Sunday, December 4, 2016

Small Magic - Nostalgia

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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If you've been following my blog or visiting my shoppes on Etsy over the years, you probably are aware that i am a huge fan, and a fierce protector, of the notion of nostalgia. While my childhood was far from perfect and we all tend to gloss over some of the not-so-great aspects of  our lives, I think many people have a tendency to drift, for one reason or another, back to the past. Especially as we get older. 

For some it's childhood, for others it's college or the early years of their own children's lives. But it seems that, in one way or another, we all tend to find those spaces in the past where we can safely dwell for whatever personal reasons. 

Now, when that nostalgia revolves around childhood. . . well, many adults seem to leave it completely behind or, at the very least, rarely speak about it in and among their adult lives. You may see signs of it in someone's doll collection or Teddy bear Hug. Or in the way they interact with their own children during playtime or in creative endeavors. 

I never let go of that past and I am thankful, every day, that I didn't lose sight of it. 

To be completely honest, most of my life I lived with a foot in two worlds. That of the adult world around me and that of the world of my imagination and childhood. The struggle to maintain both led to a lot of frustration and misunderstandings among friends and family who could not see that I just was not cut out for the "adult" world. I needed every spare hour for my imagination and it was a very solitary pursuit for the most part. I made bad decisions. I tried to reconcile the two worlds in so many ways but, in the end, I always felt that the magical/childhood part of me was suffocating in the adult world. 

Then, after an accumulative series of events, I decided that it was time for a leap of faith. I was going to have to open myself up to the possibilities and ask for guidance as I threw myself and my world completely into the pot. All or nothing. Sink or swim. Betting on childhood, imagination and nostalgia over the adult world I had come to loathe.  Now, don't get me wrong, please, there are people who thrive in the adult world and I am  ever so grateful for them because someone has to keep our world running. . . it just couldn't be me anymore. 

I could tell you a dozen stories of what now seem like moments and instances when "angels" appeared, all within months, to be my guiding lights along the way. I also met Sofie who, without fail, has been the only person I have known in my adult life who didn't ask me to balance the two worlds or question my draw to the past, even though hers was a different experience. Despite that, she reveled in my memories , stories and dreams and explored them WITH me. With complete acceptance. We made the break together. And we changed our entire lives from top to bottom to suit the new life we wanted to have. We didn't expect that the world would accommodate our dreams without being willing to change along with it.

Around that same time as I was in the midst of creating what would become the building blocks of the reclusive, creative world we dwell in now, and of the work you see here that I create, the ghosts of Christmas past came to call. I stumbled upon something that I have held to as being a source of inspiration and light ever since.

During a random internet search laced with nostalgic ideas I found that, not far from where I grew up, there was man in his late 60's who had created a website for the history of little Christmas Putz Houses. Those glittery, magical, cardboard houses many of us remember form under our family trees in childhood. The history of them is fascinating but what I was taken by was that this man, and his love for these houses, was a clear channel to and from his childhood. That he REVERED that time and those memories and that he had found a way to keep it close and invest himself within his passion for it so late in life. 

It was a deeply appreciated thread for me to reach out and hold to.  

And the first thing I read from that web site was this:

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"There is but a very brief window in early childhood for many of us, a period of time that lasts from birth until we are cast from the nest and into school. A time when all about the world is new and good. A time when we are open. A time when we take things in so deeply that they will form us ever after. So we imprint upon the Christmas of that time, and what that was is what it will be for us always. 

I think that is what collecting is all about, especially for those who collect for LOVE and not for sterile speculation. 

This is true of most of the toys and trappings of the holidays. 

Artifacts. 

Actual tangible contact with our own past.

It is true that we forget nothing. The power that an object unseen in decades can have to transport us in mind and spirit back to a specific period or moment of our lives - to unlock long-closed doors in the mansion of our memory - is the true value that it has. We can hold such an object in our hands and know those times were real and welcome back whole parts of who we were into who we are - and let the inner child in each of us out once again to play - to live as part of us and and help us see again through our own "Magic Window"  

You will find that those old objects will take you back in time, but NEVER listen to those sad fools who say that you are "living in the past." We are what we are because of our pasts. Would that we could live in the past at will or at least visit from time to time. But we can bring  those things forward, to live within us as we face the uncertainty of the present and the future. 

Those pasts informed everything that we know so never be ashamed of your nostalgia . . .it was, and is, your reverence for the life you had, the path that you have traveled. -T.H. "Papa Ted" Althof

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Sadly, as a second wake-up call, I soon discovered that Ted Althof was dying, having been diagnosed with cancer just as I was diving in to his website in 2009. I'd never really put ityself in mortality's shoes before that. I always had time. Lots of time I thought. Angels, and small magic, really do come in many, many complex forms. 

