Sunday, October 23, 2011

Halloween in Fairborn

So, the renaissance festival is over and we're almost to Halloween. Fairborn, where I live, is a great place for that. There is a costume shop called Foys that is open year-round; but in October they open half a dozen seasonal storefronts. They set up a bunch of prop shop monsters around, attached to, and on top of the buildings... and animatronic displays on three nearby properties. It brings in a lot of sightseers, that's for sure. In one yard are a dozen aliens and two crashed spaceships. Another has THREE pirate ships and a dozen pirates. They broadcast A Pirate's Life For Me. One of the pirates opens and closes shutters, and one of the ships lets off smoke from its cannon. Across the street a bunch more awesome props are gathered in one tiny yard. There's an ornate old hearse that does nothing, but I imagine the coffin inside used to open and close itself. There's a headless horseman on horseback. Every so often the horse will rear up and neigh wildly, while the rider brandishes his sword (and his severed head) in complicated maneuvers for about half a minute. There's also a huge monstrous beast, maybe an ogre of some sort. He has a spear in one hand and a skeleton dangling from the other. When he moves, he draws himself up to 10-12' in height, growls, brandishes his spear, and shakes the heck out of that poor skeleton. It's an awesome display. Um, and down the road from me is a less professional but very amusing yard with a bit of everything. Aside from the standard scarecrows and ghost christmas light cutouts there's a 8' long sea serpent  with orange&pink lights, and a large purple spider that crouches on top of a skeleton rising up out of the ground.

Any interesting Halloween sights in your town?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Good photos vs great ones

I admit, I'm not the world's most devoted photographer. I like creating things. Really, it is just that simple. Photographing, marketing, and selling them afterward is something I have learned to do to keep from being buried alive in art. Ok, the money is nice too. Being a minimum wage faery is not all it's cracked up to be.

I realized that the single image I had of most of my paintings was inadequate. People like to have an idea of the paintings scale. The best measurement I have is myself (several of my paintings are just that big). So myself and two dozen paintings went out in the backyard. 100 mosquito bites later, I have my photos. If I seem to be glaring in them, that's what it is. Nothing personal. Ok, so I hate being photographed. It's still nothing personal.

Photographing sculpture is a whole different kettle of fish. I was taught in art school to photograph things against a white or 20% grey background. I started off doing that, but it just wasn't working for me. The contrast is too high, and the colors look dark and burnt despite Photoshop's best efforts.

Much as the guys at Regretsy like to make fun of reclaimed barn wood, photographing against a wood background gets me my best results. Have a look at this guy, I call him Trash Fire Santa. For max irony, the can is a candleholder:
White background meh, nothing special, wood background... just works. Which one would you rather pay $175 for?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

So it's been 2 weeks since I last blogged, and I've been almost as busy as I expected. (The faire was rained out the weekend before last, which gave me an unexpected break.)

Oh, the faire. If I had enough money to not have to work, I'd buy a seasons pass to all the renfaires and travel. I'd have a blog on What Not To Wear- To Faire. In it I'd feature all the people who make suits of armor out of beer boxes, or who come cross-dressed as Dumbledore (yes, both have happened). With a sub-feature of What is that THING on your head? Because I've seen some doozies.

Several of my friends have complained of nightmares in the last week, and I've had some strange dreams myself. I quit sugar about 10 days ago, and most nights in my dreams I am scarfing it down. I wake up feeling vaguely guilty and unsure if I actually binged on sweets or not. Last night I was helping a man sell rabbits at a pagan festival.They came live, though if people requested it I would sell one as steaks. One day he hadn't made much, so instead of money he gave me a large dinner to take home(this was a long dream full of tedious details). There was a chocolate mousse and I ate it immediately. It's just weird, what my brain focuses on.

Finished Goblin King Santa and Witch Costume Santa. The weather has been poor for photography, either too sunny or gloomy- light cloud cover is what I aim for. So I have no photos yet. Got a bid on the Homeless Santa Luminary on Ebay, we'll see how that goes.

