Whittling Down To The Beautiful


C2 - Alchemy lab - After

My partner and I run a business together: buying & selling antiques, doing shows, Ebay, repairing old pieces, creating new designs from vintage/antique components. Part of this process is the old “Buy Low, Sell High” tactic. So we hit auctions, thrift stores, Craigslist, junk shops, and antique stores. We scoop up anything with potential, flip the ready-to-go pieces as quickly as possible, and slowly work on the pieces that need TLC or creative reworking.

The needy pieces are less expensive, of course, and we always have more plans than time. (Sound familiar?) So, the easy pieces sell quickly, and the time-suck ones tend to pile up.

About 2 months ago, we decided it was time for a purge. We wanted to move to another location, get a fresh start. Opportunities arose, and as daunting as the overwhelming task seemed, we lunged at them.

Now, this meant a few things:
– Downsizing from an 8,000 sq ft building with our loft, storefront, storage & workshop to an adorable 1000 sq ft house
– Decision-making on what to let go vs. what to keep
– Re-imagining our lives with these changes in mind

Our action plan, at its root, challenged us to decide what things were most valuable and to let the rest go. Sounds simple, right? But this wasn’t just about ~things~. It also included our hopes, dreams, emotions, attachments. The decision rippled through every aspect of our lives: relationships, family, friends, finances, location, business, etc, etc…

Some choices hurt. We mourned the potential of soon-to-be-lost things. But we knew to get to our end goal, we had to be merciless.

[Roll over each pic for a caption.]

So here we are, on the other side. Feels.so.damn.good.

Yes, this is a story specific to me, but not solely. ALL you readers are insanely intelligent. You’re boss at drawing analogies, reading words someone else wrote & drawing personal significance from them. I encourage you to do that.

Maybe for you, this post is about a change or move or purge you need to make in your own life. Maybe it applies to the fear of the draft looming in front of you or the scary-ass revisions staring you in the face. Maybe it’s a bit of inspiration for redesigning your life (or just your creative space) by sifting ALL THE THINGS down to the beautiful.

It’s tough. It hurts. It’s hard work.

It’s worth it.

Saturday Selfie for the Hell of It


Me, on a random Saturday, which is to say: a few minutes ago

Me, on a random Saturday, which is to say: a few minutes ago

Twitter’s such a jerk to me when it comes to uploading pics taken on my camera. I mean, I reduce the image size, scale it down, and everything. TO NO AVAIL.

I probably should look into some Twitpiccy thingamahooey or something. But who has time??? There are chapters to write! Novels to complete! COFFEE TO BUY AND THAT’S THE ONLY REASON I’M EVEN DRESSED RIGHT NOW

And why a selfie? IDK…because I rarely take them? Because I have a dumbphone not a smartphone? Because, have I mentioned, TWITTER HATES MY CAMERA?

So, for whatever spur-of-the-moment reason, a Saturday selfie. Which could be a weekly thing, but what would be the point? Well, keeping track of my everchanging coiffure perhaps. Or touring the loft/studio/storefront maybe.

Well, let’s point out some things with this here pic, at least. Hair: hastily bound topknot to wrangle the mess. Broken arm pose to show off the Phreak Show tats. Oh, and that’s my Astrobracelet on my wrist. (Which, were I savvy, I would have twisted so the pair of stars smiled at the camera.) Setting: ‘Living Room’ area of the loft. I’m chilling on this amazing highback Victorian sofa we recovered in cowhide with nailhead trim.

So there you have it! A — for whatever it’s worth — selfie. (Which also conveniently took care of my need for a blog post. Thanks, jerky Twitter!)

And now: To brave the always curiously gawking, midwest townsfolk in order to BUY SOME FLIPPIN COFFEE WHILE CLOTHED ON A SATURDAY.

