Friday, December 8, 2017

Inspirations and Oddities - Second Friday - December 8th

Hey all!

Second Fridays are for sharing a few links to things that caught my eye the last month and that have all inspired my imagination in some way:

With the newest Star Wars installment hitting the theaters  I am reminded of seeing the very first as a young child and how it effected my imagination. Well, 40 years later there is no loss of the film's impact and how it still inspires to this day. This Kickstarter campaign fully funded and is over but it's worth a peek.

Lightsaber Oil Paintings

Scroll down a bit on that page to see the three amazing portraits of the lightsabers from the first film. Highly realistic and detailed. Odd and, yes, beautiful.  :)

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I adore masks. So when I stumbled upon this site and the folk who design these amazing paper masks that you download the templates for and make yourself, I was absolutely giddy!

Wintercroft Masks

Use their category list on the left to choose your section. Masks from animals to mythical to sci-fi! I love them all.

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I am always looking for strange inspirations for musical instruments or games for my worlds. Here is a lovely collection of odd "instruments",

Music as it's Made

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And another new twist to an oldie but goodie. Dungeons and Dragons has been around for ages now but I just read that 2016 was the most profitable year for the old RPG game and 2017 is on track to better it. I am always amazed that there are artists that find new ways to bring the old game more to life. This kickstarter which I myself supported was for artistic renditions of D&D first level magic scrolls.

D&D First Level Scroll Art

I LOVE scrolls and manuscripts of any kind and was immediately taken by the artwork, the "old tongue/language" and the thoughtfulness that went into creating these. Can't wait to get mine to frame and hang for inspiration . . . but I still have to decide which one I want!

Hope you've all had a wonderful week!
XO
nicolas


Friday, December 1, 2017

New Work - Stumptown Fairy Houses - First Friday Post - December 1st


Hello everyone!

Holiday busy-ness is fully upon us so this first Friday post is just an in-progress show and tell.
These are  start to finish pictures, of a new version of my Stumptown Fairy Houses. 

These are N scale 1:148 houses built on or into a clay "tree stump". 

Hope you enjoy this peek into the process and stages of making this little design!

Wishing you all the happiest of weeks ahead!

XO
nicolas

Each one starts with a simple, roughly shaped lump of polymer clay.

A little slicing away of the clay gives me something of a stump shape. Not too picky here as the next step will remove any of the hard lines. 

I use the edge of a clay shaping tool to start making the "bark" lines, I do this in layers so they overlap.



Then comes the next stages:

Next I add a simple shape of a house on top, gauging the size to allow for a door and window.

A flat rolled piece like this will become the first side of the roof once texture is added. 

Then the second side of the roof, sides of the trunk reaching up the house and a branch chimney get added on. In the end, this one will look as if it were carved from the tree instead of sitting onto of a cut stump.  

Here are a selection of them that I worked on all at once. The little "steps" and mushrooms have been added on the two in back. Then indentations are made for the windows and doors. They are then removed and the pieces are baked. 

The first part of the painting in the base color for the tree stump. The houses will get their own color so I am
not too particular here about getting paint on any other part. 

The houses get their gray base coat, the trunk gets it's lightest highlight and the roof tops get their black base color too. 

A few stages forward. Mushrooms receive their red coloring, rooftops their raw sienna color and the walls get an array of shades. Next will be the landscaping and the final detail touches. . . 

. . . of flowerboxes, roof tile colors, moss, windows and doors, wildflowers and spots on the mushrooms

Here are two of them complete and ready to go in the shop this weekend. 

"Ya'll come back now, ya hear!"





Friday, November 24, 2017

The Bewildering Pine - Worldbuilding - Fourth Friday - November 24th

I wrote about it before, quite awhile ago, but I want to get into the specifics of the world building I've done for my novel-in-waiting, "The Ledgerkeepers".

First I want to say that I admit that I am a prime candidate for what is known as "worldbuilder's disease". This is when you allow the task of creating a fictional world to consume you and you never get to the writing of your book, stories, music and what have you because you can't move past the creation. Well, I spent the better part of a year creating the world that is the setting of this book.

I get it.

It's addictive. There were times I couldn't stop and,even with all the details and ideas I've fleshed out, there remains more to be done.

And while fantasy/sci-fi wiring is most prone to this, it needs to be done for any sort of storytelling really. In fact, one of the first novels I read way back when I was maybe 10 or 11 was a true crime story that was so detailed about the era (1940's -50's), the neighborhood (Boston's little Italy) and the characters (mostly 2nd generation immigrants) that I was swept away into it and have never forgotten the "escape" effect it had on me.

But building a world from scratch? Deciding on a subarctic climate leads to the types of housing, plant life, foods, animals, terrain, clothing that are needed. The types of people/elves living there leads to origin stories, folktales, shadowy pasts, familial/community structure and expectation and superstitions.