Scuse me, I need to mow the lawn before I go to work. All this rain you know. I'll try to post more regularly but since I'm working EVERY day I promise nothing.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Autumn Santas

I would have a lot to show you, because I've finished more wonderful autumn-themed Santas, but my husband took the camera to Dragoncon(lucky bastid), and I don't have a backup plan. So I'll have to wait until next week to introduce you.

I can describe them, I suppose. These are ornaments meant to hang. They are about 5" standing or 3.5" sitting. One is the 'Headless Horseman' or 'Pumpkinhead' Santa. Of course he has a shiny gold jack-o-lantern for a head. He has a black cloak thrown over his Santa outfit, with details picked out in metallic silver & gold.

The second is an Autumn Harvest Santa. He's dressed in autumn colors, and straw peeks out from his costume where fur trim usually is. He's like fat little scarecrow meets David the Gnome. He wears a little brown Santa hat with more straw and holds a pumpkin-shaped sign that says 'Give Thanks.'

Third... can I admit this is my favorite idea? We have psycho Santa. He's a dirty old fellow, his eyes are yellowed and creepy, and he holds a sign that says "I see you when you're sleeping." Great for your horror movie fan, will probably make children wet the bed.

Renaissance festival opens tomorrow. I'm feeling very anxious, but hopefully that will wear off and it will be like I never left. A lot going on at work. Less said, the better, but if it gets unpleasant I may be job hunting again soon. Family owned, family drama, I guess.

But really, life is good and I shouldn't dwell on the little problems. Til next week then!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

How to work the renaissance festival, pt 2

There are about a million and a half shops at the ren faire, and they all have stuff for sale. If you've never worked faire before, you don't want to rent one of those booths. You want to work for one.

Two years ago I answered an ad on Craigslist, and got myself hired by a jewelry booth. We all got on great, and they've wanted me back every year. Let me say I was really lucky to get hired by a reputable company. The pay is ok and always on time. Some will try to pay you in goods.... it's nice if you like what they sell, but it's unprofessional, illegal, and should be a big warning sign that this may go badly. What OTHER unusual demands might they have? What safety precautions might they ignore? So check the local Craigslist the month before a faire, but screen the posts VERY carefully.

If you are a fan of a particular company or companies, email them in the weeks before a faire. Tell them what a fan you are and that you'd like to work for them. This targeted approach works well because people are flattered that you are already familiar with and like their goods. If they have the people they need, they'll tell you so. But they might also add that so-and-so could use someone.

Go to the renfaire's website in the month before the faire. Run down the list of links, and check out the sellers website. If they need a person for a particular faire, it may be mentioned there. Again, email or call.

Lastly, you can go on the opening day of the faire and ask around to see if they need anyone. Go in GARB. Go EARLY. Hit the booths before the noon rush comes. If you look well-dressed and reliable your chances may be pretty good. After all, they will be needing someone pretty badly at this point.

Hopefully this will help some of you achieve your dream ren faire job. It will never make you rich, but every day brings something new and unexpected. Good luck!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

How to work the renaissance festival

I've been neglecting my blog for the last couple weeks. Trying to cram too much in the day, because I'm coming up on the busiest time of my year. Not Christmas, but the Ohio Renaissance Festival. It runs Labor Day weekend through most of October, and it is the most fun I've ever been paid to have. My 9-5 won't let me off the hook, so the next 2 months are going to be a crazy 7 day workweek. This will be my third year. Let me share with you how you can enjoy it too. This is tailored to O-Ren, but may be similar to other faires.

At the beginning of summer, the owner holds auditions. They cast the queen, court, and a number of street characters. Peasants. Your chances of being queen.....not good. They put the peasants through some training in Elizabethan accent, and turn them loose to entertain the patrons. This could be fun, except for the pay. It's per diem, which means per day, not per hour. The amount might cover your gas and maybe a meal at McDonalds. I have never done this.

