When I think of Halloween I instantly think of John and when I think of John, I think of Halloween. Greg introduced me to John almost 4 years ago as one of his very good friends. Our first meeting was Ok. I barely understood his English, so to avoid that “Can you repeat again please, I did not get it” moment I would find some excuse not to meet John. Four years later John is one of my best friends. I still don't follow him completely, especially when he talks about movies that I have never seen or have seen but do not remember. We do have one movie that we really love in common “The Big Lebowski”, but I will talk about it another time.
John is in love with the entire Halloween holiday. He makes his costumes himself from scratch. He never liked the idea of buying them and he preferred to spend days and nights making them by hand rather than buying them.
When I go to his place I could immediately sense how much he loves the whole idea of Halloween. Witches, pumpkins, mugs, candles holder with a Halloween theme on it decorates John’s place.
When I asked him what he thinks about Halloween, this is what he answered:
“…Halloween has been my favorite day of the year since I was a small child. Each year I find more and more reasons why I enjoy it so much. From its origins in Celtic Britain, where it was known as Samhain, to the present, there are elements, facts, myths, stories, traditions and crafts that fascinate me and keep me as young in spirit today as when I first went trick or treating. When summer starts to fade away, cool breezes arrive and the nights get longer, I always have a smile on my face because I know that fall has arrived. There’s magic in the air when the leaves start to turn, pumpkins appear at the farmers market, mulled cider is on the stove accompanied by the sound of popping corn and memories of all Halloweens past run through my head”.
I was not a big fan of Halloween, as we never celebrated in Albania as kids but since being here in NYC I am celebrating it now, how could you not? There are so many Halloween-themed activities throughout the month of October that New Yorkers or visitors can participate in. On Halloween night, you can expect a particularly busy nightlife, especially in the Village. Check below for Halloween Parades that take place in NYC.
Greg and I often go to Park Slope Halloween Parade to meet with our friends Ken and Tracey and their girls, Katie and Gogo, to see the Halloween parade where John would play. Then we would meet with him and his friends to have some drinks and celebrate (I never was able to keep up with their drinking though, nobody can). John also plays the bag pipes and performed at our wedding. I really enjoy listening to him play.
For the past few weeks, Greg and I have been working on new candles for Halloween. We bought some Annie Sloan chalk paint. The color is Barcelona, a strong, vivid orange color that we bought from Suite Pieces in Brooklyn. Greg and I, then hand painted and hand drew the pumpkin face on the mason jars and poured Orange Goji Berry, Apple Cider and Cinnamon fragrance in it. These are special fragrances just for Halloween season. Here are some of the pictures we took.
We are offering this special candle as well. It is an Iron paint that is sprayed with a special solution to make it actually rust. It is a really amazing effect that is very different from anything else. Each one comes out very differently.
We also painted candles in white and painted the skull and ghost faces on them.
The colors of Fall.
John also shows his love of autumn through all of his Halloween/scary-themed items. He continues by saying that: “I enjoy making them more than my other bags and feel as though I’m creating my own small tradition of leather crafting by creating bags I've only ever seen in my imagination. No two are the same. They are pieces of practical American Folk Art that are as useful as they fun to look at, and they are heirloom pieces that improve with age”
These assorted pouches are all made from deerskin or elk hide. All have been hand dyed and then rubbed down with a bear grease/bees wax compound that makes them velvety soft and water resistant. John makes all of his own antler buttons and put them through an aging process. He also uses Tibetan skull prayer beads that he alters for use as buttons. These very cheery little skulls remind him of our mortality and to make the best of the short time we have here. These pouches can be custom made for use as business card holders, wallets, tobacco pouches, and small camera cases… The list goes on.
This Jack bag is made entirely of heavy melton wool that John boiled in a big pot full of coffee, cinnamon and cloves. The nice smell has faded, but the grungy look has remained. It also tightens up the weave of the wool making it very dense. The eyes and mouth are black wool that he felted. Primitive stitching finishes off the mouth. The buttons for the flap are hand-made out of black buffalo horn. They also serve as eyebrows. The body of the bag is lined with black Irish linen. He used the same linen as backing and edging for the shoulder strap. The bag is finished off on the bottom with five rusty bells. A true piece of American Folk Art.
The body of this bag is made of thick pig skin that John dyed chocolate brown and then over-dyed with black. He used the natural edge of the leather for the flap and patched a small hole on the front for an extra gnarly look. The skull is cut from an elk rawhide primitive drum head. The strap is made from fine English vegetable-tanned leather that he distressed and used the same dye process as the body. Unlike the Jack bags, this beauty can be worn year round
This Jack bag is entirely made of 13-oz vegetable-tanned leather (saddle making leather), including the strap. The face has been burned into the leather which took about 5-6 hours. Completely hand dyed after all the sewing was done. John finished all the edges by burning them as well. The closure for the flap is a deer antler button from Scotland John picked up over 20 years ago. The piece is heavily influenced by the opening sequence of Tim Burton’s “Nightmare Before Christmas”, one of his favorite films.
This Jack bag is entirely made of 13-oz vegetable-tanned leather (saddle making leather), including the strap. The face has been burned into the leather which took about 5-6 hours. Completely hand dyed after all the sewing was done. John finished all the edges by burning them as well. The closure for the flap is a deer antler button from Scotland John picked up over 20 years ago. The piece is heavily influenced by the opening sequence of Tim Burton’s “Nightmare Before Christmas”, one of his favorite films
The body of the bag below is made from elk skin which has been entirely hand dyed to look like a pumpkin. Eyes and teeth are deer antler that John cut, drilled and sanded by hand. Flap is a double thickness of elk hide, and the body is lined with black Irish linen. The strap is made from motorcycle leather (cowhide) that is custom fitted to the wearer. The bag has a wonderful texture to it with the applique, the stitching and the antler bits. To John, this piece embraces American Folk Art to its fullest.
Our Halloween candles and handmade bags are for sale and will be up soon in Oohalapetite.com site.
Where to celebrate Halloween in New York City:
New York's Village Halloween Parade which takes place since 1973. For more information click here.
Halloween Extravaganza and the Procession of the Ghouls is an annual event held at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine For more information click here.
Halloween Events for Families: This annual Halloween celebration is held on weekends from late September through early November at the Bronx Zoo and is geared toward children and families. For more info click here.
Halloween Events for Adults: Want to really scare yourself this Halloween? Check out Nightmare -- a terrifying haunted house located on the Lower East Side. For more info click here.
Where to shop for Halloween Customs in NYC
New York Costumes in the East Village from Halloween Adventure. For more info click here.
Abracadabra Superstore. For more info click here.
Ricky's. For more info click here.
Screaming Mimis. For more info click here.
Early Halloween. For more info click here