The Illustrations of Medusa the Dollmaker

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Medusa Dollmaker(Asunción Macián Ruiz, 1983-Valencia, Spain) is a self-taught digital and traditional illustrator and sculptor. Her designs have been printed at such places as TeeFury, TeeVillain, Skulls Make Up, and other fine places. Her personal artbooks include Cabaret(2008, Planeta DeAgostini, and Miracle(still in progress). For more examples of her work please see: http://www.medusathedollmaker.com/, http://medusadollmaker.blogspot.com/, http://www.facebook.com/MedusatheDollmaker

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An Interview with Wendy Froud

 

Wendy & Brian Froud

Wendy & Brian Froud

Wendy Froud first gained acclaim as an artist and sculptor when she created Yoda for Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Her work with Jim Henson on Dark Crystal and Labyrinth also won the hearts of fans worldwide. She has worked to provided lush imagery for the pages of Terry Windling’s Children’s Books and often collaborates with her husband Brian. It was an honor to sit down with her and get a glimpse into one of the most creative minds of our time.

Where did you grow up? What were you like as a child? Did you always have an active imagination?

I grew up in Detroit, Michigan and I spent my summers in Northern Michigan at our family home in East Jordan, so  it was both a very urban setting and a lovely rural one as well. I was an only child but I never felt lonely (or not very often). I certainly always had an active and sometimes overactive imagination, encouraged by my mother, who read all sorts of books to me as a child but particularly fantasy and mythology, with a touch of British history.

Did you believe in fairies as a kid?

Yes, I did. Again, encouraged by my mother. We made houses for them in the garden and left offerings of food and drink and flowers for them. I was named after the Wendy in Peter Pan so really, I had no choice but to believe!

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Did you ever have a favorite Fairy Tale?

I don’t think I had one particular favorite but I did have a favorite book of fairytales. It was The Fairy Tale Book with illustrations by Adrienne Segur. It really influenced the way I looked at illustration and has very much influenced the look of my own work. I have found that many other artists and writers, especially female fantasy artists, have been influenced by her illustrations and this book in particular.

What was it like having parents who were artists? Do you think that sort of thing is passed on most often through genes, or encouragement, or a mix of both?

I think it is often a mix of both. Many of our friends were artists, writers, musicians, and patrons of the arts while I was growing up. It seemed natural to be creative in some form or another. In fact I remember finding it very odd when I visited friends’ home and found that there were no paintings on the walls, no sculpture in the house and no books , or at least not in the vast quantities that we had in every room! I was always encouraged to find what ever creative outlet interested me at the time but I always tended to gravitate toward three dimensional work. I started making dolls when I was about six years old and never gave that up.

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What would you say is the most important thing they ever taught you?

They taught me to believe in myself and my ability to do what I was passionate about. They would have encouraged me to be an accountant if that was what I truly wished to be. I think that one of the most important things a parent can give a child is support and encouragement.

What was it like when you were asked to created the Yoda character for Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back?

To be honest, I had no idea that Yoda would become anything like the icon he now is. I doubt that any of us who were involved in developing Yoda knew what we had started! I must be clear on this  – I didn’t create Yoda  – I was one of a team working together on creating that character. I DID sculpt the head that was originally approved and then Stuart Freeborn (the head of the department) resculpted to make it technically easier for eye blinks, etc. But  the look of Yoda was my sculpt and although we had sketches to work from, he developed through the sculpting . We were constrained by the size having to be “handpuppet” size  – meaning that Frank Oz needed to be able to get his hand inside the head and puppeteer comfortably ( or relatively comfortably!).

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What did you base the form of Yoda on? Where did you get your inspiration for his character?

It’s often said that Yoda was based on Stuart Freeborn but that was probably unintentional, until someone noticed the resemblance and then in later films it was made more pronounced. Having said that, we did work in the same room for months developing Yoda so I guess he had a fifty-fifty chance of looking either like Stuart or me. It’s a good thing he ended up looking like Stuart!

What was it like working with Jim Henson?

