Not long after I added the Hattery Flattery Vintage Hat Shop pages to my website, I had a telephone call. "Is this the Wanna who has the website?"
"Yes, it is."
"Well, my name is Skelly, Bonerella Skelly, and since you seem to be into unusual hats, I thought you might be interested in a tour of my little shop." For a female, she had a deep, throaty voice.
Naturally I was intrigued, so we agreed that I would visit the following Saturday. "How about midnight?" she added.
"Well, isn't that a bit late?" I asked, not sure if I wanted to be out at that hour.
"Oh, I assure you that no one will bother us, and this way we will have plenty of time for our tour. Some of my customers tend to stay quite late, so an earlier hour would not give us time to get acquainted and for you to really see my little shop and all my hats. "
My husband thought I was nuts. "If you think I'm going to sit here and let you go across town alone at that hour, you're even crazier than I thought! Since I can't convince you otherwise, I'll take you."
Frankly, I wasn't too pleased - you know how it is when you've got somebody tagging along who doesn't want to be there. But, this time he was insistent, so I decided not to press the issue further.
"Well, all right then," I conceded. "But, please wait in the car. I know how grumpy and fidgety you get when we go shopping, and I don't want you to embarrass me. You can put some music on and just relax; I sure don't want you interrupting me."
The following Saturday night, we parked in front of a rather weatherbeaten little building at the edge of town.
My husband peered up at the one lighted window. "Interesting; it looks as if at one time this window had blue trim. " He grinned at me. "You know, Southwest tradition says that blue is intended to keep witches and bad spirits out. Wonder if that means you won't be allowed in?"
I laughed and opened the car door. "Funny, aren't you!"
He leaned toward me. "Take your cell phone and keep it in your hand. Now don't stay in there too long, and hit my number if you need me. If I don't hear from you in thirty minutes, I'm coming in, or better yet, I'm calling Jack and we'll break the door down!" (Our friend Jack is a member of the El Paso Police Department, and plays in our son-in-law's band, as a matter of fact.)
"Right, dear! I'm sure Jack would love your calling him to check out a hat shop!" I wasn't sure if he was kidding or not, but as I walked up the steps, the 1812 Overture was already booming from the car radio. (It was a good thing we were in a rather deserted area, or surely someone would complain!) I turned to wave and noticed his head already lolling against the car seat and his eyes closing. Well, thank goodness, I thought with satisfaction; classical music almost always makes him sleepy. Now he won't fret and I can enjoy my visit.
Although I would never have told him, I was a bit nervous, though, as I rang the doorbell. Being in a strange place at that hour and all....
The door opened.
Well, I have had some interesting experiences, but this one takes the cake. When I peeked into that hallway, oh, my.
"Wanna! So GLAD you could come!"
I mean, it takes a lot to frighten me, but when I saw Bonerella Skelly standing there in the hallway while a gigantic hat-wearing hairy spider hung suspended on the wall next to her, I just literally felt all the blood leave my face. I wanted to run, but my feet felt glued to the floor. I thought we had seen some big tarantulas down around Wink, Texas, but they were midgets compared to this fellow!
My hostess reached out a bony hand to pat the giant spider gently. "Come in, come in, Wanna." As I hesitated, she said, "Oh, honey, don't worry; Harriett is just my protector, my guard spider, so to speak. One can't be too careful at this hour of the night and in this part of town, you know. Yes, Harriett is such a dear and faithful companion, but she can look a bit intimidating to the uninitiated. I assure you her bark is worse than her .... well, maybe not, but that's neither here nor there; the important thing is that you are here."
"Shoo," she said. "Move aside, Harriett, and let our guest come in."
"She likes to eat the Bloomin' Eyeballs, you know, " she commented, as the spider moved down the wall toward the plant. I couldn't bear to look back.
By then, my heart was beating wildly as we entered a tiny little shop lit with an orange glow, and filmy sheer black curtains waving here and there. Hmm; looks a lot like black webs, I thought.
"This is Bonerella's Custom Millinery," she said with pride. "It's perhaps a bit more quaint than Miss Minnie's shop, and small, but it's quite sufficient for my needs. I provide custom hats, you know, and rarely have more than two or three customers at once. It's prudent not to have too many witches here at one time, if you know what I mean. Although, frankly, I often wonder why I care. After all, I pay my local, state and federal taxes, as well as dues to the Greater Business Bureau and I volunteer for Universal Way, although it is behind the scenes at the computer. " She winked at me and smiled. "You know how it is - they're glad to take your money but don't want to be seen with you."
"Well, unfortunately, there are still some people who are intolerant, even in rather laid-back El Paso," I agreed. "I remember reading about the madams in El Paso's old days who contributed greatly to the local economy. Their money was as good as anybody's - except the big shots didn't want to reveal that they knew them!" I laughed, beginning to relax.
"Precisely! Why, I wouldn't hurt a fly!"
At this point I could've sworn the hat-wearing spider turned to look expectantly at her mistress. Probably just a trick of the light, though.
