Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Creative Conversations 2 - Perms and Coloring


No, this isn't a hair blog! The perms and coloring I'm talking about are the permissions given on SL items, and ladies asking me to recolor gowns I've made.

I thought about a lot of topics to blog on this week. It seems to me there are a variety of them concerning Second Life and fashion, as well as the business end of fashion. This time I'm going to talk a bit about recoloring items and the use of permissions.

Permissions are those things that a designer assigns a product defining the usage available to the next person, usually a client. There are heated debates among designers and buyers as to what are the best permissions to issue. I personally think it depends to a great extent on what you're giving permission on. For example, I do some limited amount of men's clothing. On them, and only on them, I allow mod (modification) rights on the pants. Men often need to lengthen or shorten the pants depending on what shoe they will be wearing. Let's face it ladies, we rarely have that issue with gowns, since our shoes are most usually ankle or lower. The men may wear knee high boots or low cut shoes, either way they need a choice. So that is one reason to offer mod rights.

I do not offer mod rights in general because they're not needed if resizing scripts are in the prim pieces. Those scripts can be deleted once you've set the item to the size you wish. there's not one good reason on this pixel earth for you to be adjusting any other texture. There just isn't. If you did not like the length of the sleeves or depth of neckline to begin with, then don't buy the outfit. It's pretty simple.

Another, more personal reason for my stance on mod perms. I was about a year into designing when I offered a newly finished gown to a friend of mine. At that time I had mod/copy/no trans. She took the gown, and then came back the next day, having totally changed every texture on that gown. She then happily showed me how she'd improved it. I was stunned and hurt, though I said not a word to her about my feelings. Why bother to take a gown I made and change it into something you made? Make your own. That was my thought then and now. At that point, I decided no more mod gowns ever again, because that person now had a gown with my name as creator, and not one bit of the work was mine any longer except for the prims. And so it goes.

Let's talk about copy. Why? No really, why? Every outfit I sell is a completed gown. If you need to resize a piece, then it probably has a resizing script in it. If it doesn't, contact me! I had a lady recently contact me, expressing a need for larger head pieces on the 20's gowns she had bought. I happily gave her new head pieces with resizing scripts in them, AND changed them out on stock that would go out in the future. Because of her expressed desire, a lot of other customers will benefit. There really is no reason to have copy in an outfit.

Now, transfer or trans. Why, oh why, did I make the majority of my gowns no mod/no copy/trans? Well, after two years of shopping in SL, I got sick to death of not being able to transfer copies of gowns out of my nearly 80k inventory. Yes it is that high, yes I do try to prune often. But I'm a designer and I have all my stock in my inventory. Not everything I have made makes it to a server to be distributed. But let us not digress, back to why I use trans. Basically, I've wasted real money on gowns because I do not wish to wear them any longer, but they still clutter up my inventory. So what choices do I have? I can delete them or keep them if they are no trans. I gotta tell you, after two years of shopping, that's a LOT of gowns. That is also a lot of real life wasted money, since I cannot resell a gown nor can I give it away. To me that's just idiocy. Also, there is the lost sales chances. There are many times my sister and I have gone out shopping, only to spot some gorgeous outfit we'd like to gift someone we know. But it's no trans. So then we have a choice, try to find out how that particular merchant gifts stuff, or give linden to the person and have them go buy it. Those are just not good options in my opinion. I like knowing the reaction of the person I'm giving a gift too!

So when sitting down to decide on a final set of perms for all my garments, I decided that no copy (you do not need five copies of a bodice!), no mod (you do not need to resew that bodice!), trans (pass it on if you're tired of it!) was the way to go! Now you know my feelings and reasons behind the perms I give. I won't change it. I see no reason too.

