All you need for an oddball Christmas

Want your Christmas to be the ultimate in odd? Feast your face on these DIY projects and present ideas. You still have time before the last post day tomorrow!

Firstly is this selection from Year of Halloween, Needful Things (13 things to get horror fans). Pop over and roll your eyeballs on this lovely selection. I’m weirdly drawn to the Taxidermy Art Diorama…diorama

Next up is this Weeping Angel (from Dr Who) Christmas Tree topper tutorial from blog The Creative Crossing. Joy to the world!

Follow the link here to peruse RDSPress’ book suggestions for every kind of strange person you know. Though I’m no goth, I myself am the proud owner of illustrated book Haunted Homes and Gardens, it’s very pretty.

Visit Squidoo for these creepy Christmas decorations amongst others: halloween-christmas

The site Ophelia’s Art sells gifts, spooky holiday cards and t-shirts as well as art, all spooky and pretty. I believe the shop is currently under maintanence but it looked worth waiting for so I’m adding it here and there’s nothing you can do to stop me. Except perhaps threaten me or something. But I probably won’t listen cause I’m a right nutbag.

Artist Beth Robinson’s custom made Strange Dolls are very pretty in a very disturbing way. Not really recommended for children, unless your child is unlikely to weep at the very sight of it. She also does brooches and pendants: doll

Well, there we are. Have a merry Christmas and remember, Santa’s watching every move you make…

Fungi, drugs and bugs – The surreal and disturbing side of nature

It occured to me the other day how nature remains beautiful even when it’s being downright disgusting or bizarre, and I would like to honour that achievement.

So, today we shall look at the inspiration behind many people’s art: the Weirdness of Nature.

First let’s ease you in gently with some cute kitties on catnip, taken from BBC series Weird Nature:

Second is a series I find quite amusing (and very odd), Sacred Weeds. Shown back in the 90s, two test subjects take a natural hallucinogen (different in each episode) while men in suits ask questions and stare:

This is a rather sweet, inoffensive clip of mushrooms growing from the series Planet Earth (with some music added). I defy anyone not to chuckle at the willy shaped ones:

Back in March New South Wales, Australia was blighted by floods. The locals were evacuated and, desperate to escape the water, these spiders moved “onto higher ground” leaving an entire ghost town engulfed by webs. Story (and creepy pictures) here.

Next up I saw a lot of fairly grim things during the BBC series Life in the Undergrowth (creepy crawlies), but for some reason this made me go all funny:

And these leaopard slugs are beautiful (in a slightly grim, surreal way):

Anything deep sea is like visiting a hostile alien planet (just watch the BBC’s The Blue Planet). In the meantime here’s a little vid with some music:

I’d have loved to find a clip of vampire bats, particularly from the documentary that shows one creeping up on a pig. Unfortunately there isn’t one on youtube that doesn’t have a hokey American voiceover and I just can’t bring myself to do it. So you have to imagine it instead, which is probably good for you.

Penultimately have a look at series The Future Is Wild, where scientists hypothesise in a Walking With Dinosaurs kind of way on the direction the animal kingdom might go millions of years after we’ve disappeared.

Lastly is the one I find most amazing. It has all the elements: it’s beautiful, it’s disturbing, it’s insidious, it’s science fiction in the natural world; the cordyceps fungus, as shown on Planet Earth:

5 disturbing children’s films

There are plenty of boundary nudging children’s films which may not be included here, but the ones added have had a particular impact on my life. Mostly they opened my eyes to an exciting new way of storytelling that didn’t include sappy bears sitting on clouds, but very occasionally they went a little too far (in my mind anyway).

Please add your own films and experiences in the comments.

1. The King and the Mockingbird (Le Roi et l’oiseau)

For years this French animation lay dormant in my mind. All I could remember were talking statues, a lonely robot and a vague sense of unease. I somehow found it again a few years later and enjoyed it much more than I did back then.

A cross-eyed tyrant king is taken on Revolution style by an angry bird and a chimney sweep. A giant robot assists leading to mass destruction.

It’s very French and very beautiful, just please make sure you don’t find the cut version or you might beat me up.

2. Return to Oz

While not especially disturbing overall, specific scenes stand out as exciting my tiny child’s mind and probably stored for later creative use. Examples include Dorothy being taken to an institute pioneering electro-shock therapy, the apparent destruction of Oz in her absence and the heads kept behind glass cases by Oz witch Mombi:

P.S. Dorothy was played by Fairuza Balk, the goth girl from The Craft.

3. The Plague Dogs

The follow up from the company which gave us Watership Down. Despite its PG rating this is not a children’s film in any way, shape or form.

I used to love Watership Down and oddly had no issue with watching fluffy bunnies being torn apart by each other and a dog. I did, however, have a problem with watching two dogs escape from a testing lab, almost starve to death and eventually drown.

4. The Adventures of Mark Twain

In this claymation film three stowaway children travel with Mark Twain in a weird, air-balloon type ship. They encounter animated versions of Twain’s stories which are mostly harmless fluff, but the most notable in my memory is The Mysterious Stranger segment.

Bear in mind I used to watch this again and again. For some reason the pointlessness of man and the destruction it warrants didn’t seem to concern me:

5. Coraline

Included just because I love it, this stop-motion film is from a novella by Neil Gaiman. It has circus mice, a scary lady who wants to sew buttons into Coraline’s eyes and a disturbing burlesque performance from two elderly ladies. What’s not to love?

