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Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Secret Language of Steampunk Makering and Finding Inspiration in Everything

Some people are just born Artists. They live, breathe and sleep, Art. In fact, if they have an accident and bleed, I bet you 1,000 Art Gallery Openings that the spilled blood would magically ooze into some Monet worthy landscape or Dali-esque dripping clock. These people are the reason I have an infinite supply of Ibuprofen on hand. They give me a headache. Not because they are so talented or it comes so easy to them. Because they take for granted the gift that they were born with and can often be heard dismissing some indescribably ethereal piece of work as "Oh that?-Meh, it's ok I guess. Not my best work."
Actual Monet that looks like it was made with blood

Real Artists wear bath robes
 These are the same people who jump out of bed in the morning looking like Super Models. You know who you are, now stop judging me, while I wear my bathrobe (at 2:38 in the afternoon) sporting 2 weeks of leg hair stubble. I am monkey girl Brassy and I am a WORKING artist dang it! 

Your own Dr Brassy does have to work at it and I mean WORK AT IT. I strruggle, I freeze, I get artists block, I stare at beautiful brass filigree till my eyes bulge out and I get...Nothin'. So I walk away and do something else that usually involves playing with the cats or rearranging my sock drawer by color. You know, really important stuff.

BUT THEN! I spy something out of the corner of my eye. It could be something completely innocuous (I always wanted to use that word in a blog post. I have NO idea what it really means but I think it has something to do with getting a shot in your arm), and BAM! I've got inspiration, so off to the studio I go, to maker something before the feeling passes and I am back to throwing fuzzy mice on a string to Cassiopeia.  Inspiration often comes from the most bizarre places. Like my Asthma inhaler was inspiration for a piece. The sample kitchen tiles that I got in the mail from Fasade/Home Depot sparked another idea (See below).
Wants to be a Steampunk Wall Clock

Steampunk Wall Clock Realized
The bicycle gears that my ex brother-in-law saves for me are also fodder for inspiration. Inexplicably, a garbage disposal replacement, became an inspiration and it was not just to remind my husband for the 10 Millionth time not  to put avocado pits down it. I can't tell you why or when these "Aha" moments happen-Just that they do and when they do, I run with it.

Dr Brassy Zombie and Sightmares ™ ©
I guess I shouldn't be surprised that being a Working Artist is 98% work and 2% Art. At least for me. I have worked far less hours, for far more money and had far fewer heartaches, at the many mundane jobs that I have held through my life. But at the end of the day, who is going to remember that nice lady in Human Resources that handed out the paychecks every Friday? No one. I am hoping history will remember Dr Brassy and her Sightmares ™ ©Pocket Watcher Eyes and there will still be a Dr Brassy Wikipedia Page that shows the world once loved that silly redhead from Mythbusters with the freaky eye jewelry (No, not the skinny hot one named Kari, the one that looked like a Zombie in that Mythbusters/Walking Dead Halloween Special Episode-Yea, THAT redhead!).

So while I am waiting for my airship to come in, my hot air balloon to dock and my submarine to reach port- I wanted to share some of my inspirations and finds, in the hope that maybe I can be your garbage disposal or your asthma inhaler (You know what I mean).
Now here is a piece from Bsueboutiques Supplies
Bsue Item #brox0205

Is it just a brass circle stamping (On the right)? Or is it a magic porthole to another dimension (On the left)? Is it a window? A magic mirror? You decide! It can be anything you want it to be. I wanted it to be an underwater dive helmet window to a world under the ocean. So that's what I did. Or maybe it's the porthole into a radiation chamber where our hero is trapped and needs to be rescued. Or maybe a containment locket for an Alien life form. decide what something is, or wants to be, based our your vision.

I've been going around the house this week looking for things to 'Steam'. Everything from my husbands eye protection work glasses (made him a chain with gears so he can hang them around his neck), to "Steaming" his walking cane with filigree. Everything is fair game and anything might be commandeered to be taken apart and made into something else. Believe it or not, this helps me with my jewelry design. I come across the best ideas for my jewelry, when I am doing something else totally unrelated. 

Brass drawer-pull base plates

See these drawer handles? I think they might be bracelet cuffs in the future, but it also got me thinking about metal stamping.

Why am I not doing that?

