Sunday, December 30, 2007

Philip Dick and Second Life

Philip Dick's definition of reality perhaps more than any other epitomises the fundamental nature of Second Life.

'But I have never had too high a regard for what is generally called 'reality'. Reality, to me, is not so much something that you perceive, but something you make. You create it more rapidly than it creates you.'

Photographs of Christmas in Second Life... Christmas morning in the castle of Awakening with my cat... a snowcat I made ... a virtual Christmas card depicting my Christmas Cabin...

Perhaps Second Life can be more beautiful and closer to perfection in many ways and there can be a danger in that. One could be tempted to escape to the virtual world, to create a perfect vision of Christmas.

There is something in me, however, that is determined to keep one foot firmly on the ground, to embrace my own reality, however difficult and imperfect it may be. I love creating my own realities in Second Life but ultimately feel I am cheating myself if I spend too much time and energy there.

Nonetheless, memories of these visions now are as much a part of my memory of Christmas as any Christmas festivities in THIS world. Walking between two worlds is an enriching experience.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Chasing the Almighty Dollar

Where this particular post should be published, I am not certain, but this photograph is in stark contrast to the artists I admire in Second Life. Here is some one who cares NOTHING for the environment or the emotions and needs of others. Here is a crass greedy seller who only is concerned to make the LOUDEST, UGLIEST declaration possible by setting huge, bright revolving signs in the heavens proclaiming nothing more than land that is for sale...

Nearby, an artist named Azadine Umarov quietly sells her parcels and is willing to negotiate fair prices with buyers but THIS person is the ultimate selfish negation of all that is good and decent in Second Life.

Shame upon you and upon every one who thinks only of his/her own benefit in ANY world.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Cynthia's Heaven

Cynthia Wilder is a very talented woman who has been in Second Life for less than a year but who has been very energetic in creating clothing and furniture as well as orchestrating social events from fashion shows to weddings and dance parties. She is Lebanese and her heritage is a rich resource that she has brought to her creations and her activities in Second Life. I have showcased her work on my 'Guide to Second Life' website.

These are a few photographs of outfits designed by Cynthia Wilder of 'Cynthia's Heaven'. The artist describes her designs as Gorean and traditional Arab, as well as Gothic. As you can see, the outfits can be worn in different ways. The burgundy gown has two different skirts and can be worn with or without the headdress and face veil. The black burqa is a very traditional but beautiful gown with complete burqa, allowing total privacy and concealment of identity.

She has created a number of dance poses in the form of dance balls as well as a rather clever HUD to enable individuals to perform traditional belly dancing. She has made some wonderful tents and items of furniture. I include a photograph of a wedding tent that she created for an elaborate wedding that she organised. More photographs of the wedding, her fashion shows and dance parties can be seen on her own site at:

Cynthia's Heaven

New Travel Guide Website for Second Life

It occurred to me that the world of Second Life is vast enough to merit a 'travel guide' of sorts. Furthermore, there were articles I wished to write about Second Life that dealt with places and experiences rather than particular artists. I decided, therefore, to create a new 'Travel Guide' page. You can find it at:

Travel Guide to Second Life

Articles about the Al Andalus and Roma sims have been posted there.

Meanwhile, I have commandeered my first Second Life Guide page now to feature articles about Second Life in general.

Freyashawk's Guide to Second Life

An article about Baron Grayson's recent Opera House auction for charity as well as an article about Cynthia Wilder have been published there.

Friday, December 7, 2007

How Art is Created in Second Life

This is not a new video, but it is a wonderfully detailed demonstration of the creation of a fairly complex object in Second Life. The object is a guitar and the creator is Robbie Dingo. The guitar was created for Suzanne Vega and her live performance in Second Life.

Incidentally, Robbie Dingo is the same artist who made the Second Life machinima 'Watch the World' tribute to Van Gogh. Although I posted 'Watch the World' on my main page some months ago, I am posting it again here as it is quite a masterpiece.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Dark Adria's Winter Wonderland at Castle Row

Here are two pictures of the winter scene created by Darks Adria at Castle Row.
The third is of my own Winter Wonderland, created using the Winter Cabin made by Darks, a reindeer created by Bricklin & DeFarge and trees by Kriss Lehmann of Botanical at Straylight as well as some from Heart, one of the best sources for trees and plants in Second Life. The snowbells, a favourite flower of mine, are from Heart.

The Christmas Spirit in Second Life

As befits a world devoted to fantasies of every kind, Second Life began to exhibit the Winter Holiday spirit quite early. On Thanksgiving Day, Wolves Bain gave the members of his group an exquisite chapel. Various groups have begun to announce special Christmas items. The most generous of these have been attaching small gifts to their notices.

