Friday, May 5, 2017

We Need Secrets

I read the following a few weeks ago and it has stuck with me ever since.

"I’ve written in other venues about the “thrill of the hunt.” And by that, I mean the hunt for that one back issue of a comic series you loved, that old album by the band you loved, or that out of print book by that author you loved. These “hunts” were a big part of my youth, and the very concept is gone now. Everything is easily found on the Internet with a few keystrokes.

But there’s more to the phenomenon than just the hunt for material goods. Just a few decades ago, it was hard to be an expert on something—even something frivolous. If you wanted to deep dive into something, it took time, determination, and sometimes a bit of creativity. When my friends and I could quote Ghostbusters verbatim back in the day, it was because we went to see the movie over and over again in the theater. If someone knew about a rare, alternate track by Elvis Costello, it was because they immersed themselves in Elvis Costello fandom over the course of years. When my friend could recite the names of all the First Age elves mentioned in The Silmarillion, it was because he pored over the book and made the list himself. 

Now, all of those things could be accomplished with a quick Internet search.

This isn’t “back in my day” complaining. I love the fact that all this information is readily available at our fingertips. We’re better off now, despite the loss of what I’m talking about. But I think there’s still something in human nature that wants to discover. To hunt. To learn some secret not easily found—or, perhaps more importantly—not found by someone else. For some of us, we don’t want to read about someone else’s discoveries; we want to make them on our own.”

- Monte Cook - MCG game design blog

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I could not agree more with Mr. Cook and what I also identify with in those thoughts above is the core of what makes creativity such a compelling pursuit for me. Everything I do, I realize, is about the slow discovery. The unfolding of time, abilities and the way we grow incrementally closer to what we create the more we put ourselves into it.  The secrets within.

For me, hand crafting in the internet age is an absolute salvation. I have been blessed by a lot of wonderful twists and turns along this road to making a creative life and the internet and technology are crucial in the avenue of selling, marketing, even offering inspiration. Yet one of the most refreshing discoveries was that folks, for the most part, still love a handmade item over something easily reproduced. 

I am befuddled by the number of people who set out to try something, creative or otherwise and, if it is not an instant success or at the very least, if it does not quickly show signs of being so, they move on. Now, I've done my share of "moving on" in my own life but we are talking about moving on after investing years in something before making that ultimate decision. Really taking them as far as I thought I could go, sometimes further. And all those things I left behind still play a role in my new discoveries at times today. The same way that a 16th century map informed the 17th century cartographer and on down the line. 

When I look at the sculpting and making-of-things that I have invested myself in over the last 8 years now, and I see those first pieces that sold, that people actually gave me money for, I am truly amazed.

I never questioned if I would get "here" one day. I knew that from experience and from the fact I grew up in an era when you HAD to put the time in. For anything. Nothing was available with such immediacy. And for that I am extremely grateful. 

It just takes time.

When I sit down each morning to work on my book, I know very well how far I still have to go. I'm new to that creative form of expression and I have to learn things on the fly, stop often to seek out a reference or sidestep the story to explore a character, setting, idea, grammar usage or ancient myth. It takes time, yes, but it has to be done.

In a day when folks are abandoning the well written blog left and right, the hard form of writing, for the ease of instant I-phone photo glam, for the lifestyle account and the Instagram fix, I feel grateful to have been brought up in another time. At the very least, one that bridges both worlds.  

I am so grateful for the fact that the one thing the internet will never change is that, to be good at something physical, something creative, be it sculpting, writing, RPG game design, painting, illustration, dance, cosplay, architecture, acting, landscape design, and on and on, you are going to have to be willing to sit down and put in the time. All the instruction, how-to tutorials and step by step instructions won't give you the skill without the hours of application. And they won't give you an original voice/style/expression either.

In the work of almost all of my blog friends here I have been given the gift of seeing YOU uncover those secrets in your own work over years. I've watched them grow and reveal themselves in time. There is so much beauty in that and it sustains me and inspires me as well. 

Those who are just starting or still dreaming of a creative life.  .  . you are going to have to take that deep dive, start at square one and do the work, try to refine that technique or reinvent it until you think you can't possibly do it again, then go ahead and do it again anyway. 