Jim was an amazing person to work for and with. He was one of the most generous people I have ever met. He allowed everyone working on Dark Crystal to be creative and he always seriously considered everyone’s suggestions. He didn’t always agree but he always listened. He had a wonderful sense of humor and he was extremely charismatic. People just WANTED to please him and do what he asked of them. But, he was also a tireless worker and set that example for us as well. He was an incredibly creative man.

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Why do you think the characters on Star Wars, Dark Crystal, and Labyrinth are so timeless in their appeal?

I think they have an integrity that makes them believable. You WANT to believe in them and as soon as you want that, you also want to follow their story. They take you with them on their journey and you care about them. Good or bad, you have entered into a relationship with them because you feel that they exist outside of the movie screen. I truly think that because they have a physical presence, they will continue to be more believable than characters created exclusively in a computer. Also, there’s a humor in all of these films that is very appealing.Often super heroes take themselves far too seriously!

Do you think with today’s hectic pace the world needs a little fantasy now more than ever?

Oh I certainly do!

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How did you and Brian meet?

We met at the very beginning of Dark Crystal when we both came to work in the Muppet workshop in New York on this new project that was just beginning to be developed, Dark Crystal.  We knew that the look was going to be based on Brian’s artwork and style but beyond that, the six of us who were the core group, were given a basic storyline and told to experiment. How wonderful and how rare to be able to do that!

What do you love most about him?

After being married for 34 years? I’m not sure, really. I love so many things about him, but I suppose the thing I really love is his commitment to his art and to Faerie.

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How does it feel to get to work alongside someone you love?

It can be a very exciting experience, but also a very frustrating one. We have had to figure out ways to work together without letting our years of being together impinge on our professional work. We have to forget about personal things that annoy us. The wonderful thing about it is that we really DO work well together. Our vision is very similar although we express it in different ways. We love bouncing ideas off of each other and we have learned to listen carefully to each other’s opinions. Cooperation and compromise are very important for a good creative experience!

What advice would you offer someone who wishes to work in the realm of fantasy as you do?

I think my advice would be to truly WANT to do it and commit yourself to trying to find the truth behind your work. It is or should be a vocation and not just a job.

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What do you think is key to a life well lived?

Again, I would say that it is finding something that you truly believe in and wish to share with the world. Compassion and awareness are also key components of a life well lived at least that’s what I believe!

What projects are you working on at the moment?

We are just beginning to promote our newest book Brian Froud’s Faeries’ Tales which is coming out in September. It’s another large book like Trolls and is quite beautiful (if I do say so myself!). Brian has painted a great number of full -face portraits of faeries. They look straight at the reader and you can’t help but engage with them. Some are confrontational but they all are extremely compelling. I have been the “mouthpiece” for each portrait, writing down what they seem to be telling me. They tell their own tales and although some of them are tales and stories we know well, they are always told from the faery’s point of view and can be quite surprising. I’ve also sculpted figures for photography in the book and there are pages of faerie objects as well as a story that runs through it and draws the whole thing together. The response from everyone who has seen it so far is just fantastic! It’s a very unique book.

Do you have a dream project you’d most like to bring the world?

I suppose bringing a Faery film to the world that was a true depiction of Faerie as Brian and I see it would be a dream project. Our son Toby has just premiered a short puppet film called Lessons Learned that is in the “Froud” style very reminiscent of Dark Crystal (Brian designed one of the creatures in it). It has had a great response so far and has already won awards at a film festivals. We see this as the beginning of new and bigger things to come and it is very much the beginning of a dream project! People everywhere seem to be SO ready for new puppet films like the past Henson/Froud collaborations. Heather Henson’s production company funded Toby’s film so things are beginning to come full circle.

 Is there anything you’d like to say in closing?

I hope this doesn’t sound like whining but, what I’d like to say is this, if you (the reader) like our work, like what we do, and want us to keep doing it, then please support us in any way you can. Buy our books. Tell your friends to buy our books. Especially the new one coming out in September! Spread the word. Without your support, we can’t do what we do, and as long as we are able to do so we want to keep working and exploring the world we love and bringing it to you.