The magic, if there is any, leads to needing to set the rules, what it's limits are, who can use it and the many ways it might manifest or change the dynamics in a world you worked so hard to build.

Languages, social structure, government, ability to travel, money, trade, politics etc etc etc

And do not even get me started on mapmaking. It's my favorite part and I am in process of making the third full map of this land.

On and on and on. . . and I could be quite happy with just doing that if it weren't that I feel compelled to tell this bigger story.

But the best part of getting past those beginnings and into the writing is that your world gets to be built from within the telling as much as it did when you were building it deliberately before hand. Some of my favorite bits and details of the world thus far came from just writing and not from advanced planning.

Take this passage from one of the first chapters I've completed:

      . . . And while that was all reason enough for his soured opinion of them, what disturbed Yanne most about the Barchan traders was that, save for a few of the youngest aboard each vessel, they had all been fitted with their trademark iron teeth. Those oversized denticles, which they grated together inside their mouths and scraped along the tines of their heavy iron flatware in a most egregious and disconcerting way, were just too much to bear.  Just the thought of the sound they made sent shivers spiraling up Yanne’s spine and made the hair on his neck and arms prickle upright. Their original teeth, those that they still possess when they’re ceremoniously yanked for the fitting of the iron, are fashioned into a choker that each Barchan wears around his neck with great pride. 

          "And that’s no treat to look upon across a communal dining table."

The Barchans unsettled Yanne — and very few things did.

So, before writing that passage I knew only that the Barchans were traders from the outer world who dealt/interacted with the folk in my world very rarely since  the trader docks are located out on a floating village in the vastness of the bay, away from the bulk of the land which is inaccessible by large ships.

Yanne, a main character in the book, fancies himself a storyteller. The Barchans are rude and obnoxious but so, in his own way, is Yanne. So in deciding what aggravates him about the Barchans,  it is of course some of the mirrored traits he sees in them. Yet I wanted something outside the box for him to focus on about them and I needed something visually specific to identify the Barchans later in the book.

Their oversized iron teeth, the chokers they wear made of their pulled, original teeth and the sounds and sights of iron scraping on iron. All of that came up in the writing/daydreaming and, even though it is just a tiny scrap of the world building, now I can't imagine the chapter/story without it.

World builder's disease can present itself in the writing too though. That passage above was around four times as long after it's creation. The rest was unnecessary backstory and filler. More reveal than was needed which, often, loses your readers. (and this is hard for me because I LOVE reading descriptive text even when I know it's a bit much for the story!!)

As world builders we all tend to think the worlds we create are incredibly cool. And most of them may be. But in the writing I am discovering, even in and among my own creation,  a slow unveiling is far more effective than an info dump of history and genealogy.

A great part of the excitement of the process is that I do not know where it will go exactly or what other little gems I might uncover about the folk who populate it as the story continues!

I am glad you're coming along for the ride and I look forward to sharing so much more as we go. . .

Hoping all my American readers had a wonderful holiday and that everyone else in our beautiful world had a magical day, as always!

Keep building the world you wish to dwell in!

XO
Nicolas

 





Friday, November 17, 2017

Making of a Maker - Daydreams - Third Friday, November 17th

Once again I sat down with a particular post in mind and something else comes calling for attention.

For this monthly "Making of a Maker" post I want to say a few things about one of the most important aspects of my own creative process and one that, when looking at anything I have ever done, from making plays when I was 12 to my music-making/recording years to digital art to miniature houses, has been a major contributor to the realization of each of those pursuits.

Daydreaming.

To me, this is something other than what most might call inspiration, which tends to be more momentary and immediate, just popping up wherever and whenever without notice.  It's also different from intentional, constructive brainstorming with an idea or preconceived notion you want to realize. It's also not quite the same as actively doodling or experimenting.

This is also not to be confused with time that might be spent on pinterest or instagram though those are both excellent starting points for ideas and I have scores of images that have inspired my own creative world. . . but only in the same way that the words "Once upon a time" are a starting point for many great stories.

There are things that I believe we can only tap into when our hands are at rest and our minds are allowed to just vanish into the world of daydreams.

Daydreaming, for me, is about allowing yourself to sit in silence and just work your way deep into your own imagination. In my life, I've met many people who say they are not capable of imagining things as vividly or as realized as I do but, with those I have worked with, I find that it's almost always a case of the person not being able to quiet the world around them enough to allow their daydreaming self to find footing.

Sometimes it seems to be more about them turning away when the door to imagination opens and they are asked to step inside. Sort of like that odd little back alley curiosity shoppe in that "found" neighborhood where you stare in the window trying to find the courage to walk inside. . . but then the door opens and you hurriedly walk away instead of accepting the divine's invitation to enter. . .

I cannot imagine doing what I do without taking the time to daydream. . . often. In fact, when I am feeling burnt out it is almost always because I have not allowed myself to look ahead and to daydream about new avenues, new ideas and to not put any constraints on that process.

