The Season of the Witch

Selfie of me wearing Illamasqua's Pristine lippy.

Selfie of me wearing Illamasqua’s Pristine lippy.

So being a witch is in– even Urban Outfitters is getting in on the haute occult game, selling crystals and divination tools, usually the wares of the local, independent pagan or New Age shop.

This look is a simple resurrection, Stevie Nicks, but paired way down: 1970s Victoriana dresses in black, layers of jagged hemmed garments worn in an undefinited sihouette.  If you look like you just stepped out of your chicken-footed cottage, you’ve got it right.  It’s all the rage.  But what if the rage is you, and has always been? How do you ride the tide of fickle fashion when the High Street is cashing in on what you love? I say, keep doing it, and do it like you mean it.

A Polyvore Set featuring Feral Strumpet designs.

A Polyvore Set featuring Feral Strumpet designs.

The upside of all this is now that these trends have names–Dark Mori, Nu Goth, etc., I’m able to find my style sisters–like-minded souls on Instagram and Pinterest, mutual style inspirations and co-cacklers. Here are some witchy discoveries– recent and not-so-recent- that I’ve found whist searching the web for fellow darklings.

The Hermit card from the Wild Unknown Tarot by Kim Krans

The Hermit card from the Wild Unknown Tarot by Kim Krans

The Wild Unknown Tarot- She dresses like a witch, walks like a witch and even talks like a witch, but can she divine the signs? Herein we separate the crones from the drones.  The Wild Unknown Tarot is new to me, and the imagery resonates profoundly. Though I first learned the craft through Tarot, I often felt scolded by my Rider Wait training deck, and when I switched to the Golden Tarot, the feeling didn’t change.  I came to reading Runes years later.  They speak to me with more immediacy and appear as allies rather than ominous harbingers, as the Tarot often did. Still, when I saw this deck it rekindled my fondness for Tarot, simplifying the meanings and rooting them in the earth and nature.

Black Lippy in Pristine by Illamasqua.  Part of this trend is black lipstick, and though I have been a non-orthodox sort of goth most of my life I have shied away from this make up staple because I couldn’t find a black lippy with enough coverage and mixing my own out of eyeliner, eyeshadow and chapstick was unpleasant. So one of the benefits of this mainstreaming is that almost everyone is coming out with a black lippy formula.  I have tried many and so far Illamasqua’s Pristine is my favourite.  I do love this make up brand for its original formulas, many of which are supremely wearable and natural looking despite many of the OTT Instagram make up posts using this brand. I do love that they often use older women in their ad campaigns and a variety of face shapes and types of beauty.  They are cruelty free as well.

Image of A England Fotheringhay Castle polish by @lakodom on Ink361.com

Image of A England Fotheringhay Castle polish by @lakodom on Ink361.com

A England Polish in Fotheringhay Castle.  This is my newest obsession, this lichen-green polish with a mysterious scattered holo. I do love this brand, founded by designer Adina Bodana.  Her collections are inspired by English history, paintings and lore.  This particular colour is part of her new Elizabeth and Mary collection and is named for the final place of imprisonment of Mary, Queen of Scots, who was tried and executed in the castle. I love all the movement and depths in her polishes, but this colour is particularly magical. Once I was at the 18th century folly based on Stonehenge which is called the Druid’s Circle.  Moss and bracken have taken over the site giving it an ancient feel.  The site itself has a fascinating if somewhat disturbing history which I’ll save for another post.  But one day during a late summer visit I found deep in the shadows of stone some biolumensecent lichen– green glowing sequins worthy of an Arthur Machen story.  I have researched to find out what kind of life form I had seen, to no avail. It was indeed something from the Twilight realm of the fey. This polish is exactly the same colour.

swirlSwirl Clothing- Ok, I didn’t discover this company recently, but I have to give a shout out to my homegirl Sal and her clothing company.  She designs witch dresses in all sizes, including plus sizes. The simple shapes are perfect foundation pieces for a layered dark mori look, or a minimalist Nu Goth shape when paired with one of my rosary necklaces and perhaps a wide-brimmed hat. Sal has a brick and mortar shop in York as well as an online shop.  I wear her dresses almost every day.

How we adorn ourselves is our most immediate form of self-expression– it can be the most intimate descriptor we have of ourselves.  When fashion takes these shapes and ideas and sells them back to us, we have to keep playing and keeping things true to our own identities while supporting other independent, pagan, heathen and witch-friendly businesses.   What, if anything, in this current trend is inspiring you? What gems have you found?

