Do the Work

“Standing on the Edge of Everything” by xxSJC

Do the work; this is my daily mantra and it has been extremely effective at keeping my emotions in check and the panic level manageable as hanging the show and the opening reception are looming just around the corner.

No matter what happens next week, or even next month, I feel I have done the work and I have been true to myself. Whether this is enough to win me a broader audience, to launch my work to the next level or to open up unforeseen opportunities, I have no idea. But I would rather know than not know.

To find some inspiration and solace in these stress filled days, I turned to the classic book on the creative process Art & Fear and found this passage:

“In the end it all comes down to this: you have a choice (or more accurately a rolling tangle of choices) between giving your work your best shot and risking that it will not make you happy, or not giving it your best shot – and thereby guaranteeing that it will not make you happy. It becomes a choice between certainty and uncertainty. And curiously, uncertainty is the comforting choice.”

I have lived with uncertainty for too long. I want to live on the edge of everything and experience life to its absolute fullest, even if I fall flat on my face.

So here is to being an artist, for going the extra mile, to putting yourself out there until it hurts; for doing the work. Because in the end when you are standing next to your image hanging on the wall, that is all that matter.

~ xxsjc

I wrote a piece earlier on being true to yourself. I have been thinking a lot about that right now as the inevitable comparisons will be made when all our work is hanging side by side. But I feel good about my work only because I know I have been true to my own path, no compromises where made on this particular journey. 

I do apologize the blog has been so “I” centric of late. Hopefully we will get back on track with other topics and other conversations after next week. 

Go Big or Go Home

Breaking-in-the-Tauntaun
“Breaking in the Tauntaun” by Avanat 30″ x 30″

For those of you luckily enough to live near Seattle and will be able to attend the upcoming StuckinPlastic exhibition, you are in for a real treat. All three of us, Me2, Avanaut and myself, prescribe to that popular slogan “Go Big or Go Home”. So when we originally talked about what size to print our photographs, it was unanimous that we would all go large.

In an age when the majority of photography viewing is done on a small screen like a phone, tablet and occasionally a large computer screen,  we have forgotten (or never experienced) the joy of seeing an image large. So large that you see the grain pulsating, the snow sparkle and thousands of gradations of green.

Even though I knew Boris and Vesa where going  to print their images large, they surprised me with how big they were willing to go. So large in fact that I had to ask Boris how the heck he thought I was going to move his prints around? Not everyone has a car that will fit a print 28″ x 96″ . (If you don’t know how big that is, think 1/2 of a 4′ x 8′ piece of plywood.) Lucky for him I have a car for every  occasion.

When Boris first posted “The Dark Knight” on Instagram we only saw it in sections; each panel a different piece of the puzzle. This is going to be a rare opportunity to see this image as the artist has always intended. I’m very excited for him (and me)!

Vesa went the extra mile and dug into his original RAW files and reworked all the images for this exhibition. As the only one who has seen a hint of the results, I can assure you it was worth the extra effort. Images that were once a monochromatic blue/black have a subtlety of color not hinted at before. It is as if the last remnants of the setting sun left a faint glow on the ships pictured; breathtaking.

I myself, am no stranger to large images; I have always been drawn to oversized prints. I have chafed at the artificial constraints of Instagram where everything is square, small and can’t be enlarged. To have this opportunity to print my images as I have always intended, large and atmospheric, is a joy beyond compare. Each print is simply framed with no mat or glass; just a large frame surrounding each image.  As Bryan was quick to observe, they are like windows into another world. This was the perfect description since I am merely a voyeur into the magical plastic world of the LEGO mini figure.

If you are lucky enough to have the chance to exhibit your own work, I want to encourage you to go big. In this fast past world of quick photos and insta mentality, give your viewer something different. An image that will make them stop and notice how beautiful a well crafted photo can be.

~ xxSJC

How big is the biggest print you have ever printed?

Notice I did not even try to make the conversion to metric or talk paper sizes. I wanted you to experience the constant frustration we have had communicating size across three languages and four different styles of measure: inches, millimeter, paper size and aspect ratio. 

If you want to have the option of printing your images this large then you need to read this  post on the subject. 

Rules are Made to Be Broken

LEGO Chima bird holds custom sterling silver double headed axe on the edge of a cliff
The Tipping Point

 

I have certain rules I set for myself when editing down images into a cohesive set for exhibition. One of them is to not be too attached to any one image and always be suspect of any image I am too attached to. But rules are made to be broken, even this one.