So I did.I bought thin copper, brass and aluminum sheeting and I started stamping it to make my own designs. I have so many ideas on how to use these. Cuffs, pins, hat pieces, corset inserts, cane wraps....the list goes on and on. But the initial inspiration? An antique brass drawer pull base plate.
Printed metal sheet
Ask yourself. Is it a piece of copper fitting for your kitchen sink? Or is it a mini submarine? Is it an empty glass perfume tube? Or is it a teeny tiny light bulb? Is it a brass pipe fitting? Or is it a goggle lens holder? Is it a curtain hanger rivet? Is is it a top hat exhaust/air hole?
Goggle makings

See the secret that each and every piece holds. See what it wants to be. The life it wants to have. Then use your hands and your talents to breathe this new life into what was merely a supply. Like a metamorphosis, give it a brand new purpose, make it alive.

 If you are one of those people (Unlike me) who doesn't really need to even try. Then I apologize for taking your time, Oh and the Louvre called, your next exhibit is Thursday and your book publisher says Volume 6 is due. For the rest of on.....

This was another pile of "Really wants to be something else"-Stuff in my studio. I got a request Monday from the nicest lady who wanted to know if I could make a camera themed top hat? "Hum", I wondered. How to give the appearance of an antique camera coming out of a top hat without it being so heavy, that wearing it makes you feel like the Hunchback of Notre Dame? Then inspiration hit!

*Glass Art bubble courtesy of B'sue Boutiques Supplies Item# base08904-
Large round filigree brass porthole also from B'sue. Bsue Boutique Supplies on Etsy


And this is what I came up with. It feels like an antique, very fancy camera. It has elements that say "Camera", without adding 20 pounds of weight to the hat.

I am still working on the LED lights for behind the lens and some more brass filigree to mimic the shutter, but the gist of it is very camera-like and the customer, so far, is thrilled.

I will be sure and post photos of the finished piece on my Facebook Fan Page Here:  Dr Brassy on Facebook

and to my Facebook Business Page here:  Dr Brassy Steampunk on Facebook
Camera Hat by Dr Brassy

Just this one project has me so excited and rejuvenated that it has launched at least 6 other project ideas. Like incubated artistic eggs, one hatches and then the next and the next.....then pretty soon there are all these little Steampunk chickens, running all over Steamington Manor. It's a Zoo I tell ya!
I know...It's  a duck. Use your imagination...

Don't be afraid to get inspiration from other Artists. Emphasis on "Inspiration". 

Raku by Oscarcrow-Harry Wood
Like this little man. Gus the Gasmask Boy. The Raku helmet and the porcelain boy and arms are from the very talented Harry Wood of Oscarcrow on Etsy

I added the geared eyes and put him together. This is just for me. Just a friend to keep me company in the studio in my "Odd and Beautifully Weird" curio cabinet. He is now whispering ideas to me on a daily basis....or maybe it's still the voices in my head. Some days I am not sure who is talking, but I listen to who ever has the best ideas. 

This is another inspirational piece from Artist Tempest

Pewter bird skull by Tempest

I haven't yet figured out what to do with this yet. The bird skull is being saved for a brilliant moment to hit that will do it justice. It's currently hanging out with Gus and they are becoming very good friends.

Paris Architecture
This is another inspiration. A bridge, or maybe arch or column. I'm an Artist not an Architect, so maybe it's all three. Random huh?

Brass etching pieces remind me of this bridge and it's what got me really excited about the process after learning the basics at James Faraday Brass Etching Class at  Clockwork Alchemy 2013.
Etched brass and copper sheets
An antique lamp for inspiration

Laser filigree buttons for inspiration 

So I hope you have learned a thing or two or taken away artistic rejuvenation from this blog post. Always know, this is how I feel about all of you. Now go out there and maker something!!!!
Love .....Dr Brassy

Friday, August 23, 2013

Just because I am paranoid doesn't mean the Chinese Factories are not coming to get me

It happened. It finally, tragically, "In the cross-hairs of the AK47" (this really is what it felt like)....Happened. 

Dr Brassy, yours truly, got on the radar of the Chinese Factories, or should I say "Factory" and not only did they do a horrific, laughable, 2nd-grade copy of my art, but they also cut n' pasted my Trademarked and Copyright protected name of "Sightmares" ™ ©  as well. Did you see the mushroom cloud over San Luis? That was my brain exploding when I saw it.

