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Emilie Autumn in Snippets

Emilie Autumn in Snippets

This article was originally posted in Issue 31 of Snippets – reposted here with thanks to Cat and Tom of Cut Out + Keep!

A native of Malibu, California, Emilie is a singer-songwriter, poet and violin prodigy. Her music incorporates hugely contrasting elements like classical music, glam rock, cabaret and electronica and she frequently uses burlesque, steam punk and Victorian themes in her music and stage shows. We were really pleased that she could spend some time talking to us in the run up to her American tour with The Birthday Massacre.  Her first studio album, Enchant, was released in 2003 to great success. Emilie’s style then was very different to how it is now – she describes it herself as “having become more detailed, more intricate, fewer primary colours, more muted but more variety” and is proud of her evolution of style, which is an important part of finding yourself. On stage Emilie produces fantastic costumes and sets but even in her private life she is a compulsive crafter who nearly always makes her own clothes; “if I purchase something, it’s specifically so that I can screenprint some design on it, or something I think might be fun to shred.”

“I’ve still found the best revenge to be a good song”

Over the last ten years she has developed a devout and committed fanbase nicknamed The Plague Rats, who have been there for her through thick and thin; occasionally these fans are promoted to the prestigious role of Bloody Crumpet, a title for the female dancers and performers that provide her live back-up. What is a Bloody Crumpet, you might ask, and how does one become one? “They are usually the ones sitting alone in the corner of the café with a nervous tic and a noticeable problem fitting into the ordinary world,” Emilie jibes. “Like attracts like.” Over the years she has had eleven Crumpets and her current line-up consists of Veronica Varlow who has been part of the act since 2007, and newcomer Amalthea aka Moth who joined the show in October of 2013 when Captain Maggot announced she would be taking a break to pursue her own music.

An important part of Emilie’s art lies in her mental health issues which have troubled her throughout her entire life, and it has been interesting to see the evolution of her music in this respect. In her early career she seemed much angrier and cited revenge as her motivation, but has now clarified that “the real message is about justice…the righting of wrongs…and, for the record, I’ve still found the best revenge to be a good song.” Emilie struggled with her problems for a long time before realising “I AM special and individual and unique, but I am NOT alone. No one is alone.” She now aims to be the person that reminds others of this fact, turning her negative experiences into something positive for everyone else.Another important aspect of her personal and emotional progress is her crafty nature. “I do believe that creativity is absolutely necessary to live a healthy, happy life, despite whatever you’re dealing with, mentally” she comments, reinforcing everything we believe about the positive effects of crafting. “You don’t have to write books and albums and design an entire stage show around it, but you’ve got to do something to use what is going on and transform it.” She is well known for making elaborate costumes for her stage shows, both for herself and her Bloody Crumpets who all have distinctive styles and characters – “I simply base every element around the character that the costume is supposed to represent…If the costume is good, you know what the character stands for before the wearer even moves or speaks.” This is most obvious in the case of Captain Maggot, one of her longest-serving Crumpets, whose pirate costume has represented the start of the show for years. When I asked for her favourite  creation she could only answer that it’s difficult because “all costumes represent characters that I am so deeply in love with” – from the original Pyrate Captain Vecona to resident cannibal Blessed Contessa, all her girls have had distinct personalities and skills.

Inspiration for her shows come from her own life as well as the work of literary geniuses like Oscar Wilde and William Shakespeare; “Oscar Wilde’s humor and wit has been a significant influence on me,  which I think has actually programmed my mind to deal with difficult situations, such as turning a psyche ward incarceration into a joyful career,” she noted. “It’s all about finding the joke. And there is almost always a joke.” She also has an interest in Daphne du Maurier, an English author and playwright who should be best known for writing The Birds (which the Hitchcock film was based on), a person whom Emilie admires as “she’s very dark and detailed and descriptive.” Quite possibly her darkest album, the title of the 2006 Opheliac was inspired by the Shakespearean character who was driven mad by controlling men and committed suicide, and contains the song Shalott, based on The Lady of Shalott by Lord Tennyson. She even hinted in our chat about at a future project in which she will create an audiobook series of Edgar Allan Poe’s entire works, which she is sure which infect her mind in a significant way.