Confession: I’m self-conscious of this post. Not b/c of the pic. I’m more than cool with that. But b/c there’s a cussword in the title. Being a “YA Author” with industry eyes on me, I worry about things like that. I actually just edited to  change “DAMN” to “FLIPPIN” in that last line. But the title stays. Is that a weird thing to be weirded out over?

Teaching Skull Specimen


Reginald Crane

Reginald Crane says, “Hi.”

TEACHING SPECIMEN 
Late 19th-early 20th century.
Skull with cut away and hinged sections.
Original painted details.
In a glass and wood display case. 12.5″h. 9″w.

Isn’t Reginald rad? I just won him in an auction about 10 minutes ago. I know some folks think it’s weird/creepy/macabre to own, like, a human skull. But think about it: we all have one. And, once on display, skulls live on as art.

This specimen is hand-painted and was used to teach medical students. The cranial cap is completely removable. The lower half is bifurcated lengthwise and the halves split apart. There are other sweet cutaway sections held together with springs, hooks, pins, and hinges. Inside, there is more painting detailing the major arteries and veins.

This is the 5th skull I’ve temporarily owned long enough to sell. I’d gladly keep & display them all, but, believe it or not, they are highly sought after items. Reginald’s great condition, painting, movable parts, and display case means he’ll easily double my money (and possibly triple it.) Reginald is an investment.

He’ll go up Ebay this coming Monday or Tuesday.

So weird? Maybe.
But also cool as hell.
And ~cha-ching~ collectible.

Reginald Crane says, "Bye."

Reginald Crane says, “Bye.”

Phalangeal Re-Creation -OR- The Day I Made Bones


My partner, Micah, and I happen upon odd things in our business. Sometimes that oddness appears in the form of human bones.

Yeah, I know, some folks find that creepy. I’m totally okay with that, because a lot of other folks find it phenomenal. In fact, we have a list of clients who are mainly interested in the uber-weird: plastinated organs, death memorabilia, human bones, taxidermy, preserved specimens, etc.

This past week, we turned down a collection of, to quote the seller, “Indian bones”. In his personal archaeological quest for Native American artifacts, he has amassed a barn-full of remains. Now, we have a personal aversion to this idea. Buying and selling bones which were once used for scientific study & education (and therefore, hopefully, gifted by the donor for that purpose) is a far different thing than trafficking remains which were once ceremoniously interred.

For us, this is a moral issue.

To the U.S. government, it is also a federal offense. (SEE: Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act)

How to know the difference? Well, the educational items are cleaned & prepared–usually with mounting wires, hinges, springs & screws. A while back, we purchased a group of these specimens. Basically, pieces and parts from educational models—all in varying stages of disrepair.

That’s where I come in.

These past couple days I have been hand-carving replacement phalanges for a sad, little skeletal arm who had lost the majority of his digits. And because some of you may find this intriguing (and maybe just a *little* bit creepy…) here’s a slide show of the progression from busted to re-bonified.

So, there you go. No bones about it. [ahem…] From busted & sad to (I think) a much revived version.

And for my next trick– Well, actually, Micah is working on the next project. Documentary pics shall follow. Yes, it involves more bones. A skull, in fact. One which was cut into 7+ vertical slices… Mounting fixtures and a gorgeous base are being fabricated, a glass dome awaits.

In the meantime, to keep me busy, there are a few vertebra columns which need some TLC.

Steampunk Orrery #1


Holiday prep. Work. Family. Friends. Storefront. Art. Steampunk.

These are the things which have been keeping me uber-busified o’er the last couple weeks. The pace holds no promise of letting up anytime soon.

In addition to our monthly stint in Atlanta & keeping stock for the massive bi-annual sale at www.grandviewmercantile.com, my partner and I will also be taking part in a six-artist exhibition in January. That’s.a.lot.of.stuff.

The Mansfield Art Center www.mansfieldartcenter.org asked Lucah to participate in a reclaimed objects show. In our business, we always incorporate vintage and antique items. But this venue allows us to push things further. Since it is mainly an art exhibit [with the potential for selling] we can focus on artistry over marketability. This is a welcome break from the question we must ask ourselves at the beginning of every project: What do I need to do to this piece in order to make it sell–quickly?

