Tag Archives: Skulls Project

Day Two of the Blogging 101 Expedition: What is the Skulls Project?

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The second assignment for the week invited me to contemplate my chosen tagline and the significance behind the blog. So why did I choose the Skulls Project and what is the overall meaning? This is a good question to begin with and this is definitely something I’m currently exploring.

As I mentioned in the previous posts, the blog was initially used as a form of documentation that featured a range of drawings, sketches, observations and research relating to the contemporary representations of the skull. I’m often asked a very fascinating question whenever I mention the purpose behind the blog. In fact I’m regularly asked, why did you choose the skull?

This is a very important piece of the puzzle, why do I spend so much time writing about the skull? In 2012, I realised a growing interest in the Mexican Day of the Dead and the sugar skulls that are prevalent within the local bars, cafes, shops and restaurants across Melbourne. Due to the wealth of information, research and invaluable data, I decided to create a project that involved writing one post per day for an entire year relating to the human skull and it’s relevance to contemporary art.

As a result, the skulls project accumulated a following that was a huge surprise at the time, as the blog was purposely used for documentation. Soon after, the name Black Calavera emerged from many productive brainstorming sessions of course! At this particular stage, I’m currently experimenting with different styles for the brand and the blog.

It doesn’t end here! The project also reflects my personal explorations of life and death that occurred after a near death experience four years ago. This has definitely altered my perspectives regarding the inevitable presence of death and the experiences that life has to offer. The unknown is a mysterious and ambiguous journey that has invited me to repeatedly ask the same question, what happens to us after death?

We all know that death will occur at some stage but how do we come to terms with the idea? The Skulls Project examines some of these particular questions or explorations and the overall process aims to uncover the different interpretations or perspectives relating to the subject of death and the connections to the human skull.


Black Calavera undertakes Blogging 101: Here We Go!

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Hey there everyone!

I’ve recently joined the WordPress blogging 101 tutorials, as a way to connect with other enthusiastic bloggers and readers out there. I’ve been writing for a while now, although I thought this would provide the perfect opportunity to expand the blog, enhance the branding and establish new contacts.

If you’re a new visitor, Welcome to Black Calavera! First all I thought I shall introduce myself. I’m Charlotte Pridding and I currently maintain a research blog known as Black Calavera: The Skulls Project that explores the growing interest in the human skull via contemporary art, design and popular culture. The blog was founded in 2012 as part of a university project, where I recognised a fascination for the contemporary representations of the skull within Melbourne’s urban landscape.This is where the story begins and my exploration into death’s unavoidable presence.

Initially, I used the blog as a form of documentation and note taking for my thesis that explored the artistic, cultural and historical depictions of the skull. To my surprise, I gradually accumulated a following and a response from the public that motivated me to continue writing articles and reviews regarding the current trends or styles involving the human skull.

The blog was initially inspired by the Mexican Day of the Dead Celebration and the sugar skulls that influenced the solo exhibition in 2012 and the artistic components explored the sugar skull face painting within a European context via portraiture as well as black and white photography. The project eventually progressed into a series of self portraits that reflects my personal perceptions of death and mortality via makeup or face painting in order to reflect the contemporary depictions of the skull.

Well what’s next? I’m currently in the process of developing Black Calavera that will hopefully include new articles, projects and websites. The aim is to continue the blog as long as I can in order to examine whether the representation of the skull changes or progresses over time and I’m intrigued to determine whether my interpretations of death will change due to different life experiences.

My other interests include writing of course and event photography, although I hope to establish a separate section for my freelance photography under Black Calavera in the upcoming year. That’s me in a nutshell, I hope you enjoy reading the posts and the articles!


Skulls, Skeletons and Tequila, Espolón has it all!

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Espolón Advertising by Steven Noble 

Espolón Tequila is one unique, innovative brand that features a smooth, delicate flavour along with a creative label that will leave a very memorable impression! As soon as I recognised the bottle of Espolón, I instantly developed to the urge to purchase a bottle for myself and the product design immediately attracted my attention. While I was tempted to try the tequila, I wanted to keep the bottle for the inspiring label / packaging.