“Oscar Wilde’s humor and wit has been a significant influence on me,  which I think has actually programmed my mind to deal with difficult situations, such as turning a psyche ward incarceration into a joyful career”

Although the Poe series is some way off, her fans will be pleased to hear that there is something much bigger in the works: an Asylum musical! The subject of her semi-autobiographical book The Asylum For Wayward Victorian Girls, which deals heavily with her time in an institution, has been expanded into her most recent album Fight Like A Girl and in 2014 Emilie aims to release a musical version of the story. She will be working with Darren Lynn Bousman, who directed her F.L.A.G video, and is now in the process of composing original pieces of music for the show and casting roles other than hers, and the Bloody Crumpets’ – the announcement at a gig in London about the musical was met with cheers from audiences and fans worldwide.In her alter-ego as The Admiral, Emilie is part of the Platonic Friends duo with the actor, dancer, singer and producer Marc Senter, known in the Friends context as SharC. Marc also starred in the Fight Like A Girl music video and in the short musical horror film The Devil’s Carnival with appearances from Emilie Autumn, Captain Maggot and The Blessed Contessa. “The beauty of it is that Marc is a well known indie actor with a lot of integrity, and I’ve got the same reputation in music, but Platonic Friends is all about selling out.” Sounds intriguing! “We also have breakdancing as an actual instrument.” Merchandise is expected to come before music, and apparently following @platonicfriendz on Twitter will provide you with educational Shark Facts from SharC on a daily basis, for those with an interest in undersea life.

What else is on the table for the Queen of Rats? “The Asylum Emporium is in testing stages for my new Signature Blend tea, which is a rich black tea flavoured with almonds, cocoa, and rose petals,” she dished. Currently the website stocks a blend of tea called Basil’s Brew, a Chinese Silver Needle tea with peony, peppermint and chrysanthemum flowers, but she hopes that her new blend will become a High Tea favourite. The “Laboratory” section of the Emporium which has remained blank for a year now is rumoured to be a return to selling perfume; she once released a perfume called Mistress which was co-created by Queen fLee, and released the song “O, Mistress Mine”  for free with the product, which came with rose petals.Whether she’s Emily-with-a-y, the Asylum inmate responsible for the Asylum letters, dressed as the Rat in grey rags or glammed up for her role as The Admiral, Emilie aims to inject creativity into everything that she does, and expresses herself through costume, expressive dance and performance. The last decade of her career has seen her progress from the fairy of Enchant, to the fury-filled Opheliac, and finally to a beautiful woman who is proud of herself, her mind and her body at last. “Every woman should experience this feeling. I’m becoming myself. That will never stop.”

Posted by jenny in Crafting, Music, 0 comments
An Interview With Violet Le Beaux

An Interview With Violet Le Beaux

This was an original leading article for the thirtieth issue of Cut Out & Keep’s zine Snippets. You can read it over there too with pictures and links!

Here at Cut Out + Keep, we talk to a lot of different people; goth queens, cross-stitching fellas and lolita icons. This month I had the pleasure of talking to one of the cutest crafters around, Miss Violet Le Beaux! This self-proclaimed ingenue (meaning innocent and wholesome) takes much of her crafty inspiration from the Japanese style of Hime Gyaru and loves to work with diamanté, lace and pastel colours.

She wasn’t always this way, of course; back in her teenage days Violet was much more of a rebel. “As a teenager I went through a punk phase for several years,” she tells me. “Then I did a 180 degree turn and delved into sweet Lolita fashion before my style evolved more into more of a Hime Gyaru style.” This particular style, which directly translates to mean ‘Princess Girl’ is heavily influenced by European royalty, specifically that of the Victorian and Elizabethan areas and French Rococo styles: picture jewels, lace, velvet. Violet’s family on her father’s side comes from England, and she has been to the UK many times for inspiration. It’s not just a style though, it can be a way of life to live like a princess. Defining features of the style can include big eyelashes and hair, heels and pastel printed dresses.

