Sunday, September 2, 2012

Back to Work!

Well, here I am.  The world's biggest slacker.  I've been back from vacation for a while now and I'm settling back into something like a normal schedule.  Which, I suppose, means that I can't keep putting off posting.  I don't have any fun and exciting new patterns or props going on at the moment so you're stuck with some rather...macabre... photos, but more on them in a bit.

I have been bad about making yarn things lately.  Like so many other of my hobbies it tends to go in cycles and I've been on more of a reading kick lately.  There is a new catalyst for crafting which should help me pick up on the yarn crafting.  You see, I recently joined the rest of humanity in getting a DVR.  No more messing around with old VHS tapes for me.  It also means that I can tape things when I'm not home (ye old  TV VCR doesn't have a functioning clock so it can't be programmed and I would have to be home to make it tape).  In a short number of days I've managed to accumulate a large number of movies that need to be watched.  As there are several which I've not seen before I won't be able to read while they're on and I get very fidgety if I have nothing to do so back to the yarn it is!

In fact, I've started a crochet project today that should prove interesting.  In typical me fashion I've managed to screw up a 3 day weekend by getting sick.  I was fine for the first half of the day which makes it more frustrating because I thought I'd get to get a lot of things done today when I woke up.  When I don't feel well the usual process is to spend the majority of the day passed out on my couch, drinking sprite and watching movies during my moments of consciousness. It's the sleeping part that really got me thinking for a project.  Almost all my blankets are crocheted but they tend to be either on the heavy side or much to small to comfortably curl up in for naps.  To that end, I've begun work on a cocoon of sorts which (in theory) will keep me nicely tucked in without being stiflingly hot.  I do expect that it will take some time to get the cocoon done and the pattern up to scratch so that people besides myself can decipher it.

In the mean time, I've got some pics I took while on vacation.  Me being me, I managed to neglect taking pictures of anywhere that we went or where we stayed.  For some reason I've just never been good at remembering I have a camera.  One thing got enough enthusiasm for me to request a special trip for photo taking, though.  The area where we were has had people for a very long time and consequently has some really awesome graveyards.  At my request we had 'cemetery day' so that I could get some reference pictures for props.  It's rather odd, I admit, but when am I not doing odd things?

So as not to bore everyone I selected a few of my favorites from the multitude to share.  Personally I find old cemeteries to be fascinating, and I know there are others who would agree.  And, who knows?  There may be other twisty people out there that need some early Halloween inspiration.

I took a couple of general shots to get a feel for how the place was laid out.  I'm big on authenticity for certain types of props and tombstones are one of the majors.  In order to make a truly creepy graveyard there has got to be substantial similarity to how they really look.  Stones places too closely together look just as fake as one or two stones scattered about.  Cemeteries are surprisingly ordered, everything in neat rows, and the older ones are no exception.  The other super important thing is that the gravestones are very seldom identical.  They may seem similar at a distance, but unless there is a pair or a family group the majority of the stones only match superficially.

Here is something that I had never seen before.  I don't spend a lot of time in graveyards but I have been in a fair number of them (go, elementary school local history studies!) plus I saw and visited a number of tombs and catacombs on a trip my family made to Italy.   While I'm not an expert by any means, I hadn't seen names carved on top of a gravestone before.  It was really common in this particular cemetery, especially with family groups.  There were some family groups where the mother and father would have all the requisite information (death date, age, etc) but then the stones of (presumably) the children wouldn't necessarily have information on the fronts, but rather had their given names carved on the top of the stone.

These stones had interesting size and texture.  The one on the left is quite small, no more than 2 feet high at the most.  I especially like the moss that covers it.  Most of the prop tombstones you see may be designed to look old but none of them do.  It's always the same gray styrofoam, unless you make them yourself.  That's what makes the weathering so important; it's the only way to make things look convincing.  The photo on the left shows something a bit different.  It seems that tombstones used to be quite a bit thinner than they are nowadays.  The foremost stone couldn't have been much over an inch thick and there were several stones that were thinner (though they don't appear to have held up all that well).

I think this next pair is a great example of what I meant about stones being similar from afar but really very different when you see them up close and personal.  A quick look shows a "traditional" tombstone shape but once you start looking at the style of the engraving and the proportions of the stones, they couldn't be more different.  What I find more stunning is that, if the stones were actually placed when the person was interred and that they haven't been replaced (some stones had very obviously been replaced, you could tell by the more modern styling and granite that was used plus birth/death dates in the 1800's), these stones are only 3 years apart from each other and the younger stone has more ornate engraving.

The other thing that I find interesting is the number of different styles of engraving that were used.  Take this stone, for instance.  The deceased's name is in one style, his parents' names in another, and his date of death and age in yet another.  The use of multiple engraving styles appears to have been very common.  Among the older stones finding only one style of engraving was remarkable in it's rarity.

The one problem with the multiple engraving styles is that they seem to weather at different rates.  With some of the stones that creates a real issue.  Take this stone as an example.  First off it's very old, from the 1830's if it was placed at the time of interment.  The rusted red border on each side are metal supports which are wired together to help hold the stone up and you can see where the stone itself has been repaired.  This is the sort of damage that was present on a number of the older, thinner stones.  The bolder text in which the deceased's name (Mary) is written is still legible but the more ornate script is much more worn away.  The most I've been able to make out is "DIED Sept 14 1830 Aged 41 years 1 mo".  From the other stones that had similar time frames the space between her name and date of death should be something to the effect of "wife of X" or "daughter of Y" and there is very likely a "# days" that follows the "1 mo" on the age at death.  Following the age is likely a bit of scripture or a saying pertinent to the family but it's so worn and damaged it would take better eyes than mine to decipher it.

This stone is probably my favorite.  The level of detail in the carving, worn as it is, is captivating.  It was by far the most intricate stone I found for someone of that age.  Carrie Lou was only 2 years old when she died, that in itself wasn't uncommon for the time period, but what was different was the level of embellishment.  It isn't a large stone, probably just under 2 feet tall, and I saw a number of stones for children that were far larger with much more ornate engraving.  It's the "extra" carving on this one, the dove and olive branch, that made it unique.  From a crafting point of view the lichen and weather stains make it even more fantastic.  If you look at the black marks between the IE of Carrie and the E in died you may notice a woman's face and form in the black weathering, I know my eyes matrixed one there.  (Matrixing is when your eyes/brain try to make a vague image into a familiar shape.  It's the same as seeing shapes in clouds but in the realm of paranormal studies it often happens in the tarnish of old mirrors or, in this case, in the weather stains on a gravestone.)

SO, yeah. Not exactly your average family vacation photographs, but far more interesting I feel.

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