The Ditch Witch store
entrance to the first Ditch Witch store
After I made the show "The Science Club", and after being in the dark, creepy zone for so long, (I worked on the show for a solid year, after researching it for about 10 years), I felt like "I just want to make something fun and happy and nice. I want to make a show about walking my little dog Kevin along the ditch and picking up stuff." That show was "Ditch Witch". After the show was over, I was still walking Kevin, still picking stuff up, so I figured, "Maybe I should have a Witch Store...". I opened the "Ditch Witch" store on Halloween, 2010. I sell personal spells (pre-constructed and custom-made), devotional candles with labels from my paintings (hand-signed), amulets and talismans, spell boxes, magical incense from ancient recipes and my own incense blends, and other assorted weirdness of my own making.
first witch store work desk
When my friends ran Plan B (now The Center for Contemporary Arts-again), we did a show called "Post Apocalyptic Tools". As I thought about what my future job would be, I envisioned myself as a traveling witch going from town to town, making spells for what the community needed. The piece I made for the show was my Traveling Magical Toolset. It is the set of tools that I use when I do magical ceremonies. Early on in at the witch store, I was sitting taking notes for a custom spell, listening and kind of gazing around my space and I realized that I was IN THE HOME OFFICE OF THE TRAVELING WITCH!. It was a feeling akin to deja-vu, but not exactly that....I had manifested my earlier vision, a bit unconsciously. I imagine there is a word for that feeling. If you know what it is, let me know.
first witch store work desk
My magical incenses are made in small batches from herbs and plant resins and oils. Some of my blends have up to 30 different herbs and resins. Early on, I was using powdered incense from commercial Botanicas in some of the spells I made. When I ran out of those incenses, (which seemed to be sawdust with perfume and coloring added) I started researching herbalism more deeply: medicinal, magical, ancient, contemporary. I came upon several books that have profoundly influenced me. They are "The Lost Language of Plants" and "The Secret Teachings of Plants" by Stephen Harrod Buhner. The subtitle of "The Secret Teachings" is "The Intelligence of the Heart in the Direct Perception of Nature". In this book, he talks about the heart not just as an actual organ of perception, but of primary perception, of transmission and reception of information. The heart transmits and receives electro-magnetic information to and from every living organism it comes into proximity with. These perceptions are then relayed to and translated by the brain. By paying attention to this primary source of information, we as humans can access information that we have known in the past, information that has been suppressed, forgotten, banished. It is information of the wildness of the planet. It is information directly from plants and animals. For reals. For example, when ethnobotanists are in the South American rain forests and ask the indigenous people how they ascertained the complex admixtures of plants that can make the substance psychoactive when ingested, as opposed to smoked, or which plants to take to treat malaria, or what plants to use for birth control or fertility, or any number of subtle or discreet usages, they answer "The plants told us." Well, duh.
first witch store, incense burners, jewelry, boxes, etc.
Turns out, the Witch store was an odd node in the universe. Pretty much every day someone interesting would come in and many times, they would sit down in the chair. From there, anything would happen. Mostly, I gathered stories, sometimes making spells for them, sometimes making spells for me. Here's a good example: it was a nasty/windy spring afternoon and no one had been in all day. A young couple came in the door, into my space (I shared the storefront with a glass artist), and went straight over to my bookshelf. "Those are just my resource books, they're not for sale" I said. "That's ok, we're just looking. We have some of these same books" the girl said. She pointed to "Pharmako/Poeia" by Dale Pendell. I said "Oh, he's my favorite writer on "the poison path", but there's another herbalist who quotes him." The girl giggled a little. "His name is Stephen Harrod Buhner, he's an amazing herbalist and writer" She started laughing, pointed to her boyfriend and said "That's his dad!" Turns out they just moved in down the street. Ha! Spell for me! Yep, things like that happened in the Ditch Witch store....often.
first witch store incense cabinet and bookshelf
I've been growing Datura for a while now, maybe 30 years. I grow a few different varieties, some old world, some new. A friend sent me seeds from the Dalai Lama's compound in Dharamsala (Datura metel). When people ask me what one *does* with Datura, I tell them what my friend who introduced us said to me- "You live with them." A couple years ago, I had several Datura Wrightii growing in containers in my patio. Just after dusk I walked out the front door to take Kevin for a walk, and I had an experience that Stephen Buhner describes as "aisthesis". The word is from the Greek, and it means a literal "breathing in". As in: the gasp when one is confronted with an experience so profound, so moving, that one is dumbstruck-the brain stops talking and you just....feel. There were at least 20 Hawkmoths swarming around the Daturas. This moth sometimes gets mistaken for a hummingbird. It is as big as some hummingbirds, and it can fly almost as fast, and hover like a hummingbird. One particular species of hawkmoth, Manduca sexta, has a relationship with Datura that is defined as "mutualism", which is a biological system where both parties benefit from the relationship. Datura is the first plant that I ever heard speaking to me. It's got a very large personality, and I like to hold hands (leaves) with it sometimes. It is the plant that led me into the green world. Anyway, at that moment, I experienced the feeling of being *with* both the plants and the moths. Mutualism.
first witch store candles, incense, heart rocks
I felt like my work had shifted a lot after I opened the Ditch Witch Store. For quite a while my sculpture had been my narrative out in the world: things that I needed to say and ideas that I wanted people to consider. Now, it seemed that the Store was my narrative in the world. I got to talk to people about art and magic and how they intersect in my life. I got to talk to people who would never walk into a contemporary gallery. Better still, I got to hear other peoples stories. I learned to ask questions like "Is there something that I can help you with?" when someone came in and stood there, staring at all the candles. It could be intense. So, while the Store occupied that narrative part of my brain, other things slipped in through the back door. The work I made for "where have you been, come to your senses" appeared in my head fully-formed when I stepped into the white, new room of the gallery for the first time. It was funny, because I didn't want to talk about it or explain it at all. I wanted people coming into the gallery to have that same experience. The work, to me, was dreamy, soft and very much an interior landscape- something I hadn't really done in about 30 years. Kinda felt good to go back inside, for a while.
first witch store with Kevin marionette
These images are from the first Ditch Witch store. After two other iterations, I moved it to the Meow Wolf gift shop in Santa Fe after I bought my dream studio in 2012. You may have noticed that there isn't anything to buy on this Ditch Witch store page. That is because I really don't want to run an online business. So, if you happen to be in Santa Fe, go on by. If you really insist/persist, I might mail you something.
The two questions that I ask are:
What do you WANT a spell for? and
What do you NEED a spell for?