being liam neeson (or, pep talk)

If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. — Liam Neeson in Taken

I’ve never actually seen the movie Taken, but I’ve been thinking about this quote a lot today.

I feel like I’m working on the foundations of… something. I’m not entirely sure what, but in the wake of vending at the beginning of the month, I’ve felt such momentum to build on that positive experience that I’m starting to do things. I’ve got websites for both lines of cards coming together while a friend of mine who has built a successful business as a massage therapist has been giving me pointers on how to build an actual business and how to network. I’m contacting a couple more stores this week, including one up in Vancouver BC, I’ve got plans for a Patreon and…

And then I stumble over myself. I’ll have prodigious bursts of creativity and inspiration, knowing just how to do this and that and the other damn thing, scribbling like a demon in my notebook followed by the certainty that it’s ridiculous. Because I’m just doing this thing? Pictures of minifigs? Pictures of flow artists?

Pictures at all?

Doesn’t everyone have a camera these days?

This isn’t like wildlife photography or photography in war zones. This is… this silly thing I do, crouching down over rocks in someone’s front garden.

Why bother people with it any more than I already do? Why put myself out there?

I have really got to get my head out of the space of “anyone can do this” and into the space of “I have a very particular set of skills”.

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Yes everyone has a camera. Yes there are a shit ton people at Spinurn taking photos and yes there are a metric fuckton of people on Instagram who take photos of Lego minifigs.

But I’m the one who started selling cards. I’m the one putting together shows and comics and getting kink Lego pictures accepted into art festivals.

I may not be the only person to stage a birthday party around the most recent collectible minifigure leaping out of a cake

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But by God, I am the only one to make it kinky before making it “creepy”.

And maybe that’s what pisses me off about these glad-handing, backslapping communities with their “aren’t we all great/don’t rock the boat” mentalities where everyone gets along. If everyone’s great, nobody’s good. Or great. Or different. Or even worth pursuing unless it’s something someone else did. Another fucking milk bath. And in those spaces, doing anything different or better or weird or more barely gets a reaction. So you can start to doubt your own skills, your own drives.

“I took high speed photos of raindrops being sliced by swords.”
That’s great!
“I took pictures of a naked girl on a beach.”
That’s great too!

I had a friend who was a burlesque performer for a year or two before giving up. The thing that drove her away was how everything was great, which meant that nothing stood out to the performers and producers themselves. A tightly choreographed act was as great as someone who flailed around. Which is polite, but it leads to this weird Harrison Bergeron-esque baseline that Vonnegut would have screamed to see in action. Assuming he didn’t every time he attended a creative writer’s workshop.

I have skills. I have a particular set of skills that comes from years of weirdness, years of burlesque photography, years of playing with fire, years of fucking around in the studio and it all adds up to this weird mixture that is… me.

It’s not a lot. But it’s something unique to me. Not everyone does this. Not anyone does this. And that has value. Maybe not a lot, maybe not enough to be hanging on the walls at SFMOMA (yet?) but it’s gotten attention and an audience. Even and especially when I go beyond the limits of Flickr or Instagram. Tacoma was a good start. I didn’t make a million bucks (unlikely as fuck, right?) but I made contacts. I made people laugh. As an added bonus, I made my costs back and then some. Enough to go on to the next wave of cards and ideas that are already making waves.

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from New Math by Craig Damrauer

It’s a small thing, maybe. But it matters. And it has meaning. And it makes me happy in a time of great, ongoing frustration.

So I’ll end this with a quote I heard in a Martin Short interview this morning.

“If I give one bit of wisdom to my children, it’s ‘Just be your biggest fan and maybe that sensibility will catch on with others.'”

Stay tuned. I’m rolling out two websites this week. We’ll see what happens next.

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Zen and Lego

There’s something supremely relaxing about building Lego, following the instructions step by step towards the finished build. It can be supremely complex or a polybag mini, I love it.

Step one…

It’s meditative. The solutions are almost always at hand. The piece just rolled thataway or you used this one instead of that one and it’s an easy swap out. What frustrations you feel are sorted out pretty quickly and you’re back on your way.

