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…

process

It’s rare for me to have a paper trail for my work. Not that there aren’t variations or versions when I work with Lego (or occasionally a lot), but the differences are usually so minimal that they’re not worth commentary. This time the arm was like… this time the light was reflecting on the minifig head so I adjusted…

So when I find one, I tend to want to talk about it. Especially when the results are good. Like, I’m kind of impressed I managed it. This may not change the world, but it was a challenge when I needed one, so…

Of my more mundane cards, the most popular in the local shops are the ones of distinctive Seattle sites. While I’ve got one of the Hammering Man outside the Art Museum (not THAT Seattle) or the new ferris wheel (it’s neat but not distinctive), the cards that sell out are of the Space Needle and Pike Place Market. They may not be the most creative cards I’ve ever designed but I’ll follow the market.

But not another “minifig in front of stuff” image again. It may sell (mostly. Like I said, I’ve got two dead designs) but it’s boring and limiting and quickly becomes minifigure on moss. And since I’m not a big Builder, I didn’t see much hope in trying to build, say, the Space Needle for a card, so I needed a new angle.

Funnily enough, I built the Space Needle anyway.

Make something distinctively Seattle while steering clear of just one landmark? I thought of those old postcards. You know the type: vista, name in big letters, “GREETINGS FROM”…

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The idea came together from there. And I made it up. The easy part was picking a few locales to shoot potential pictures for the letters, even if I didn’t quite know how I was going to do that. The harder part was the vista.

Everyone knows the Seattle skyline. Even if you’ve never been to Seattle, you know it, thanks to Frasier. Everyone who comes to Seattle wants to go to Kerry Park to take The Picture of the skyline. I know this because I used to live a couple blocks away. Enough to have more fun taking photos of the tourists than the view itself. Not that I didn’t do that too.

Clear sky

Like I said, you’ve seen this.

So start there. Imagine the letters, what can be done with that?

I went a little… weird with it.

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Start with a sketch. Then run through Stud.io and come up with something that’s… close?

[I love that under the sketch I wrote “Can I manage this?”] [Yes I can read my own handwriting, thanks.]

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Well it’s not going to win any prizes for scientific accuracy, but when you order the pieces from Bricklink and run over to the actual Kerry Park…

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Bingo. And like that, I never have to go to Kerry Park again (yeah right). Although being asked what the hell I was doing was kind of fun.

From there, a painfully rough draft done on my phone to make sure this could work. Roughly.

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This is where I started to believe this was doable. I wasn’t entirely sure how, mind you, since my Photoshop skills are very rough and learned piecemeal. And although I found a pretty good tutorial on a couple of tips and tricks involved, it was an admixture of Photoshop and Illustrator and would involve the library and….

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I managed to do it all in Photoshop anyway. And if it wasn’t exactly like the tutorial it was good enough that even my tendency to fret and quibble shut up long enough for me to be happy with the result. Really happy.

Happy enough that I took money from another recent wholesale order and ordered cards and postcards that arrived in the time I’ve been dithering about this entry.

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These are going down with me to Tacoma on Saturday. We’ll see how this crazy idea goes. Maybe it’s nothing. Maybe not.

Either way I think the journey’s been worth it and I’m pleased that I challenged myself just a little bit.

layers of lego

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Titled “Thank You, Sir”

Y’all know my Lego kink project is kind of satirical, yeah?

In all the assorted preparations for getting my work ready for SEAF (prints arrived last week, I’ll frame them after I vend in Tacoma in two weeks) and looking over the schedule (the artist’s “VIP” reception should be a hoot) there’s one event that leapt out at me as being particularly juicy.

The weekend before festival properly begins, there will be a chance for the artists to meet with the show’s docents. In this way, we can talk about our inspirations, share stories and other tidbits that could be useful in making a sale. Oh, yeah, and connecting the viewer with the art too. Whatever.

So I’m very curious to see what they make of my photos before I talk to them about it. Because there’s a lot going on here. And while the work is serious, I’m curious.

On the first level: this is Lego. And that’s silly and fun and unlikely and probably a big part of why my photos were accepted. They simply look different in a field of nude models and semi-abstract sculpture.