 

“Beyond the Edge” by Richard King Perkins II

Beyond the Edge

 

Her contrasts skim and rustle

quite unprepared for this peculiarity.

 

Gazing past a startle of phrasing

the world has things to be saddened by.

 

As a death scream

she has exploded them from her body

 

gusting among reeds, teeming full,

every word breathes rain, a black swan flows.

 

Is it over?

Have we come so far—

 

speak the minders of a benediction,

her risen soul.

 

Heroic deeds are now pointless,

no smile adorns her golden-age fugue.

 

The woman is more than perfected—

she is the slightest hairline perfection.

 

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Richard King Perkins II is a state-sponsored advocate for residents in long-term care facilities. He has a wife, Vickie and a daughter, Sage. His work has appeared in hundreds of publications including Prime Mincer,Sheepshead Review, Sierra Nevada Review, The William and Mary Review, TwoThirds North, and The Red Cedar Review. He has poems forthcoming in Bluestem, Poetry Salzburg Review, and December Magazine.

 

An Interview with Guitarist Richard Fortus

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Richard Fortus has graced the stage with artists like Rihanna, The Psychedelic Furs, Nena, Love Spit Love, Honky Toast, The Compulsions, Thin Lizzy, and Guns N’ Roses, with a stage presence that is nothing short of amazing. His work with the music production company Compound has seen his work featured in various tv, film, advertising and video game projects. Fans of the former television show Charmed have enjoyed his work on the theme song as well. His work ethic and drive led to his being one of the most sought after first call sessions artists in NYC. He recently joined forces with the band The Dead Daisies. It is my pleasure to bring our readers a little more information on the latest project.

Where are you from? What were you like as a child? What would you say are your most fond memories from that time?

I’m from Saint Louis. I started playing violin and drums around 4 or 5 years old. I didn’t pick up guitar till I was around 13. I don’t think I was a bad kid. I got in to some trouble, but I wasn’t too bad. I really fell in love with rock n’ roll at an early age and used to go to every concert that I could. It didn’t matter if I was really a fan of the band or not, if they came to St Louis, I went. I definitely have a lot of great memories from shows.

What do you love most about the act of making music?

The spiritual high that is achievable through music is unlike anything else. It’s a place where you are completely out of your body and mind and are acting only as a conduit or channel. It’s something that I’m also chasing. My primary objective is to reach that place every night. Some nights it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. When it does, it is bliss.

Why do you think music has always had such an appeal through the ages?

For THAT reason! Music is a spiritual experience for the musician and the listener. It can move you unlike any other art form. It’s immediate and can be incredibly powerful.

What advice would you offer those wishing to learn to music regardless of their instrument of choice?

You have to love it so much, that it possesses your body and soul. If you don’t have that passionate love, you will never be great. That is of course only if you want to seriously make music a career. If not, as long as you enjoy doing it, you are doing the right thing!

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You have a lot of great ink work. When did you first become interested in tattoo art?

I have been interested in the art of tattooing since I was a kid. I always thought that it was a very strong statement and expression.

What have you been up to since we spoke last?

I’ve become very involved with the Dead Daisies and trying to build that.

Are you excited for the release of the new The Dead Daisies EP? What can fans expect from this one?

I’m super excited about it. I haven’t been this excited about a project in quite a while. I love the new songs that we’ve written. We recorded them all live in the studio (for the most part). They have a real vibe and you can hear the excitement in everyone’s playing.

Have you enjoyed working with Dizzy Reed, Jon Stevens, David Lowy, and Marco Mendoza? What do each of them bring to the table?

I love working with these guys. We are all great friends and we all have a lot of respect for each other. Everyone brings something unique to the project, yet there is a real ease to the musical dialogue, as we all come from similar musical backgrounds and share a love for a lot of the same music.

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Will you also be touring with the band? Are you looking forward to it?

I’m touring with the band right now! We are out supporting Bad Company and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Two bands that were very influential to us. I think it’s an absolutely perfect bill for us and we will walk away with a lot of new fans. After we finish with this tour, we go straight on to the Kiss/Def Leppard tour for a month.

What do you love most about performing live?

