When you think of Las Vegas and weird in the same sentence, you probably think of what the tourists see down on Fremont and on the strip. People clad in basically nothing (even though some of them really should cover up), pedaling for your money or some shock factor. You probably don’t think of, or even know about, the underground scene of kids and adults alike who just don’t really fit the mold of any major scene in town. They’re not quite punk, or metal, or goth, and even though they may hold their clothes together with safety pins, they’re definitely wearing more than the people you’re thinking of.
Erin Emre is one of those mold breakers. You’ve probably seen Erin with her table of jewelry and statuary, many of it being made of bones or teeth or other weird things you’d expect to see in a freaky old antique store, at the Dive Bar. This pierced and tatted chick who most might find a bit intimidating, but is actually kind of shy and always greets everyone with a smile. Or you know her from Facebook because you just love Bean (her piggy).
I met Erin at Dive a few years ago during a gig, and fell in love with a bird skull necklace and a molar ring that she had, but my boyfriend got me a gorgeous purple resin piece instead as a surprise (I think he was afraid of touching the skull and teeth…). We didn’t really get to know each other until recently, when we began discussing her newest venture, The Dark Arts Market, which is a place for all of the locals who don’t quite fit in to get together and share not just a good time, but expose others to this world people may not know exist.
We got to sit down with Erin at Public Works, a coffee/tea shop in Henderson, and talk about not just the market, but her personal journey and her art.
ZR: So, you have been doing stuff at the Dive Bar now forever, or it seems like forever. How long have you been there?
Emre: Maybe 6 or 7 years...
ZR: How did you get started working at Dive and around town with your art?
Emre: I started working at a taxidermy shop, and I realized that they waste everything. So, instead of apprenticing to be a taxidermist I ended up digging in their dumpsters everyday for all of the dead bodies since they were just wasting stuff! With that, I’d just make stuff, and they were like, “You’re not really learning anything so you should probably go…” so that ended quickly. I didn’t know there was too many vendor opportunities for me. I did one, and then a lot of people liked my stuff. Someone who worked for Cash4Chaos was like, “You should go to Dive Bar.” So, I talked to Angie & Nate over at Dive Bar and they were just awesome. They never ask anything of me and I can set up whenever, and we are family now. I love them. They’re just rad people.
ZR: And now you have The Dark Arts Market, which is kind of your baby as well. So, how did that all come about?Emre: The thing with what I sell is that it is a niche market. You’re either cool or terrible. So, when I do the vendor things, I’ve been told not to come a lot because my shit’s too weird for people or it “doesn’t fit the theme”. Most recently I was told I was too weird for one here in Henderson. So, I figured, let’s do one for all of us weird kids so we can all hang out and show the snobs what’s up. So, I put the word out and ALL of these kids were like “I make this”, “I do this”, “I staple shit to myself”, and I’m like, “Where the fuck have you guys been!?” It was a fuck you to everyone else, and now there are so many people who do cool things and they don’t vend, have an Etsy shop, no one has heard of them, and I just want to show them to everyone.
ZR: So, you’re kind of like the Mom who’s like “LOOK AT MY KID!”
Emre: Yeah! I’m the Captain Walker in Mad Max, haha!
ZR: What got you started on your art?
Emre: The taxidermy shop. I always fiddle faddled growing up. I always picked up dead stuff, and then thought, “Well, I can just be a taxidermist! This is awesome!” And I slowly realized that their mentality is very different. They’re all about killing in a mass quantity for no reason. The art of taxidermy is really awesome, and it takes a lot because they actually use clay to mold muscles and veins and things you wouldn't normally respect. As far as being a taxidermist, I just couldn’t. They just killed these beautiful things and made weird excuses, and they don’t eat the meat or anything. They literally just take the hyde off and everything else goes in the trash. Ever since that show Oddities came out, everything that you’d throw away, the new generation really loves. Hearts, bones, small taxidermy - they love it! So, all of it can be re-purposed. Although, you never re-purpose guts because that is where all of the germs are in everyone, so that’s all that goes to waste, but everything else can be used. So, that’s where it started.
ZR: And all of your stuff is cruelty free, right?