Get ready for Halloween

Want to make zombie cupcakes? How about a monster? Or just want to look your spookiest? Here we are with a platter of enough gooey gore to keep you satisfied on All Hallows Eve.

1. Zombie fingers.

Over on one of my favourite blogs, The Year Of Halloween, is a recipe for zombie finger cupcakes by Amy, Queen of the Muffin Pan. The Halloween site is a wealth of spooky custumes, art and films so I suggest you have a peek.

To make the cakes you will need:

  • One box of cornbread muffin mix
  • Cocktail weenies or breakfast sausage links
  • Pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • Spinach or Kale
  • Green Chilies

For a full recipe visit the blog post.

2. Make your own monster.

If I squint my eyes he looks like Robert Downey Jr

Need help scaring those kids? Or just feeling lonely and need someone to hug on those long, winter nights? Well, look no further.

Over on blog Loony Literature are instructions on making your own monster. It seems all you need are old clothes, bathroom decorations and bubble wrap. What are you waiting for?

3. Cobweb nails.

Barry M Cobweb Effect

It was my birthday recently and I am now the proud owner of several new nail varnishes from Barry M. I love them so much it turns me back into the child who preferred playing with make up rather than wearing it. One of them is the Limited Edition Cobweb design. Hurry up, those nails won’t scare people themselves!

Below are a couple of how-to videos and spooky make-up tutorials. Merry Halloween and may the Night of the Walking  Dead be a pleasant one. Or at least one where your face isn’t eaten. Farewell!

Cheers everyone – My recent Halloween birthday

5 Reasons a spooky creative brain prefers winter

It’s that time again (almost). When a headless coachman appears out of the mist to take you to the cursed castle, and charges you double time on Saturdays (“But you went the long way round those crumbling gravestones”).

Nothing like a cup of haunted tea to warm the cockles

The good thing about being a creative type is that you can do anything and claim it as research: “What do you mean you spent the day watching the Twilight Zone?” “Shut up it’s research.”

So here are a few small reasons winter is best for anyone who likes to dally in the darkened spaces of art or literature or…something else.

1. Halloween. Yes, yes, it’s all commercialised and it’s for children etc, but who cares? Just for one year try not to be a Halloween McScrooge and celebrate the Day of the Dead with everyone else. Dress up, even if its as ‘your best friend who wears the exact same clothes as you.’ I began my first proper short story at school on the day of Halloween and ever since then its had a special place in my disturbed heart. I guarantee you’ll find some kind of inspiration, even if its a story about murdering trick or treaters.

2. Staying indoors. Let’s face it, writing or doing anything work related during summer is difficult and unpleasant. Maybe I’m alone here but I like knowing that the world outside is furiously cold while I sit indoors drinking tea and working/watching The Twilight Zone. Which brings me onto my next point.

3. Spooky films get spookier. It’s a cliche certainly, but there’s really nothing like watching a spine-chiller while the wind and rain howls against your window. Sometimes for extra cosiness I like to pretend there are zombies stumbling around my driveway too. That way I can feel smug that they can’t get me. Or can they?

4. Your surroundings are inspiration. Whilst its obvious you need to be wary of writing/painting/whatever in cliches, its hard not to think of great ideas when wandering through a mist clouded field. Just remember, focusing on the idea rather than lengthy descriptions of nature might be best. Unless your main character is a lecturer of some kind. Even then, maybe not a good idea…

5. More time to think. Summer is filled with Gestapo-like orders to have fun, but time seems to slow down in winter. People tend to vegetate and grow moss which is perfect for ruminating on thoughts, or simply trying to occupy yourself. You can either spend your winter obsessing on why Cathy brought all the men cups of tea and not you or Sally, or you can send your brain to another place and make up somewhere better. Or much worse, depending on what you like to do to your main characters.

So this was my little thought bubble on winter. I wanted to include the wearing of fluffy socks and colourful coats but it didn’t seem relevant, so I’ll just mention them here. Happy winter!

Writing for magazines

I found these articles I wrote back in the mists of time (2007) and thought they were sufficiently entertaining enough to include.

I go into further detail on how to write for magazines in this post here and in my blog Swann’s Shack on The Focus Project. As well as the articles below I’ve reviewed a freaky sideshow, interviewed and written about burlesque dancers, film-makers, tattooists, church renovators (yes, church renovators…for Essex Life) and new hip replacement technology (for a medical magazine…not Just 17).

Needless to say these were for Bizarre. I also collected the voodoo doll ingredients from Camden (I knew pink sparkly beads would look terrifying). Click on them twice to enlarge:

Photos of Me!

Sometimes when my friends are doing artistic projects I like to pretend I’m a real alternative model. I’m not, of course, but I have an active imagination. For Halloween this year a friend, Graeme Wallace, took some pretty pictures of me and here they are!

more_goth_by_graeme_wallace_by_madeleineswann-d4jdz32goth_by_graeme_wallace_by_madeleineswann-d4i0cmt goth_portrait_by_graeme_wallace_by_madeleineswann-d4i0d9othrough_the_trees_by_graeme_wallace_by_madeleineswann-d4i0ayg (1)