There are the people who work the food and drink booths, and the ones on trash detail. The ones picking up trash wear tabards over boy scout uniforms. I gather that the faire owner gives a generous donation to their troop in return for their help. The food & drink servers are a mix of volunteers and minimum wage workers. If you have worked fast food, you've a good chance of being hired. They are cut loose pretty quickly if attendance is poor or the weather is bad- good if you want to wander the faire, bad if you're there to make money. In any case, it gets you an employee pass and a little money. Email the faire if you want to learn more about that.

There's one more way I know of for the average person to work faire. It's what I do, and I'll cover it in my next post.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Santa demystified

Have you ever wondered how Santa gets down chimneys? Why he never seems to age? Why he only delivers presents at NIGHT?

Allow me to introduce you..... the cutest vampire Santa ever.

He's not quite done....eyelashes, gilding on the buttons... but I just wanted to share. I'm half-tempted to make him a matching Mrs Claus with a halloween hairdo, but I don't think the hair will fit in the coffin...

Sunday, August 7, 2011

More haunted Halloween decor!

I picked this up with the idea of turning it into a sugarskull or a masquerade mask. But then I realized the weirdest thing I could do is make an ordinary fridge magnet. To hold grocery lists, keys, honey-dos, ultimatums....With an undertone of "This better get done before I do you like I did Bambi!"

Most people are going to look at this and think country western, but to me it just screams DARK ARTS!!! Harry Potter, Severus Snape, you know. It makes my whole kitchen spookier and I love it.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

My shop is now thoroughly haunted:

In other news, the internet is pretty sluggish this morning. Will update more when it's feeling less contrary.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Tipsy ghosts

A couple weeks ago I posted a picture of the baby deer skull and mini brown bottles that I found while thrifting. Well, I found a use for the bottles.

I was thinking of those hanky ghosts that people sometimes hang on trees outside at Halloween time. Well, sometimes they're made with handkerchiefs, but more often it's a square of white fabric wrapped around a ping pong ball.  Not much to speak of. I thought I'd make them more elaborate, with sculpted hands and silly expressions. Then I'd hang them so they seemed to be swigging from the brown bottle, and call them tipsy ghosts. I thought it might make them more personal if they came with their own limerick, and that's where the plan hit a snag. I'm a lousy poet.

After 3 days all I have is this one:

Willie the drunk was a bastard
Often seen publicly plastered
When he fumbled a match
He went up like dry thatch
And half of the town followed after

Which is meaner than it is funny, and doesn't fit any of the ghostly personalities. I'll give this plan some more thought. In the meantime, pictures:

The photos are giving me trouble too, because the dark brown bottles are barely showing up. I'll have to give it another try tonight. Will have these on Etsy within a couple days.

In the meantime my to-do list is drag out my renfair clothes and see if they still fit, SEO for Etsy, and start a pirate Santa.
Yes, pirate Santa. Where did you think all that loot came from?

Friday, July 29, 2011

This whole feather fascinator trend has gotten out of hand. Maybe I should make up some photos of large fish chomping on them as a cautionary tale.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Lesser Evils

Ok, so the previous post was written a few years ago. The idea never went anywhere. But recently I looked at it from a different angle and with the idea of Halloween ornaments. See what you think of this:

When the first baby laughed for the first time, its laugh broke into a thousand pieces, and they all went skipping about, and that was the beginning of fairies
-James Barrie

Well, even the Elder God was a baby once (although he was no Anne Geddes if you know what I mean!) And the results of his first evil, sanity-rending laugh were unbelievable....
Since their true names have demonstrated soul-shattering effects, I address these baby monstrosities collectively as Lesser Evils. (I considered Gargles, Gibbers and Little Evils but Lesser Evils won out)

I started experimenting with what they should look like. Trying to get the complicated mix of baby cuteness, malevolence, and insanity all in there. I don't know that I've succeeded, but give me time.

I'm also working on a hangtag and adoption papers for them, including care and feeding instructions (you should know what you're getting into!)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

And that was the beginning of....

