Saturday, June 16, 2018

Inspirations and Oddities - Second Friday Post - June 15th

Continuing my "better late than never" month. . . .

Just a quick post with a few inspirations to share this week.

First, even with all the social media out there I am amazed that we can still find things we have never seen before. . . I stumbled upon this site/work while researching some polymer clay options.

Forest Rogers Sculpture


I figure, another ten years at this and I may be able to create work like that. . . I've spent a lot fo time this past year working on the design and technical aspects of more elaborate figurative pieces and though most of those first attempts will never see the light of day, each teaches me something new.

National Geographic recently had an issue devoted to the art and culture of Ancient Egypt. It's funny,  there were not more than one or two images that I hadn't seen before and yet it still pulls me like it did when I was 8 and first encountered it.  Such wonders. . .

In May, one of my favorite podcasts, "Unexplained" by a delightful Brit, Richard MacLean Smith, took up the story of the discovery of King Tut's tomb and the accompanying curse

The Discovery of Tutankhamen's Tomb - Unexplained Podcast

So may historical podcasts have become rather mind-numbing "I'm just going to read the Wikipedia entry to you" type monologues that just aren't very interesting at all. I appreciate when a podcast can take a subject or story I've heard or read about and still manage to make it fascinating.

This podcast does that with MANY of it's subjects. But this episode was among his best.

Have a wonderful week everyone!


Friday, June 8, 2018

New Work - "First" Friday Post - June 8th

Hey everyone!

Soooooo, yeah. First Friday. . . somehow I did not realize that last Friday was June first until halfway through this week when I noticed that this Friday was the 8th.   So while last week should have been first Friday, there are still four Fridays in the month and I've decided to just pretend they are the only four Fridays instead. :)

It's new work time then! This month I am going to focus on just two pieces, both very special creations that I was so honored to be asked to create. . .

These are partly why I missed the date last week I suspect. In and amongst the usual orders and requests, I have been working overtime to try and get some truly new pieces going here the last few months for the summer and holiday seasons ahead. Days bleed one into the next and it's a very lovely creative oblivion. :)

Thank you all for dropping by and may the magic and enchantment of the realms of Faerie and beyond, be found within everything that you see!


So, first up, Madame Emi's Fortune Teller's Wagon.

The very best compliment I can receive is when the recipient of a scene like this says, "I want to live there!" That's because I create them with just that idea in mind — what would I want to see in a setting like this that makes ME want to live there as well!

This was built to HO scale, I really loved creating this elaborate scene. From the tiny resin birdbath, the strung globe lantern on the wagon itself, the shelves of special cure-alls and potions, the goats and goose and the tiny crystal ball on the table in front of Madame Emi. . . it's all about making it a magical scene. This was so much fun to bring to life.

Welcome to Madame Emi's. . .

Madame Emi offers all sorts of potions and remedies, expertly crafted, of course, for whatever ails you. 

Madame Emi's crystal ball will reveal all!

If you are in the woods and stumble across Madame Emi's wonderful wagon, don't pass her by. . . 

And second was an N scale farm scene. The base is roughly the same as the Fortune Teller's Wagon above but being a scale half as large, it allowed for even more detail!

This all just fell into place. The truck and house were the focal points. The truck is a model but I did build it and paint it. 

Scenes like this need motion I think. So the figures (.5" in / 1.25cm tall!) and the animals really help.

Little detailed additions like grass between the dirt road's tire lanes, the pine cone tree flocking and the single apple tree. 

Horses in the pasture beyond, the garden being tended/harvested and the little lawn chairs and rail fences add mini-magic. 

Thank you for taking the time to peruse my blog! Drop me a line or comment to let me know how you found me or share your thoughts.


Friday, May 25, 2018

The Bewildering Pine - The Needle in the Haystack - 4th Friday Post - May 25th

When I began working on "The Ledgerkeepers" novel, I knew that I would want to fair spend bit of time with the world building. There was so much to figure out and create before I got the actual writing of the novel going.

