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


Working Myself into A Fine Frenzy

My love for stop-motion animation is no secret. Give me Švankmajer, give me Brothers Quay over rubbery slick CGI any day. Coraline and Fantastic Mister Fox make me positively quiver with glee. So it's no surprise that this music video for A Fine Frenzy stopped me in my tracks.

It's all too easy to see why I loved this brief little gem of a film, as it's also packed with imagery I adore... from paper umbrellas to tall ships, vintage sewing supplies to doll parts. And much to my delight, I found the singer / songwriter behind A Fine Frenzy, who stars in the video, is an impossibly luscious fiery-haired young vixen named Alison Sudol.

Her sophomore effort as A Fine Frenzy, Bomb in a Birdcage, is the second album I've discovered solely from my love of a music video, the first being the incredible Ramona Falls. The album is at once stirring and ethereal, layered and playful. Sudol's voice is something like a blend of Feist and Regina Spektor, her songs filled with glorious vocal acrobatics... ear~candy for a chanteuse like myself.

While rooting about for more images, I found that she had modeled a line of one-of-a-kind couture vintage-inspired headpieces from L.A. called Ban.do. Photographer Angela Kohler's work resulted in a series of jaw-droppingly gorgeous portraits that feel almost pre-Raphaelite in their dewy glory.

As it turns out, Angela Kolher and her partner Ithyle Griffiths also directed the "Lost Things" short film above that started me down this particular rabbit-hole. They used a similar style to win a contest to design a stop-motion ad for Amazon Kindle in 2009, which became very popular. But it's their work with Alison Sudol that strikes my fancy most.

Ah, the joy of lush new music, a pretty girl, and whimsical stop-motion animation. What more could I wish for?


Things That Please Me: Stereoscopic Vixens

We interrupt this lull in postings with a scandalous report ~ I have discovered an amazingly expansive archive of naughty peep~show cards from Chicago's Columbian Exhibition of 1893.

What is it about the erotica of yesteryear that makes it so much more tantalizing than today's bare-it-all trashiness? Call me old-fashioned, but I find a demure hint of skin much more appealing than a spread-eagled centerfold... and real bodies with real skin and hair a LOT more alluring than the airbrushed and landing-strip-shaven models. The shy poses, the oft-ludicrous settings... I love it all.

As we are sadly lacking a stereoscopic viewing device to properly appreciate these three-dimensional treasures, my man took it upon himself to create a few animated gifs that combine the two images: behold the jittery loveliness.

There are no less than 57 pages of stereoscopic peepshow galleries, and a whole additional gallery of risque French Postcards. A few of the images are clearly more recent than Victorian times, but the vast majority are vintage naughty bits; truly an epic collection.

As my own body metamorphosizes to accommodate the little person growing within (only three more months!), I am ever more appreciative of the female form in all its incarnations ~ I am enchanted by what the body of a woman can do.

The combination of form and function is truly magnificent. And so I raise a toast for the sheer glory of this corporeal existence, and for these complicated systems of bones, blood and breath we call home.


In the Pudding Club

It's finally time to come out of the closet... I'm knocked up. I've got a certifiable bun in the (rapidly-expanding) oven. After many years of being decidedly NOT ready to jump on the breeder bandwagon, we decided the time was right.

And so, I've spent the last four months in a haze of queasiness, violent mood swings, and heretofore un-imaginable exhaustion. Mind you, this hasn't abated my desire to hunt down all manner of new shopping temptations...

(Hemp & Velvet Booties by Bobka Baby)

So for the time being, I am putting away my corsets and bourbon, in favor of nappies and vitamins. I've been far more focused on important questions like "Is it possible to have an infant in your life and completely avoid *shudder* pastels?" and "How in the world will we decide whose surname this child will inherit?" and frequenting the brilliant alt parenting blog Offbeat Mama more often than my usual haunts of neo~Victorian and steamy blogs.

But fear not, my loves! I don't intend to turn this space into a venue to rant about swollen ankles and cloth vs. disposable diapers (tempting as those topics currently are). We're carrying on much as before ~ my love is already planning what kind of contraption he'll build for this little critter to ride in - no molded plastic stroller for us, no!

When I can muster the energy, I'll certainly still be posting here about all things fantastical and gorgeous. So I ask simply for your patience, dear readers, as I embark on this new kind of adventure!


The Miracle of Mystimation

The lovely and talented Else, proprietress of Latent Twist Spatterdashery, introduced me to a most enchanting film a few nights ago: Vynález zkázy, a.k.a The Deadly Invention, a.k.a. The Fabulous World of Jules Verne.

Now I'm no stranger to Czech animation; given my love of puppets, stop-motion, and surrealism, it's unsurprising that Jan Švankmajer is among my favorite filmmakers, and I've seen my fair share of others, from Jiří Trnka to Jiří Barta. But I'm sad to admit I had never heard of Karel Zeman, who is considered to be one of the fathers of the genre.