You'll pore over the hints, tips, instructions whether they came from a 100 yr old book or from a website. But trust me, it WILL be worth every moment you put in down the road.  By all means, embrace technology as a tool, just not as the means to the end. It will never be creative in and of itself. People made it so. People opened that door and refined it for you too. Now go further.

And if you, like me, want secretes to be revealed? 
Stick with the art. 
Stick with the practice.
It will make you so glad that you did one day.
I promise you.

And along the way
You will make those important discoveries
You will improve and know yourself better
And you're going to learn those secrets.
The most important of which will be the ones locked within yourself. 
The ones that nobody else can access for you. 

And those, no matter what the internet and our digital age provides for you as far as information at your fingertips, THOSE secrets will be the ones you will cherish the most.

XO
nicolas

New mini woodland Muridae Market mouse. Chettes is the first but more to come soon!

One continuos build/sculpt, layering colored clay, onyx eyes, a culmination of 8 yrs of secrets revealed and discovered.
Worth every moment spent. :)

Monday, May 1, 2017

New Work - May 1st

Happy May Day!!

It's been a month.

I went from having the the flu at the end of March to Sofie being sick with a nasty cold and then I got that cold as well!

Three-plus weeks of at least one of us feeling under the weather.  When we were finally all better we found ourselves far behind.

And the weather itself. OK, I am a HUGE fan of inclement weather. Rain, snow, wind etc but it has been raining just about very day since I got back from my trip. Yesterday was the first sunny day we had in weeks and it was glorious! I mean, it's May! I definitely get a reverse SADS effect when it is sunny every day for stretches and I wasn't exactly feeling blue in the rain, it's just taking walks, errands etc etc become sooo unbearable after a while and you find yourself waiting for a break in the weather or  just for it to be raining not as hard. :)

I've enjoyed many aspects of the last month despite the illness. Things like reading more and having time to peruse things I never seem to find the time to look into.

Yesterday an article on a Han Dynasty tomb that was recently unearthed while a subway was being constructed in China caught my eye. Inside the tomb, that of a mildde aged woman, they found four 1/6th scale weaving looms complete with all the accompanying tools for weaving in miniature as well. Even cinnabar-dyed thread strung on the loom for weaving. Add to that the number of carved figures, male and female, each with a name engraved upon them and also to scale.

Amazing.

That sent me to Pinterest and down the rabbit hole which led quickly into all sorts of my usual searched for dolls, ancient fabrics, sculpting tips, fantasy art etc etc.

I realized it had been months since I have allowed myself that sort of down time to just seek out inspiring things. New things. Undiscovered things.

Sometimes I try to keep myself from diving into the new because my "to-do" list of ideas is so long, so unending that I will never get to them all as it stands right now. But I've come to accept that that's ok.  The whole list may not get done. I can add things to it as the new ideas reshape and reform the older ones.

Mostly, I need that new inspiration. It keeps the creative fire going inside and I am never more in tune with my own creative self than when I feel like I have multiple, unexplored ideas orbiting my head like moons!  It pushes me to go beyond what I already do. Try new avenues and explore the possibilities.

It's funny too how easy it is to forget that. Like I have to deprive myself to get the full hit again when I rediscover the truth in it. lol

What inspires you? What pattern does inspiration take in your world? Are you an active seeker or does it hit you randomly?

Well, the month is over and I am excited about the one to come. I'll be back with more posts and catching up on comments soon but here is just a small peek at a few of my latest April creations. :)

Here's to hoping you've been inspired of late and that the month ahead will be filled with it for you as well!

Happy Beltane!

nicolas

New Adobe Fairy House

Wepwawet, similar to Anubis but the not as well known member of the Jackal Cult of ancient Egypt. 

I've ventured into more original pieces in the Shadow of the Sphinx shoppe such as this winged Auset Throne Altar Piece.

Tiny Village on a Resin Garden Bench. 

Slight variation on the Jizos in the shoppe with a Swarovski pearl in the flower center. 

Another Mushroom Fairy House. I really never tire of making these. ;) 

Custom Nephthys statue from April's requests. 

