Sweeney Todd–was he real or a myth?

When Salem Art Association had a call for art with a horror movie theme, I did a little research on Sweeney Todd. It was the first idea that came to mind to use the new techniques I learned in the Mixed Media online class through the Graphics Fairy with Heather Tracy of Thicketworks.  If you want to see what I made in the class, check it out here.

So, is he real?  Sweeney Todd is possibly one of the oldest urban myths.   Made popular in the mid 1800’s, as The String of Pearls, a Romance, published in a Penny Dreadful, a cheap publications with tales of horror. Credit for the tale about a demented barber who killed to steal from his victims is generally given to Thomas Prest.  Through the years, details were added.  Some by other authors stealing the story, each putting their own spin on it, which happened a lot at the time.   Eventually a more well rounded character of Todd emerged, also the addition of Mrs. Lovette and her pies, then making Lovette a love sick partner rather than a blackmailed accomplice.

But, was the story made up?  There is no account of an actual Sweeney Todd or a barber on directly on Fleet Street.    However, in the 1800’s, authors gleaned ideas from the gruesome true life accounts of crimes committed, which were then told and retold in the streets with details embellished, making fertile fodder for the popular genre. There was an actual case of a barber in 1784, near Fleet Street, who murdered someone in his chair.

Then a family was executed for robbing, murdering and consuming the flesh of their victims. In 1818, a scandal writer penned a tale about dead bodies being found at a butcher shop.  A butcher, who lived on the street mentioned in this particular article, brought the publisher to court for libel.  He won the case, but the bit of gossip was out there, circulating for creative writers to exploit.

There was an account by a Minister of Police in Paris of a barber in 1800, who killed his customers and the pastry chef next door used the victims to fill her meat pies.  Sound familiar?  Although it is not documented as a fact, it was printed in a London magazine in 1824 as a factual story.  But was it?  This could be the first documented printing of the legend Sweeney Todd was created from.

 

I had a great time creating this shadow box/cabinet of curiosities based on this tale of horror and woe.

 

Sources:

PBS: Penny Dreadful, From True Crime to Fiction

Sweeney Todd, Wikipedia

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In my last post, I promised to show you my completed opera house.  When I did this online course offered by Heather Tracey of Thicketworks through the Graphics Fairy, the course was to create an opera house out of a cigar box.  So naturally I had to go off on a tangent and create a Moulin Rouge type dance hall with mine.  It’s name is the ‘Rats De Cave’ meaning The Rat Cellar.

So here is the completed box setting on top of it’s new home, my Going to the Opera in the Year 2000 table.

 

Here is the back of the dance hall depicting the stage door area

The base is constructed of altered books.  Niches were created in the books to house drawers for little treasures.

And just a reminder of what the inside looks like.

Next post I will share with you how I used many of the techniques learned in this online course into a Sweeney Todd themed box.

My latest project was a makeover for a sad little box that I got at the thrift store so long ago and sat in the basement forever.  I think I paid less than $5 for it and it is a good thing because the supplies cost a little more than I would have liked.

But, boy, do I love the results!

ugly-duck-box

Here are some of my inspiration pictures.

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Here is the before.  Sad little duckies…..

img_0943I took the whole thing apart, removing the hardware and peeling off all the lose paper.

img_2717What a mess!  But in that mess was pure French gold!

I applied plain brown kraft paper to the inside of the chip board pieces using a watered down wood glue.

img_2718And added a French script fabric to the outsides and trimmed with a faux leather fabric.  Both of these fabrics were on the clearance rack at the fabric store.

I reused some of the hardware, which I repainted with a faux rusty effect using black and copper spray paint.

Added black upholstery tacks  found at the hardware store to the faux leather strips and Voila!  Ugly duck to French swan!

ugly-duck-collage

 

 

My daughter didn’t think I’d want it back.  In her defense, it was a mess. One of the drawer fronts was fallen off, the back was in pieces, it was dark, dirty and scratched up.

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It just had not fared well with a house of kids and cats.

So it took the four hour ride home with me and sat in the dining room for a couple of months before I got to it. And naturally, I didn’t take ‘before’ photos.  Just cuz.

But here are some in progress shots.  After I removed about a hundred nails. And filled in the scratches on the top with wood filler. And sanded the h+++ out of the whole thing.  And replaced two of the drawer bottoms.  And put the whole thing back together with new glue and nails.

IMG_2600We had a whole pile of old maps from National Geographic Magazines.  I glued (mixture of wood glue and water) some inside the drawers to add some character. I guess I have been in a traveling state of mind lately.

IMG_2601I also had removed the brass hardware off the drawers and gave them a cleaning.  I used an internet tip about using mayonnaise to clean the brass.  It sounds weird, but it really worked.  Put it on, let it set for a bit and scrub off.  I left a little of the patina on because I didn’t want it too brassy, shiny.