At both Castle Row and Paradise Pets, the owners and their partners have created Winter Wonderlands. Darks Adria has created a wonderful skating rink in the centre of an idyllic landscape, complete with ice gazebos and winter displays that exhibit both beauty and great humour. At Paradise Pets, candy canes form the foundation of a special holiday gazebo. Beneath the dome, incredible animated Winter creatures disport themselves on the ice. They are the creations of Don Bricklin. His partner Deborah has created reindeer for the season. The buyer can choose between a reindeer with the traditional black nose and one with a red nose! The reindeer are not stationary, but raise and lower their heads to browse the frozen earth for food and when touched, they will 'speak' in reindeer fashion.

Wolves Bain and Darks Adria always offer an assortment of free items to their visitors and Darks' Winter Wonderland is a place where many delightful treats can be found. Deborah DeFarge has created an entire booth filled with free items for the holidays. Within, you can find an exquisite tree, nativity creche, basket of pine cones, plate of mince pies, wreath, garland, Christmas stockings, bows and candy canes and sprigs of holly and mistletoe.

I have enumerated some of these gifts here to demonstrate the generosity of artists such as these. Where many merchants and artists in Second Life view the Winter holidays primarily as an opportunity to exploit the sale of products they create, the best artists are filled with the true spirit of Christmas and Yuletide and give freely of their bounty.

It is a great pleasure to support the creative efforts of an artist who is willing to share his or her creations with the public. There are many 'Christmas' bazaaars in Second Life where each of the items Deborah is giving to individuals would carry price tags on them. Landowners in Second Life must pay monthly fees known as tier for the most part, whether or not they build or sell ANY items. One recognises the need for landowners with large shops to make enough money to sustain their presence in Second Life but to me, the attitude of the artist is as important as his/her talent. When one purchases any item in Second Life, a small part of the creator is to be found within that object. I would not like to surround myself with objects created by mean-spirited or mercenary individuals, however beautiful their work might appear to be at first glance.

The second booth displays the animated figures created for the Christmas skating scene. It is impossible to capture the delightful versatility of these characters in a simple photograph. Each skater has a distinct personality. The Snowman and Father Christmas are more serene as they circle the gazebo, but the children engage in numerous skating feats and tricks and as often tumble to the ground as they succeed. It is very entertaining and extremely clever, like all the creations of Bricklin & Defarge.

Second Life is a living organism in a way, comprised of all its residents. Second Life therefore is defined not only by its objects and landscapes but by personal interactions as well. As a truly international venue, those who are open-handed and exhibit a spirit of kindness and generosity improve our world in general. A virtual world is a mirror of the real world, even if it may differ from this world drastically in form and appearance. As griefers in Second Life actually can cause emotional damage to real people when they target an avatar, the actions of those who give freely of themselves and their art must have a positive effect in both worlds.

Bricklin & DeFarge

Bricklin & DeFarge represents the partnership of two talented artists who are involved in a great Second Life romance. Together, they have inspired and created a multitude of incredible pets and magical devices. I wrote about their romance in a previous post. This article focuses on their shop, Paradise Pets, which is located on a ship.

Birds of various kinds soar above the visitor. One sees pelicans, hawks and seagulls. The cries of the seagulls and the lapping of the waves against the sides of the ship contribute to the idyllic atmosphere at this marvelous shop for animal lovers.

The photographs should speak for themselves to some extent. Paradise Pets does not offer only cats and dogs. Birds and an assortment of 'tamed' wild creatures are on display here as well.

One side of the ship is reserved for non-living items, although Don 'likes everything to work' as Deborah confided to me, and the so-called 'inanimate' objects they both create usually are animated and interactive to some extent. On sale here are many of the love tokens that the couple have exchanged, including the wood-burning tool that creates a heart, a 'breakfast in bed' tray and a music box that Don gave to Deborah both in SL and RL.

A small skating rink now has been included on deck with a marvelous skating snowman. I had intended to discuss the new Christmas display in this post, but will devote a separate post to it now.

Deborah is known for her aquariums and aquatic creatures. I have included one photograph of a room filled with examples of her fish and their habitats. Among other things, she made a fantastic water bed that is actually an aquarium, 'giving new meaning to the phrase: 'sleeping with the fishes'', as its creator remarked.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Cats and Romance in Second Life

This website is a rather haphazard attempt to showcase my favourite artists in Second Life and my inclusion of an artist here depends primarily on two elements:
admiration of the artist's talent and work and secondly, the attitude the artist exhibits towards others.

This is a story of my cat and of a great romance in Second Life.

