Feeding the ghosts

“Are they your relatives?” People ask me that all the time, when they see all the old pictures in my pieces.


The answer is “no”. I don’t have many very old pictures of my relations, because they got left behind in Cuba when my family fled. But these are not them, in any case. These people are hungry ghosts. A concept in Chinese Buddhism that refers to a spirit who has no living person to venerate and feed them.

They have no history or context when I find them. Sometimes there will be a name, date or location somewhere. Handwritten on the back or embossed on the front by the photographer. But more often than not there is nothing. They’re strangers, piled in a box or basket at a flea market in dusty stacks. Forlorn and forgotten.

I find it indescribably poignant that these were people with stories, once. The invention of photography has given a depth to the idea of people that never existed before the ability to capture the true to life image of a thing. Sure, you know that humans have been alive for millennia. Feeling, breathing, living humans. But the advent of modern photographic technology gave us the ability to give that concept a face. Posture. Dress and adornment that expresses an individual’s taste and preferences. Their wealth or lack of it. Their features, and the expression in their eyes. Little details that make people real. These people had conversations and aspirations and foods they hated and people they loved. And pets. And hats. And favorite songs. And now, nobody knows who they are.


So I give them new stories. I take my boxes of junk and bones and broken things and I knit together a story and put them in the center of it. I make a spirit house for them to live in. Someplace to come to on All Souls after they visit their burial place, maybe. Someplace for candles to burn near, so the light can guide them back. Maybe my customers don’t know they’re feeding hungry ghosts by looking and thinking about the story. Maybe they do. Maybe they don’t care. That’s fine, too. They’re self sustaining ghost houses. No maintenance required. Just look. Just brush your eyes across the picture and the art does the rest.

But I know. I like to think all those hungry ghosts are sitting there, patting full bellies, wandering no more.





I’m sure there are those of you who are all, “Wtf is As the Crow Flies Studio lately?”.
Shhhh, don’t mess with my delusion. I prefer to think you all love the hell outta my posts and the lack of them keeps you up at night. Validation, dammit!

I’m normally such an obsessive poster because FB is a douche canoe and I figure if I post all of the things, more of the people who have liked my page will actually see them. It’s a business page, so people seeing my bidness is pretty much the point.
I could be wrong, but short of hacking FB (May I request that? I mean, with all the hacking going on, surely someone with the skills is done enough with FBs jackassery to do it?), that’s my best plan.

But it’s been a busy couple of weeks. Shows! Art classes! Funerals!

Sadly yes, that last one is true. My mom’s best friend died suddenly last month and left her as the executor of her estate, so I’ve been as busy being helpful to her in whatever capacity she needs as anything else. I’ve learned valuable lessons from this. It’s enormously complicated to die in this country, and you should leave freakishly detailed instructions to your executor/family members, if you possibly can. Write a will. A looong and precise one, and update it periodically.
Consider giving someone power of attorney, just in case. We actually had to argue with the medical examiner because the deceased had no known family, and they were afraid if they released the body without power of attorney (which, according to the lawyer, ends with death, but they insisted on it anyway) some random unknown relative would come suing over the disposition of the remains at some later date. The funeral home had to get its legal department to draft a waiver exempting the medical examiners office of liability if that should happen, before they would turn over the deceased to my mother, who had her copy of the will naming her as executor, which is all she legally needed in the first place.
Also? Don’t hoard. Your survivors will have to figure out what to do with your stuff and that sucks because it’s emotional to have to sort through and dispose of the possessions of someone you cared about. So don’t have a bunch of extra shit lying around to make it harder for them.
The one upshot, weirdly, was the memorial. The departed was a very sassy old lady and sassy old ladies tend to have fun people in their lives who will eulogize them in hilariously touching ways.
So, yeah. That happened.

But, shows!
Red Door was down profit-wise from last year, but otherwise just as lovely an event. I blame the weather. Despite the almost constant presence of it in the Midwest (particularly along the shores of a large body of water), it continues to stump people. Chicagoans won’t leave the house if anything is falling out of the sky. And it was, so they didn’t. But the dip in fortunes was slight, and since I got such a positive reception and the organizers were, as before, really communicative and great to work with, I had a fine time anyway and look forward to next year. Even a great dane peeing on my display could not dampen my day. No, nothing was damaged, thank FSM, though his owner was kind of a jerk about it. Such is life. If that’s the worst thing that happens at a show in the coming year, I’m calling it a win.