Custom Seshat also completed in April for a lovely customer. 

I rarely "paint" statues anymore, preferring the aging patinas instead but this idea intrigued me.
Indigo and Silver patina sponge finish on a Seker statue. 

Request for 8 of our little groundhogs for a birthday cake! How could we refuse? :) 


PS: Next post: Secrets and what  I miss most of the of the days before the internet.


Saturday, April 1, 2017

New Work - April 1st

March was simply a lion. Hear it roar!!!

Back from my trip March 6th and I never let myself recover fully. About 10 days ago I caught the first flu that I have had in 7 or 8 years. In fact, in that span of time, I had not even been sick, not a day.

I suppose I was feeling invincible. Not so much anymore.

It's humbling. I used to power thru illnesses and just work my tail off anyway. This one though, Ugh.

In my youth I delved into a lot of alternative beliefs and one of them was the application of seeing an illness as a cleansing of body, mind and spirit. While I may have simply exhausted myself, in the physical and mental areas recently, I have no doubt that cleansing was needed all the way down to that spirit level.

I hope to recover completely and re-immerse myself fully in the imagination and paracosm of this world Sofie and I have built. One thing traveling does is make it perfectly clear how successful we have been at doing so. Our world simply does not "fit" in with many others. As soon as we get outside of it we realize how much of the world seems to be in a constant state of being on edge. Rushing around. Frantic and distracted. We've simplified our lives so much that it seems rather abrasive to go outside of it at all. And, of course, we rarely need to. That's part of the magic of it all for me.

So I will be indulging fully in the world I adore so much every possible moment this month. Hopefully that means lots of new work, lots of writing and perhaps the first few steps forward for those projects surfacing soon for everyone to see.

In the meantime, here are some of the new pieces from the last few weeks that I managed to get done before and after the flu ran me down! :)

Wishing you a Lamb like April in so many ways. . . Enjoy the images that follow and blessings to you all!

xo
nicolas

Altar Mini's are popular too it seems! :) Who doesn't covet miniatures? 

Happy to have figured out the Hexagon roof for this round house!

Multiples always make things even more adorable I think. :) 

I get away from the potted houses now and then until I make one, then I think, Why do I do anything else? :) 

Shadow of the Sphinx has been steadily getting busier for a year now. More custom pieces such as this Thoth.

Or the Tefnut (no it's not Sekhmet!) on the left which I made to match/accompany the Shu on the right as a request. 

Scale is always a little confusing to some. So I decided to separate out the N scale (smaller) houses and give them their own "world" known as "The Smidgekins", an island group in a far off sea. More on that in the coming weeks.

The Tower is a Smidgekins building too. That little villager is just UNDER 1/2" (1.25cm) tall!

And a Catgoyle, always a fun creation to bring forth! Love the fishing line whiskers and the regal pose! :0 


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Musings from a Timeless Journey #2

Another little tale from my recent cross-country train trip home.


Well—this sort of thing doesn't happen every day. . .

When I was a child, my mother and I would go every Saturday to a newsstand in a neighborhood close to ours. Some of you may not know or remember the phenomenon that was a true newsstand. That's where you went for local and national newspapers, all your magazines, tobacco, the candy counter, little toys and games and, my only cares as it related to that time period, weekly comics and Topps baseball/football/hockey trading cards.

So, every week we would get in the car and go and I would comb the comic racks for the newest Richie Rich or Archie comics. Then at the counter, whatever sports season it was, I got a couple of packs of the trading cards. In later years I branched out into a few superhero comics and the assorted horror comics too.

Those Saturday morning runs, followed by the endless hours reading and flipping cards with friends over the weekend, they remain such bright spots in my memories.

The second day I was home on my recent trip, my mother said "You know that newsstand we used to go to? It's still there."

Wait, what? A newsstand still running in this day and age?

And she told me it was still owned by the same man who we'd see there each week almost 40 years ago.

"OK, sooooo why are we still sitting here talking?"

Within minutes we were on our way.

Now, the entire area looks so different. So much so that I hardly remembered it at all. We drove down the street slowly and exchanged comments like:
"Oh that's where the old deli used to be"
"Remember the little theater that was there?"
"I think that used to be Rupp's Hockey store."
"Remember the old lady with the librarian glasses and too much perfume that hugged you every time I took you in that clothing store?"