This image, "The Bubble Factory" came to me almost just as you see it during a good round of Daydreaming. 


Writing, my latest pursuit, is no different. My storytelling runs in fits and starts and I am not nearly as productive when I try too hard to manufacture the story as I am when I first allow myself to "live " the story through a good bout of daydreaming. I will sometime give myself five to fifteen minutes before I get up at 5am to lay in the silence and the dark and think about what part of the story I want to work on that morning. I see the scene, the characters, the possible twists and turns and I allow it  run it's course, maybe two or three times if I am unsure where to go with it.

It's like seeing a film playing in my head. The characters move about, interact, speak. . . and I just follow along with them. It doesn't have to be a long process. Just a few minutes can bring quite a welcome surprise.

I don't have a long list to share for the "how to's" of daydreaming. I think it helps to have silence or only natural sounds around you and low light if possible but definitely not light that is not glaring, buzzing or emanating from a device/digital.

From a kid who always had one foot on the ground but his head in the clouds (or in daydreams!) I hope this will work for, or inspire, you as well! I can't say it enough.

Daydreaming is huge part of my daily creative world.

Keep dreaming (day AND night)!

XO
Nicolas

This too was born from a daydream exploring fantasy landscapes. 




PS - You know, I realized while writing this that I always stepped inside those strange/odd shops I used as a metaphor above.

One, in a back alley of a neighborhood in my hometown, was a new age store called "Sign of Aquarius".  I will tell that tale in full in the future but the retired couple who ran it were a treasure to stumble upon that first time I stood staring in their shop's windows and the old creaky door opened to welcome me in.  If I had run away, I shudder to think what my life might have been like. It was the first step into a world I never knew existed but was definitely in need of finding.

I'd like to think I may have found my way eventually but there is something about the depth of impression made at 13 that would never have been the same even just a few years later.

Never run from the unknown and strange! : )


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Beginning in October of 2017 I started to follow the following format for my blog, posting every Friday and under the following headings:


1st Friday of Each Month - New work ( New to the shops and a look at the making of one item each month)

2nd Fridays - Inspirations and Oddities (Links and thoughts about what inspires me) 

3rd Fridays - The Making of a Maker (advice and shared experiences of how I got "here" to where being a "maker-of-things" is my full time job.)

4th Fridays - The World of Bewilder and Pine ( peeks into the world of the Bewildering Pine, the stories and books to follow and all around fantasy world making)

Friday, November 10, 2017

Inspirations and Oddities - Second Friday - November 10th


“The circus arrives without warning. 

No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.” 

― Erin MorgensternThe Night Circus



I intend to utilize these Second Friday post to share short inspirations and links to discoveries in our world that have inspired me and my work, if not become part of the world I create.

This week though, I wanted to share with you just one and that's a book that has instantly claimed a spot into my all time favorites. 

"The Night Circus" by Erin Morgenstern




I won't make this a review because it's been out for a number of years and many of you may already have read it or decided it was or wasn't your thing. 

I am glad that I did not read it until now. It would neve have had the same effect on me, on my heart, even five years ago when it first came out, though I may have loved it then too.

This is meant to be more of a "thank you" to the author, for every once in awhile a book or other form of media comes along that takes us somewhere unexpected. And in this case it occurs to me how, when we read those first words of a book (like those I began the post with above) we have no idea what is in store. 

Nothing could have prepared me for what lay ahead and how much I would fall under it's spell. And the fair question to ask would be "how do you know it is one of your all time favorites when you just read it?" 

To which the only reply is "Because I simply did not want it to end." 

That happens so rarely. I love books and I love reading but 99% of the time I am quite ready for a book to end. Not in a bad way but in an excited to see how it gets wrapped up way. To complete the narrative and allow me to move on to the next in the never-ending stack on the floor. 

I often wonder why no-one writes and approaches more stories in a serialized version but with no intention of ending it. Of course, when authors do this they are often derided for it. Robert Jordan comes to mind and the words "first of a trilogy" seems to induce eye rolls as often as not these days. When I think of my favorite books, they all struck me this way. I wish they had gone on, not in a grand sweeping story arc. . . but just the world, the characters, the magic. 

The one thing these favorites all have in common is the world they take you to is usually quite enchanting and magical. The Night Circus is no exception.

If I had to choose one other thing I adore about it, that would be the descriptive prose. I have read so many writing advice blogs where people seem to be so against overextending the use of details and description and if that is you, then this book will likely not please you. Every chapter is awash in the details and they are always, in my eyes, nothing short of enchanting. 

It's like the author took every mundane thing in a scene and said "but what if?" and then went two steps furthers. Clocks, tents, clothing, food. . . nothing is mundane and ordinary and yet, it all perfectly works without seeming to be "too much". 

If you are a fan of audio books then this is a must too as the reader, Jim Dale ( he read the audio book versions of the Harry Potter series) is beyond amazing in his delivery, characterizations and accents.  