So what makes this bottle of tequila so interesting? Well, the tequila isn’t too overpowering, Espolón does create some fantastic Paloma’s on a warm summers day, the packaging is inspiring and the overall brand features a very compelling story! The label features a range of lively, animated skeletons and the overall style does feature similarities to the Mexican Day of the Dead Festival that invites deceased family members and spirits to partake in the celebration, as referenced by Regina.M Marchi.1 I’ve mentioned these particular elements in my previous posts but I’ll briefly mention some of the most important points. If you are interested in viewing the previous posts just click on the links to Part I and Part II

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Espolón Advertising – Steven Noble

Espolón’s product design features similarities to the works of José Guadalupe Posada and there is an illustration known as the “The Calavera of Don Quixote 1910” that appears almost identical to the label; Espolon’s design presents a very distinctive appropriation that reflect’s Mexico’s cultural and historical background.2 I’m assuming that Posada’s prints would be available under ‘free use,’ this would be a very interesting area to explore or research in the next week. According to Regina.M.Marchi, Posada is an influential artist / printmaker from Mexico who produced a range of delightful prints or illustrations featuring a range of enthusiastic, animated skeletons during the 19th century.

In the illustrations, the playful skeletons partake in a range of activities or events wearing a range of outfits or accessories and Posada’s distinctive style provides a humorous perspective of death, as referenced by Marchi.3 Espolón have used these lively skeletons to advertise their tequila, although I can’t see anything wrong with this, the story does feature some cultural associations or symbology that provides context to the overall brand. Espolón delivers a level of authenticity through the packaging or product design that is inspired by one unique symbol.

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According to the Espolón official website, “Master Distiller, Cirilo Oropeza” created a brand of Tequila that was named after the spur found on the back of a Rooster’s heal and “Espolón pays tribute to the legendary bird so important within Mexican culture.”4 This is a very fascinating concept that has invited me to research the significance behind the rooster and Elías Domínguez Barajas in the ‘Function of Proverbs in Discourse’ explains that the rooster features a connection to “bravery, pride and confidence” within Mexican Culture.5

This is a very interesting discovery that definitely adds a level of interest towards Espolón and the brand’s overall history. While I’m interested in researching the cultural and historical associations related to the brand, I do enjoy a glass of Blanco with a slice of lime. This particular type of Tequila works exceptionally well as a cocktail or a mixed drink and I would definitely recommend Espolón if you intend to create a Paloma or an Espresso Martini.

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José Guadalupe Posada – Print / Illustration: 
The Calavera of Don Quixote, 1910

The tequila also works as a delicious alcoholic beverage just by itself with some ice and a slice of lime. While there are other brands of tequila that feature an outstanding flavour, Espolón is exceptional for the price and it’s very affordable, especially for the overall quality! So if you’re planning a dinner party and you need Tequila for a dozen Paloma’s, this is definitely the one to go for!

According to Espolon’s website, the tequila features “100% pure agave” that is created / distilled in “Los Altos, Mexico.” From a personal opinion, I do enjoy the Blanco compared the Respado that is aged for several months in an “oak barrel,” as referenced by Espolón.6 This is just my personal preference and I prefer something with a smooth flavour or texture. If you’re new to tequila, I would recommend the Blanco to start off with, if you’re searching for something with a strong, full-bodied flavour then the Respado is an excellent choice.

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Espolón features some very compelling, yet distinctive advertisements that are very admirable and the designs are created by Steven Noble. Last but not least, I thought I would briefly mention my recent discovery in regards to my statistics on my WordPress profile.

This year so far, I’ve received 482 views for my previous post in regards to Espolón tequila that ranked number six on my top posts for 2015. This is a very interesting conclusion that demonstrates Espolón’s increase in popularity. Perhaps there is a demand for skulls and tequila, it’ll be interesting to observe the statistics overtime in order to view any significant changes.

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So if you enjoy relaxing on the deck chair with a refreshing glass of tequila, I would recommend Espolón! Not only will you receive a high quality product, you’ll obtain an awesome bottle with some incredible designs including skulls, skeletons and a rooster, what more could you possibly ask for? If you love skulls and tequila, this is the brand for you.

Espolón also features a Facebook Page and a Twitter Page that is worth viewing if you wish to acquire further information! These amazing advertisements are created by Steven Noble, click on the link to view the artist’s Behance Portfolio.