Now about recolors. I've had a few clients approach me and say, 'if only you'd recolor this gown in screaming taupe, I'd buy it!" I can't do that. Recoloring simply does not work well in most cases. I've seen 'five lovely shades' of the same original gown. It was sad. That's just Photo Shop or GIMP doing a recolor. That doesn't do the gown any justice. It changes the shading of lace and cloth and the whole tone and feel of the gown.

You see, when I'm working with an original piece, I think of the designers. Whether it's a Worth gown, or a gown with no known designer, someone went to a boat load of trouble to create that specific gown in that manner. They picked those fabrics, with those colors and textures and that particular trim or sets of trim. They didn't think, 'wow, ok now let's do this exact same thing in ten other shades!' No, they were creating a piece of artwork for an individual client.

Couture is ARTwork. Haute Couture is a garment made for ONE person, by others. Literally, at this time in history, there are about 300 women in the world who can afford real haute couture garments. They will tell you, haute couture is art in fabric form. We're speaking of gowns that cost upwards of $100,000 for one evening gown. In the middle to late 1800's, when Worth was reinventing fashion, a very wealthy woman might go spend a million 1890 era dollars on her wardrobe for a season. The cost today would be much greater than that. Worth and his peers made gowns for royalty. When I work with a Worth gown and bring it to you in SL, you're getting a chance to wear a version of a haute couture gown. A real one, not one hyped to be one. I do use other designers as well, and am constantly learning of other period designers who have done amazing work.

You do not recolor a Rembrandt or a Monet . . . or a Worth. I have seen a lovely Worth gown recolored into five or six other shades. It made me cringe, because they did not look nearly as good as the original. I was also frankly surprised that some person some place with a computer program thought they could do better than the original designer. I don't know if it was arrogance or ignorance or greed, but the gowns were not appealing.

I will not recolor any gown I have done that is based on an original piece. Don't ask, and don't be offended if I say the same thing in person. Just get a gown that suits you and your style and coloring. If you don't like the coloring on the gown, than change your avatar. What, is that more outrageous? This is Second Life, don't get stuck in a rut! If you really love a gown and want to wear it, then figure out a complimentary look and go for it. I venture into blonde territory now and then. I go between red head and brunette and raven black hair as well. The real beauty of SL is all about having the ability to look any way we wish at almost any given moment.

Now to clear up one or two things before anyone screams offended. If a designer makes a garment from scratch, and then wants to offer 20 colors of it, go them. I've done that recently with the Devil's Cloth gowns. It's the first time I've issued five colors of one style of gown, and chances are it won't happen again any time soon! Savor it while you can ladies!

It's now rather early, and I need to work on some other things. There were four new releases over the past weekend. I'll blog on those tomorrow most probably. In the meantime, I wish you all a lovely Thanksgiving. I hope you make it home to your families, but if you don't, then I hope you spend the day with friends and folks you enjoy.

Many bright blessings on you and yours.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Creative conversations

Greetings again!

I was talking to my dear friend, Miss Breezy Carver, about a commission gone wrong last week. She suggested perhaps I should tell the world at large what it's like being a creative genius in SL. All right maybe not genius, but at least brilliantly talented, awesomely modest digital seamstress. No? Well, let us speak about design then, and what it takes to bring a gown to life in Second Life.

I am going into my third year of designing in Second Life. I started out with a hunger to make gowns that didn't look like overturned Tupperware bowls that flapped in the wind. Omar the Tent maker would have been proud of some the very ghastly things I saw in the summer of 2007. Add to that blingy stilettos, and it made me cringe. Try as I might, I could not find virtual clothing that suited my own personal style and taste. So I set out to make my own.

My very first gown was called, 'Dark Fires'. It was made with a full perm skirt and freebie textures. Even then I tended towards strong, contrasting colors in the warm hues. The skirt texture was a glass texture, and in using it, I felt the first sharp pull of what it meant to be a creator in SL.