"Would you like to sit down?" my hostess inquired. "This chair is quite comfortable, although it does have a rather straight back." She looked down as her bracelet fell to the floor. "Whoops! Looks like I need to repair that catch again, doesn't it. One of these days it will come open and I won't notice it fall. It was a gift from my husband, and I don't want to lose it," she said as she picked up the glittering piece of jewelry and fastened it around her wrist once more.
(I wondered privately why her bracelet didn't fall off more often because her wrists were so thin.)
"Or perhaps you would prefer this chair. Its back is a bit more cushy," she said, gesturing to a rather striking gold chair.
"Um, no thank you, Bonerella, I think I'll just stand. My husband is waiting outside and I don't want to get too comfortable and overstay my welcome. He's expecting me shortly."
"Well, of course, Wanna. I understand completely. My own dear mate is quite overprotective, too."
I looked around, nervously aware that the spider was moving again.
She smiled. "I see you are admiring Harriett's hat. It's a bit over-the-top in its trims, but she was quite insistent as to what she wanted, and I obliged. She does love it, and rarely takes it off. Harriett accompanies me wherever I go and people naturally tend to notice it. She's good advertising."
"I really like your own hat," I said, admiringly.
She reached to pat the brim slightly. "Well, I have always enjoyed wearing hats. I feel it gives one, well, presence, you know."
Bonerella moved toward an intriguing floor stand that looked much like a coffin. "Well, shall we look at a few of my custom designs? Now this is a hat that I tailored expressly for my good friend, Tansy Toadflax."
"She is a Familiar Master, a licensed cat trainer, so I included some cats on her hat."
Bonerella next clicked her way over to a stand which contained three hats, and pointed to a green one at the top.
"Now this bonnet was designed for Emeralda Ebullius. She deals in spells that bring high spirits and good cheer. If you sample her wares, she guarantees that you will see the world with new eyes and wink at someone at least three times a day." She smiled. "Surprised you, eh? Unfortunately, there are so many misconceptions about witches abroad. Why, my customers are the salt of the earth. This world would be a much more boring place without them, I assure you."
She pointed to a rather sober-looking brown open weave straw with a suede brim, trimmed with brown roses.
"This hat is a special creation for Bertha Besom. She's a rather somber soul, and loves working with woods and other natural materials. She is famous for her hand-crafted brooms and wooden mortar and pestle sets. Bertha is just like everybody's favorite grandmother, except a bit more earthy. "
"See that arrangement on the table? Those orange roses are from her garden. She sends me a fresh arrangement every week. Such intriguing plants she has; I never know what interesting specimen she will send over next. The Bloomin' Eyeballs plant was a gift one Christmas."
"This straw with the knot design on top is for Datura Stramonium. She teaches a class in astral projection and is quite fond of shades of purple. And, of course, green ribbon always goes well with purple. "
I nodded, and then felt a tingling on the back of my neck. You know how you get this feeling when you know someone's staring at you? I began wondering again where that spider had gone ....
But, when I turned, there was no spider, but I did spot a large black cat statue. Strange; I could've sworn its gaze was upon me.
I shook my head, ashamed that I was so jittery, turning back to Bonerella just in time to catch a flicker of movement as she pointed toward a bright little number in yellow, blue and green.
"Yellow is not a color one usually associates with witches, is it? But Mullein Feltwort just loves it for her personal attire. She makes pillows that are filled with herbs guaranteed to ward off nightmares. I have a couple, myself."
I swear that table caught my attention as much as Mullein Feltwort's hat; it seemed to be winking. Good grief, I thought, you're acting as if every animate AND inanimate object in the room is looking at you!
And then I realized that my eyes weren't deceiving me. That trim on the yellow hat WAS moving; it was not satin tubing at all, but a yellow snake! I shuddered.
As I sneaked a look to see how far I was from the doorway, Bonerella said, "And here ...."
... gesturing toward a fanciful red hat on another beaded table near the doorway, "... is a recent one that I really enjoyed making. This little red number is ready for Madam Mandragora. She's quite into Tarot and Divination and is one of the best Scryers in the region. She can gaze at a candle flame, a crystal ball, even a bowl of water, any reflective surface, really, and tell you things .... my, my."
"Oh, yes," I said hurriedly. "It is really neat, as are all your hats, Bonerella. But now, I really must ...."
At this point, a door slammed somewhere and a man's voice came booming in. "Honey, I'm ho- o- omme!"
My hostess took a quick look in the mirror, adjusted her gigantic ruby brooch, and then called, "We're in the shop, dear!"
A rather dandified gent came strolling in, exclaiming, "What a night! Do you know how hard it is to find a decent pipe tobacco in this town? What a politically correct age we live in when we are being protected from ourselves!"
"You're home early! Did you have a rough night at the office, dear?" Bonerella asked, straightening her hat and turning from the mirror to greet her husband. "Scully works the graveyard shift," she said, giving him a quick click, er, peck on the cheek.
"I want you to meet someone, my dear. This is Wanna, who's been touring my little shop. Wanna, this is my husband, Scully Skelly."
"Oh, I know who you are! You're the one who writes those strange stories. Bonerella showed me your website."
