Friday, April 20, 2018

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

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

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

"Umm,  don't know" I said, "who?"

"HEDWIG!", came the reply.


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


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

I said as much.

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

The Hedwig. . . John Cameron Mitchell

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

It was easily forgotten.

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

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

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

A turning point..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

I kept at it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you, as always, for dropping by!

Nicolas XO

Friday, April 13, 2018

Inspirations and Oddities - Second Friday Post - April 13th, 2018

Does Friday the thirteenth mean anything to you?

While that particular superstition holds little meaning for me, I did grow up with a whole host of little self-created superstitions, mostly rituals and to keep my young self safe from the things that went "bump in the night'. Especially when watching scary movies. I'd lay on the couch, completely wrapped in one of my grandmother's crocheted afghans, no part of my body other than my head exposed. At commercial breaks, IF I wanted to get up for a snack, I had to be back on the couch and fully covered when the movie resumed . . . or else!!!

 I look back now at them all with a sense of nostalgia. The power of the mind, the strength of a young spirit to fight the unseen in the shadows and to believe he could prevail.

From those days forward, I have always been a lover of folklore, superstitions urban legends and strange beliefs.

The last year or so, it's been a blast diving into the world building of writing a fantasy book that allows me to create some of my own folklore for the world of the Bewildering Pine. Beyond that, for me, the real treat has been uncovering the folklore and superstitions of other cultures as I've taken that dive in again through reading and research.

A few of the things I've unearthed that have stuck with me are:


The plainest girl will be beautiful if she rises early on May Day and bathes her face in morning dew at sunrise. 


Frost is regarded as an ill spirit named Morozco and frost-cracks or breaks in a tree are attributed to him. The cracking sound is the snapping of his fingers!


A moth hovering around a candle flame, means a letter will arrive in the morning. 


The new Year was an auspicious time for healing. Deemed the "seam of the year" it was considered the best time for ritual curatives. 

Do YOU have any favorite folklore or  old beliefs you love?

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Inspirations and Oddities!!!

I couldn't choose a single story or video that captures the whole idea but, in Catalonia Spain, they participate in these amazing festivals. 

"A person dressed as a demon shoots off fireworks during a correfoc, meaning "fire-run," a traditional party in which participants dress as evil mythical creatures and delight in wild pyrotechnic displays."

> I stumbled upon this inspiring sculpture and in-progress making-pics. AMAZING!

Big Fish!

> I LOVED this article and the accompanying images of

"Flying Foxes"

> And finally, I'm looking VERY much forward to the release today of Netflix new Sci-Fi-Fi series, "Lost in Space", a reimagining of the late great 60's show ( who could ever forget the guitar playing robot!) .  I got to watch the original in syndication over the years of my childhood and it inspired many wonderful adventures and one or two cardboard box, Jupiter 2's.

I'm hoping to be taken away yet again with the new series. . . and without seeing anything more than the trailer. . . Parker Posey in the role of Dr. Smith???!!! COME ON! That alone makes me quite happy.   Looking forward to starting the adventure this evening!

I hope YOUR week has been inspired and at least a little odd!


Friday, April 6, 2018

A Book, A Bug and a Bit of a Revelation - First Friday Post - New Work - April 6th

Hello all!!

It's been a month since I've posted and, as many of you know, I 've been away for much of it.

The month started with a cross country train trip home to PA to see my mom. She's doing well all things considered. Still able to live on her own, drive etc. I cooked a lot, laughed a lot and learned a lot. (Family stories that you just never get as a kid or even as an adult, until you ask!) More on all that as time goes on. Anyway, that was where the first two missed Fridays went. I was off-line almost the whole time and LOVED it!

On the return trip, the train had to sit on the siding as a freight train passed. . . and that left us right outside the entrance to Glacier Park at sunrise! 

Not for everyone but I have always adored the landscape of the Dakotas. This is North Dakota.
I love the sparseness and the extremes. 

The Book: While away I finished a wonderful and inspiring book, The Witches of New York, by Ami McKay. I love a good period piece and this one set in the Victorian era of spiritualism in NY is filled with amazing scenes and characters. Its beautiful, full of magic and dreamy. . .  but gritty and relatable and I highly recommend it. I just have to say, where can I get a pet raven?!