The book was written originally as part of the NaNoWriMo, over three successive years, and writing it and the following success of it seems to have had a profound effect on the author as well who writes, "I wrote book about a nocturnal circus. . . and then my life became one." 

And it is a book that is really about storytelling itself under it's complex and magical surface. Just when you think the story is resolved as the end draws near, there are more chapters that unveil this aspect very clearly. Passages like:

“You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone's soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows that they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.” 

All great storytelling, be it in book form or the stories we attach to our own experiences and lives, shares that truth I think. It's why I am so set on telling a story with/for everything I create. 

Beauty, execution and form may attract but we stay for the stories.  .  . especially the ones we have yet to tell. 

And magic. . . you should of known it was about magic. .  and despite the wonderful magic that is laced through almost every chapter of the book in one form or another, the revelation of the magic is in it's accessibility and presence in the most mundane of things. And I was stopped in my reading tracks at the character explanation as to why it is not more prominent in the world. In our world. 

"All of this, this is not magic. This is the way the world IS, only very few people take the time to stop and note it."

And yes, there is a thread of a love story woven into it too but that's the magic of "The Night Circus" as well, that aspect of the story might be the fourth or fifth most prominent thread and it's written and handled in such an endearing way.  

Alright, that's enough. Next week I will get back to inspirations and oddities the way I intended them to be presented. Thank you, as always, for reading along. :)

And THANK YOU Erin Morgenstern.  I cannot say enough about the magic I found within this book or how it has inspired me. I just wish it had not had to end.  

nicolas


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Beginning in October of 2017 I started to follow the following format for my blog, posting every Friday and under the following headings:


1st Friday of Each Month - New work ( New to the shops and a look at the making of one item each month)

2nd Fridays - Inspirations and Oddities (Links and thoughts about what inspires me) 

3rd Fridays - The Making of a Maker (advice and shared experiences of how I got "here" to where being a "maker-of-things" is my full time job.)

4th Fridays - The World of Bewilder and Pine ( peeks into the world of the Bewildering Pine, the stories and books to follow and all around fantasy world making)

Friday, November 3, 2017

First Friday New Work - Álfablót - November 3rd

Hey everyone!!


Well the holiday season is off and running already around here. My custom work slate is now practically full and I am already a little behind this week.  I'll have another start to finish, work in progress, series of pics for December but this month I'm going with examples of completed new work from the shops.

Speaking of the holidays. . .  we are going to be following along this holiday season with a wonderful book, "The Old Magic of Christmas" which talks about the old traditions and origins of the holiday traditions in many European and Scandinavian countries and, most importantly (for me) the baking that accompanies it. :)  It's ALL about the baking isn't it?

So I'll be baking up a host of special holiday season treats this year. Icelandic Snowflake Bread, Cattern Cakes, Lussekatter, Sisky and others as well.

Tonight we are celebrating Álfablót, a welcoming of the elves, or Álfar, in after the harvest. In Scandinavian tradition this is a local celebration in homesteads after the harvest as winter approaches and the celebration is not only to honor the ancestors, but also other spirits, such as the elves and the land spirits, the "Landvaettir". This is a home/family celebration, doors are left ajar to let the elves in and strangers were not welcomed near the homesteads during the celebration. 

You want to celebrate Álfablót between Samhain and Thanksgiving, tying it in conjunction with the moon (waxing better than waning) and not on a recognized day like St. Martins day (Nov 11th) when the elves would have to share their day with anyone else. :) 

We'll be welcoming the elves with this invocation: "Let them come who wish to come, let them go who wish to go and do no harm to me or mine". It is not considered auspicious to converse with the elves beyond that welcoming. Simply to welcome them in and provide the feast. Of course, we in the human world may talk among ourselves as we would at any gathering.

We'll set out a red table cloth hoping to draw a few elven female spirits, the Dísir, to the feast night as well. There will be no electricity after dark as it can disturb or irritate the sensitive elder folk among the elves so candles or a hearth fire is best. Simple foods like bread, meat and milk are preferred for feasting with the Álfar.

I'll try to photograph it and post pics mid week. :)

 Next weekend we will be celebrating Martinmas or St. Martin's Day November 11th by making Turnip lanterns (if we can find big enough turnips) and Martinmas Horns. They can be made with a cookie dough or with a yeast dough and are filled with apricot jam and a touch of marzipan.  I'll probably make the yeast variety since I don't get to do nearly enough yeast baking these days!

For now, I hope your November is off to a lovely beginning and to close this First Friday post, here are a few new creations from the Enchanted studio.

Thank you, as always, for dropping by!

Nicolas

I love the sod topped houses of the Faroe Islands. The black houses (color provided by pitch on the real houses)
are as much a favorite as the red ones which I also make! 
Three Mushroom Fairy Houses on Stars. Always a holiday favorite and I am
trying REALLLLLL hard to get ahead on them! 

