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.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

two thousand and twelve

It's easy to forget the nuances of years past. The classic New Year's song Auld Lang Syne begins with a rhetorical question as to whether it is right that old times be forgotten. This unique New Year's tree from last year's blog post is a toast to remembering. Take a new look at the old with the spreads for the New Year's story designed for The Decorated Tree book, which can be ordered here. This book will take you on a cathartic journey through the whole year of holidays from Valentine's Day to the next New Year.

AS WE GET OLDER, the years seem to fly by. Friends come and go, but for old times sake, the important events in life are not forgotten. The classic New Year’s song Auld Lang Syne begins with a rhetorical question as to whether it is right that old times be forgotten. It’s up to us to answer the question in the way that works best for us. If it has been a good year, then of course we’ll remember, but if it has been a bad year, we tend to try to forget. Memory serves well to selectively process and store the good times we all cherish.

THERE are MANY exciting things about a new year. It is a time to mix a refreshing drink and reflect on old and new goals alike. Looking back, as one is wont to do at the beginning of the new year, there’s always the practice to resolve to not repeat the mistakes of the past. As for the future, since none of us really knows what is in store, superstitious beliefs abound. Having been raised in the American South, eating collard greens for prosperity and black-eyed peas or Hoppin’ John for luck has always been a part of my New Year’s ritual. Our vision is not always perfectly clear in looking back. We have to “be in the now” to latch onto that elusive moment of clarity. That is a resolution for anyone—to be aware of and in the moment as much as possible when conducting our daily lives.

THIS NEW YEAR’S tree is an elegant and glitzy way of remembering long-standing relationships, welcoming new friends and raising a happy and prosperous toast to whatever lies ahead.

BRING in the NEW | (1st "New Year Glitz" spread from The Decorated Tree book) Bringing in the new doesn’t always mean throwing out the old, but it certainly is necessary to make room for new aspirations.This large mercury glass tree is encircled with a collection of glass beaded snowflakes attached to a garland made of wire and glass beads. Two miniature metal cups and a champagne bottle hang from the antlers of a recycled aluminum deer. The champagne-filled glassesin the foreground are garnished with rosemary sprigs that have been given a sparkle with a coating of egg white and coarse sanding sugar.

TOP SHINE | (2nd "New Year Glitz" spread from The Decorated Tree book) I’ve retrofitted this tree topper with a new typeset and glittered disk of calligraphy. It is surrounded by beautiful glittered metal rays with tinsel woven through them. Glass-beaded snowflake ornaments are attached to a beaded garland encircling a sturdy mercury glass pleated tree. This beautiful reindeer symbolically stands guard and brings in a cup (or two) of good cheer on its antlers. The champagne flutes are garnished with sprigs of sugared rosemary as a symbol of remembering the good times.

collecting, photography, styling and design by Darryl Moland


Thursday, December 15, 2011

what's old is new . . . again

NOW THAT I'M finished with the first iteration of the book The Decorated Tree, what's next? Do I look to the future or to the past for inspiration? A lot of work has been done to create the book that a real bonafide publisher will want to buy into, but there is a lot of footwork involved in finding said publisher. But I'm happy I now have a self-published book in hand to show and tell about. Having been a designer my whole adult life, I've learned very well that even though I might be fairly articulate at telling someone what I see in my head, it's necessary for most people to literally see your design in a visual sense. You have to spell it out in the language of design, which involves type, photography, illustration and the magical elements involved in putting all of that together in a way that makes sense. Beyond just making literal sense, it also has to turn heads, as if saying "look at me!"

I'VE OFTEN SAID I feel like the blogger Julie Powell (played by Amy Adams) in the movie Julie & Julia, where Julie states "I could write a book, I have ideas." or "I am risking my well being for a deranged assignment." The original blog ran on I'm laughing out loud as I'm finding out her new blog is named "What Could Happen?" with the subtitle "musings from a "soiled and narcissistic whore." However, like Julie during the time of the Julia/Julia Project blog, I am currently working a day job as a graphic design contractor at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, which puts me in a position not unlike Julie in the movie. I work at a government job by day and blog by night and weekends, while working my way through my ornament collection, notes and photography I've compiled (instead of cooking my way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking). The Decorated Tree book is a result of all of this.