The Bug: The last two weeks of March were spent recovering from my trip and from getting sick for the third year in a row, after my return. I don't know what I expect. It's a terrible time to travel with so many people sick and the trip, in all honesty, is exhausting. Physically (it's hard to get good sleep on a moving train) and emotionally with being both home (childhood home)  and away from home (Here, where my entire life and future are) all at once.  It took the last two weeks to get back to normal and so I let the posting of blogs slide.

The Bit of a Revelation - While away I've thought a lot about time and how I spend it.

I am fortunate, beyond my wildest dreams, that I get to make a living being creative. At the tail end of last year, and maybe this is human nature, I began thinking of how I could make things "better". I'm not even sure what that meant really. But it led to me thinking I should do more of this, or try more of that, or create new online presences etc etc.  While away, I realized that I am doing exactly what I want to be doing, Every single day. So why did I think I needed to do more?

I'm still not sure really.

On the train rides I talked to many people from all over the country and what always strikes me is how many (nearly every single person) react the same way when I tell them what I do for a living.

Their response falls along this line. . . "Oh, you can really make a living doing that?"

It's always stated, it seems, with a mix of exasperation and true joy.

It jars me to remember just how difficult that is to accomplish and also, when I set out to do it, that I never thought of it that way at all. It was always just going to be the next thing I do for a living when I sold the coffeehouse.

I was certain of it. Had no doubts. I was determined and willing to put in whatever time it took to make it happen. Never giving up.

The thing is, I never stopped in the last eight years to think about what I would need to do to continue it. I thought about that a lot this last month and the answer was pretty simple.

Follow the exact same path you always have. For me/us that means making and listing new work every single day and just letting it carry us where it will, trusting that the critical mass of listings, the continued desire to improve and the exposure will bring the customers.

In a sense, I'd come to allow the thinking me to overtake the intuitive. It's easy in a world where you can feel so "out of touch" if you are not on social media or connecting somehow when it seems everyone else is.

I kept feeling I should branch out, try new venues or promote my work more. The truth is, we have never done or had to do that and I cannot see why we would take time away from making and listing new work to do so at any point unless what works for us now stops working in the future.

Inspiration is always one reason to venture into those waters, I know, but I've come to think that there is such an overwhelming amount of visual out there to inspire and that too much of it is, for me, not good.  If I take in too much I can lose my way because, YES, I want to do SO many things! Try new ideas and go down rabbit holes at every turn. So I try to limit my inspirational online dives too.

All that is to say that I came back seeing clearly that the focus for the rest of 2018 is just this:

Create, create, create!

My shops currently have less than half the stock they "should". That is, in part, because I have been selling items as fast as they make it in there but I have always thought that a shop with 80 items is more attractive to a buyer than one with 20.  Especially as the holidays approach. (Yes, I said it, the holidays are NEAR. lol)

A long time ago I used to love to toss around a saying that I picked up in my old, urban/city-hardened art days:

"There are only two kinds of artists, talkers and doers. The talkers rarely make the time to do their art and the doers rarely have time to spend talking about it."

I've always been a mix I suppose and in those early days of my adult life was I was certainly more the talker. I didn't say that type of thing to rouse or poke others, only to light a fire under myself.

It was a reminder.

It's easy to talk about what we want to do and far harder to put ourselves on the line and just take action and do them.  Somehow though, when it came to creativity as far back as childhood, I was more the doer, never the talker.

So I am going back to those roots.

My shops and my "Ledgerkeepers" book

That's it. At least for the rest of this year. . . and, honestly, it's quite enough! :)

So I'll be putting off some of those new outlets and inspirations for now and getting back to what got me here and allowed me to become a maker-of-things

And that is, simply
The Making

Which I have been doing since getting past the flu bug and below are a few of the newest pieces. :)

Thank you for coming back and I look forward to posting weekly again and to catching up on all of your blogs in the days ahead too!

XO Nicolas

I love the idea of using large flowers with a tiny house!!

I just wanted to come up with a house that had a mushroom "feel" without being a mushroom.

When I was home, I reconnected with the root of my love of ancient Egyptian/Kemetic Art.
I never tire of making Sekhmet lioness pieces and these busts have been very popular lately. 

A request for a red and gold Anubis led to this. I LOVE the colors and may make more like it going forward too!
It feels very elemental and warm.