Hello again!

I’ve been waiting to get some real photoshoot pictures of the costumes I made to post about it, but by the amount of time that’s lapsed since my last post it’s evident that it won’t be happening soon. At the very least, I should just roll with what I’ve got and post about it later when/if the shoots happen.

I’ve been doing a lot more creative work in the last several months than I have in about the one or two years beforehand. I interspersed the journals I’ve been working on since last year with a couple of costume pieces inspired by a video game I love to play called FallOut. For my non-gamers it  imagines what things could be like if a world-wide nuclear apocalypse happened in a world where the 50’s idea of the future had taken place. Very retro, very apocalyptic.

The first piece made is a shirt I imagined belonging to a lady sniper. It has elements like a butt-pad for the stock of a rifle to rest against made from an old leather catcher’s mitt, attached utility harness for clipping needed tools and bags to, reinforced sides, kill trophies, and even a spot of damage from when she took a hit somehow and had to sew up a bloody hole.


The main point of fun in this sort of costume design is the scavenging and reusing aspect. New materials simply wouldn’t exist in that kind of world, so you make whatever you can find work. I’d hoped to have my friend model for the shoot, as she’s petite enough to fit the shirt and is generally rocking some kind of punk-tastic hairstyle that would lend itself well to the shoot, but getting the shoot together has proven difficult. She lives a couple of hours away, and I’m never 100% committed to any of the locations around here enough to drag her all the way up yet. There is a place in town that would be completely perfect, but when we tried going there for another shoot, it was gated off and had mysterious RV’s parked outside. I’ve since been trying to contact the owner of the property to secure permission to be out there, but finding out who that is has been a challenge.

It’s the old fisherman’s co-op here in Richmond Hill, if anyone is feeling Sherlock Holmes-ey.


The only elements on this shirt that are just for show are the badges and trophies. I designed everything else to be as wearable and usable as possible. As such, the utility harness made from various belts and straps ties and belts on, but is also completely removable and even reasonably comfortable to wear. Nothing in the wasteland would be kept if it couldn’t be used, and the costumes I create try to reflect that.

I might just try to lose a couple of pounds and model this myself. I’ve tried it on, and I have to confess to feeling immediately like a complete bad-ass.

The second costume I put together was for my little one, Lulah. I designed a little kid punk-style vest, and had a complete costume idea in my head.


It took a while to find the perfect dress, and her bear hat still isn’t exactly as I envisioned it, but I’ll get to work on it soon (I’ll have to before she outgrows the vest! It won’t be long now). We got her all dirty and made-up for the shoot, but then the co-op was closed off and I couldn’t think of anywhere else in time to still catch the daylight, so I just snapped a few quick photos in the driveway.

Little Lamplight has a new mayor

Before anyone has a cow, that’s a Red Ryder BB gun, and a broken one at that. Even if Lulah wanted to shoot her eye out, it would be physically impossible.

She comes up with her poses entirely on her own.


We definitely need to get more, better, photos of this costume taken. There are so many cool details that I’d like to show, and I don’t have a mannequin small enough to take stills. It won’t be long before the vest goes up for sale, I think. It’s already a little small. I just wish we could do a FallOut family theme for Halloween this year before that happens!

The batch of four similar-but-not-the same journals are nearly finished, and I’ll make a separate post just for them. Only two will actually be available, in the end. One I already finished and mailed off to the friend of a friend who is having more than her fair share of hardships thrown at her. I don’t really know what the journal is going to do for her, but I just wanted to do something. Another I decided to keep for Lulah when she’s older. What’s the point of having a mom that makes things if she never makes things for you, amiright? I really feel like I’m improving drastically with these weird journal things. These four are the best I’ve made yet and I already feel like I can do much better. Even though I have plans for four or five new styles of journal, I’m going to take a quick break from them to make some other, smaller and quicker, things first. I’m thinking about opening a stall at one of those antique malls, as I just don’t know how well these journals can sell online at the price they’ll need to be to make up for the time it takes to create one. I feel like people will need to hold one in their hands and look through it to really understand what they have there. What do you think? Would making a video that goes through each journal page be a step in the right direction?

