Original Illustration by Matthew Bellisle
Divining with shadows and dreams, tears and blood:
Revelations from otherworldly conjurer JL Schnabel of bloodmilk
JL Schnabel. Photo credit: Christina Brown
Thoughtful and enigmatic, and perhaps part mystic or seer, JL Schnabel travels with ease between worlds of shadows and half-light. From these etherous realms she conjures into existence and immortalizes dark memories and strange sorrows, the results of which are items delicate and powerful, graceful and grotesque, and exquisitely, painfully personal. These singular adornments which she refers to as “psychic armor” are the foundation of her line of hand-crafted jewelry, bloodmilk: “supernatural jewels for surrealist darlings”.
Not only a time traveler, world straddler, and collector of tears, of bone, of teeth, and words – JL Schnabel, in addition to continuously creating new baubles for bloodmilk, is also a staff writer for Hi-Fructose Magazine. And if her creative energies were not already stretched vaporously thin, she has also just this evening – 11.11.11 – released an immense and immensely stunning lookbook for her current collection, which can be seen in spellbinding detail here. Despite all of this on her very full plate, she granted the following interview which parted the veil and revealed a glimpse into the process of her conjurings and consequential creations, and guided me through the strange splendor of her own alternate worlds.
“The Conjurer” Photo credit: Christina Brown
With regard to all manner of esoteric knowledge and symbolism, to what do you attribute its (relatively)recent resurgence in fashion, almost to a point in which it seems “mainstream”? I know it is not exactly a new thing to see, for example, a pentagram on a t-shirt ( I had one on a Mötley Crüe t-shirt when I was 15! And that was…a long time ago) but in this case we are talking heavy weight designers of considerable prestige…which of course trickles down. What is it about this sort of symbolism that lends to sartorial influence, and how does your work fit into this?
People have always been drawn to powerful symbols, even if they don’t fully understand them or why they are attracted to them. Right now occult and esoteric symbols are “popular”, and I feel part of this has to do with a sense of national, perhaps even worldwide, unrest. Our generation, the one just before us and the one coming up now, hasn’t put much faith into the government and subsequently its religion as much as past generations have. This has caused a ‘seeking’ for an otherness to fill this void. It seems natural to me to find comfort or expression in these symbols considering we have a generalized sense of fear and instability these days. The unknown is powerful in its mystery. Artists will always be the mouthpieces for such large, fantastic theories.
As for me, I’m just happy I can wear some of these symbols without people trying to burn me at the stake. In high school, we were taught, in intense detail, the horrors of Hell and how very real it could be for those of us who did not convert. This early brush with supernatural terror and people with cult like yet deep- rooted faith both repelled and fascinated me. To them, limbo, which was notion that had comforted me as a child, does not exist. You either are or aren’t going to Heaven.
“The Conjurer” Photo credit: Christina Brown
For the complete text and photos of S. Elizabeth’s excellent profile of JL Schnabel + bloodmilk, visit
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Ben Graham speaks to Andrew Eldritch, who says
“Yes to everything that makes us hard.”
The Sisters of Mercy appeal to people who love the intellect and the irony in their music, the arch political commentaries and the emotional insight, the highly developed aesthetic sensibility and the dry, cutting humour. They also appeal to people who like a loud, stupid, relentless rock & roll noise. And people who like both, of course. They are the perfect balance of Leonard Cohen and The Stooges. They also understand the power and precision of a drum machine in a rock context – after Eldritch’s voice, the second factor that divides listeners – perhaps even better than one of their major influences, Suicide, and certainly better than such unsubtle Johnny-come-latelys as Ministry and Nine Inch Nails. In their earliest days, their extended live covers of ‘Sister Ray’ would stretch Hawkwind-Stooges feedback noise out into near-dub territory, the landscape of Donna Summer and Georgio Moroder’s ‘I Feel Love,’ dropping in and out around the scything constant of that dumbed-down beatbox, dancing in the echo and the strobe. And over it all Eldritch, the former languages student who came up from Cambridge to Leeds to major in Chinese, constructs songs with a poet’s precision, drawing not just on Cohen and knowing references to the rock canon, but on the major poets of twentieth century modernism – Eliot in particular, from whom Eldritch has not just borrowed and re-arranged the odd line or image, but has also learnt much about structure and rhythm, the power and tension in an unresolved line. You can go back to Coleridge and Byron too, for that matter. And then forward to Burroughs and Hunter S Thompson. Which is where we came in.
When you started releasing records and touring in the early eighties, you were often derided by the music press for being “rockist”, for daring to celebrate the influence of the Stooges and the Velvet Underground. Yet the likes of Joy Division had the same influences and were press darlings. Why do you think they picked on the Sisters?
AE: Mancs always big themselves up. Easy copy. Yorkshire people self-deprecate. Journalists are cheap and stupid people. [Boy, bet the guy interviewing you loved that one, Andy. — Drax]
With the debut album First And Last And Always, the Sisters’ recordings shifted towards a more psychedelic, 12-string guitar sound that was also somewhat more traditional and accessible. Were you pushing the band in this direction, or was it the influence of Wayne Hussey joining?
AE: It was the influence of Wayne Hussey. Any member can twist the Sisters if they convince. We like that. One of the great things about being in a great band is that you let yourself be convinced. We’re all about belief. Everybody in this band, however much they believe in themselves, wants to be a part of something even greater. We want to be better than the sum of our parts. That’s the whole point of being in a band.
That would have been a great album if it had been produced better. We decided after that album to produce ourselves, so the record company decided to mark us down for being ‘artistic.’
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The X in the Sky
Consider this: At what point in their young lives did this couple decide to purchase a tombstone together? Was she suffering from an illness so dire that they had reason and time enough to make such a decision together? Was their love so great that, despite presumably being many years from the end of their respective lives, they wanted to make sure they had a stone that they would eventually share? Or was his loss so tremendous, his grief so acute, and his devotion so absolute that, when he buried his beloved much too soon, he decided that he would ultimately lie beside her, no matter how many years might pass until his own death?
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photo by Anne Hall
Q. R. MARKHAM’S PLAGIARISM PUZZLE
It’s one of the more puzzling plagiarism tales of recent memory: Q. R. Markham, the pen name of Quentin Rowan, a part owner of the bookstore Spoonbill and Sugartown, signed a deal with Little, Brown for a series of spy novels featuring a Bond-like hero named Jonathan Chase. The first of the books, “Assassin of Secrets,” was slated for release on the third of November of this year, and ahead of that date was reviewed and blurbed favorably by a number of reputable sources. Kirkus starred it and called it a “dazzling, deftly controlled debut”; Publishers Weekly praised the “fine writing”; and the crime novelist Duane Swierczynski deemed it “ambitious and audacious.”
The book was released and was selling moderately well until some time in the past few days, when an anonymous source contacted Little, Brown and pointed out instances of plagiarism. On the afternoon of the seventh, the publisher recalled all 6,500 print copies, sparking a run on the book (its Amazon ranking had gone from 62,924 on Tuesday afternoon to 174 by Wednesday afternoon), and launching a campaign to identify all the lifted passages. Dozens of passages from multiple books have now been catalogued, including one six-page stretch lifted from John Gardner’s “Licence Renewed.” (The most complete list can be found on Ed Rants.)