Hopefully the reviews, arts posts, and links to musicians and films speak for themselves. The Gothic subculture is not just about imitating each other, it is a creative movement and subculture that grew out of post-punk and is based on seeing beauty in the dark places of the world, and looks back to the various ways throughout history in which people have confronted and explored the macabre, the dark and the taboo, and as such I'm going to post about more than the just the standards of the subculture (Tim Burton, Siouxsie Sioux and Anne Rice et al.) and look at things by people who might not consider themselves anything to do with the subculture, but have eyes for the dark places. Goth should not be limited by what is considered "goth", inspiration comes from all places, the key is to look with open eyes, listen carefully and think with an open mind.

Household crafts and creativity are not just for housewives and Martha Stewart, they are a way to become emancipated from living life according to what is on offer on the high-street, to reduce the amount of waste being thrown away, to live your own unique aesthetic and become more engaged with your material goods. Hopefully it is a way to realise owning stuff doesn't inherently make life better, and that making the most of what you already have does. Apart from all the pretentious-sounding philosophy, they're good fun, and that is probably the best reason of them all.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Inverness Botanic Gardens & Floral Hall

❀❁✽❀Floral Fun & Afternoon Tea❀✽❁❀
Raven, K., M., and I all met up at Inverness Botanic Gardens (which you can find out more about on their website ::here::). K. and M. are primarily into Lolita fashion, whereas I am a Goth that dabbles in Lolita. I felt like wearing a Goth outfit with Lolita influences rather than a proper Gothic Lolita outfit as it was not a proper Lolita meet-up, just a gathering of frilly friends. 

Raven and I had been to the Botanic Gardens the previous week, and Raven wanted to go back to take photographs of the flowers. Raven took most of the images here, which is why he is not in many of them. Others were taken by M. All photographs are credited in their captions.

K. took this photograph...
 of Raven taking the next photograph of K taking this photograph..
As you can see in this image, I am wearing the silver wig again! This is the wig that was cut by a stranger the last time I wore it out, and since then it was retired awaiting repairs. I sewed some wefts of replacement hair in, but the texture of the new wefts was much shinier and more synthetic, so I stopped at the bare minimum to avoid the wig cap showing. I am going to buy some better quality synthetic hair to continue the replacements. In order to hide parts where the wig cap is showing - partly because the wig has thinned with time as hairs have shed, and partly because a thick lock of hair was cut off - there are quite a few hair flowers attached to the back of the wig. I felt that the flowers went with the botanic theme quite well, so were a good way of disguising that. 

K. and M. and I kept swapping M's smartphone between us.
Photograph by Raven.  
I have a special fondness for cacti and succulents - I grow LOTS of snake plants (sansevieria trifasciata) which are currently residing with my father as there's just not space for them in my apartment, money trees (crassula ovata, also known as jade trees) and for a while grew a little cactus, the exact kind of which I don't know. I really love the bold, architectural and geometric shapes you get with many cacti and succulents. They're always very interesting to look at. Not all cacti are very spiny or spiky looking - the ones I am posing with in the picture below are actually furry, but if you look carefully, there's spines within the fur, too!

On the path down into the cactus grotto.
Photograph by Raven.
The cactus house at Inverness Botanic Gardens is on two levels, with a sunken area involving a large mirror that gives a "cave" effect, which M. and K. were sitting in front of. Raven did well to keep himself out of the mirror photograph, but did not spot me rather theatrically "sneaking" up on M. and K.! 

M. and K. giggling,  me sneaking up on them.
Photograph by Raven.
Above the cactus grotto is a path that goes to the tropical green house and past the carnivorous plant display - I quite like those, too!Of course, we did not stay indoors, and so we had a wonder around in the outdoor gardens, too. I wish we had spent more time in the tropical green-house, and that I could find the charger for my camera, because I would have loved to have taken pictures of all the beautiful flowers (and fish) in there. 

Black and white and floral.
Photograph by M. Editing by HouseCat.
The botanic gardens stretch quite a way outside - further than I had realised on our first visit. I saw this dark green shrub with huge clusters of lovely white flowers and just knew I had to stand in front of it for a portrait! This photograph was taken by M. but I did the effects and filters on it afterwards. I think the black fabric flowers make an interesting contrast with the real white flowers. 