The Follow-Up

The dread gallbladder surgery finally had a face when Day Surgery called Monday afternoon to tell me to be in at 8am the next morning for the old slicity-slice. When I was there for pre-screening they assured me that they never keep anyone waiting for long beforehand.

This was a flagrant lie.

Dustin and I left around 7, and I signed in at the front desk promptly at 7:45. I even waited until the gaggle of people crowded there left so I could be sure the ladies at reception noticed me signing in. Not because I need all eyes on me, but because if I have to face the facts, my super-power is falling through the cracks. This isn’t a pity party, just an honest assessment of my life.

Two hours went by. At first I was mostly preoccupied with being nervous to get pissy about the length of time, but when people we heard getting called into surgery were having their families called into their recovery rooms—people who came in well AFTER us—then I started getting a little hot under the collar. My name was called to report to the front desk, and at the same time they called my phone to ask if I was coming in. It was 10 by this time. The receptionist asked if I had signed in.

” Yes. At 7:45.” She looked shocked, then looked at her clipboard. Then flipped up a page. Then flipped up another page until she saw my name, completely buried under the people they’d skipped ahead of me. I was supposed to have been first in line with my surgeon that day, but didn’t actually get into the OR until 12:30 thanks to that happy little snafu.

The nurse who prepped me was great. I barely even felt it when she put the IV in, and I wish I could have some of those compression wraps they put on my legs for home. They were like having a wonderful calf massage every thirty seconds or so.

The anesthesiologist came in to say ‘hello,’ and looked exactly like Ebinezer Scrooge. Luckily, I didn’t have to see him again. His weirdly exuberant aides wheeled me away to the OR and I immediately cracked up laughing—”Back That Azz Up” was blaring in the background. My surgeon was super into 90’s hiphop they explained. He was such a small, nerdy looking white dude, with an Egon Spangler-esque demeanor that I never would have guessed. I mean, whatever keeps him pumped and feeling like a boss, right?

The anesthesia ladies explained that the drugs may burn in my hand a little has they come through the tube, but that it should only last for a second. Boy were they wrong. It burned like a mother and lasted about twenty seconds. They put an oxygen mask on me and said to take a few deep breaths. I managed one before I was PTFO.




I came awake all at once in the recovery bay. A lot of people talk about having loopy dreams and conversations with people who aren’t there while coming awake, but no such fun for me. Just intense pain that I was totally unprepared for. The stout lady furiously mouse-clicking at the workstation next to my stretcher gave me a shot of dilaudid, which without exaggeration was just barely enough to ease the pain, and I was wheeled into a private room. A few hours later the pain started coming back with a vengeance and my nurse gave me a single pill of the weakest OxyContin possible. She said I could have another in half an hour if I needed.

I needed.

When I called her back for the other pill she said “You’re a little on the small side, I just didn’t want to over medicate you.” Thanks? But seriously, over medicate me. Most of the rest of the afternoon was spent between crying in pain, and drug-addled sleep. The tech told me I needed her help to the bathroom, so at one point I asked her for help, which she did, but then didn’t come back to help me out. Thank glob Dustin was there.

Around 8 my nurse said they were ready to discharge me whenever I felt ready to go. A minute in the hospital is too damn long, so I let her know I was ready. She said she’d put in the order for my meds at the pharmacy and then come unhook me from everything. About an hour later Dustin’s like, “They fucking forgot you again.” Sure enough, she’d gone home for the night and no one even knew I was still there. He flagged down someone and let them know what was up, and the night tech and nurse came in to get me ready to go. The night nurse seemed completely incompetent, but did say that she didn’t think she was in the right room because my chart said I was 34, but that I look 24. The tech was like, ” You ARE very beautiful.” Seriously, you ladies are crazy but I love you.

Isnt it funny how when you’re in pain even the shortest drive is the longest of your life? We had to stop so I could take a pill before we made it, but eventually we did. Lulah was asleep when we left in the morning, and when we got home. It was the first time I hadn’t seen my kid for an entire day. We really like our kid, so that sucked.

I feel much better today, with a lot less pain. I even ate some jalapeño poppers! There’s a list of food I’ve been dying for but couldn’t have while on the low-fat diet for the last two or three months. Can’t wait to start checking those bad boys off! I’ll probably have to take up running or something. I lost twenty pounds in those months, and could probably gain all that back in a week.

