Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Dreams Coming True

Your blog post today is written by Xenia, as I'm hoping more and more of them will be in the future.

It's not New Year's, it's not anyone's birthday, but somehow this summer's end has been feeling like a time for retrospection. Just this past weekend, Bobby and I went to our friend Maria's birthday party - the same party at which, three years ago, we first set eyes on each other. And proceeded to not talk whatsoever, but still, it was the beginning of our acquaintance. It's amazing and a little scary to think that in only three short years we've fallen in love, gotten married, and had a son who's speedily approaching one year of age.

Xenia & Bobby in the beginning.
And, we've started this little baby of a business.

That fall of 2009 was a time of big and positive changes in Bobby's life. A new job he enjoyed, a new apartment of his own, and a spiritual rebirth as he found his soulmate. The idea of Dark Side Customs was also conceived amongst these changes - and lo and behold, exactly nine months later, on May 31, 2010, we opened the doors of the Etsy shop with our first tentative offerings.

A year ago, again, the fall brought the end of an era for us, and the beginning of a new life. Constantine was born on October 11, 2011. We turned that page, inexorably, joyously, deliriously. It's been a mad year since then, but you won't hear us regret it for an instant.

Today again, as we stand poised to enter the golden days of autumn, we find ourselves at a turning point. We're about to take the plunge and make Dark Side Customs Bobby's full-time job. That's been his dream. And it seems to me, we're not the kind of people to dream remotely, dazedly, of some-day-in-the-future.

Just like with our fast-and-furious dating, marriage and procreation history, we're going to dream this one hands-on. Damn the torpedoes, as they say, and full speed ahead.

So what's happening on the eve of this big plunge? Of course, a lot of brainstorming, packets and packets of printouts, sketches, notes, idea maps, you name it. But most of them can't be followed up on until one of us has those extra nine hours a day. For now, we've singled out one aspect of the business that we can focus on with infusions of just a few minutes, and that's our visibility.

You see, we are confident that we have first-class product. We have a website and an Etsy shop to get this product out to the customers. There's two to three pages of stuff on the shop at any one time. So why are we not getting the multiple sales a day that other sellers are? We've concluded that there's simply not enough folks that know to look at it.

Third Prize for our Contest on Facebook
What to do about that is a much more complicated question. There are a bilion answers to it: more social networking, more blog posts (oh hey, I'm working on one right now!), more Tweets, more regular shop updates (coming when there's more time to create pieces and turn them into listings), more cards to hand out, more, more...

The one that I'm most excited about, especually seeing as it's my own brainchild, is a contest. Call me crazy, but I want other people to do my promoting for me. The best way to get them to do it, it appears, isn't to wheedle or implore. It's to give them free things. And when those things are pretty valuable - such as, say, sterling silver jewelry, or even custom sterling silver jewelry - well, one may hope that they'll want to get them. For free. Since all they have to do is wheedle their frinds into "liking" our Facebook page.

The contest is slated to run through the month of September. I'm really excited, since there are three prizes. I'm hoping for some stiff competition, with publicity spikes through the roof when our competitors revv up their referral engines. Each one will be another step toward our dream.

Pedro with Katie Letts @ Waltz Astoria
There have been a few pushes towards the precipice off which we're about to step: Bobby's day job, DSC's event schedule, some inspirational reading. But I want to introduce you to someone who is living the dream, hands-on, every day of his life. And after two recent visits to his dream, it's hard to disregard the taunting, tantalizing feeling. "You're in exactly the same place in life as this man," it says. "So what are you waiting for?"

Meet Pedro Gonzales, the proprietor of Waltz-Astoria.

23-14 Ditmars Boulevard, Astoria, NY.
(718) 956-8742

You can, in fact, meet him in person every day, if you stop by this eclectic cafe, wine bar, and performance space off the northern end of the (N) line. No, he is not a craftsman, or an artist, or a songwriter. But he loves music, he loves those talented folk who just need a stool and a microphone to spread joy around them - so he had a vision. A small, intimate performace space in one of New York's most talent-rich new up-and-coming neighborhoods. Live music every night and children's laghter and community get-togethers during the day. All this with his family around him, every step of the way.

