My personal blog as a 'grown-up' Goth and Romantic living in the Highlands of Scotland. I write about the places I go, the things I see and my thoughts on life as a Goth and the subculture, and things in the broader realm of the Gothic and darkly Romantic. Sometimes I write about music I like and sometimes I review things. This blog often includes architectural photography, graveyards and other images from the darker side of life.

Goth 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, the expression of that in Goth rock. It 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 (Siouxsie, Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus, 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. The Gothic should not be limited by what is already within it; inspiration comes from all places, the key is to look with open eyes, listen carefully and think with an open mind..

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Useful Posts on Other Blogs!

This was supposed to be Sunday's post, and I did write most of it on Sunday! Sunday is Wash Day. Washing day began at just gone midnight because we use the timer on the washing machine, and washing will continue all day in various forms. There's clothes to be washed, floors to be washed, dishes to be washed... Basically I'm actually being a domesticated Goth. Don't worry, the Other Half does chores too. My Other Half is particularly good at doing chores on account of two things: the first is that he runs the chalets at the local ski & holiday resort and is therefore in charge of a whole lot of house keeping and is rather hands-on and perfectionist about it all and the second is that he used to work in a hospital which gave him a vey good education in cleanliness.

As it is Wash Day my first link is washing-related: ::How To Wash Your Wool Jumpers:: at the lovely Juliet's Lace blog. I only discovered this blog today via ::Sophistique Noir::. Anyway, Amy of  Juliet's Lace explains in nice simple steps how to properly wash a wooly jumper without it shrinking or stretching. I don't own that many wooly jumpers, but I've been guilty of not caring for those that I do.

The next link is a crafty link and back at Sophistique Noir, this time with Victorian Kitty's tutorial on how to make a veil. This is really a simple tutorial! I'm going to have to make one of these when I find some more craft supplies. I can't even find a John Lewis department store here :(  I had just enough tulle for this back in Oxfordshire, but it is sadly one of the things that got left with my Dad when I moved North. ::Link:: When I do get materials, I will be posting my progress through this tutorial. I do come up with my own craft projects, but I like to try other people's projects too. My take on this will probably involve a few ribbons and bows, because I just love ribbon.

I know I haven't really written anything of my own up today, but I'll remedy that. Anyway, all my previous posts have been rather text intensive and I don't want to bombard everyone with massive walls of text all the time so I guess this makes up for that. Also, my next post will have photographs, and while not quite a tutorial, will show some funky make-up based on a video I saw on YouTube. 

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Sophie Lancaster: Remembering on her Birthday

On August 24th, 2007, Sophie Lancaster was kicked to death for being a goth by a gang of feral youths.  In her name a charity, the Sophie Lancaster Foundation, was set up. Today she would have been 25. Many people have lit a candle in remembrance. I can't as it would set the apartment building fire-alarms off and the landlady doesn't want candles and other flames. I'd light one outside, but this is Scotland in November and it is raining sideways. As I cannot light a candle for her,  I'd like to do something else.

Remember her. Remember the life of a beautiful, creative, wonderful young woman whose life was tragically cut short by people addled by alcohol and without remorse, compassion or any of the other traits of human goodness that Sophie had. Remember all the other people, like Sophie's boyfriend Robert Maltby, and more recently Melody McDermott, who have been beaten to hospitalisation by violent thugs acting on nothing more than than what these people were wearing. Remember everyone else who has been bullied, harassed and intimidated for doing nothing more than expressing themselves creatively. Remember, and do what you can to stop these things happening again. If you can, do something to support those doing good work in Sophie's memory. 

Cliques, Judging and Subcultures

Most goths, at some point, will have been judged for how they look. At the darkest end there are things like when people get beaten up and even killed for how they look, and at the other there's assumptions made such as "goths are rude and pretentious" etc. We don't like being judged for being goths. We shouldn't do it to other groups. Just because someone wears fashionable clothes, that doesn't make them snobby and elitist about those who don't. Just because someone wears over-sized plastic-rim glasses and plimsols does not make them vacant and pretentious. Just because someone is wearing tracksuit bottoms and hooded jumper, that does not make them rude and violent (maybe they're going to the gym!). Just because someone wears skinny jeans and has dyed black hair does not mean they are histrionic attention-seekers. Goths aren't inherently nicer than everyone, that's why I have to make this post. 