There are many excellent builders and artists in Second Life but they include a large number of individuals who are unwilling to give of themselves beyond the work they offer for sale. For some, the items they make represent no more than a profitable business venture. For others, their attitude is that they are represented through the items they sell and have no further responsibility towards those who patronise their vendors or shops.

To me, the greatest artists in Second Life are those who are motivated, even driven to create AND who possess an exceptional spirit of compassion and empathy towards humanity. The artists who are willing to take extra time and energy in order to help newcomers or any resident who needs assistance are the artists who inspire my own respect and admiration.

Don Bricklin and Deborah DeFarge are two amazingly talented artists. Their partnership is a marvelous example of romance in Second Life. Their creations are imbued with their passion for one another. They were kind enough to share their story and some of their work with me.

Very often, a meeting with an artist is circumstantial. My meeting with Don Bricklin and Deborah DeFarge occurred in the following manner.

I encountered a cat, a household pet rather than a Neko, at a lingerie shop. The cat was quite amazing, moving about in a very natural manner, and purring and meowing apparently as the mood took her. Cats are among my favourite creatures on this planet, so I interacted with her and received a notecard in return. The notecard enumerated the cat's abilities and included a landmark to the shop where she could be purchased.

Paradise Pets is an amazing place for animal lovers. The shop specialises in household pets and is located on a boat. It is filled with every sort of creature. Creatures of the sea include a large variety of fish as well as dolphins. There are a number of different types of birds. One can buy a turtle if one wishes. Finally, one can purchase a dog or cat.

There are other artists who have created 'pets' but none have the amazing abilities displayed by those made by Don and Deborah. The cat in fact was still in its 'experimental' stage, according to the notecard but I hastened to buy one, feeling that my castle never would be a real home unless I had a cat in residence.

The cat can be named and indeed will respond to his/her name. I named my cat Lionheart, mirroring my cat in this world. I allowed my Second Life Lionheart to roam the forest initially, as I realised that the threats that existed in this world would not be a problem there.

Ultimately, though, I wished to be greeted by Lionheart whenever I entered the castle. With that in mind, I placed him in my pocket and took him into my castle.
When I attempted to rez him on the ground floor, he vanished!

I searched in vain for at least half an hour before I finally contacted his creator. As always when one contacts an artist one has not met, one does not know whether or not one ever will receive a response.

I was delighted when Don Bricklin answered my message almost instantly and offered to come to my castle to search for the missing pet.

Don had a special scanner and he brought it with him. Unfortunately, Lionheart did not show up on the scanner, although all sorts of odd items in the area, including a dance pole located in one of my neighbour's bedrooms, did.

I actually was the one to find Lionheart. Oddly enough, he had returned to his previous location in the forest! I scooped him up and, with Don on hand to prevent any further mishaps, rezzed him once again on the castle floor. This time he behaved properly and appeared there, purring loudly.

During the search for my missing cat, Don told me of other projects and offered to give me a tour of some of his creations. I accepted with enthusiasm.

I have included two photographs here of the Angel Room, created by Don Bricklin for his beloved Deborah. He created it as a 'quest'. First he created a piece of wood with a wood-burning tool. When she clicked on it, the tool burned a heart with their initials into it and gave her a feather that bore her aloft to the magical Angel Room.

The photographs do not do justice to this magical place. The wings actually move to and fro, as though the chapel were a living entity. As the wings beat, the chapel appears to breathe and one truly is swept up in an illusion of floating through the heavens. One photograph shows doves as they fly across the chamber. They nest in a birdcage to the right of the altar and fly into the air at regular intervals.

The Angel Room is where Don and Deborah were married. They would like to make this magical 'chapel' available for other couples who wish to marry in Second Life.
In the sky to the left, you can see a cabin on another platform. I was given a tour of this cabin as well. It is filled with many wonders and they may make it available to other honeymoon couples.

Incidentally, a version of the magical wood-burning tool is for sale now. It will burn a heart with the words 'I Love You' into a piece of wood. I believe that a burst of a choice of particles is displayed at the completion of the task.

Don did not take his beloved to dinner at a fine restaurant on her birthday. Instead, he created an entire restaurant for her! The restaurant is extraordinary. Everything is 'real' there. A number of different dishes are offered at a buffet. Fresh pizza can be created in an oven above a roaring fire and can be consumed, slice by slice.

Outside vegetables grow in the garden, to be watered by a functioning sprinkler system. If one explores the garden, one may find an antique gold coin, protected by leprechauns! When I found a coin, I took it at my peril, as the guardians of the pot of gold were disposed to curse any intruder, but the leprechauns now have been chastised and allow coins to be taken with their blessing.

A photograph of the two lovers dancing in the restaurant is included here. The jukebox contains a large collection of songs and there is a guitar and Grand Piano. On the occasion of her birthday, Don dressed as Elton John and performed for Deborah.
Their love is celebrated in a thousand different ways in their creations.

