Though I’ve been obsessed with Burial Ground’s magical creations and otherworldly aesthetic for several years now, and have in the past had the distinct pleasure of interviewing one half of its creative team, artist and photographer Bill Crisafi— I knew very little about the brand’s shadow half, Jamie Mooers.
As a nosy so-n-so who wants to know everything about everyone, I’ll confess, this needled me a little! And so when our fearless leader here at Haute Macabre asked me if I would like to interview Jamie and introduce her to our readers, I not only jumped at the chance, but launched myself, whole of heart into the endeavor. In series of emails over the last few months, I got to know this thoughtful, wildly creative and wonderfully articulate kindred spirit and shadow sister; below you will find our exchange wherein we delve into matters of friendship and familiar comforts, dreams and inspirations, and the pleasures of losing oneself in the beauty of a November day.
For those unfamiliar with your role as co-owner, can you tell us about the work you do as one half of the collective vision that is Burial Ground?
The dream of creating a company with a shared vision was a long time coming for us. It felt, and still feels, like it just makes so much sense with how Bill (Crisafi) and I live our lives. We’ve spent several years as best friends, roommates, co-workers and business partners. At this point I just consider it to be a way of life. A way of life for which I am incredibly grateful. We do mostly everything together and if we’re not doing the same work at the same time, we are typically sitting next to one another either showing our progress or reading something to the other in order to make sure we’re both in agreement before anything is considered. Burial Ground is truly a reflection of the merging of voices from two like-minded individuals. As of right now, we both still do everything on our own (with the occasional help from a couple of our good friends during the super busy seasons). Whether it be creating new pieces, preparing jewels, gem shopping, updating the site, packing and shipping, etc…we are getting it done side by side from our small home Salem, MA. We are both present throughout the creative process of our jewelry every step of the way. Bill learned the art of lost wax casting while in school so we use our knowledge in the field to communicate ideas to each other before we have the pieces transformed from wax into metal. I often wear samples of the original pieces to see how they manage day to day so we can note whatever tweaks may be necessary in order to make them most wearable for others.
Burial Ground’s creations have origins in the melancholic autumn otherworld of the wooded New England wilderness; can you tell us about your relationship/connection with this magical landscape?
We grew up in two small neighboring New England towns. Upon meeting and getting to know one another we were incredibly pleased to learn that while 5 years apart in age, we had grown up exploring and enjoying all of the same places and also shared interests in many common themes. I’m sure I share this feeling with countless amounts of other humans, but I truly feel like my best self when I’m in nature. I absolutely love to travel, but New England is home and the feeling of comfort the landscapes give me is like nothing else I’ve experienced. If you know me, you know that when I’m overwhelmed by happiness or overcome with the beauty of the nature I’m enveloped in, I tend to get sad. This is the exact feeling that drives the creativity for the business. Both of us experience this emotion with extreme intensity and tend to share it with each other and vibe off of the energy creates. We collect little bits and pieces of nature (both physically and emotionally) when we are experiencing these feelings and then turn them into talismans. Whether it be watching the fog hover ominously in the air over an open pasture of wild flowers, feeling and hearing the November leaves crunch under our boots on a favorite trail or taking in a deep breath of the salty ocean air that travels with the gentle breeze…it fills our hearts; and that, fuels our work. I’ve lived in New England for my entire life and feel like there are always new areas to explore that seem as if they’ve been untouched. The inspiration is endless and we love nothing more than continuously getting lost in it.
Speaking of getting lost in nature, I wander vicariously through your instagram travels and adventures, and I always find myself curious: have you ever experienced any spooky or spectral circumstances whilst exploring say, a dark wood off the beaten path at twilight, or perhaps while investigating the decaying bones of an abandoned structure?
Almost all of my spectral experiences to date took place during my childhood and teenage years and were usually somehow tied to my mother’s physical presence or her places of living. In the past 15 years of us living apart I can’t say I have experienced anywhere near the amount of things I did when I was young. However, just this past month I found myself haunted by some of the most intense, exhausting, and realistic nightmares all involving evil children each night I slept in what appeared to be the kid’s bedroom in the home. The room housed two twin beds and two small side by side closets with a horseshoe mounted on the wall between them. After my nightmares, I took immediate interest in the horseshoe as the centerpiece of this minimally decorated bedroom. My friend Josh then noted to me that the only marking on the nude woman’s body in a photograph hanging on the bathroom wall was a horseshoe tattoo under her left arm. This then prompted me to look further into the symbolism of the horseshoe (beyond the good luck meaning) where I found the story of Saint Dunstan. He was a blacksmith during the 10th century who was asked by the Devil himself to shoe his horse for him. The blacksmith agreed but then nailed the shoes to the feet of the Devil instead. Dunstan only agreed to take them off once the Devil had made the promise to never enter a home with a horseshoe hanging on the door. I returned to the home a few weeks after this experience, but opted to sleep on the living room couch instead.