A custom request for a little Glitter Shoppe on a star. New Pink trees and the druzy disc
on the roof gable add something magical too I think.




I've been making these translucent "alabaster" Egyptian pieces. In making them I realize how much I count on the aged patinas to cover the dings and blemishes where as these require more attention to getting the smoothness of the sculpt.


A special request from a customer for this piece with two angels sitting on the bench conversing,
representing two family members who had passed.

These are hand-painted N scale figures that are about 1/2" (1.25cm) tall and check out those tiny little metal wings!

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Bewildering Pine - Fourth Friday October 27th

Welcome to my first Fourth Friday Post. Every month, on the fourth Friday I will be writing about, and sharing insights into, the Bewildering Pine; a world I've been creating, in one form or another, for as long as I can recall.

I should start by explaining and separating the two main parts of this series and that world.

One, the "Bewildering Pine" is the fictional world where my first (in process) novel length book, "The Ledgerkeepers", is set.  It's a fantasy world that pulls from the many influences and inspirations I've had over the years for just such a world. The world is populated by "old world elves",  simply referred to as folk, and not the High elves of modern fantasy.

And the second aspect, the Bewilder and Pine, which is the creative outlet for my miniature making. It's my Etsy shoppe and where many of the larger ideas I have been formulating began.

Here, I really want to focus mainly on the book, that world and it's ties to my childhood and adult life but some parts of that world are derived from the experiences and products in the shoppe, and the shoppe in great part inspired the book and everything else that will come beyond it. . .  so I will want to dive into both over the coming months.

Today, for the first installment, I do want to focus on what the undertaking of the writing of this book has meant to, and done FOR, my own heart.

It would be easy, I think, for an outsider to look at my miniature work, my writing here and my views on life in general and assume I am stuck in a loop of nostalgia and whimsy, not that there would be anything wrong with that. . . and to a degree it's true. :) I've come to a place in my life where I tend to keep most anyone who I feel is too caught up in the outside or "real" world at arms length. Not because I want to pretend that world doesn't exist but because I believe how much that world affects us is almost entirely up to us most days.

Simply put, if  I allowed that world to inundate my daily thoughts and emotions, I could not do what I do for a living. It's not an escape, it's the way I go about and make sense of that very same world while at the same time, giving life to, and protecting, another world I've held within for so many years.

Somewhere along the way I decided that we each have our roles to play, I won't say it's our destiny or our calling. . .  or even our path. . . just that we may choose what we do with each moment we are given and for me, that choice slowly over the years became one of deciding that I wanted to put as much beauty and joy into the world as I can every day.

I discovered early on in the Etsy/maker-of-things world that the more I attached stories to my little creations, the more people responded to them. The more stories I created, the more the world that is now the Bewildering Pine of the book, started to creep in and influence my making and the stories I wrote to go with.  Tart Carts, crooked towers, shop and village names, houses with different architectural styles, little enigmatic elves who live in the woods or in hermit like solitude. Monks with face like mimes. Old tongues and sacred traditions lost. With each addition another little piece of the puzzle fell into place.

Now, this is going back some eight years to the beginning. In the last few years, the separation had begun to widen in my heart and in my creative desires. I started spending more time on the "side project" which, at the time, I could not have told you what exactly it would become. The world of the book is now vastly different from the world of the Etsy shoppe.

There are still bits and pieces that remain constant but as characters, locations and I suppose, most of all, the plot for the Ledgerkeeper's story started to reveal itself to me, I saw the chance to speak about more than just a fantasy world. It's aim is to be a novel that speaks to cultural identities and traditions, how things change, why things change, and, of course, how everything is not what it seems when story is a foggy subject at best.

As for the writing, this has been a crash course. I've never even attempted to write something like this before. Not seriously. Poetry yes, short stories, yes, letters of all kinds to friends and family, yes.

But to sit down and say, "Right, I want to write a novel!" No, that never crossed my mind once really.

What I've learned more than anything in the last year since I took up the task is WHY so many people start writing a novel, a short story, a memoir and then quit. Because it's reallllllly HARD and it requires something I feel blessed to have been able to find in an already busy life. The space and a routine to do so!!

I believe it's the hardest creative thing I've ever set out to do.  It requires persistence, time commitment, belief in it and in yourself. More than all of those, I think, it requires a desire to say something through your fiction. To tell your story or offer a viewpoint.

Nothing has ever brought me face to face with my own resolve and motivations like writing.

I chose the genre of fantasy for obvious reasons. Mostly because at the start of a fantasy story or novel is the world building part of it. That world that only exists in your head has to be fleshed out. Mapped out too. Not all at once but, at some point, you have to think about it all. The cultures, the limitations, the food, the climate, the magic etc.

Often you'll hear writers offer the advice "Write what you know". For some, like David Sedaris, that can mean your close family. For others like George RR Martin, that means the world you've been toying with in your head for your whole life.