Don and Deborah are extremely hospitable and are happy to share these wonders with others.

I must not lose sight of the other subject of this article, which is my wonderful SL cat Lionheart.

The two photographs of Lionheart were taken at my castle Awakening. Awakening was built by Wolves Bain and really is flawless. I have written about the art of the incomparable Wolves Bain elsewhere.

When I decided to take photographs of Lionheart, I thought I should amuse him by playing the harp. This particular harp actually CAN be played by an avatar and offers a selection of three pieces: Sonata for Harp in G Mayor by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Theme and Variation in G Minor by Handel and an Air and Variations by Krumpholtz. The harp actually has to be played in order for the music to be heard. In fact, a string of the harp must be plucked. Apart from this, the appearance of the harp can be altered with a choice of twenty different woodgrains, different colours and various textures for the metalwork. The harp was created by Persephone Milk for Musical Alchemy in Second Life.

Lionheart, however, is the real focus of this article. Although he officially is referred to as an 'Experimental Cat', he is far more sophisticated and complete in his abilities than any other cat I have encountered in a virtual reality.

One can give the cat any name one likes. Once named, he or she will respond to a number of different commands. The cat will come to his/her owner and follow the owner until commanded to 'Stay'. The 'FollowMe' command is rather amazing. The cat will scurry after its owner enthusiastically, but if the owner teleports anywhere, he/she must take the pet into inventory (the SL equivalent of a pocket or handbag) in order to take the cat to the next destination.

Some of the other commands are 'Sit', 'Lay', 'Stand' and 'LookatMe'. The cat can be set to assume random poses and sounds. There is an 'unhappy' sound and there is a 'Mad' command that puts the cat into an angry mood!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Private Chapel and Winter Cabin

The holiday season is upon us. It begins with the Harvest Festival in November. In the States, this is celebrated as Thanksgiving Day. Although the season of Advent does not begin on this date, Thanksgiving has come to represent the start of the Winter holiday season.

On Thanksgiving Day, Wolves Bain sent a notice to his Group announcing the gift of a private Chapel. This is a gesture that defines this particular builder, a man who is generous and ever-helpful to those who appreciate his work.

The Chapel now is on display and for sale on Castle Row.

Throughout my childhood, I dreamed of having a chapel of my own. Having devoured every book written by Alexandre Dumas, the concept of a private chapel fixed itself in my imagination. Royals had them in their castles with private chaplains to officiate at daily Mass. Members of the aristocracy often had chapels of their own as well. Perhaps I suffered from grandiose ambitions or visions, but I think what appealed to me most about the concept was the idea of peace and quiet and privacy. Silence seldom existed at home, filled always with visitors and aspiring musicians. My mother was aggressively social and I suppose my own fantasy of living in a castle with a private chapel of my own denoted ultimate control over my own environment with the ability to raise the drawbridge whenever I chose. In Second Life, I find that I often am happiest when I am alone creating a landscape. It probably comes from that childhood sense of never being able to find a spot that was free from 'invasion', however well-intentioned the invaders might be.

Churches to me are places of peace, quiet and solitude. I spent a holiday in my teens in Roma with my grandmother. She was a spiritual person herself but she joked afterwards that she never wished to set foot in a church again, having been dragged to every church in Roma by me! I loved those churches with their dim lighting and emptiness. When I think of a church, I do not think of social gatherings during Mass or other religious rituals. Instead, I think of the Church when it is virtually unoccupied, a place for an individual to find quiet sanctuary. It is a place of prayer certainly but more than that, it is a place where the ordinary hustle and bustle of the world does not intrude. In that sense, it is only those Churches that are open to the public at all times that are true 'houses of God' because I believe that the Divine is found most often at moments of solitary communion with oneself and not in any social gathering or 'sermon'.
When I first discovered Second Life, I spent an entire day exploring places of worship. I never dreamed that I would have my own chapel one day!

My Chapel at present is situated on a platform as shown in the photograph. Some stained glass as well as a tree have been added to the interior, but the original includes the altar, pulpit, a set of five pews as well as a single pew. The chapel in its original pristine condition gives an impression of simplicity and purity. I tend to clutter my landscapes, and I probably have not improved this one with my own additions. To see the original, please visit Castle Row.

I had no room on the ground for the Chapel at present, having decided to create a small winter corner on my land. A delightful Winter Cabin created by Wolves' partner, the charming and talented Darks Adria, now is situated there. One photograph shows the Winter Cabin.
It can be found at the Winter Wonderland created by Darks near Castle Row. The efforts of Wolves and Darks inspired me with a holiday spirit that transcends the limits of time and space.