It was, and still is, a shocking and sickening feeling. I can only liken it to the feeling of being raped...artistically.  I felt helpless, hollow, ill, small and pissed-off. I wanted to reach out and touch slap someone-6,700 miles away. 

So there's "Copying" and we all know the form that usually takes, there's the "Gee I just am so inspired by your Genius that I wanted to make one" kinda, sorta, like yours for my (Insert name of family member, cat, dog, lizard, or imaginary friend _________here). Then there is the 300,000 square foot factory with 800 Chinese workers churning out tens of thousands of copies of your Art. Yes, YOUR Art. 

I won't talk about home-grown copying in this blog post. I am going to talk about "The Monster". The one that will eat you up (and be hungry again in 30 minutes) and there is not a Judge, a Court or a snowballs chance in hell that you can do anything about it. 

Or can you?

 A copyright is a form of protection given to the creators of an original work. Examples of original work might include poetry, music, pictures, literature, movies, art, etc.  A copyright gives the creator of the material the authority to make copies of their work, distribute copies of their work, change their original piece of work, and control how their work is distributed throughout the community.  This was made a law on January 1st of 1987.  The author's/creator's work is protected throughout their lifetime and 50 years after their death.

 A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.

When you get to a certain point of fame in the artist world, you are going to get on the radar of some of the most unsavory folks. With any luck it will be a small potatoes operation or someone who just works at one of the large factories. If you are lucky, it will be someone who pockets a few dozen of the millions of pieces that are turned out and then sets up their own online shop and markets those pilfered factory pieces as hand-made. You and I, and anyone with an I.Q. above 50, can see that the items are not even remotely hand-made, but there they are. 

Like I said, this is if you are "Lucky". This person may be trying to copy your art, but they have no financial backing.  Even though they are not in the USA, a quick notice to "E"1 Legal (1 Rhymes with Met-Z who IS in the USA) and a stern but professional "Take this down now" direct message, complete with Copyright and Trademark info, is sufficient in getting the pirated piece removed. 

This was the "Lucky" scenario. My scenario. If you aren't "Lucky"- It's a full-blown factory approved piece, originally ordered from you that has been reverse engineered and is now the unwilling Mother to thousands of pseudo-clones that are headed to grace the shelves of a Hot Topic, Spencers or Claire's near you.

"It's getting difficult to find s*#t not from China" ~ 08/20/2013 ~ Megg S.

This is my friend Megg, doing what she does best. Letting it all roll out in one big, unfiltered, honest commentary. And....she's right.

Outsourcing everything that this Country was built on and in the process securing unemployment rates that are stuck above 15% (do not believe the newspaper reports of 7 something-NOT TRUE) with no hope of ever coming down- Is *Fiscal Insanity (*Dr Brassy for President!). 

There's a whole history of "Most Favored Nation" status laws and Federal Subsidies-Import and Export favoritism Blah-Blah-Blah... that I could go into...but I won't, because by the end of it I will be flaming mad-Again. 

Now not everyone "Over there" is a bad person. Individual people are gems. Both Karen and Agatha are kind, honest, wonderful ladies and I like them both very much. This isn't about individual people, this is about a Corporate/Government.....Culture of trouncing on the little guy. 

So what happened to me and what can you do to protect yourself?

A friend sent me the heads up. I am blissfully working my 74 hour week, when I got the email from James,  "RIP OFF ON _______" (Rhymes with "Get Z"). I am forever grateful to the people who by accident or intent, go out and look for copies of my pieces. They are so valuable to me and to any artist. I just love you guys to bits. I get messages and sometimes it's something not even close to my work, sometimes it's a friend of mine and we did a collaboration so it looks sort of like one of mine, and sometimes, THIS time, it's a full blown RIP OFF.

I posted the offender to my Facebook and I got a landslide of support when the word got out that my Sightmares ™ © hit the Chinese Factory radar. By support, I mean people who wanted to push me over the edge so my husband might come home from work to find me suffocated in the cat litter box with a note pinned to my back that read, "The Sincerest form of Flattery-My A$$!!!!!!!" . Ok so maybe those people were not as much supporting me as trying to find the bright side. Like when you get in a car accident and you lose your left arm and someone goes "Well lucky YOU that you're right handed". Yea. Those people. 