M. and K. arrive in the magic garden..
Photograph by Raven.
There is a "Jungle Path" intended for children through some Buddleia shrubs that M. and K. decided to go through - as considerably taller than them, and wearing precarious shoes, I decided to stay outside. Raven managed to get a rather good photograph of them that makes it look like they just emerged into a magical world, and M. has such an expression of wonderment on her face in this! I like how K. is standing near pink flowers that match her dress, and M. is standing near Buddleia flowers that closer match her dress! 

Channeling my inner Khaleesi
Photograph by Raven. 
We walked up a rather narrow and rocky path (hard in high-heeled platform Lolita shoes!) to a lovely viewing point, and I tried to pose on one of the rocks. Raven managed to catch this photo of me looking imperious before the illusion of majesty was ruined by my wobbling, flailing, and needing Raven's assistance to get down off the rock. 

K. under an umbrella, looking out over the meadows.
Photograph and editing by HouseCat, using M.s smartphone.
Unfortunately it rained quite early on in our walk around the gardens, so we sheltered under a tree where there was a bench, on the little mound overlooking the wildlife meadow and apple trees. K. and M. had an umbrella to share between them, so went to explore the meadow - as yet I haven't been that far, so I certainly need to go back!

At around 16:15, we went for afternoon tea - K. and I shared a halved slice of chocolate cake because there was only the one slice left, but it was HUGE, so I just cut it in half. The Floral Hall tea room has beautiful vintage tea-cups and saucers, and mis-matched plates for cake slices, and a selection of teas. There's also old decorative tea-tins on display, and lovely tea-themed decorations on the walls. The cake was rather tasty, too! Afterwards we went for a quiet walk around Tomnahurich Cemetery, which is near by, but we did not take photographs there, as we were being far more reflective. 

All in all, it was a lovely afternoon out with friends, and I thoroughly recommend the Botanic Gardens as an attraction to visit, especially as entry to the gardens is free!

Friday, 15 August 2014

Dinner With Friends

I am going to be upfront and honest here; I just really like how my make-up turned out today, and wanted to share it. 

Looking imperious!
I was all done up nice to go out for dinner with Raven and Suzy_Bugs. It wasn't to anywhere fancy, but I just felt like dressing up as I don't actually have very many opportunities to do so. I wore a corset, layered floor-lenght skirts, a silver satin-effect riffled blouse, and plenty of fancy accessories. I quite enjoyed wearing more traditionally Gothic make-up; what I usually wear is a lot more toned-down than this. I did the two-tone eye-shadow based on a tutorial by "This Is Black Friday" on YouTube. The tutorial can be found ::here::.

Ruffles and suchlike
In retrospect I feel like I should not have worn black lipstick, as it wears off unevenly when eating. I definitely should not have worn, or even bought, the black lip-gloss; it gives a lovely wet-look effect when freshly applied, almost like PVC, but it rapidly starts bleeding into the fine lines of my skin around my lips, even with lip-liner, and even over black lipstick. In the end, I had to start over, and just wore matt black lipstick out. 

Extra shiny lipstick! That did not last :(
Other than that, I had a lovely dinner, a nice evening with friends, especially with Raven (who'd just finished a 12hr shift at work and deserved a nice evening) and altogether things went well. 

Monday, 28 July 2014

Vintage Inspired Gothic Makeup

I am calling this vintage inspired rather than vintage because it is not accurate to any one period and is very much of a mixture of '50s inspired vintage and Gothic elements.  

Raven recently bought me the Adare dress by HellBunny, which is an A-line skirted, sweet-heart neckline dress in a vintage-inspired cut reminiscent of '50s designs, but with a Gothic print and Gothic detailing in the ribbons up either side. I will do another blog post that is an outfit post for the dress;this is just about the make-up.