The World of Baron Grayson

Unlike many artists who come to SL initially without any particular purpose or goal apart from exploration, Baron Grayson was an accomplished builder ab initio. He moved from to Second Life when he found that the virtual reality of no longer could satisfy his artistic aspirations. He refers to himself in fact as a 'refugee from, another virtual world where I was known for building skills and pushing the system.'

Baron Grayson, however, was more than a builder. He was a Gamemaster from the days when 'virtual reality' as we know it today did not exist. As a Gamemaster, he is a natural world builder. He reshapes reality. Exploration of his builds is a quest of sorts, with hidden rewards for those who take the time to persevere.

He was greatly influenced by Myst and Riven and always had a fascination with virtual worlds. He discovered that, as a gamer, he was more interested in textures and models than the actual quests. Moreover, he always felt that he wished to be the one pulling the strings, the creator of the puzzles rather than the player solving the quest.

Unlike many other builders, Baron Grayson declares, 'I have never finished a build to date'. His Sims always are 'under construction.' The world in Second Life changes constantly, but it is unusual for a builder to operate consciously in a state of flux.

Baron Grayson told me that he always has a very detailed, complete vision in his mind before he begins to build but that it is a vision with an emotional or visceral quality rather than simply being a matter of form and shape. His ambition always is to create a build that captures that spiritual vision. He describes his imagination as 'organised chaos without much of a linear destination.'

For his inspiration, he 'reflects on anything I found magical growing up. It's almost therapeutic. Revisiting the past, it always come to life in a way that celebrates the memory of that experience and not perhaps the reality of it. Everything therefore does tend to come across as surreal. The visual inspires the mind and the mind doesn't really differentiate between what is real and what is not.'

This is one of my own interests in Second Life in fact. People who 'live' in a virtual reality create real memories there. Those memories sometimes can be as intense and significant as anything experienced in this world. Baron Grayson agrees with this, declariing that he has 'particular memories that originate form this reality.' He considers them a form of 'subreality' rather than 'unreal'.

He describes his first build in Second Life as a 'fantastical fortress style dbuild in darker colours with Riven influence'. In his quest to recreate memory and vision in virtual reality, he is master of the 'mixture of ancient and modern.' He is attracted to anything mystical, anything with 'darker aesthetics' and anything 'that can travel from era to era.'

He considers visitors to his sims to be 'time travelers'.

His favourite architect is Antoni Gaudi and he considers the most influential visual artists to be the brothers who created Myst. He admires what he calls the 'renaissance' aspect of the brothers' creativity in their control of every detail of that world from the modelling and textures to the gameplay and the music, which they wrote themselves.

Of Antoni, he remarked that: 'Antoni thought outside the box. When every one was doing linear, he did organic. He loved the shapes that were unconventional and would build his things with the faith that beauty ultimately would win.'

Although, as a Gamemaster, he gives the public access to his Sims, his primary reason for building is 'to provide myself a place to reflect.' He considers virtual reality a powerful tool in a journey of self-discovery, one that possibly can transcend time and space.

There is a dark quality to his builds and they are fascinating and complex. As the artist himself declares, 'I want to provide a quest for people who want to visit with me. I want to play a wizard and create a maze, not wanting to confuse sadistically but I always want to run the game.

A social recluse, like many builders, most of his time is spent in the pursuit of bringing his visions to life. He actually is not interested in bringing the public in general to his builds for events or large social gatherings. He appeals to those who are interested in exploring by themselves or with a special companion. His builds capture a mood that encourages self-exploration, a sort of interactive meditation.

Of his sims, Baron Grayson declared that: 'I think people come here and recognise it is a hidden spot and they then become guardians of the sims themselves.' He added that: 'the ones that promote it for traffic as if they are doing me a favour don't understand what is done here.'

His driving motivation when he creates a build to share with others is that: 'I want to reward the explorers.'

He continues: 'I open up a build to the public then hide facets of it. I like hidden things: secret rooms, levels that are not obvious, entrances that use camera tricks,
levels that have to be found.'

Baron Grayson made a statement that defines his attitude about Second Life and in fact defines my own attitude as well.

He said, 'I want to force people to stop flying and rushing from landmark to landmark
What a waste to have a place that can be anything you want and then not truly explore it.'

Many visitors and residents in Second Life do spend their time teleporting from destination to destination in the same way that cruise ships dock for a few hours in a dozen ports in a dozen days, failing every to do more than brush the surface of any culture or civilisation in their brief encounters.

Second Life is an incredibly enormous world, filled with countless sub-worlds created by imaginations that represent all the diversity of human nature. One could spend every day in Second Life and never be able to explore every Sim definitively. Apart from anything else, Second Life is not static. It is a world constantly changing, evolving according to the whims and visions of its residents.