Really, there is no reason for me to elaborate this into a vast wall of text. Yes, there are a disproportionate amount of certain types of bad behaviour in certain groups which is why some of these stereotypes exist in the first place, but even if there are more thugs that wear tracksuit bottoms and hooded jumpers than wear designer jeans, that doesn't mean that wearing a tracksuit makes someone a thug. That same logic goes for the other things. I may not LIKE any of those other styles, and think that a lot of them look terribly hideous, but I deal with that by NOT WEARING THEM and wearing things I don't think look hideous. I do not hate other styles, although I do think they are sometimes rather amusing (like when people wear logo or slogan t-shirts and have no idea what they represent, or when they walk around with their trousers halfway down their rears) but I also realise I'm probably amusing trying to run for the bus in platform boots. Other people are entitled to the same freedom of expression as we are. 

For a less text-intensive experience, watch ::this:: video by BatcaveDilemma 

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Project: Upcycled Micro-Braid Wig in Black, Silver & Purple

I have rather dull and boring hair. It was a chin-length bob, and has grown out a bit. In my previous job I was assistant manageress of a store in the city centre, and had to look rather "normal" because I'd spend a lot of time on the shop floor. Then I got made redundant when the rent was upped on the building and the branch was closed. Since then, I've been looking for work and need to be able to revert to looking normal-ish for interviews (sometime soon I will post pictures of myself in work clothes to show how I try and strike a balance with not feeling like I'm in a "suit" costume and remaining businesslike) so I have kept my rather boring hair-cut. If I could get away with doing anything to my hair, I'd either have it in micro-braids like my favourite wig, or have the sides short with tribal patterns shaved into them, and the remaining central section in a death-hawk, all black. Sadly, I don't think either style would go down well in a job interview, so a boring bob it is.   My solution to not being able to dye my hair unnatural colours, braid it up, or get it cut into unusual styles is to wear wigs, and most of these wigs are ones I've made myself out of old halloween wigs and kanakalon hair. I can have different hair day of the week, and do so for far less than it would cost to get my hair re-styled each time! 

All my wigs are synthetic hair, and as such they come with their own set of care issues, some of which make me hiss because I know it would be easier to have some hair-styles done to my real hair than try and maintain fancy wigs. For curly hair I buy Cosplay/Lolita wigs, for other styles I make the wigs myself. This post is an explanation of how I made my favourite wig, hopefully detailed enough to follow if you want to replicate this project.

My favourite wig is my black, silver and purple micro-braid wig, and I made it myself. It's partly my favourite because of all the time and effort I put into making it, and that my partner put in helping me with braids! It started off as a black long "witch" Halloween wig, which looked absolutely awful, so working from the bottom upwards I braided every layer of hair into micro-braids. I took another cheap halloween wig and cut that into inch-long strips with hair attached along the seams of hair, braided up each lock and sewed it onto the cap of the first one, and then repeated the process with a black and silver wig, making a few braids that were blended silver and black. To blend, have the three chunks of hair you are using for the braid comprise of differing amounts of silver and black (or whatever other colours you are using). Having decided the wig needed more silver, I bought a silvery "wizard" wig, and cut and braided locks from that, also pairing up locks in black and silver to make more blended braids. The purple is in six braids on one side of my face, and those started off as a pair of clip-in hair streaks, which I braided up and sewed in. I used purple thread to sew on the black hair as it was black hair on black cap and the thread was pretty hard to see otherwise, and as the roots of each braid were hidden by the braids above them, the thread cannot be seen when the wig is worn anyway. 

Each Halloween wig was between £5 and £7 and the clip in strands were £1.50 each. I only used half of the hair on the silver wig, the rest I am saving to use with a second silver wig to make a silver micro-braid wig. This project is excellent for turning cheap, natty-looking Halloween wigs into something much nicer and more lasting instead of throwing them away after the parties are over. 

I made this wig quite a while ago, and as such do not have any in-process photographs as I had no craft blog, so I can't really depict how I made this one visually, only show photographs of the final product. 