What I am left to say is this: I wouldn't dream of asking anyone to be anything other than what and who they are. BUT if  this holiday/yule/solstice season you find yourself feeling silly for daydreaming of the best of your memories as a child, or your best memories WITH a child, please embrace it fully instead. We can't actually go back, I know, but allow yourself that time, that place and those memories to come back in a quiet hour. Indulge them fully. I can't say they'll lead you to a life path like mine but they WILL fill you with a bit of small magic and wonder again. And you might just find that today does not have to be so far from that wonderful memory of yesterday.

Have a wonderful and magical season wherever you are and find that SMALL MAGIC always and in all ways!

And  a special thank you to all of you for coming along on MY nostalgic road-trip, offering your kind words, support and patronage as I built this world I thrive in now. 

nicolas


PS:
If you are interested in Christmas Putz houses and their history, there is an archive of the original Papa Ted's Place website, maintained by fans and friends of Mr Althof after he passed in 2012. They kept it just as it was with only a note stating his passing as an addition. It's a relic of a site. Not slick and "squarespaced". . . but that only adds to it's charm and beauty I think. Great old photos, collections, stories, memories. 

The site is here: Papa Ted's


Thursday, December 1, 2016

New Work and Updates - December 1st

Tis the Season, life gets crazy
Fa lalalala lala la la!
Weeks go by and days are hazy
Fa lalalala lala la la!

Hey folks!

OK so updates first:

To all of my blogger friends I regularly visit, I WILL be by again soon, I promise! November was a whirlwind. Busy as usual but also refusing to set aside my outside projects for 2017, I just found myself, most days, going full tilt from 6am til I dropped each day and still never able to check everything off the to do list.

I continue to write every day. allowing myself one day a week for research instead of word count. It's been a joy and I'd say that my goal for completion of my short stories in 2017 is a very realistic one.

The bonus has been that a good portion of the exploration of stories has lead to other avenues too. A quick for instance is that I dabbled with modern fairy tales, looking at old fairy legends and thinking how they could be transferred to the hear and now.

The result of that thinking and tinkering is that I want to also try to create a podcast next year as well. We've been enamored with a few fairy tale podcasts the last year or so, namely "Singing Bones" and "The Myths and Legends Podcast", and I am also a huge believer in the idea that everything we do in our life, or that we experience, can and does serve a purpose going forward. For me, that includes the 20 odd years spent as a musician,  composer, sound and recording engineer. I left much of that  behind when the Etsy shoppes and my little imaginary worlds took front and center in my life again. However, the idea that I could do the entire Podcast with little to no outside assistance at first is very enticing to me. I still have the necessary digital recording/editing equipment, the high end microphones and the ability to sound proof a closet for recording in a snap! :)

I am thinking that the recounting of old fairy tales and myths is being done well enough (see above podcasts) but that there is a space for a modern Fairy tale exploration, an "F-Files"? "Fairycast"? "The Little People We Know"? etc etc. So less narration as opposed to a more "research/exploration" that revolves around a central character discovering the possibility that these old legends carry thru to the world around us and are very much alive today. Asking what does a Bogle or Kobold look like today and how do they "blend in"? What are Wood fae and Will-o-the-Wisps? Who is Jenny Greenteeth? Or Jimmy Squarefoot? What about Urban Mermaids?

I'll let you know more as that gets going but it's a distant third right now behind the writing of the short story book, and the alignment of the shoppes to the stories I am creating. I'd want to have  6 episodes ready to go before I move forward and I plan to write them after completing the first draft of the short story book, so hopefully in February or March for the writng part.

Over Thanksgiving weekend we also experimented with doll making and the results have been very enticing too. But really, the to do list is quite long enough right now. lol

In December I will be posting a few policy and FAQ posts to redirect from my shoppe as well as.  Nothing exciting for my readers, I know, but a necessity for the year to come.

I also intend, beginning in March, to start posting small excerpts from the stories/book. Just snippets and little teasers here and there.

And most of this year in Bewilder and Pine will be spent on making the world of the Pine fit from book to shoppe. House styles, elven figures, towers and creatures etc etc.  So less exploration and more working towards having everything tie together between the two.

OK, I think that's it for the updates! And now, since it's been a very busy month, I have to choose what to show for New Work day! I hope you enjoy these and I look forward to getting back into the blog routine again as the month goes forward.

May the Yule or Holiday season be filled with love, wonder and magic in YOUR world each day and may the Year to come be the best and most amazing yet for you and yours. ;)

nicolas

Tiny Little Basket Elves! Under 2" tall!!

