Nov 27, 2012

Summon: Laser Patron

There’s one more reward to feature – and it’s a whale. We call it the Laser Patron.

What is Laser Patronage? It’s your name on my laser cutter, but it’s more than that. It’s a laser cutting service at laser owner prices – without having to install, maintain, store, and learn to operate a laser.

As Laser Patron, you’ll be able to send me design files, art, or concept specs, and the finished laser cut items will magically appear in your mailbox. Yes, there are services that will do this for you – but while the Laser Patron is a large reward at $6,400, it’s also a highly economical way to get these services.

For example, one popular online laser cutting service said it will charge $8-9 simply to laser the doily, the main part of a Laser Lace cameo – an extremely intricate part. By contrast, the Laser Patron can laser 25 of a comparable part with one hour of his or her 100 hour laser reserve, at a cost of $2-3 a part. Materials are provided.

The laser our Patron will be sponsoring can cut through fabrics, plastic, leather, wood, and many other materials (softer than metal, ceramic or glass.) It can etch any art on the surface of the material, and cut it into any shape, and can also etch anodized metal, stone, and blast the silver off the back of a glass mirror.

There’s more technical stuff on this page. If you’ve ever wanted to have a laser at your disposal and can afford the $5,000 price tag, I’d love to be working on “The (your name here) Laser Cutter for the Arts.”

Nov 25, 2012

The Laser Princess Ascendant

We are close.  Laser Lace Letters may well happen.  In the next 68 hours, we’ll know for sure.

I’ve talked so much about this project.  I’ve talked about the rewards, the philosophy, my inspirations and creative vision, but now I want to talk about the future – because that’s what Laser Lace is.  It isn’t just one (magnificent, daring, improbable, beautiful) project.  It’s a turning point in my creative journey.

Some of you have known me for a long time, long enough to see the beginnings of my journey as a CNC-enabled creator.  The past three years have been a love affair with laser cutting, as I learned almost everything there is to know about running the Dallas Makerspace’s machine and used it to make all sorts of arty and technically ambitious stuff.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say working with the laser is my favorite thing in the world.  Sometimes, when I’m stressed or worried, I’ll drive out to the Space and just design something on the laser.  I hear those stepper motors singing, and I feel like all is right with the world.

But about a year ago, something happened that made me think about what this love affair with the laser means – I got a BIG order for laser cut items for an ARG.  I was lucky – the order had to be fulfilled during this very time of year, just after Thanksgiving.  No one else was around at the hackerspace, so no one else needed the laser.  I worked with it for eight hours a day, for two whole days, without any interruptions.  But that experience made me realize that I was about to hit a wall.  As the space grew, laser time would become more scarce.  Today, the space is almost twice the size it was then, and gone are the days when I could prototype uninterrupted, let alone produce a large order of items.

Laser Lace Letters is going to open a door for me, one that can’t be closed.  I will end up with a robust writing credit, sure, and be ready to take Laser Lace to stores and events – and that will be very cool.  But more importantly, I will own a machine that, in the hands of a skilled designer, can do almost anything – and it will always be with me, no matter where I go from here.  This isn’t just one dream project –  it’s all of them.

I want to make more laser cut felt mosaics like the one I made for Desert Bus.  I want to start a line of jewelry that shows little girls that technology isn’t just for boys.  I want to make Research & Development(s), my tangible storytelling masterpiece, as good as it can possibly be.

You guys – my backers – are doing something incredible.  I’m not going to forget this soon, or ever.  And thanks to you, the world will soon witness the firepower of this FULLY ARMED and OPERATIONAL laser princess!  Anything – anything – will be possible, if we can just do this.

So, let’s.

 

Nov 18, 2012

UNLOCKED! Limited Edition Mechanical Companions

The Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s companions were my first steampunk storytelling project , created in 2009.  I designed and sculpted a little clockwork robot, asleep in his holding fob, and called it the Ladies’ Mechanical Companion.

The original sculpt, made from clay and metal.

To go along with it, I wrote a short user’s manual, with copy like this:

2. Operation

Your unit will now take orders.  When giving orders, you should address your unit by its chosen name and follow immediately with a word of command.  For example, “Aloysius, fetch me a some ink” or “Jeeves, throttle that cacophonous feline.”

BE ADVISED! LaMech has a limited memory capacity, and can only hold up to twelve months of experiences in its standard memory tube.  After its memory tube has been filled, LaMech may begin to exhibit signs of automaton dementia.  This includes erratic and even dangerous behavior.  

Signs of automaton dementia include: spontaneous demounting, kleptomania, suicidal behavior, homicidal behavior, spontaneous hiding in luggage or undergarments, spontaneous lockpicking, spontaneous shearing of friends or strangers, industrial sabotage, and stuttering.