Season of the Witch

Season of the Witch

The A to Z of Feral Adornment

The Kitchen Witch's Pentagram Ring.

The Kitchen Witch’s Pentagram Ring.

Herein you will find a whimsical list of my current obsessions, design stand-bys and inspirations, tidily alphabetised.

Amulet-a protective talisman or charm which can take many wearable forms, such as my Kitchen Witch’s Pentagram Ring. Much of what I make is charged with this impulse beyond decoration, a connection to a force larger than ourselves.

Brooch- a pin used to keep clothing closed, the fibula or pennanular style is one of the oldest forms of jewellery.  My popular Anglo Saxon brooch is inspired by archeological designs found in Yorkshire.  I cold forge this style copper as well as bronze, in various sizes for different weights of hand-knits and hand woven textiles. This has become one of my best-loved designs.

charivariCharivari- Bavarian hunting trophies are my current obsession. Charivari also means “rough music” in French, we’ll leave the connection here to the poets among you. Worn over the trouser section of leiderhosen, they are uncanny relics: bones, teeth and horns encased in silver.  I initially saw numerous Charivari when traveling around Bavaria stopping in at antique dealers– but I had no idea what they were.  The seemed to be jewels from the Brothers Grimm, the original fairy tales.  For more on Charivari I encourage you to read Robert Seitz’s brilliant blog post about them.

You had to earn them.  You had to face death to wear them –Robert Seitz, “German Hunting Amulets, (Charivari)”, Writing on Ornament by Robert Seitz,

Dog Collar– a short wide necklace worn like a choker.  Though this is a term used by pearl sellers, I do remember wearing actual dog collars when I was younger, before such things were widely available in High Street shops, back when punk was completely DIY.

eyeglass_chain6Eyeglass Chain–Remember the monocle? Ok, maybe you don’t, but as my eyesight begins to require more elaborate correction, I’m seeing the wisdom in the monacle.  You could hold it with your eye muscles and then just tuck it into a pocket, never losing it because it would be connected to a chain.  And you’d look positively spiffy, too.  I thought to myself, how can I reproduce this spiffiness, but for glasses? I decided to use old skool goth style rosary chains and different accents– a kind of morbid librarian chic which is also much more practical than the monocle.

mermaid_drops-8French or Fishhook Ear Wires– my most popular ear wire.  I hand forge my own in my “little cobra” shape, but also use hypoallergenic niobium ear wires for those with extra sensitve ears.

Girandole– a chandelier style earring with three ornaments, from the French word for a elaborate branched candlestick or rotating display of fireworks.  If only all words for jewellery were as pretty.

quartz_hoops_brassHoops– The simplest and most iconic earring shape– the earring of choice for gypsies, pirates and William Shakespeare. I love to play with this form in my cold-forged designs.  I’m fascinated by the way this simple halo/oroborous framing the face can completely change one’s countenance.

Inclusion-any deposit, mineral or otherwise, inside a stone.  I love to work with stones that have inclusions. Though with some stones this is said to mar or devalue them, I am fascniated by tourmalated quartz and moss agate.  Stones are little void-worlds that suggest miniature fairy landscapes, unearthly writings and signs.

Jet– also known as lignite or sea-coal, it is a petrified wood created by millennia of sea-water. Though often difficult for me to source, I love working with jet. Popular in Roman Britain, jet from the East coast was sent to workshops in Eboracum, or York, which is where my own workshop is based.  For the Romans (as well as the Victorians) jet was a magical substance. Pliny the Elder wrote of jet: “the kindling of jet drives off snakes and relieves suffocation of the uterus. Its fumes detect attempts to stimulate a disabling illness or a state of virginity.” (Your mileage may vary.)

Debra Baxter’s Crystal Brass Knuckles.

Knuckle Duster– Brass knuckles, knucks, knucklebusters were incorporated into pistols and knives in the early 20th century, and most recetly have had a resurgence in jewellery design.  Known in Canada as “brass monkeys”, in France and Mexico as “American fist”, In Brazil they are called “English punch” and in Russia they are “head-breakers”. I often have fantasies about making a knuckle duster ring like Debra Baxter’s “Devil Horn Crystal Brass Knuckles”.

yule_tulips_red2Leverback Ear Wires- a favourite ear wire for my Victorian-inspired designs, these feature a lever clasp that keeps the earring safely in place.  I use high quality brass plated leverbacks for many of my designs, and some feature more modern, simplified versions of the leverback design in sterling silver.