Geography, flora and fauna, language(s) transportation, quality of life, currency/trade, clothing, economy, death, myths and legends, climate, superstitions, history, education and on and on.

I spent quite a bit of time working through and fleshing out all of this even though less than 5% of it will end up in the world as actual written detail, I DO think it's important to have the fantasy world built out in your head before you dive in and start writing in it. While characters, plot and action will be the core of the writing,  it helps to know what the world around them is all about so you can experience it as the characters would.

In recent months, when I went ahead and began the actual storylines for the characters, I found myself swimming in that sea of details because I am an admittedly terrible organizer. Time and again  I found myself spending far too long looking for those things I had already worked out months before. It was often like looking for a needle in a haystack. Many times I had a good idea where the right section of notes was. Others, it was a shot in the dark.

Very frustrating.

The writing program I use, Scrivener, has several wonderful ways to organize notes and details just like these. My problem was that I had written most of the pages of world building notes before I started working with Scrivener, so I needed to go ahead and transfer them all over from Mac Notes.

Well, I recently got all of those notes printed AND transferred and, out of curiosity, I decided to put all of the notes in one project folder so I could check the word count on all of that world building.

It crossed over400,000 words. Given that a novel will be in the 100,000 word range, that floored me.

I've basically written FOUR books worth of NOTES about the Bewildering Pine world in the last 18 months!  It now occurs to me that the world is the haystack and the book that I am trying to pull from it, is the needle.

But I am SO glad I did all of the world building. When I am writing a scene and I know the style of clothing a Lutin elf wears or the type of hat a Hob sports, if I want to write about the types of street food or the fillings for a tart or drop the names of  a few of the wagering games played in the secret basements of pubs, I smile.

 Those are the details that I can just write without having to create them in the moment.

Next month we will begin the dive into the world itself. I hope to focus on the map for the next few fourth Fridays.  I love maps and I think I could sit and create them all day long. . .  I've spent hours on the one for the Bewildering Pine and it is nowhere near complete.

So come back then for the next installment!

Hoping YOUR world magical and bright! Thank you for dropping by. . .

Nicolas XO

Friday, May 18, 2018

"She's Cold Blooded" - Wicked Little Town #1 - Third Friday Post - May 18th

Well, here we go, my new third Friday topic, Wicked Little Town is an inside peek at some of the little things I've noticed about living in a very small town of 800 ppl. All names are changed, of course, and some of the stories may be just a bit of a stretch. . . but then again, maybe not. :)  There's nothing Wicked about the town to us but it's definitely one of those places that the kids can't wait to get away from when they are out of school. :)

I hope you will enjoy these small tales!

"She's Cold Blooded"

We'd lived here barely 6 months when we decided to take our car to a mechanic as it seemed to be having trouble with stalling out at stops and red lights.

Our car is a 1987 Plymouth Horizon hatchback. I am pretty sure I told the story before or at least mentioned but we got Babs (named after the only former owner) from a friend of mine who I knew in Portland. It was his mother's car and it had been sitting in the parking garage of her apartment building for a year and a half. I was told it would not start but had an inkling it just needed a new battery after that long.

Babs (the car) was a true, "little old lady who only drove her to church" story, and had just 16,000 miles on her when we bought her for $300 dollars (blue book value) We put another $500 in on tires, battery and a complete tune-up before we moved.  The stalling had been an issue even then but we noticed it less because we drove so much less in the city.

So we asked around and got a recommendation for a mechanic to take her to. Directions in a small town are often given like this: "Go south on the highway and just before town take a left at the bank
(THE bank) then pull around behind the carwash and you'll see it. . .I don't think there's a sign or anything but the garage door will be open."

Perfect directions by the way. No google maps, no GPS. No highway exits. I love that.

So we pulled up, parked and went on in.