"Skully! This is our guest! Who are we to call someone's writing "strange"?
"Oh, of course, my dear," he said, and bowed. "Pleasure is mine, Wanna. Lovely to have your company. Sorry if I appeared insensitive, but you wouldn't believe what a night I had! Care to join us for a spot of tea or a toddy?" He put his pipe on the table and came toward me, smiling toothily and extending his hand.
"Thank you," I said, nodding as he grasped my hand in a rather bony but firm grip. "It's so nice to meet you, too. But no, I must go. I've stayed awfully late as it is. Perhaps another time. "
As I began edging toward the door there was a quick click-click-clicking sound as something dashed across the floor. Oh no; that spider is coming after me, I thought, my heart beating wildly again.
But instead, the something that leaped into the gold chair was not Harriett, but a black top hat with glittering red eyes, little feet dancing as it fixed its gaze on Scully Skelly.
Scully looked around. "Ah, there you are, Topper. I've been wondering all night where I left my hat! Naughty, naughty," he said, shaking a bony finger at the excited top hat. "You better be there when I'm ready for you next time, Boy!"
Scully bowed again and waved as he left the room. "Well, I'm off to relax a bit. Come any time, Wanna. One or the other of us is always here. Next time perhaps we can have a long chat."
"Thank you," I said. "I would love to hear more about your line of work."
I turned to my hostess. "It was so nice of you to invite me here, Bonerella. I can't tell you how intriguing I find your shop and your custom hats. I would love to meet some of your customers some time. They all sound like such interesting persons."
"It was my pleasure having you, Wanna. There is a Gathering held in late October; that's when many of my customers will be picking up their hats. Perhaps then we can get together. Good night, my dear, and drive safely."
And I swear when I left that place the cat statue was facing in a different direction, staring after me!
As I slipped into the car seat my husband stirred and yawned. "Did you have a good time?"
"I did, dear. It was a memorable evening. You would have liked the Skellys; quite the couple."
NOTES: These two little roomboxes sit on a bookshelf or sofa table during the month of October.
The Skellys are figures from Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, purchased from Toys R Us. I manipulated them some for my purposes, including painting Bonerella's finger- and toenails and giving her earrings, although they don't really show up in the photos.
The wall treatments are from a spider web lace tablecloth scanned onto orange/gold scrapbooking paper. The box for Bonerella, Harriett and the Bloomin' Eyeballs is a shadow box that I purchased at Michaels. The shop is in a rather weatherbeaten little cupboard I found at Hobby Lobby in the Clearance aisle. (Can't get a good picture with the doors closed because of the reflections in the glass.)
This project allowed me to use more of the Raine's Take-A-Seat chairs. I thought this gold/orange one was particularly appropriate for an exotic couple like the Skellys.
I got the idea for the top hat/spider when my husband kept singing while I was working on this project, "Bonerelly, Bonerelly ...." just like the mice sang "Cinderelly, Cinderelly ..." in the old Disney movie. I could just see several little spiders singing like that, and that idea morphed into the excited top hat.
The black cat was in my stash, as was the Jack-o-lantern bead used to make the vase for the arrangement. I decided I liked it better plain, so turned the face to the back. The roses are made of paper; the greenery is dried pepper grass, I think. I used a beaded napkin ring to make this table; its top is a glass mirror heart shape found in the scrapbooking aisle. The coffin hat stand is a candle.
The standing mirror was inexpensive brass. I aged it with a black felt marker. The hat stand was white wire that I painted with black acrylic. The chair is another Raine. I liked it because the black and green went nicely with the other colors. The Dracula table base was in my stash; not sure where it came from; maybe it was a large ball point pen topper. Its top is small mirror squares that I had in my stash.
For the hats I used hair scrunchies, little girls' barrettes, organdy ribbon, satin cording, flower petal brooches, scrapbooking trims and other miscellanous bits and pieces from my stash. I cut and glued business cards to make the forms for some; others were built on inexpensive straws. I used Tacky and Fabri-Tac for gluing; mostly Fabri-Tac for the shaping. The snake was made from Fimo scraps when I took a rose cane class at a miniature show. I knew I would use that yellow snake somewhere!
The Bloomin' Eyeballs plant was made using cut paper leaves and paint, bits of fake flowers and some misshapen beads that I have had for a very long time. I added the irises and bloodshot lines with paint.
This crooked little cupboard (sorry for glare distortion) originallly had fish motifs on the doors, and I had always planned it for a fishing setting - until I began my recent quest to complete more settings for my collections. When I spotted it again, I knew the reason I hadn't done the fishing stuff already; it belonged to somebody else, namely, Bonerella. I removed the fish and the original plastic windows, printed out the store sign on transparency film and cut the film to fit the openings.
However, the lettering covered up too much of the contents in the confined space, so I just used plain film and opted to make a freestanding sign to sit on the shelf. Since Scully wouldn't fit in either of the boxes, he decided to point out the shop to any interested passerby.
This was a fun project, and I hope you enjoyed your visit to Bonerella's Custom Millinery as much as I did.