WHAT COULD HAPPEN? Indeed! I have to say, that coming up with another tree to show so soon after finishing my book has surprised me. We are right smack in the middle of the holiday season though. I still know that even though I've created a book that I can be very proud of, this is only the beginning to finding the way to the future I envision. I need to spell it out in the visual language I'm so used to, but I also need to articulate it verbally and through the contacts I make. "What's old is new" is my mantra now, as I carry on and bring what I've created to the next level. Stay with me (and buy my book!). This should be a wild ride.

OLD & NEW | (above three photos) I found this cute wire tree at Homegoods early in the season ("handcrafted in the Philippines" is all I know about it). It had cheap gold plastic beads on the ends of each stem, but did have the really cool cardboard birdhouse ornaments glued to its branches with bright red silk thread. I took it apart and reconfigured it by adding vintage Shiny Brite® ornaments to the ends of the branches and a vintage finial tree topper. I also added the jewel-toned shatterproof ornaments (with proper metal caps) from the Jaclyn Smith Today Golden Heritage collection from Kmart. (I usually shy away from plastic ornaments because they also have cheap plastic caps. These were dressed up with beautiful metal caps). The gold krinkled wire balls were sold at Michaels as vase filler. The beautiful rusted metal door in the background is from the private collection of my friends Charlene Fisk and Maggie McBride.

OLD IS NEW | I'm always drawn to the old Shiny Brite® ornaments from my childhood, but I've been collecting the new versions now marketed by Christopher Radko. The large box are the new interpretations and the tiny box next to it is the box of old ornaments I bought that cap the branch ends on the tree above (if you look closely in the upper corner of the box, it says "a Shiny Brite® product"). I'm seeing a bawdy bright tree full of new Shiny Brite® ornaments in my future! Who knows, I might even use some colored lights (but I doubt it).

GREETINGS | I had to share my illustrator friend's gorgeous holiday card I received in the mail a few days ago. I gasped when I opened the envelope. Stanislawa Kodman is the talented artist behind it. I send my heartfelt well wishes to her and her family, as her mother just died. Stanis also designs illustrated jewelry and can be found here at her website. She can be hired professionally through her agent Alexander Pollard.

collecting, photography, styling and design by Darryl Moland,
card illustration by Stanislawa Kodman.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

a labor of love

The Decorated Tree in book form available here.

MY FIRST BOOK, the collected best from what you've seen in this blog is available NOW here!

IN THE SPIRIT of Indie publishers and bloggers everywhere, I decided to self publish my book exactly the way I wanted it to be. This blog served as the catalyst. I wish I could have stacks of them to give away and sign for those that have requested that already, but if you order it, I will sign it for you. If you're not in Atlanta, we can figure out the details of how I can do that by contacting me through The Decorated Tree Facebook page or here. Being the perfectionist I am, this book is as professionally-produced as any you might see at a bookstore. Using my huge collection of ornaments and decorations, having an art director's eye for photography and developing a knack for writing has led me to realizing my dream of publishing a book. I'm hoping this book will be the tipping point for something big! Although this coffee table-worthy book is no small feat—it is a large 12" x 12" in size and 144 pages, with 186 sumptuous full-color photos. The finished product is a high-end digital hardbound book with a dust jacket (preview it below)

SINCE THE BOOK is printed within a publish-on-demand scenario, the price is a higher than a mass-produced book. But that is how publishers afford to bring books to the general market. I'm only profiting nine dollars for each book sold with the rest going for print and production costs., who is publishing it makes high quality books, so I don't think you'll be disappointed. I even surprised myself with what I have created! Within the book, there are some new photos shot especially for the book that aren't in this blog. So if you like what you've seen in this blog, the book has a more complete feel. I'm an old-fashioned print guy, and I worked to design it within the realm of my expertise for a printed product. There are only a few more days left to order to get this extra-special, from-the-heart first-edition in time for Christmas. Even if you don't order now, order it for after Christmas. The book carries you on a trip through a whole year's-worth of every major holiday and more.