All that fuss and it hardly looks like anything!

Anyhow, the kitchen is soooo close to finished so I should have some after pics for that soon, and then we can get back to making stuff!

What do I call these things anyway?


_MG_6569In the interest of chronology I’d originally planned a few posts ahead of this one, but I just finished a beast that soaked up around 15-20 hours of my life and am excited to share it! As the title suggests, I’m having trouble figuring out what exactly to call these books I’m making. Journal works, but doesn’t feel exactly right; I’m making these with the intention of them being a kind of already-visually-stimulating-so-all-one-has-to-do-is-write-their-stuff-and-paste-in-their-ticket-stubs-and-what-have-you scrapbook. Ready made scrapbook? Smashbook with cheese? Suggestions are appreciated!

While making this book I learned a valuable lesson about leaving enough space inside. I thought when I made the paper signatures that I’d left enough space for embellishments, but I was overcome with the need to really make every page unique and special, and ended up over-stuffing by a lot. The decision to remove an entire signature proved harrowing, but worth it. The book is still just a tad full for my taste, but it can at least be added to now.

There are tons of folders, pockets, and tabs for slipping things underneath. The front cover opens to an original book page, and an accordion-style folder.

Pockets, pockets everywhere

The title of the book, “The Girl Scouts at Singing Sands,” helped me direct the theme for both this book and the one that will follow. I used ephemera and techniques that reminded me of the woods, the nostalgia of yesteryear, and childhood summer camp. I wanted to keep it eclectic and fun, but stay within a kind of unified theme.

Some of my favorite pieces of ephemera live here now, including this page from a vintage typesetter’s font book, and a postcard from 1904!

Attached to the spine are five charms on ribbons. Four are meant to be book markers with the remainder-a porcelain birdie-left out to decorate the spine. Birds are a subtle reoccurring element as what is a forest without birds?


There are three hinged, and two open-faced lockets that have been intentionally left blank. Adding tiny narrative pictures was a temptation, but ultimately I decided that to add personal tidbits to these secret little places is really what will make this book a treasure once completed as a scrapbook.


As mentioned earlier, this journal is way too big. The next one will have less pages, but more attention spent on the details within those pages so the quality will actually improve! When I look around for inspiration on Pinterest, the altered books that really catch my breath are so ethereal and dreamy, and I find myself irresistibly attracted to the sort of “layers of negative space” they exude. Those artistic beauties are wonderful to look at, but I’m not sure if they quite lend themselves to having anything new added-as a scrapbook would need to be. My focus for the next project will hopefully move more in the same direction of those journals, but stop short of becoming unusable.

The original library check-out card from the 50’s, and original book illustration

Some typical pages

A pocket of lace

I love that black ribbon so much. It reminds me of Grimm’s fairy tales and the deep, dark woods!

Thanks for slogging through the photo-bomb. I’m contemplating making a video to show all the pages but that sounds like some serious work. Let me know what you think! What do you look for in a journal?

End Transmission.


I have to admit, after I mailed the When Rome Burns journal to my friend Erin, I was extremely anxious about how it would be received. It was a little bit of how disappointed I was with the errors I’d made, but also there was that anxiety unique of sharing something you “made” that is a lot like standing around naked in front of people who have quite intense stares. There are many reasons that, despite several states worth of difference in proximity, I consider Erin one of my road dogs. One of those reasons is that even if she actually feels like I mailed her a turd, she is being extremely generous about not showing it.

Yeah! Suck on that, bucket of nerves!

In the meantime, I have been prototyping away. Not as much as I’d like to have been because, really, how the hell does anyone get everything done in a day that they need to? The tail of my to-do list keeps wrapping around to the next day and I just feel sleepier and sleepier thinking about it.

I got two slightly different prototypes completed so far. They are full of mistakes, but most of them are completely different mistakes so I take that as a sign of improvement.

I wanted to work on an open binding and just make a very basic book to practice the fundamentals of the process. Mostly basic, at least. I wrapped the cover and signatures in comic book paper just to see how it affected everything. I cut the flaps a little large and left  them unglued to add a little visual interest but next time I think I will glue them down. Plain grey cardstock in a red cover.