“Even now my style tends to change just depending on my mood. I like too many things to dress in one way forever!” Although her style changes accordingly, there are certain signatures to Violet’s appearance which make her distinctive. From her long, bleach blonde hair in an impeccable beehive (which she assures me doesn’t take as long as it looks like it should) to her perfectly applied makeup and fake eyelashes, she has her own style down, although severe skin allergies make finding cosmetics difficult. “For eyeshadow I tend to stick to my Coastal Scents 88 palettes because I know they work with my skin and there are so many colour choices! Lipstick and glosses are my favourite products though and I tend to go with Pretty Serious cosmetics or if I can splurge a bit I’ll treat myself to a Chanel lipstick for special occasions!” Mirenesse mascara, Illamasqua eyeliner and Jill Stuart eyeshadows also feature among her favourite allergy-friendly products.

Of course, Violet is a crafter. Many of her outfits and jewellery have been made by hand, buying diamantés, lace and pearls in bulk on eBay.  “I still have dreams about the fabric district in Japan” she mentioned. “The last time I visited, I came home with around 5 cards of beautiful quality lace for less than the price of one here in Australia!” There are definite advantages to regular visits to Japan. While clothes and jewellery making are an important part of her life, she is also a long-time knitter, now and then; “ I go through phases where I will knit for weeks at a time and then get bored with it and not pick it up again for months,” a problem many people can have. She suffers from the same compulsions though, claiming she can’t walk past a yarn store without getting something, and has recently gotten involved with needle felting as a simple, quick craft.

Also among her repertoire of talents we find watercolour painting, the results of which she sells online. “It’s such a relaxing way to wind down at the end of the day and I love watching colours blend together,” and it’s obvious from her work that she enjoys working with bright colours. The artwork is adorable, featuring fantasy images including many delicately done fairy pieces which are reminiscent of a simpler Flower Fairies style. As well as her prints, she has also created a sidekick for herself in the form of Bergamot Bunny, her very first attempt at making a plushie. Bergamot was so popular on Violet’s blog that she has gone on to feature in stories, comics, paintings, tshirts and has a website dedicated just to her with regular updates of images of adorable bunnies. It seems like Bergamot is a great little buddy for Violet to share her hobbies with. “She loves tea,” and Violet isn’t ashamed of her weakness for a nice cup of English breakfast tea with a couple of sugars. Tea love and cuteness may be where the similarity ends however; while Violet is a sweet, regal girl, Bergamot apparently “has a talent for creating mischief wherever she goes!”

Violet has over 200 tutorials currently on her website and has recently been working on a series of tutorials for beginners called “Sew Fun”. The first large project on the site was her simple Lolita style skirt, a staple of many Japanese fashion styles, and unlike some online tutorials Violet’s is easy to follow and suitable for complete beginners. I asked Violet for some advice on how to work on your own style; “Don’t be afraid to try new things and don’t think that you can’t change your style later,” she wisely states. “People’s tastes change over time so mix it up and do what makes you happy!”

Posted by jenny in Crafting, 0 comments
Urban Cheesecraft

Urban Cheesecraft

First published on Cut Out + Keep, re-posted here with thanks to Cat and Tom. Original article can be found here:

If you’d like to see how I got on making halloumi with one of these kits, check out my tutorial for a Mediterranean breakfast.

Urban Cheesecraft is an Etsy company run by Claudia Lucero straight from Portland, Oregon – a city famous for its DIY ethic. Urban Cheesecraft is based on one simple philosophy: that fresh cheese should be easy and affordable to make at home. For thousands of years people have made cheese at home using simple recipes, so Claudia created her DIY Cheese Kits – we discuss how she started up her company and the peaceful experience of creating your own cheese in the comfort of your own home.

What first got you started making your own cheese? Did it take you a long time to refine the process?
I was first and foremost a cook and crafter in general. I value DIY ethics and traditional skills. My grandmother was a great cook and since I can remember, she let me be a big part of cooking big meals. To me, homemade, from scratch food just equals love and health. Most recently, the inspiration came from needing to preserve veggies that I received from a farm share. I looked for pickling and sauerkraut recipes so that I could preserve cabbage, beets, squash and green beans and that led me to preservation of all sorts including cheese. I looked at recipes for aged cheeses and although I find it fascinating and a great hobby still, the cheeses that I could see myself making a regular part of my life were fresh cheeses like mozzarella and paneer.