Most of the people who viewed the pirated piece went all "Erin Brockovich" on the Pirate, reporting and messaging, defending me like only real hit men, friends can. Please remind me never to piss any of you off. 

So I said, "You can't do anything" but then I said, "Maybe you can"... I am not trying to drive you insane. Let me explain what you can do.

#1) Never ship anything to China. Make it harder for them to get one of your pieces and they will move on to the next guy. 

#2) If you have something really special and if you have a name for it and the branding behind it-probably most importantly, if you have money to burn. You CAN do two things. File for a Copyright and Trademark. They are not overnight protections and I have heard they can take up to a year to get, but once you do get them, you have the teeth that you need to bite the Pirates in the booty. 

Many people go ahead and file Trademarks themselves here  Trademarks

and Copyright here Copyright

I am either too busy, too paranoid or too lazy (or all three). I did not want the chance of filling out a form wrong, missing a dot on an "I" and getting my applications denied.  So I chose these folks and so far, am very happy with the service they provide. Legal Zoom

 I love the personalized assistance they gave and the fact that they do these all day, every day, so they know what the US Government wants to see, to put the stamp of approval on your Copyright or Trademark. 

#3) Sign or makers mark your work. 

What can't you protect? If you are using all factory supplies, glued together to make something else-You can't protect that. If you are calling something a name that is used everywhere, say "Beaded Necklace". Nope, can't protect that either. But if you are creating something completely unique in style/materials/process that no one else is doing AND it's your own original design, AND/OR you came up with a name that nobody on the planet is using (Good luck with that!), AND if it can both poop golden eggs AND float 3 feet above the ground!!!...well....THEN you have something there!!!   Ok half kidding, to be serious if you have something completely unique, and if this is your primary source of income or you hope it will be, then you have a very good case in having something to protect. 

How much does it co$t? 

Copyright(s) the way I did them was about $400.00 and the Trademark(s) $700.00-So $1,100.00 in all. Not cheap my any measure. There is lots of conjecture about once you put something on the internet, it is an instant Copyright. Good luck fighting that in a Court of Law. Even worse, good luck getting someone to take down their rip off just because you claim you made one in 2001 and listed it on Ebay. 

What am I going to do?  I am going to be much more diligent now that it has happened once.  I am sure it will happen again (and again, and again...) and that is the price I pay for being "Out there". 

The other thing I will start doing is signing each and every piece I make. It's one more way for people to see that what they are holding in their hands is a true Dr Brassy, Original. 

Beyond that, I am going to eat a lot of Chinese Food. You know what they say, about keeping your enemies close? I have mastered the use of chopsticks, will be starting Karate next Tuesday and all along I will try to keep my sense of humor because there is one thing I do know. My friends/fans have got my back. 
Emperor Penguins Bowing seemed appropriate here-I don't know why.


Dr Brassy "Watchful Dragon" Steamington

Sunday, August 11, 2013

How To Get Famous People To Wear Your Jewelry and Why Quality Control Is Critical To Your Success-Not Necessarily In That Order

I am WAY late in getting this blog post up. I could blame my Etsy shop and say that I have just been buried in custom orders (true), or that I have not had time to sit down and write a blog post worth reading (also true), or that I am saving all the blog posts that I would be posting, because I am writing a "Dr Brassy" Book (true, once I find a publisher) but the biggest issue recently that has me both worried and not my normal self, is the serious illness of my spouse (the truest of true).
My ill spouse. He has a Subanachroid growth on his spine which has nothing to do with spiders or Dan Aykroyd.

So this will most likely be my last blog post for quite a while.  If I know you-you are saying "You better make it good Brassy, I know where you live".

I'm going to make you wait for the good stuff (How to get famous people to wear your jewelry) just so you will read this whole post. Because like I said, it may be the last one for awhile and you really should savor every word.  Quality Control is every bit as important as celebrity endorsements, so maybe I am actually talking about the best stuff, first.  Now I am completely lost. What was I talking about? The control of wearing quality famous people? Yea that's it! 