On the next level: I’m genuinely looking to make kink and fetish and sexiness look fun and even silly. To the point I’ll pull in dad jokes to serve my purpose:

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I submitted this as a lark and it wasn’t accepted. It’ll be showing up in the store, though.

A lot of what’s out there strikes me as grim and dark and, honestly, mean. It’s grim men in leather vests or strict women in severe corsets enacting impossible shibari in tricked out dungeons. And while there’s more to it than that, the image is prevalent enough that I think people find it off-putting.

And I know this because I faced it when I went out vending bondage rope at my last day job. Not all the time, of course, but for every buyer who knew that they wanted X length of Y color, there was someone who was intrigued by the idea bondage but not if it required converting their garage into a sex dungeon and buying fifteen pairs of leather pants. My job was as much about putting a human face on the product in jeans and a t-shirt instead of a reject from the Village People.

This is my attempt to make human art. Sweet. Loving, even if the scene itself is one that involves fifty feet of rope, a riding crop and a violet wand and looks to an outsider like an outtake from one of the Bourne films. Yes it can be lovingly brutal, yes it can be silly.

But deeper still? This is satire.

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I went through one of the online festival catalogs and I swear that I saw this picture two or three times. Not exactly the same, of course, (and obviously no Lego was involved) but in the broad strokes there it was: woman, rope and engineering combined to make… this.

Is it still sexy the fifth time you’ve seen it? The tenth? If the only real difference between this image and the next is the knot work but otherwise she’s just bound like a side of beef?

Is it still “erotic” if we take the human model out and replace her with a RealDoll (the link is mostly safe for work, nothing super explicit but use your discretion)? Or a Lego minifig? Or…?

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If the only difference between two images is that one features a brunette and the other a blonde…?

So yeah. My submissions are sincere. I’m not storming the barricades and throwing shit around like a bonobo at the zoo. But I am tweaking some noses here and there. I am trying to imbue plastic figures with more humanity than I see in most fetish photography. I’ve had friends compliment me for making the top image in this entry feel human. Gentle.

I’m looking forward to SEAF. I’m looking forward to that meeting. I’m looking forward to seeing if maybe, just maybe, I might change some minds.

At the very least, I’m hoping I can sell all these out.

Stay tuned…

too many bricks

I love Lego.

I hate Lego.

I love Lego for the opportunities in story telling, the ways I can mix and match and build narrative. I love it for the times when people tell me I managed to show an emotion in the interaction of two minifigures. It’s marvelous and I think it’s safe to say that this is going to be in my wheelhouse for quite some time.

I hate Lego any time I try to build anything on my own. Because dammit there are just too many bricks!

I’m not a builder. I love a kit, I love the instructions and whenever I buy something new, I have a blast putting things together and seeing how I can use the finished product in a photo.

But I’m never really inspired to make the USS Enterprise out of twelve bricks or a scale model of the London Eye or whatever. I’m envious of the people who can do that and I’ll stare in wide wonder at BrickCon but I don’t feel that passion.

When I do feel inspired to design something on my own, that’s when I’m screwed. Not because of technical limitations or not having enough bricks on hand. Trust me, BrickLink is your friend when you’re searching out parts and minifigs. And their Stud.io design software is a game changer. Instead of thinking that maybe there’s a brick that’ll work like so you can pull its digital copy out and play.

That band idea I wrote about last time? Well I went to play with it in Stud.io and I came up with this:

The Band

Even as the pedant in me would like to point out that this is missing and that’s incorrect, I’m well pleased with this. It’ll work perfectly for The Outsiders.

So I upload it to BrickLink, get a shopping list and immediately hit a brick wall… built of 2×4 bricks in red and dark bluish grey.

Here’s the thing, folks. Lego bricks look simple and easily sorted. You’ve got bricks (self-explanatory), plates (flat pieces with studs), tiles (flat pieces without studs), slopes, arches and so on and so forth. But for every particular brick that exists as its own holotype, its own platonic ideal, there are countless others that exist with subtle variations that probably only matter to the keepers of the database.

Because those little grille pieces that make up the keys on the keyboard exist in three different forms, depending on whether or not there’s a “lip” on the bottom. One variation was used sparingly, the other is dominant. Pick the wrong one and the system will be looking for a needle in a haystack. Pick the right one and you’re done shopping in thirty seconds.