The manual set up an imagined relationship between the little robot and you as its owner, and gave you ideas of how to incorporate it into whatever persona you might want to step into when you step into a steampunk costume.  In every box, there is also a resin key that, according to the manual, is your last defense against the dangers of automaton dementia.

As Laser Lace Letters developed, two stories emerged that center around these little guys, and what happens to them when they go insane.

So, as our next unlockable in the Laser Lace Kickstarter, I’m going to make a small batch of very limited edition Mechanical Companions. Like the ones offered at HighLondonMechanical.com, they either come in the form of a necklace or on a fob watch chain.  Like the regular ones, they also come in a special box lined with Fox’s own art.
However, a few things are going to be different on these.
  • They will be made using “cold cast” brass resin, as opposed to the painted resin used on the originals.  This stuff is shiny, scuff-proof, and has a pleasant weight to it.
  • They will have red eyes instead of the classic bottle-glass green, because in our mythos, the robots’ eyes change color throughout their lifetimes, and the final stage, in which they go crazy and start stabbing people, is the red eye phase.  And both of the Laser Lace stories about them deal with this state in one way or another.
  • They will be accompanied with TWO different tangible Laser Lace stories about the tiny robots.  (No cameos, but you will get a mini cameo of your choice.)

Each of these will be numbered and the manual will be signed, and we’ll be offering them ONLY during the Kickstarter campaign.  We unlock them as soon as we hit $10,000.  Go up there and pledge today.

Oct 25, 2012

Laser Lace Launching


After six months of constant prototyping, intense planning and caffeine-fueled story development, my new project, Laser Lace Letters, is finally going up on Kickstarter today. It’s a unique project with elements of handcrafting, fragmented storytelling, and design. Also, it brings together two of my favorite things: steampunk, and lasers.

(If for some reason you LIKE reading press releases, you can also get that here.)

Laser Lace Letters is a line of laser-cut felt cameo pins that I designed and prototyped at Dallas Makerspace.  I’ll be making for everyone who pledges for them during the Kickstarter. They’re designed to be worn like a button or a badge: on a lapel, a backpack, a purse, or even on a hat.

If you’re familiar with laser cutting, you know that most things made on a laser are made from sheets of material, which means they’re usually quite flat; but that’s where Laser Lace will surprise you. The cameos sit in the center of a special doily, which is cut flat, but designed to be woven into itself to create a wreath of twisted color around the image in the center.

But inside the beautiful packaging for each cameo – a laser cut envelope tied with twine and sealed with wax – is a little story world for you to dig into. There are seven cameos in the line, and each represents a character living in an alternate version of Victorian London, where an all-woman airship corps keeps the peace, tiny robots ferry messages to secret lovers, and the rich build extravagant country homes in the sky.

Their stories are told through items like:

  • A charlatan’s pamphlet about the appearance of aethereal cities in bolts of lightning.
  • The letter a young socialite left for her family, the night she ran away.
  • A help wanted advertisement, calling for door-to-door sales girls to hawk pocket robots.
  • Plans for a machine designed to evaluate people’s souls – and act accordingly.
  • The report of a police officer who saw his partner vanish right in front of his eyes.

If funded, I’m going to release the stories two ways: as tangible stories that include their respective cameo pins, and as a digital book that you can read anywhere.  On the Kickstarter you can buy either one, so whether you like the crafting side of the series more, or the storytelling side, you can get what suits you.

I’ve also been working on some online supplements – or teasers, if you will – that will give you an idea of what to expect from each story before you decide which cameo to buy.  The characters have distinctive stories – from Sarah, the aviatrix who left her lover for a chance to fly one of Her Majesty’s airships; to Linnaeus, the mad scientist looking for a way to cross over into the other universe to find his missing son; to Lucy, an assassin who uses a fleet of tiny robots as her weapon of choice.

When Yomi Ayeni launched his project Clockwork Watch, I knew immediately that we shared a perspective on steampunk that would make for a good collaboration. So for the past several months, I’ve been working with Yomi to mesh our two stories. Our stories both take place in the world, and bits of Laser Lace are already scattered across the Clockwork Watch in-game blog, the London Gazette.  Most of the voices in the above video are also from members of the Clockwork Watch team who beamed their recording across the ocean to bring life to the characters.

Inspiration for Laser Lace was drawn from Jordan Weisman’s artifact-laden book projects – with Sean Stewart on “Cathy’s Book” and with J.C. Hutchins on “Personal Effects: Dark Art.”  Laser Lace stories are like miniature versions of those books.  As far as I know, no indie creator has attempted something like this before – and I can see why.  It’s calling on all the tools in my mental Swiss army knife, and I’ve even had to hack together some new ones.  It’s been a long, big, complicated road to get this project to the point where money is the most needed resource.