Me in my home-made micro-braid wig.
Photo by Chance Photography
As the hair was synthetic, the braids were fixed by twisting the ends tight, and then gently passing them above a candle-flame (being careful not to burn my fingers or set the braids alight) until the plastic melted together. As there is a danger of igniting the hair (I did this to one of the first braids) be very careful not to lower the hair to close to the flame, or use another, less intense, source of heat. It does need to get quite hot though, in order to melt the plastic hair fibres. Really do be careful; I don't want someone to try this and either set their project on fire, burn themselves, or set their room on fire. Also, in case you do set a braid alight, have a bucket of water/sink to drop the braid in and also melt the ends before you sew them on to the whole wig so if there is an accident your whole project isn't ruined. It is possible to do this with hair-straighteners, or with anything else you can get hot and press the twisted ends with, but I don't recommend it because the fibres can melt on and that is a pain to get off again. Now that I have been wearing the wig for a while, some of the ends of the braids have gone a bit frizzy, but they have stayed fairly secure, and it would not be difficult to twist any that got loose once again and re-heat them.  Human hair and some synthetic fibre hair will not seal like this; only hair marked "do not use heat on this wig" will, as that is the synthetic hair that will melt if it hot, which is generally a bad thing, but not when sealing braids!

After the first wig got into a horrible frizzy mess, I learnt rather quickly to cut the wigs up into long strips along the seams of hair and store them in layers separated by paper. Combing through cheap wigs is a pain in the rear and a lot of the hair will pull loose. This hair is not wasted, neither is hair from the central top seam, which is difficult to pry apart. With the hair pulled from the wig in combing, tease it out into strands, and hang them by their centres over a hook until you've got a good thick lock, then twist the two halves together so there's a loop at the top, hook that loop over something that won't get ruined by heat, and then twist beneath the loop tightly and seal with heat. This will make a lock of hair with a loop at the top which can be braided and sealed like all the others and sewn on via the loop at the top. With the top seam, just cut the hair off and, being careful not to disrupt the locks too much, hang them over a hook like the hair from the frizz and twist and seal in the same way. I will have to draw a few diagrams for this process to explain. 

This is a very time-consuming project as each lock has to be cut, braided, sealed and sewn, and can be a bit messy if hair escapes. As the hair is synthetic, don't let your pets eat it or play with it in case they swallow some. My cat is a bit of a pest, so I had to keep him away from this project as I was making it. Braiding the locks is quite therapeutic, and if you don't want to keep a candle burning while you seal them, just clip the ends. If you want, you can thread beads onto the central strand of the three in braiding before you seal up the ends - I am going to do this on my next micro-braid wig (which will be silver) so look out for posts of that in the future. With that wig I will take lots of photographs of the process so you can see exactly how I make it.  The braids look quite good from the back and sides, but where the bottoms of the braids show at the forehead and top of the head, it is obviously a wig and looks a bit naff, so I always wear a bandana in order to hide it. A lot of people remark on my unusual hair, usually in a complimentary way, and most believe until told otherwise that I've had the braids done to my real hair and are quite surprised to hear that it's not real and that I made it myself. 

Whatever style wig you have, it is important to store wigs on a wig stand, and one the right height for the length of hair. Unlike loose hair, a braided wig will not tangle and frizz so much, but the braids still tangle amongst themselves, and the ends get frizzy faster if the wig is not stored properly. Keep an eye on any braids that have got caught and started working loose from the cap, and sew them back on carefully. Wash the finished wig by rinsing it under a warm, but not hot shower, and leaving it to dry by air on a stand. Don't use any shampoo designed for human hair. I haven't used any wig products on it as the style is braided and the products could get trapped in the braids and make the wig look dirty after a while. The main purpose of washing the wig is not to clean the hair, as unless your braids have trailed in something or been worn outdoors a lot they will not get that dirty, but to clean oils and dirt from your real hair and scalp off the cap and underside. 

I think this is my most successful wig project, and as such I will be making another similar one in silver, but with beads. I am currently making a neon green Harajuku inspired wig to wear with my cyber-goth outfits, and as I now have this blog, I'm taking photographs of the process. I also made the necklace in the photograph above, and will explain how I did that, too, and how I modified some welding goggles into cyber ones. 

Monday, 21 November 2011

Emotional Art, Glamourised Victimhood and Tragedy

A while back I drew a picture called "Paranoia" intended as a parody of a certain form of genre art that gets on my nerves. I'm slowly becoming aware that this drawing, while something drawn in a moment of silliness, actually works as a drawing, even if the emotion portrayed is melodrama and the intention a self-parody, a satire of all the melodramatic false tragedy in art and poetry produced en masse by teenage members of the darker subcultures who haven't yet learnt that the rest of the world finds deliberate angst annoying rather than edgy. Madness, fear and despair have gone from taboo subjects to subjects which have developed cliche representation. While I appreciate genuine artistic expression of these things, and people who really have gone through traggedy expressing this in art, I get a little exasperated when it turns into repetitive genre art. 