DIVIDED INTO four sections—one for each season, the book takes you on a journey through the most celebrated holidays of the year. Starting with Valentine's Day, the book ends with a toast and a New Year's tree. Old and new acquaintances I've made through this blog won't soon be forgotten. So here's a toast to all those who have encouraged and supported me throughout this effort—from my blog followers, my Facebook friends (both my
personal page and The Decorated Tree page)—to friends in my daily life who have embraced my ideas. "Here's a toast to many more friends, creative ideas and decorated trees to come." Thanks to all of you for your support and encouragement in helping me make a dream into a reality. It's has truly been a labor of love!
The Decorated Tree book by Darryl Moland,
book cover photo by Harold Daniels

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

homeward bound

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS | A bound book is on the horizon.

WHEN I BEGAN writing this blog over two years ago with the short August 19, 2009 post, I already had a book in mind, Seeing that I needed a structure to force me to compile and create my vision, I began writing, photographing and obsessing over The Decorated Tree. This blog as a regular discipline gave me the impetus to keep things moving and to hone my writing skills. Before I knew it, I had more than enough material for a book. What you will see in the book that I'm almost finished with are the best ideas and photographs from The Decorated Tree blog (and a few new ones), edited and coaxed into bookish formality.

I'VE REALIZED in writing about what I love, that the best things I write are entirely personal. Although the book is a little less so than the blog, my life is integrally bound to what I create for this blog and now for the book. Even though I enlisted a few professional photographer friends to take photos of some of the more complex trees, I have photographed most of the images for the blog and book with only the natural light bounced around by a reflector, a pocket digital camera and tripod, and a mission to get a proper publisher to notice.

EXCERPTING one of my blog entries redesigned and edited for my book, here's a sneak peak of how the book is coming together, along with the cover image and a section opener. The book is divided into the four seasons:
SECTION OPENER | The opening spread of the fall section of the book.
AUTUMN TREES become a saturated blaze of earthy color after a spring and summer of growth. The first beliefs and rituals involving decorating a tree resonate at the core of who we are as part of the natural world and our visceral attachment to it. Reverent celebrations of birth and a hope for rebirth of man’s spirit begin each year with the autumnal equinox, when the weather cools and the leaves drop from the trees. If one were to meld the disparate belief systems of the world into one, all are symbolic of new life and rebirth in a profound way, while paying direct homage to our roots in nature. A realization that every living thing is connected and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts becomes a way to honor the gifts of life. Generations of friends and family migrate and join together to share celebratory meals together. These decorated gatherings simply celebrate life and abundance. And there is much to be thankful for, even as we witness the constant death and rebirth in nature’s changing seasons—even as we do in our own lives.

HOLIDAY MIGRATION | One of my blog entries redesigned for the book.

MONARCH BUTTERFLIES are known in North America for their incredible autumn migration every year south and northward return home in the summer. This trip spans the life of three or four generations. Monarchs east of the Rocky Mountains (most famously) are the ones believed to overwinter and roost in the forested mountaintops within central Mexico’s Transvolcanic Range. The ones east of the Rockies travel to small groves of trees along the southern California coast. They often return to the same trees every year creating an amazingly magical sight. This miracle of nature is expressed by the tree I’ve decorated with their facsimiles to celebrate the season.

JUST AS MANY species of birds migrate south for the winter, the Monarch does also. Unlike birds though, the lifespan of the butterfly during this migration is completed by children and grandchildren of the butterflies that start this incredible journey—done without their elders to show them the way. Unlike most insects, Monarchs cannot survive a long cold winter, so they migrate. Seasons change. But it might not be as simple as that.

DO THEY FOLLOW magnetic fields or use the sun to guide them? Are they following landforms (rivers, coastlines, mountain ranges) as their navigational tools? A lot of mystery lies behind this yearly event, having baffled and inspired researchers for decades. What are some of the other reasons for such a distinct migration? How long has this natural pattern been in place?

HOLIDAY MIGRATION | The second spread adapted from last year's Thanksgiving post.
AS SUCH, humans migrate and gather with friends and family during the holiday season every year. Generations travel and join together to share good times and celebratory meals. These gatherings are for celebrating life and abundance. And there is much to be thankful for, even as things change over the years for better or worse.

I’LL NEVER FORGET Thanksgiving day back in 1984, when I got the call confirming my first job out of college at Southern Living magazine. That day set me on my career path as a designer and forever linked it to a day of abundance. I give thanks for all the celebrations of life—family and friends alike. Even still, there is a part of me that feels the pull homeward.