Here’s what that money is going to buy: a small hobby laser cutter, around $7,000 in printing services, and supplies ranging from felt to card stock to sealing wax. Once I have the laser cut parts, the cameos will be finished by hand here in Texas. I hope to be able to do all of the handwork myself, so everyone gets something I created from start to finish.  It will be a rare auteur project in a world of big teams.

I’m absolutely abuzz with excitement today!  Let’s come together and make this happen!  You bring the beer, and I’ll bring the party.

Sep 11, 2012

Wax Seals From A Laser Cutter – With Instructions!


 

The other day, I was fiddling with the packaging for Laser Lace Letters, and nothing quite seemed right.  It’s a victorian steampunk project, with stories told through letters and other documents, so I started asking my friends what they thought of when they heard the words “Victorian mail.”

Wax seals!” they all said.
But didn’t wax seals go out of fashion with the rise of the postal service, around before the Victorian period?” I said.
Doesn’t your story involve tiny robot swarms, evil laser cutters and Aether travel?” they said.
Oh,” I said.

There are a few places online where you can order custom made brass matrices (the part that makes the impression in the wax is called a matrix), but ever the DIYer, I wanted to see if I could make a serviceable acrylic matrix on the laser cutter at the Dallas Makerspace.  It turns out that making a custom wax seal is rather simple.  If you have access to a laser cutter or can drop a few dollars at Ponoko, you can make a completely customized acrylic stamp for under $20.

Check out the whole process at Instructables, or just marvel at these photos.

 

Sep 5, 2012

My Kickstarter Anti-Spam Pledge

According to my work tracking spreadsheet, everything is on schedule for Laser Lace. On October 18, I will push the big button to launch its campaign on Kickstarter. Doing a crowdfunding campaign right now presents a big list of challenges, but I’m kicking them down one by one. Now I’ve come to one that apparently not everyone thinks to address before they launch.
I don’t want to be obnoxious about this.

I’m feeling the crowdfunding fatigue just like everyone else. I’ve seen the rise of the Kickstarter tide in the last year or so, and, just like everyone else who’s now planning a project, I’m comparing myself no longer to Jim Babb or Yomi Ayeni, but to Tim Schafer and Jordan Weisman. It’s enough to make anyone panicky enough to start @ing everyone on Twitter you can think of.

The problem is, I want your money. Well; I need your money. To help me launch this awesome product line that I could never do otherwise, and to outfit my workshop with the equipment I need to start actually producing some of the things I’ve been prototyping over the years. But I don’t want to lose your respect getting it. Actually, I’m fairly sure that if I lose your respect, I won’t get your money either.

So here’s the deal.

Pretty simple, right?

Some people may think that keeping this pledge is impossible – in fact, I’ve talked to people who really believe this, and those people had bigger social networks and bigger teams than I do. The rest of you, though, know this should be a standard for how you behave when you’re trying to sell something.

Figure 1: What I’m selling.

So, how am I going to show you how beautiful and awesome Laser Lace is, without being pushy, obnoxious or demanding? I’m going to show it to you. While the product for Laser Lace comes in a box, the story – like all stories – has the power to seep out into the world. If you want to know more about the seven people depicted in the seven cameos in the line, you’ll be able to visit their page on laserlaceletters.com for a short experience that sets the tone for their story – for example, right now you can go and help name The Great Magician, and the name I choose from your suggestions will go into the Letters.

In the next 6 weeks, I’ll also be posting behind the scenes development on the Laser Lace Letters social media accounts and on this blog. You’ll have an opportunity to really see the project grow every day, if that’s what you’re into. Like it says above, I’ll try not to tell you anything you wouldn’t be interested in hearing.

Of course, there’s more to my strategy than faith and content. I’m also teaming up with Clockwork Watch, and working on another very exciting, super secret partnership. Things are happening behind the scenes, folks. Exciting and wondrous things!

The easiest way to get to all of the story bits is to go to laserlaceletters.com.  If you want more, including laser cutting videos and early looks at the cameos, you can also follow the project on Twitter, or like the Laser Lace Letters on Facebook.

Aug 22, 2012

The Laser Lace Letters

If you’re been following the blog, you’ve seen the story of Sarah the airship recruit capturing that thief at the Department for the Advancement of Sciences.  You may have also visited the magician The Great Ralpholio and helped him with his branding problem.  Now it’s time to unveil the big picture – despite previous attempts by impetuous doilies and scurrilous mail to cover it up.