I kind of had an idea what to expect. See, I lived in a slightly larger small town about 12 years before and had the best mechanic ever there. He worked out of his own home and he actually helped me go after an auto repair shop in town who had done some faulty work which resulted in more repairs needing done at one point which is how I found the home mechanic. I was grateful and never went anywhere else again. Plus, one of the usual visitors to this guys house was another local who was quite certain the CIA and FBI were watching his every move. The mechanic would always look at me like he wanted to apologize but I shook my head, I did not mind at all. It was . . . entertaining to say the least.

Now, back to the new small town.

OK, imagine every small town mechanic/garage stereotype your mind can conjure. . . they're all probably at least partly right in this case.

This is a "garage" I was informed, not an auto repair shop. The couple ( I think they were a couple) were both in their 60's and as I looked around, I saw quite a lot you just wouldn't find in most auto repair places today. Benches full of misc tools scattered here and there. Tables with plenty of parts either being stripped or rebuilt. . . hard to know which. Oh, you can get a rebuilt this and that thru an auto-parts dealer but here, in the garage, the guy rebuilds things himself. On site. Goes out to the junk yard and finds what he needs or to the auto parts store and does it right there.

"Cheaper for you that way" he told me.

Look around the dimly lit garage with hanging old fashioned bare light bulbs. Racy calendar on the wall, spare parts in boxes on the shelf that look as old as Babs,  half eaten sandwich on a brown bag on the counter. od fashioned soda bottle on the counter (I meant to ask where that came from!)

Old rags, oil cans that look like they belong to the Tin Man, old fashioned air machine. The list goes on and on.  Ok, getting the picture? Add the smell of gasoline, oil, rubber, grease. . . yep, that's the garage.

We left Babs for a check up and mentioned the stalling problem.
"Sure thing, got it!" we were told.

Three days later we were called to come and pick her up.

When we went in the guy was a whole lot more friendly the second time around, I think because he kind of took a liking to Babs and saw that for an old car, she was kept in really good shape. He liked the story of how we got her. .. everyone in our small town does.

Anyway, that stalling issue? When we went back in the office to pay (cash only!) we were told there wasn't really anything more they could do. "That old girl's just cold blooded." the smoky-voiced lady told us, "You just have to let her warm up longer than today's cars."  adding in "She's a reaaaaal beauty though."

Forty one dollars for the check up and some belts. . . cool.

Small towns. . . Good people.

We went out and got in Babs and drove away and, true to form, she stalled at the first light we came to. Five years later, she would still be doing that regularly if not for my mother reminding me of her old Chevy that she had to ride double footed (a foot on the brake and one on the gas at the same time ) so she could  race/rev the engine slightly at stops. Works like a charm.

So yes, We still have Babs today. Now she has double that original mileage but she's still a great car. Dependable despite her little eccentricities that would probably drive most new car owners today crazy. She's vintage now, after all.  31 years old. And she carried us here, away from the city to this little town.

I've had old cars like Babs most of my adult life. One of the unexpected joys about an older car is  that, on any given day, I'll pull into a gas station, or the farm store, or the grocery store, or the library lot and someone stops you and says something like,  "Man, I drove a car just like that one from Seattle to San Diego when I was 19. . . I loved that car."

You can hear it in their voice. They mean it.

We love ours too.

That's Babs!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Inspirations and Oddities - Second Friday Post - May 11th

First a Happy Mother's Day to all of you who will be celebrating Sunday!

Well, some months I feel like I barely come across one thing that really sparks my imagination and others, like this past month seemed chock full of more than I can handle but I am going to keep it to just a few. . .  in case next month is a dry one. :)

Little House remembered:

This month's media recommendation has got to be one of the strangest ideas I have come across but it is A-MA-ZING!

It's a podcast called. . . Little House on the Podcast

If you remember the show Little house on the Prairie as fondly I do from childhood, this is a must. If like me you have not watched an episode in a decade or more and you think you can't recall a single episode with much detail,  this podcast is going to change that.

The podcaster takes every episode and gives a comical 15 minute recap from her perspective. It's HILARIOUS.

She's witty, sassy and picks out all of those bad 70's tv tropes that we missed as kids but are hilarious to recall now. She looks at it from the perspective of a mom today and from her childhood as well.