Doe-eyed selfie.
I was aiming for make-up that complemented the vintage theme of the dress and the outfit I was wearing, and that wasn't to overtly or traditionally Gothic, as the weather and the outfit were both quite summery, so I did not want to wear lots of heavy make-up. I opted for tinted primer, concealer and powder rather than thick foundation, and also wore sun-screen because it was bright out and I burn easily. I contoured my cheeks and used a little shimmer. Pale skin was fashionable in the '50s, so I didn't really have to do anything there!

I'd rather condense selfies into not too many images.
Whenever I think of '50s pictures of women, I think of that rich red lipstick. I was trying out a new lipstick I'd bought - 'Russet' by Miss Beauty London. It's a really rich, almost blood-red colour, and I think it makes a nice pop of dramatic colour without being too bright to be Gothic as I felt a rich, bloody red would be a bit suited. My lips were over-drawn slightly for that full, pouty Marilyn Monroe look.

The eye make-up is certainly more a nod to the Gothic than to vintage styles; from what I have seen of vintage make-up adverts, pin-ups and photographs, eye makeup tended to involve black mascara and winged eye-liner to create definition without being the dramatic centre of the look. I went for something heavier as one of the trademarks of Gothic make-up is dramatic eyes. I lined both lids heavily and went with the 'cat' winged looked, then made them smokey with a black blending into a rosy red; this was to complement the red of the lipstick. I used white on the inner corner and waterline to give a more doe-eyed look.

Very blurry feathers close-up.
None of my make-up designs are complete without me drawing something in eye-liner, and as there are feathers on the dress, I decided to draw a few feathers encircling one eye. Drawn designs are something of a trade-mark of mine, and the outfit certainly wouldn't have suited any of my elaborate scrolling foliage, so I drew some feathers, carefully placed to help define my cheek-bone. Certainly this is not very vintage, but it is very much me

One thing I feel I should have done but did not, is fill out my eyebrows more. I usually have eyebrows that are plucked to a thin line, and most vintage looks, especially those of the '50s, have fuller, defined eyelashes, and while I did pencil them slightly to darken them, I was unsure about successfully filling them out when there's so little of my natural eyebrows left. Also, I don't usually use blusher, so I think I may have ended up a bit heavy-handed on this look. A much more pastel pink would have probably been more suitable. 

This is quite the deviation from how I normally look, so I would appreciate constructive criticism (and links to tutorials I can follow, in order to improve.) 

Friday, 25 July 2014

Rait Castle & Barevan Graveyard: Raven's Photographs

Raven is photographer at ::Chance Photography:: and these are his photographs from the photography trip. 

✥ Rait Castle
Rait castle is located roughly two miles south of the town of Nairn, and about sixteen miles east of Inverness. A modest castle in my opinion, it could easily be mistaken for a derelict chapel or church.The castle is reported to be haunted, but this wasn't a ghost hunting trip, and it was far too bright a day to tempt out anything spooky!

The image above is a simple one, I liked how the shadow matched the line of the top of the wall. All I had to do was line up the shot and hope for the best.
I decided to keep the sky a slightly desaturated blue as I didn't want to detract from the detail in the walls, which came out really nicely with a slight tweak of the contrast.

HouseCat: I really like this photograph, for its balanced composition and very unusual angle. I don't think I've actually seen an intersecting walls photograph quite like what Raven has done above. This has got to be one of my favourite photographs by him. I need to persuade Raven to print one off for our walls!

Here we have a classic angle of the castle - simply google "Rait Castle", and you'll see what I mean. I am pleased with the way the colours came out on the walls, and the way the reds pop out against the greens of the foliage.

HouseCat: There are indeed about 10 photographs from a similar angle on the first page of Google Images - not something we actually looked at before out trip to Rait Castle! I think this is the most obvious angle from which to take the castle, partly because there is actually enough clear ground on that side of the castle to step back far enough to get the whole length of the castle in one shot, which there isn't on the other side. One thing that is interesting is how every photographer's image, even from very similar angles, has different results. Weather, and thus lighting, is certainly one factor, but each photographer has chosen a slight difference in distance from the castle, or angle to the castle; different cropping, different saturation. Raven and I went to the same place and chose completely different sections of the building, but even between photographers who chose the same things, there's a lot of difference. 

