Decoupageur, decorator, and all-round aesthete John Derian spends most of his days curating the vintage illustrations in his collection—and something told us he might have spotted some eldritch sights in his time.
Photo by Stephen Johnson
We figured there was no one better to ask for some Halloween inspiration—especially if you’re after thrills and chills, but no slasher cliches. We sat him down to talk about how he’s celebrated Halloween.
What’s your go-to Halloween getup?
I love those opaque plastic masks of regular people. Men, women, the bride of Frankenstein, Richard Nixon, you know. When people put them on, they’re just naturally so creepy and uncanny. The masks and the wearers.
“Skeleton with Drink” by John Derian for Paperless Post, images from John Derian.
Which of your products do you put out at Halloween?
I make a lot of Halloween-related things in my own line: decoupage plates and paperweights with skeletons, Jack o’ lanterns, a little light occultism. I also carry a line from Germany of beautiful papier-mâché Halloween staples: witches, devils, black cats and the like. These include some very artful candy buckets and candy boxes.
You’re a collector. What’s the spookiest thing you’ve ever bought?
I bought a 1,000-year old stone lion from an Italian antiques dealer. Maybe it’s a lion—it’s something feline. There’s something off about it. It’s beautiful and scary.
Do you believe in ghosts?
Well, we apparently have one that lives in my Dry Goods Shop’s lower level. Some people see her. I don’t. Her name’s Melissa. People say she’s nice and that she really likes the shop. Thanks for the vote of confidence, Melissa.
What is the most memorable Halloween party you’ve ever thrown or attended, and why?
Well, there was this one in Boston in the early ‘80s. There was dry ice fog everywhere, a painted backdrop of a witch’s castle complete with a cauldron, and lots of people in amazing costumes, some chained to the wall dancing. It was definitely immersive.