There has been a flurry of drawings and photographs of (usually) young women and teenage girls either screaming, looking dead or staring madly, while pale as sheets and in high contrast, wearing far too much eye-makeup and their lips and noses blending away into insignificance, usual backgrounds including stairwells, baths and bathrooms made to look like they slit their wrists, plain white or some claustrophobic photo-manipulated background. Sometimes they have their mouths taped shut or are drawn with their mouths sewn shut, sometimes they are done to look like they are crying blood. It is not only the undertones of enacting a fantasy victimhood that worries me, but the fact that fresher portrayals of fear, madness, lunacy, depression, suicide and despair have not been imagined, and instead it has become a genre where these things are bordering on being glamourised in false sensationalism rather than actually considered. 

As somebody who has really been the darkness, as someone who knows exactly how dark it is in the place where one really does want to die, it bugs me that people want to turn it into melodrama, sensationalism, a desire to shock, or perhaps live in a fantasy of tragedy. The darkness does deserve examination, exploration and depiction in art, but it deserves honesty and thought and genuine attempts at examination, exploration and understanding, not ciche "more-tortured-than-thou" self portraits and glamourised victimhood.As a member of the Gothic subculture, I often have allegations of falsifying my tragedies for attention levelled at me because people really believe in the stereotype of the gloomy goth that is trying to be all depressed and pained for sympathy and attention and to hold a "darker than thou" attitude, and unfortunately that stereotype is perpetuated by people who live up to that, at one end is those of a histrionic disposition who do self harm for attention or as a sympathy plea (unlike most self-harmers who do it primarily as a way to vent emotion, self-punish or who have become addicted to it and are usually rather secretive about their activities) and at the other those who churn out endless similar dark poems about woe, longing, despair, suicide and self harm, or images as described above, and do so not from the perspective of someone actually going through all that, but as someone trying to be purposefully dark either to garner the sympathy of others or to conform to the standards of like-minded young people who somehow glamourise tragedy.

I am not going to say this is primarily a problem among teenagers of the Goth and Emo subculture, because it is wider than that, but we elders of the dark community who've been at this dark and spooky lark for two-digit years need to show a good example to the younger members of the subculture and point out false tragedy and shallow pretence wherever it appears, otherwise these people are going to think that melodramatic attention pleas work, or are somehow genuinely artistic. It is also time that those who are both artistically and darkly inclined started either producing more original material on there themes rather than repetitive cliches, or, if already being fresh and looking at things from different angles, being a bit more vocal about their work. People need to see that the stereotype is not edgy or gritty, but tired and cliche. When that artistic approach was popular enough for bands like Evanescence to become mainstream popularities, it was clear that the topic was getting worn out and seeing that Evanesence has been around since 1995, it really is time for something different. Tragedy, madness and despair have been themes of artistic and literary endeavour since at least when the Greeks wrote Elektra, Oedipus Rex and Medea and in that time, forms of genre art have appeared where various forms have got stale, and then been changed, and gone in a new form again, there's no reason it cannot happen now, I just wish that the majority of people making this stuff had even heard of Sophocles and Euripedes and Aeschylus or read through Hamlet, Macbeth, or seen a version of Romeo & Juliet on a stage or listened to and understood tragic French Opera... Darkness and despair can be done with great beauty and skill, but only when it is heartfelt, understood and not a third, fourth, hundredth-hand idea. 

Part of the problem is that the internet allows for information bombardment, and it is easier to find something similar to what you've already seen than it is to find something utterly new on account of the nature of the keyword system of internet searching and linkage. It is easy to find lots of the pale-faced, wide-eyed screaming victim-maidens wearing far too much badly applied eye-makeup, it is harder to find different portrayals of despair, pain, fear, etc. and if one does not put in the art history/contemporary art research time, they may be entirely missed, and therefore new ideas of the inspiring kind aren't always spotted and found in order to trigger something new again, and the idea that this genre art is how such themes are to be represented is reinforced. 

I could try and give a 'pop psychology' analysis of these images, but I'm not enough of a psychiatrist to do much good, and it still seems strange to me as to why anyone would want to present themselves as a victim to be pitied and comforted rather than try and seek genuine affection via better means, it is surely more effort to be deliberately gloomy. Doing things for shock value is crass and histrionic. Take the higher ground.