And next up of course is Shop Jarvis Square, this coming Saturday in Rogers Park. Buncha bars, buncha artists, buncha bloody mary’s and a whole lotta awesome. I’ll be in R Public House, the first one in line coming from the train station. Dave will be there with lamps both new and funky and we’ll both be merry and bright because cocktails. Come out. Even if there’s stuff falling out of the sky. There’s a raffle! And discounts! And beer!

Lastly but hardly leastly (shut up spellcheck, you don’t think “thusly” is a word either so I don’t trust your squiggly red line anymore), art classes!
I’ve posted about my collage and assemblage classes with Lynn Whipple, my new favorite art doula. Now I’m taking something called a “Junk Book” class with Carla Sonheim, whose deal this is all been going through. Her hubs makes the videos and they live on her site. Mixed media, collage, watercolor, acrylic. I’m not sure there’s anything she doesn’t do.
I met her at one of the shows mah boo and I reconned in the spring and signed up for her mailing list because I liked her work so much. Best thing I’ve done in a long time, as it has turned out.
The class involves repurposing junk mail into an art book. Hence, junk book. There is drawing and painting with watercolors, neither of which I even kind of know how to do. Franken-junk is my jam. But what fun would life be if we never challenged ourselves? Hmmm? Besides, it’s important not to decide you suck at something until you’ve actually tried it. And then if it’s fun you can keep going, sucking at it notwithstanding. Sometimes you stop sucking with practice, and sometimes you don’t, but the bit about fun is the important bit.
The finished product should theoretically end up looking like so.


Mine doesn’t yet, but I’m only 3 lessons in out of 6, so we’ll have to see.

These classes, btw, are available to all, online, for a way reasonable rate. They’re mostly short, one or two week deals that take you through a project and give you the tools to expand on your own from there. Go to http://www.carlasonheim.com/ and check out what’s available. Classes in all manner of art things, free tutorials, and ongoing contact with your classmates and the teachers through a given class’s FB and Flikr pages. It’s better than college if you ask me. But I don’t like mornings, or student loans. And there you go.

So that’s what’s up, y’all. I hope everybody has a good Whatever Holiday You Celebrate, or a good time ignoring them altogether.

Mid summer dump

Wherein I quickly recap the last month, throw some pictures of new stuff in, and remind everyone to come out to my next two shows, cuz, SHOWZ!

Right. So. August?? How the hell did that happen?
Well July was unremarkable but for the start of Bristol Renaissance Faire, which has occupied my weekends for the last 22 years. Ren faire is where I got all my real education (if they taught fire eating in college I might have liked it better), and though I don’t travel anymore I still do my home show. Money is good and I get to catch up on all the road rennie gossip I miss as a townie. You can take the girl off the road…

Anyway, the weeks have been taken up with learning new skillz and making old junk into new things. I took an online collage class with the incomparable Lynn Whipple (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lynn-Whipple-Art/346136962142796) and LOVED IT.


It was my first real foray into 2D and feels yummy in my brain, plus being yet another way I can reuse old junk. I like it so well that I’m adding it to the general mayhem in my shop.

Which, is going through a slight restructuring. Some things are going away once what I have has sold, like the hat/hair bling and jewelry. They’re labor intensive and don’t really move, plus feathers don’t like to be packed and unpacked repeatedly.
Probably signs too.


The first two shows this season were so crappy it’s hard to gauge whether or not those are going to be a hit, so I’m giving it more time, but I think I’d rather make those as the spirit moves me rather than as a stock item like the mini nichos. I’m leaning in general towards a “as the spirit moves me” attitude, shifting away from my crafter roots of feeling like I need to replace what sells with something of the same sort. FSM knows if that’s a good idea or not but I’m having such a stimulating time working with found objects that it’s worth a go.
For example, Junk Angels. Junk from a basement, a job site, a junk sale, the gun range plus taxidermy and glitter. I freakin’ LOvE them. I hope I’m not alone in this, but whatevs.


And these mixed media memento mori I did with the lids of old cigar boxes, which I think came out quite nicely.


And so many of my friends and coworkers are getting in on the fun with scavenging, that I’m up to my elbows in bones. I got bones from a hunter’s midden pile, bones from under a porch at a carpenter’s job site, bones from a creek bed up at Bristol. Everybody is finding me dead stuff!* It’s awesome! The challenge is what to do with it all. C’moooon Spirit! Move meh!
So yeah. That’s been fun.