My personal real life background includes over 30 years of sewing experience, as well as all the little skills that go with that. Bead work, embroidery, needlepoint, painting on fabrics, making costumes, and more. I have made Ren faire and Halloween costumes for family and friends, as well as strangers who emailed me measurements! The upshot of that is I know how all kinds of cloth moves and flows in the real world.

Then I found SL. The first year was spent learning the skills needed to make gowns. I wanted my gowns to move like real cloth, not flapping in the 'wind' or standing stiffly. Then there was the matter of design. It's not just a matter of slapping pretty textures on prims. I once heard another person say she'd spent the weekend making 200 gowns. That is not a typo. The gowns were all the same, but with different textures. That to me is not designing gowns. That is a desperate attempt to wring lindens from folks with no sense of style. She no longer sells gowns or anything else, having moved on out of SL. This is not a get rich quick way to make money.

But back to how to do what I do. I went to every building class I could find. Out of the two or three hundred classes I've done over the years, only about six were clothing. But what I was learning to do was manipulate prims. Making a house or a set of furniture or a necklace all teach different things. So I did that, and made gowns. Mostly my gowns were made in appearance and were what I still call slider clothing. That's because of the slider you use to move the lengths around. I finally made my own skirts, first with looprez, then on my own. It is all a matter of practice and focus. Oh and passion!

My skills grew, but I had one major stumbling block. I knew I would never reach the next level of design until I could make my own textures. Specifically, I needed to be able to make bodices, corsets, glitch skirts, and better textures for skirts. In short, I needed to be able to manufacture the textures to my standards.

I learned GIMP. It sucked. It took me three months to do the classes, which were a gift from my sister, Ghilayne. Did I mention it sucked? I had all these ideas in my head, but I couldn't get them from head to SL! Then I had a falling off the fence learning moment and suddenly GIMP made sense! I started making things! They were clumsy at first, then my sister gifted me with the second great gift. For Christmas she gave me a Wacom pad. Now if you don't know what that is, it is a pen tablet that hooks up to your computer. By using that I could do even more detailed work in GIMP on textures. I suddenly found out what I wanted to do in SL, reproduce historical gowns.

My first gown was inspired by Charles F. Worth. Here is the original gown, which took my breath away when I saw it the first time!

from that, came this:

That, from the moment I found the pictures and made the textures, until the product was boxed, the ad made, and everything set out, took about a week. I've had lots of practice since that first Worth gown, which came out a year ago this month. But it can still take up to a full week for a gown, depending on details and prim work that might be needed.

Now, let's return to dear Miss Breezy and the commission gone wrong. The lady I was to do the gown for asked for a dance hall girl's gown in pink with low cut bodice and under bust corset. Can do! I set a price for her, then told her I thought I could have it ready the next evening. Now usually I don't move that quickly on a commission, but this seemed simple enough. I spent several hours on the gown, finding the cloth textures, working up the main textures and then doing the prim work to complete the gown. In total there was about 8-9 hours into it. From that effort came this:

Lovely isn't it? She didn't want it. It wasn't deeply enough cut in the cleavage, it wasn't her style, but she did find the corset stunning and offered to buy that.

My temper flared, my blood pressure shot up, but I said nothing. Instead I just thanked her and closed out the IM. Then I started taking deep breaths to calm down. I had just spent 8 hours on a commission just to be told 'nah, not really my style, but I'll take the corset'. I try to cut people slack, they have no clue what's on my side of the screen, the work involved with making even the simplest textures. But it is thoughtless and rude to commission a gown and then not pay for it. I don't really care if it was her style or not. I had pointed out the gowns on the shop walls around us and asked her if she was sure she wished me to do a gown. This was when she first approached me about it. She said yes, she was sure. What she really wanted though was a copy of the gown she was wearing, but in pink. I'm convinced it was a man, playing a female, playing a lady of the evening in a Western sim. Why? Because her bosom was hanging out like a cow begging to be milked. What she wanted was a gown that had nothing between the hanging mounds of flesh on her chest. I did point out that the black lace on the gown is transparent, and that the cloth part edges the nipple, but it still wasn't what she wanted.