BUT MAYBE you “Can’t Go Home Again.” That phrase comes from the finale of Thomas Wolfe’s novel of the same name. In the end its protagonist realizes, “You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood … back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame
back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time—back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.”

THIS TREE is a not-so-subtle reminder of the hope that all will come together again. One day we will realize our paths in life are for more than just survival. Our better instincts will inform us—just as it does with each generation of the peculiar Monarch.

I HOPE YOU have enjoyed this teaser and will buy the book when it is published. As I write this blog, I still have about 30 more pages to design and edit in preparing the book for printing on, where you can order a copy of your own, as well as be able to download an edition for your iPad. Thanks-giving is in order … a sincere thanks to all the special people in my life who have given me the moral support to keep things going. I couldn't have done it without your encouragement. My goal is to have the book available online at the latest in mid December, but it might be scheduled for what would have been my parents 66th wedding anniversary on December 23rd. Keep checking back here for the latest news. It feels like a real accomplishment now that there will be an actual book of the best of The Decorated Tree! 

collecting, photography, styling and design by Darryl Moland,
book cover photo by Harold Daniels

Thursday, November 17, 2011

reasons for the season

COVER STORY | In the new publication, Holiday with Matthew Mead, blogger Stephanie Nielson (the NieNie Dialogues) and her children draw inspiration from holiday candy to create a spectacular handmade Christmas using an assortment of pretty papers and a tempting array of sweets. This story boasts some beautiful "ribbon candy" ornaments and amazing trees simply made from double-sided strips of scrapbook paper.

THIS IS GOING be telling of my age, but growing up, most people never thought a whole lot about Christmas until after we saw Tom Turkey usher in Santa in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on television. But there are so many amazing new "indie" publications I've become a fan of, that I wanted to spotlight one and tell you about a couple of other publications that are available for the iPad® as well as in print. Since I'm busy working on my book, I am not creating much for my blog right now. But you'll be sure to forgive me when you see what I have to show you with these publications.

HOLIDAY with MATTHEW MEAD is one such publication that is now available on the newsstand now. But Matthew suggests ordering the expanded edition of the magazine, which I also want to do (I've already bought the newsstand edition). Always on high alert for trees this time of year, I continue to be impressed by what Matthew brings to the market. His ideas are accessible, real and highlight bloggers and other creatives similar to myself—a refreshing new direction in the shelter magazine category. He may very well have found big success with this concept—Time Inc. has just started distributing the magazine after he bravely published only three issues independently. There are so many creative ideas in the blogosphere that never see the light of day and Matthew successfully brings that element of the creative community alive along with his own signature style. He's a reader of my blog and we've chatted online a number of times, so who knows what will happen next?
Matthew Mead
MATTHEW MEAD is a stylist, writer, author, photographer, lifestyle editor, and noted style expert. The former style editor of Country Home magazine and co-editor in chief of Flea Market Style magazine (2010), he is now the official food photographer for the Associated Press and is a regular contributor to Better Homes and Gardens and Victoria magazine. He has also written eight books and produced countless magazine spreads and ad campaigns for companies such as Pottery Barn, Dove Chocolate, Target and Stonewall Kitchen. 

Matthew is known for seasonal style . . . decorating beautiful spaces with vintage finds, using what is at hand along with nature's offerings; guiding others with easy entertaining ideas and inspiring them in creating beautiful food and living spaces. His own quarterly magazine Holiday with Matthew Mead can be ordered at his website/blog, Holiday with Matthew Mead. The talented bloggers and other people he highlights in his magazine are bringing fresh life to the magazine marketplace. I already want to make (well, eat) the Cardamom-Black Pepper Trees with Juniper Icing found in the current issue of his magazine—these cookies sound amazing. There are plenty more ideas (food and otherwise) inside the pages of his magazine. I bought my copy on the newsstand, but the expanded edition is only available here.

TREE TOPS | Passionate food blogger Kate Wheeler ( gives a delectable sampling of global flavors in her holiday cookie story in Holiday with Matthew Mead.
These Cardomom-Black Pepper Trees with Juniper Icing sound and look amazing! I can't wait make some for an upcoming Christmas party. They certainly take the idea of a Christmas cookie to a whole new fragrant level of earthy flavor.