This film, released in 1958, was absolutely spellbinding. Zeman artfully blends live actors with sets painted to look like Victorian woodcut engravings, stop-motion animation, miniatures, and special effects to create a whimsical world like none I've ever seen. Indeed, the posters for the American release sell it as "The First Motion Picture Produced in the Magic-Image Miracle of Mysti-mation!"

The resulting hybrid of real actors adventuring in a two-dimensional world is just incredible. And as if the visual effects and textures alone weren't magic enough, the story is filled with fantastical mechanical wonders: pedal-powered blimps piloted through the skies, four-legged mechanical underwater fighting machines, a steam-powered villain's lair inside a volcano, and hand-crank picture-wheel projectors.

Apparently this film was shown frequently on television in the sixties, along with another of Zeman's features, on Baron Munchausen (!) ~ and its influence is clear. Terry Gilliam's early animations come to mind immediately, and I am also reminded of the recent Ramona Falls video that I so adored. But I truly can't begin to describe the wonders to be seen in this film, I simply urge you to find and watch it.

It can be found in parts on YouTube, and indeed, one can even buy it on DVD, although it doesn't appear to be getting the Criterion-Collection-treatment it so richly deserves. You can even track down a making-of documentary about Zeman's special effects. As for me, I'm off to track down every other film Karel Zeman made, to devour them with relish.


August Bradley's Haunting Imagination

I happened upon this delightful series of images from the 2008 Hasselblad Masters book by fashion photographer August Bradley while poking about on DeviantArt a while back.

Admittedly, the first one caught my eye because I recognized Kojii, one of the models from the single season of Project Runway I indulged in watching (it was only for Louise Black, really!), but I was intrigued. I loved Bradley's painterly use of light and color, and the implied drama in the dreamlike pictures.

You can find a number of lovely interviews with him on the web ~ I particularly enjoyed this one, A Trick of the Light. With most of my favorite photographers, it's the ability to hint at a story behind the scene that captures my heart, and Bradley is adept at making the viewer feel like he's frozen a fable in time.

While the world of high fashion and its overly made-up, impossibly lanky women will always feel a bit alienating to me, I can't help but be charmed by the oddity of this series, the Depression-era-circus-meets-post-apocalyptic-fairytale mood.

The faux ravens, the decaying props, the unusual men mixed in with the leggy models... fine. I'll bite. I even found a very brief documentary on the project which reveals a bit of what goes on behind the scenes.

It seemed like a fitting month to feature this particular artist. So carry on, August Bradley, with your fantastical haunting visions. I look forward to seeing more of what comes out of your imagination.


CoutureLust: Steam Trunk Couture

I'm beside myself with excitement to bring you the latest CoutureLust profile ~ it's been some time in the making. Meet Juniper Lindquist Fletcher, who along with her husband Christian Fletcher, brings us Steam Trunk Couture!

(Juniper and Christian in 2007 / Photo: Derick Ion)

I've long been enamoured of Juniper and Christian's excellent design-work ~ the attention to detail, perfect blend of modern tribal circus sensibility with vintage charm... every piece of theirs I've seen is glorious.

(Steam Punk Gown / Model: Ashley Knight / Photo: Sequoia Emmanuelle)

Juniper and Christian are currently hard at work on their latest creation... a baby, due any day now. Finger crossed that line of steamy baby-wear is in the works! And there are already heart-poundingly hot designs for men in their line ~ seen gracing the likes of Sidecar Tommy of Beats Antique.

(Sidecar Tommy in Steam Trunk / Photo: Derick Ion)

Without further ado, the lovely Ms. Juniper.

How would you describe yourself and your style of work?

I consider myself a renaissance woman. Whether it is costume & clothing or painting & sculpting, I love the process of manifesting dreams into this plane of reality. These days with Steam Trunk at the forefront of my creative wiles, I design garments and accessories that embody facets of Victorian and Retro fashion, yet are modern and street smart for today’s fast times. Steam Trunk fashion can be noted as “Antique street-wear”.

(Model: Ukushu Kazakova / Photo: Sequoia Emmanuelle)

Where do you find inspiration?

Fortunately all through my life, artists have surrounded me and craftspeople that support the belief that we are capable of creating anything our minds can dream up. Whimsical moments, vintage artifacts, beautiful textiles and the divine patterns of nature inspire me.

What do you do besides design amazing clothes?

I am also an illustrator, painter, costume maker, web/graphic designer, body modification artist and soon-to-be-mother!

(Model: Lucid Dawn / Photo: Derick Ion)

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

Three things that please me the most in this world are: the exploration of consciousness, creating with my own hands, and reveling in the love of my husband and community.

How did you get your start making clothes?