To me, the love required is the same and evident in both I think. So yes, write what you love as well as what you know. The great thing is, you can learn so much that you don't know when you start! I may have a fantasy world in my head but it's littered with real world objects and situations that need to be right for the story. How does a water clock work? How were certain vegetables farmed 500 years ago? What happens when you have two moons, not one. The list is endless.


I love fantasy. Myth, legend, magic, the realm of Faerie, elves, surreal nature.

The funny thing is, I've decided to go a whole lot less in the original direction I assumed I would.

I've left magic off the board in this world for the most part. What magic does exist is born more of our own old world beliefs and traditions and the faith of folk in that.  I've seen first hand in my life how powerful that can be. So, if it's tinged with magic in the Bewildering Pine, it has roots in something you may recognize. There are no great powers, no mages and wizards. No dark forces. . .  at least, not magic ones.

The main characters as well as most of the supporting ones are all based on people I have known as well. From childhood friends to folk I know in the small town I live in currently. All wonderfully unique in their own ways and human to a fault.

I personally fall in love with books for the characters, not just the worlds the author created for them to dwell in.

My favorite books of late all share the core foundation of having very strong characters as well as the world around them being interesting too. But that doesn't mean they have to be a total creation of the imagination.

A Darker Shade of Magic
A Green and Ancient Light
The Queen of the Tearling
The Foretold
The Night Circus

All of these portray vastly different worlds: Four parallel Londons,  a non-descript,"post war" European setting,  a realm from our very own possible future, an Amazonian tribe/landscape and the underbelly of 19th century London.

What they all have in common are main characters that are stronger than the need to suspend your disbelief because they are relatable. Now, I won't ask you to read any of those if fantasy is not your thing. . .but if you want a short story that sums that same idea up, of the character being more important than the system of magic and the world, I'd suggest seeking out "The Night Market" by Holly Black. It's simply one of the best short stories I've ever read. It's got a bit of fantasy, a bit of magic too, but it's all revolving around the main character, her love of her family and the ending is the true magic of the story, of the world. . . of each of us in our world. It's well worth the read.

So here I am. over a YEAR into this project and just moving forward every day. I spend two hours each morning from 5:30am to 7:30am sitting in the silence of the early hours at the laptop writing, researching, plot sketching, exploring.

Each day starts with feeding and loving on our cat, Bhu, then venturing out to walk to the old-school bakery which is just a block away from our place and opens at 5:30am ( I know, lucky right?) and the day starts with something like this

French Press and a fresh apricot danish. Sorry about the lighting. . . but it WAS taken before 6 in the morning!

Finding that space, that time and making it a routine was key to getting along with the writing. It has also been the best adventure ever! Bringing this world to life and creating the characters and all the little details is like nothing else I've done. I 'm hooked. It's no longer hard. No longer a chore. It's just one more thing in my daily routine and I try not to let anything keep me from it.

In the future I want to talk about the beauty of routine and how it is such an important part of my days. I learned it at retreats visiting a Zen monastery years ago. Their set hours for meditation, meals, down time, work etc were a novel idea to me who, as a creative soul, could not stand the notion of incorporating that into my own daily creative world. Yet. . .

Immediately I saw why it worked but I still fell off the "routine wagon" very quickly afterwards. In the last 8 years or so, learning to keep to a schedule has become essential with all that I want to accomplish and make.

The routine I have now is set in stone and it has to be a pretty extraordinary thing for me to break it..

I'll also want to discuss finding your "voice" thru writing.  For me, that has been the hardest part of taking up a novel. Different writers create in different ways. It was yet one more reinvention and I seem to have found my own methods to get me there along the way.

At this point in the Ledgerkeepers, I have a prologue and four very strong character chapters. One for each of the main characters. Each also explores a little of the world around them and each, before I found my voice, were wayyyyyy too long expositions of pure world building and description ( a common flaw in fantasy writing) and less of the characters.  One of these chapters, for example, was near to 70 pages of discovery writing which I condensed and stripped away to what is now an 11 page first chapter. I found the characters and found THEIR voices, their motivations and their desires.

I'm excited to start sharing some of that world with you all here. And while I am not quite there yet, I want to put out there that I am going to be asking for Alpha and Beta readers in the coming months. (beginning in January most likely) If you have any interest in being among the first to read what I am creating, you can let me know and I will put you on the list of people to open the early chapters of the story up to as it falls into place.

As an alpha reader, I'll ask you to only focus on,  and give feedback for four distinct things:
  1. What bores you
  2. What confuses you
  3. What don’t you believe
  4. What’s cool? (So I don’t accidentally “fix” it.)
That's it! No long explanations are necessary. Just simple observations as you go. No other input is required at that first stage. I'll likely post the chapters here with password protection on them and send you the password when I am ready. I tend to like rather short chapters, 8-12 pages on average so it's not a lot of time commitment with each. 