TIMEWORN TIDINGS | In this story in the current issue of Holiday with Matthew Mead, vintage glass ornaments combine beautifully with paper accordion fans, simply folded from sheets of scrapbook paper, and paper flowers.

ANOTHER MAGAZINE available online, in printed form and available through the MagCloud iPad® application, was launched from Paul Lowe's wildly successful blog Sweet Paul, which ranked 22nd in the London Times Top 50 Best Design Blogs. I've been following him closely since he started his magazine in Spring of 2010 and have been constantly wowed. I have long been a fan of food stylists such as Donna Hay and his work is just as transcendent. 

SIMPLE PLEASURE | Paul Lowe's signature Sweet Paul style is not always found with food. Below it is evident in this casual and beautiful tree. Hung with with handmade scotty dog ornaments made from tartan plaid fabric, it appears in his winter issue story "Tartan Holiday."

The December issue of Martha Stewart Living
ALTHOUGH WELL ESTABLISHED and seemingly untouchable, it would be remiss not to mention one of the biggest reasons I first decided I wanted an iPad®. My coworkers rose to the occasion for on my 50th birthday back in May of this year and gave me an Apple gift certificate to buy one. Martha's iPad® editions of her publications (Everyday Food and Martha Stewart Living so far), if you have a standard subscription, the iPad downloads are now included with the subscription price. I still can't quite give up the tactile reality of a printed edition of the magazine, but what the interactive editions offer will surprise you. Of course Martha has the resources to do it all, which she does and does well—Martha Stewart Omnimedia is showing us the future of magazines by exploiting the best of what can be done with an iPad® edition of a print publication and other mobile apps. It's really quite exciting. Animated and interactive tablet versions of magazines are here to stay. I think they can only enhance what the long tradition of what print magazines have offered as the technology takes hold.

THE FUTURE ALSO holds a much more accessible marketplace for those who do it for the love of it to find their own audience. It certainly is part of my "retirement plan." So keep looking for news of my soon-to-be-available digital and digitally-printed edition of my book on the left-hand sidebar of my blog. I'll be adding more updates there soon—I am finally seeing it come to fruition. I've learned that following your passion, along with your voice, might just lead to finding a way to live, in doing what you love.

Holiday with Matthew Mead photos courtesy Matthew Mead

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween parade

IT'S OBVIOUS everywhere this time of year, that Halloween has become the most celebrated holiday aside from Christmas. It hasn't been until the past few years that I've really gotten into the spirit of the holiday since my trick-or-treat years as a kid. When going out with a couple of friends, I dressed as— what else?—a spooky tree. Even though I cheated a bit and wore a cheesy web-bought costume, I did add more fake autumn leaves to it to dress it up. 

Dana and Devin have a moment.
LAST NIGHT, I realized that people—eschewing the commercial— are once again investing a lot of creative elbow grease into their Halloween costumes. It's great to see handmade and over-the-top inventiveness in designing costumes is making a big comeback. My friend Dana sewed her incredibly detailed blue gingham dress for her costume as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz—making it really work with incredible makeup and hair and glittery red flats. With white face and big overblown red lips, Devin dressed as one of the fashion show moments of the late "enfant terrible"Alexander McQueen. I also saw some other really brilliantly designed costumes such as a woman dressed as a framed Mona Lisa—as the live image in front of the frame, complete with the moody background image. There was also a group of new acquaintances dressed as the One Percent, who made their costumes from fake money and got into full character by filling their bags with said fake money and giving it to people on the street, tossing it into the air, and even burning stacks of it while smoking a cigar!

I'M GUESSING THAT next year, I will have to do the same with a costume instead of spending all my spare time on conceiving and designing trees for my blog. I've spent part of two weekends now celebrating the holiday with friends here in Atlanta. Last weekend, I attended the 11th Annual Little Five Points Halloween Festival & Parade. I haven't checked, but I'm not sure if another city that has a Halloween festival and parade. It has been an Atlanta tradition for eleven years now! Local Atlanta artist, Ronnie Land designed and illustrated the really fun and creepy logo for the parade this year, which you see here.