I love making these little Shadow Box scenes. . . the Fairy Girl is half an inch tall!

I was inspired to create a run of small, simple Houses for the holidays!

I've had some wonderful custom requests in Shadow of the Sphinx this month! 

This Sobek, at 7+ inches long, is the largest I have made.  He's off to Norway today!

Small Sekhmet, my stylized, full lioness version is finding it's place these days

These towers really started the whole book idea.
They're the inspiration for the Ledgerkeeper's towers with those crazy rooftops. 

I was suddenly reminded of a little shoppe I used to go into years ago with the same name. . . Toad Hall. . .
yes, it was magical too! 

Woodland Fairy Hermitage. . . the colors on this one really spoke to me. 


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

New Work - November 2nd

Well now, this post is a day late. How is it every year I forget how quickly the holidays ramp up in both sales and requests from our few retail sellers?? as I go merrily along just making things and dreaming up new ideas. . . time just slips away. :)

I feel overwhelmed already. . . not by the business but by the desire to make sooooo many things that I know would be sought after this season. But I have a larger picture in my head for the year to come, as you all know. So I keep at it. Staying the course. Writing 1000 words a day, editing, mapmaking, researching. . . just this past week I had to study up on seagoing transportation of livestock in ancient times,  the feasibility of two crescent moons in the sky at the same time,  bog butter,  ancient currency, cisterns and honeyguide birds. It's all a lot of fun really, but  just leaves time for little else right now. . .

But without any more delay, here are some new items created in the last month! Enjoy!!

xo

nicolas
Dinn - a smaller member of my Gargoyle world. I've decided that a grouping of gargoyles is called a "quarry". :) 

I am really loving this particular red these days. . . 
My first wizard in the "Little People" collection. . . though certainly not the last!

Hadn't made a Tiny Robot in months. . .  I just love how they turn out all "rusted" and such. :)

I am enjoying giving each town in my Bewildering Pine world a distinct architecture.  

I haven't made many cow goddesses like this Hathor. But I love when I do get a request! She makes me feel peaceful. 

A large, 9" (22.5cm) Nephthys, sister of Isis, Goddess of Ancient Egypt

In reworking the features of the Bewildering Pine world for the stories/book, I decided while houses and cottages vary by town, the shoppes all have a similar architecture no matter where they are located. Reason? That's yet to be revealed. . . 

Little Gingerbread houses on wintry stars . . .The house is just over 2.75" (7 cm) tall!

Well, that's what's new here. . . hoping Halloween was a delight in your corners of the world! I did manage to carve a jack-o-lantern and roast pumpkin seeds this year, the j-o-l was appropriately named "Punky". . .  and I am looking forward to making a turnip lantern for St Martin's day on the 11th! And holiday baking!! Recipes to share soon. :)



Thursday, October 27, 2016

Small Magic - It's NEVER Too Late

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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So this month I have just been so busy that there has been little time to create the Small Magic post I really wanted to  which I will save for November. 

One of the major influences in my writing and future ideas for figures and such in my Bewilder and Pine shop is a gentleman named Monte Cook. A role playing gamer for 40 years and the owner of Monte Cook Games, he recently set a Kickstarter record for fundraising for his latest RPG creation, "Invisible Sun". He is taking gaming to new creative levels with this project and I'll talk more about that, and it's influence on my own work, in the coming months.

His weekly newsletter from his website links to some other articles and projects that he finds interesting and I was quite happy to come across this article about a 26 year old man who hosted a Dungeons and Dragons game for his 70 year old grandparents, a couple of their friends and his 50-ish year old mother and another couple who is in their 60's.

All were playing for the first time. . .and they LOVED IT! :)

You can read the article, called "70 Year-Olds Play D&D for the First Time and Love It" by clicking HERE

The "Small Magic" of this, to me, is that it shows that it is never too late to try something new and to engage the imagination in new ways. My favorite part of the article is how the grandfather now texts his grandson between weekly games to discuss his character and it's backstory. lol That's AWESOME!

I never was a gamer. Still am not. (but maybe by the time i am 70?) Still, I appreciate the people I've known who do play it . . . as well as the worlds that are built around it and the creativity it inspires down the line.

For another interesting take on the role of gaming in adult life, if you are a podcast lover, you might try the episode of "Imaginary Worlds" ( a podcast I HIGHLY recommend) called "Rolling the Twenty Sided Dice" found HERE:

There are some very interesting takes on the influence of gaming on kids from that 80's generation who are adults today. 

The Imaginary Worlds podcast covers a range of subjects that are all surprising peeks into the worlds we create and why. 