(An old scrap of writing)

"When the first baby laughed for the first time, the laugh broke into a thousand pieces and they all went skipping about, and that was the beginning of fairies. " -James M. Barrie

Everyone knows that.

But before the first laugh there was a lot of ...other noises. Gurgling, burbling, spitting up, drooly wa-was, and baby farts, and those became...Gurgles. Faeries don't like to talk about them. Ugly, mishapen, common as clay, you can barely walk in Faerie without tripping on one. They are flightless and witless. If you know a faery by this description, it's possible they are actually a Gurgle. Certain unscrupulous sellers pass them off as true faeries- you know who I mean.
Although Gurgles lack the beauty and grace of a true faery, some think they have a certain grotesque charm.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Seasons Greetings -new & improved!

For many years I hated Christmas. Hated the season, hated the music, hated working 70 hour weeks for the month of December (to put myself through college) and still had no money to buy decent presents for people. People think you're a better friend when you give them good gifts. I remember one Christmas Day my present to myself was a pound of bacon, a tomato, and a head of lettuce. I did absolutely nothing that day and ate all the BLTs I wanted and it was fabulous.

But I digress. Working with these Homeless Santas has given me a new respect for the season. It's like I feed all my unhappiness into them and walk away smiling. I think my main problem with Christmas now (aside from the bad Christmas carol remixes they play over and over) is the lack of creativity in the gift-giving. People are giving the same bath salts and badly scented candles and puff-painted ornaments to each other, year after year. These are things you give to each other because the season requires it. No one really wants to give them. No one really wants to get them. They could at least be creative gifts, but most things that CAN be done with Christmas HAVE been done, and to death. Since I see little chance of correcting this problem, I suggest giving Halloween presents instead.

Severed heads? Fair game. Vampire fangs, face paint, lingerie, fake blood? Homemade sweets? Fun, fun stuff, unlike the horror that is store-bought fruitcake. With all this Twilight and True Blood crap, not to mention the classics like Dracula, and a TON of horror films.....there's a lot of inspiration out there. I mean, the field is wide open and the possibilities are endless.

So get some friends, some booze, and some bad movies and start brainstorming. Over the next few weeks I will chime in with some creative suggestions of my own.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Crappy Little Cart

I wrote an awful children's story that I'd like to share with you all. It wrote itself in my head as I drove to work one day, and was on paper within the hour. I think it demonstrates the Minimum Wage attitude pretty well. I'm thinking of illustrating this, although I don't know WHO would ever publish it.