Emre: Yeah! There are pet shops that give me stuff. I go out hiking a lot and find dead stuff. I pick up roadkill. That’s how I started, was picking up roadkill. Now I know some people back East where all the cool roadkill is, and they actually freeze it and toss it in a box and send it to me. My mailman is just that cool where he’s all, “Here’s another bloody box, Erin.” and I’m like, “Thanks man! I’ll put cookies in the mailbox next week!” Haha. Like, the other day I got a goat in the mail because there’s a gravedigger I know in Pennsylvania, and he is a taxidermist as well and knows what do and he said, “I’m not going to use this, do you want it?” and I’m like, “YES! I always want!” So, he sent me an entire goat skeleton, minus the head because he was using it, but I don’t mind! I can totally put the skeleton back together, I can use it to make things, or I can put another head on it and call it some weird name.
ZR: Speaking of reconstruction of skeletons; you’ve done work for those who have lost pets I’ve seen.
Emre: That is my favorite.
Emre: It’s a lot of pressure because your pet is your baby. Pet is kind of a terrible word because to me, that’s your child. So, when you see it in a different form, like a skeleton or mummified or taxidermied, I think people want to see the life back in their eyes. When it’s not there, there is a fear that they may not like it. I’ve done okay so far because I have that talk with people and let them know it’s not going to look like your child anymore, but I will do my best to represent your baby. That’s why I love it, because they are so important to us.
ZR: I saw recently you just finished a month or two ago I think a greyhound?
Emre: The smaller version. The whippet. That was awesome. She shipped him from California to me, and I processed the bones myself and bleached them, and I just drilled little holes and followed them with wire.
ZR: How long does that take?
Emre: I took my time with it, so about 3-4 weeks just putting it together. Macerating it can take weeks, and then bleaching and degreasing can take a week or so as well, so it’s a long process.
ZR: But it’s worth it!
ZR: So, when you do things with Dive and Dark Arts Market, I know you have your jewelry pieces, which are amazing (I own one myself!) and you have pieces like Audrey here and skulls and such… Do you have people who come to you and commission work right then and there?
Emre: Sometimes, yeah. I’ll have people come up and say they need this, this, and this, or they’ll just message me. One lady wanted a squirrel with devil horns and wings, and I’m like “Okay. I can do this! Let’s do this!”
ZR: What’s the weirdest piece you’ve done for somebody?
Emre: Some people ask for really weird things. One guy wanted the stomach of his dog, and I was like, “We can’t keep that… No guts.”
ZR: That’s… really bizarre.
Emre: Haha, yeah, but then again weird stuff is never really weird to me. That one though was just impractical because of all the germs being in the gut. So, I was like, no…
ZR: What’s been your favorite piece to do so far, whether it is something out of your own skull or someone else’s?
Emre: I really like the Audreys because I like remembering things we loved when we were kids. I do a lot of pieces that in my mind come out of the film The Dark Crystal. All of those kinds of films inspired me to make stuff. I love Mad Max to no end. I love the head dresses in that film. Even in the new Black Panther film, wearing jaw bones on the face; all of that is amazing. It’s inspiring!
ZR: When did you do your very first piece?
Emre: Oh man… A long time ago. I think it was just, the tip of an antler that I drilled a hole in and put it on a necklace. So, maybe 10-12 years ago? Some people liked it, but I got better over the years from experimenting. I didn’t have any professional training or anything other than the taxidermy shop. Everything was trial by error. Even still, some things are crap, and some things are awesome.
ZR: For those who have never seen your work or may not understand it, especially with the Dark Arts Market coming up, what do you want the “normal” crowd to get from it?
Emre: I wanted to show people I could do this without being a part of a big corporate event. When you come, you see these young kids, and the talent is fucking bananas. Like, Sweet Shop of Horrors does a whole bath line. She’s got like 7,000 followers on Instagram and had never done an event. She has an Etsy page but that’s it. So, I think that’s what the Dark Arts Market has become. I want to give these people a platform. They’d be rejected from other places because they don’t fit, and I want this to be the place where they fit.
ZR: Have you thought of taking it out of the city? I know it’s very new, but do you think it will eventually grow to that?
Emre: I’ve heard people say I should make this bigger. I have a hard time thinking on a big corporate scheme. People say that’s where I’ll make more money, but I don’t make shit at these events. It’s all about them. I don’t take anything.
So, when people say to make it bigger, when I do these events I want it to feel like friends at dinner. I want us to hang and hung and have a good time. If it gets bigger or festival-ish, I guess it would be kind of cool, but for right now it feels really good. A lot of people say it is too crowded, but it’s intimate and I like the intimacy of it.