References

1.Marchi, Regina.M, The Day of the Dead in the USA: The Migration and Transformation of a Cultural Phenomenan (New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2009) p.26-27
2.Regina, The Day of the Dead in the USA, p.27-28
3.Regina, The Day of the Dead in the USA, p.27-28
4.Espolón Tequila, “A Legend in the Making,” 2013 (Accessed 9/2/15) http://www.tequilaespolon.com/en/?age=verified
5.Barajas, Elías Domínguez, The Function of Proverbs in Discourse: The Case of a Mexican Transnational Social Network (New York: Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, 2010) p.100
6.Espolón Tequila, “Tasting Notes,” 2013 (Accessed 9/2/15) http://www.tequilaespolon.com/en/?age=verified


Black and White Skull Makeup Continued

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Yesterday, I shared one of my self portraits with the black and white skull makeup and I thought I would add the rest of the photographs from the series. Once I’ve taken the photographs in the dark laneway, I decided to take some additional photos before I started to remove the makeup. I do enjoy experimenting with the makeup, my aim is to expand or enhance the overall design.

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in my next attempt, I would create a different shape for the teeth and I would add some additional shadows around the eyes or the jaw line. In some of my previous posts, I have discussed my interpretations of death via black and white photography, I have highlighted the most crucial elements so I thought I would keep this particular post relatively short and simple. If you are interested in viewing the previous posts, just click on the link here for Death & the Photographic Image Part I and Part II

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Towards the end of the night, I smudged the makeup in order to created a distressed or deteriorated effect that did create some interesting results. When I view the images, I sometimes can’t believe that I’m the person in the image, I’ve become my own personal representation of death. This is my first attempt with the black and white skull makeup in about two or three years and the photo shoot has provided an excellent opportunity for me to practise, I intend to continually develop or enhance the design.

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The photographs are inspired by Robert Mapplethorpe’s Self Portrait, 1988 and the artist passed away in 1989 from AIDS, as referenced by the Tate Gallery Website.1 At first, I was fascinated with Mapplethorpe’s black and white self-portrait and the surrounding darkness definitely isolates the artist’s own face and his skull shaped cane; these particular elements have a profound effect in regards to my perceptions of death.

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I regularly associated death with darkness and the reduction of colour or movement, although it’s so hard to articulate the ending of life, as there are so many different explanations. I have repeatedly mentioned these thoughts over the past couple of years and it will be interesting to see if these ideas will progressively change over time.

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Anyway, I hope you enjoy the photographs and I have a surprise that I’m really excited about! I can’t wait to share the details!

DSC_0591111References

1. Mc Ateer, Susan, Tate Gallery, “Robert Mapplethorpe, Self-Portrait, 1989,” (Accessed 5/2/15) http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/mapplethorpe-self-portrait-ar00496/text-summary


Self Portraits become distressed and decayed

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Last Friday, I uploaded some self-portraits that I’ve taken in one of Melbourne’s deserted laneways, today I thought I would share some of the photographs that I have destroyed. I’ve undertaken a project / experiment where I’ve ripped or destroyed my own self-portraits using water and cello tape in order to determine whether these alterations increase my connection to death.

The modifications definitely provide a distressed, sinister appearance and I can’t believe that I’m the person in the image, I’ve destroyed the image of myself in order to create a different effect.I have often placed the smooth image opposite the decayed version in order to observe the process or the progression, this experiment often reminds me of a body slowly decaying into a corpse, which is something I’ve mentioned before in my previous posts and this is one particular thought that will continually reoccur when I view these images.

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The scariest thought is the realisation that  I’ll start to decay or deteriorate once I’m dead and I’ve discovered that there is a similar parallel with the images that I’ve destroyed. At first, the photograph features a smooth, polished surface until it’s destroyed into something imperfect, flawed or decayed.

This is a really challenging task for me, as I will spend a long period of time preparing the make up for the photo shoot, installing the equipment and taking the photographs of myself. I often whether death is meant to feature a smooth, flawless or polished appearance? To me personally, I am able to establish a closer association to the concept of death through my distressed images, all the imperfections elevate the context of the work, the process from life to death isn’t a perfect experience.

