Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Victorianesque Hallowe'en: The Home Apothecary

This is probably one of the easiest and most popular ideas out there for Hallowe'en
decorating with a Victorian flair: The home apothecary. Nothing says "Victorianesque
Hallowe'en" without some apothecary jars in all sizes, a few posters or banners, and
a collection of oddly coloured liquids, or dried "goodies".

The best part is that supplies are pretty easy to get, and antiqued-looking labels
are easily found (Etsy crafters have tons of great labels), or made yourself. In
fact, those of us who are packrats to any degree, may find old bottles that we "just
knew" would have another purpose. Dig them out of storage, soak the labels off, if
needed and prepare to create your apothecary. Thrift stores often have tons of dusty
little bottles that deserve a new life. Remember those "stopper top" spice jars that
were once so popular? Truth be told, many of them wind up at Goodwill and other
resale shops because they didn't seal well, spices got stale and the owners just had
no other use for them. Now you do.

If you're feeling particularly antique-minded, the bell jar and large apothecary jars
are making a decorative comeback at stores like Pier 1, Victorian Trading Co. and an
oldie, but goodie, Bombay Co.  You can also Google "apothecary jars" online and find
tons of sellers with little to big glass gems just waiting to do something
interesting rather than sitting collecting more dust. Keep in mind, though, that
collecting dust is not an entirely bad thing this holiday. So don't break out the
glass cleaner just yet.

So what to do with all those jars you have just run out and dragged in from the
garage or the corner thrift store. The first step is to find a safe place to display
your goodies, and I am not just referring to the jars or their lovely labels, but
also all the fun things you can put inside them. If you have felines as I do, shelves
and shiny bottles are especially tempting. As fortune would have it, mine do not jump
up on high furniture. Have to love a lazy feline. Now if you happen to have an
enclosed curio cabinet, even better. Just as long as you have a safe haven for your
Victorianesque "cure alls".. (Poisons could be considered a cure.. of some sort, no?)

Now that you have a place picked out and not dusted, we get to the job of filling
those jars. If your jars are going to stay put, coloured water in creepy hues of
amber and green often do the trick. A little red food colour with a lot of blue
creates a purple very close to black. Although I have heard there is a black food
colouring out there now, but have yet to find it. I hope you have far better luck
than I. If you are using coloured bottles, A simple red water will usually look black
through the glass, adding to the affect of your questionable medicines.

As for the larger apothecary jars (See Victorian Trading Co pic above), they are
ideal for larger dry objects like flower petals, thorny weeds, grey gauze (to look
aged, of course), surplus spider webs.. well, you get the picture. Now, since the
price of the larger jars tends to make them an investment you may not wish to glue
labels to, that does not mean you are without options for labelling. Just a bit of
narrow satin or velvet ribbon and a handmade sign make the perfect label to be hung
around the neck.

There are also uses for your jars that can be fun and get a few odd looks, all in
good fun, of course. Small jars can be sterilized and used to hold salt and pepper
for the dinner table or sprinkles for cupcakes. Imagine the look on guests' faces as
they observe you going for the Apothecary shelf, taking down a small bottle and
sprinking something green or purple and sparkly on your freshly baked goodies.
Granted, if it were my guests, I doubt it would be a look of shock. The more timid
might stick to their diets, though the more skewed (aka: most of them) would dive in.

As I find myself repeating, use your imagination. There are countless possibilities
for your jars. But back to that shelf, curio cabinet or bit of table or buffet space
used to display your Victorianesque mini-medicine cabinet. Just displaying your jars
is not really enough. This is another fine opportunity to make use of string lights.
Laced between bottles or piled behind them, the lights cast a wonderful glow through
the glass, illuminating the different coloured liquids and casting fantastic shadows
through the dried flora (or fauna, depending on how adventurous you feel).

However, no display would be complete without a backdrop. Most Hallowe'en shops carry some form of banner, but I would also recommend two sites: Victorian Trading, and one I have purchased from several times: Madame Talbot's Victorian Lowbrow.  Madame Talbot is a wonderful artist with a wide collection of apothecary antiques and posters of her own design in Victorian fashion that run wonderfully with the apothecary and other Hallowe'en themes. Links to both are listed below.  

Enjoy a little online browsing, and please share pics of your apothecaries. I always
love seeing what people do with old bottles. Once I find a feline-proof spot, I hope
to get something put together and will post a photo.

Now to that shopping:

Apothecary Jars and many things both Victorian and Hallowe'en: www.victoriantradingco.com
Beautiful posters and all manner of macabre goodies: www.madametalbot.com

Off to do a bit more, myself.
Until next, Stay Calm and Scary On...

1 comment:

  1. Love it!! I needed something to go with all my owls in my bathroom (they live there all year!) and this is perfect!! Yes, I know I am cutting it close. I never thought about black food coloring!!! I am so going to use it!! Thanks!!!