Ever make a piece of jewelry and think, oh this is so pretty? I love the way it looks! Then you go through the motions of photographing it, listing it on Etsy with all the pretty descriptive words and it immediately sells, only to get an email a week later from the person who bought it, that is screaming at you IN ALL CAPS, that it either:

A) Broke the first time they wore it
B) Turned their skin green, black and/or purple
C) Pinched, poked, punctured, scratched or bit them (ok jewelry does not actually bite, but I am making a point here)
D) Turned foggy
E) Became gummy
F) Melted in the sun
G) Poked out their eye (I am pretty sure you will get sued on this one)
H) Insert whatever else here_____________ that could possibly go wrong

 So what could you have done to avert this disaster of a customer service issue? WEAR IT BEFORE YOU SELL IT!

I am not kidding here. I can not stress this enough. If you make it, WEAR IT! And not just for a few minutes. Walk around, go to the grocery store, play with it. Make sure your design is not only visually beautiful, but also functional in that it's not going to give your customer post traumatic jewelry wearing disorder.

This is probably not necessary of every single piece you make-Forever. This is warranted for a brand new design or with a new material. Did you get "Silver" from a new supplier? Check and be sure it's really silver. Same thing with brass and copper. If it turns your finger green, it will do the same for 8 out of 10 of your customers.

Another Quality Control Issue: You must seal your pieces. Brass will turn dark over time, other pieces will tarnish like the dickens and some metals like Nickel silver, your customers can be allergic to. So seal your pieces and you will never be sorry. 

For every piece you make, without exception, check to be sure all your jump rings are closed, the lobster clasp actually opens and closes, the pin back moves freely and the ring base is soldered securely to the band. Tug, pull, twist and give it a good once over to be sure it can withstand normal wear and tear. I don't mean make sure that if your customer happens to be a stunt woman on The Walking Dead, that her Zombie character will not be able to destroy your art. I just mean whatever a normal* person would do while wearing your bracelet-Make sure it can withstand that activity (*Sex in a swing at a Leather Bar does not count as "normal", but does sound kinda fun).

Now here is where I get into an area that ALWAYS makes me nervous. It's the customer that buys the custom or ready-made piece and then after paying for it and after it has shipped out, tells you that little Suzy (who is 7 YEARS OLD!) will just love the _______ that she purchased for her.

Inevitably, I will get the email 6 days later from any angry customer who will go on and on about how "shocked and surprised" she is that the necklace went with Suzy to school and came home broken. Seriously? So my art (that is intended for ADULTS) didn't survive the rigors of second grade recess with 30 kids pulling on it? I am so sincerely shocked (NOT) and who would have known (I WOULD HAVE, IF YOU WOULD HAVE TOLD ME BEFORE YOU BOUGHT IT). So in these instances, there is really nothing you can do except block this person from ever being able to buy from you again, and then put some disclaimer on your website or Etsy that says your "Art is not intended as a toy" and is really not indestructible in the hands of a child. As we know, children can completely destroy a nuclear power plant if enough of them get in cahoots together, but a direct hit from a 747 does little but piss a nuclear reactor off. Nuff said about this subject.

Now for the stuff of legend. The meat in this blog, the whole reason you all do what you do, besides to get rich! (Ha ha ha oh that was soooo funny. You will never get rich. Give that idea up right now). You want someone famous to wear your jewelry, say how beautiful it is, and then like lemmings really smart shoppers, everyone on the planet will want to buy one. And then they lived happily ever after....

That's really not what happens.

I will tell you what happens in real life. First off, IF you get a TV Show or Movie production company that wants to use your art in a Movie or TV show, be prepared to provide it for free. A LOT of pieces, for free. You see, the simple joy of maybe, possibly, 1-in-a-million chance, of them using your art, is gift enough and you're welcome. To think that they would actually pay for your time and hard work? Silly girl/guy. What were you thinking? The most painful of these scenarios is the legendary "Celebrity Gift Bag" at events where you will be asked for 500 pieces. Good luck with that, those gift bags often end up in the hands of their housekeeper/gardener or Nanny. Unless your whole business plan is to see your necklace on Thomasina the illegal housekeeper at the local Food for Less. Forget it.