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The images remind me of my car accident back in 2010, where I sandwiched between two other cars, I was lucky to be alive actually. While I crumple the image in-between my hands, I continually remember the car crumpling into a square box, this was a very close encounter to death and I actually thought I would die in a matter of seconds. Destroying the images has become a reminder of my experience and the overall process has allowed me to face this memory instead of trying to forget everything all together.

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Don’t get me wrong, I am pleased with my initial photographs although I do enjoy observing the smooth or polished surface of the image progressively transforming into an element of decay or deterioration. When I’ve crumpled the image, the texture provides a very interesting effect to the overall portrait and I’ve also rubbed the paper together in order to transfer the ink to another area of the photo, this technique also creates some very intriguing results.

There was one stage, where I experienced a printing error and the default created some very interesting filters with one of my photographs. Instead of throwing the photograph away, I wondered if I could use the image somehow. I crumpled the photograph and the texture complimented the colours, I don’t normally work with colour, although I thought this would be an interesting experimentation.

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While I have established a closer connection to death through the reduction of colour, the filters as well as the uneven textures do present a level of decay or destruction. There are certain scenarios, where accidents or defaults can work in your favour, it’s interesting to utilise these mistakes and transform them into something interesting.

There is another distressed photograph that produced some very interesting colours featuring blue and orange and I purposely set the white balance incorrectly in order to determine whether the adjusted settings would create a different effect. These experimentations do create some very interesting styles that are worth exploring further or later down the track. I often reuse the same image in order to determine what I can create something interesting all together, there is just so much to explore, stay tuned!

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Redbubble Page: Finally Updated

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I thought I would spend some time updating my Redbubble Page, I’ve now added some of my photographs from the Skulls Project including some of my other photographic work and they’re all for sale! Check out the link below for further details.

http://www.redbubble.com/people/charley2209


Crystal Head Vodka: Creative skull shaped bottle becomes hard to resist!

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Photograph of Crystal Head Vodka by Charlotte Pridding 

The Crystal Head Vodka features a very creative bottle design / creation that is almost impossible to resist! I first discovered the clear, skull shaped bottles within various liquor stores throughout the city and I couldn’t resist the temptation, I decided to buy one for myself. Of course there are pros and cons, So I thought I would list my thoughts or recommendations.

The vodka itself features a smooth, yet subtle flavour that tastes delicious as a cocktail or a mixed drink. If you have a sweet tooth, the Crystal Head Vodka definitely compliments the ingredients for an Espresso Martini or a White Russian. I wouldn’t necessarily drink it straight and I prefer mixing the vodka with other alcoholic beverages; the additional flavours compliment or elevate the overall taste. The Crystal Head Vodka is expensive and I suspect that the consumer is paying for the overall design of the bottle as well as the alcohol.1

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Photograph of Vodka Bottle by Charlotte Pridding

I actually prefer the taste of the Vodka when it is mixed with something else and I didn’t enjoy drinking it straight, the flavours were very delicate and subtle, this is just my personal preference anyway. I must admit, the Crystal Head Vodka compliments certain events or party occasions and the skull shaped bottle looks great on top of the bar! I’ve developed a fascination for the story or the history behind this particular brand and I’ve decided to undertake some further research.

According to the Crystal Head Vodka Website and Dan Aykroyd, this unique brand is produced in ‘Newfoundland, Canada’ and the Vodka features a very distinctive filtration process involving “precious crystals, known as Herkimer Diamonds.”2  The product also features an elaborate distillation process that includes “peaches and creamed corn” that are combined with the “waters from Newfoundland,” as referenced by the Crystal Head Vodka Website.3

Nick Curtis from The London Evening Standard explains that Dan Aykroyd collaborated with artist, John Alexander in order to create a ‘high-quality, premium product’ with a unique bottle design that is inspired by the “Mesoamerican crystal skulls.”4

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Photograph of Actor / Comedian, Dan Aykroyd with Crystal Head Vodka. Photographer Unknown

In a commercial featuring Crystal Head Vodka, Aykroyd explains the cultural, historical and spiritual connotations that are related to overall product design as well as the shape of the bottle.5 According to Arkroyd, the product is inspired by the “13 Crystal Skulls” and the Mexican Day of the Dead Celebration, the bottle features such an interesting, yet captivating background that successfully adds a level of meaning / significance to the overall product.6

I have often wondered whether I purchased the actual product for the bottle or the Vodka? At first, I was fascinated with overall product design and the bottle is such a fantastic novelty, although I was intrigued by the actual flavour of the Vodka. Obtaining the skull shaped bottle is a rewarding experience that provides an element of retainability and consumers have used the bottle both creatively and imaginatively.