This one is one of my favourites... Simple but effective, in my opinion. I enjoy taking photos like this one. I think it is because of the way the light bleeds in, highlighting details that would be otherwise washed out if you used a flash, or if it was in broad daylight.

This is a macro of algae on the wall. Nice and simple again... The thing that drew me to the shot was the clear division between cold rock on the wall, and this lush green algae bursting its way in.

HouseCat: Raven has a very good eye for small details, things that most people would miss. The world is very interesting if you pay enough attention to spot the fur at the edge of the algae in a crevice of a wall!

Shots like the one above are what I like to call "grab shots". I saw the House Cat taking a photograph (using one of my lenses) so I took the opportunity using my telephoto, which proved effective by blurring out the background, and really making her stand out in the image.

This was me taking those photographs of the windows on the upper storey of the castle. Usually, when I am not actively modelling, I try and scurry out of photographs because I'm not really very photogenic without making the effort to be (I discard half of my selfies because I end up looking ungainly with a weird expression on my face!). I think he's managed to get a good composition for a photograph that was taken slyly as I concentrated on making adjustments. 

In summary, it is a lovely little castle, and I hope it stays protected for a long time to come. I found myself imagining what it would have been like in its day, and what kind of people walked it's hall.

✥ Barevan Graveyard & Chapel
This is a graveyard we drove past on our way to Rait castle, and we agreed that it would be a good idea to stop there on the way back... Which we did.

This is a very old grave yard indeed, and a rather pleasant one at that.I have always found grave yards to be quite cold, but this one seemed rather welcoming in an odd kind of way... almost as if it liked being visited from time to time.

Another two photographers were in our group - Suzy Bugs, who was taking only wildlife photographs, so is not taking part in Architectural Photography Week, and a Goth-y friend who goes by the screen-name Hemlock. Hemlock lives in the area and knows the countryside there pretty well, and it was he that pointed out the farm track to Rait castle (so we didn't have to park at the side of the road and hike the steep way up!) and also pointed out this graveyard.

Here is an image which really caught my eye... I don't think the photograph does what I saw justice to be honest. I found the way the light gently flowing through the trees onto the stone and foliage was quite eye catching.

HouseCat: I tried to take photographs of  chapel from this angle (not realising that Raven was too!), and I could not get anything as pretty as this; it's a testament to Raven's skill that he actually got something where the all the different layers and light levels in the image, from the brightness looking into the chapel through that window, to the details of the stones in the shade, are visible and nicely captured. 

Here is a simple photograph, which was initially intended to go in my texture library. It is a close up of a large stone sphere. I liked the way the structures of the rock are revealed through the polishing of the sphere, and through weathering over time. This is located in a smaller section, which belongs to the Cawdor family.

And here, we have the final image from my little set... The watchman. He can be found watching over the graves in a tree in the corner to the left of the gate as you come in.This character seems to get mixed reactions off different people. Some think it's creepy, having a face in a tree (which is totally natural, I might add!) but I, personally, found its smiling gaze to be rather endearing.

All in all, a great day was had by everyone involved, and it was nice to catch up with a couple of friends. I'll have to get back to Rait castle and do a shoot with a model or two at some stage, but anything like that is a way off yet!

Housecat: I volunteer to model, but Raven is probably sick of taking pictures of me! I hope you all enjoyed today's guest post by Raven. Hopefully Hemlock will be sharing his photographs from the trip tomorrow, and I will be back on Sunday to finish architecture week. 

Raven's photographs are NOT under the same "share if you properly attribute them to me and link back" rules as mine. I do not take photographs as a means to earn money, but he DOES, so please respect his work. If you want to share these photographs, share a link to the blog, rather than sharing the photographs themselves. Both of us will be every unhappy if we find our work being used commercially. This applies to all of his photographs on this blog, not just the ones here. 

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Barevan Church and Graveyard

In which I take even more photographs of windows...
After visiting Rait Castle, we headed to Wester Barevan, south of Achindown and Nairn, to visit the ruins of Barevan church, which has been ruined for a very long time, long enough for graves to have been lain in the floor of the old church. Barevan church and graveyard, in the summer sun, is one of the most peaceful and picturesque graveyards I have ever been to. It is almost like a garden, rather than a graveyard, and has plenty of pretty trees and nice views. 