Fair warning! She has favorites among the characters and a few she has never liked and she does not hold back. Like me, she loved Laura, not so much Mary, and wonders why Carrie was even around. :)

Best of all, I don't feel the need to rewatch the episodes again myself because in that 15 minutes, she really hits the best of every episode.

Hmm, I'm not doing a very good job of selling it here but trust me, if you loved Little House, you'll love the podcast. She is currently in the middle of season three but that means there are two-plus, full 22 episode seasons to listen to!

The amazing thing is this. Yes, she makes fun of the show, the characters and the silliness of some stereotypes of tv (like how many characters who are "residents" of Walnut Grove, are in one episode and then never heard from again!)  then BUT she clearly has a reverence for the show too and if you were a fan, this podcast will make you laugh AND cry! I promise.

Inspiration is for, or taken from, the birds

I've been working on creating creatures for my fantasy world but sometimes I come across an animal or bird from our world that inspires something else in the fantasy world. In this case, I give you the Secretary birds from Africa. I think those awesome head feathers will make for a wonderful and regal addition to the formal clothing of an elven orders highest office.

A Secretary Bird with it's fancy feathers!


Remember enamel pins? In my teens they were most prevalent as the little guitar and comic character pins that kids wore on their jackets. They had the metal pin back and the bright enamel colors on the fronts. If I remember right they were like 3 dollars each at most record shops.

Well, When I joined Kickstarter a year ago, I began to notice an uptick in the number of enamel art-pin projects popping up. And now, a year later? It's off the Hook Ya'll!

Here is the latest one that I sponsored, no surprise it's designs are based on the Egyptian Pantheon.

We purchased Thoth and Hathor, they are the two on the far right!
But all of these these, and the other dozen the creator added since,  are beautifully done!  

There are pins for anime, chibi, mythological beings and original designs and characters of all and any imaginings. Right now I think there are at least two dozen or more enamel pin projects going on Kickstarter.

I love when something old comes back around and gets a twist. They seem to be a wonderful way for new illustrators to get their work out there and on Kickstarter, I'd say 80% of them get funded more than fully.

Well, that's it for this week!

I hope one or more of these made you smile!

See you again in a week!


Friday, May 4, 2018

New Work - First Friday Post - May 4th

Happy May everyone!

The month is off to a wonderful start here with perfect Spring weather, (which most say is still to cool but perfect for me!) and lots of Spring love as the birds find their mates and start next building. Our feeders and container garden are full of Red Finches, Juncos, Swallows, Starlings and both regular and Golden Crown Sparrows.

Also, the annual reshuffling of the crows has taken place. I go from having a flock of 30 or so all autumn and winter, a murder of juveniles I believe, as I know that crows go through this social phase and it always starts in the late summer after they all hatch and fledge.

From late summer on, the whole group visits me each morning and they know my whistle and will come whenever I am around town and have a treat for them! I've been "followed" from the bakery or the Post Office several times, starting with one or two who put out the call when I whistle and, by the time I get back home (just a few blocks away from either) it may grow to a dozen or more!  Crows have the ability to recognize faces and I have seen them, on many occasions, sitting on theories in town and they turn their heads and look down at me as I walk by. If it's one of "my" crows, they'll follow. I usually carry a pocket full of dry treats for them during this time.

They also know how to call me.  I will sit at out front windows in the mornings writing and, if  am distracted and don't notice the rising light, they fly from the back of the building around to the front, taking up a place on the wires and they'll let me know, in no uncertain terms, what time it is. ;)

Come March they all suddenly disperse and for a few weeks I get a break. I may not see a single crow in the mornings then. Some of that seems to revolve around daylight savings time and the change in the light. . .but I assume that this is also the pairing/nesting phase and they are busying other things. :)

 I always leave food out for them but never see more than one or two at a time. Then, suddenly, they start to return. First one pair. Then another, and then, this morning, twelve crows waiting at the break of day! Soon though it will be just the males who will stockpile food in their mouths and try to carry as much back to their nests as they can manage. I've watched countless times as a crow tries to fit one more salmon cat kibble or piece of egg in it's mouth only to lose the whole mouthful.