Baron Grayson is a builder who recognises the amazing potential of virtual reality to explore a thousand visions, to try to explore his own imagination and memory to the fullest. In doing this, he offers a rich landscape for others to explore.

The photographs I have included here feature a display of Christmas trees. The trees are artificial and yet have an organic quality. The texture is 'satin' and in fact, the owner of the tree can choose between 52 different textures, changing the colour of the tree, of the ornamentation and of the star at the top. As you can see, the display is integral to the landscape rather than commercial, although the trees are for sale.

Baron Grayson's builds are huge, and visitors are dwarfed by the landscape. Sheer cliffs, ruins perched on the crest of mountain ranges... all this serves to isolate the visitor and make him or her conscious of solitude and a sense of a journey towards the unknown and the unseen.

I found the Irish Cottage after traversing the steep mountain trail shown in one of the photographs here. It was a rather arduous journey, but the reward at the end of it was the discovery of this little jewel nestled in the mountains, far from any other human habitation. The Cottage can be purchased and one could teleport directly to its location I daresay, but my own experience of exploring the area and discovering it entirely by accident made it far more magical. It reminded me of my discovery of Baron Grayson's magnificent pirate ship long ago.

To further explore the world of Baron Grayson and 'Tryst', please visit:

Relic and Serendipity Studios on the Web

Friday, November 9, 2007

Fairy's Grove and Wraith Unsung

When Wraith Unsung began to explore Second Life three years ago, she discovered quickly that she could not create the fantasy characters she envisioned with the resources that were available at the time.

She therefore began to make her own clothing in SL. 'I wanted to be a Demoness or an Elf,' she confessed. Now in 2007 in SL, there are many vendors and designers that specialise in high fantasy, but in 2005, there was very little.

Wraith had no real intention of selling the clothes she created at first, but within a short time realised that she was not the only person in SL who would embrace her visions enthusiastically.

Wraith Unsung always was attracted to the artistic aspect of Second Life. From the very start, she was intrigued by it because 'everything here was created by the people playing the game.'

When she first explored Second Life, flexi-prims did not exist. She created painted clothes, using prims only for the wings. 'The idea of painting on a wireframe took a long time,' she confessed, although Wraith's idea of a 'long time' was no more than a couple of months.

As a true artist, she is driven to create and is prolific in her designs. Like all the artists I admire most in Second Life, she is not in business in Second Life for the money she can make but rather to pursue a vision.

'Fairy's Grove' is far more than a place where Wraith Unsung's fabulous clothes are sold. It is becoming one of the most significant locations for any one interested in fantasy of any kind.

It is a Sim where Wraith is attempting to bring together all the best artists in Second Life. Unlike many other Sims with multiple vendors, Wraith does not charge rent. 'I collect artists here in Aurora', she told me.

It is absolutely true. Each week, she announces the arrival of some one new. She is extremely generous in her patronage of new artists. 'I found people whose work is incredible and asked them to join my Sim. I do not charge rent and I only pick people whose work is in mind really great or have the potetnial to be really great.'

The reason for the creation of the fabulous 'Fairy's Grove' Sim was twofold. One was the desire to promote new artists, to give them a chance to display their work in a place where it will be seen.

As Wraith said, 'It is almost impossible to get recognition in SL when you are new and I hate that.'

The other reason for the creation of Fairy's Grove was one that many in Second Life, including myself have experienced.

Wraith declared that: 'I really had issues with shopping in SL and the inability to easily find good content. The typical model is store owner rents stalls, any one can rent them and place whatever they want to in there. So the result is not good
You go to a fantasy sim and there is really good content, but you have to wade through tons of crap to find it.'

Apart from that, 'you stumble upon some one whose work you love and you can never find it again.'

I experienced this frustration myself again and again in Second Life. Those who have not explored the world of Second Life may not realise how vast it is. New islands are being created regularly. Other Sims may be virtually abandoned after a time save by a few vendors.

In my first two months in Second Life, I discovered many amazing artists, spread over the entire world... now, I am delighted to find most of them at Fairy's Grove. Wraith has incredible vision as well as energy. She has collected many of the best successful fantasy artists as well as new aspiring talent at Fairy's Grove. It definitely is worth a visit. The artists are very diverse. Although Wraith has a style of her own, she is not afraid to embrace artists with different visions. Moreover, Fairy's Grove offers far more than clothing and accessories. For example, if you wish to own a horse or unicorn, you now will be able to purchase one there.

As far as Wraith Unsung's own designs are concerned, it would be a mistake to suppose that she only creates clothing for demons and fairies. She does have many extraordinary designs for fairies, demons and elves, but she has a Native American line as well. She creates clothing both for men and women, unlike some designers who virtually ignore male costumes in favour of more exciting female attire.

