Lemonade from Lemons

I realize I used this photo recently, but I felt it deserved its own post since it has an interesting back story.

In an effort to add a new twist to my photography and set ups I have been making my own accessories. I was inspired by the documentary Marwencol as well as Krash_Override, an Instagram friend.

Lets just say that I have a few things to learn about making accessories for my Lego friends. First is the scale. It is remarkably hard to get the items to scale as well as sized so my little friends are able to hold them comfortably. Second, since my material of choice is metal, the weight and balance point issues are problematic. I guess it never occurred to me that the smallest sword in copper and sterling silver would outweigh a little plastic mini figure.

This particular Chima friend was given a fairly large and weighty double edged sword and found it to be more than he could handle. Not only did it slip out of his grasp, the sheer size toppled him over instantly. As he was teetering on the edge of the rock precipice of our photo shoot, I managed to snap this rather dramatic photograph. Luckily he did not loose control and fall over the edge. I guess it is back to the drawing board for me.

So even though the sword was a bust I did manage to snap one of my favorite photos of the year. The lesson I am trying to impart here is don’t immediately assume every mistake is a failure. Because some where in that failure is a success, sometimes you just have to change your point of view.

How do you feel about the Chima line of mini figures?

Art vs Money

I found this quote in Art & Fear :

“When bankers get together for dinner, they discuss Art. When artists get together for dinner, they discuss money.” ~ Oscar Wilde

It seems that life in the ninteenth century was not so different from life in the twenty-first century.

~ xxsjc

Did you buy your copy of Art & Fear yet?
How many different versions of Unikitty do you have? 

Grateful (3/3)

How could I not take a moment and say thank you to everyone who has ever supported my toy photos on Instagram, Flickr, G+ and especially here at Stuckinplastic? The connections forged here on the internet amongst this far flung group of like minded souls fills my heart with joy.

To be inspired by and to inspire like minded toy photographers is a great thrill for me. I wish I could name every person who has inspired me or made me feel happy with their kind words. But they are too numerous and I would ultimately leave someone out. I’m pretty sure if you find this post and read it, then you are one of those people and I am grateful for making a connection with you.

Everyone has a bucket list of some type. Often this list is filled with adventures like skydiving, climbing Mount Everest or traveling to some far flung local. On the top of my list is a party akin to the farewell party thrown by +Me2 after his adventure in search of the Northern Light. To sit around a table for an evening with all my Instagram and toy photography friends toasting, gabbing, talking toys would bring me the greatest joy. When I first saw his pictures here on the blog I actually got emotional. It was like my dream was coming true, even for a brief moment, and it was lovely.

I am looking forward to 2015 because there are possibilities on the horizon that could lead to an evening like Me2 depicted. The first is the Toy Photo Meet-up in Las Vegas, Nevada, January 16-19th. A few of my favorite toy photographers are going to attend and I hope to persuade a few more to join us. But who ever ultimatly attends, know we will be toasting all the friends we have made on Instagram. The second event is in early March and I will reveal more information as it becomes appropriate.

So thank you Instagram and Stuckinplastic friends. You bring me joy, humor and friendship everyday and I am grateful for all of it.

~ xxsjc

Grateful (2/3)

I’m sure this one is pretty self explanatory, but I am thankful for my family. I’m not foolish enough to think that I could be taking lego photos, volunteering, running 1/2 of Stuckinplastic as well as 1/3 of Brickcentral (as well as my regular life and job responsibilities) without some serious family support.

Not only do they support my photo antics, they actually encourage them. My husband will buy me unusual mini figs as gifts, my daughter keeps my up to date on the doings at the Lego store she works at and my son helps me build props as well as accompanies my on my photo adventures.

They all know that when we go on a family adventure there is a good chance my Lego friends will be coming along as well. They are all happy to hang out for an hour or more while I take advantage of some interesting local to snap a couple of photos. This past weekend was no exception. We went on a hike and I had some quality photo time at our destination as well as some quality time photographing at the lake at the base of the trail.

It’s not easy to be an adult playing with toys. Not having to explain myself to the ones I love is a blessing I don’t take for granted. Of course many of my friends fall somewhere between enthusiastic and skeptical, but they are slowly coming around. My parents…now that’s another story altogether.

~ xxsjc

How do your family and friends react to your hobby?
Do you have a photographic support system? If so, who are they?

Taken on a gloomy day at the end of a lovely hike.

Grateful (1/3)

I’m out of practice blogging, but +me2‘s last post put me in mind of a series of posts about gratitude. I know it’s not the holidays, but sometimes it’s nice to sit back and take stock of where you are and why.