I have an unnatural love for the Chima line of LEGO mini figures, I will freely admit this. Even though LEGO sells this line well, the online toy photography community tends to be pretty disparaging of these figures. I see this opinion reflected repeatedly in the number of likes for a Chima image compared to just about anything else I post. I know that an images popularity is dependent on many factors: when you post the image, who is active during that time and of course the subject. Some figures just have more pop culture resonance than Chima.

Because I can’t seem to make up my mind on the final six images I will be showing next month, I printed two extra images so I could do some last minute editing. I was uncertain what the last alternate image was going to be until I was tagged in someones feed that had posted this image:

IMG_7520

This image hit a little too close to home because I was (am?) this kid. Maybe this is why I like the Chima sets so much, because they are the underdog, the nerd, the misfit, much like me.

So I went to my desk and found my favorite image featuring a Chima figure and got it ready for printing. I sent it to The Color Group (who are beyond awesome) for enlargement. I know this image will look great but has little salability (I admit I could be wrong), but I don’t care; I am super excited to see it hanging proudly on the gallery wall.

I can’t stop haters from hating, but if I am going to lay it all out there, I should include one of my personal favorite images of the year. I’m going to break my own rule of not including an image I am overly emotionally connected too, and let the chips fall where  they will.

~ xxsjc

I want to extend a very large thank you to our friends at The Color Group who have been more than wonderful to work with. They are printing all the images for this show (18 large scale prints), working with two artists from out of the country and holding my hand as I periodically melt down. They have made every deadline and printed the work with care and professionalism. I can’t recommend (or thank) them enough.

Promotion: the Artists Achilles Heel

I think a lot of artists are under the assumption that creating a body of work for a gallery show is the hardest part of any exhibition . I would like to propose that creating the work is actually the easiest part;  while promoting it is the most difficult part.

Promoting ones work is never easy for an artist; it feels weird to blow your own horn over and over again to get noticed. But in this new reality of everyone being an artist and every artist being a small business person, a part of the emerging creative class, that is exactly what you have to do. Blow your own horn; time and time again.

The idea for this show was a pipe dream of Me2 and myself over a year ago. It wasn’t until I pitched the concept to Bryan Ohno last summer did we have any chance of it becoming a reality. Since that fateful pitch,  I have been laying the ground work for promotion. I have been trying to be an active member of the gallery, creating connections with like minded friends, letting existing friends know what I would need if it all came together and  then not being shy about asking for it, giving away my work to promote interest and of course building up my social media profile across four separate platforms.

And this from the person (me) who quit all social media except Instagram over a year ago because it was ruining my life. Now I find myself so deep down the social media rabbit hole I wonder if I will ever escape again.

Yet I have been overjoyed by the response from friends both online across all media and in real life. Friends are putting up posters around town and on the Eastside (read Microsoft campus), other friends are using their own business and personal networks to get the word out, many friends are sharing the event via Facebook, I have received lots of personal responses to e-mails expressing congratulations, regrets and of course a few “Yeah! We wouldn’t miss it!!”

I am definitely reaping the rewards of having spent a good chunk of my life’s energy on the internet and in real life creating connections and I feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

So if you are one of those mentioned above, thank you!
Thank You !!! Yeah right, Thank You, You Rock !

Yet I feel it won’t be enough and I am asking for your help. We have joined our respective boats together here on StuckinPlastic and for this I am grateful. Now we need to make some waves with this amazing toy, plastic, LEGO, friendship boat we have created together.

I want you to share the information about this show with your friends, circles, groups and connections. We are a global community and our reach is incredible. It will be fun to see exactly how far we can spread the word and make our collective plastic, fun loving voices heard.

Why ?

Because we know you care, you care for the toys, for toy photography, for the creative toy revolution we all stand for.

This show is as much about YOU as it is about us; you who have supported us , you who want to join us next time, you who want to stand proud when you are with family and friends taking a toy photograph.

Help spread the word. The more waves we make online will only lead to more interest, (hopefully) national press, international awareness and put toy photography right where it belongs…in the spotlight. Because the world needs a little more joy and a few more smiles.