Wraith is a serious artist who spends at least 90% of her time in Second Life in her own workshop. She constantly looks for new inspiration and delights her customers and fans with new lines of clothing on a regular basis. Although there are many artists now who specialise in fantasy, Wraith's work remains unique. She is not afraid of competition and indeed, encourages it.

One of the marvelous features of Fairy's Grove are the live models who stand at the entrance. They stand on either side of the path in wonderful poses, displaying Wraith's designs. To be able to see a real avatar clothed in a costume is far more compelling than a mere picture. Moreover, it makes one BELIEVE in Wraith's world.

She has created a world within Second Life, a microcosm where the best artists can flourish. True to her convictions, she controls the content in Fairy's Grove by allowing only artists she considers to have talent and merit.

Monday, October 29, 2007

'Real' Lawsuit dealing with illicit duplications in Second Life

An actual lawsuit has been filed in the state of New York against a Second Life user named Thomas Simon, avatar Rase Kenzo. The suit alleges that he duplicated and sold unauthorised copies of the plaintiffs' products through JEVN vendors, transactions from avatar to avatar and virtual 'yard sales'. There is some evidence that this avatar used a Second Life security flaw to duplicate 'no transfer' and 'no copy' items by moving them from his inventory to the world at times of heavy lag, server crashes or roll backs. This is not a minor infringement, but involves thousands of items by many major creators and designers in Second Life.

The case is discussed in 'Virtually Blind', a site created by a man named Benjamin Duranske who is working on a book about legal issues in virtual worlds. It is an interesting subject to say the least. The article can be found here:

Second Life Lawsuit in New York Court

As some one who knows many artists and creators in Second Life, I am particularly opposed to pirating activities such as those performed by Thomas Simon, aka Kenzo.
Whether an item is tangible or virtual, it is the result of tremendous effort sometimes on the part of the creator. Whether the creator is motivated by a need to seek a livelihood or by sheer creative need is irrelevant. It is wrong for another individual to make copies of some one else's items, real or virtual, for the purpose of making a profit.

The plaintiffs in the case emphasise the fact that it is not primarily a matter of money that drives them in this instance. Attempts to negotiate a settlement proved fruitless. Litigation in a court of law is the last rather than the first recourse. Attempts to persuade Linden Labs to take action evidently had no effect.

Perhaps this post does not belong on this page, which is devoted primarily to profiles of artists in Second Life. I do feel that the topic would be of interest to any Second Life artist, however.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Still to come...

Just a note here to announce my intention to include the work of Wraith Unsung on this site. She is one of the truly creative and talented clothing design artists in Second Life. I will create a proper post next week for her work. Apart from her own incredible High Fantasy outfits and costumes, she is responsible for the creation of an amazing Sim where buyers can find most of the best artists in Second Life. One need not have Lindens in pocket to appreciate 'Fairy's Grove', however. It is worth a visit even if you intend nothing beyond 'window-shopping'.

Incidentally, the outfit that my avatar is wearing in the photograph at the top of this page is one that was created by Wraith, although I added the Valkryie helmet and wings. Photographs of some of Wraith's creations without any modifications or additions will be posted next week.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

'The Forsaken Castle' by Wolves Bain

These are views of the
Castle' on Castle Row. In this creation, Wolves Bain demonstrates both his innate sense of drama and creativity. This castle, like the others, is for sale, but it has a deliberately cultivated 'neglected' quality to it. On one floor, a board acts as a ramp to the upper level. The various floors have fairly low ceilings, adding to the 'forsaken' atmosphere in this castle. The balcony and rooftop areas are rather wonderful and spacious, although this particular castle is not large, but as you can see from the rooftop photograph, it is a setting that could be found in any 21st century city where history rubs shoulders with the present. The exterior of 'Forsaken'is one of those buildings that sends forth a call to the viewer to explore a mystery from the past rather than being a proud fortress that has been able to maintain its distance from the contemporary world. There are other castles by Wolves that require, even demand space, that need to stand alone behind a moat or gracious gardens in order to be appreciated properly. 'Forsaken' is a castle that can exist anywhere, that maintains its aura of mystery and hidden power even if it were set in the middle of an area devoured by 'urban blight'. It easily could be a secret haven and refuge rather than a public proclamation of the social standing and importance of the owner!

One can discern the personality and character of the creator in every 'build', but Wolves definitely has created a castle for every sort of individual in any conceivable state of mind or being.

'Forsaken' like all of Wolves' castles has its own tale, and one that is very compelling.