I'm ranting again, poor Breezy, she had to listen to me the first time! So did my sister, who just shook her head, patted my clenched fist, and pointed out that I could now sell the gown on the open market. That cheered me a little bit, but really after a while I just had to laugh and move on. The gown now sits on the open market, and I will make more in that line so that the dance hall girls of the Western sims have something to wear!

I am not the only designer this kind of commission fiasco has ever happened too, and it is because of things like that that most designers reach a point where they refuse any more commission work.

In conclusion, don't commission a gown and then not pay for it. Be aware that the person making that gown is doing some fairly serious work. Textures don't just fall off the internet and onto an avatar. There are many time consuming steps between point A and YOU.

If you want to do this kind of thing, if you want to be a clothing designer in SL, be prepared to practice, practice, practice. Again, textures do not just fall out of thin air. You must put time, effort, thought and WORK into designing good clothing in SL. To design magnificently detailed clothing, you really must work your tush off. There is no free ride, except for copybots and that ilk. I cannot infuse you with knowledge. I can only tell you my journey to this point in time has taken two years of long hours and obsessive attention to detail. I study clothing of the era, I've learned about designers like Worth, Redfern, Paquin, Lucille, Felix, and others. I've spent hours reading and researching, buying real books to add to a growing reference library on period fashions. I also try to stretch myself creatively. That might mean taking jaunts off into unexpected design directions, and only in that way can I find what makes me smile.

I am following my Bliss. Because of that my life has gone in unexpected directions on occasion. I hope that you, too, will find and follow your own Bliss. It is a very worthwhile journey, believe me!

Cordially yours,

Monday, November 2, 2009

Devil's Cloth and Halloween


yes, I know I'm late in posting for Halloween! I was so busy designing and such that I forgot to post this last weekend. I'll admit, blogging isn't always at the top of my to-do list! I've so many projects right now, ones I want to start, some that I have started, others that need to be finished or started ... or ... or ... yes. THAT is my life most days. One would think that there would be enough hours in the day, but more often than not, I end up falling into bed with less finished than I had hoped!

A couple of things to comment on, tonight is the Hunter's Moon. How cool is that? Full moons are always magical times. The other thing is about the silks I spoke of last time. I've been working on them, but the freak perfectionist in me wants a few changes before I release them. So it'll be a wee bit longer. However, I will have some new boudoir robes out at the end of the week. Also, a group gift for those who are members of the GWD Hippogroup. This will be a first, but I hope not a last. I've a few future gifts in mind, so we'll see!

So let us move on and discuss a little fashion history.

There are five new releases this week. I'm cleaning out my folders and finding many things that I did and then put away for one reason or another. The Devil's Cloth gowns are a good example of items put by for another time. When I created the first one over a year ago, it was for fun. When I pulled that gown out a week ago, I thought it was cute, but needed a little help. So into GIMP I went to create a new bodice for it. For anyone that wants to design clothing, let me tell ya that 'just one more little bit' usually turns into a whole new outfit! And so it was with these gowns. One more little bit turned into five new gowns.

The name, Devil's Cloth, refers to stripes and a fantastic book my sister told me about. It might not interest most folks, but in case you're interested, it is "The Devil's Cloth: A History of Stripes and Striped Fabric" by Michel Pastoureau.

Did I mention my sister, Ghilayne, is a textile and history geek like me? Well, she is! Anyway, after telling me about that, I finally had a name for the new gowns released on Sunday morning. Below are the ads for all five gowns. Yes, it's been a very long time since I released one gown in multiple colors. As I said, I'm cleaning out folders so you all may see all kinds of things over the next month!

That's about it for now. I do have some fun things coming out. I hope you'll stop by Blisswood on Northern Lights to check it out. I also hope you take a moment and step outside to enjoy the beautiful skies!

Cordially yours,