Oh do I. . .I smelled like that gardenia perfume all day Saturday back then.

The old store facades are gone, re-plastered to make them more "modern" — but that must have been in the 90's because they look rather dated now. lol

We found a place to park out front and walked in.

(Enter the sound of the Dr Who tardis here)

Inside, it is the same place. I immediately recognized the man behind the counter and he, in turn, recognized my mother and then, me as well. I was distracted. Something was pulling at me, asking to be noticed but, before I could focus on what it might be, the man spoke

"You were this tall last time I saw you!" he said, holding his hand halfway up his chest.

We laughed and I said we'd come to revel a bit in those old days. Did he have any comics? Or baseball cards?

"Sure sure" right where they always were. Do you remember?"

Of course I did.

I found my way thru the mass of toys hanging from the ceiling and past the assorted t-shirts and racks of cards and books. There! Just as he said. I walked up to the comic racks and I immediately knew what it was that was pulling at me. just a few minutes earlier.

Everything in the store. Save for the daily local paper and the Times, was old — sorry, vintage.

The comics were from the same era of my childhood. Not some of them. ALL of them. Maybe a few Buffy's from the 90's or Transformers form the early oughts. I felt a little dizzy. Could this be? I took my time and went thru them thoroughly, selected a few and then I walked back up to the counter where the Topps sports cards had always been. There were packs of cards, Baseball, football and hockey, just as always, but they too were vintage! Unopened and intact. 25 to 30 year old pink bubblegum slabs still inside them. I quickly dated them by the notices on the pack like, Win a Trip to see your team at Spring Training 1987. Complete details inside.

Whoa! What?

Everything was the same. The shoppe is a jumble of toys, games, little gifts, sports memorabilia and the assorted magazines comics and miscellaneous. My mother said even the regular magazines were from years past.

Now, I am assuming the candy and snacks were not so old but. . . .

I grabbed a handful of comics and cards and went to the counter.  I think I was still trying to process it.

 "I can't believe you have these." I said, pushing the stack of cards across the counter.

"Takes you back huh?"

"I'll say. I am so glad we came up here today."

"Me too. Always good to see folks from the old neighborhood. Not many of us left these days"

We spoke of the changes and laughed about small details lost to time. He told us that he'd just signed another one year lease so he'll be there if I go home again next year.

We drove home and I opened some of the cards and saved some for my old childhood friend who still lives near my mother. That night I leafed thru the comics and tried to imagine what the odds were that any store would have such items after so many years.

I also wondered if anyone else appreciated the absolute magic of that shoppe. The portal it presents to another time and place. I half expected to walk out the door and be back in the 80's!

I couldn't have dreamed up a more fitting experience to have on this trip. Much of the time spent home is invested in nostalgia and requires memories and imagination. THIS was like an immersive experience and one I am sure that I will carry for some time to come.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Musings from a Timeless Journey #1

Hi All!!!

I am back from my cross country trip to visit Mom and my childhood home.

I'll be doing my best to get caught up with you all and your lovely blogs as soon as I get caught up here with shipping and get back on track.

Instead on inundating you with a long post about my trip, I think I will share the experiences in brief, short-short story versions in the coming weeks. It will be a writing exercise for me. Trying to tell the story is one or two pages, no more than 500 words per story.

Little vignettes of past and present all tangled into one.

I hope you'll enjoy them!

nicolas

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"The Farmhouse"

Driving towards the comic book store which thrives in the now nearly-vacant mall, I'll be passing the old farmhouse I so fondly remember from the year I was enrolled in a scholars program. Only two students from each middle school were chosen to attend the year long program and I was lucky enough to be one of them from our small, neighborhood school.

The program consisted of only three classes, every Wednesday, with each class almost two hours long.

Creative English
Science
Ancient Art History

This is one of my favorite memories of those difficult “tween years”.

My classmate Paul and I were first to be picked up on the bus each Wednesday before dawn. The next stop to pick up a student was a full 15 minutes later along a stretch of the old river road where several smaller houses sat framing this grand, three story farmhouse.