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Facial Reconstruction with Crystal Head Vodka by Nigel Cockerton

I have recently discovered a range of online consumers that have used their bottles as lamps, plant pots, ornaments, decorations, storage containers and even fish tanks! There’s even a forensic artist known as Nigel Cockerton from Scotland who has used the skull vodka bottle as the base in order to ‘recreate’ a very impressive, yet realistic human face, as referenced by Skullspiration.7 It’s amazing to see what these bottles are used for and I do enjoy viewing all of these creative ideas or transformations.

Nick Curtis quotes Aykroyd who explains his recent project known as ‘Use Your Head’ that encourages a range of artists from around the globe to use the skull vodka bottle within a creative or artist manner.8 This is such an interesting campaign that has generated interest from followers or fans from around the world and the Crystal Skull Vodka Facebook Page encourages their online followers to submit photographs of their Skull Vodka bottle within an artist context.9

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Photograph by Startraks. Photo of Crystal Head Vodka & Dan Aykroyd

I have often wondered what I would do with my empty skull bottle? I suppose I’ll have to think of some ideas in the next few days. I’ve decided to take some photographs of the bottle that has provided an opportunity to experiment with the lighting and the composition.

Overall the marketing and the advertising for the Crystal Head Vodka is phenomenal and I do admire the level of creativity and craftsmanship in terms of the actual bottle design. The product features a very subtle flavour and I do prefer drinking the Vodka as a delicious cocktail, rather than drinking it straight. Retaining a skull shaped bottle at the end is an advantage and something that is worth keeping for artistic or practical purposes, although the price is slightly higher compared to the other brands. If you prefer drinking sweet cocktails or mixed drinks, I would highly recommend the Crystal Head Vodka!

References

1. Dan Murphey’s, “Crystal Head Crystal Head Vodka 700ml,” Ratings & Reviews (Accessed 28/1/15) http://reviews.danmurphys.com.au/0592-en_au/DM_710148/crystal-head-crystal-head-vodka-700ml-reviews/reviews.htm
2. Crystal Head Vodka, “Our Story,” https://crystalheadvodka.com/en/ourstory (Accessed 28/1/15)
3. Crystal Head Vodka, “Our Story”
4. Nick Curtis, “Dan Aykroyd talks Ghostbusters, alien life, and new Crystal head vodka,” 19th September 2014, The London Evening Standard (Accessed 28/1/15) http://www.standard.co.uk/showbiz/celebrity-news/dan-aykroyd-talks-ghostbusters-alien-life-and-new-crystal-head-vodka-9744065.html
5. “Dan Aykroyd’s Crystal Head Vodka,” YouTube Video, (Accessed 28/1/15) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SKqjIv91Zx8
6.”Dan Aykroyd’s Crystal Head Vodka,” YouTube Video
7.Skullspiration, “Forensic reconstruction of a Crystal Head Vodka skull,” (Accessed 28/1/15)  http://www.skullspiration.com/forensic-reconstruction-of-a-crystal-head-vodka-skull/
8. Curtis, “Dan Aykroyd talks Ghostbusters, alien life, and new Crystal head vodka.”
9. Crystal Head Vodka, Official Facebook Page (Accessed 28/1/15) https://www.facebook.com/crystalheadvodka

Image References

http://blog.totalwine.com/2012/02/02/pt-2-dan-aykroyd-talks-vodka-with-total-wine-more/
http://io9.com/forensic-artist-reconstructs-the-face-of-crystal-skul-1524391326
http://www.startraksphoto.com/home.aspx
http://www.crystalheadvodka.com/news/dan-aykroyd-blows-full-steam-a-head-into-london-england
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151824863486326.1073741845.91373316325