Matinee Necklace– this is the term used for a necklace that is 20-24″ long, and this is my second most popular necklace length.  (Pendant length, 18-19″ being most popular).  I couldn’t find out why exactly it’s called matinee, but I like to imagine it’s a hold over from an earlier era when time-of-day and types of outings dictated outfits– meaning this “afternoon” length was perhaps more casual than a dramatic choker or opera-length chain worn with evening wear.

Ceremonial Nath on Saffron Art.

Nath– an elaborate nose ring with pearls on the outside, worn by Indian women for ceremonial purposes.  I’m inspired by the design and structure of these nose rings, how they hang and their simple wire closures.  They have informed my earring designs.

Opera Length– a term used for a long necklace length, 28-34 inches.  This is the length of many of my rosary-style necklaces.  (Opera attendance while wearing these necklaces is optional but recommended).

Patina– this term is used to denote a change the colour of a metal, often due to age or through different chemical processes.  I love to patina my copper pieces quite heavily.  I use sulphur and warm water to patina my work and seal in the patina with museum grade Renaissance Wax.  The whole process is quite alchemical to me. I have come to enjoy the smell of brimstone. (Insert evil laugh).

Queen of Elphame-My number one creative influence, a favourite driving idea of my design it is imagining adornments of the Fairy Queen, called the Queen of Elphame in Northern England in Scotland.  This particular moniker comes from the witch trial transcripts, adding for me a kind of bitter relevance to my Pagan-based, witchy designs. Robert Graves embraced this spelling and the Queen of Elphame appears in many folk ballads where she is the lover and teacher of Thomas the Rhymer.

Rope chain– the longest of chains, measuring 45″ or more, designed to be doubled, trebled. I haven’t made such a chain– yet! Though I do dream of making a fine rope necklace of sterling silver and garnet links. Maybe this year.

S Clasp- this is my favourite clasp style.  I forge my own in sterling silver, copper, brass or bronze, depending on the design.

Toggle Clasp– A bar and hoop style clasp. It is my second favourite clasp design as it is easy to use and sturdy and can often be incorporated as a decorative element.  My Briar Rose Necklace uses a blackened pewter toggle clasp as a kind of pendant bail.

Unakite Pumpkin Earrings by Feral Strumpet

Unakite Pumpkin Earrings by Feral Strumpet

Unakite– one of my favourite stones to work with, this green and pink semi-precious stone is from the Unakas Mountains.  It’s such a warm, happy stone seeming to reverberate perfectly with the heart chakra.

Vulcanite– or Ebonite is an early form of hard rubber which served as substitute for ebony wood and has a carved jet or bog-wood appearance.  In my many gleanings I have come across antique rosaries and beads made of a mysterious black substance– not wood, nor glass. Perhaps they are vulcanite.

Wire Wrapping– This is the use of wire, softened by the hand and then work-hardened through hammering, tumbling or other methods, to make infinite jewellery shapes.  This method of using wire to make jewellery is ancient and though initially simple, doing it well is most definitely an art. I keep my wire work minimal and sturdy, or, in the case of my Tree of Life designs, elaborate and highly detailed.

Xilion- this is the fancy term used by Swarovski to denote their signature bicone cut providing optimal light refraction.  As far as made up words go, it’s a good one, and as far as glass beads go, their shiny pleases the magpie in me to no end. If there are glass crystals in my designs they are almost always Swarovski.

Y-Necklace.  This is a rosary style necklace with a chain drop in the centre, attached often by a bead, stone or filigree connector.  This graceful and flattering design is a favourite style in my shop and also the style I most love to wear.

Zombie Gnome Earrings by Feral Strumpet

Zombie Gnome Earrings by Feral Strumpet

Zombie Gnomes– one of my very first earring designs.  Isn’t it the way, to get stuck at Z? Well, these are the Z’s of strumpetry! I don’t think I have the stamina to do a zombie rewrite of the Will Huygen Gnomes coffee table book from the 1970s, but someone should. In the mean time, these earrings will have to do.

 

 

Temporal Witchery for the Micro Business Owner

durer_melancholia_i

The new year begins with the best intentions, changes to be put in place, new goals to be met. If you run a one-woman business, these changes have to be made real with a daily, weekly and monthly practice.  Having just revamped my various schedules, I thought it would be a good time to share some of it with you.

For the past three and a half years my handmade business has grown from a hobby-based whim to a full time job. It didn’t just grow by happenstance; I had a plan.

This plan changes every year and involves daily, weekly, monthly and yearly tasks. Yearly accounting and taxes must be done.  Holiday planning begins in the summer and each year I set myself a goal of a skill I would like to master. Last year it was cold-forging, this year it’s soldering.

