Self-Proclaimed “Creepster” Rachel Dreimiller Has a Gift for Spooky Embroidery

Artist Rachel Dreimiller is inspired by the works of memento mori, popular in the Victorian era.

Rachel Dreimiller’s online moniker is “Spooky Ghoul” and she describes herself as a “Gothic Granny” and “creepster.” Her embroidery art is heavy on skulls and bony hands, a juxtaposition that turns a typically homey medium modern and edgy.

The artist herself is equally contradictory; along with a love of zombies and Poe, she’s borderline obsessed with 90’s romantic comedies. Dreimiller’s fascination with all things dark and creepy is lifelong … but she views it as a daily reminder to enjoy life and follow happiness. Learn more about why she turned to embroidery and what motivates her to create skeletons and memento mori out of thread.

skull and flowers, embroidery, hoop art animal skull, and human skull embroidery
Artist Rachel Dreimiller is inspired by the works of memento mori, popular in the Victorian era.

How did you get into creating embroidered art?

I have been drawing and doodling for most of my life. I had given up on art in general for a few years, because I was not getting any real sense of accomplishment from anything I was making. I started looking for other creative outlets and stumbled on crocheting and embroidering as something new a few years ago. I’ve always gone back to drawing and thought of embroidery as another means to illustrate. I often try to teach myself too many things at once, so I ran with it once I picked it up. It took me a few years of experimenting to fall into the style that I try to stay within now.

Is spooky embroidery your full-time gig?

While that seems to be a dream not so far out of reach, no. I’m lucky enough to have a part-time job where I spend 30 hours of my week, which gives me a good amount of spare time to work on my spooky stuff and spend time with my dog. My boss is very supportive and actually follows my work online.

cat skull embroidery closeup of cat skull embroidery, hoop art
Need a cat skull banner? Dreimiller has got you covered.

Your Etsy shop is called “Your Gothic Granny” and your Ello handle is “spookyghoul” … and lots of your subject matter is a little dark. Have you always been into creepy things?

Yes, I have always been some sort of creepster and have enjoyed the spooky life it brings. Growing up I wanted to be a mortician, and loved looking through old anatomy illustrations. I enjoy looking through Memento Mori works and draw most of my inspiration from all the different styles. The spooky aesthetic is great, and one I really enjoy. And I do like to be reminded of my own mortality, I think it makes it easier to enjoy this life. Remembering that this is it, this is the one life I’ve got, makes it easier for me to devote time to what makes me happy, and to be thankful for that happiness.

Most of your work is textile-based. Are there any other mediums or techniques you’d like to experiment with in the future?

I love drawing and painting and have always doodled in my spare time. I would love to try quilting and printmaking soon, and making my own stamps for the wrappings of my work. Like I said before, I love learning new things and can often start too many new projects at once, so for now I am trying to focus on embroidery before I move on to anything else. We’ll see how long that lasts.

human arm and hand skeleton, embroidery, hoop art skeleton hand, butterflies and purple flowers (embroidery) on black cloth
Dreimiller is also a talented painter and illustrator.

Are there any specific influences along the way that have helped shape your creativity?

Growing up I loved watching “Buffy” and “The X-Files.” My babysitter would let me watch 90’s horror flicks like “The Blair Witch Project” and “Scream,” and as I got older I would ride my bike to Blockbuster where I somehow was allowed to rent R-rated movies. I discovered, at a fairly young age, George Romero and his zombie movies, and extreme horror films like the French film “High Tension.” The illustrations from a book titled “Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark” really stuck with me, and reading Edgar Allen Poe in high school while listening to mainly punk/metal music also had a huge impact on me. I guess it was a combination of all these things that brought me to lead a spooky life.

bottles with skeleton specimens, This embroidered shelf was inspired by John Kenn.closeup of skeletons in bottle, hoop art
This embroidered shelf was inspired by John Kenn.

Is there any advice you would give others interested in starting a handmade business?

As I am still learning this all for myself; I would say it is important to not feel discouraged. I feel like I am very lucky to have a part-time job. I did not dive into this, I took my time creating ideas and used my spare time to really start buckling down and make things. I feel like if I pushed myself early on to make this my primary income, I would have burnt out. Having this as a part-time gig allows me to take breaks and walk away if I am not feeling particularly inspired on any given day. I can take a day or two off from making to spend with my dog outside wandering the trails near our house, or go on bike rides in the woods without having projects and deadlines looming. I have seen friends get so excited about the prospect of a dream coming true, that when it does not work out, they have to abandon it altogether because they could not swing it financially. I think weighing your individual options first is important; some people aren’t able to drop out of their job and afford an artist’s lifestyle. I think I’m very lucky and privileged to have my current situation.

What is your favorite weird/guilty pleasure when you’re not creating?

I love romantic comedies. Specifically from the early 1990’s to the 2000’s, like “A Knight’s Tale,” “Clueless,” “Out Cold” and “10 Things I Hate About You.” Basically, anything that could have Eve 6 on the soundtrack. A lot of people don’t believe me when I tell them I can recite entire scenes from “Mean Girls.” I usually put these movies on in the background while I’m sitting on the couch with my dog stitching up skulls and flowers, and my husband hates me quoting every other line.

embroidered emblems on army jacket flowers and snake embroidery
When 90’s rom coms meet Edgar Allen Poe, Your Gothic Granny happens.

What are your thoughts on social media, and how it helps or hurts artists today?

I think social media has great potential to help artists. Unfortunately all the well-known platforms have started using ads and suggesting posts which can totally hurt artists with a smaller following. There’s still an opportunity there, but you have to work a lot harder for it.

I think Ello has a great opportunity to challenge Instagram, and I hope it does. While other social networking platforms are trying to push ads, or what they think you want to see, Ello seems to really want to have a community of creators and creative people helping each other grow and be better. The founders have even reached out to me, reposting my artwork and commenting about how much they dig my stuff. It’s that sort of thing that can really boost you when you’re feeling down, or feeling like what you’re making isn’t cool enough, or that nothing you make is any good. To have these people (who see art constantly throughout their day) support you feels really great, and gives you a push to keep on creating.

What is something definitely NOT creepy about you?

While I love creeping it real, I married my husband last year, and we and our dog live in a house we recently bought in northern New Jersey. I love gardening, cooking and drinking tea. And did I mention my mild obsession with romantic comedies?

Follow the artist on Ello, Instagram and Etsy.

Images © Rachel Dreimiller
Alexi Ueltzen

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Alexi Ueltzen is Ello’s Community Evangelist. If she’s not at the office, she’s probably swimming, getting muddy with her dogs, or baking cookies. The best cookies. Seriously. Follow the author @ Twitter , Instagram, and view more articles.