On the rare occasion (and I have had 5 of these) that you get someone who I am sure was an unpaid Artist once themselves, or maybe the Director of the TV Show/Movie is like Jesus or something, they will actually pay for your art. Not only will they pay you (this is the HUGE part), they will give you name credit, and also send you photos/video of your art being used in the production. These instances are so rare that the people who actually have done this for me are in my Will and on my list of organ donor recipients should the need arise. They are that special to me and La Esmeralda has both a kidney and a lung earmarked for her. 

My super-secret business plan for getting famous people to wear and promote my art goes something like this. ASK them and expect NOTHING in return. That's really it. That's the secret....Goodnight.

Ok, I am not really done here. Some people who have promoted my art,  I didn't even realize how famous they were. Like Jenny Lawson aka The Bloggess aka NEW YORK TIMES Best Selling Author-(Duh Brassy!!!) I had NO idea how famous she was/is.  I just really liked her as a person, evidenced through her hysterical blog posts, so I sent her a Sightmares ™ © Eye necklace. I never expected anything in return, so when she DID do something, it was both a total surprise and a huge boon for the street cred of my art.

Blog Post from the Bloggess boosted my Etsy shop views to over 24,000 in one month
 Other people that have been VERY generous and kind to me, I had some clue that they were famous and usually got paid thousands of dollars for promotions. But again, I just pick people I really like, I send them a gift and the only thing I expect is the joy of knowing they own a piece of my creativity. Anything else is gravy, or frosting, if you're a Vegan. (See how P.C. I am?)
The actual Sightmares I sent Jenny

I won't send my jewelry to someone who is rude or mean, no matter how famous they are. Nope, Nada, won't do it. I have only had one issue with someone who is a total douchebag widely disliked who bought a piece from me. I keep telling him, lets just keep this as our little secret. You are WAY too important to promote my little shop. Really. No- REALLY!

Just to name drop here, I will point out that these people were so kind and gracious (and might have even taken a little bit of pity on me) that they made time in their day (which I imagine for the famous includes lots of spa visits and drinking of expensive champagne) to send me photographs of them wearing my jewelry or blogging or posting on their websites or in their magazines, about how awesome my jewelry is.  Some even had nice things to say about me as a person, cause well, they obviously never met me in real life and have no idea what a complete geekitard I am.

Alphabetized by first name:

Alison Schwartz
Anastasia Heonis
Brenda Sue Landsdowne
Dark Beauty Magazine
Erica Mulkey aka Unwoman
Erin Layne
Essex Machina
Gail Folsom
Gothic Beauty Magazine
Jenny Lawson aka The Bloggess
La Esmeralda
Matt King
Michael Rooker from The Walking Dead 
Philippa Ballantine
Samuel Ratcliffe
Terry Goodkind
The League of Steam
Topher Adam
Sean Makiney
Sean McCaffrey 
Tee Morris
Ulorin Vex
Victoriana Lady Lisa
Von Gutenberg Magazine

...and probably a bunch more that I am forgetting so they are, right at this moment, throwing my jewelry in a 24k gold-plated garbage can.

The best advice I can give anyone who wants to promote their art (and to be honest, famous people showing off how truly amazing you are, can make or break an Artist)- Is just to be authentic and be yourself. Don't go bug the people on this list and say you are a friend of Dr Brassy and Dr Brassy says you will do "Such and such" for free (and yes someone did this and now she looks like a total douchette). Find someone who embodies whatever your art is about. Be it Cowboy/Country theme or a Gothic/Rock Star theme, find someone you like, that seems like the kind person that would enjoy whatever you are making. Send them a gift and forget about it. Maybe you hear back, maybe you don't. I am sure there are plenty of costume and prop department employees who are swimming in freebees that will never seen the light of a Hollywood camera (the freebies not the employees). And that's the point. Let it go and let whatever Karma or the plan of the Great Jewelry God decides should..... Be. You just might be surprised at the new friends you can make and the doors that will open. 
My all time favorite photo of Philippa Ballatine

I have found that Facebook is the most effective bridge to the famous. Much better than any manager or public relations firm. Fan pages are a great way to get in touch with that one person that you would just *die* if you saw a photo of them wearing your art. 

I hope that someday, I am famous enough that people will send me free stuff, and I can return the favor. Or not. Depending on if I have a spa appointment that I am late to, or a glass of champagne that needs drinking#. 


Dr Brassy

# Dr Brassy does not actually drink alcohol, so this is obviously a total joke.