Monthly tasks are scheduled for different weeks of the month:

  • The Feral Newsletter must be written (Subcribe here: http://eepurl.com/ADxaX)
  • the Birthday Club must be alerted. (Are you part of the fabulous Birthday Club? Special birthday greetings and savings await you! To join, send an email to feralstrumpet.info @ gmail.com with FERAL BIRTHDAY as the subject and the day and month of your birth as the content.)
  • And of course there is the Google Analytics glean once every full moon, give or take a phase.

Weekly, I:

  • make orders and new stock
  • log expense receipts
  • blog (or try to!)
  • source supplies,
  • take and edit photos.
  • post new listings to http://www.feralstrumpet.net as well as Etsy
  •  schedule interesting social media posts for  Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest and Facebook. This is something that has definitely changed over the years. Facebook and Etsy have changed their policies and attitudes toward mirco businesses,  and the one-woman shop has to invent other places to be seen and heard..
  • And somewhere in the week a day must be devoted to self-care and nurturing the creativity that drives it all.  This is definitely new this year– I’ve learned this is a necessity.

There are also tasks that must be completed daily:

  • Emails answered
  • orders wrapped up
  • Packages taken to the post office
  • inventory updated
  • As well as a monthly and weekly tasks broken into doable chunks on an ongoing basis.

The first thing I do every morning is write out these “chunks” with a big circle next to them.  I number these in the order they must be done and I get to colour them in when they are completed. I find this totally satisfying and necessary before I move on to the next task.  It’s the little things, right? And it’s been little things, or big things made little, that have allowed me and my business to flourish.

Maybe that’s why I love making momento mori inspired jewellery– they are a reminder that how you spend your limited time gives life meaning!

 

Every Day Will Be Boxing Day

boxingday

Take and additional 15% off my already discounted pieces in the Sample Sale section of my new online shop with coupon code BOXINGDAY14. Good now and for the month of January. Only at Feralstrumpet.net.

My Five Favourite Handmade Businesses Right Now

blackcraft_harness_lingerie

Blackcraft Harness by Battie Clothing

I like to support other handmade businesses.  I love the connection between maker and object. The quality, attention to detail and individuality that goes into a handmade object is usually far superior to something factory-made.  When I need something– be it clothing, toiletries or storage solutions, I always look to handmade businesses first, and local if I can find it– meaning, in the UK or at least Europe.  What have I been buying recently?

Gothica Harness by BattieClothing

Gothica Harness by Battie Clothing. I’ve gotten a lot of wear out of this harness which decks out low or square necklines or adds a bit of fetish-inspired mystery to sheer tops.  Battie makes these in plus sizes as well, and these run large so definitely order a size smaller than what you would normally wear, or better yet– ask her! She makes them to measure too.  I’m tempted by the Lovecraft Harness  with removeable hood.  Because, well, harnesses and hoods, handmade from a easy-to-work with seller– it’s a win all round.

Papatotoro Hand-printed storage pods

Storage pods from Papatotoro. Papatotoro use vintage wood blocks and lino cuts to make their storage baskets, handbags and purses.  I use these to store my wire spools, my makeup and sofa-side books.  I have several– they are super sturdy and beautiful, harmonizing in any room far better than a plastic storage crate would. They come in a fascinating array of patterns and colours as well.

Nurturing Soul Lip Balms.

Nurturing Soul handmade balms and creams.  I use the lavender lip balm everyday, and the tattoo healing balm is the bomb.  I can highly recommend it for soothing and speeding the healing process.

It looks like she is on vacation now, but when she returns I’ve got my eye on the shea butter balm.

Cadmium Rose 2

Based in Barcelona, Cadmium Rose is a tribal fusion handmade clothing company. I’ve been wearing their ruffle trousers when I teach American Tribal Style Belly Dance® (my other hat!). They are well made and she offers great customer service.

Eco-femme washable menstrual pads

And sometimes my search for handmade goes global.  Eco Femme washable pads are my new love. They can be purchased in the UK by Feminine Wear. I have long used cloth pads and I needed some new ones. Washable pads are better for your body, the environment and your pocketbook. These are super functional (The sturdy metal snap and protective outer layer were selling points for me). Plus, they are pretty, with colourful striped Indian cotton on the outside, and have a great story attached to them.  They are made by a women’s collective in India and their pad-for-pad program means with every pad purchased, a pad is given to an economically disadvantaged teen girl in India.

I’m always on the hunt for new handmade businesses to support.  What are some of your favourites?

And, I can hear you asking.  Yes, I do accessorise that harness (though necklaces are out.) I wear it with my Scrying Mirror Ring: