If You Go Down to Tee’s Garden Today?

All Hallows Eve, Crooked Hen Productions, That's ONE Crooked Hen!, The 'Little' Folk

If you go down to Tee’s garden today.

You’re sure of a big surprise!

If you go down to Tee’s garden today.

You’d better go in disguise…

For every witch that ever there was.

Will gather there for certain because.

Today’s the day that Tilly Simms came to say ‘Hi!’

 

Okay, I didn’t find really find Tilly Simms at the bottom of my garden nestled among the ferns and ivy leaves…

Actually this wonderfully adorable witch found her way to me one sunny September afternoon accompanied by her creator Jain Squires of Giddy Kipper Dolls who is usually to be found huddled in a cosy workshop creating her delightful whimsical characters and other assorted unique familiars.

As I haven’t seen Jain for ages, it was really great to enjoy a chat over a cup of tea and to finally meet Tilly Simms and for those aware of my passion for Regency history, it will probably be of little surprise that this little witch has been dressed in the resplendent clothing certain to meet with the approval of any respectable 19th century lady!

 And as Tilly has had plenty of time in which to enjoy a little private time in her new home; I have been very busy with the preparations for her first retail foray at the All Hallows Hamlet although it hasn’t been quite the shopping trip she had imagined…

For as she approached the abode of Monsignor Suárez, the grim and forbidding place, neglected and possessed of some hidden terror was everything that she feared it would be and the temptation to make a run for it was almost too great… particularly when she spotted the tell-tale sign that someone or some thing had recently been there too…

‘Vampyres, Werewolves and Zombies. Oh My!’

Oh Tilly! Oh My!

In Need Some Retail Therapy Vampyre?

All Hallows Eve, Crooked Hen Productions, Little Big Cat!, That's ONE Crooked Hen!, The 'Little' Folk, The Crooked Hen Gift Shop

The best definition I can give of a vampire is a living, mischievous and murderous dead body. A living dead body! The words are idle, contradictory, incomprehensible, but so are vampires.”

Scoffern (Stray leaves of Science and Folk Lore)

Vampires, Vampyre, Vampir, Vampyyri, Vampyras, Vampyr, Vampyras, Vampiro… It really makes no difference how the word is spelt for the meaning remains the same the world over, and for as long as I can remember, I have always enjoyed a fascination with (and a sneaky regard!) for these undead creatures of folklore and mythology.

However, as much as I appreciate that this interest of mine will not be shared by everybody and so in keeping with the ideas of ‘mischief’ and the ‘incomprehensible’ that Scoffern has attributed to the Vampyre; I have created something of a fantastical store that seeks to offer those essential accoutrements for any discerning hunter or slayer of the undead.

And so without further ado, I am now going to unlock the door of the Monsignor Suárez Vampyre Slayer’s Emporium in the All Hallows Hamlet!

The design for this fantastical world began during the dying days of an Indian summer last year and as I made a real effort to actually remember to photograph the creation of it from dry-build to completion; I am looking forward to sharing this tale with you in another post.

As the All Hallows Hamlet is a marketplace of emporiums, boutiques and other such establishments for discerning folk with a penchant for retail indulgence and a predilection for all that is extraordinary – I confess that I have been more than a little excited about this creation for not only is it a fantastical store brimming with merchandise of the magickal kind but after a lot of meticulous research, this little emporium is completely seeped in all manner of ancient folktale and superstition!

As the week of All Hallows Eve was also the celebration of the festival of Día de Muertos – I did hear a whisper that a certain feline made a debut appearance along with one or two other folk from the All Hallows Hamlet!

As Tilly is something of a creative soul, her imagination was now flying all over the place like the leaves tumbling from the old oak trees surrounding the All Hallows Hamlet and she began to wonder if the cat she had seen was not really Murphy at all but a shape-shifter in disguise or the beastly familiar of an evil witch OR that Murphy was now slowly transforming into a werewolf!

‘Vampyres, Werewolves and Zombies. Oh My!’

Follow the Tale…

And as the doors to the Crooked Hen Gift Shop have FINALLY opened; there is now the opportunity to indulge in a little retail therapy for yourself or a loved one.

For on offer and measuring just 2.5 cm or smaller is a collection of miniature vials from the shelves of this Vampyre Slayer’s Emporium here in the All Hallows Hamlet and which are the exclusive remedies created by the Monsignor himself with a guarantee to see off the most determined of Vampyres!

With a pinch of ‘Silver, Herb, Seed, Root and Werewolf Fur’ suspended in resin, labelled in parchment and finished with paper tied with jute, raffia or silver wire- these little vials will add a perfect finishing touch to YOUR fantastical miniature world… OR could YOU discover another use for it?

However, before I disappear for the time being; I shall leave you with a few lines from the divine Lord Byron:

But first, on earth as Vampire sent,

Thy corpse shall from its tomb be rent:

Then ghastly haunt thy native place,

And suck the blood of all thy race;

There from thy daughter, sister, wife,

At midnight drain the stream of life;

Yet loathe the banquet which perforce

Must feed thy livid living corpse.

Thy victims are they yet expire

Shall know the demon for their sire,

As cursing thee, thou cursing them,

Thy flowers withered on the stem.

The Giaour (1813)

A Nightmare Summer? Vampyre Beware!

A Tutorial, All Hallows Eve, That's ONE Crooked Hen!, The Crooked Hen Gift Shop

“Unseelie Dreams Make Unseelie Fae.”~ Luna Lindsey

I love this quotation from Luna’s book Emerald City Dreamer which tells the tale of the faerie hunters who go in search of the creatures that are born of human nightmares and nourished on dreams.

And although my summer was remembered as being the stuff of nightmares with interrupted plans, a twisted spine and torn nerves; it is fortunate that York enjoyed something of an Indian summer throughout last September and taking advantage of the balmy weather; there was plenty of activity at the end of my garden for with the door to my Den open, I indulged in a dream of mine with the creation of another fantasy structure for the All Hallows Hamlet.

As the All Hallows Hamlet is a marketplace of emporiums, boutiques and other such establishments for discerning folk with a penchant for retail indulgence and a predilection for all that is extraordinary; I was more than a little excited about the creation of this ‘Small World’ for not only will it be an fantastical store brimming with merchandise of the magickal kind but will also be seeped in ancient folklore and superstition!

And although I did manage to keep the design of my new ‘Small World’ a secret until the sun disappeared last All Hallows Eve, I’d thought I’d share with you the images of this new building in the design process as I began to unleash my creativity armed with newspaper, masking tape, some old pieces of wood and lots of imagination on a gloriously sunny day…

Imagine if you will that you were being troubled by the presence of a vampyre but not in the desperately romantic way of one Edward Cullen from the Twilight saga.

You’ve probably read somewhere or seen it on television that the best way to be free of a vampyre would be to arm oneself with a crucifix and a large bottle of Holy water or if you are of a very brave disposition; you could get rid of this fiend by driving a stake through it’s rotten heart before chopping off the head and then having a nice bonfire with what remains.

But did you know that there are many different ways of seeing off a vampyre?

And so I ask you to imagine that somewhere in our world there exists a little emporium which sells every conceivable tool needed for this task and for those who lack the courage or the knowledge on the best way to bid ‘Adieu’ to this night walker; imagine also if you could actually hire the services of a real vampyre slayer?

As I have long enjoyed a fascination for the vampyre of folklore and mythology and having designed a fantastical store in 12th scale for the All Hallows Hamlet which offers those essential accoutrements for any discerning hunter of the undead; I wanted to share with you the tale of my creation of the Monsignor Suárez Vampyre Slayer’s Emporium!

The idea of creating a vampyre slayer’s emporium happened as I had been re-watching my Blood Ties box set featuring the glorious Kyle Schmid as the vampyre Henry Fitzroy and in the episode ‘Heart of Fire’ I fell in love with the idea of a ‘Monsignor’ hunting down the undead armed only in faith and with his black box.