And this is what always messes me up. Always. This piece? Not available in dark bluish grey but it’s readily available in light bluish grey. This piece? Available with a lip or without a lip. Are you feeling lucky?

It’s a minor frustration, probably something I’d internalize if I actually built larger scenes and MOCs, but as a small time, small-scale dabbler I’ll just keep gritting my teeth and work through the missing bits by hand.

Stay tuned. I think this is going to be a really fun shot.

my brain on Lego

one night only....

Where do I get my ideas? Jesus, I wish I knew.

The obvious ones are kind of obvious… obviously. A knight and a dragon. The Doctor and a Dalek. Batman and Robin. While I’ll take credit for an original staging or unique take on the subject, the idea itself is pretty self explanatory.

When you get in to the realm of this shot, however… yeah I wish I had an easy answer. It’s an idea that started with a joke, evolved with a few more minifigs and now I’m actually working on building up a band. All because someone in the hierarchy of Lego devised that glam Batman that’s lurking in the right hand of this picture.

That first wave of Lego Batman minifigs included the glam figure and it was wacky. Silly. I used it in a couple of pictures and it probably would have languished in the bottom of that box.

The second wave of Lego Batman minifigs included that Black Canary figure, with a microphone stand and a dual printed head that had her screaming (or singing) on one side.

Well that’s a rock band… right?

BLACK CANARY! LIVE IN CONCERT!

Well, mostly. Kind of. Decent duo. But not a band.

Have you ever had the experience where an idea just lands in your head, unbidden? Like your subconscious had been chewing on something for a couple days and there it is?

Some of the other figures in this wave were in the Superfriends, but that was too obvious. But Black Canary was in The Outsiders. With Green Arrow. So he’s on drums, Apache Chief is on bass, Black Lightning is on keyboards.

And that “tour poster”? Well that’s the first attempt at doing something artsy with it. I really wanted something more like the cover for “With The Beatles”, but it’s hard to get that kind of detail with plastic cylinders, so it became what it is now and I kind of love it all the more for not being “perfect” but the best that I could do with a bunch of minifigures and two flashlights.

I think there’s more to come with this. I don’t know what, exactly, but it’s been a lot of fun to think about.

pieces of change

All together now!

meet the team

According to the schedule, I should be hearing from the Seattle Erotic Arts Festival about whether my submissions made the cut… tonight? Tomorrow? Cynically, I’d be amazed to hear anything, but I remain quietly optimistic.

Because dammit, my Lego kink should be appreciated by more people!

Yes, Lego kink. Because I saw some of the figures in this picture and I just knew what I could do with them. The ideas came in a torrent and I’ve been doing my damnedest to get them out of my head and into the world.

Why? Because I think so much of the kink art out there is too serious and too grim. I’ve been jokingly calling it the “GrrNyar” school of kink because it tends to be grim faced men or sharp edged women being very intimidating while standing over some hapless fool who’s had the misfortune to be tied up like a side of beef. I want to see something more. I want to see a comedy of errors or two people who are deeply into each other as well as their scene. I know it happens, I’ve seen it. So why is all the art grim and shadowy?

So I submitted some to SEAF. I’m still not a fan of the event and I think it’s a little stuck on its own reputation and history to grow beyond lowest common denominator “sexy”, but if I can offer something that flies in the face of that expectation, fantastic. Even better to do something that’s silly or sweet or comedic. Or all three. Hell, when my friend Maddie told me I got more emotional content with minifigs than she’d seen in some of the SEAF catalogs…

I’ve also been making cards of these little figures and finding places to sell them. First there was my Etsy store (along with my more mundane Lego cards) but in addition to getting them into a local sex shop, I’ve been sending out emails and line sheets and the responses have been mostly positive. Including a leather shop in town that wants a couple dozen and a queer sex shop up in Vancouver, BC.

And more to come? Unless something goes horribly awry, I’ll be vending down in Tacoma at the end of March. Quoi?

So in this I’m going to be the change I want to see. I’m going to offer the weird in my head and see what the response is. Weirdly enough, I think this may have a bit more momentum than some of my other projects. We’ll see…