During the winter months we’d arrive at the farmhouse still cloaked in winter darkness and the radiant glow that emanated from the first floor windows of the farmhouse cast a palpable warmth across the snow covered yard. A warmth that always managed to touch me as I sat on the bus staring at that beautiful old house. I still love and covet farm houses like that to this day,

Julie, the girl who we were picking up there, I’d come to learn was wicked smart though we barely talked beyond the weekly “Good morning” as she got on the bus. Since the scholar classes were divided into three groups of fifteen students each, and Julie was not in my group, we only really saw each other on the bus and at lunch.

The year of “Good Mornings” passed, and I went on to high school and life beyond but the impact of those classes and the creative support I received from the teachers, remains with me to this day.

And, of course, the farmhouse.

I knew as I drove out towards the mall last week that I’d be passing by it along that same river road.

It’s still there but the years have taken their toll. Most of the houses that were once situated nearby are completely gone and the farmhouse itself has fallen into a state of general disrepair, like many things do across decades of time.

I drove by slowly, conflicting feelings turned inside, saddened at the state of the farmhouse but also glad that it was still there at all because so few things from those formative years are.

I thought of Julie, Paul, and all the other kids who’s names are now as lost to time as the houses that once stood around that farmhouse.

I wondered if the classes, and the opportunities that they afforded, are remembered as fondly by any of the others. And I wondered what happened to the farmhouse thru all these years.

And though it’s not the pre-dawn chill of a long-past winter day, I allowed the words to come anyway.

“Good morning”

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Small Magic - In the Details

My dear blog friend Andrea, at Falling Ladies, has begun a monthly collection of stories and experiences of what she has termed as "Small Magic". You can find this month's post by Andrea by clicking HERE

And the original "Finding Small Magic" Post on her Falling Ladies blog is HERE:

I hope you will take a moment and check them out, add your own (even just a link to a picture or a sentence or two is PLENTY! It need not be as wordy as I tend to be. :)

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Hi all!

I am just a day from leaving on my cross country train excursion to visit mom, and "home", though I sometimes struggle to call it such. I struggle because I have not lived there in over 20 years. Not in the state and not in the house I mostly grew up in.

And I can write this because I know that my mother understands what I am about to tell you.

Home is not just found in the place or the time spent. It is in the details.

The house remains the same, mostly. The rooms, the lot size etc. But all of the details. . . the small magic. . . is mostly gone. The small magic that I now know, made it "home" for all those formative years. Made it a place that, no matter what life in the outside world brought, I could retreat and get lost in the small magic that abounded there.

Small magic that was found in:

The bird feeder my grandmother stocked daily for her assorted feathered friends.
The hand-laid cobblestone road, now paved over with black, ugly asphalt.
The old recliners my grandparents sat in.
The little decorations and extra touches they had added all through the house over the years
The trees: Peach, apricot, plum, blue spruces lining the driveway. . . all gone.
The flowers I planted and tended to for my grandmother or, as my grandfather and I called her, "The Boss", year in and year out.
The stone birdbath which was a joy to watch all year long, even when it froze in winter and we'd poke a hole in it to allow the birds to find water!
The old toolbox in the "junk room", which was my great grandfather's, and had been hand-built.
The gravel lot (the neighbor's property actually) where epic stickball, nerf football and street hockey games were played and where a lot of skin got left behind over the years.
The old TV shows, the old tv (with rabbit ears when you had to actually GET UP to change a channel!!)
The flagstones out the back door that moles found their way beneath and dug their maze of tunnels each year.
The tree house
The ivy covered hillsides along the driveway.
Worn patches of grass in the uneven back yard from wiffle ball
The old red wooden sled in the garage
The old stereo
The simple feeling of timelessness and possibility and love that you can't define, but know it when you feel it.
All the smells of my grandparents cooking, old family recipes, 7 day candles burning, chocolate making and canning all summer and fall.

Maybe most of all, the possibilities of endless days of discovery. All those little trinkets and treausres tucked away over the years in the basement, in the sewing room, in the garage or that junk room, in the piles of boxes, that I would unearth in my childhood adventures and marvel at.