In addition to New England’s beautiful landscape, your creative vision for Burial Ground is also inspired by classic woodcuts and engravings of sabbaths and witches; by the looming darkness beyond the veil, the uncanny and the unseen. Can you tell us more about what those interests are grounded in, how they formed and have evolved with time, and how they’ve shaped you as both an individual and an artist?
….and I’m curious as to if you have any favorite occult/esoteric tomes in this vein into which you delve for inspiration?
It’s truly a struggle for me to try to remember a particular instance in which these likes were originally formed because I don’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t fueled by my interest in the unseen. As far back as I can remember, I was sitting on my Grandparents living room floor doing terrible line drawings (I still haven’t improved) while the ‘Charles Dickens’ Ghost Stories from the Pickwick Papers’ cartoon played on a loop incessantly in the background. That video was, and still is, a huge part of my childhood. During my brother Zack’s most recent stay with us, he chose to have our favorite ghost from the Pickwick Papers Ghost Stories tattooed on his leg by my friend Matthew Murray of The Black Veil Studio as his first tattoo. In thinking about it, I guess I’ve just always associated these things with comfort and family memories. For me it’s all about love, happiness and lifelong familiarity.
My mother used to take me on frequent day trips to Salem (where I now reside) as a child and teen. We would stroll through cemeteries and admire the engravings on the old stones and browse through the shops on Essex Street. We’d have protection sachets made at Crow Haven Corner to ease our minds when we were anxious or nervous about something. When I was a preteen she bought me ‘A Witches Bible’, a Rider Waite Tarot deck and a book called ‘Psychic Abilities’ during one of our Salem jaunts. I still have all three of those items to date. A few years ago I was given the ultimate pleasure and privilege in which I had the opportunity to view Francisco Goya’s black paintings at The Prado Museum in Madrid, Spain. That was by far one of the absolute most inspirational things I have ever seen.
You show up quite frequently as the subject/muse of Bill Crisafi’s photography, and for me your likeness conjures vibes of phantoms, dreams and autumnal hallucinations–and in almost all of these instances, I immediately think of this quote (which you also referenced somewhere on Instagram) ‘Wherever there is light, look for the shadow. The shadow is me.’ I’d love to hear how this quote might apply to your personal style–in day to day life, as well as the ghostly woman in the photographs.
I’m so glad that our photographs are translating in that way! The quote you mentioned by Anaïs Nin really resonates with me for a number of reasons. While reading an excerpt from one of her diaries, I came across a thought she was having during a therapy session where she talked of her ‘struggles to find a language for intuition, feeling, instincts which are, in themselves, elusive, subtle, and wordless’. I like to use shadow, whether it be literal or figurative, as a way to identify with and feel comfort within the unknown. It can be difficult to communicate a lot of emotions solely with the words you speak. I feel as if shadow conveys a lot of emotion on its own and by using it or resonating within it, you are only adding another layer to your expressiveness. I remember searching for a quote to put next to my photograph in the high school yearbook years ago and finally settling on this one that has been attributed to Maya Angelou: ‘They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.’ I remember my parents and friends being like, ‘Are you sure? You know that’s going to be there forever.’ I was sure then, and I still am now.
Even when I do appear as the subject in Bill’s photographs, I feel there is always something bigger than me that he has as the true main focus. Whether it be a mist-filled shoreline or an aerial view of vibrant fall foliage, I am more so just existing within that realm and trying to communicate the emotion I feel towards my surroundings. I think that relates directly to my personal style as well. I tend to wear mostly black because I resonate with the darkness – but if I do select a color to add to my wardrobe, it is typically one that would directly reflect an autumnal color palate because that is where I feel most at home. So basically when that quote by Anaïs Nin is translated to the emotions conveyed through photography in my mind, I’m saying to look towards the beauty of nature (which is the main focus) and you will find me there, falling second to her…exactly where I want to be.
No doubt whispers of a new collection are still hushed in shrouded secrecy, so I won’t try to rudely peek behind the veil just yet, but perhaps Burial Ground is conjuring smaller projects in the meantime that you can share with us?
We do have a new collection in the works that should be released by Spring 2018! It’s been a work in progress for several months, but we still need a bit of time to perfect each of the pieces… so, you’re right, we aren’t sharing the theme just yet! In the meantime we have been working on releasing our own line of handmade (by us) cone incense. The first batch is going to be zodiac based. It consists of 12 differing recipes made from carefully selected herbs and oils that correspond to each astrological sign. Within each box we will also include an illustrated postcard with Bill’s interpretation of whichever sign you’ve chosen, an incense burner, matches and a small jar of sand (to help diffuse heat and lengthen burn time). [EDIT: Many of the signs are sold out, but it looks as of right now there is Gemini, Libra, and Aries left!]