Anyway, I hope you enjoy those and I'll be back as soon as time allows in this hectic holiday making schedule to share some more magic with you all. . .

No Dungeons around here, just Dragons. :)





Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Book Recommendation - "A Green and Ancient Light"

Some books and stories are just MAGIC. . .

I cannot say enough about this book. Now, I know, I read a LOT of varied books that all delve into "otherworlds", genres ranging from YA to Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Graphic novels and comics, and most of these are inspiring reads in one way or another for my own work and creative world.

"A Green and Ancient Light" defies those categories. Part fantasy yes, but just a very small part that is treated with such normalcy in it's reveal that it seems like it may be us who deems it to be fantasy. At the end I was slowing my reading down because I did not want it to end. . . and that's a rarity. :)

It is  mostly an intriguing story about coming of age, family, discovery and possibility. It's set in a vague time and place, though recognizable, with an interesting choice by the author as to the names of characters.

You won't be surprised to hear it was the cover that drew me to it. . . as often happens with books that go on to be my favorites. A great cover sets apart so many books.

So, if you love timeless and beautifully written stories with nature/natural magic, hints of the realm of faerie, a faun, and a mystery woven thru every page, then this book will be right up your alley.

I guarantee you this, even if it isn't, you will not find many books more beautifully written out there.

I will be keeping this book close as I proceed with my own storytelling, for many reasons, and I can say that I will keep it close throughout the remainder of my life for a gentle reminder if, and when I lose sight, of what magic truly is in the world around us. . .

There are times when I wonder, stumbling upon a book like this, if it is the last I will find that hits this particular spot in my soul. . . I could probably count the number that have done so on three hands in my life. I've read many wonderful books but only a dozen or so have had this lingering internal effect. The tingling of magic. . .

Saturday, October 1, 2016

New Work - October 1st

Ahhh, it is my season! Autumn is in it's full, brilliant glory right now. Leaves are falling, days in the low 60's, nights cool and crisp. And today, finally, rain is falling!

I'm so ready for the holiday season and having pushed a whole slew of custom work out in September I get to begin the month with a few days of just happy-making work!  Letting my mind wander and take me wherever it wishes to lead me.

The "Ledgerkeepers" writing project is going well too.  I upped the daily word count to 1000 and hit it all but once in the last few weeks. Some days nearing 2000 words! Stories are taking shape, the "history" of the Bewildering Pine is rounding into shape and I've been exploring mythologies, folk tales and geography so much more too. I had hoped to have some digital sketches to show but would rather wait until I have a few completed so I can keep them coming at a regular interval.

For now, here are a few of the September creations that came and went thru the shops.

I hope the Autumn season finds you enjoying all it offers in your "neck of the woods". :) And I hope to catch up on blog commenting soon too. This time of year is always so terribly busy in preparation for the holiday rush and with the writing project added, it seems I have so little time for anything but my work these days. . .

Enjoy and, as always, thank you so much for stopping by!

nicolas

A requested ankh amulet that, once completed, I liked so much that I am going to be offering it in the shop this winter. :)

I adore making these Hecate statues! Just one or two requests a year but I never turn them down. :)

It took me awhile to realize that my gargoyles have been looking more familiar lately. . . then it hit me it is because that face, that smile, is totally JOXER from Xena, Warrior Princess. Oh subconscious, how do you do it?

And I think my Foxgoyles have been coming into their own recently too. Abstracting animals is really a challenge!  Simple lines, less fuss. . . better results I think!

A simple place for relaxing and day dreaming!

I'm no classic ancient world sculptor . . .  but I loved taking on this Artemis request! Her  mighty bow is actually strung with fishing line!

Found these lovely little Patina-glazed tealight holders recently and they are perfect for making little "castle "cupcakes! :)

Fairy Houses Upon Stars abound again this year, of course!


And the newest of the "Little People", a Domovoi Elf (with friends in the background)

I'll be posting an update in a few days about "Alexandra the Great" ( and some great pics of her next to a snail that was her size when we first rescued her from a lake of vinaigrette dressing) but, as you can see, she is thriving and BIG and living in a lovely glass coffee pot these days!!  :)

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Small Magic - The Eyes Have It

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. :)

I have so many ideas for my own contributing posts about "Small Magic" as I feel my life has been, and always will be, filled with it. But for today I am going to tell/retell an old story about one person's kindness and heartfelt advice that, looking back almost 30 years, changed my life in more ways than I can count or ever be thankful to him for.