The Crappy Little Cart
by Alissa Blaney

Once upon a time there was a crappy little cart. He worked at a grocery, going up and down the aisles, and out to the parking lot, all day long. He was a contrary little cart with one wobbly little wheel. The more he squeaked, and pulled to the left, and jammed his wheels, the more customers shoved him and swore at him. The more customers shoved and swore at him, the more he did these things.
The team lead came to talk to him. "Crappy Little Cart, why do you squeak, and pull to the left, and jam your wheels when people push you? That is not Good Customer Service. Do you need an Attitude Adjustment?"
"People shove me, and swear at me, and sometimes they kick me and threaten me. The children climb all over me and run me into things. I am not happy," said the Crappy Little Cart, "and that is why I squeak, and pull to the left, and jam my wheels."
"You are not supposed to be happy at work. It does not matter if the customers shove you or swear at you or even kick you. They are customers, and have money, and you must do what makes them happy. That is Good Business."
"Don't you wonder what we are doing here, if we are unhappy all the time?"
"They don't pay me enough to think about that," said the Lead. "Now go back to work."
And the Crappy Little Cart did.
But when the time for his performance appraisal came, the Manager called the Crappy Little Cart into the Office. "I hear you are a contrary little cart. People say your wheels squeak, you brake at random, and pull to the left when you are pushed.  That is not good behavior. Why are you like that?"
"But," said the Cart. "People are mean to me. They shove me and swear at me, and sometimes they kick me and threaten me. The children climb all over me and run me into things. I am not happy, and that is why I squeak, and pull to the left, and jam my wheels."
The manager replied, "You must be nice to customers, even when they are mean to you."
"Why," asked the Cart. "Because it is Good Customer Service?"
"Well, yes," said the Manager. "But more importantly, if you do not you will be downsized."
"What is downsized?"
"In a word, canned."
"What is canned?"
"You will be sent to a junk yard where they will crush you, burn you, and melt you into something less contrary."
"Oh, I do not want to be canned!" said the Cart.
"Another thing. You haven't been running across the parking lot and slamming into parked cars on windy days, have you?"
"Well, no," said the Cart, "But I've seen other carts do it. It looks fun. I'll have to try it sometime."
"Please don't. Carts that go astray like that, if they are not canned or smashed by cars, end up in ditches or nearby ponds, covered in slime and shat on by ducks. If they are extremely unlucky a bag lady will recover them, and they will accompany her in her sad life until they are spent and discarded by the roadside."
"It is to your advantage not to run away or be canned, but to stay where you are, doing what you do, and be happy about it, even when customers are mean to you."
"I can see it's better for me to stay where I am and continue to carry groceries, but I am not sure how to be happy about it."
"Why don't you go to the Cart Doctor," suggested the Manager. "He has something for that."
So the Crappy Little Cart went to the Cart Doctor, who wrote him a prescription and even fixed his wobbly wheel.
"Thank you, Cart Doctor," he said. "You're the only person who has ever fixed something because I asked them to. That's all I ever wanted."
So the Crappy Little Cart took his Happy Pills and went back to work, carrying groceries up and down the aisles, and out to the parking lot, all day long. And as long as the medication worked, he lived Happily Ever After.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Why I don't do prints

About 15 years ago, print technology improved to the point where mass produced prints were marketed as art. They were expensive to start with. Do you remember the Thomas Kinkade kiosks in the mall? These prints still had the veneer of art; they came with certificates of authenticity and very slick salesmen. Couple thousand, those. People saw the money involved and it really opened the door to mass production.

These days, everyone has access to a printer, photocopier, or cheap printing company. If your paintings aren't selling, everyone tells you to make copies, er, 'prints' and try to sell those cheaper, 'so that everyone can buy them.' This shotgun approach may work for some artists, but I don't favor it.

It's partly about the money. Say I get some prints made. My problems are multiplied. Instead of 1 painting, I suddenly have 10 copies, or 50. I've put good money into them, so they MUST sell, or else sit and molder away under my bed. What are my chances of making back the cost of the first painting plus printing?

Then, it's about the time. Instead of painting, which I enjoy, I'm spending half of my time marketing. I could pay someone to do it for me; see MONEY, above. But how motivated will they be?

Then, it's about the artistry. In time, I will only paint things that have a chance of selling. Not the things that inspire, or explorations that might not pan out. At this point, am I an artist or a producer of pedigreed posters?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

This is why I love thrift stores

You never know what you're going to get.

Looks like the night after a really wild party, in miniature.
The deer skull is actually really small, like baby deer size. The bottles are 2" tall. I was just getting started on Halloween. I wonder what I can do with these.....

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Dino Nativity- Done!

I wish now that I'd taken more photos in-progress. But really, the finished dinos are adorable. More images and the full story at this link:

Friday, July 8, 2011

Werewolf dream

Two nights ago I had a dream that's still haunting me. It was like a few chapters from the middle of a fantasy novel where I can't go back and read the beginning or find out how it ends! Something to do with a werewolf, two cubs that he had to protect, and a runaway elf. The werewolf cubs were Remus and Romulus. The elf didn't have a name, but she did get stabbed. And told him not to take her to a hospital just take the cubs and leave. End of chapter.
A random image of her suckling the cubs has imprinted on my brain. They weren't related, so I'm throwing up my hands in frustration at how and why. But it has a mysterious allure. I may have to paint that someday.