And upcoming here in August are two shows back to back. Glenwood Ave. Arts Fest in Rogers Park on the weekend of the 16th and 17th, where I’ll be on Morse with my glittery shenanigans and my bestie and creative partner Dave and his industrial/found object/generally weird and slightly creepy lighting, which is made of awesome.


And the following weekend, the 23rd and 24th, he and I will be at the Glen Ellyn Festival of the Arts, where I shall take a last stab at seducing the western suburbs over to the dark and glittery side. Though I think my attempts at such things is coming to an end. If Glen Ellyn doesn’t show me some mojo I think next season’s applications will be more city based. Though I’m seriously considering applying to the Spring Green art fair in Wisconsin. I don’t know if they’ll like the cut of my gibberish, but like half the artists I stalk do it, so I may take a shot. The worst they can do is turn me down.

Now you know where I’ma be at, you can come visit and share a yak and a cocktail and keep us company for awhile.

*Everything died either because natural causes or food. I’m strict about that shit.


Who goes to an Earth Day event on their vacation? My boo and I do. Because we’re epic nerds.
Before we got nerdy, we did the vacationy things, have no fear. There was junkin’ and yarn-ing (that roving? hand processed and dyed by the shop owner from her very own sheep), ate of the beefy goodness (burgers made from local, grass fed, humanely raised cattle slaughtered by the country’s only slaughterhouse run on Buddhist principles, I shit you not) and drank of the local brew at a pub called the Grumpy Troll in the Troll Capital of the Midwest, Mt. Horeb. We also drank wine and played Combat Chess (it’s like regular chess, but you throw all your pieces at your opponent’s king with no regard for their safety or a strategy of any kind, in effort to end the game as quickly as possible) at Baraboo’s fabulous wine bar, Con Amici, the owners of which will proudly tell you how they compost all their food waste and recycle every possible thing.
So there was already kind of a theme brewing.

Then the lovely proprietress of Raven House, (one of my all time favorite places to find old keys, doorknobs, silverware and the odd baby head) hands me a flier as we’re getting ready to leave her shop and informs me that it’s for an art exhibit involving art made entirely from recycled materials. I love art, and I love junk, so, perfect.
We went assuming that was it. But it was actually an entire Earth Day shindig put on in the college gym with everything from the Madison Herpetological Society to local archeologists, eagle, crane, prairie and wetland conservationists, soap makers, bee keepers, sorghum farmers, artists and? the Coast Guard.

I’m an information junkie. I love learning about absolutely everything. On my bookshelf you will find subjects ranging from the history of the spice trade to forensic psychology and criminology textbooks, the world history of prostitution to quantum theory.
So I will actually sit and talk with the Coast Guard guy about ships knots, and the sorghum farmer about harvesting and processing the cane, and the archeologist about the earthworks in the area and the new technology used to find them under a tree canopy and a foot of leaf litter, and be utterly fascinated the entire time. No, I did not thrive in college. Too intellectually stifling. So yeah, gabbing for half an hour with eagle conservationists about roosting habits was a totally worthwhile way to spend my vacation.
And if you think all that has nothing to do with art, you may have never asked a sampling of artists where they get their inspiration. Up in Sauk County, a lot of them get it from the gorgeous countryside they live in and the sincere desire to preserve it.
Which was what this art was all about.





These are only a few of them. There were a good dozen plus. Everything from kinetic sculpture to quilting. Every piece was made from junk. Even the ribbons on each of the pieces was made from recycled material by a local fiber artist.

There are many reasons I love Baraboo, but one of the big ones is their focus on the land and keeping it healthy. One of the founding fathers of the modern conservation movement, Aldo Leopold, hails from up there, and his family maintains an educational facility in the area.
I’m a conservation nut from way back. This gal composts, recycles, buys local, organic and humanely raised, rages against the Monsanto machine, and tries repeatedly (and unsuccessfully thus far, but hope springs eternal) to convince her parents to convert that ridiculous waste of space that is the American lawn into a mini farm.
That attitude has made it into my work in the form of lots of salvaged parts. My junk chimes are all…junk. Stuff that would end up in a landfill or rotting away in a garage. I dig that ethic. I dig that there’s an entire passel of artists that are all about that ethic, too.
Yeah. Good vacation.

Whatcha been doin’?

Someday I will be able to afford a bitchin’ photo quality printer. On that day, I will have ALL TEH GODZ!

Till then I’m a bit limited. But only a bit.

Nicho-landia was starting to look a bit monotheistic, so I hunted down some fabulous old Hindu postcards.



Shiva and Lakshmi are especially well represented, and I’ll actually have a Hanuman mini.