A grave is lain where the altar once was... Eerie.
However, all it takes is a change of weather to give it an entirely different atmosphere. When the clouds roll in and obscure the sun, and when the wind rattles the leaves, it suddenly feels much more exposed. It is not quite as bleak as the wilder, open places of Scotland, as there are trees and it is circled by woodland and hills, but suddenly the weather seems very much there, and the stone walls seem greyer, and the lack of a roof suddenly becomes a concern. 

I heard you like windows, so here are two windows
seen through a window, viewed in a browser window,
perhaps on a computer running Windows...
The style of architecture, from the rough stone walls down to the Y-tracery on some of the double windows being carved from single pieces of sandstone, reminds me of Rait Castle, and I wonder if they were built at similar times or even perhaps by the same people, or whether that is just how things were done in that place in those times. As you may have noticed, I still have my obsession with photographing windows. 

Narrow depth of field, focusing on stone texture
I really enjoyed photographing the ruined church. I had some fun trying out new ideas with the photography, such as the photograph above. Normally at this point, I would be elaborating on the history of the architecture, but I really don't  know very much about the history of this graveyard - to me it is this is a totally unknown and unexpected graveyard in the middle of the countryside; I have no idea of why it is there, or what sort of congregation it would have had - there's not much settlement about it nowadays, but maybe more people lived there in the past. 

That one rock makes it seem more desolate than it is, by being less desolate.
I still think the strangest thing about that place is how quickly it changes with the weather, how rapidly it goes from almost serene to foreboding, how rapidly the clouds and wind can change how it feels. I will finish with two colour photos, taken within an hour of each other, which I think illustrate this point. 

This photo was taken a couple of steps away from the one above.
The clouds are dark and flat, what little blue is in the sky is quickly retreating and the walls are caught in shadow. Less than hour earlier I took quite a different photograph, looking in through the door of the church at a head-stone, and it seems so bright - like another time and another place, somewhere sunnier and with bright walls and green vines. 

Tomorrow I will showcase a guest post from Raven of ::Chance Photography:: with photographs from both Rait Castle and Barevan graveyard. Architecture week runs until Saturday, so stick around for more photographs!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Rait Castle

In which I show that I am indeed slightly obsessed with windows.
I organised a photography trip last Sunday to Rait Castle with Raven and a couple of friends. I'm starting off with my photographs, and have asked those that came with me if they would like to share some of their photographs of the same day, and these will be displayed in a couple of days. 

Rait Castle is a ruin between Nairn and Cawdor, on hill near some woodland, and overlooking the A939 and is an odd sort of place to, as the road to go towards it means taking a road away from it, as there's no direct access from the A939. It looks like a ruined church from the road due to having a tower and Gothic arched windows, but it was in fact a small and mostly non-defensive castle; the ground floor windows are narrowed and designed to limit access, but the upper windows being so large mostly negate this, and there are no earth-works and only small compound walls. It was more a grand country residence than a fortified structure. 

Rait Castle from the outside

Bright sky, dark stone
That said, it has a bloody history as can be read ::here:: on the Rait Castle website, and there are stories of the ghost of the murdered daughter. I had read all of this before visiting, but bloody family feuds and murder aside, there was nothing eerie or creepy about the castle itself. It is ruined, and I am sure it could look creepy, especially on the shaded interior, in the right weather conditions, but it did not feel creepy. There is, however, a ruined structure behind the castle that is largely overgrown and that does have an unnerving aura about it. According to the Preserve Rait website, it is likely the chapel. It is all over grown with brambles, wild roses and other sharp and woody thorns, so I was rather discouraged about exploring it. It gave me, and the others in the photography party, what I would call 'the heebie-jeebies'. Maybe the young maiden went to the chapel to beg God's aid mortally wounded, with her family slain around her, and maybe that is where she finally died... 