In the words of her creator:

'When I first saw her she was beaten, battered and broken.
When I entered her she was cold, distant and unfeeling.
I tried to help her, to heal her, perhaps hold her,
but I was too late. She was already forsaken.
Have you never been forsaken?
the "Forsaken" at Castle Row'

Wolves has made many 'perfect' castles like 'Mystic', castles that exhibit perfect harmony and grace, with a clean sense of space and an atmosphere of quiet power. There are 'dark' castles, such as the 'Dark Knight' and the 'Dark Mage', castles that exude the potential to draw the individual into the 'darker' side of human nature, although a person who simply liked the textures, colours and design could make of them anything he/she desired as well. In 'Forsaken', one finds a castle that could exist in ANY urban environment, a sort of portal between the 1st and 2nd worlds. One imagines one could walk down a local alley in any contemporary city, whether London, Paris or New York, turn into an unnoticed street and enter a door that led to the 'Forsaken Castle'. For this reason, this castle has its own power...

But then, every castle built by Wolves Bain has its own individual potential and extraordinary gift of imagination to offer the buyer or owner.

Castle Row Promenades

Wolves Bain is a builder and creator. His castles are created for practical use, to allow owners to experience any fantasy or reality they may wish to pursue. The 'builds' are eminently practical in terms of the rules and regulations of the world of Second Life. They use the fewest number of prims and are designed to fit 'standard' plots of land. Castle Row is a place where these castles are displayed and where they can be purchased.

There is another component to Castle Row, however. It is a place to be enjoyed for its own value and both Wolves Bain and his partner Darks Adria are extremely hospitable. Darks Adria is the perfect companion to Wolves. It is she who designs the grounds in which the castles flourish and to which visitors are drawn again and again. She has exquisite taste and yet both Wolves and Darks display an appealing sense of humour and knowledge of the 'dark side'. The cemetary is a wonderful example of this.

Apart from all this, Castle Row is a place where there are Promenades for the visitor. In contemporary society, the idea of the 'Promenade' no longer has much meaning, but in the past, especially among the higher social classes, people actually would dress and either ride or walk through a specific area on certain days or at certain times of day to 'see and be seen'. It was a regular social event in the great cities of Europe and in the States as well I believe. Some of the great parks in London and Paris were designated for this type of social interaction at various times in history.

One does not go to Castle Row to 'see and be seen' by any means. In fact, as is characteristic of most places in Second Life, one usually will find oneself alone unless a social event is taking place at that point in time. I personally love to engage in solitary exploration of places in Second Life, although I do have a wonderful Companion in many of my explorations, a fellow 'adventurer' who enjoys the quest for new discoveries as much as I. For me, it is not only the incredible beauty of some of the places that enchants me. It is the ability to walk through the imagination of another human being and sometimes to actually be able to interact with that creativity. It is one of the things that distinguishes Second Life from any other so-called 'gaming' experience. Second Life truly is a world created by the imagination of humanity and is an ongoing, ever-changing creative process. It is the ultimate interactive art experience.

To 'walk the Row' is a delightful way to spend an hour or two, even when one is not in the market for a new castle. These photographs attempt to show the magic of Castle Row. As you can see, it exists on more than one level and some of the Promenades are in the sky. The vista is incredible, whether one is looking at the castles on the same level, or viewing the castles below on the lower level.

In one photograph, you can see the 'Accalia', a ship built by Wolves Bain, master castle builder. I have written another post about Accalia, a ship that I am privileged to own now.

Another element to Second Life that is used to its advantage on Castle Row is the cloud level. When Wolves helped me place my 'Awakening' in the sky, he set it slightly above the cloud level, so that the clouds would 'peek through' the windows. It had to be done carefully, however, as if set too low, the clouds actually would invade, sweeping through the chambers like the front line in an army of ghosts.

I have to remark here once again upon Wolves' incredible good humour and patience with those who buy his castles. He has come to my rescue more than once when I 'lost' a teleport in the sky or 'took' a piece of my castle wall instead of the fireplace I intended to remove. However busy he may be, he tries to help if he can. There are many artists in Second Life who have NO interest in the buyers of their work and no desire even to interact with them on the most casual level. With Wolves, one feels that, as soon as one shows a genuine interest in his work, one has made a friend. It is not only Wolves who demonstrates that humanity. Lady Darks is some one who will go out of her way to welcome a visitor to Castle Row.

The cloud layer in Second Life can be experienced when one walks along the upper level of the Promenade at Castle Row. From the balcony of 'Parisa', one has a particularly romantic view of the entire area.

Each castle possesses its own unique style, atmosphere and history. Beyond this, however, Wolves Bain always is willing to help the buyer modify a castle slightly to make it precisely what the buyer dreamed of owning.