There's no better celebration of any season than the decorated tree adorned with the rich symbolism of nature—my ritual to inform and inspire you in the journey called life.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

something wicked

"Something has changed within me. Something is not the same. I'm through with playing by the rules of someone else's game."

—ELPHABA THROPP from WICKED (the musical)

I'VE SUMMONED Halloween a bit early this year. This time, I came upon a witch's hat (or two, or seven) and a cat that must have cast their spell on me, which led me to see this tree. Something wicked you say? Maybe so, but there's a certain elegance in these going's on. The witch responsible for guiding my Halloween spirit this year is quite a sophisticated one—not satisfied with the typical orange and black of All Hallows Eve.

INSTEAD, this witch has an eye (or two, or nine) on the lookout for a holiday tree that is decorated her way. I'm not responsible. It was out of my control. I think a little magic has happened. Elphaba Thropp, the name of the witch I have mentioned, is surely responsible. She's the daughter of the Wizard of Oz according to Gregory Maguire, who wrote the fictional account of her life in Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (L. Frank Baum's book) was Maguire's inspiration. As a homage, Maguire used Baum's initials (L.F.B.), phonetically pronounced to form Elphaba's name. Get it? El-Pha-Ba. You may have heard of both of these authors, but didn't know much more than that. "So much happened before Dorothy dropped in . . ."

I WON'T SPOIL the story, but Gregory Maguire named Elphaba's book of spells a Grimmerie. The author goes on to say "I conjured up the word Grimmerie to prompt associations of several things at once: of the Brother's Grimm, with their tales of magic and witches and forests; of grimmness itself. But also I meant slyly to echo the archaic word gramarye. The Oxford English Dictionary defines gramarye as 'occult learning, magic, necromancy.' There is a solid philological relationship to the Scottish word glamour—the casting of a spell over the eyes of a spectator . . . "

ACCORDING TO the historiographical highlights in the Grimmerie, "Elphaba's origins are shrouded in mystery, but we do know her mother received a strange visitor before she was born. At Shiz University, Elphaba was a brilliant student with magical gifts that she tried to hide. Because of her green skin, the students, including her roommate Galinda, shunned her. Elphaba's momentous meeting with the Wizard in the Emerald City set her on the fateful path whereby she became Wicked."

SO THERE you have it. A watchful Halloween tree that has Elphaba's signature style. I am glad to be here to show you the results and to assist Elphaba in casting her spell. And I'm grateful for her guidance—which may very well have been her last good deed.

WICKED ELEGANCE | (Top two photos) This tree could have gone in a Seussian direction with an inspiration that started with a hat and then a cat, but I realized quickly that something else was at play. A bit of magic led me to find these witches hats (at Michaels, tucked away in a display of frames and meant to be placecard holders). And the cat appeared to me on a clearance shelf at Ross. All nine of those eyes were watching me at Pier 1 Imports. Odd numbers of each are the rule-of-the-day for a pleasing composition. The large book in the photo is The Grimmerie, a behind-the-scenes look at the hit Broadway musical "Wicked"—a gift from my friend Jon Chavez. It is beautifully-designed to look old by Headcase Design, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 2005 (a spread from the Grimmerie is seen below).

MAGICAL DETAILS | The right balance was struck with a wire tree—made as craggy as can be’— coated with black glitter and beads, was found at Marshall's and decorated with the witches hats and the eyeball ornaments mentioned above. Added to the spirited mix is a smoky small glass beaded garland from Restoration Hardware, small glass ornaments in green and dark brown from Michael's and fancy glass clip-on candles from the "vintage" 2004 Golden Traditions line by Martha Stewart at Kmart. It's all contained in a heavy stoneware cauldron with smooth black river rocks.

MILLINER'S MAGIC | This flocked witch's hat from Michaels is deftly striped in green glitter and is topped with a spiraled wire meant to be used as a placecard holder at the dinner table (see below), but I first saw them as elegant ornaments.

CANDLE CHARM | These clip-on glass candles—which are historically  associated as a decorations for German feather trees were put to good use to set the mood. They are from the "vintage" 2004 Golden Traditions line by Martha Stewart at Kmart. I purposely centered this particular "flame" in the door's circular details to give a certain importance to it as a "tree topper" (the door was a discarded find, painted Bedford Grey from Martha Stewart's line of paints at Home Depot).

DRAFTY DODGER | This faux bois beeswax candle, mysteriously flamed out, is from the defunct Martha by Mail catalog. The metal candle snuffer from my collection stands guard. The beaded placemat is from the 2011 Halloween collection at Target. Two of Elphaba's spellbinding books (including the Grimmerie shown in detail above) are always at-the-ready.

TABLE FOR ONE | Since the mysteriously elegant Elphaba was shunned by her peers, she often dined alone, but with a great sense of style. The place setting is composed of a dinner plate, a salad plate and a napkin from Pier 1 Imports. The black dessert plate is from Target. The flatware pattern (that looks like unfurling fern fronds) is "Treble Clef" by Gourmet Settings.The silver-rimmed crystal water goblet and wine glass are from the defunct Martha by Mail catalog. The beaded placemat is from the 2011 Halloween collection at Target. Here the witches hat from Michaels is used as it was originally intended as a placecard holder. I made the placecard from a faux bois printed gift card by Martha Stewart Crafts by adding a brown satin ribbon through the perforations. Stick-on scrapbooking letters spell out Elphaba's name on the ribbon. The small bouquet is composed of a probable witch's brew of delphinium, rosehips, hosta and a thorny stem of a trailing rosebush.The tarnished hotel silver bud vase containing it is from my personal collection.

collecting, photography and styling by Darryl Moland as inspired by Elphaba Thropp