Re:Craft and Relic: Highlights, Lowdowns and WTFs

First show of the season! Yaaaaaay! (((Kermit flaily arms)))

And what a lovely show it was, too. Big thank you to the RC&R powers that be for coming through on all their fancy talk about the spring show. You know how sometimes organizers be all, “We’re working even harder for you! We have a new Thing! And this other awesome Thing to make people come and love you!!!! WE DO!!!!” and it’s like, cricket chirp? Yeah, this wasn’t that.

Highlights!

Advertising, advertising, advertising. Someone heard a radio spot on a local station, someone else heard them on NPR, and so on and so forth. No doubt, these guys spent my money wisely. I’ll never bitch about a show fee if I hear about the show everywhere before it happens. Not that there’s anything to bitch about, as the table fee is super reasonable at under $200 smackeroos for a huge indoor venue with tons of parking. Which is good, because travel costs actually make this a more spendy one for me. But they secured us a vendor discount at a local hotel that got us SWANK rooms, so that didn’t suck. And since we learned last time that Franklin is a food desert (unless beef and cheese is the only food you like to eat) we came prepared for in room meals with lamb stew and sundry nibblies from home, thus saving further ducats.

The few complaints I had about communication, both with the organizers and with customers (bad sound system equaled difficulty talking to customers) in November were totally sorted out this time around. What? An organization that listens to vendor feedback??? I die.

The crowd was larger than it was in November, due I’m sure in part to advertising and some fantastic discounts and incentives offered for attendees on Sunday, but also probably the lack of Packers games. Lots of the same vendors I saw in the fall, too, which is always nice. Lots of new ones as well. Sales weren’t huge, but the average price point went from $35 in November to about $50 for this one, with a couple of larger sales. I covered costs, made a profit and was definitely up from the November event, so I was happy. The crowd was lovely. Like, super nice people, everyone smiley, chatty and very pleasant.

Lowdowns!

Along with the expanded roster of vendors, some manufactured stuff managed to sneak in. It happens. Mostly because someone lied on their application, or brought it to supplement stuff they were actually making. I mentioned it when the organizer asked what I thought of how things were looking, because I am a stool pigeon when it comes to that sort of crap. I watched too many of my rennie brethren go under when ren faires started allowing people with mass produced products into the shows on a large scale. He was both genuinely surprised and wanting me to finger the offending parties. Which I will totally do. I have zero patience for people claiming imports are their work, or undercutting people who are making a thing by hand with a mass produced thing. That is shady and shitty and art peeps work too hard for too little for those kinds of shenanigans to be tolerated.

But other than that, yeah, I got nothing. This was a well planned and executed event with zero hassle or agita for me.

WFTs!

Bristol peeps I haven’t seen in, I kid you not, twenny years! Which was awesome. Had my favorite pickers as neighbors again, which was both awesome and somewhat expensive. I have a problem. I own this. But, art!

Also met two of my classmates from that wonderful pair of online art classes I took last year. One of them bought art, the other was one of the vendors. I love when stuff like that happens. Also in the cool stuff happening area are the random surprise gifts other vendors, not to mention people, will give you when you do assemblage. The “can you use this” gifts. At a show where a good proportion of the vendors are pickers, it’s more common than you’d think. This show is proving itself to be not only a place where I sell stuff, but a place for new stuff to find me. The junk chi is mighty at Re:Craft and Relic. Totally going back in November.

Next up, Glenwood! Yes that’s right, I have diddly til August. Thanks Spring Green, for not giving me any time to replace you. C’est la vie. But! That does mean I have all summer to recon other shows (secret mission to Indianapolis coming soon), and make more stuff (back to leather work maybe, oooooOoOOOo…) so that come August there will be All of the Things for you to see!

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Re:Craft and Relic: Highlights, Lowdowns and WTFs

I was approached back in July or so about this show, and had many reservations going in. For starters, it’s a first time show. Those are a crap shoot at best, even when very experienced organizers are behind them. The people putting this on do a rummage type thing, which means some experience, so that’s good. But selling art and selling fine junk are very different animals, so I was still kind of unsure. Then the gal originally putting this thing on leaves for what were stated as personal reasons. Which could mean anything at all, not necessarily bad. Life happens all the time. But it sends a ripple of unease when your original contact departs in any case. So I was nervous.

Thankfully, mostly, I was to be pleasantly surprised.