FUN AND CREEPY has always been my mantra for Halloween. The decorations I enjoy most have a definite macabre side, but are always fun and exuberantly creative. That was my goal when creating this "Skeleton Key Tree." So, of course, I emailed the well-known Halloween product illustrator and designer—Johanna Parker, and asked her what I could do with these amazing mercury glass skeleton head ornaments I found. Always in Halloween mode, I give her credit for giving me the idea of framing them and hanging skeleton keys from the branches. She didn't see the final results until this post. It was fun creating this tree and brainstorming with her about it. I searched high and low for the perfect craggy branch and retrieved it a while back in order to let it dry as it did. I even left some of the leaves on it to give it a creepier asymmetrical look.

EVEN IF YOU WAIT until the last minute—with a little advance planning, of course—your Halloween parade of costumes, decorations and decor can contribute to the fun and creepy spirit of All Hallows Eve. You're certain to encounter a parade of fun and creepy characters, whether receiving trick-or-treaters or going out on the town. Here's wishing you a happy, creepy and fun Halloween!

SPIRITED ELEGANCE | (Top two photos and above) This "skeleton key tree" makes use of a craggy branch with some of the dried leaves still intact, mercury glass skeleton head ornaments are from Z Gallerie. Handmade glittered frames were made from clip art glued and trimmed from matte board and the skeleton keys were found on eBay. The scene is set with a faux bois container for the tree, a faux pumpkin with calligraphy from Bayberry Cove and one with a cat silhouette and stars found at Ross. Bright green reindeer moss adds the finishing touch, along with the requisite container of Halloween candy to satisfy the spooks.

FRAMED HEADS | The image used to frame the mercury glass skeleton heads from Z Gallerie was printed from a piece of stock clip art, flipped in Photoshop on the opposite side to match up, then glued to matte board, trimmed with an Xacto knife and glued and glittered with glow-in-the-dark glitter from Martha Stewart Crafts. I thank Devin for helping me with those. Black grosgrain ribbon was tied around the tops of the frames for hanging. The skeleton keys found on eBay were simply hung from the branch with black cotton thread at varying lengths.

FLAMING FUN | These old-fashioned counter-weight wire candleholders by Bethany Lowe Designs added just the right mood. Of course they look great in the photo and can create the right mood in real life, but have to be carefully attended—especially on a dried branch—as with any live flame. The candle holders were purchased from Bayberry Cove.

PARADE OF CHARACTERS | Real pumpkins are painted with flat gray latex paint to look as if they are casted. The simple and inexpensive paper masks from Target were slipped onto the painted pumpkins making this family of last-minute apparitions come to life without any carving.

collecting, photography and styling by Darryl Moland

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

Monday, August 15, 2011

southern cool

More than any other part of America, the South stands apart...Thousands of Northerners and foreigners have migrated to it...but Southerners they will not become. For this is still a place where you must have either been born or have 'people' there, to feel it is your native ground. "Natives will tell you this. They are proud to be Americans, but they are also proud to be Virginians, South Carolinians, Tennesseeans, Mississippians and Texans. But they are conscious of another loyalty too, one that transcends the usual ties of national patriotism and state pride. It is a loyalty to a place where habits are strong and memories are long. If those memories could speak, they would tell stories of a region powerfully shaped by its history and determined to pass it on to future generations.

THE AMERICAN SOUTH has more than its share of stereotypes. Some are borne out of reality and some are complete misconceptions. One thing for sure is that the summer here is hot—especially the "dog days" of August and September. The thing that won’t surprise people is that Southerners know how to stay cool. We have things like iced tea, the breeze blowing from a fan or inland from the coast, or a cool and creamy slice of key lime pie. But the cool thing that most people might not know—unless they are Southerners themselves, or know one very well—is that people from the South are some of the most open and forgiving people in the world. The cool comes from an unpretentious and earthy live-and-let-live attitude.

OUT OF THAT attitude comes an openness to looking at things in an unstructured way that leaves our world ripe for innovation and creativity. A style-setting friend approached me about creating a tree for a new blog called Southern Exposures because he cited that a tree in August is unexpected, so I rose to the challenge. I present this tree, but make sure you visit the blog here. A talented writer is in cahoots with him and she has summed up the blog's focus as "a collection of artists, writers, photographers, chefs, and stylists living and working in the American South." Together, this stylist and writer are too modest to stake any personal claim because, as they say, their aim is to focus on the untapped and under-utilized talent in the American South. This tree evokes both the heat and the cool of our region and I was more than thrilled to oblige.