The next was an experiment with cover material and envelopes. I cut apart a wooden cigar box and drilled tiny holes, then I just sewed it right onto the signatures. I choose red sulphite paper because I liked how it plays up the colors of the cover art. The envelopes are cut from laminated sheets of an edition of a 1896 New York newspaper. I sewed them into the signatures along the inner seam before assembling them, and punched holes for a ribbon loop to tuck the flaps into. Because the back cover is slightly longer than the front cover I lined it with paper and just fastened a binder clip to the top to make good use of the space. First prototype: no storage. Second prototype: All storage. Sounds about right.

Like the first go at book making/altering/whathaveyou these projects didn’t feel like work, even when I was learning from a particularly infuriating mistake. And learn I did. I feel totally ready to start making “real” altered journals to potentially sell. My Mother-in-Law scored a box of the most perfect ruined old books to use as covers so I have about 12 to make as my first batch. I’m taking them two at a time; making slightly similar ones with every pair to stay efficient with the materials prep and focused on the theme. I even did some planning that translates as a (very) loose blueprint for me to use when designing others!_MG_6490

Because the two prototypes are so flawed I decided to just keep them and use them for Lulah’s scrapbook project. I inadvertently ended up with a theme of red covered journals in her scrapbook series, and using these guys would fit right in, in their own way.

I haven’t began cutting anything, but I have assembled the papers and ephemera for the first two hardcover altered book journals that have been on my mind for weeks now. “Woodland,” is what I’m calling them in my head, but I have no idea if that’s how they’ll actually translate.

Working on getting the old process streamlined. I know one of the next steps will be actually putting together this crap-pile of a studio in a way that it can actually be used. Right now any time Tallulah wants to play with play-doh, I have to clean up my book project stuff from the craft table. Oh all-seeing Pinterest, tell me what is in my future.

End Transmission.

While Rome Burns


Book binding and journal making always seemed like a mystical entities to me. So enticing, yet obviously too difficult and tedious to learn. I was content to scrapbook away and pine for those awesome, crazy-paper journals more savvy crafters sell on Etsy. Something recently changed, however, and I decided to try making one myself. Not just any old journal though. My heavens, no. I decided to jump right in and make a creepy journal for my friend, Erin, that contains not quite a mystery but more of a narrative to hunt for. I’ll attempt to explain.

Confession: In the movie Red Dragon, Ralph Fiennes’ character has this huge ledger he uses as his looney-toons diary full of cryptic and sinister writing, photographs, drawings, and carefully clipped newspaper bits. When I saw that thing I was in love. It would be like a dream (albeit a creepy one) to happen upon something like that carelessly being sold at an estate auction or laying around in an abandoned house and snatch it home to plumb it’s sinister secrets. Okay, take that and fast forward to just a few years ago when my in-laws brought an old dresser home for us from an auction and we found a trove of discarded ephemera in one of the drawers. The entire life of one Arlene Strickland had been condensed into a handful of papers and documents in a drawer. I’m talking driver’s licenses, senior citizen ID’s, High school diplomas, photographs, wallets, clippings, even a government report involving a terrible incident. Finding these things felt like tripping on a gold mine. Everything together painted such a candid picture of this stranger’s life, and yet left so much to be wondered about. Add to these things my friend Erin, whom you will learn a little more about shortly.

I had to let all of those things float around together for a while before they finally turned into this journal. When I did finally get the idea for it, however, I got it in it’s entirety. I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and that excitement is what foolishly led me into jumping right into the project and using irreplaceable ephemera before making a prototype to catch all the bugs. This is why I’m a poor scientist. I feel the project was, in it’s own way, a success, but far from my vision of how it should have been. I had so many ideas while I was working on the book, and did so much research that led to new ideas that I could just kick myself for being so impatient.

Fortunately I have so many things of Arlene’s that I knew before I even started that it would need to be two book’s worth (otherwise there wouldn’t be anywhere for Erin to put her own stuff!) and have everything set aside to make a much improved second volume when the time is right.

I used a length of the original strap from my first accordion as the ‘belt’ that holds it closed. The small brass ball is a locket that was left blank.

Something I hadn’t thought of until I was already elbow-deep in the project was adding envelopes. It was too late to add them to the signatures themselves, so I begrudging had to let the three on the front and back covers carry the load. I tucked some photo corner stickers into the little red ones in the front ❤

Some of these papers and ephemera I have been holding onto for quite a long time. It was just too good to use on any old thing, but this was an A class project for me, so I was happy to finally get a chance to destash a little!