I have something of a fascination with the windows, and with windows in general. This is something that comes very much from the design geek within me, and I am a little afraid to share my thinking here lest it come across as pretentious art-school nonsense. I especially like the windows through old thick walls like here at Rait Castle because they create their own transitory alcove space, up to whatever grille or glazing would have been there. Empty windows dividing an outdoor space are certainly something I find really interesting, especially when nature has sprouted plants on what would have once been the interior, and when whatever roof once made the interior an interior is gone, so while the window still provides a view between spaces, the fact that they are all really part of one space is visible. 

Light shines through
For a long time creating sheets of glass like we have today was pretty much impossible, and only small pieces of flattish glass could be made, so if one wanted a big window, it had to made up of lots of little bits leaded together. In some cases, windows were just a very narrow gap that could be shuttered or curtained in bad weather. I didn't actually spend that much time trying to figure out how the windows at Rait would have been, but I guess that the big Gothic arches with their lovely carved stonework may have had leadlight windows, possibly with stained-glass sections for heraldry. I'm not sure what window the girl who lost her hands tried to climb out of, but having looked at how narrow most of them would have been with the central pillars intact, she must have been very slight; it would have been more reasonable that she tried to climb out of the upper door. 

I am curious as to how the building lost its front wall when the rest of the stonework has remained pretty intact. What remains of the front wall is very sturdy, and I do wonder if stone was deliberately taken from it rather than it crumbling or collapsing over time. The walls are several feet thick and built to last; the main threat to the building is the vegetation, as roots can penetrate small cracks and then grow to slowly push things apart. The roof would have been wooden, possibly slated, and I can imagine it being robbed for slates and the beams rotting over time. Considering how old it is, and for how long it has been abandoned, it is remarkably well preserved. 

Tomorrow I will be posting about Wester Bareaven Graveyard and the ruined chapel there - I got to borrow a Nikon, as my Canon had run out of battery, and I had a lot of fun photographing mostly the chapel ruins. 

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Wallingford Castle

In which I photograph everything but the castle...
Another place I went to on my travels earlier this year was the ruins of Wallingford Castle in Oxfordshire. I was in the town because it is near where some relations of mine live, and Raven and I were visiting them. There Wikipedia article on the castle's history can be read ::here:: and is a good place to start, although while long for a Wikipedia article, it only really skims what is a approximately a millennia of history. Considering the wars, sieges, and floods it has survived and its varied uses from defensive castle to prison to location for a stately home, it is a piece of land with a LOT of history! 

Exterior of College of St Nicholas
The weather kept changing between cloud and sunshine, and as such it was hard to get a consistent set of photographs. Unusually for me, I tried photographing mostly in colour as one of the interesting things about the ruins is how many colours of stone were used to build them and the vibrant lichens that grow upon them. Most of the photographs are from a Gothic and ecclesiastical building called the College of St Nicholas (which was an organised community of priests, not the modern usage of the word to mean an educational establishment) as that is one of the buildings that remains more intact than most of the castle, of which some sections of wall remain, but which is mostly surviving earthworks. 

Spring flowers and picturesque ruins - not that Gothic!
I had a nice day out, and went for a lovely stroll around Wallingford town. I wore a frilled jacket and layered skirts, as while it was quite bright, it was not overly warm outside (British springtime). Raven took a picture of my standing by the wall. My hair looks rather blue here, but I can assure that it is the same emerald green it has been for a while. The wall does not look that tall in the first photograph, and as I am 5'9" tall, that should give some sense of scale to the wall.

Being thoroughly distracted by
my adorable not-quite-2-yet niece!
I will be back in the future, that is almost guaranteed, as I try to go back to visit my family in England as often as possible. The next time I go, I will try to take some more atmospheric photographs, and to take more photographs of what remains of the castle itself. I have been photographed here before, a long while back, by Raven when we were first dating. I would think it a lovely location for a photo-shoot. 

Fancy monuments. 
Just off the edge of the castle grounds is a small and ancient graveyard, once that to All Hallow's Church, which is no longer there, and with the relocated monument to Thomas Bennett's charitable bequest to the town, which is now by the road and I think this has contributed to its need for renovation recently as the the fumes combined with British can't have contributed well to the sandstone's longevity. Inside the monument is a carving of a vaulted ceiling, which really requires clambering into it, or at least sticking your camera in and hoping for the best, to get a good view and therefore isn't properly photographed here.