And as the news was dominated by the antics of the footballer Luis Suárez who had found himself in trouble because he couldn’t keep his teeth to himself and had actually bitten another player; the name all but suggested itself!

Using the ‘Garden Pavilion Kit’ from the Dolls House Emporium and having cut a large hole in the back, I used foam core to cover the gap which had been designed for the large door and shortened the length of the MDF pieces for the garden by some 2 inches which I then placed onto a larger piece of plywood.

As I imagined the Monsignor Suárez Vampyre Slayer’s Emporium to be situated on a mound surrounded by a bank of mud and moss and with space for a small stream; I raised the structure with the use of some scrap pieces of cardboard packaging which along with the plywood base helped to keep the weight down!

The large chimney was constructed with the use of some old building blocks which having been smashed and bashed by small hands over the years were now ready to be put to some other use and to which I added two more pieces of balsa wood.

And as a daily reader of a newspaper (I shan’t tell you which one as I get enough grief about it from my spouse) I was able to do a little recycling of my own as I tore up strips in which to fashion the shape of the stream and others I crushed into balls of assorted sizes to create the foot of the mound.

As my excitement with this project grew so did my desire to get on with it as fast as I was able to and as you can see from the images below, I created most of it without capturing any of the images to share with you; however, I will try to explain the design process.

The walls of the graveyard, the emporium and chimney were decorated using aquarium gravel, lots of glue and with plenty of time in which to let it all dry!

AND however tempting it may be to pick it up one of these walls to admire it, I speak from bitter experience when I tell you that your efforts will all be in vain if all you hear is the sound of tiny stones crashing to the table.

Please, if you do nothing else, trust me on the stones!

With the aquarium gravel now firmly in place; I finished off with a generous covering of stonework with the use of  my unique recipe which I have shared on my other blog Creating Life in 12th Scale… 

The roof ’tiles’ were made from a sheet of mount board in a colour that had caught my eye and which I laid strip by tedious strip (I hate roofing!) over strips of paper which helped to give the impression of a ‘bumpy’ roof.

Having constructed a simple door and the primitive looking porch from balsa wood, I stained these along with the windows and frames in a ‘dark oak’ colour and added three steps of scrap MDF to the newspaper base and which I finished off with my special mix of stonework.

I also added several burnt stones to the base of the ‘stream’ which I had snaffled from an obsolete BBQ.

For those of you who are familiar with my ‘Small Worlds’ you’ll know that I love to use ‘real’ foliage when I can and as an enthusiastic ‘harvester’ who loves to take advantage of the free pickings from my garden, I selected an assortment of branch cuttings which were then attached to the plywood base with wire and masking tape before the base and fashioned tree ‘roots’ were sculpted into shape with the use of some ModRoc.

I should add that ModRoc is the brand name for a plaster bandage and one I came to know very well as a child when I had broken my arm!

And with everything safely in place, this is where the fun really began as I coated the newspaper mound and the surrounding area with lashings of papier-mâché.

Papier-mâché has been used for thousands of years in a HUGE variety of ways and there is more than one recipe for making it, however, I prefer to use a bag of pulp to which you simply add water and mix well.

Having tried a number of papier-mâché ready mixes, my favourite is the Creation Station Instant Papier Mâché available on Amazon as is not as dusty as some of the others on the market.

I always try to do my papier-mâché sculpting outside as it can be really messy and I usually end up with the stuff on the floor, my clothes and even in my hair!

However, with patience, time and preferably a sunny day, it is really is a fabulous medium to work with!

To be continued…

However, Before You Leave…

As this fantastical world was the inspiration for the trilogy: ‘Vampyres, Werewolves and Zombies. Oh My!’ for Crooked Hen Productions – you can fly over and relish the tale… if you dare!