~ xxSJC

So, how to help us get the word out ? Just download this image and share it on the social media platform of your choice and link it to us and tag it with #ohnolego here on the web, on FB, G+, Reddit, Tumblr, … 

If you know of anyone who we should contact, please let us know in the comments. No lead will be overlooked and TLC will be included.

Rest assured we will repay all your efforts and energy by paying it forward! We believe in good karma. 😀

inlegoweconnect

Grateful

It’s a beautiful spring day here in Seattle. Basking in the lovely sunshine inevitably turns my thoughts to all that I have to be grateful for. I did a series of “grateful” posts back in August and it seems like an appropriate time to add to the list.

First up, I am grateful to Bryan Ohno. Bryan and I go back a few years when I was a part of his previous gallery. I was flattered that Bryan called me out of the blue nearly 20 months ago to invite me to be a part of a group show with my underwater photographs. I appreciate that Bryan was open to my new toy photographs even though it is outside of the art he normally shows. His openness to hosting  the upcoming show In LEGO, We Connect is testament to our mutual respect and I want to repay that faith by delivering a kick ass show.

Second on my list is my wonderful friends at KEXP. Throughout this stressful winter they have grounded me with their friendship, support and our mutual love of music. I know they have no idea how much they have helped me grow over the past six years of my near continuous volunteering and this is how it should be.  The many adventures and experiences I have enjoyed with them have tested me in ways I would never have thought possible. All the video I have shot with them has rubbed off on me and informed my photography in countless ways. It has truly been a win-win situation.

Third on this list is my amazing partners: Me2 and Avanaut.  Me2 deserves special thanks for giving me this platform to voice my artistic joys and doubts and share with you all that is wonderful about toy / macro photography. I am grateful for Avanaut and his willingness to say “yes” to both joining us here on the blog as well as in Seattle next month.  I look forward to meeting them both in two weeks(!!) and showing them my beautiful city and introducing them to all my amazing friends who have helped to make this all possible.

No matter how many doubts I have between now and the opening (and trust me there will be a few), I already know I have “won” because I have the most amazing people in my life… and for this I am grateful.

~ xxsjc

Who or what are you grateful for?

Exploring (robot courtesy of Gordon)
Exploring (robot courtesy of Gordon)

I’m a Toy Photographer, Not An AFOL

Yesterdays post by Pinar, explaining what LEGO sets she likes and why, made me take stock of the sets I am attracted to and why. I will be frank, I am a toy photographer who specializes in LEGO, not an AFOL. I know, sometimes it is hard to tell the difference.

Pinar and I have similar tastes in the sets we like to purchase and play with but for different reasons. Her favorite sets revolve around the licensed sets for Pirates of the Caribbean, The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings and Star Wars because she enjoyed either the movies or video games that support them.  I like these sets because I can play with them in ways that go beyond the original source material.

It doesn’t take a big leap of imagination to turn the antics of Jack Sparrow into some serious pirate play. Star Wars can work both as a metaphor for life with the anonymous Stormtrooper or reflect a love of space and exploration.  I love the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit franchises not only because I love the books but because I am a big fan of fantasy and magic. I love to bring that sense of the improbable into my photography.

It was obvious The Lone Ranger franchise  would struggle, not only because  it is a mediocre movie, but who plays cowboys and Indians anymore? Talk about an outmoded stereotype. Luckily we where given the Tonto mini figure who remains one of my favorites to photograph. What a face!

With the imminent arrival of Scooby Doo I cant help but think of the far superior Monster Hunters theme. With the introduction of a Scooby Doo haunted mansion, we have an updated version of those classic monster hunters only now with Scooby and Shaggy doing the ghost hunting.  It will be interesting to see if this theme has legs beyond a few sets.

All this brings me to my favorite Lego line to photograph: Chima.  For me, as a photographer, I find their lack of pop culture baggage to be refreshing. The figures are some of the most intricate and beautiful LEGO has every created and they are a joy to photograph. I love the birds with their wings, the elephants, lions, crocodiles, spiders…the list goes on and on.  They are a photographers dream. I have watched a few episodes of the TV show that supports the theme so I have a general idea of the back story; butI find that it is just as easy to create my own.

I feel sure that LEGO knows what it is doing with all these different themes and licensed sets. No matter what your tastes or needs are, I know you will find something to satisfy you; whether it is a trip down memory lane or inspiration for a new photograph. It is this diversity that keeps LEGO strong across all age groups

~ xxsjc

What is your favorite theme to photograph? 

