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Masks and Phantasms by Damselfrau

Damselfrau’s enchanting masks, bizarre, gorgeous, totemic, resplendent and larger than life, are reminiscent of some imagined and heretofore-unknown folk culture. These portraits of a fantastical people are often featured with an arrangement of flowers, which also lend their explosive vividness to the ultra-saturated and violently jubilant palette. Damselfrau says, “I have used fine lace, carried by the nineteenth-century Norwegian author Camilla Collett, hair from two-hundred-year-old Japanese geisha hair pieces, as well as everyday stuff, found in the street….I am led by the phantasms appearing in the process of the making and the materials themselves.” I am quite a monochromatic creature personally, so I appreciate the incredible vibrancy and wild color of Damselfrau’s outré creations.

Artist Magnhild Kennedy interprets the moniker Damselfrau (frau referring to married women and “damsel” being an unmarried young lady) as “married to oneself.”

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Throwing the Stones: Jewelry by Chase + Scout

Informed by the natural world, hidden microcosms, and the talismanic properties of primitive rites and objects, Austin-based Chase and Scout creates unique, beautiful, and unsettling jewelry pieces such as the datura seed pod necklace below. The natural and the supernatural combine in their art self-described thus: “It is a shared secret between cohorts of common causes, or an answer to an unasked question. It is the sound of moonlight swimming through a dark night, or a deep howl…” Wolf’s-teeth earrings, rings inspired by the texture of the lunar landscape, honeycomb pieces, bracelets with the skulls of Odin’s two ravens, and moth orchid necklaces are others among their varied offerings. From cicada wings to dowsing rods and the Orphic Egg, the concepts for Chase and Scout’s wearable art are endlessly creative.

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Sigil Studio

Sigil, the rawly beautiful jewelry brand of Seattle-based designer Anita Arora, is inspired by primal, powerful landscapes. Rare minerals sourced in faraway, desolate, and magnificent places such as Tibet, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands are fused with hand-forged metals which seem to have grown into the mineral structure. Ghostly, smoky stones vary with strikingly colorful stones reminiscent of the Northern Lights and black volcanic rock. Rugged and talismanic, they have a wonderfully organic feel.

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Crafting the Hierophanies: Moon and Serpent Jewelry

Handcrafted by Istanbul-based artist Göksu Şimşek, the delightfully whimsical and spooky offerings of Moon and Serpent Jewelry Design draw inspiration from her diverse interests in the occult, witchcraft, alchemy, esoterica, mythology, museology, antiquity, and the 16th through 19th centuries. Gnarled, earthy, fantastical, enchanting and lovely, these pieces speak of poisonous flowers, mandrakes, the mythical chicken-legged house of Baba Yaga, Victorian mourning, sigils and talismans, old woodcuts and engravings, and a myriad of other spiritual and historical artifacts. They remind one of the power of raw pagan religions as well as the highly ornamented and enameled affectations of the 18th and 19th century. The macabre beauty of her creations is also wonderfully wearable, not seeming cumbersome at all.

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Pan and the Maiden: Hand Embroidery by Adipocere

Melbourne-based embroidery artist Adipocere, whose exquisite fabric works I posted about previously, is a needlecrafter of a marvelous magnitude and takes this medium to a whole new level. These pieces are lovely, tender, humorous, macabre and subtly disturbing.

“Adipocere” refers to a wax-like organic substance which is formed by bacterial hydrolysis of body fat in corpses. A fitting pseudonym for this artist of the jauntily grotesque. Adipocere is a devotee of Surrealism and stop-motion animation (their favorite film being the stop-motion short The Street of Crocodiles by the Quay Brothers, based on the incandescent 1934 short story of the same title by Bruno Schulz), and experimented in other mediums before taking to needle and thread. Adipocere had their debut solo show, I do not exist, at the Beinart Gallery in Melbourne, Australia in December of 2017.

Danse macabre, Death and the Maiden, the occult, and similar themes inspire these stitched artworks on natural linen (and sometimes on the artist’s skin). The raven-haired maidens/witches of this delicate textile world go about partially eviscerated, cavort with giant black cats, are lovingly embraced or menaced by leering skeletons, or caught in webs in a complex, oft-ambiguous relationship between worshiper and idol, victim and destroyer. Spiders, moths, bats, skulls, Satanic goats, exposed anatomy, and deadly flora abound in Adipocere’s dark, minimal yet suggestive vision.

This artwork uses “motifs and symbolism to delineate concepts such as martyrdom, asceticism, existentialism, and the eventuality of death.” It also has touches of irony, an element of camp and retro charm. Adipocere breathes new life into a great-grandmotherly medium that has traditionally been very sedate and by no means overimaginative, turning it into something irreverent and intriguing.

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Lana Crooks’ Soft Curiosities

Lana Crooks constructs perfect, delicate, macabre little “soft sculptures” out of hand-dyed wool, silk, seed beads, and vintage materials. They are like Victorian mourning relics in plush form. Bird skulls dripping blood like jewels, snake bones, death’s-head moths, human teeth, and lush, funereal flowers repose beneath antique bell jars. Whimsical, imaginative, resplendently colored and gorgeous, her “faux specimens” are artfully arranged, reminding one of some long-dead madcap’s oddities collection and also giving off a curious effect of two-dimensional drawings brought to three-dimensional life. These soft creations blending natural history and craft are exquisite and adorable.

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Baroque Biomech Ceramics by Laura Hewitt

Alaska-based artist Laura C. Hewitt creates ceramic housewares that are wildly imaginative, bold, and unique. They convey a sense both of the ancient and the futuristic, the organic and the mechanical, and put me in mind of the china service of an alien dynasty, regal relics of bygone opulence and sinister glory. Delicate and grotesque, they are impactful and lovingly crafted.

Her hybrids of the rustic and the decadently ornate, of the homely and the high-tech, are a delight to behold. I love the shadowy little clustered hollows or dents which are suggestive at once of old lace, of mushrooms, of rot and decay, and of insect hives. Hewitt plays with the juxtapositions among nature, art, and technology, between creation and destruction, and seeks to “animate the pragmatic with mischievousness.”

Gorgeous, savage, one-of-a-kind, Hewitt’s teacups, mugs, and plates are unlike any household ceramics I’ve ever seen. They embody the biomechanical aesthetic in a practical, intimate form, with a touch of playful irony. To use one of these pieces would transport you into otherworldly realms, directly off the Earth, and introduce the unnerving into the mundane, blending the familiar with the mysterious, the deeply unknown and the alien.

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Tarot by Uusi

Linnea Gits and Peter Dunham are artists/designers who head the creative studio Uusi. The following tarot and oracle decks are transcendently lovely.

The Pagan Otherworlds tarot deck features 84 cards with images hand-painted by Gits and Dunham using traditional oils, and is inspired by nature, Celtic mysticism, and the “luminous beauty of Renaissance paintings.”

The 56-card Supra oracle deck, illustrated by Peter Dunham, is based on the mingling of Jungian psychology and Gnosticism. The images are at once mystical and personal, partaking of the austere surreality of a Huysmans novel, evoking the communion of the self with the self.