Here and there I'll be posting little excerpts on the open blog too. In addition to "The Ledgerkeepers", I am also creating a book born from the world building itself. An "atlas",  I suppose, with many of the descriptive details of the villages, architecture, maps, belief systems, flora and fauna, folktales and the ancient origin stories for all of the type of folk who dwell in the world of the Bewildering Pine. As if someone were archiving the world from within the world itself. 

Alright, I think that's going to be good for this month's opening installment. I know it was a bit scattered but we'll find a direction with it in the next month or two. 

Welcome along for the ride! I look so forward to sharing more of the world with you in the coming months on fourth Fridays. I hope you will enjoy it too. 

Thank you for coming by and reading! XX
Nicolas

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Beginning in October of 2017 I started to follow the following format for my blog, posting every Friday and under the following headings:


1st Friday of Each Month - New work ( New to the shops and a look at the making of one item each month)

2nd Fridays - Inspirations and Oddities (Links and thoughts about what inspires me) 

3rd Fridays - The Making of a Maker (advice and shared experiences of how I got "here" to where being a "maker-of-things" is my full time job.)

4th Fridays - The World of Bewilder and Pine ( peeks into the world of the Bewildering Pine, the stories and books to follow and all around fantasy world making)


Friday, October 20, 2017

Making of a Maker - Third Friday Post - October 20th

The Road to Here


If there is one thing I have wanted to share most from my experiences in life, it is how I became a maker of things. And by that, I mean the long road to "here". From those first inspirations and indulgences as a child to the present moment.

This weekly third Friday post will focus on exactly that.  And maybe even exploring side-roads to talk about what and where "here" is exactly, since it is always changing. 

If there is one thing I want to put across right off, it's that what I offer here is just ONE individual's perspective on how it can be achieved. I cannot even be sure I see it clearly in retrospect. I can only talk about the beginnings, the course changes, the bits of luck, inspirations and decisions that led to here and now.

I do NOT think my way is the right way for even a good chunk of folks who want to be artists or indulge in creativity full time. What my path is, is one more viewpoint that perhaps you can take something from it all and go forward with it in your own pursuit of becoming the working artist you want to be. 



So where to begin? 


How about this, I believe you can reinvent yourself time and again ( I certainly have) but what I've come to learn, all thee years later, is that you have to embrace, or at least make peace, with who you are inherently. Where you come from. What "made" YOU.  


You don't have to live in and with it every day if it was, as it sometimes can be, negative or shadowy, but I think that you do have to give it more than just a nod of acknowledgement. 

How many times have we all seen that artist's statement, written in the third person, that just doesn't tell you anything about the artist at all? Oh, it's a list and who's who of degrees, schools and mentors to be sure. But then you turn and what you see on the paper or canvas or in three dimensions doesn't seem to have anything to do with that at all. I see that less and less, of course, and I'm happy that we seem to be moving beyond that as a whole in our world. I don't care where you went to school, where you reside, how long you've been drawing those concentric circles etc. . . I care about where you came FROM. What inspires you now and what did then. Who you are inherently and how that is honored today in your life. 


I came across a "modern artist" who was quick to tell you, in third person, about walking the same streets of Europe that the masters did and sitting at Van Gogh's cafes, living abroad. . .  but who was a midwest farm kid by birth. I never met that particular artist but I am guessing that no matter how they cover it or try to rearrange the parts, the farm-kid's spirit and essence is still there in everything they do and all that they are. Yet it seemed they were trying so hard to separate themselves from it. I know because I did that for years too. But now I'd say it's important to embrace it. You can reinvent yourself and still honor and pay homage to those beginnings. 

I say that because for me, going back to that origin, creatively, became a huge part of my road to here. Childhood imagination. The same one I used to escape school bullies and that filled the many hours I had alone in my room as a kid, was still there waiting for me when I ran out of "adult artist" costumes to try on.  


Keep in mind that before I came to this realization, I DID create sooooo much. I performed the music I wrote on stages, had gallery shows and was part of collective exhibitions here and there. 


What Interested me then was making something from nothing. Even in those childhood, neighborhood sports-playing days we were always making due with less. Less players, less equipment, less than ideal places to play. Gravel instead of grass, slanted side streets instead of level lots. . . sharing gloves and bats, hoping someone brought a decent ball. . . but regardless, we played just the same.


Outside of sports, which was never a full time interest, my attention was put into to creating worlds. With action figures, costumes, props etc a few of us spent entire days lost in scenarios from space exploration to digging out of post apocalyptic ruins, to medieval knights. Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Lost in Space, Planet of the Apes and so on.  Strangely enough, though it was becoming quite the thing and I was aware of it, I never got involved in role playing games like Dungeons and Dragons in those years.
We were, perhaps, the last of the "outdoor" generation of kids. Even on the worst of days weather wise, we spent as much time outside as we could. I mean, when else were we going to be able to pretend we were on that snowy, ice planet of Hoth other than when we were slogging around in the midst of a 12 inch snowfall with gusting 40mph winds! 
But I've discovered the amazing worlds of Role Playing Games as an adult and I can see the parallels between the experience we had in our outdoor imagination-born adventures and role playing in the tabletop gaming world. 