What is your favorite theme to collect?

Confessions of an AFOL – Part 2

Now that I have confessed my feelings about the new licensed Lego themes, let’s take a look at the old ones, shall we?

Let’s start with Star Wars. Now we all know how great the films are and how revolutionary they were, especially the first three. I watched them for the first time in 2003 and I liked them but never had the opportunity or the desire to watch them again. But that doesn’t mean I don’t know everything about the films including memorizing the music and all the characters; I just played the Lego Star Wars video games instead. I played them on multiple platforms: PC, PSP, Mac or whatever I had whenever I could. Now I am the proud owner of four Yodas, three Han Solos and three Luke Skywalkers!

Other licensed themes I have enjoyed more through video games rather than the original movies include: Indiana Jones, Batman, and Harry Potter. I love the backgrounds and how they recreate the entire film using Lego. I am often sad when the game ends and can’t wait until the next one comes out.

If it is a movie I thought was ok, like Harry Potter, the games give me a chance to rediscover the movie in a different way. If it is a movie I already love it gives me such a joy to see all my favorite characters come to life once again in Lego form. The best examples of this are the Pirates of the Caribbean and the Lord of the Rings video games. I had enjoyed the movies and seen them several times, but when characters actually talked in the game, rather than gibberish, this made it possible to make jokes as well as re-live those films over and over again!

Now the newer games (Batman 2, Marvel, the Hobbit) have all gotten better and funnier because of all the speech included. So I have enjoyed the games for the games they are, even though the sole reason I played them originally was because of Lego.

So where does this lead us?

Lego video games helped me be interested in the films and I watched them again. As I watched, I thought about how certain scenes were integrated into the films. As I played, I learned more about the characters and liked them even more, which resulted in me wanting to get the mini figures (or the sets). If anyone told me that I would get an AT-AT set, the first thing I’d say (before playing the game) would have been “What’s an AT-AT?” Now it’s a bit different, to say the least.

Maybe this is marketing at its best: watch, play, get the set, play more, watch more, like more. It seems to be working well for the producers and the fans alike. After all, who wouldn’t want a Jack Sparrow she can carry with her all the time?

Maybe Lego needs to take a page from it’s own book and think about how they can cross promote these new licensed sets so I will become as big of a fan of Scooby Doo and The Simpsons as I am of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean. Although I can’t promise this about Simpsons… oh well, we’ll see!

Pinar

jack sparrow

Confessions of an AFOL – A Response

I am sure this is not the response you are expecting from yesterdays post Confessions of an AFOL – Part 1 by Pinar. I think the comments on this post  cover a lot of territory and you should give them a read. It is not for me to criticize LEGO,  I generally vote with my check book, so my thoughts took a different direction.

I enjoy many aspect of this worldwide toy photography community and I am blessed to have so many international friends who willingly share their lives and cultures with me. It has been a wonderful and enriching experience. Occasionally I get a glimpse of my own country through foreign eyes and honestly, it always makes me feel a little uncomfortable. I just have to read The Short News (which originates in Australia) for some cringe worthy story emanating from the US.

Yesterdays post by Pinar (who lives in Turkey), really got me thinking: If LEGO is a Danish company with a world wide global fan base, why are so many of their sets based on pop culture and entertainment products that originate from the USA / Hollywood? Like Pinar, I have been feeling  lackluster about sets like Back to the Future, The Simpsons and now Scooby Doo. I am not a fan of the entertainment / pop culture that the US spews out on a daily basis and it makes me sad that it casts such a long shadow over the LEGO corporation.

Sure licensing is not new to LEGO and many attribute licensing the Star Wars franchise as key to turning the company around financially. No one can deny the success of the Harry Potter or the Lord of the Rings sets either.  But what about the Lone Ranger Movie sets? Sure these gave us Tonto, one of the coolest mini figures ever, but is that enough?

Personally I would like to see Lego develop more sets from their Lego Ideas platform along the lines of Peter Reid’s Exo Suit, NASA Mars Rover, the Birds and of course the Research Institute. To me these sets offer a wider range of play not just a trip down memory lane.

But then maybe I am wrong and you guys would like to see LEGO develop a line of products based on The Brady Bunch next?

~ xxsjc

What kind of sets do you think LEGO should produce? Free play, nostalgia or movie franchise based sets?