Even though I graduated from university with a degree in photography and had a successful art career, I never felt like I knew what I was doing. I would joke that if the subject wasn’t under water I wouldn’t know what to do. This was shockingly close to the truth. 
When my art career ended I was at loose ends and struggling to find my place artistically. Through a random series of events I ended up volunteering at my local independent radio station KEXP. The gentlemen I work with have been generous with their patience, guidance and willingness to share information. I felt like I was in school again. Over the past five years I’ve learned how to handle my dslr, light a room, video like a pro, work as a team member and most importantly travel successfully with nine distinctly different and mostly male personalities. 
Our last adventure together was to a nearby music festival, Pickathon. Since we always travel short handed I volunteered to not only help with video but to take care of still photos of the bands. Basically I would be doing double duty. I took all my lenses with me: 70-200 for video, my favorite wide angle lens, my go-to 24-70 and on the off chance I could sneak in a lego photo my 100 mm macro (which is also a great portrait lens).  The upshot of taking stills for three days, 100’s of photos and multiple lens changes is that I actually understand how and when to use each of these lenses. I also learned each lenses strengths and weaknesses. It was glorious. 
Since I’m an art / casual photographer I rarely have this kind of intense photographic experience. I left mentally exhausted but happy with my efforts. It was also gratifying to find out my current toy photography editing work flow also worked great in the field. It is mazing to me how much these two hobbies of mine, toy photography and music videos, inform and influence each other. In many ways I wish my stills could be as good as the work I turn in with video. I am sure in time it will.
In the mean time there is never a day that goes by that I’m not grateful by this volunteering experience. I have learned so much over the years, made friends and met more than a few amazing musicians. 
~ xxsjc
Where did you learn your photographic skills: traditional school or the school of hard knocks? 
Have you considered sharing your photography skills as a volunteer?
If you want to see the entire set of photos I took, look here.
Pickathon’s main stage at night.

I’m Fiddling While Rome Burns

As I watch world events unfold in the media I continue to take and edit photographs of toys. This feels a little bit like playing the fiddle while Rome burns.

I have no answers to the many crises that face the world right now…all I know is that it all seems to be building at a rather quick pace. Yes, I do know that our world has always been fraught with a certain about of war and conflict – but right now there seems to be a heightened sense of impending doom. It feels as if we are poised at the edge of something ominous and dangerous.

Is it right to be spending energy taking toy photographs and trying to creating art that makes people smile? Am I turning a blind eye to the elevated levels of human misery on this planet because it is easier?

I have no answers to anything right now. I am not looking for justification to my behavior, but I do wonder if my time could be better spent on a worthier endeavor.

~ xxsjc

Since the toy community spans the globe, do you think about your internet friends who may be in living in danger? 
Does local or world events effect your work? 

MARWENCOL

It’s (almost) the weekend and +Me2 is returning from another sojourn working for Darth, Inc. so I am filling in with a quick post. (He promised me he would make up for his recent absence this weekend.)

As an artist its’ important to know where you fit in, who (or what) are your influences and who else is working in your field. The biggest advantage being that you can speak intelligently about your craft. In this light I have been trying to educate myself on this crazy field of toy photography and when I find something relevant I can’t help but share it with you. 
Recently I was introduced to the fascinating and poignant story of Mark Hogancamp depicted in the documentary Marwencol. If you are looking for something to do this weekend I sincerely recommend this movie. It’s a story about toys, photography, survival and the power of imagination. It also touches on what happens when your hobby is suddenly deemed art. So basically it is completely relevant to anyone who is passionate about toy photography. 
I found the movie to be profound, touching, heartbreaking and ultimately inspiring. The director handles the subject with respect and because Mark trusts him we are afforded a glimpse into a truly unique world.
If you have already seen the movie please leave your comments. If you haven’t, watch the movie immediatly and let me know what you think. 
~ xxsjc

If you want to see more of Mark’s photography look here and here

Suspension of Disbelief

Reality vs the suspension of disbelief is a very strange phenomena in the Lego universe. It’s seemingly arbitrary rules continue to amaze me.

Yesterday I posted this photo and the talented +Gordon Webb commented “Great shot Shelly. The pink strat is upside down, unless the squid is a lefty, and plays like Hendrix. :)”

We are willing to accept a guitar playing squid and singing mermaids but not the guitar in a non standard position. The last time I looked, the definition of a guitar is a six or 12 string instrument, not three. What kind of instrument is this really? Does it matter? Is that kind of attention to detail necessary?