And all this is what he has. When Bobby played his most recent show there, last Friday, Pedro's wife Song couldn't get enough of our little boy. She told me that when their daugher Annabelle was born, she returned to working the cafe counter at Waltz in only two weeks. She'd bring the baby with her, and customers played with her on the counter as Song made coffee and served cake. Annabelle, who is three now, grew up at the cafe.

In the meantime, business has grown, and so has the fame of this friendly, relaxing, yet energized spot. Astorians brought buddies from other areas, who in turn brought more and more friends, until musicians (as well as poets, comedians, magicians, and all sorts) from all over the world come to perform a set at the Waltz, or join in their bustling Open Mic nights.

And every day, Pedro is in the thick of this, his own booking agent, sound technician, MC, Maitre-D,' waiter and host. This is what I call "Living the Dream." This is what I want for Dark Side Customs - not a hand-out, not free money, but being able to look on something you've built - are still building, every day, with your own hands - and say with pride, "This is mine."


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

More Inspiration

Inspiration comes in so many different forms.

I’ve said this so many times but it never ceases to amaze me when I look back at something I’ve created and see a little of something from the past peeking through. Something it’s quite obvious. Sometime it’s so obscure that I don’t see it until much later. That’s when the “WOW!” factor kicks in the strongest.

This time it’ quite obvious. This time it’s all about the “STEAMPUNK CARTOUCHE”.

The name cartouche was first applied by soldiers who fancied that the symbol they saw so frequently repeated on the pharaonic ruins they encountered resembled a muzzle-loading firearm's paper powder cartridge (cartouche in French). In Egyptian hieroglyphs, a cartouche is an oval with a horizontal line at one end, indicating that the text enclosed is a royal name, coming into use during the beginning of the Fourth Dynasty under Pharaoh Sneferu.

At times amulets were given the form of a cartouche displaying the name of a king and placed in tombs. Such items are often important to archaeologists for dating the tomb and its contents. Cartouches were formerly only worn by Pharaohs. The oval surrounding their name was meant to protect him from evil spirits in life and after death. The cartouche has become a symbol representing protection from evil and give good luck. Egyptians believed that if you had your name written down in some place, then you would not disappear after you died. If a cartouche was attached to their coffin then they would have their name in at least one place. There were periods in Egyptian history when people refrained from inscribing these amulets with a name, for fear they might fall into somebody's hands conferring power over the bearer of the name.

All this information can be found on Wikipedia. For me, the Cartouche touches something deep but obscured by who knows what. I could be something from a past life. I could be my connection with travel and/or fantasy. It could be simply because I’m a big Stargate SG1 fan.

I designed this piece with only the aesthetic in mind but it seems to have captured a little bit of the luck vibe of the ancient pharaohs. I have plans for a few different versions of the “STEAMPUNK CARTOUCHE”. I’m even thinking of turning it into a birthstone pendant. Soon you’ll be able to pick your style, metal and stone making it even more your own.

I’ve been thinking of adding a 3D printer to the tools in my workshop. The idea is to make it easier to construct some of my designs that need to have a more polished and clean-cut look and feel. Mostly, I enjoy the aesthetic of the “Artifact”. I love it when a piece I create looks as though it could have come from an archaeological dig site or have been made many years ago and shows the touch of the hands of time.

From time to time it’s a good idea to think about what others might want to see. You know. Good business practice and what not. I have a great many ideas that could be made by hand like 99% of my work but won’t look as clean. I can design the pieces, 3d map them on the computer, print them with the 3D printer, mold them and then cast them in whatever metal I wish or whatever metal my client wishes.

It’s also a great way to keep prices down. If a client wants a piece done in gold, I can remove coverage for scrap in the cost of the piece. The original model would already be done in plastic saving me from having to produce waste by cutting the piece in metal. It’s a great way to stay GREEN as well. The plastic can be easily recycled and reused for creating new work. It’s that simple. The one setback… 3D printers ain’t cheap. I’m still not raising my prices.

Now, we move on to the tasty part of this little adventure.

Normally I feature other jewelers on Etsy or other artists that have inspired me in my art. This time we’re hitting something completely different.

My wife and I had a date recently. Sure we took the baby with us. It was awesome to be able to get out together. We went to a killer Thai restaurant. We took a walk through the park to work off the killer Thai food. It was a hot day and we wanted ice cream. What we got was more of a treat than we expected.
My Cherry Vanilla & Rum Raisin at Eddie's

We had a choice of a chain or a “Mom & Pop” type spot we discovered on the corner. You know we chose “B”. We walked through the door and I was blasted into the past with the biggest grin on my face.