The Sea Casts its Spell
The Sea Casts its Spell by Shelly Corbett

Confessions of an AFOL – Part 1

While I was waiting for my iPod to charge up the other day, I decided to do something different. Instead of playing games, I decided to write about something that I have been thinking about a lot these past few days. Specifically those licensed sets Lego has released or is about to release: Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, Simpsons, Dr. Who, Big Bang Theory, and Scooby Doo.

I have seen so much excitement towards these sets on Instagram that it has made me feel weird that I don’t feel any of that excitement myself. I even wrote about it on a friend’s picture as a comment, which I will repeat here:

“I only saw “Back to the Future” last year, and the only reason I watched it was because it got turned into a set and all the Lego community was so excited about it. Me? I was bored. I just couldn’t see what the fuss was all about. Thankfully, I made it till the end without sleeping, but by that time I was sure I was never getting that set.”

The only thing I remember about Ghostbusters is the theme song with the catchphrase “Who ya gonna call?”. Frankly the movie wasn’t that memorable. The Simpsons… gosh… as much as I love animation of all sorts, I just never warmed up to that family. The jokes seem cheap and I have never understood why people loved it so much. Maybe it’s a culture thing? As for Dr. Who – I stumbled upon it as I was going through the channels, and could only bear it for 15 minutes. It was THAT bad. I have never seen Big Bang Theory so I can’t comment on that one. Scooby Doo has the same level of stupidity for me as The Simpsons. In my opinion, it may be one of the worst animated series of its time.

Now, that brings me these questions: How and why? How is almost everyone in the Lego community so excited about these series and why am I not??! I get that everyone has different interests, that’s why there are so many different themes. I may like pirates and someone else likes space, or ninjas and so forth. But whenever the subject of one of the themes mentioned above comes up, everyone is like “Oh my God! I can’t believe they are really making this into a set!!” And that’s about the only thing I share with others: “I really can’t believe they are making that into a set!!”

I love anything related to Lego, so why do those new sets have no effect on me? Why don’t I get even a little bit excited? And don’t give me the “You’re getting old” excuse because I’m fine purchasing other sets and mini figures. I spoke to my father who is also a huge Lego and movie fan and neither of us was able to come up with any logical reasons.

I wish I could give you a conclusion, but I simply don’t have one; I wish I did. I would welcome your thoughts on this subject. Is there anyone else in our Lego community who feels the same way? I hope so. Otherwise I’m just one strange lady who’s babbling about stuff…

Pinar

PS: Special thanks to @ryanbabylon2929 for the inspiration and @lego_86 for getting me to confess 🙂

One must maintain a little bit of summer, even in the middle of winter - Henry David Thoreau
One must maintain a little bit of summer, even in the middle of winter – Henry David Thoreau

 

Ai Weiwei and Lego

As you all know I love my documentaries and especially ones about artists. Last week I watched a documentary called Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry and of course it left an impression. If you are not familiar with Ai, he designed Beijing’s National Stadium which is often referred to as the Birds Nest. After his arrest in 2011 his travel has been severely curtailed and he has not been allowed to leave Beijing. This documentary tells the story of Ai’s activism through art which ultimatly led to his virtual imprisonment.

Ai is very active on social media and I soon found myself following him on Twitter and Instagram which then led me to his show in the famous United States prison, Alcatraz. By now you are asking yourself what does this have to do with Lego?  Well, it seems Ai created six large carpets out of 1.2 million LEGO bricks to depict 176 political prisoners. (More information on the Alcatraz show can be found here and here. )

Trace, the show’s most ambitious work, consists of six large carpets of Lego blocks that depict more than 175 prisoners of conscience, past and present Photograph: Mae Ryan
Trace, the show’s most ambitious work, consists of six large carpets of Lego blocks that depict more than 175 prisoners of conscience, past and present Photograph: Mae Ryan

It seems that our beloved LEGO brick is continuing to evolve from a children’s toy to a medium that in the right hands, protests a few of the many injustices of the world. Maybe this children’s toy is growing up?

As I continue to grapple with my own art, I am inspired by a man on the other side of this planet who uses his art to change the world. I follow him on Twitter and Instagram as a reminder that everything is not awesome.

~ xxsjc

Have you seen this show? Would you be interested in seeing this installation?

Do you think LEGO bricks are an appropriate medium for a political statement?