¨¨¨°º the adventures of choklit chanteuse º°¨¨¨


The Alternative History of Christopher Perez

In celebration of that most lauded of holidays for costume freaks, Halloween, I must share the discovery of the eerily gorgeous photographs of Christopher Perez, from his Flickr set called Alternative History.


In Christopher's own words: "Images gathered from across the Multi-verse. Exceedingly rare and difficult to find, these appear to be from the Ages of Victoria, Punk, Steam, Tribal, and Samurai. How they withstood the stresses of crossing the gaps between Ages in the Multi-verse may never be known, let alone understood."

Ancient Samurai

Perez hails from that bastion of everything wondrous we call Portland, and has the good fortune of a seemingly endless supply of wicked and gorgeous characters for subjects.

Age of Steam

Many featured in these images are from a performance troupe called Bogville Creature Features, a mysterious and enthralling host of miscreants who have thoroughly captivated my imagination. A visit to Portland to experience such splendor in the flesh seems imminent.

Maestro Crunk Vaultz

The Bogvillians seem to have been assembled by tribal steam enchantress NagaSita, of Serpentine fame.

NagaSita as Lady Rhinebone Leveaux

Their makeup and costuming is impeccable, but Perez' eye for capturing essence and his meticulous embellishment of the portraits is what makes these brilliant.

Eyelet V. Wayward

He perfectly ensnares the souls of the characters, and as with much of the imagery that appeals to me, implies a fantastical story just beyond the frame.

We hope to lure Christopher down for the next Handcar Regatta, to set up a Photonic Capture Tent for more alluring portraits... but in the meantime ~ content yourself with inspiration from these lovely freaks.

Find out more about Christopher's work on his blog or his Web site. And spookiest of All Hallow's Eves to you, lovely readers...


Aether Lamp: The Sketches of Brigid Ashwood

I cannot think of another word more appropriate than "luminous" to describe the work of Maryland-based artist Brigid Ashwood ~ her mechanical beauties shimmer from the page in a vivid play of shadow and light.

(Yo Yo Bee, May 2009)

Brigid works in a variety of mediums that are categorized quite charmingly on her site: "Illuminations" for digital art, "Pigment Emulsions" for oil paintings and colored pencil sketches, and "Mineral Deposits" for sketches, silverpoint and graphite.

(Repose, February 2009)

Her oil paintings are breathtaking, but it's the Mineral Deposits that captivate me the most ~ they are somehow so very reminiscent of scribbled plans from DaVinci's notebooks, intriguing words combined with rich imagery, hinting at things yet to unfold.

(Unfair Things, Fall 2009)

I had to look up silverpoint to see what it was, and was tickled to find it is "a traditional drawing technique first used by Medieval scribes on manuscripts" that involves dragging a silver rod across a primed surface.

(Implement (Insect Scissors))

How delightfully archaic and appropriate for these beautiful images, the ball-jointed lovelies and strange apparatuses, ripe with possibilities and stories not yet revealed.

(The Creative Engine, May 2008)

I love Brigid's byline of "winged things and improbable machines", which captures the playful combination of invention and mythology in her work. Keep up with Brigid's adventures on her blog, and dig in deeper at her Web site for more of her enchanting work.


The Wild Rumpus!

It's been some time since I've sat through an entire film beaming from ear to ear, but last night I left the theater giddy from the brilliance and purity of Spike Jonze's new interpretation of Where the Wild Things Are.

Not to raise anyone's expectations to unhealthy heights, but set aside all that buzz, rumors of poor test screenings, and the anxiety about the corruption of a classic book, and this is an stunning film in its own right.

Jonze perfectly distills the pathos of childhood, and in particular the challenges of being a creative and intense child, without trivializing it. Though the Arcade Fire song that made the trailer was conspicuously missing from the film, the score by the phenomenal Karen O creates a sublime backdrop of frenzied raw emotion. And the Wild Things themselves, massive monsters made by the legendary Jim Henson's Creature Shop, are surprisingly sympathetic and compelling.

Though the film may not mirror the book exactly, author Maurice Sendak approached Jonze to take on the project and worked closely with him throughout, urging him to "keep it dangerous". I've always been one for the darker themes, scoffing at those who would shield their little ones by offering only sanitized stories, so I love that Jonze preserves the peculiarity and wickedness that earned the book criticism in the first place ~ while making the story his own.

A good article with more making-of back-story can be found here, but I say just go see it. And then let the wild rumpus start...


CoutureLust: Skingraft Designs

Jonny Cota and Katie Kay of Skingraft Designs have roots in the vaudeville circus performing arts scene - Cota as a stilt-walker and Kay as a tribal bellydancer - and that love of theatricality and flair for high drama shows. Their work is an exercise in contrasts - soft feminine ruffles and brawny masculine leather, demure coverings and exposed skin, silks and metals.

(Photo by Tiny Dragon Productions)

What started in 2005 as custom-wear for sideshow performers and musicians has grown ~ into a full label that's rapidly gaining ground, with a show in L.A.'s Fashion Week tomorrow. I was completely transfixed the first time I saw an image of their designs. Shot at the legendary Los Angeles bar The Edison, the model leapt from the page, stark and raw, and yet so elegant, luminous against the industrial background.

(Photo by Allen Amato)

On one of my favorite fashion blogs, Haute Macabre, Jonny described the style as “victorian punk rocker riding a regal horse to her gothic wedding.” You can see why I'm drooling. I'm thrilled to feature Jonny speaking up about Skingraft's astonishingly gorgeous work here. Click the images for more incredible detail.

(Photo by Brion Topolski)

How would you describe your style of work?

I would describe my work as a constant juxtaposition of dark and light, hard and soft, and natural and synthetic. Skingraft is a dark Victorian dreamer living in a city of concrete and noise and somehow finding comfort in it. The work is very detailed and very meticulous, as each piece starts as a story that almost writes itself.