ZR: This is still pretty new too, like the 3rd or 4th one right?
Emre: This is the 3rd one.
ZR: So, what made you do this. When it came to the first one, what sparked it?
Emre: It had been in my brain forever, and I tossed it at Danielle O’Hara, and I said, “Hey. This is my idea. I have no idea how to do this, but we should do this because everyone tells me no, and fuck them!” and she was like “Yeah! Let’s do this!” I think it was like 2 or 3 weeks time, and we put the event together. Cornish Pasty was awesome and said to just come and hang out. They don’t charge us, and we brought all these people, and I fucking loved it. I was just like, “I didn’t know there were this many weirdos in town!”
ZR: Well, it is Vegas! But the art is amazing!
Emre: Thank you! We get a lot of flack from people calling us Satan worshipers and stuff because of it being called The Dark Arts Market. I’m always called a baby killer or Satan worshiper or something… But we can’t call it an Oddities Flea Market, because there is already an awesome one. So, that’s what I came up with, but it has nothing to do with any religion. It’s just me and a bunch of my weird friends, and we get together and do weird shit and sell weird shit.
ZR: And it has grown so much! I will need to come on the 13th to check it out.
Emre: For sure! The performers really make it too, I think. It would just be a market if it weren’t for them, and these kids, again, so much talent out of them! They are fearless and humble. It’s bananas. They are willing to work just for tips to get their names out there, which is awesome.
ZR: Is it all sideshow type stuff?
Emre: Yeah! A lot of sideshow stuff. Some of them work out on Fremont Street. Some of them just do little local freak show events. It’s just so awesome how they act. There is no pretension, they’re humble, and they just want to get their names out there. In 10 years when they’re famous they’ll be all like, “Erin who?” Haha. So, I appreciate them.
ZR: And you work a lot with the underground folks as opposed to the well known names, right?
Emre: That’s what we’re about. Some people have gotten shitty with me because they’re in The Arts Factory or have galleries, and when they want to be a part of the event I try not to be a snob, but I want this to be for kids who have never been seen before. If you have a gallery, you’ve made it man! I still sell my shit out of a watermelon box. You’re good. Let these kids be seen. I want to be a platform for them. It hurts other people’s feelings, but…
ZR: Even First Friday started as one thing, and now… I mean… Look at it.
Emre: Yeah. I can’t hang at First Friday. They want 100 bucks for a slab of concrete, and maybe I’ll make the money back, but as a vendor it’s always in the back of your mind that you pay a fee you may not make back. So, that’s another thing I try to do is keep the fee super low and keep it low. So, that’s why it is awesome that Cornish is letting us do this for free. So, we can just charge 15 or 20 bucks and then I can make sure my performers are paid from that.
ZR: So, you don’t make anything off of this?
Emre: It’s not about me anymore. I just kind of let it be a big fuck you to corporate, and I want these kids to succeed. They deserve it.
And that’s that, folks. You can find Erin and all of the other vendors and performers at Cornish Pasty Co. on Friday, July 13th. Come down and say hello, buy some art, expose yourself to something new. Hell, commission some pieces! This is an event you do not want to miss.
Big thank you to Erin not only for doing this, but for taking the time to sit with us and discuss everything! To see more of her art or even purchase some, check out the links below:
To follow all of the updates on The Dark Arts Market visit: https://www.facebook.com/darkartsoddities/
Also, check out these links for other vendors and performers you can find on July 13th at the Dark Arts Market:
High Desert Tea Co.: https://www.highdeserttea.com/
Sweet Shop of Horrors: http://www.sweetshopofhorrors.com
Blaspheme Boutique: https://www.facebook.com/blasphemeboutique/
Kitchen Mystic Goods: https://www.facebook.com/KITCHENMYSTICGOODS/
Carrion Creations: https://www.facebook.com/CarrionCreations/
Sin City Stone Works & Oddities: https://www.facebook.com/sincitystoneworksandoddities/
Chloe’s Fairy Cottage: https://www.facebook.com/ChloesFairyCottage/
Vyla’s Vials: https://www.facebook.com/vylasvials/
...AND SO MANY MORE! We’ll see you on July 13th at Cornish Pasty Co.!
PHOTO CREDIT: All photos of the Audrey by Stephy Hayward for ZRockR Magazine - ©ZRockR Entertainment, LLC - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED : All other photos ©Erin Emre/Just Us Freaks - Used with Permission