I began making clothes for dolls and myself through experimentation and the help of my mother who is also a seamstress. After years of private tailoring, making costumes and having a small hand made line in Canada; I came to the USA to be with the love of my life, Christian. Together we began designing a vision for Steam Trunk in 2007 and produced small numbers of unique garments, which were sold at fashion events and a few local stores. In the years to follow, we were given great support through our community and also formed with the Five and Diamond Collective, who has been a strong factor in our growth as a company.

What piece of work are you most proud of?

I am most proud of my “Venus” Gown, which is a hand detailed couture silk and taffeta piece. This is a piece from a limited collection created in collaboration with Chrystie Cappelli and my husband Christian for the most recent fashion show we presented at the W Hotel in SF.

Where can we find your line?

Our line can be found at:

Five and Diamond
San Francisco, CA

San Francisco, CA

The Congregation Of The Forgotten Saints
Los Angeles, CA

Gold Bug
Pasadena, CA

Dark Garden Corsetry & Couture
San Francisco, CA

Delicious Boutique
Philadelphia, PA

Morning Glory
Burlingame, CA

Gothic Renaissance
New York, NY

La France
Tampa, FL


Belle et Rebelle
Montreal, QC, Canada

Sanctuary Curio Shoppe
Edmonton, AB, Canada

Bia Boro
Nelson, BC, Canada

Thanks so much, lovely Juniper, for doing this interview despite the impending birth of your wee one... can't wait to hear about your further adventures!

...Read the full interview...


Non-Stop Shenanigans from Jeunet

I've only ever adored anything that was born in the imagination of French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. From the seedy dark delights of Delicatessen to the whimsical romantic giddiness of Amelie, Jeunet never fails to delight me. So it was a given that I'd fall for his newest film, Micmacs à Tire-Larigot, a phrase impossible to translate, but roughly meaning "non-stop shenanigans".

Like much of his work, the world created in this film is a saturated one, filled with magical realism and exaggerated caricatures. Micmacs is an unabashedly silly romp liberally dusted with joyful subversion, with an improbable plot about arms dealers getting come-uppance from a merry band of misfits.

Jeunet masterfully weaves his fairy-tale to feel like found-object assemblage art ~ visually enchanting, a finished piece that is so much more than the sum of its junkyard parts. The soundtrack is also lovingly chosen to win my heart, with a distinctive gypsy jazz feel sprinkled with mechanical sounds that add quirk and flavor.

Like one long Rube-Goldberg-esque sequence of related events, the film comes together perfectly in the end. Although nothing can ever top the glory of City of Lost Children, which consistently makes my top ten movies of all time list, I'd highly recommend this one to anyone who likes films of marauding and merriment. And who doesn't, really?


Saucy Swimwear for Solstice

O beloved readers, I have been utterly remiss in my long absence... rest assured I have a good reason, which will soon be revealed. In the meantime, my band, Baby Seal Club, has been in full gigging and recording mode. We have two shows coming up with watery themes: a giant warehouse party called Sand by the Ton and the Rivertown Revival.

All this nautical goodness has caused us to decide we need a full suite of turn-of-the-century-beach-wear to don for these gigs, and so our research for inspiration has commenced. We unearthed so many great images I had to share, especially on this, the first day of summer.

I just adore the theatricality of these suits. The Victorians wore wool suits that covered them almost completely ~ knickers, puff-sleeved dresses, stockings, and all. You can find more delightful pictures and history here. Things lightened up considerably in the 1920's.

Having no desire to squeeze into a modern bikini bottom myself, I rather like the idea of swimming-bloomers. And ah, the utilitarian silliness of the "bathing machine" ~ those stripey booths for changing from your long woolen petticoats into your long woolen swimsuit and bathing-cape.

And then there's the circus mood of these "Fancy Bather" cigarette trading cards. It appears that stripes and bathing suits go together... And it would seem parasols, oversized bows, and leg-ribbons are a must.

Stripes are de rigueur for the gents as well... this rather serious beefcake of a chap looks like his wool may be chafing his tender bits.

We are fortunate to have the help of our incredibly talented artist friend Else Olava to put together these outfits ~ she spent all weekend sketching madly as the band began recording our very first album. So we shall certainly see what comes of it all. Happy longest day of the year!


Chimera and Charm: The Art of Lesley Reppeteaux

I am captivated by imagery that tells a story. So I was quite transfixed when I happened upon the work of Lesley Reppeteaux ~ dark and dreamy paintings of fairytale characters with secrets in their solemn eyes.

(Phantom Limb, 2009)

And it's the eyes that are most distinctive and compelling in Reppeteaux's images ~ the exaggerated ovals make her women look sorrowful, as if filled with unbearable knowledge they cannot un-know. Often half-creature and half-woman, her lovelies are frequently trapped in some borderland between freedom and captivity, between innocence and experience.