A 2×4 Black plate attaches…

I can’t help but admire the engineering. How someone thought to put this here and that there and suddenly that blocky build has become sleek. Stylish. I’m sure if I took notes I could apply the techniques to my own builds but I never think of it. It’s enough to do it.

Flip the assembly over and…

I grew up with Lego and I think I share a certain kind of nostalgic “frustration” that modern Lego is somehow too sleek and smooth. That the movie tie ins cheapen the “back in our day” simplicity of it all. We didn’t have CAD/CAM systems like Stud.io and all that. But I like what’s out there so much more. I built the Yellow Submarine set and loved every second and still use the build for photos.

Some day soon I hope to buy one of those huge modular kits, Assembly Square or something like, and I’ll look forward to the day or three of concentrated building it’ll require.

Until then, I’ll love the polybags and the seasonal mini-sets. It’s all phenomenally calming.

Look, I built…

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Wet? Darling, no!

A month or two ago a store in near Pike Place closed because it just wasn’t drawing enough business. This in itself isn’t all that surprising (times being what they are) but the nature of the business made the story go national.

Because the store that closed dealt in umbrellas.

And the websites that carried this news were aghast. It rains in Seattle, right? All the time, right? So clearly if ever there was a business that was destined to thrive in Seattle (where it rains) [all the time!!] {no really!!!}, surely it would be… dealing with umbrellas.

To quote that great philosopher of the 21st century: “the fuck???”

Well first and foremost is the issue that umbrellas in The Big City (or even the Big Quaint Fishing Village that is Seattle) don’t mix. You need to have some Matrix-esque kung fu to be able to bob, duck and weave your umbrella around everyone else’s umbrella at the best of times. Forget that when you’re dealing with a lunch rush or the crush to get out of town at the end of the day.

But more importantly you need to know that Seattle doesn’t have “rain”. It really doesn’t.

Oh sure, my weather app is predicting the rain will stop at 5ish this afternoon and the radar indicates precipitation…

… but that’s not rain. And you don’t really get that until you’ve lived here for a while and learn that while you may want to keep an umbrella with you, it’s usually overkill. Or worthless. Or both.

Seattle gets two kinds of precipitation:

  1. “Mist with a mission” – It’s sort of sprinkling, sort of not. It’s intermittent but steady enough to be annoying. And unless you’re walking a lot, it’s easier to deal with this with a hood or a hat and a good coat. Otherwise you’re running the risk of the strangest kind of RSI ever.
  2. “INCOMING!!!” – The rain is coming down in buckets and the wind off the Sound is so intense you’re spending more time trying to ensure that your umbrella doesn’t dramatically implode than trying to stay dry. The last time I had to buy an umbrella was during something like this. I popped off the tag, walked out the door of the shop and *FWOOMP*, it was an ex-umbrella. Thank god for receipts… and cashiers who saw the whole damn thing happen.

Oh yeah, I carry an umbrella. A small thing that fits in my bag that I use mostly for those bus stops that don’t have a shelter. The rest of the time, it’s better to just endure.

Welcome to Seattle. Save yourself the bother: wear a hat.

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Oof.

This weekend went from quite a lot of work to a lot of work to “We’re Sorry, But The Human You Are Trying To Contact Is Unavailable” of work.

On Saturday, my friend Maddie and I went down to Tacoma to vend at a goth/dark themed arts & crafts fair. This was my first time taking my kink Lego cards out on the road and on its own that would have been enough. I’ve devoted no small amount of brain power on getting everything ready and pulling together the this and the that to make it happen. Tablecloth and signage and finding my old Square card reader and oh yeah the actual cards that I’ve been knocking out.

That on its own would have been enough and I’ll write about it later. But two days after I sent in the paperwork and the money to vend there, another friend who runs a massage therapy clinic wanted to hire me again to shoot at her new location, would I be free on March 31st? The day of vending? The day… oof. Fortunately we managed to schedule everything on April 1st.