But my favorite part will come in late summer.  Once the young are hatched and fledged, the adults  bring them by to teach them about the morning"routine". Though by this time it is hard to tell a young crow from their parent in size, the easiest way is to watch them land on wires where the young crows haven't quite got the hang of it all yet and bob back and forth trying to learn their balance in the wind or rain. I never get tired of that! And if I'm lucky,  I'll get a few days where the adults are still feeding them. The group lands and the young stand their with their mouths open waiting to be fed. This is at the very end of the raising stage so it only lasts for a day or so until the parents decide to make them fend for themselves.

I love these avian hallmarks of the seasons.  Each year we wait with that strange anticipation, as if in fear that any or all of them might not return. . . but they always do. :)

So on to some new work for the season as well!

A Classic "castle" tower scene. 

Potted Fairy House

One of the new creations I've been working on: Stone Troll!!

Windmill with Tulips and delicate sails! 

Egyptian Otter statue very similar to one in the Met Museum.

Thoth as a baboon and Khonsu as a kite/hawk. Both lunar deities.

Gardener's house featuring large polymer flowers. 

I hope you enjoyed the peak at the latest work and I look forward to sharing more as time goes on.

I'll be changing up my routine a bit. I am close to launching a separate blog/site for my Makings of a Maker posts. I feel like I would like to write in greater detail about the processes of making a living from art/craft from start to finish but without it being tied to me here or at Etsy.

I know that probably does not make much sense but I want it to be separate from my shops, which I will mention where necessary but I think it would be more helpful to allow people to find their own way to what works for them without the influence of my own or any perception that I have something to sell. Those weekly posts seem to get the most views/reads, near double to my others, so that has been encouraging.

It may be month or two away but, when it comes, I will swap out that weekly post with one abut living in a small town (pop 800) which I also hope will inspire some. I was reading an article recently about the number of 20 somethings who cite having feelings of despair and anxiety over their futures and while I know 20 somethings aren't about to move to small towns in droves, I want to speak to the way that it was simply the knowing that I always HAD choices was, I believe, a big part of why I never felt that despair. The awareness that I was making choices and that I was creating my world, not the other way around. .  . Anyway, more on that to come.

Thank you, as always, for dropping by!


Friday, April 20, 2018

Brush With Fame - The Makings of a Maker - Third Friday Post - April 20th

Summer 2003?  I was driving around Portland when I got the call.  On of the wonderful people who worked at my coffeehouse there called and I answered, thinking they probably needed me to pick something up while I was out.

"Nicolas, you won't believe who is here in the coffeehouse right now!" a very excited voice said in an, I'm-trying-to-whisper-but-I-am-too-excited-to really-whisper, voice.

"Umm,  don't know" I said, "who?"

"HEDWIG!", came the reply.


You may recall back in the late 1990's there was an off broadway show called, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which then became a feature film and which then continued to run, off Broadway and on, with various performers in the lead roll over the years, from Neal Patrick Harris to Ally Sheedy.


There was also a local theater production of it in our city at this time and I assumed, as anyone likely would, that the "Hedwig" the not-so-whispery voice referred to was the guy playing the role in that production, whom I already knew.

I said as much.

"NO Nicolas!" the voice barely able to contain the excitement now, "THE Hedwig!"

The Hedwig. . . John Cameron Mitchell

Now, truth be told, at that time I had only recently seen the movie because of a good friend's unrelenting persistence.  When it first came out, I do recall hearing about it and seeing the box at the video store (remember those?) but I was in a very bad place in life then and I think my initial reaction to the synopsis on the box was something along the lines of "Oh great, another bad rock opera."

It was easily forgotten.

Then a year later, my friend brought it over to the house, the first place I lived in Portland, where I was trying to figure out, well, everything.