(Saline, The Saltwater Queen, 2008)

In a recent show at Thinkspace in LA, Reppeteaux hung 22 paintings that told the tragic Greek myth of Persephone and Hades. It's a perfect tale for her sensibilities ~ surrounded by lotus flowers and pomegranate motifs, her pale maiden of the underworld wears pinstriped stockings.

(The Scent of Flowers Filled the Air, 2010)

I found this apt description from her: "My work reads like painted fables filled with strange characters telling sordid stories. I blend the worlds of literature and fantasy to create a peculiar world where pouty-lipped vixens and melancholy beauty resides, striking a balance between the lovely and bizarre, creating paintings with chimera and charm."

(A Hush Fell Over the Meadow, 2008)

Her serpentine lines are Art Nouveau-inspired, her details lyrical in their unfolding of the songs of these forgotten heroines. She is a woman of many talents ~ some of her recent works include glass mosaic frames that become part of the artwork, and she is also an accomplished comic book artist. I am entranced by her vision.

(Nest, 2009)

To my dismay, there does not seem to be a comprehensive gallery of Lesley's work online ~ her own website features only currently available works, and there are a smattering of galleries with small collections.

(The Soothsayers Song, 2007)

Still, you may find her through her website, and her blog, cheerfully sub-headed "the happily out-of-date adventures of Lesley." There is also a good interview with her here, and a lovely video on YouTube that pairs her work with a PJ Harvey song. I will surely be keeping an eye out for more painted fables from her...


Scents and Sensibility

I am, most decidedly, not a wearer of scents. I am the kind that runs through the perfume section of the department store holding my breath, the kind that finds cologne abhorrent, the kind that can't even use scented lotions. And yet, the emotional potential of the sense of smell, and the vivid language that describes it, draws me in.

{Photo: Kevin McKinney / Things in Jars: For Strange Women}

As Diane Ackerman says in A Natural History of the Senses, "To begin to understand the gorgeous fever that is consciousness, we must try to understand the senses and what they can tell us about the ravishing world we have the privilege to inhabit." And so, a treatise on perfume.

{Alphonse Mucha, Lance Parfum "Rodo" lithograph, 1896}

The delightfully macabre German novel "Perfume: Story of a Murderer", which then became a captivating film, was endlessly fascinating to me. The tale is not for the weak-hearted; filled with gruesome descriptions and disturbing cruelty, it nonetheless features some of the most stunning passages I've ever read. I couldn't imagine how such a strange book could translate well to the screen, but director Tom Twyker brought it to vibrant life in all its bizarre glory.

Perfume Story of a Murderer
The last issue of Coilhouse magazine had an interview with Christopher Brosius, who runs Brooklyn scent gallery CB I Hate Perfume, and has been called "the Willy Wonka of Perfume." The CB Manifesto sums up my feelings on perfume perfectly: "A lazy and inelegant concession to fashionable ego / Too often a substitute for true allure and style / An arrogant slap in the face from across the room..." Brosius escapes such trespass by creating the purest of accords, the most elemental single-note scents, that he combines to make his concoctions.

And then there's the sheer beauty of For Strange Women ~ almost enough to tempt me into giving scent-wearing another chance. Like Brosius, Jill McKeever is a different kind of perfume-maker ~ independent, innovative, and terribly strange. Scents like "Sweet Androgyny" and "Decadence and Debauchery", her breathtaking imagery, and packaging that hearkens back to an Edwardian apothecary are all incredibly appealing to me. Absinthe Lip Balm, enough said.

{Photo: Kevin McKinney / Perfume: For Strange Women}

In her Kansas City lab, Jill uses natural essential oils and plant absolutes to fragrance her goods and tinctures ~ which include lip balms, bath salts, and perfume oils. She "combines antiquated styles with pagan sensibilities" to make her lavish potions, and describes how the different scents blend like harmonies to create the music of the perfume.

{Photo: Kevin McKinney / Bath Salts: For Strange Women}

I am also intrigued by the quirkiness of alt perfume house Black Phoenix Alchemy Labs, with their Neil-Gaiman-novel-themed collections and full moon open houses. Perfumer Elizabeth Moriarty, who was (so fittingly) trained by a Voodoo practitioner in New Orleans, certainly has a nose for the odd and enticing. In an LA Weekly article, she says she loves “using scent for atmospheric purposes, for triggering Proustian memories and for inspiring emotion. Scent is such an underrated sense, and perfumery is such an underrated art.”

{Photo: Kevin McKinney / Perfume: For Strange Women}

I am most pleased that there are perfume-makers out there looking at scent in a new way. When done right, a scent can evoke a feeling, a location, a time, a person... and transport us instantly back to that emotional place via our most basic chemistry. So what aromatically moves you?