Highlights: Despite this being their first rodeo doing art sales, the team brought it. Advertising was apparently very well managed because the preview “buyers club” tickets were sold out, and there was a line out the door Saturday. The crowd was huge, packing the isles for most of the day. Sunday, sadly, not even close. Thanks Packers, you bastards. This is like the third or fourth event I’ve done this year that got tanked thanks to sports. I don’t care for football/baseball at the best of times (I’m a rugby and martial arts girl) but when you mess with my money, I REALLY don’t like you. But I digress.

The venue was large, comfortable, with free and ample parking and easy load in/out. That means I could put my vehicle close to my booth and there was plenty of time to do everything in the manner I like to do it. A Friday setup from 1-7 was awesome. Nobody needed to be in a hurry or in anybody elses way. There were booth sitters and wifi, plenty of helpful staff around, and very decent food (thank you Tito, for your awesome empanadas and fresh churros). Nearby, affordable hotels and easy access to the highway also a bonus. Also, can I just say how AWESOME it is to be able to set up my stock and leave it overnight? An indoor, locked venue is the shiz.

The organizers served us wine and cupcakes Saturday night to thank us for showing up, which was sweet.

Lowdowns: Like, five mega churches within a ten mile radius. Which, whatever, pray where ya wanna, it’s a free country. But I don’t do well in conservative environs, and it showed. This venue wasn’t in Milwaukee proper, but a near suburb. Sales-wise, I did about what I expect from a suburb. Which is just enough to be worth it, but not enough to be exciting. Interestingly, it wasn’t art that really moved. It was knits. And not knits at full price, either. Knits I’ve got on super duper sale because I’m done doing them and want to clear the inventory to make room for other things. So it was not a spending crowd. People seemed far more in to the vintage stuff than the art, which there was more of at the event as a whole in any case. Not sure if that’s because the organizers wanted it that way, or it’s just the way it happened to work out. I made my nut and some profit, but it wasn’t bangarang. However, it wasn’t such that I needed to drown my sorrows either. I’d be interested to see how this show would have done if the Packers hadn’t been playing on Sunday. If we’d had Saturday’s crowd both days, I’d have been far happier with the results fo’ sho’.

Also, apparently there were vendor discounts at area hotels…that no one told us about. It was listed on the website, or so I was informed later when I asked wtf with that. That’s the kind of thing that needs to go in an email, folks. Most vendors have nothing to do with your website after downloading the application, and you absolutely can’t trust Facebook to deliver the news to everyone. Communication was a bit schizophrenic in general, actually. I got eleventy billion emails about discount tickets and whatnot weeks in advance, which I only really needed like one of, but didn’t get an email about forms that needed filling out by Friday till Thursday. But whatevs. First rodeo.

WTFs: I had THE BEST NEIGHBORS EVAR. I know this has zero to do with the organizers, but I felt the need to be joyous about it. I’ve been lucky at shows that I’ve never had any truly douche-y people as neighbors, but thisĀ  time I was particularly surrounded by awesome. On one side of me were my favorite pickers from Elkhorn, of all people. I ended up buying some stuff from them during setup (I have a junk problem, I own this), and on Sunday she brought me a ton of beautiful, nature cleaned deer bones she had just randomly accumulated and didn’t know what to do with. On the other were two lovely jewelers who couldn’t have been nicer or more mellow and accommodating. Across the way were a couple who’s daughter and I were apparently separated at birth, and the vavoom-iest vintage mama I’ve ever done met. She and I, weirdly, worked at the same place just two years apart at Bristol, and know a crazy number of the same people (I mean, she knows Muffin, ffs!), but have never managed to run into each other. She joined mah boo and I for dinner and over deliciously greasy burgers we discussed everything from Stevie Nicks to business to belly dancing. Just down the way was a wonderful gal with a booth full of awesome vintage junk and art, who processes roadkill and also had more bones than she knew what to do with, so brought me a box of goodies I traded for, and a lovely bobcat skull she gave me a killer price on. I came home with more bones than profit, but hey!

Second and more wtf of the wtfs was the music. No one should ever use amps in a gymnasium. Ever. And you should also not have three musical acts playing amplified at the same time in such an echo-y space. Gymnasiums are horrible for music, and unless you’re going to play acoustic only, don’t play at all. But that wasn’t the true nightmare. No, it was that I heard the most hands down, horrific, gawd awful butchered version of ABBA’s Dancing Queen I’ve ever had the misfortune to suffer though. I think Ripley’s should be contacted, it was that bad.