Being in the moment and hitting that space that I spoke about before. Connecting with other musicians and listeners. It’s unbeatable.

What do you look forward to most when you get to head back home?

My daughters! As much as I love to play music, I miss them every day that I am not with them. It’s definitely the hardest thing about what I do. I have a very difficult time touring now because I split with their mom and things are very difficult. I feel that my girls need me, but this is how I have always made my living and I don’t really know anything else.

Do you have a dream project you’d most like to bring into being?

Not really. The Dead Daisies IS a dream project. It’s hard to imagine a better group of people to work with and make music with.

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What other projects are you working on at the moment?

 I’m hoping to finish up the next Guns n Roses album soon and to get back out with those guys.

How has fatherhood changed your outlook on life in general?

It’s changed everything. I don’t look at life the same way anymore. It’s funny how you work your entire life to achieve something, and then everything changes and what seemed so important for so many years, seems to pale in comparison to your children.

What do you think is the key to a life well lived?

 I think that as long as you are always continuing to grow and learn, you are living your life well. Stagnation and complacency can often times lead you off of your path. Always continue to shine your light as brightly as possible and all else will fall in to place exactly as it is supposed to.

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“Lullaby” by Maria Masington

Lullaby

 

Bakelite ashtrays overflowed with Winstons and Kools,

as her parents’ friends mingled on a sea of shag carpet,

and swayed to Dusty Springfield on the turntable.

 

Her mother smelled of White Shoulders,

and her father was the life of the party.

They talked and laughed until the tension was obvious,

and the guests invented reasons to leave.

 

When the screams and slams and accusations began,

the girl in the flowered nightgown knew to escape.  Quietly pulling

a chair across burnt orange tiles, she found the answer in the sink.

 

In the bottom of thick crystal glasses,

warm swallows of Brandy Alexander,

cherries soaked in Whiskey Sour, a few sips of a Pink Squirrel.

 

The key was drinking just enough to feel safe.   It worked

every single time, tucking her into a dream of happily ever after,

and the only thing she could count on.

 

Soon the parties stopped, and her parents split,

but it took another decade for the booze to stop working.

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Maria Masington is a writer from Wilmington, Delaware. Her poetry has been published in The News Journal, The Red River Review, Damozel Literary Journal, and by the University of Colorado’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, MAVEN TO MARS haiku project. Her short story IMPASARIO has been accepted for publication in Someone Wicked, due to be released by Smart Rhino Press in 2013. Maria is a member of the Written Remains Writer’s Guild, The Wright Touch critique group, and participated in the 2012 Cape Henlopen Poets and Writers Retreat. The first Tuesday of every month, you can find her at the Newark Arts Alliance, where she emcees their open mic night, for writers of all genres to share their work.

An Interview with Jackson Benge of Hed PE

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Hed PE is back with their ninth studio album to the delight of American Rapcore fans everywhere. Their latest offering Evolution is slated for release this July on Pavement Entertainment. Comprised of Jared Gomes(vocals), Mawk(bass), Jackson Benge(guitar) , and Trauma(drums) the band is back with sounds heavier than ever. For more information on the upcoming tour please see: http://www.hedperocks.com/

What were you like as a child growing up? What would you say are your most fond memories of that time?

I was a hyper kid. My grade school teachers would always write the same types of comments on my report cards; “He has a lot of energy,” or, “Distracts other kids.” I couldn’t keep still and couldn’t stop staring at the clouds. My imagination was my best friend and I used to love to draw. One of my fondest memories growing up was the first time I rode a bicycle without training wheels. As long as my memory is still intact, that will remain among the fondest.

How old were you when you wrote your first song? Do you remember what it was about?

I was about 15 or 16 years old when I wrote one of my first actual songs. Believe it or not, I wrote the lyrics as well. It was called, Hold On, and it was a cross between Earth Angel by the Penguins and Don’t Cry by Guns ‘n’ Roses. It was a simple love song about wanting to be with a girl you can’t have. At the time, many girls around me seemed to like that song, so I guess it was a relative success.