Monday, July 4, 2011

It's the 4th of July, which in America means parades, cookouts, and fireworks. I did watch the parade this morning, and from quite a nice spot on a covered porch. This is a military town and the parade was literally 2 hours long. The food at the barbeque was delicious! I ate quite a lot. When the guys started bringing out the board games, I excused myself and came home.
So, I painted dino Mary & Jesus (with the pterdactyl still to go). A storm blew in and out quickly, cooling things down a bit. I started on the house organizing. The mess around here has gotten out of hand, and I admit: It's my fault. But it's also more than I feel able to deal with all at once, so I started with the simple things. First I purged old paperwork from the filing cabinet. Then I picked up the living room and bedroom. Working from the outer edges toward ground zero, my desk/crafting area. It's a 5'x12' space that's half the dining area. Before it got so messy, it was my workout space as well. Isn't that sad? If only I could sell this table! That would double my work space, easy.

I need to get back to cleaning before I lose motivation.

I meant this blog to be about interesting things, like dinosaur nativities and clockwork birds. Maybe next time, once I get this boring cleaning stuff over with.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

It's Saturday.
I got up this morning, ate a quick breakfast of pork roast and horseradish mustard, and biked to work. We got a lot done today, although the long weekend means there will be a huge mess to deal with on Tuesday. I biked home at 6, stopping partway to chat with a friend, and chilled for a while.
Now I'm waiting for dinner to heat, and looking at my to-do list for tonight:

paint & seal Willendorfs
put dress & feet on pterodactyl
design more ornaments
I don't swear all of these will get done in the next 2 hours, but I thought I'd start with the last one and then the first, and see how things go from there.

I like pictures, how about you? Here's an unusual painting I just listed on Etsy. Painted on a discarded cosmetics case.
Ok, on to eating....

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


I'd heard people mention Regretsy, but I didn't check it out until this morning. Regretsy takes all the "I can't believe they made that" finds from Etsy and features them, with snarky commentary. It is just my sort of humor.

I now have a new goal! I'm not sure how one gets to be featured on Regretsy, aside from them stumbling on something of yours... but I think I'm headed in the right direction. See, yesterday I was thinking of a Santa-King Tut doll....

Sunday, June 26, 2011

the Good News

It may be summer, but I've been working on one of a kind holiday items for a Christmas in July promotion. So Christmas has been on my mind, you might say. I woke up from dreams involving cell phones and tornadoes, and quite a different scene assembled in my mind. A cell phone nativity, where the phones were painted up like matryoshka, Russian nesting dolls. The idea was weird but fascinating. And the phones made a sort of pun on the Good News (the message of Christ). So I really couldn't pass it up.

I'll be asking around for old cell phones. Once I've collected a dozen or twenty to select from, I'll get started. Will keep you posted.

What strange things have YOUR dreams inspired you to create?

Friday, June 24, 2011

My name is Alissa.
I paint and sculpt. I write. I garden. I cook.
I do something every day to remind me of the me-ness of myself.
The mass-produced nature of the modern world is hard on my sanity. I believe things that are unique can have a soul of their own, like the velveteen rabbit. So I concentrate on making as many of them as possible. I'm starting this blog to share the creative joy with you.

But let me back up, and explain the meaning of Minimum Wage Faeries.

The idea began at my sister's wedding in 2006. A faery-loving friend from high school was there. I was trying to explain why I dislike(ok, hate) faeries; after all, they are slender, beautiful, elegantly dressed, wealthy and magical besides. What's not to love about that?
But I said that made them no more real than the models in magazines, that they lacked substance, and that they were too perfect. I said they need a flaw other than overwhelming vanity. (Jealousy may have played a large part in this conversation.)
So what kind of faery would I empathize with, she wondered. Ones like the people I know, I said. Creative enough, but somehow always a day late and a dollar short. And quirky. Very quirky. So I coined the term "minimum wage faeries." I started writing a (still unfinished) story about down&out faeries, and the name stuck.