Here is where I need to tell you a little about Erin. The blood splatter pages are half part of the narrative, and half an homage to the way we met. The time was 2010 (?) and we were strangers, both peddling our wares on Etsy. I’m not sure what I was looking for, but a search brought me to a photo print in Erin’s shop that had an attached short story in the description. Reading that shit made the hairs on my arms stand up. There were more prints with more stories and I devoured them all. I would describe the quality of her writing as (excuse my french), “holy fuck.” Every story was brutally vivid and wonderful, but it was a story about a lady and her musings in the moments just before she has her skull cleaved in that prompted me to send her a gushing fan letter. Lucky for me she didn’t file a restraining order, and we’ve been homies since. The other page there features some vintage recipe cards turned tags that are a reference to an awesome vintage food party she had not too long ago. When I found out she was having that party I practically (maybe even actually) ran to the file where I had my 50’s Betty Crocker recipe cards to dig up some of the worst offenders to offer as entree ideas. Jellied chicken salad, anyone?

I tried to hide little details in unexpected places with fold outs and scrapbooked pages. that red thing is an emptied photobook from Arlene’s wallet.

Despite the many, sometimes unfixable, mistakes made during construction, I enjoyed making this journal tremendously. I’ve got a bunch of ideas to try out and many more prototypes to make, so hopefully there will be more to see on that front soon. Thanks for coming by!


End Transmission


A Place In Time

From Wikipedia:

Saudade is a word in Portuguese and Galician (from which it entered Spanish) that claims no direct translation in English. It describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never return. A stronger form of saudade might be felt towards people and things whose whereabouts are unknown, such as a lost lover, or a family member who has gone missing, moved away, separated, or died.

Saudade was once described as “the love that remains” after someone is gone. Saudade is the recollection of feelings, experiences, places or events that once brought excitement, pleasure, well-being, which now triggers the senses and makes one live again. It can be described as an emptiness, like someone (e.g., one’s children, parents, sibling, grandparents, friends, pets) or something (e.g., places, things one used to do in childhood, or other activities performed in the past) that should be there in a particular moment is missing, and the individual feels this absence. It brings sad and happy feelings all together, sadness for missing and happiness for having experienced the feeling.

Folks used to believe (and maybe still do? I don’t know. I don’t know where one would keep up with these things) that a person is born with a temperament that permeates and governs the course of their entire lives. If it’s true, then my temperament lies firmly in saudade-land. The feeling of nostalgia pervades almost everything I do in life, and is no where near so evident as in the stuff I make.


Last year my incredible sweetheart of a daughter picked a flower for me at her Oma’s house and brought it home to me. I was so touched! The first flower my sweetie picked for me seemed like something that required saving. Maybe it’s all the years of video game playing, but things that have so much meaning within them feel kind of like relics, full of magic and strange side-effects.

If I ever had to pick sides in a culture war I’d have a terrible time choosing between The Geekdom and HorrorLand. I’m not a vivisection queen or anything, but if it’s disconcertingly creepy and possibly sinister it is my bag. While many eras have their own particular flavor of wtf?! going for them, an era more into death, snake-oil, seances, and general Addams family charm than the Victorian I’ve yet to learn about. When deciding how to preserve and display my priceless relic the memento mori fashion heavily influenced my decisions.


The structure is a wooden box one of Lulah’s toys came in. Originally I painted the entire thing a kind of dusty aqua, but it seemed so god-awful generic that I went back and gave the exterior a few coats of “Emperor’s Gold.” I love this color so much–it reminds me of the spines of Little Golden Books. The little lace square came from a parcel of lace and hankies my mother bequeathed to me that I believe were my grandmother’s, or possibly even her mother’s.


Hubs and I decided before Lulah was born how we were going to parent her, and part of that included deciding we weren’t going to do anything like cut her hair or pierce her ears unless she wants to do those things. Unfortunately curly hair is the devil to keep groomed (and Lulah isn’t super into grooming in the first place–she’s a wild thing!) and we ended up with a snarl one day that no amount of detangler and gentle coaxing was going to eradicate. I hated snipping off that adorable little end curl, but it had to be done. I wrapped satin ribbon around the ugly snarl part, and mounted it on silk brocade. The frame is a resin dollar-store find painted a shade of aubergine that I immediately became obsessed with after finding it in a spray can.