Are you excited to be releasing your ninth studio album on Pavement Entertainment?

Evolution is our 9th studio release and it’s always exciting to put out a new record, especially with a label like Pavement, which clearly has a solid grasp on how to treat their artists. The team we now have working with us is incredible. When I talk to others who have worked with Pavement, they have nothing but great things to say about them as well.

 How does this album differ most from albums past?

Every album is said to be different from the prior, but this one incorporates a style that we have yet to showcase, along with some reggae tracks. The style we include on this one is similar to what is known as doom metal. But, to me, we’re really just paying homage to Black Sabbath. We started jamming on a couple of riffs that fit that description and it was obvious to us that this was an avenue worth exploring.

Are you looking forward to hitting the road with the rest of the guys? What is it like to work with them?

We are all partners in crime and have been through a lot together. We all know our places and have nothing but the utmost respect for each other personally and professionally. On stage, there is a chemistry that cannot be matched and can only be generated through time.

What do you think it takes to make a band that has lasting power?

We have some of the most loyal fans any band could ask for. They have stuck with us through thick and thin, so that’s the real reason we’re still here. From within the band, however, it takes communication and mutual respect. Those are the most important factors that contribute to any long-term venture.

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How has the music industry changed most since you started working in it?

The economic downturn in 2008, I think, had a substantial impact on the music industry as it did with everything else. The increase in music downloading marked a drastic decrease in CD sales. Today, bands that chart high on the Billboard 200 aren’t selling as many CDs as bands that would have been on that same chart a decade earlier. The middle class seems to be dwindling, but the middle class equivalent of bands is also dwindling. All the money is moving in a different direction because there is not as much of it to go around. The result is that more bands get less funding and less tour support. So, more bands simply can’t afford to tour or put out a record and the ones that do get funding and support tend to get a lot of it. On the up side, so many bands now have an opportunity to promote themselves via social networking. There are smaller labels that offer services suitable to the artist, instead of suitable to the label. Evolving recording technology allows artists to handle more of the writing and recording in house, instead of relying solely on expensive studio time. Now more than ever, it’s all about being wise with your money.

Are there any little known things about yourself that your fans might be surprised to learn?

I do a really good Christopher Walken impression.

What projects are you looking forward to bringing the world next?

I would like to do some more solo stuff and maybe put together some side projects just so I can keep myself busy during the downtime, but it looks like we’ll be pretty busy throughout this album cycle, so we’ll have to see what happens.

What are your feelings on life and death and what happens after?

Life is a continuous process and animates countless vessels. No vessel is more important than any other. Death is merely a transfer of energy from one form to another. No one really knows what happens to us after we die, despite how sure they may think they are. Our behavior in life should be driven by what we truly know, instead of what we think we know.

How do you hope to be remembered when your time comes?

I only hope to be remembered as a good person.

If you could chose just one thing to do before you die what would that be?

I would like to apologize to everyone I ever wronged and ask for forgiveness.

Anything you’d like to say before you go?

It is always a pleasure to be offered the opportunity of expressing myself, whether through music or word. Thank you.

 

“Hydration and Ascension” by Laura Eklund

Hydration and Ascension

 

In the Roosevelt stain of the eye

the composition gets blown away.

The air is unbending

as the peach’s leaves turn greener.

In the deep gourds there were pigeons

that flew in high castles

with language we had left.

The river is less as the air breathes

turns green, then greener.

The brain is a chemical refuge

a place where stars define us

finding the pigeons burned with glass

closing the infertility of time.

We are like a synopsis of straw

the place where words meet language

and language meets the world.

 

Laura Eklund is an artist and poet. She lives and works in Olive Hill, Kentucky with the poet George Eklund. She has been writing poetry since she learned to read and write, which was about third grade when the words starting coming and forming themselves. She writes in order to breathe and survive. Her favorite things to do include reading and writing poetry and spending time with her family. She also paints. You can find out more about her at http://www.lauraeklund.org or follow her on Facebook at The Art of Laura Eklund. She has published in many journals including ABZ, Black Warrior Review, Southern Women’s Review, Pegasus, and Slipstream.