All of it gone. . .

Now, I do still find a lot of little things here and there. And I have, I know,  a keen imagination that allows me to suspend time even in the absence of such things and transport myself back there again and again. But, in truth, it is easier with physical distance. I actively seek the spirits of the past out when I am there. I open myself to that little boy and invite him in and, he DOES show up here and there. But it is often fleeting. My mother, you see, is very much a "here and now" type person, and understandably in her 80's, there is much to worry about I suppose. But I have never been a worrier to any great degree. Life drops what it will in our laps and reality is, as I have learned and proven time and again, very much a creation of choice, circumstance and attitude.And worrying never seemed to be successful at staving those incidents off or prepared one for them to any great degree.

Don't misunderstand. . . I adore seeing my mother and the fact that my coming there, cooking for her and connecting again makes her whole year is enough, truly, to say that it is worth going back. . . but it just is not the same for me. I'm just being honest.

So I will take those moments as I can find them over the next two weeks and try to fill them with whatever magic remains there. I'll try to find the small details, even if they are only in imagination and memory now. . .and I try to create new ones too or rediscover old ones that even I may have forgotten. . . and those are treasures, to be sure.

Since it is February, I am hoping for a real honest to goodness snowfall.
Maybe a few moments of that magical "time travel."
A little childhood inspiration. . . and most of all, just a touch of the innocence from that time.

Mostly though, I suppose I will be counting the hours til I can return to the reality we have created here. Where magic is the rule and not the exception 7 days a week. Where the outside world rarely encroaches or is allowed in. Where my heart soars with every new turn of the page, even the messy ones. . . and where that little boy finds small magic in every thing he creates, day in and day out. :)

See you all in a few weeks.

nicolas

PS, since I will not be able to post a new work post on the first, below is something I just completed for a custom request. A statue of Ereshkigal, a Sumerian deity that I had never made before. With all the details left to me, I pulled from several of her ancient incarnations including her association with having inspired Hecate (thus the owls) and her role in the underworld.

This work I do, I realize, is a perfect blend of adult/little boy. I "play" often and in turn, am fortunate enough to be able to navigate the adult world of expenses/bills from the work I do as well.

It's a far cry from legos and play dough eh? But the root inspiration, interest and exploration are very much the same as they were all those years ago.









Wednesday, February 1, 2017

New Work - February 1st

Hi everyone!

It's been an incredibly hectic January!

 Jizos by the dozens, the busiest January by far over the last 7 years! YAY! Writing for the Ledgerkeepers book, the podcast and Bewilder and Pine "atlas" all going SO well. Sadly,  my old faithful Mac mini died but luckily the hard drive was able to be saved and I did not have to go to a Genius Bar (ugh) at a Mac store to have it done as there was a place her in our little town with a few geniuses of their own! (Thanks Evan!) Got the new Mac mini a few days later via overnight delivery and am back at it again.

To all my lovely blog friends, I miss coming by your blogs and I promise I will be by this week to catch up. I

I am also less than three weeks out from my cross country Amtrak train excursion to visit mom and looking forward to three days of intensive writing and editing each way bookending the 8 days in the middle spent at the family home with all the old fat spirits, childhood ghosts and voices of the past. Always seems to be an inspiring trip for me. . . and always aware that it may be the last.

More on all of that in the weeks to follow but for now, just my selection of new work from January. It's heavy on the Shadow of the Sphinx side as I was inundated with custom requests there all month long. :)

Thank you for dropping by and I am hoping that magic is inundating YOUR world each day!
It had been awhile since I made Wadjet/Cobras and I really enjoyed this one!

Never tire of making towers. . . or imagining who dwells within. :)

I always forget about Groundhog Day till people start ordering these little guys! We refreshed the photos this year and. . . 

. . . added an image of the little, landscaped box "burrow" we make for each one to ship in! :) 

Wenut, the Hare or "The Swift One" is always fun to make!
Hadn't made a mini Moai Statue (4" tall)  in a long time too! January was really filled with all sorts of requests.

Mossy Lane Fairy House in Lilac.

This was my favorite request of the month. Hathor in cow form and another cobra to match!