How have you tried to spread the word about home-made cheese?
It was easy because all I did was live it and share it. It took off from there into the kit business, my blog, and classes. Other people were as hungry for forgotten skills as I was/am.

Who benefits from making cheese at home as opposed to the supermarkets?
Anyone who enjoys all-natural, fresh cheese but especially anyone who wants to know and control what they eat. Whether raw, organic, grass-fed, whole fat, no additives, vegetarian etc. is the concern, you can choose that when you make your own cheese. You get to see what goes in because you put it in. The bonus is you can customize flavors you cannot find in stores…rosemary fig chevre, jalapeno mozzarella, dark chocolate lemon ricotta…the possibilities are endless and very fun to play with.

What would be the best kit for starters, or for anyone with children?
I think ricotta is wonderful because you can have it sweet or salty and you can cook many favorites like pizza or cheesecake with it. Uses are as simple as ricotta with honey over pancakes and fruit- beloved by anyone who tries it. Alternately, a ricotta dip made with fresh chopped herbs and sea salt is wonderful for raw veggies or crackers. It’s an easy way to start making cheese but also getting a taste for what mild, fresh, old fashioned cheese tastes like. Younger people have not grown up with these mild cheeses unless they are still a cultural part of their lives. As a Mexican-American with a grandma who liked home-cooking, I was raised with wonderful fresh cheeses like Panela, and Queso Oaxaca but my nieces have not, until recently of course! 🙂 Now they make their own cheese too!

Are all of your kits suitable for vegetarians?
Yes, the rennet is vegetarian so everyone can enjoy the kits.

In a featured Etsy video on Urban CheeseCraft, you said that cheese-making rekindled your love of science. Do you think it’s more of a science or art form?
Absolutely and inseparably a combination of both. That’s why I get such an eclectic combination of students in my classes. I love it.

What other types of craft have you experimented with in the past?
Everything you can imagine since my earliest memories, from crochet to candle-making to book-binding and that’s not even in the kitchen. I have also worked with children for many years so that always inspired new low-budget ideas that I tried…string and stick dolls, paper scrolls, flower “ink” painting…currently, I have a burning desire to sew little vests for my chihuahua as well as skirts for myself. In the kitchen, I want to work on preserving more without the use of electricity as well as aging cheeses for years, making fruit cordials, flower wines etc. It’s endless. I have been gardening with the goal of growing and preserving my food but completely living off this food is a craft I am humbled by so far. It does get better every year though!

Eating cheese creates serotonin and can ward off depression, but can the process of making cheese also be relaxing?
Absolutely, it is no accident that making cheese is something that monks have done over the centuries, much like traditional fermented breads that have to be risen several times and require a lot of kneading, it gives a lot of time for reflection and challenges one’s patience…it pays off though. It’s quite zen. I think there must also be a spike in serotonin when you see milk coagulate successfully and see your finished cheese, it’s very exciting!

Your products are already sold on Etsy and in several places in Portland, Oregon and beyond. Would you like to see other companies being set up to promote local produce in their own cities?

Indeed. The more people can strengthen their community and local economy, the happier they are. I see this in Portland all the time.

You’ve been featured in Home Dairy, and the Food Lover’s Guide to Portland as well as many websites. Where would you like to be seen next, and where would you like to take your company in the future?
Hmm, good question, this is where that business plan comes in handy right? I haven’t gotten around to that yet. The kits have a life of their own, I’m happy to let them go in the same fashion for a while but what I would love is to have a fully sponsored tour of several countries so that I can learn to make lesser-known humble cheeses the traditional ways. I would be happy to be a keeper of traditional skills and pass them on to the younger generations in any way I can. We have lost too many skills already and there are lots of people trying to re-learn but we need to hurry and talk to the people who learned these things 50, 75, 100 years ago if possible!

Posted by jenny in Crafting, 0 comments