Paul Lafarge, an essayist, author and long time D&D player and enthusiast, writes how gaming is like reading a book:  


"You start outside something (Middle Earth; Dickens’s London; the fascinating world of mosses and lichens), and you go in, bit by bit. You forget where you are, what time it is, and what you were doing. Along the way, you may have occasion to think, to doubt, or even to learn. Then you come back; your work has piled up; it’s past your bedtime; people may wonder what you have been doing. In a society that conditions people to compete, and rewards those who compete successfully, Dungeons & Dragons is countercultural; its project, when you think about it in these terms, is almost utopian. Show people how to have a good time, a mind-blowing, life-changing, all-night-long good time, by cooperating with each other! And perhaps D&D is socially unacceptable because it encourages its players to drop out of the world of competition, in which the popular people win, and to tune in to another world, where things work differently, and everyone wins together."

As we grew a bit older, reaching 'tween years, that small group of us who relied on imagination separated further from the sports playing kids just as the reached that peak competitive phase. My social/play group dwindled to three and, often times, it might just be two.  

Of course, the advantage I had over even the D&D kids was that I didn't need a group to have my most memorable fun. The worlds that I explored individually in my alone time, and there was an abundance of it, were the best. Still, to this day, I can recall the games, the characters, the little places in my mind that I would return to again and again. 





So lets lay the groundwork for this Third Friday post series like this:


I am a product of many events, circumstances and actions. Like all of us, I made choices, took roads that were more or less traveled and, at times, had to double back to find my way forward again. But in the midst of all of that, there has been a firm, foundational knowledge that the world around me is a magical place. A place of possibility. And that the world we experience and see is just a fraction of what is out there for us.

When that world around me became less than magical, I changed it. When the people around me became less supportive, too destructive or just got too caught up in their own version of the real, adult world, often meaning they gave up on their own dreams and creativity, I left them behind. When the places I've lived became less than magical, I've moved. And I'm aware how that could seem like I am running from something but, in truth, I am protecting something deeper. 


And I'd say the greatest lesson I learned was to treat your creativity like a gift of creation itself. I have come to think that our creative pursuits should be treated much like having a child (or kittens, baby birds, puppies. . . whatever you prefer) Your idea for a creative life is born or hatched as the case may be. . . And it needs your attention, care and, especially early on in it's infancy and development, your nurturing and protection from certain influences and experiences. You wouldn't turn your child over to just anyone to "rear and raise", and you wouldn't take just anyone's advice about how to raise them. . . so treat your creative work the same way. It's your dream, your pursuit, your passion. Your child. 


It most certainly can be harmed by the wrong hands, the wrong mouths, the wrong hearts. 

And, most of all, what parent out there would tell you their life didn't change drastically when their child was born or, to a lesser degree, when a new pet came into the house. We rearrange our lives to take care of them, yes? You put aside many of your other pleasures and indulgences to be there for it at all times, right? 


Then that is how you should approach your creative notions too.  


Ultimately, if you are really going to develop the creative soul you wish to bring forth. Even the idea of "success", of making a living from it, is just another point on the map, and the map we draft is a lifelong pursuit of putting beauty, whimsy, color, imagination, words, imagery, ideas and thoughts. . . even utilitarian items. . .  into our world. 


I make a living at what I do. I work harder than I have at anything else in my life. More hours. Like a small child, it's not something I can put away at 5pm, turn off the lights and go home. Since I reached that goal, I've come to realize that it's just another rung of the entire ladder of my life's journey. I want to evolve and grow with it. Whether I can make MORE money from it is immaterial because I know i can adapt and change MY life to suit it. 


To close this first installment of the Making of a Maker, there is a poem I adore that I actually was first shown by my Zen teacher. She thought it was perfect for me then because at the time, as I tended to from time to time, I was struggling with these same issues of the making and care of a creative life. To this day, some 15 years later, it remains one of my favorite poems and I think that it sums up the creative soul, the maker, that dwells in all of us so well. 




The Way It Is
William Stafford

There’s a thread you follow. 
It goes among things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.





Thank you for reading, following and commenting! 
Keep MAKING!!!!!

Nicolas XO

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Beginning in October of 2017 I started to follow the following format for my blog, posting every Friday and under the following headings:


1st Friday of Each Month - New work ( New to the shops and a look at the making of one item each month)

2nd Fridays - Inspirations and Oddities (Links and thoughts about what inspires me) 

3rd Fridays - The Making of a Maker (advice and shared experiences of how I got "here" to where this is my full time job.)

4th Fridays - The World of Bewilder and Pine ( peeks into the world of the Bewildering Pine, the stories and books to follow and all around fantasy world making)