I don’t think I’m overly sentimental about my kid. I’m quick to toss the toys she doesn’t play with anymore in the donate pile (except for the rare heirloom that goes into her “Pass-down” box) and all of her too-small clothes go to her best buddy who is a year younger. I do save all of her paintings and drawings, but that’s because I intend to turn them into signatures and make her scrapbooks out of them once I have enough! I thought it would be a special touch to have the pages covered in her early art. And I’ll probably save all of her baby teeth, but that’s the creep part of me talking there. I’m going to use them in art projects, no doubt. Also, my mom saved all of mine so if I’m a creep then she is too!


-End Transmission

The Maiden Voyage

Greetings and Salutations!

Welcome to my inaugural blog post! My name is Octavia, and like most people of the creative persuasion, I am possessed of the need to make things. All kinds of things. All the time. Constantly. When I’m not making things, I’m researching things to make; planning the next thing. Always planning the next thing. My list of ‘next things’ has become quite the project itself.

 When I was younger (muuuuuuch younger) drawing was my deal. Mostly I drew a lot of trees and nature scenes, occasionally venturing to uncharted territories to experiment with doodling showgirls and bikinied dogs.

(Currently on exhibition at My Mother’s House)


In my teenage years I conquered my fear of drawing people by spending most of my free time drawing the women in the Victoria’s Secret clothing catalog and an occasional celebrity.

(I even started getting pretty not bad!)

  My early twenties were spent dabbling in colored pencil and ink abstract landscapes and bizarre-o nature scenes.

And then I discovered mixed-media assemblage and fell in love. Hard. It was what I’d always vaguely wanted to do with art, but could never exactly define my thoughts enough to figure it out. For as in love with the art form as I am, I haven’t actually made very many sculptures yet. I’ve been collecting and refining ideas for a while now, however, and am ready to get to work on them finally.

Part of me can’t stop kicking myself for stopping drawing so much just when I was beginning to figure out what the heck I’m doing. I still doodle on occasion–

(Although they’ve gotten much weirder…)

–and have completely neglected to mention photography at all even though I’ve been doing it for over ten years, and is what I write under “Profession.” You wouldn’t know it by the quality of photos in this post, ha! I apologize for the hasty phone pictures. I don’t actually own a scanner, and pbbbbt to photographing flat things.

It’s kind of an exciting time for me, speaking in photography terms. I’ve been struggling for a while with my portrait business, and I think I finally figured out what I’m doing wrong and how to fix it. I’d been attempting to succeed by taking what I like to call “Normal” portraits of people and their families. The problem with this right from the beginning is that I am not a normal person, and thus, know nothing about normal people or what they want. Most portraits of myself involve costumes, or at the very least a zany prop. I didn’t even know how to advertise to people who wanted portraits of them in their Sunday best. Don’t get me wrong, I can take those pictures, but meh. I’m pretty sure my clients could pick up on that. Not to mention, there is a lot of competition in that area with people who are willing to do a portrait session for $35, with print release, and zero post-process. I don’t think I need to extrapolate on the quality of portfolios involved there, but I would say that about 95% of the market for people looking for regular portraits are totally fine with exactly what they get from that kind of photographer. I’m just not that kind of photographer.

I’ve decided to shift my focus to my conceptual projects and cosplay photography. I’ve got a lot of work to do getting all the details of the new change sorted, but I finally feel like I’m moving in the right direction as a business. Stay tuned for updates on that! Some of the other things hatching at the moment are: Potentially some kind of paper shop involving cards, journals, totes/tees with some kind of graphic (we’ll see about this one), and still trying to get my music skills up to par to get our band–The Junktown Jerky Vendors– off and running. It’s also seed starting time, so I shouldn’t have to worry about the dangers of becoming bored anytime soon!

Thanks for sticking around this long. I was worried I wouldn’t have enough to talk about to run a blog, but as it turns out I can’t shut up! Nice getting acquainted with you, and with luck, things should only get better from here.

End Transmission.