And that would have been enough. Except on Tuesday of this week, Maddie asked if I’d be free for a last minute shoot at a haunted house she volunteered at last year. Seems they’d be tearing down a scene for the season and she wanted to pull something together quickly. And of course I said yes, because we do weird and wonderful things together.

But add it all up and… frankly I’m amazed I was able to walk upright today. Not so much from physical weariness as mental and emotional exhaustion. There were a lot of people and a lot of creative energy and a lot of expectations that, while really low key one at a time added up over the span of three days. Totally worth it.

Friday’s shoot was the right kind of dramatic insanity I’d been hoping for. Maddie wanted to shoot something in the haunt’s asylum so we had a crazy girl in a straitjacket and a creepy plague doctor with stark light to make it properly horrific. I only got enough time to tease a couple of images before I had to crash because the next day was getting up at the crack of dawn.

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So Tacoma! This was Maddie’s first time vending ever and while I’ve vended before, this was new. This was my Lego kink cards. This was something I haven’t really seen before and would anyone like it or would I be lucky if I made a sale or……

As it turned out, I did really well there and not just in sales. The response was very positive (not counting the usual assortment of people who nodded and smiled at my weird shit, of course) and the organizer said I had a lot of buzz going. And it was so much happening and so many conversations, all I’ve got are postcards and moments.

One woman walked by and stopped on seeing my booth. “Oh my god, it’s you! You’re the guy!!!” It turns out she bought a bunch of my cards when Doghouse Leather stocked them last month. Because she loves Lego, her partner is a full-on Lego Builder (currently working on a five year project of some Star Wars ship) and she thought the cards were fucking fantastic. I had a fan and I didn’t even know it. The only thing keeping her from buying more was that she couldn’t remember what she already had. But I got some great pointers for other places to vend, notes on what to pitch to Doghouse in future (I need to get started plotting Pride cards).

Actually there was a really fun overlap between kinky people and Lego fans. I think I may have found a market. And most of the kinky people seemed to share my reservations about kinky art, which was wonderful.

There was the undeniable pleasure of watching parents steer kids of a certain age away from my booth. There weren’t supposed to be children at all (no one under 12?) but there were vendor friends and friends of friends so a couple were around and oh, it was hilarious. “Look kids, Legooooooo… and over there, look it’s a clown!” I was dying of laughter.

I brought postcards of my Postcard design and made my costs back in one day, with a bunch of people wishing I had more designs in that form factor, so I’m pondering. I actually put out more of my Seattle cards and got a decent response from them. And the few Dia de los Muertos cards I had sold out before noon.

There was another vendor there who dug the hell out of what I was doing and gave me some direction in terms of touching base within the kink scene. I may have a couple of other leads through her for other projects as well. Meeting her alone was worthwhile. I’ll be dropping her a line tomorrow to see

To cap it all off, I’ve been invited to vend again at another event in July. I can even share space with Maddie to save costs, which sounds really bloody good. I mean, I was expecting to be stared at like a dog that’s been shown a card trick and instead I found people who dug me. Or knew people who would. Or took my card and…

It was wonderfully reassuring.

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Portrait of the artist as an exhausted vendor

And finally yesterday’s shoot consisted of headshots, some pics of the new space and not a lot more. Better, it was with people who I’d worked with before so it was actually really simple. And then an impromptu business seminar with my friend giving me some good pointers on how to build my business. While I still have to work on all those photos, it’s not like a mass of Spinurn shots. Or even a typical shoot with Maddie for that matter.

But that’s tomorrow. Tonight…

It’s been real and it’s been fun and I’m so glad it’s over. Not least of all because I haven’t had a lot of time or energy to focus on the next batch of schemes, y’know? So much has been building towards vending that I haven’t had time to shoot or plot or even plan new shoots. Just accumulate elements and tools for those shoots. Or plan to accumulate stuff.

Now I can do. And the ideas are there, waiting. I went to the Lego store today to get some more minifigs for the next wave of cards, both kink and regular. I have ideas of how to brand two different card lines, my photography business, a mailing list and maybe even more?

Is this what confidence feels like?

Watch this space. I see a mailing list in the works, at least.