I'm not sure a movie, in any single place and time, could be more perfect than that one was at that moment for me. The story, the silliness, and ohhhh the music. . . Maybe the most original of movie soundtracks, with songs in styles that were all over the place though almost all are sung by a very understated, but emotive lead, Mr. Mitchell.

To this day, "Origin of Love", "Wicked Little Town" and "Midnight Radio" are still among my favorite songs. I  just listened to them all as I sat down to write this and got the same time warp, sentimental feeling I always do. They define a time and place.

A turning point..

The movie/show is, above all else, about finding peace and comfort with who you are, after all the choices you've made and all the roads you've travelled. The things that happen to us, especially the ill-fated but also the dreams that did not work out as we might have wished. Circumstances too. Where we are, how we are raised, what falls where and how. . . out lot in life, so to speak.

So, it turned out it WAS John Cameron Mitchell sitting in the coffee shop. He had made an apartment swap with a friend who lived right up the road from the coffeehouse. We had the pleasure of his patronage for a few weeks that summer.

I won't go into the whole course of that time, but several of us got to know him over the weeks that he spent there with us (he was finishing his next screenplay at the time) and we also kept his identity as safe as we could so he could work.

How this relates to my Makings of a Maker series is this:

One night during his stay a bunch of us went out for a drink and I had to excuse myself early since I was scheduled to open the coffeehouse at 6 am. As I was saying my goodbyes, John tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I could give him a lift home. I was, of course, more than happy to.

Now, I had avoided, as much as I could, talking about Hedwig or anything relating to it but in that time, I had one burning question that I really wanted to ask him

See, when we come across something creative that has affected so many people, it's natural, I think, to believe the people who created it, whatever the skill set required, are somehow that much more gifted or talented than we are. That they knew, straight away, that they were going to make something that would affect people on that scale or, at least, had set out to.

So when we pulled up to the curb that night and we sat and chatted about random things for another 20 minutes, I decided to ask.

"When you were making Hedwig, did you know as it was coming together that it was going be such a great success? "

He thought about it for a little bit, then said:

"No, not really, when you're in the middle of making anything, you're just in it, sometimes at the exclusion of everything around you, you tune out all the outside influences and distractions and just sink into the work that's in front of you. There's no time or even the desire to think about what comes after because until you finish it, there's no after. And you're not even sure there will ever be an after because maybe it will never be done or ever see the light of day. You do it because you believe in it."


His response, though it should have been obvious, was a key component to helping me find my way, creatively, by showing me how to NOT get in my way before I even begin. I was always thinking I had to do BIG things. Create some masterpiece that would say something important or change the world.

Now, some 15 years later,  it all seems so strange to think back to those times.

I won't say that conversation changed my life immediately because I had heard various similar decrees several times before. But not from someone I truly admired creatively. and not in person, and not when everything in my own world was spinning out of control. Not when giving up on ever finding out who I was or where I fit into this world creatively, was right at a crucial point.

Of course, it took time. Years in reality. But those words stayed with me.

I kept at it.

Through the progression of poetry, music, music production, digital photography and finally into the mediums that I now call home.

And it's funny because deep down inside I ALWAYS knew that the "impact" our work has is not measured in awards or ticket sales, or name recognition by any stretch.

It's measured in the hearts it touches, the minds it eases and the like-souls that it resonates with.

I couldn't ask for more within my creative world. It's just the absolute best, right now, right this moment. And I'm still not looking ahead. Not thinking about what happens when my work is "done" because, I know now, my work will never be done.

THAT is how I know I am on the right path.

I'm a maker of things. There is no end to that path. . .

Here's a link to The Origin of Love an absolutely flawless mix of ideas and imagery taken straight from Platos' Symposium and a wonderful arrangement and performance.  (and remember, it IS a rock opera!)

"It was the sad story how we became lonely, two legged creatures, the story of the Origin of Love."

And finally,  Wicked Little Town  because, haven't we ALL, at some time in our lives, been there?

"The fates are vicious and their cruel. You learn too late you've used two wishes like a fool."

Thank you, as always, for dropping by!

Nicolas XO