand sculpted, epoxy goat legs and face. He is hand stained with blue and brown acrylic tinted waters.
He stands roughly 17 inches from horn to hoof and loves to sit on shelves surrounded with trinkets and curiosities.

The Oracle….

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Of three eyes, the Oracle can only see with one….and speaks very little…..but when he does, everyone listens….his voice is as loud as thunder regardless of his tiny stature.
Hand sculpted, solid epoxy face with grey pearl eyes. Made from skeletal demask pattern heavy textile fabric. Tiny anise seed pod sewn into place with darning floss.
Measures 9 inches

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