So, all in all a positive experience. I didn’t make good money but I’m inclined to try their April event and see what happens. Response to the work was largely positive, so I’m gonna give this one another go. I know they’re looking for more vendors, so if you’re willing to gamble a bit, I wouldn’t tell you not to in this case.

Next up, Red Door!

Spring Green: Highlights, lowdowns and wtfs

So this show had me pretty tense. I don’t usually do shows with this big a nut because I’m working real close to the bone most of the time. I drove up only able to afford the cost of the hotel with the actual cash I had to my name. Everything else had to go on credit. With travel costs, lodging and food plus fees, this particular show exceeded my budget by a fair bit and I was nervous as hell. Not just because it was a show I’d never even laid eyes on, but because experience has taught me that the further I get from my funky home metropolis, the worse I do sales-wise. My best crowds are firmly within city limits.

And till about 1 o’clock on a beautiful, sunny, mild Saturday, I seriously thought I was going to have to sell a kidney to pay my Visa bill this month (Which was why, despite the fact that I ended up with bangin’ sales, I didn’t do any of the shopping I longed to do. See? I’m a grown up with a firm grasp of fiscal responsibility.). I’d had one or two sales of mid range items, and while there was definitely a huge crowd that was there to buy and lots of appreciative browsing, practically the only thing that had walked out my door in the four hours since we had opened were business cards.

And then there was Epic. And the biggest sale of my fledgling art career, my disco bison head La Mujer Blanca. If you’re not involved in the medical field, there’s no real reason you should have ever heard of Epic Software. I certainly hadn’t, and till someone educated me was severely distressed about having had to take a check (no cell signal equals no credit cards) for such a large sum. It’s a privately owned software company based out of Madison whose products are used by about half the hospitals in the US. Apparently, the company campus is also a huge art gallery that is open to the public. The owner of this company is a big time supporter of the arts, and every year she shows up at Spring Green, wanders around picking out what she wants, then her entourage of helper monkeys run around writing checks and collecting the new artwork to hang in said gallery.

I believe “HOLY SHIT!” is an adequate response. Like, that’s the kind of show everyone wants to have. Where somebody with a bank account you can’t even conceptualize walks in and buys your most expensive piece without batting an eye. Soooo, yeah. That happened.

Excepting that one, the rest of the sales were not numerous or large, but I did get a positive vibe from the crowd for the most part, which makes me think I just need to get them used to me. The new kid always takes a minute to make friends.

So highlights (besides the aforementioned billionaire art collector). Huge crowd. Even on the occasionally rainy second day that was threatening storms, rain patrons (those who will not be thwarted by weather and those who deliberately go to fairs when it’s crap out so they don’t have to deal with crowds and lines) were there in pretty solid numbers. And said crowd was there to shop. I saw hands holding packages, bags, and various and sundry purchases more often than not. Not a single vendor I talked to was cranky about sales, which is practically unheard of. The organizers were organized. Very. And pleasant to deal with in all ways in which I had to deal with them. The judges weren’t even judgy! They were chatting and being friendly while they made whatever notes judges at art fairs make about whatever it is they judge. Which is a lovely departure from the other art fair judges I’ve encountered, who are always very obviously judging me (Who doesn’t like disco skulls? Haters, that’s who.). Also, Friday setup, indie bookstore with coffee, beer and delicious food, AND parking so close to my spot I didn’t have to clutter up the street with my vehicle because I could load in and out from the parking lot. Love it.

Lowdowns. No freakin’ cell signal. Unless you have US Cellular, you will get nothing and like it. Running cards was hit or miss, and the phone was draining its battery looking for the network so quickly, we actually had to run to the hardware store to buy an emergency backup battery which we drained and then had to recharge with a car charger to use again. Till our neighbor (may His noodley appendage touch her life with goodness) sweet talked the business we were in front of into letting her share their wifi, then hooked us up with the super secret password, we were kinda screwed. Fortunately, the patrons seemed beyond willing to write checks and fetch cash, so this is something everyone seems used to. Other thing, hotel. They book up like lightnin’ and it’s not cheap thanks to the Dells being right there. The closest and cheapest (that we were willing to sleep in, I don’t want bedbugs) thing we found was half an hour away in Sauk City and $125 a night, and this was after I called six or seven hotels, motels and B&Bs looking for a room. ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY FIVE. For basically a Super 8. I have never paid so much for a damn bed and a shower. Yes, I’m cheap, but in my defense, I’m broke as well so, there you go. I swear, I’m just gonna go ahead and book a room in winter when I apply to the show, which I will cancel if they don’t let me in, because damn. But? These are for real my only complaints. Overall this was probably one of my best experiences doing a show.