What we found was an old style ice cream parlor and candy shop like the ones I remember as a kid. Even then there weren’t many left. What we found was ice cream heaven in Queens. They even made sodas the old fashioned way. What we found was Eddie’s.

Located at 105-29 Metropolitan Ave, Forest Hills, NY 11375, this outwardly unassuming corner shop is so super cool on the inside that you'll swear you can see your breath as you walk in the door. The marble countertop, the serving dishes and the serving sizes and toppings will take you back to the 1940s or 50s. (I was born in the 70s, if you must know.) The staff is happy to be there and that makes it a happy place to be.

I want to go there with a crowd of Steampunks for some ice cream and photo ops.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What's New in 2-0-1-2?

It’s been a little while. Things have been quite busy on the Dark Side. We’ve come up with a few new ideas and have even implemented a few and are slowly bringing them to the Etsy shop. I’m even working on ideas for some provocative, new promotional material that I can’t wait to get started creating. I have a feeling you’re gonna love it.

Great Copper Key Necklace by D.S.C.
The baby is growing so fast. He’s even worn a couple of my smaller pieces for one of our events and it was seriously adorable. Our friends like kidnapping him from us and, while a break is welcome from time to time, neither my wife nor I want to give him up. He is the cutest little monster, though.

So… I’ve been coming up with ideas to branch out into different directions. I love the SteamPunk vibe and I’m sticking with it. But… I have some very sexy inspirations coming to me and I don’t think it’s the kind of thing that I should keep to myself. I will, however, have to keep you dangling for the moment. I know. I’m evil. I will say this much. KAMASUTRA. Have I said too much?

ANTIQUE SteamPunk Explorer Cuff by D.S.C.
Reaching out to the world is not as easy as one might think. I’m on a mission to touch every continent on the globe with the hand of the Dark Side. I’ve made my way into Europe and Australia; now on to Asia, Africa, and South America. It’s The key is figuring out what these will catch the eye of the good folks of these far off lands. The whole point of Dark Side Customs is to create things you just won’t find anywhere else.

I’ve also been developing a bit of an alter ego for SteamPunk and other special events. The Reverend made his debut in a YouTube about my Clockwork Heart pendant. He was also present at I-Con in March and April. He’s the Pistol Packing Preacher of the Parish of the Precious Metal. He’s the SteamPunk demon hunting, zombie slaying high holy bad boy of D.S.C. He’s me in a clergy collar. Fun!

Look for The Reverend to show up in more YouTube videos and at events where Dark Side Customs is vending. We should try to get The Reverend a guest spot on The Walking Dead. That would be awesome. A man can dream, right?

Ammolite Dragonfly Necklace by Mark Stowe
Now... let's talk about inspiration. We all know that Etsy is the place to find... well... anything. I've been finding beauty. There is one shop in particular that has got me itching to try new things in terms of my own designs. Their use of stones and their fantastic imagery is something I feel that everyone needs to check out.

I'm talking about SilverDragonfly8. 

Mark Stowe Unique Jewelry is just that. Unique. It's beautiful. One of my favorite pieces is the Ammolite Dragonfly Necklace

This 9x13mm ammolite doublet glows like the forest beneath the dragonfly’s wings in my latest creation. Two dragonflies embrace over the green which supports them and rests gently on a sixteen inch sterling chain. The piece itself is one and a quarter inches by two and is hand fabricated from sterling wire making it light and strong. You can find it, and other great works of wearable art by clicking the link under the photo. And... you should.

Mark Says:
"My artistry began back in the late '60s with bending up my Mom’s silverware into spoon rings & bracelets for perspective girlfriends. After turning a few fingers green and dashing my blissful dreams; I found myself in a Port Jefferson Long Island gallery oogling at a silver dragonfly pendant that I could little afford. The longing for that piece never left me."
~From Mark Stowe's profile on Etsy. You can read more there.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Clockwork Heart

So... I know I haven't blogged in a while but I figured I would drop this little bomb to let you know that DSC is still here.

We'll be at I-Con, in Stonybrook, LI this weekend (March 30th, 31st & April 1st). Hope to see y'all there.