There is a trend within the Lego community for an AFOL (or TFOL) to create a signature figure that represents themselves. I myself have a fairly distinct red headed figure I have used for well over a year that is my Lego alter ego. (She even has her own Lego alter ego.) This figure looks nothing like me…nothing. I was talking to a woman the other day who I have know for a few months. She met me first through Instagram. She told me that on our first in person meeting she was very disappointed to find out I looked nothing like my mini figure; where was my pink hair!?!

People take great pride in recreating famous land marks, album covers, particular cars and just about anything else you can think of in the human world with their Lego. In fact many of Lego’s most iconic sets are based on something in the human world: The VW Bug, The Taj Mahal, The London Bridge, The  Lego UniMog …the list goes on and on.

But where is the fun in that? How come we can’t make cars that grow flowers or crazy houses that twist and turn, bridges that don’t conform to logic or create a mini figure that looks like who we want to be? Why can we suspend our disbelief about a talking squid and some mermaids but not with an upside down guitar? For all I know Squidward taught Jimmi Hendrix everything he knew about guitar playing. Because in MY Lego world anything is possible.

If you have a Lego mini figure representing you, does it look like you?
When you create with Lego do you work from photographs or from your imagination?

~ xxsjc

PS – I hope you will check out Gordon’s work on G+ or on Instagram. He creates wonderful, fabulous, unique mech’s – each a thing of beauty that has no basis in reality.

A Brave New (Toy) World

Have you noticed how much toy / childhood imagery there is in the art world lately? Maybe I’m just fine tuned to this genre due to my involvement in the Instagram toy photography community.  I noticed that at the art show I was recently attending there were more than a few artists working with toy / childhood imagery in a variety of mediums.

For example there was the titillating photography using HO scale figures called bodyscapes, the crazy 3-D toy collages by David Burton (seriously check this guys work out) and more HO scale photography by Audrey Heller. But my favorite by far was Joachim Knill’s paintings of imaginary stuffed animals.

I first met Joachim many years ago when we both created photography to sell at arts & craft shows. His work has alway been compeling and nicely off kilter. His latest series of paintings is titled “National Treasure”. The idea behind National Treasure is that these paintings are artifacts from another world inhabited by stuffed animals. Just imagine a formal gallery that has been dropped in the middle of your street and these portraits of stuffed animals in gilt frames are there to be “shared, viewed and consumed, ” and you might begin to understand the concept.

These renaissance styled paintings are slightly disturbing yet endlessly intriguing. They are beautiful haunting images that take me back to my childhood and my own well worn stuffed animals.

Talking with Joachim and hearing him refer to his paintings as cultural artifacts was fascinating and certainly rang a familiar bell in my head. I think that whenever you are dealing with mass produced consumer goods in your art work that some aspect of the cultural artifact will naturally occur. It only remains to be seen how you interpret and reflect back your own culture using these ubiquitous objects. Will you become a social commentator, a mirror into the past or create a path into a parallel universe? The possibilities are endless.

I encourage you to look around and see what other artists are creating. It feels like there is a brave new world of toy art upon us.

~ xxsjc


Tripping Horse Battle Scene by Joachim Knill 
oil painting
38.5″ x 48.5″

Sometimes doing nothing is better than doing something.

While we await news of +me2’s grand adventure, I’ve been having a small adventure of my own.

When I left town a few days ago, I packed a wonderful collection of Lego and all my camera gear with grand intentions. My family and I would be driving nearly 1800 miles (2824 km) across the US and we would be passing by some of my favorite places in the country like Yellowstone National Park and Moab, Utah. I was going to be ready!

Five days later, not a single Lego picture was taken, not even a quick iPhone photo. What happened? In our spare time we decided to do stuff a 9 year old boy wanted to do: a train museum and a dinosaur museum were the highlights. Besides having fun I realized I was actually taking a much needed mental break. I have enough photos on my iPad to feed the Instagram beast for a couple of weeks and it was more important for me to take a breather.  
When you embark on your creative path, it’s important to realize that when you’re not working on your work…you probabaly still are. Even when taking a break, your mind will continue to be working out those artistic road blocks. And this is what happened to me this week. At some point while driving I realized where I wanted to go next with my Lego photos and what my project would look like. Now I can’t wait to get home and get started. 
If you’re feeling stuck or unmotivated, simply kicking back and relaxing is the best course of action. Let your subconscious work it out, more than likely it’s already got the answer. Sometimes you have to do nothing to move forward. 
I have had a request to do more photography tips on the blog. If this is something you would like to see, please leave a comment below.