And also this is happening.


Yes, that is a giant ass paper mache torso. I found an inflatable person at American Science and Surplus and man am I having fun with THAT.

She’s going to get the usual treatment of course. There’s a calavera going in there somewhere and a heart (my shipment from Dapper Cadaver should come in any day now) and bugs and shiny and lord knows what all else. I never know what I’m doing till I’m done.  Which reminds me, oh internet, anyone know where I can get a complete (which means intact lower mandible and sinus) four to six point buck skull? The usual sources are coming up dry and my girl here needs a head.

In any case, I want to make a bazillion of these. I can’t, because huge. But someday in addition to ALL TEH GODZ, I will perhaps also have enough storage. In the mean time, one at a time will have to do. Because the twins are coming along. They have wings now, and seem to finally have decided where they’re going, so I gotta get em there. Kids are so demanding.


So yeah. That’s gonna be my January/February/March and most of April. I really want these large assemblage done and outta my way by spring so I can throw some hides on the table and get some leather work done. Back to my roots, yo. But since the dye is omfg toxic I need the ventilation of outdoors and currently there is about half a foot of snow falling, so, not happening just now.

Hey, it’s midnight. Happy New Year y’all. 🙂


I can stop whenever I want to.

Mah boo and I spent the weekend in the home of Ringling Bros. circus.

Baraboo, WI doesn’t just have the circus museum, with over 200 restored antique circus wagons and the largest library archives relating to circus and sideshows in the entire country. It also has the International Crane Foundation (dedicated to crane conservation and rehabilitation), the Aldo Leopold foundation (dedicated to restoring tall grass prairie and green living education), a big cat rescue organization, Taliesin (Frank Lloyd Wright’s estate), Devil’s Lake state park, and spittin’ distance, The House on the Rock.

We won’t discuss the nearby presence of the Wisconsin Dells. Nobody’s perfect. But despite the damp, tacky Disney of the upper midwest being near enough to cause a shudder, Baraboo is wicked rad. It’s also one of the hubs of the Fall Art Tour (http://fallarttour.com/), easily one of my top five favorite things to do in October. Second only to Halloween, y’all. I mean, srsly.

Something like 40 studios spread out over and between five or so towns within a 50 mile radius in some gorgeous countryside. You just drive around all day looking at fall leaves and art. How awesome is that.

We saw some kickass art, drank a bunch of wine and did some shopping. Because Baraboo is also the home of my two favorite places for art supplies, Raven House Antiques (http://ravenhousebaraboo.blogspot.com/) and Oak Street Antiques (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Oak-Street-Antiques-and-Yarn-Nook-in-Downtown-Baraboo-Wisconsin/135851039808983). Where I found heads!

Heads! So many heads…





I may need an intervention….

Method to my madness

There’s a reason I skulk down alleys. Ok, I don’t skulk. But I’m a goth, so we like to do things creepy even when it’s fairly innocent. Technically what I’m doing in alleys? I walk my dog. But the important part is the alley part. Because in alleys is where people throw things they don’t want anymore, and oftentimes what other people don’t want is freakin’ awesome.

I found these two in an alley last week.


These are little tiny baby chairs. Like the kind you would get for your two year old. I wouldn’t, because the little rapscallion would outgrow them in less than a year and I don’t have that kind of money to blow. But suburbanites do weird things for their offspring. And I get to reap the benefits.

A leetle paint. A leetle glitter.


I think hot pink and cantina green are good colors.

I also happen to have two headless baby dolls. You remember where their heads went. In cages. Because that’s where baby doll heads go. But their bodies have been just sitting around waiting for a purpose. WELL! Have I got a purpose for them.


They need heads of course. And clothes. Well, they have clothes, but not very interesting clothes. I’m working on improving them. I have a head for girl baby, whose name is Piglet. Because she’s getting a pig skull for a head. It’s in the process of being glittered up as we speak. Pubert will have to wait till I can find him an appropriate head. But his time will come. And there will be pointy bits and shiny bits and dangly bits as well. These guys are going to be a large project. I think they’re getting wings. Haven’t decided yet.

This is only the progress so far. More pics as the Twins develop into some creepy ass home decor. Which are going to finally cause me to accept one of the invites to do a gallery that I’ve been blowing off, because they absolutely won’t ship. There’s no earthly way I’m going to be able to get these guys safely Elsewhere, so locals (or anyone that hot after them that they’re willing to drive) only.

I’m gonna have such fun with these guys!