With that question eradicated from the equation, a new batch of them takes its place: How effin amazing can I make this piece? How far can I push it? What have I been aching to create but haven’t allowed myself to? What phenomenal piece of art can I dream up and execute?

In the theme-planning stage, Micah and I decided on a steampunk vibe. We further decided to make sure we incorporated gadgetry, moving parts, and taxidermy. Alright! Now we’re talking. Freedom to make some whacked up, ass-kickin’ art.

One of the first ideas to begin churning  in my mind was an orrery. Being a science geek and an artist, an astronomical model meshes both of these facets of Lucas. I’ve always wanted to create an orrery, but simply have never set out to do it. This exhibition booted me in the ass to finally make it happen. And since it is “art”, it doesn’t even have to represent a real solar system. It can totally exist as a fantastical place which spins and orbits only in my imagination.

Working with 100% recycled/reclaimed/antique/vintage materials, this is what I came up with:

 

Orrery #1

Orrery #1

 

Orerry (16)

Orerry (19)

Orerry (23)

Orerry (24)

Orerry (30)

 

Some of the components which make up this piece: antique globe stand, antique hand drill, cash register components, vintage croquet balls, iron, aluminum, steel, copper.
Cranking the hand drill rotates the steel sphere & aluminum ring. The large gear from which the other planets are suspended can be manually rotated. The mounting armatures can be swiveled or extended.

I titled this piece “Orrery #1” because I know that it is the first of many I will create. Now that the seal is broken, this thing is on.

Over the next couple days, I will post images of other projects we are working on for the exhibition. Specifically, a pair of “Prohibition Radios” complete with secret compartments, and a series of in-process images of the transformation of a mangy, balding, taxidermied bear into a battle-ready, copper-armored warrior.

And, oh yeah, happy holidays and shit.

 

Birthday Presents Wrapped in Christmas Paper Suck


Tubesocks are not a very good Christmas present

Tubesocks are not a very good Christmas present

After the maelstrom that was NaNoWriMo, I believe it’s time for a personal post. Those can be tricky. [Apparently?] I see so many people who wear a kind of online ambiguity mask or something. You know, they Tweet about ‘the man’ or ‘the kid’ or create aliases for their family members. I read blogs where the home location is left intentionally vague—like the author is in the Witness Protection Program or something.

I assume this is for protection? Or privacy? Sure, there are stalkers and psychos hunting folks down, but come on. I have four words: too many Lifetime movies.

So, what shall I rant on / divulge today? Well, the holidays are here. That’s a pretty boring, overdone topic. Although, I could post a how-to video on creating your own 7′ store display Christmas tree using scrap wood, a nailgun & diluted acrylic paint. Eh, maybe just a picture:

Total cost to construct: 25 cents. Ornaments are antique items for sale.

Total cost to construct: 25 cents. Ornaments are antique items for sale.

Okay, here’s a conversation topic that is often broached around this time of year. My birthday is on December 25th. It’s pretty much a non-event nowadays, but as a kid, it totally sucked. Here’s why, as filtered through the mind of a little, bratty Lucas. [Who, at that time, was known as Benjie.]

1. Birthday presents wrapped in Santa paper are  stupid. Return of the Jedi would be way cooler. Who wants a birthday present (unless it’s an awesome Transformer!) wrapped in the repeating image of some fat, bearded guy?

2. Pecan pies—with candles inserted—are poser birthday cakes. They’re not cake. They’re pie. My brother got his own, personalized cake in June. At the park. Not in Aunt Joyce’s old-lady-smelling sitting room.

