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 There.com to Second Life when he found that the virtual reality of There.com no longer could satisfy his artistic aspirations. He refers to himself in fact as a 'refugee from There.com, 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.