(Photo by Allen Amato)

Where do you find inspiration?

I think that Skingraft's greatest inspiration is the animal kingdom, beasts, birds and the natural world in general. No matter how dark or metropolitan any of the designs can be, they always somehow relate back to the shapes and imagery of animals and plants. We are also often inspired by silhouettes and techniques that are ancient, classical or even just a few decades old. From Victorian corsetry to classic millinery, we are easily excited by old techniques and craftsmanship.

(Photo by Brion Topolski)

What do you do besides design amazing clothes?

Skingraft can be a bit consuming at times, so my life outside designing clothing seems to be shrinking more and more. Outside of Skingraft I spend my time collecting and altering taxidermy, producing electronic music for my DJ sets and spending time with my partner and pit bulls.

(Tattoo artist Kat Von D, Photo by Sheryl Nields for Latina Magazine)

Outside of designing clothing, my partner Katie Kay collects vintage clothing, spends time with her partner and their pit bull and has spent quite some time on tour as a tour manager for Amanda Palmer and the Dresden Dolls.

What are three things that please you the most in the world?

Fog, coffee and leather

How did you get your start making clothes?

We started out as circus performers creating costumes for ourselves for our stilt acts and dancing acts. That costuming grew into a business of making costumes for other performers as well, and the next thing we knew we were transitioning more into fashion and creating clothing for everyday wear. None of us were trained in what we do, it just happened naturally.

(Photo by Saryn Christina)

What was the most challenging piece you've designed or made?

Every wedding gown that we make is always a huge challenge, but fortunately each project has run smoothly and has turned out really beautiful. One of my first gowns I ever made was my greatest challenge, because it was made primarily of leather and burned silk, two materials that are very difficult to work with. The gown was topped with a leather Victorian jacket covered in thousands of small metal studs that I put in each by hand. The shoulders were decorated with fur fox faces dripping in chain and metal, and the detail was done by hand.

(Photo by Tiny Dragon Productions)

What piece of work are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the new gowns I am working on right now for our runway show this October. The lines are much cleaner than before and the details are extremely meticulous. The dresses are constructed with a lot of hand-sewn feathers, metal studs and extremely form fitting corsets. I am terribly excited to see them on the runway, I feel that they are the true evolution of Skingraft.

(Photo by Brion Topolski)

Where can we find your line?

We just opened up our first store in downtown Los Angeles and we carry our entire line here including our couture fashion show pieces. We are also are carried in stores around the country in such cities as New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago and Atlanta.

Thank you, Jonny, for the interview, and for your brilliant vision in collaboration with Katie. You may find Skingraft ready-to-wear designs for both men and women online, at Hunters and Gatherers and Five and Diamond, among others.

...Read the full interview...


A Blisteringly Brilliant Day

Still, I find myself struggling for words to describe the Great Handcar Regatta. It's been over a week, and I carry on basking in the glow. Sweltering heat, yes ~ 102 degrees. Intense crowds, yes ~ possibly more than 9,000 people. But all in all, an incredible, joyful, luminous day.

(Picture by Gwen Harlow)

Hats off to the organizing team, who I am so proud and grateful to have in my community. The Regatta is a most astonishing confluence of determination and talents and passion, and it came to life with a roar once again, in the very back-yard of my own sleepy suburban town.

(Picture by Mr. Nightshade)

The heart of the event is surely the races on the railroad tracks, where no less than twenty-three teams of industrious racers entered, with amazing person-powered vehicles of every stripe. The Screaming Vortex, pictured above, the Rail Skins by Nordic Track, a bobsled which slid along the tracks on blocks of ice, and Todd Barricklow's giant Two-Penny were crowd favorites.

(Picture by Mr. Nightshade)

To bring a little absurdity to the races, my beloveds Krank-Boom-Clank built a vehicle out of pink children's bikes for the delightful clowns of Fou Fou Ha to ride...

(Picture by Rick Washburn)

A wonderful variety of people in costume were seen traipsing about, and many a beautifully-attired patron thanked me for my costume guide from the Regatta Web site. I was so pleased it had proven useful.

(Picture by Gwen Harlow)

The art installations were incredible, especially Bryan Tedrick's Portal of Evolution and the always-delightful work of Tony Speirs. The various and sundry curiosities in the Wunder Closet were fantastic, from antlered babies to disturbing machinery to hybrid musical instruments ~ complete with sideshow freaks hanging about outside...

(Picture by Daniel Silveira)

And Baby Seal Club put on a medicine show of our own on the Snake Oil Stage, where I tried to keep from fainting in the heat whilst peddling our much-lauded Baby Seal Club's Miracle Elixir and Tits-Up Tonic, which very nearly sold out.

(Picture by Sassy Monkey Media)

We were thrilled to hear that our most-beloved publication Coilhouse was sending photographer-about-town Mr. Nightshade to take photos of the event, and his images are gorgeous, as ever.

(Picture by Audrey Penven)

Some of my favorite artists, builders, crafters, and performers were on hand. The Golden Mean Snail Car pulled up next to the Front Porch where the Hobo Gobbelins were playing... Cyclecide set up their bike rodeo, the Neverwas Haul crew showed up, and the Department of Spontaneous Combustion brought contraptions... there was a steampunk stilter, and a tiny marionette robot...

(Picture by Mike Estee)

Like a miniature Maker Faire with a steampunk edge, it was a celebration of ingenuity, beauty, and the simplest of technologies. All in all, a rip-roaring success for all involved. My deepest love and gratitude to everyone who made it so fantastic!

(Picture by Charlotte Hampton Trombley)

See more Regatta photos on Flickr. Watch Regatta videos on YouTube.