This is part of The Laser Lace Letters.  What is that, you ask?  Well, it started as a craft project, but now it’s much more.  It’s a steampunk accessory line!  It’s an epistolary novel! It’s an artifact extravaganza!  It’s an official spinoff of Clockwork Watch! It will light your pipe, sir, and polish your monocle!  It’s a hole in the fabric of space and time, inviting you to fall through.

There are seven cameo pins in the Laser Lace Letters line, depicting seven people, putting an exclamation point on each of seven stories.  Each figure in the Laser Lace Letters is strange – a unicorn horn here, rabbit ears there, a diving suit, an improbable Victorian mohawk. Are they revelers from some steam age masquerade ball, or is something more sinister afoot?

Each story will present itself in the form of a packet of letters that comes with your cameo.  The packet contains their own words, their possessions, and testimony from witnesses, both human and not. (The artifacts will also be collected in an Ebook, for those who are more interested in the story.)

Here are some shots of a very early prototype of the Laser Lace package.






The cameo pins themselves are laser cut (like it says on the tin) and assembled by hand, using a design and technique I invented while tinkering at the Dallas Makerspace. They are made from recycled synthetic fleece, which holds its shape beautifully.

The project will officially launch and we’ll start taking orders through a KS campaign in October (hence, the reward spreadsheet of doom), but until then I will be posting some online fiction for each character so you can get to know them, interact with them, and maybe even step into their shoes. Much of this will take place on Clockwork Watch’s site, but a good deal of it will be scattered across many different platforms. You can find each character’s online presence compiled at laserlaceletters.com.

If you want to follow the production of Laser Lace, I’ll be posting new developments on this blog and on the Laser Lace site. You can subscribe to only Laser Lace related posts using this RSS feed. For up to the minute updates, follow @laser_lace on Twitter. For questions, comments or condemnations, email me! I’m toemoore on a popular Google related email site.

May 31, 2012

Big News for Starbags!

Shopping at Haley’s Starbag Emporium

After weeks of working on the next phase of my Ramona Flowers bag project, the results are finally here. This represents a year and a half of refining and perfecting this one project, and the results are pretty awesome.

Changing Colors

One of the things about the starbag in the comics: it doesn’t stay one color.  Maybe it’s part of its magic properties, but every time Ramona changes her hair color, her bag changes to match it.  I’ve altered my original pattern to allow you to change out the color of the star on the fly.  That means you can use this bag for any flavor of Ramona cosplay, or to match a certain look when you aren’t in costume.  You get three colors when you buy the bag, and I’ve also made some others, including some pretty wild patterns.

Make Your Own!

I’ve been working on perfecting this pattern for a long time, and now it’s finally getting to see the light of day.  You can buy it here and make your starbag well in time for Comic Con.

I may have overdone it a little on this pattern.  There’s a cutting guide to show you how to lay out your pieces, a shopping list with tips on where to look for stuff in the store, and all of the pieces have a checklist on them so you can keep track of what you’ve cut.  It also includes the pattern and instructions for making your own inserts.

New Payments

The last big piece of news is that I’m trying out a WePay store.  I’m thinking about moving away from Etsy, and I want to see if WePay, which is the alternative of choice for Regretsy fans, is right for me.  Since Haley’s Starbags are my biggest sellers, I figure if anything I have for sale on Etsy will sell on WePay, it’s these.

The biggest advantage for you: You won’t have to open an Etsy account or deal with PayPal at all, which should make for a smoother checkout experience.  I’d love your feedback on the shop, the pattern, the new bags, or anything else!  Drop me a note in the comments.

May 15, 2012

New Laser Pendants

Four new designs coming soon to a laser cutter near you me. To follow up this one, which I did last week and sold out of before I could get it up on Etsy.

Restocking and putting out new ones this week.

BONUS:

A little canary on a lighthouse. It’s filibustering, vigilantly.
This one will need some hardware, but I think it would make a good little necklace.

Apr 24, 2012

Sweet Swag vs. Crap: Addendum

Reading over my post from last night, I realize it sounds like I’m advocating you DIY everything.  What I didn’t mention is that in this project, my handmade items come in elaborate storytelling packages, and those packages have mass produced parts.

I’ve found the best way to get optimal value out of a plan is to focus on doing work that only you can do.

Once you’ve put together a spreadsheet or just run the numbers yourself, you can see that not everything is efficient to do by hand.  Printing projects, for example, are much cheaper to farm out to a custom printing place than to do at FedEx Office.

Another factor to consider is whether you plan to use the leftovers. If they’re exclusive to the Kickstarter, making them yourself may make more sense.  In my case, most of the mass produced parts will be used to maintain my stock of product, so it’s reasonable to use the Kickstarter campaign to pay for the first run of them. Run your numbers, and make the call.