Eye of newt, and toe of frog

Posted by jdg | Tuesday, November 03, 2015

My daughter wanted to be a witch for Halloween. Not a striped-sock witch, she said. A real-looking witch. A creepy one. The classics are classic for a reason, I said (and got to work).

We found a Victorian mourning jacket with puffed shoulders on eBay that was all ripped up and perfect for a witch. It was so creepy she didn't even want to try it on at first. I made a wrinkled leather mask and a necklace of a fake hawk's claw with a magic crystal glued in the talons. My wife made the cloak and I added a collar of crow's feathers.

My favorite part is the staff: while hiking I found an old stick with a big vine twisted all around it and attached what I think is a dog skull to the top. It's super creepy and pretty disgusting (the skull still has a bunch of hair attached to it). On Halloween night we put orange lights in the eye sockets. Shudder. I even carved a hole for a taxidermy glass eye right under the dog skull.

The skirt is a few thousand strips of black cloth and scrap leather all attached in layers. I cut the top ones to look like raven's feathers. The whole skirt weighs more than she does.

The hat was a felting project. I found a half a pound of purplish-gray rovings for a song and we experimented with wet felting (which is different from the needle-felting on her brother's werewolf costume). You basically layer strips of wool in opposing directions over a form, keep it wet, then beat the crap out of it until the wool fibers all stick together. Here's a picture of it in progress:

With some supplementary needle felting, we were satisfied with the results. It looked like the sort of hat a witch living in the woods by herself would have. We beat it up some more and added patches to make it look less new once the felting was complete. As we worked on this costume she came up with more and more ideas about who this witch was and what her motivations were and I realized this was a form of storytelling. Every year the time we spend taking pictures in the costumes before Halloween is a huge part of our ritual, and this year we came up with a story of an old ugly witch hunting through the forest for ingredients she needs to make a potion that will make her young and beautiful again.

In the old cemetery she found a toad from an infant's grave:

She continued searching for all the necessary ingredients, you know, snakeskin and wormwood and mandrakes and cricket legs.

Then she returned to her ramshackle house in the old city and tried to lure the final ingredient into her oven:

The only little boy nearby refused to climb inside to clean it, so she had to shove him in herself. Luckily the potion worked. But when the beautiful young witch looked around, the land was empty of people, and she was only one left. And so she wanders still, looking for anyone who is left. Anyone who doesn't ask her if she is from that movie Malfeasant, that is

She's already turned them all into mice.

Werewolf in Sheep's Clothing

Posted by jdg | Monday, November 02, 2015

My son decided to be a werewolf for Halloween. So I made him this mask out of felted wool. Then I made him those arms out of felted wool. Then I made him wear his wool suit and take some pictures in front of a flowery wall.

We go to all these fiber festivals every year and in the past there was nothing for me to look at unless the weird hippie who braintans his own sheepskins is there. But this year I had something look for---cheap wool rovings. The kids and I started needlefelting last year, which is an exhausting hobby where you sculpt lumpy things out of carded wool using a single barbed needle. If you stab the wool enough the fibers lock up and it felts and you can make just about anything with it. We make lumpy toys, mostly, but this year I bought a ton of gray roving to make this mask. I terrified the neighborhood children for weeks sitting on the playground stabbing this decapitated wolf's head with a needle.

It had to stab that thing a million times probably. It's very therapeutic. Well, get yourself an apple if you're still hungry. STAB STAB STAB STAB STAB STAB. I ordered a $6 coyote jaw and the glass eyes from the taxidermy supply house that sends me 625-page full-color catalogs twice a year. It's basically vegetarian taxidermy. I would say it's vegan taxidermy but then I googled to find out if vegans believe in wool and I learned that many vegans do not believe in wool to which I say enjoy that technicolor petroleum-based shiny plastic wardrobe for the rest of your life because you don't believe in animal haircuts, vegans. It's not really vegetarian either because I found a tiny scrap of stingray leather that looked exactly like that weird canine nose texture and I stuck that on the end, but I figure most vegetarians wouldn't shed a tear for a stupid stingray. It was a stingray, you may recall, that murdered Steve "The Crocodile Hunter" Irwin, and he loved all animals, probably even the stupid stingray that murdered him. He also swam in his full ranger uniform, including socks and shoes. If God knew how much awesome that stingray would take from the world, I'll bet he never would have let a pair of them flop their way onto Noah's ark.

So I have all these shots of my werewolf son casually walking down the street in a suit and tie. I thought that was going to be the whole costume but then I had a bunch of extra wool so I started stabbing it into an old sweater to make him a werewolf chest and legs and a tail. Wool socks too. 

By Halloween night it was all dreading up with lots of leaves in the hair, just like that hippie who brain tans his own sheepskins at the fiber festival. The mouth opens and closes but he likes it open so he can howl at the moon. Twenty years ago in Dublin I lived across the street from a basement nightclub called Howl at the Moon that you had to enter through the jaws of a giant fiberglass wolf. I walked past it a thousand times and one night my roommate and I went down there and it was full of women as old as I am now who esnared us in their fetid shewolf-lair and fed us Bushmills and tried to get us to dance to "How Bizarre." I can't believe I forgot until now just how narrowly we escaped with our lives that night. 

There was supposedly a full moon last week and every night we went out in costume to find it but stupid clouds. It wasn't exactly the most unique or original costume but it was what he wanted and he had so much fun growling and howling around Halloween night.

I think I might take the head and sew all the pieces together to make a wolf-skin rug to go on his wall. A vegetarian wolfskin, of course. Not a vegetarian wolf though. He eats hot dogs and chicken nuggets.