3. Everybody gets presents. And a most of them are waaay better than the hokey birthday junk I got. Probably because you spent all your money buying fancy Christmas presents.  We all get to open stuff. On this special day. My birthday. :: pout ::

4. Dual-purpose presents suck pinecones. “Now, Benjie, this is for both your birthday and Christmas.” Also, “3 pairs of the socks are for Christmas, and the other three are for your birthday.” Thanks, grandmama. I love striped tubesocks.  :: big, fake hug ::

Yeah, I want to pop bratty Benjie in his mouth too. Of course, he was raised right [as the saying goes down in Pine Level, NC.] For the record, little Benjie never got mad at baby Jesus or anything; it wasn’t his fault. And sharing a birthday with, like, the Savior of the world was kind of special in its own way. [No, no. We won’t go into the actual pagan origins of the celebration date right now…]

As we get older, holidays become more about checklists and schedules and trying to please everyone. Overspending, stress, a strings of lights which stops working AFTER all the ornaments are on the tree, etc, etc. We get busy about juggling how to make it to all the different family members’ homes for the celebrations. Divorced parents make this harder. In-laws make it harder still. Divorced in-laws? That’s stab-me-with-a-reindeer-antler hard. [Because, you know, they’re not even pointy…]

While the bratty, selfish part of Benjie has [mostly] grown up, there is a facet of his personality that still lives all childlike and innocent inside me. Benjie was sentimental, nostalgic, willing to forget about the Christmas-Birthday heartbreaks and find the magical moments in the holiday.

I know, I know. Christmas Magic. So trite. Melodramatic. Pretty damn Lifetime movie in and of itself.

But it’s truly a characteristic of mine. I could try to wax poetic and express it in soft-lit, quiet snowfall terms. Instead, I’d like to reference a movie. You’ve all seen it. Probably quintillions of times. Most people love it, but I do know a few [idiots] who detest it.

A Christmas Story.

With Ralphie’s obsession for a Red Ryder, the evil Scut Farkus and his toadie: Grover Dill, flagpole licking, deranged Easter Bunny pajamas, the glow of electric sex gleaming in the window, and Randy laying there like a slug. How can anyone hate that flick?

It’s un-American. And downright blasphemous.

Beyond all the amplified, nostalgic imagery, there is a scene that speaks to the good, wholesome kernel of little Benjie inside me. It’s towards the end when Mom & Dad are chilling by the tree with their Christmas wine. It’s quiet. The snow is falling. The tree is glowing. All is well.

I look for those moments each Christmas. Those gentle moments make little Benjie—and adult Lucas—all squishy inside. During those times, there is no selfishness over pecan pies or tubesocks. There is just that serenity that nestles in if I allow it.

And I always let it in.

Well, I went to the Christmas Magic place in this post. That was unexpected, but I’m alright with it. But what would a good post be without a nice punch at the end?

How about a clip from the Chop Suey Palace Co?

Fa ra ra ra ra

Happy holidays. And may none of your presents be wrapped in birthday paper.

Character Cabinet Cards


The basic outline for Phreak Show is done. The first chapter is complete and in the hands of betas & CPs for feedback. I am letting the characters & storyline bounce around in my subconscious until 11/1. On that illustrious date, I will kick the drafting into overdrive as part of NaNoWriMo.

What to do in the meantime?

I know! Create an ‘antique’ cabinet card for each of my characters:

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This was a fun process. And while it may seem like a waste of time, as it relates to writing, it is further reinforcement in my own mind that these characters are about to live. They are as real as they can be. They each have a story to tell. And Phreak Show is the vessel which is going to allow that to happen.

I do feel bad for Douggie, though. He doesn’t have a cabinet card yet. The source image I have for this character is perfect. It is Douggie. Unfortunately, it is cropped in such a way that it doesn’t lend itself well to the cab card construction. I’m still chewing on what to do about this.

In the meantime, I continue to live with the characters & pin more paper strips to the plotting wall. November is coming quick. Soon, these lovelies will begin to breathe. And presented in this uniform way, they really are beginning to feel like a team–a sideshow troupe ready to hit the road as The Last American Phreak Show.