Monthly Archives: July 2011

Scott Pilgrim vs. The Day of the Dead (2010)

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You come across an interesting development, as you get older; the artistic heroes that you held so dear in your chrysaline stages of youth age right along with you, and the results aren’t always pretty. Ask any wayward love-child of the nihilistic media backwash of the mid-nineties how the latest Kevin Smith film was, and you’ll likely get a faceful of insta-heat comments about the myriad ways in which the poor bastard has gone from the defining auteur of his era to an irrelevant, balding bop-’em bag.

Short version of the above statement: it gets tougher and tougher to find artists worth believing in, as the years churn on. Which isn’t to strike some gauche’ pose about how all the greatest songs were written before 2003, or how there hasn’t been a decent novel on store shelves since Pahalniuk lost his stroke… creative and commercial appeal are ultimately arbitrary concepts. Intimate at their best, obstinate when they aren’t. We’re often left at a loggerheads between our gossamer, gold-jacketed memories of dream-state experiences that we had while staying up all night playing Mario Kart twenty years ago and the realization that nothing is ever going to make us feel that way, again. Or so we tell ourselves.

But anyway. Edgar Wright.

Wright is–more than Seth MacFarlane, more than Judd Apatow, and more than Fred Durst (aharharjoex)–the singular most effective spirit of the 90’s zeitgeist. Spaced was a hot-shot confection which hit the mid-waist of my viewing palette with the combined zing of a Jolly Rancher and the narrative weirdness of an E tab; Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz were like watching your five-year-old mash up a war between his Lego mini-men and a few of the old Kenner Star Wars figures… if you were able to keep up with the action through his own unfettered little stream of consciousness. Wright is a man who plays in his own sandbox with furious passion, and he does things as a visual narrator which defy explanation or analysis, let alone exploitation by other filmmakers.

So, it was no small wonder that I wound up making this, shortly after watching Scott Pilgrim vs. The World:

Up until this point, I had never had an urge to base a calaca on anybody else’s work. Everything preceding this point was either an original brain-bubble, or something crafted for a specific recipient; I’m not quite sure what the hell it was about Scott Pilgrim (aside from the obvious) that snapped that trend’s spine, but it wound me up in a new direction, artistically. I still work at a 3:1 ratio between commercially-oriented calveras and original pieces, but I find that the challenge of really doing a character justice–and not just mailing in some quarter-assed “HEY KIDS, YOU KNOW WHAT’S HOT RIGHT NOW? TEAM DIA DE LOS JACOB”–attention-grab is something entirely new.

Plus, it gives me an excuse to flip the script and indulge in my creepy, overbearing fan persona whenever the piece doesn’t sell, and I wind up trying to find ways to get it into the hands of the original creator… Mssrs. Lee O’Malley and Wright can consider themselves served with due notice.

The Juju Box (1999)

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Prying back the hands of the cosmic clock a bit, this whole thing really began nearly a dozen years ago. My first foray into making calacas was the result of making a birthday present for my then-girlfriend, Jynx; I don’t think that I could convince anybody of my carpentry skills with a straight face, but I was stricken by this randomly weirdo concept of creating a box-style nicho.

I’m honestly STILL not sure how the hell I managed to put this thing together. I expected it to collapse or to crack around the edges within a month or two; however, eleven years later, it’s still sitting pretty on a shelf in our living room. It wasn’t until some time after I’d built it that I realized that there ISN’T a sub-genre of calaca that actually uses this type of diorama, which is odd, because I have a difficult time giving myself credit in coming up with something entirely unique, at least in terms of concept.

The box itself is painted with a Burton-esque checker pattern on the interior (The use of tessellated patterns is one of those “awhellihavenocluewhatI’mgoingtodowiththisbase”-type saves that never fails to look good, with this type of subject matter), and a lacquered purple and black zig-zag stripe on the outside. In what can only be termed another totally random decision, I opted to place a hinged hatch in the top of the box itself:

And as an amusing aside about just how damn sweet my actual hands-on skills were at this point, it can be noted that the figures are seated… due to the fact that I couldn’t figure out how to sculpt them in a standing position. Seriously. The armatures consisted of bent paper clips, which weren’t even braided; thank goodness I went with a basic, non-polymer clay, or I would have wound up gluing the individual bits and bobs together in some Frankenstein-ian fashion.

Of course, I gave Jynx some line about how the sitting pose was intentional, so that our skeletal proxies would be staring into each others’ eyes for all eternity… which I don’t think she bought, but which also didn’t stop her from marrying me.

From the Working Table: Dobre den!

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It’s with much ado about nothing in particular that this blog officially goes live; for those of you who have happened upon this dusty little tchotchke shop, it’s going to serve as something of a “storefront” for my recreational artistic activities. I specialize in making Mexican “dia de los muertos” figurines and statuettes–fondly referred to as “calaveras” or “calacas” in the appropriate circles–and have been selling my wares through various channels for the last two years.

I’m hoping to establish a bit of a one-sided rapport in regards to the methods and madness behind the art form, both as a means to archive the ongoing development of my craft, as well as a way to hold myself accountable in maintaining a steady work schedule. I’ve noticed that the implication of having an audience (Even if one doesn’t really exist; or it just happens to be a collective of friends, well-wishers and family members) is a great source of motivation, when it comes to knuckling down and getting pieces done.

Comments, questions and whatever else are more than welcome. Thank you for taking the time to stop by.

-cc.