IMG_2602.JPGPainted the sides of the drawers to match the top using my home made chalk paint recipe with a sample jar of Behr color called Harbor, although I didn’t want a nautical look, I liked that the color matched the maps. (click the link to find my recipe on that post)

IMG_2605I used a compass image from the net and enlarged it using Block Posters, a free site that allows you to enlarge a photo. The image must be in a format that they accept.

I used carbon/transfer paper to trace the design onto the dresser top and then painted in the design.  After the paint was dry, I sanded it lightly to give it a faded look and then added stain because the paint was a little too bright for the look I was going for.  I just put a little stain on a paper towel, rubbed a little on and buffed it in until I got the effect I was looking for.

IMG_2606.JPGLeaving the wood natural, I added a couple of coats of Minwax Polycrylic to the whole thing, and a couple extra coats to the top.

So with the compass, I decided to use the popular saying from Lord of the Rings, but when I looked up the poem for the proper wording, I found the actual first line, and thought it appropriate for the piece. “All that is gold does not glitter.”  It seemed to fit.

IMG_2694I guess my advice is don’t be afraid to put some elbow grease into something that looks like it might be worth the effort.

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(I do not have affiliates.  I provide links so you can see what products I used)

Thanks for reading,

Lisa

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Make a spice shelf!

When we remodeled our bathroom, we converted a vintage Ethan Allen sideboard for the vanity.  Of course, we had to cut away much of the drawers to make room for the sink. I had the pieces of the drawer laying around the work room and decided to create a little shelf unit.

Empty Spice Rack

Empty Spice Rack

I didn’t create a tutorial when I was making the shelf. That was BB, Before Blog! But I think the photos are self explanatory.  I cut the pieces, and painted with my self created chalk paint in a color which is close to Tiffany blue, and waxed. If you want to learn more about my chalk paint, my post about my French Farmhouse chairs discusses it here. It’s easier to do when it is in pieces, then you can just touch up where the nails are. I didn’t wax the back of the shelf because I was adding the graphics onto it.

Before putting the shelf together, I printed out some graphics from the Graphics Fairy on plain white paper. I have to warn you, if you have not been to her sight before, it is like going down the rabbit hole! Make sure you have lots of time. All of her graphics are old and royalty free, and free to use for whatever you want! She also has great tutorials on how to transfer the graphics to different surfaces.

The graphics I used for this project are a coffee distributor advertisement and a botanical print of a hydrangea. I tore some of the edges to make them look worn. I used Mod Podge to decoupage and seal the graphics onto the back of the shelf.
Mod Podge1
I then glued, and used brad nails to put the shelf unit together.

The jars had bright gold/brassy lids, so I spray painted them black. I then used a copper spray paint, holding it about three feet away and lightly spraying so it just barely left a spattering of color on the black. Looks kind of rusty, doesn’t it?.

Painted Jar Lid

Painted Jar Lid

I didn’t have the jars when I created the shelf.  I wasn’t intending to use it as a spice rack at all when I made it.  I was thinking of using it in my bedroom.  But the jars were given to me by a friend, and they fit perfectly on the shelf. When I started seeing the chalkboard paint being used on glass surfaces, a light bulb went off.

I began by outlining the label on the jars with a black Sharpie pen using a template from this book I bought years ago at JoAnn Fabrics or Michaels. I think it was right around when the Cricut and Silhouette, and similar machines were coming out, and they put this book on sale. It had paper punch outs of different shapes to use for tags, but I use the shapes for stencils and tracing around the shapes. They work great for this purpose. Any kind of stencil or cardboard label could be used to do this.

Book of Stencils

Book of Stencils

I then painted in the area with the chalk board paint which I purchased at the craft store. I used a small flat brush, and applied two coats. I outlined and painted instead of stenciling so that the paint would have a smooth finish. Stenciling may have made a bumpy surface. I followed the directions on the paint; letting the paint cure for a day or two and then baking in the oven. They are now durable and washable. I had intended to use actual chalk to write the spice names, but then thought they would rub off too easily. I use the same spices all the time anyway, so I used a white paint pen.  I bought this one at JoAnn Fabrics for $4.99. That really was a life saver to not have to paint the names on with a brush!

Label Products Used

Label Products Used

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If I had the jars when I built the shelf, I would have made the width to fit the jars.  I have extra space, but I’ll fill in the spots with some accessories.  I do love seeing the different colors of the spices!  I think repurposing baby food jars would work excellently for a project like this.

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I created this rack for under $10, have chalkboard paint and paint pen to use for other projects, and used scrap wood that was going to the burn pile!
Spice Rack Collage

I hope you will try making your own shelf because this was a fun project!