And if you’ve a vampyre to slay…

On offer and measuring just 2.5 cm or smaller is a collection of miniature vials now available exclusively on the Crooked Hen Gift Shop

Available for sale individually and from the shelves of the ‘Monsignor Suárez Vampyre Slayer Emporium’ in the All Hallows Hamlet, these are exclusive remedies created by the Monsignor himself AND guaranteed to see off the most determined of Vampyres!

Go On, Crow ALL You Like!

A Tutorial, All Hallows Eve, Little Big Cat!, The 'Little' Folk

Yes, dear reader, it IS true – the Yorvik Faerie is now NO More!

I have never really been happy with the name I created for my fantastical brand and a few weeks ago after several days of too little sleep and too much cake – I decided to unfasten her wings and once free, the Yorvik Faerie then flew away for the final time…

However, in her stead, comes the Crooked Hen!

The ‘Crooked Hen’ I hear you ask?

However, before I explain myself, tell me does the name NOT bring a smile to your face?

And even though I live in the ancient City of York with an entertaining family which includes a tetchy spouse, an moody black Persian cat with attitude and a very sociable Persian who thinks he’s a small dog – I also keep chickens!

And although my lovely ‘Little’ and ‘Large’ were murdered by an urban fox last year; I still have three poultry pals who answer to the names of ‘Snowy’, ‘Florence’ and ‘Allie’ AND I do mean answer – particularly if they see me clutching a handful of meal worms or a piece of croissant – to which they are very partial!

However, it was ‘Allie’, pictured top-left who inspired my name change when one weekend having heard an unmistakable sound, I rushed outside and there she was with her head thrown back and crowing like a cock and later that afternoon when we saw her trying to ravish poor little ‘Snowy’ – well, we realised that we had a chicken who was now possibly ‘gender fluid’.

But when I think of that very early morning when we literally rescued her from the jaws of that fox; it’s perhaps NOT surprising she’s more than a little confused about who she is.

So there you have it – the inspiration for the name of the Crooked Hen!

NOT a bird bent out of shape or deceitful BUT a bird of two contrasts and of much entertainment value!

Also of much entertainment value was the evening I spent with the members from the York Photography Network last month.

I had been invited to take along some of the models from the All Hallows Hamlet on what was possibly the worst evening for moving – anything!

Torrential rain, high winds, fog – you name it and armed with acres of bubble wrap and my deep breathing exercises, I battled across town with the ‘Monsignor Suárez Vampyre Slayer’s Emporium’ and the ‘Harum Scarum Notions & Potions Emporium’ in tow.

Despite the rush to unpack and dress the shelves as several camera lens were focused on me and my hands as I arranged those bottles of ‘Holy Water’ and other assorted notions and potions – it was a very insightful evening and amazing to see how the other photographers sought to capture my work.

And given the hurricane that occurred inside ‘Harum Scarum’ during transit with snippets of dried flowers and herbs scattered everywhere – I was rather relieved that I had left the grumpy proprietor at home – although she was the subject of much interest!

As the two ‘Davids’ have kindly given me permission to share these images – you can see more of their incredible work on this site AND you can also discover how I transformed a piece of wood and and broken pieces of Twisted Willow into an enchanted forest clearing for you never know who you might just find there one sunny morning!

Bye for now!

A Walk on the Wild Side!

All Hallows Eve, That's ONE Crooked Hen!

“All the things of the wild have their proper uses. Only misuse makes them evil.” ~ Brother Cadfael

(One Corpse Too Many by Ellis Peters)

Recently I have found myself lost in the medieval world of Brother Cadfael and his tales of bravery, and kindness while in the pursuit of justice around the enclave of Shrewsbury Abbey.

And I have been particularly enticed by the images of his delightful ‘Herbarium’ in the BBC adaptation which stars the wonderfully mesmeric Sir Derek Jacobi as Brother Cadfael.

For having fallen in love with the vision of Cadfael’s Herbarium with its charming thatched roof, an interior of stone flagged floors with pots of healing potions all bubbling away on the huge and welcoming fire and masses of dried herbs hanging from the rafters…

… I am now making plans to create my own unique Herbarium!

More details to follow soon…. I promise!