IT'S NO SECRET that a disproportionate number of game-changing writers, musicians, artists, chefs and other creative folk were born-and-raised here. William Faulkner, Truman Capote and Eudora Welty wrote with an unbridled and passionate turn of phrase. Ray Charles, Elvis and the band R.E.M. changed the very history and shape of music. Famous artists such as Jasper Johns, Romare Bearden and even self-taught folk artists such as Howard Finster all hail from the South. Masters of Southern cuisine such as Chef Paul Prudhomme, food writers such as Craig Claiborne and TV personalities such as Paula Deen are all world-renowned for their take on the food that made the South famous—not to be taken lightly, even if the food rarely spares any waist-slimming shortcuts.

I'D BE WILLING TO BET that all of these people (from the writers, to the artists. to the food experts) know that key lime pie is not green, but a pale creamy yellow. And I prefer mine with a pastry crust thank-you-very-much. Subtle distinctions like this are what set Southerners apart. We all know when somebody or something “ain’t from around here.” But the nice thing is that we’re willing and able to share the good stuff from our rich culture. It's definitely a place where you'll find an unfettered generosity of spirit.

POPULAR MOVIES set in the South such as To Kill a Mockingbird (based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Harper Lee of the same name), The Color Purple (based on Alice Walker's novel of the same name), and currently, The Help (based on Kathryn Stockett's novel) only tell part of the Southern story. Popular TV shows such as The Andy Griffith Show, Designing Women, and True Blood capture how the perception of the South has changed over the years, but there's still more to be said. There has definitely been an opening in the veil covering Southern sensibility. More and more people are seeing how just how rich Southern culture can be—even if related in a hyper-real, over-the-top storyline as it is in True Blood.

Southern Living (where I landed my first job out of college), Garden and Gun and The Oxford American are telling the Southern story on a regular basis in high-style from a consumer perspective and all the way through to a literary viewpoint. So there's no stopping the voice of the South. You might just raise an eyebrow or two in discovering just how rich life here can be.

WHILE THE REST of the world is losing its distinctiveness, it seems that the particular Southern vernacular is sittin’ down for a spell. No longer relegated to the trend du jour, the Southern way of doing things is finally becoming recognized for style as well as substance. Sure, the good ol’ boy attitude has held on white-knuckled, but even it has lost its grip. What’s left is Southern cool and I ain’t talking about lowering the temperature. It’s high time for the creative side of Southern culture to kick it up a notch!

THE NEW Southern Exposures blog might just be the way to do it. And I’m more than happy to be a small part of its beginning with the photos and ideas you see in this post. Make sure to visit their blog to see what they are doing and discover a lot of untapped talent along-the-way.

KEEPING IT COOL| (From top to bottom) This tree branch held in a wooden container painted with sunny stripes employs ribbons and freezable plastic ice cubes as a metaphor for Southern Cool. Of course there's real iced tea (house wine of the South) to complete the picture. The Tri-Vane fan keeps the breeze blowing. The key lime tart (yellow, not green to-be-sure) was lovingly made by my sweet companion Devin Borden. It is topped with real whipped cream and garnished with candied lime slices. Circa 1968 or so, my friend Ellen Shanks Padgett (left) with her mother Margie and sister Barbara are sporting color-coordinated cool on a gleaming sandy-white beach in Destin, Florida.

photography and styling by Darryl Moland,
key lime tart crafted by Devin Borden,
beach photo courtesy Ellen Shanks Padgett 

ADDENDUM 8/31/2011:

MUST-SEE MOVIE | Since I haven't seen this film yet, I am reposting the synopsis from the website. It looks like it might tell a visual story of the American South even better than Malick's Tree of Life: 

AWARDED for its visionary cinematography, General Orders No. 9 breaks from the constraints of the documentary form as it contemplates the signs of loss and change in the American South as potent metaphors of personal and collective destiny.

THE STUNNING culmination of over eleven years’ work from first time writer-director Robert Persons, General Orders No. 9 marries experimental filmmaking with an accessible, naturalist sensibility to tell the epic story of the clash between nature and man’s progress, and reaches a bittersweet reconciliation all its own.

TOLD ENTIRELY with images, poetry, and music, General Orders No. 9 is unlike any film you have ever seen. A story of maps, dreams, and prayers, it’s one last trip down the rabbit hole before it’s paved over.