So wtf thing one, people were way not into shrines. Like, some of them seemed offended by them. Which baffles me, but then I’m not even slightly religious, so I don’t know what heathen thing I’m doing that’s upsetting people. Also, random creepy dude waaaaay into my tats. Which is fine, but for the “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I’d really like to see you naked.” Now how could I possibly take that the wrong way????? Insert feminist rant. Yanno, for the most part I’m impossible to offend, but dude, inside voice, mkay? I didn’t need to hear that shit.

Conclusion? I’d highly recommend this show to anyone considering it, odd creeper notwithstanding. Totally going back next year.

Next up, Northbrook!

The voodoo that Boo do

Ermahgerd, we had such an incredible weekend.
Fall Art Tour is always a good time for us, but this year was extra saucy with awesome.
We got to hang out with so many lovely people, and splurged on a boatload of art. Not something we normally allow ourselves, being on severely restricted budgets (he’s a student, I’m an on call, very part time electrician’s assistant with a shady side business dealing in bones and glitter), but sometimes you’ve got to be ruthlessly self indulgent if you’re going to have a life worth living. Ya know?

We blew into town Friday and stopped at my favorite place for all things rusty and funky, Raven House (http://www.ravenhousebaraboo.blogspot.com, go!), to pick up a map of the participants and touch base with the fabulous proprietress, who also runs the Sunday Market I was going to be vending at while I was up there. From there we hit the studio of Maday, a quilter of epic talent whose work exceeds the standard idea of a quilt (http://freespiritsewing.com, go!). Her mixed media fiber creations are a story and an art and all around day-um fabulous. I’ve been drooling over her stuff on Facebook for months now, so when I heard she was to be part of the Fall Art Tour I got jazzed, and budgeted some dough for goodies.

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Then we hit Helen’s Daughters studio (http://www.helensdaughters.com, go!), makers of fine and unusual handbags, for a browse through their gorgeous garden, the various artisans housed in it (unbelievable jewelry, basket making, and batik), and a yack with Char and Mariella, the daughters of Helen, who make these incredible bags. I myself don’t have much occasion to use a fancy purse (more’s the pity, cuz they’re seriously awesome), but they also make extremely practical packs, pouches and other means for stuff holding. I got myself the perfect pouch for my street shows, with an adjustable strap so I can wear it over the shoulder or around my hips, and generous enough to fit my two strapping monkeys. Win.

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Our last stop on the local leg of the tour was the studio of an illustrator and puppeteer by the name of Anne Horjus, whose beautiful work can be found in the children’s book, Sleep, with writer Charles Anthony Silvestri (http://annehorjus.com, go!). He also does wood block prints and paintings, lives in an amazing old Victorian, and is a really nice guy with an awesome sense of humor. We had a great time there talking puppets, Jim Henson, and Labyrinth/ Dark Crystal, both of which, we all agreed, were the top puppet movies of all time.

After a meal at our favorite Little Village Cafe (really, it’s all about the pie), we headed to Con Amici wine bar to have a few glasses of delicious adult beverage, and get our caricatures drawn by local artist Ryan Biddle (http://biddleart.com, go!). Hey, it’s art tour weekend, you gotta support the arts. And also, silly and fun, which we’re all about.

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Adult beverages consumed, back to our Baraboo roost, WilloWood Inn (http://www.willowoodinn.com, go!) for Real Genius (Val Kilmer in the 80s, is there anything hotter?) and bed.

Saturday morning found us abed later than we had intended, but whatevs, vacation. Our first stop was back to Raven House to do a leetle shopping.

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Then we were off to Spring Green. The entire town was having a yard sale, lucky us, but what had caught our eye there were a pair of graphic artists. One, sadly, had bowed out to move to Colorado, but the other one, Kim Russel (http://www.russellworks.com, go!), was stationed at a local gallery. We spent a good half hour chatting with her, gushing over her work, and eventually deciding on which prints we wanted to take home. I have a thing for cranes, a critter I never clapped eyes on in the flesh till my 38th year, but now can’t get enough of.