I applied for my first "real" job when I was 17.  As a busboy at the Italian Restaurant that my mother worked at as hostess, manager, waitress etc. In fact, the restaurant was brand new having been built by the city for the two brother's who owned it because their old, tavern-like Italian restaurant had been torn down to make way for a new steel and glass tower in the heart of the city.  So part of the deal was that they got a 200 seat "supper club", with a parking garage, for nothing but agreeing to give up their corner lot which now is in the middle of the massive downtown office complex.

So, two brothers, Michael and John. Two completely different personalities. In fantasy terms, John would be the Ogre and Michael the High Elf. lol

My mother had gotten me an interview for the position and, even though I look back and know that it was a done deal and I'd get the job, at the time she impressed upon me the need to make a good impression and to do well in the interview. I was terrified the interview would be with John. but, it turned out it was with Michael.

I adored Michael. Whenever I would come into the old, tavern style restaurant he would always take time to say hello, tousle my hair and invite me back into the kitchen and give me a taste of something wonderful. A taste of meatball marinara, a dish of Spumoni Ice Cream, a piece of veal parmesan. . . heaven!

I had no doubt I could do the job. I had been "working" since I was 13. Cutting grass, raking leaves, cleaning gutters, painting and gardening, a newspaper route (remember those?), and even a few shifts working at my great Aunt's Arco service station. So I was confident I could be a busboy.

It was also just a part time "summer job" before my senior year of high school so I felt I couldn't really go wrong. If it was a terrible job, I only had to stick it out three months and then weekends thru the Christmas office party season.

I went to the interview and, to this day, recall none of it. I was nervous, of course, but I do remember feeling fine about the answers I gave and the great sense of relief when it was over. Michael was very professional and shook my hand when I sat down and again when I left.

When my mother got home that night she said she needed to talk to me. I thought I wasn't going to get the job. I was looking forward to the money and the experience so I felt a little disappointed that I might have lost the opportunity.

But I DID get the job. However what she wanted to tell me was that Michael had told her "He's such a good kid and of course he has the job, but you have to tell him he has to look people in the eye when he talks to them."

Apparently I did not look him in the eyes even once after sitting down for the interview. That's probably also why I do not remember a second of it.

Of course, now I look back and I see it all very clearly.

I was far from a shut-in or wall flower. All of my school report cards, grades 4 thru 10 had said some variation of "Great student -  talks too much!" But outside of school every possible moment was spent in my imaginary worlds. It's what got me thru the toughest times in school. Knowing at the end of the day I got to go home and disappear into that endless world of my creation.

But around adults, in the "real" world, yes, I was definitely not comfortable with that. I wanted little or no part of that world and I avoided it like the plague.

But Michael's words that day, spoken out of love and concern for the well being of someone he saw as a bright young man with potential, were something I definitely needed to hear. Something that only  a person looking in from the outside might see clearly. And something only someone with a heart of gold might take the time to mention to my mother for no reason other than he cared.

It shocked my mother as she never noticed that aspect of my personality but, that makes sense too as our family world was small as well. Familiar faces and relations all the time really. Very few strangers or outside influences. And those, so brief and unimportant, that my situational shyness ever attracted any attention.

I took the advice to heart and find that, in looking back, it was invaluable to my future self. Owning coffeehouses, friendship, relationships, managing and running restaurant kitchens. How would I have ever been able to do any of it without that ability to look people in the eye?

And I learned, as many people do, that there is a certain magic and power in that ability to look another human being, especially a stranger, directly in the eye.

And I notice these days that I still tend to drift to this habit. Especially when in the midst of, or just exiting, my creative paracosm and imaginary worlds. It takes me a bit of time to reconnect with the rest of the world and I find myself averting eyes and connections for a bit. Like a swimmer coming up from the depths of the underwater world and taking in all the sound and sight of the land-side world. It takes a moment. Or two. Or more.

Small magic. A big heart. I had the pleasure of working with Michael in that restaurant for two years before he sold his half of the business back to his brother and got out. His leaving opened up the space that I filled working part time in the kitchen and then, as fate would have it, I ended up running the kitchen of the restaurant within a year after that.

I never forgot Michael's words through it all or after all these years and I cannot explain the myriad of ways that advice helped me in life.

And because I think life is cyclical and not linear and that we will be given opportunity after opportunity in life to revisit all our old habits, shortfalls etc etc, I am gifted with that chance every so often. I catch myself looking away or down. I find myself as that 17 year old again disappearing from the "real" world. Then I remember his words. . . his concern. . . and I reconnect with the world around me all over again.

Small magic.

For the work of a lifetime.

And here is a little visual "Small Magic for you too! :
A new gargoyle friend. . . Zunge already found his place of service in a home that has an entire quarry of my gargoyles!