Some say October is the season of the witch; we say, it’s the season of Bill Crisafi. Of course, Bill might actually be a witch; or at least, his work seems like it — the multidisciplinary artist’s gothic, phantasmagorical style pulls from New England and Scandinavian folklore, occultism and magic. When we saw Bill’s work all over the Mono Vegan Jadons on the Hogan McLaughlin runway this season (a fashion designer who also happens to be Bill’s partner), we had to have some of our own. We asked Bill to make us an exclusive pair of customized Docs — so he took a white paint pen to a pair of Jadons. Keep scrolling for the result; it’s nothing short of spectacular.
My name is Bill Crisafi and I am a Chicago-based multimedia artist. My work is heavily influenced by the dark nostalgia of my home state of Massachusetts, which I communicate through illustration, photography, and sculpture, exploring themes of magic, folklore, occultism, all with a touch of humor.
My photographic work developed from my passion for costume construction and has allowed me to bring to life the world I create in pen and ink. Additionally, I sculpt jewelry from specimens collected in the forest for a line I co-own called Burial Ground.
How did you get started doing illustration?
I have been drawing for my entire life. Since childhood, I knew that I would be in a creative field and Illustration just came out of that. I didn’t feel totally confident with honing in on who I was as an artist until I was studying Fashion Design at The Fashion Institute of Technology. I had an amazing illustration professor there who urged me to push my work to a theatrical level and I am thankful for his guidance, zeroing in on my interests and allowing me to elevate my art.
I was in high school, though, when I got my first commission. My friend’s dad had me make pencil drawings of old New England homes from books he had. Looking back on that, it was a dream project, but I was not at all confident with my execution at the time.
Are there any particular themes or ideas that your work has been focused on lately?
I have been very interested in learning Tarot reading. I have plans to create my own deck but want to familiarize myself with the practice before doing so and am currently swarming with inspiration from it. I like to pick a card and inject my drawing with that energy.
Tell us about the inspiration behind the design you created for DIY DOCS.
These boots are inspired by the descent into autumn. Lately, I’ve been into drawing magic gardens and wanted to translate that onto the Docs. The approaching moon, to me, represents the season’s welcoming of darkness. Night and day become equals and the earth begins to die. Ghost Brugmansia and jack-o-lantern faced flowers are scattered about for my love of Halloween, but the special detail that I revisit from time to time is the skull with a blooming flower. My favorite folklore character is Baba Yaga, a Russian witch who’s sometimes depicted as existence itself- the skull with the growing flower came to me because of her. She is the bringer of life and the bringer of death, which is the same as the seasons’ cycles. The flower opens to reveal the skull which is when you know the earth is ready for a long rest. I had to include a witch in some form and this garden spider stirring her cauldron felt like the right addition.
Tell us about your first pair of Dr. Martens.
I can’t remember how many years ago it was but I found an amazing steel toe pair at a thrift store by the music venue I used to work at. They were similar to the 1914 smooths but were already perfectly broken in upon purchase. I wish I knew what happened to them. I want them back…
What do you do when you’re not working?
When I’m not working I like to practice my jump splits for karaoke performances.