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Taking off from Spring Green we drove though hills on fire with fall leaves, heading for Loganville and our next stop, The Bricolage, a huge farm at the end of a dead end road, which is the home, studio, and retreat of Don and Ali Kauss. She makes lovely silver jewelry and he does assemblage (http://www.kaussart.com, go!), and they both rent out spaces in barns and revamped chicken coops to visiting artists and people just looking to get away from everything. Mah boo wanted to talk bow hunting with him, but I just wanted to drool over his amazing assortment of skulls, bones, rusty junk and generally awesome stuff that he turns into creepy assemblage that I totally want all of. In mah house. Right now.

We only hit two studios because we wanted to be back at Con Amici for their Pinot and Picasso night. A thing in which they handed out hooch and art supplies to a bunch of willing folks, with an art teacher handy to offer guidance and keep a progressively drunker group on track, and let us try and make art. It. Was. Awesomely fun. I’ve never painted, mah boo has never art-ed at all, AND he’s colorblind. But we’re both more than willing to suck at something in the name of fun (watch me bowl sometime and you’ll see what I mean), so we were all, “Where do we sign up?”
A bottle or so of wine and a couple’a hours later, we had…tree like things!

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And a nice buzz. And a painting (no like, a real one), because our caricature artist from the night before is a hella good painter too and had one on the wall priced crazy low.
Ruthlessly self indulgent, remember? I don’t have a picture of this one. Because I suck. And it’s not in my house, it’s in my honey’s, so I can’t fix that.

So, Tank Girl (Lori Petty, droolz), bed, up at crack for Sunday Market.

Which happened to coincide with a Packers game, so not as populous as we would have liked, but still, a good time was had. I got pancakes and an accordion, and did all my produce shopping for the week to the tune of $4.50 (broccoli/kale hybrid is made of awesome. I’m not making this up.). I call it a win.
Hugs all around as we packed up the car and headed to our very last stop, back to the studio of Maday Delgado for some Cuban love (we laugh, we cry, we yell a lot) and a wonderful, touching parting giftie, which now lives in my room beside my bed, under three Buddhas, a Chinese dragon, Eleggua and Bastet. Which I think is completely appropriate.

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So that was my vacation. Woodland critter count for this trip includes two feeding red tailed hawks, six migrating sandhill cranes, and eight wild turkeys. And one partly skeletonized roadkilled deer, which of COURSE I forgot to pack rubber gloves and a cooler. Oh well, it’s not like there’s gonna be any bugs to clean it till spring. In other words, stinky.

We had a ball, as usual. Everyone was super happy to see us again (we’re getting pretty recognizable at this point, going up two or three times a year like we do), and made us feel like we were seeing old friends rather than being tourists. It was a much needed and welcome cap to a busy summer.

Texas, spring

At dawn you are loving.
Your breath, honeysuckle and baked clay, warm as skin, winding through the window to play with my hair.
Slipping up my bare leg in soft rivulets to blanket my sleep with the smell of earth and the inevitability of green.
At midday you are ferocious.
Sunrise caresses turn into light like shattered glass on velvet. Liquid fire kiss sends skin desperate for darkness down into the trees and creek beds. Sharing cool stones uneasily with breeding Copperheads. Trying to bury myself in the mud and the moss to escape you.
At dusk you are a relief.
Soft gray hands alive with the songs of grateful insects salve the burns, untie nectar and pollen from your bag of tricks. The air is once again silky with botanical sex as you tell bedtime stories to the ones you’ve tried to break.
Making amends, you ease the night in with the shush of raindrops washing down the dust off the pecan trees, as if to say, “There, there”.

Nerd-cation

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.

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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.

Autumn, Massachusetts

Light falls as fire, fierce under the canopy.
The wood older than the gods of the new land, or their usurpers.
Old as the sea that fell back to let the black skin of the earth taste sun and burst into incandescent fecundity.
Moss against oak and stone and forest rot, bright and sudden as Amazonian plumage, in the caught breath of the dying season.
The Greenmen of other lands, stowaways in the beating heart of myth, raise their antlered heads to listen for the echoes of a Wild Hunt no longer theirs, remembered with the taste of blood and salt and the smell of winter.