Monday, January 31, 2011

Every Spellcaster Needs a Workroom

When we read about fantastic places and other worlds it's sometimes with a very deep longing. We wish we could be surrounded by the magic being described not knowing that we are surrounded by it now.

Wizards always have a mysterious workroom to study arcana and practice casting their spells. It is in the upper corner where the light that comes in has to be blocked because sometimes you need the light and sometimes the light can ruin the spells.

Witches have workrooms too, they're exactly like wizards that way, and almost every other way except they happend to be female and therefore are both scarier and supposedly more evil. Where a short tempered magic user who brooks no nonsense named "Christopher" is an eccentric but powerful wizard, the same magic user behaving the same way named "Grace" will be an evil witch who will eat your children and is jealous of your staid and normal life doing anything she can to disrupt it.

But they do the same things - cast the same spells. Handsome or pretty magic users are considered more dangerous than ugly ones. If they look a little odd, you know who they are. If they're too pretty something is wrong. No one ever considers the ones exactly in the middle. But we never notice anyone who isn't odd or pretty anyway so I suppose that's the same for spellcasters.

In the workroom is a set of shelves with arcane tomes written in many languages, with arcane symbols and the writing of ancients. There are other books with secrets to manipulate humans into making things the spellcaster needs. There are books to sell invisible things, create things that aren't there, books on how to manipulate light. Books of the past and the future. Books that will drive you insane if you make it past the preface.

On the wall there are two sigils in metallic gold, olive green and dusky blood red and black. One is the symbol of "Emptiness" and the other is the symbol for "Chaos" . The spellcaster will never tell you what the symbols are, but they can be read more easily on the other side of the world. Here they are pretty and balanced and perhaps a little odd or unnerving since color is scary on this side of the world where browns and beige and golds are sacred.

Green grasses are woven like rows and rows of tiny baskets on the wall. The floor is a pile of cut threads of some blued green covering the wood .

There is a bench that a visitor or petitioner can sit on that with the right somatic components turns into cabinet, and a piece of paper on the door to the materials cupboard that becomes new no matter how many times it is written on. It is a limited spell - what's written on it is gone when something new is needed, but the spellcasters will tell you there is a need for that.

The room is filled with light from a single glowing disk on the ceiling. It was there before the wizardry, a sign of a different time with less magic, easily collecting dust but ensorcelled to put out four five times more light than it was designed to. A simple spell, they'll tell you how to do it, even show you the tools they used in one of the little compartments in their worktable.

It is the eternal problem of spellcasters that you need a great deal of stuff to cast spells, all sorts of papers and potions and special tools, like boards with buttons that make words from anywhere in the room, and magic sheets of metal to control the things on the other side of the glass in the other dimensions and worlds.

There are boxes of glues and clips and pins and odd little bits that look like squids and spirals and shooting stars. Things that mark the pages of books but leave no trace so the wizard's (or witch's) marks can remain there own. Most spellcasters don't really believe that everything is meant to be shared.

There are castles, and Magic, and a tower of tiny, complex, already-created spells. They make figures dance, hold celestial choirs frozen in time, perform the tasks of a full team of scribes and bureaucrats. They let artists paint with light and create colors with no pigments. They create maps of worlds that don't exist yet.

There is an astral tether wrapped in wire and glass and grounded in small glowing blue boxes that lets the spellcasters communicate with other wizards and witches all over the world. And sometimes ordinary people too, on tools that are uses more regularly, by people who consider themselves more regular. But the magic is insidious, as more spellcasters become interested in everyday things, everyday things become more like the tools of magicusers. Now many ordinary folk are using tiny boxes of light thinking they are just fancy versions of the things they are using before instead of the things that hang about in a wizards workroom.

Their own spellbooks are a mass of illegible scribbles bound with metal and leather for the important things and metal and pressed remains of books gone by for the others. There are shelves of these but most of their work is stored in their memory and extra memory, a tiny group of small chips barely the size of your thumbnail hold years and years of thoughts and work and dreams, tiny spirit jars with pieces of the spellcasters soul.

There is the usual assortment of owls and vultures and gargoyles, trophies of courts where the spellcaster served, pirate ships raided, journeys completed, adventures successfully survived, surveyors tools, a pen with no ink that can become any type of writing implement, or paint brush and paint any color, a giant glass pane to bring in the other worlds and cast the spells to send them out into the world, a tiny malevolent looking earthsprite gifted by an enemy attempting to look like a friend - it backfired the spellcaster and sprite took a liking to each other right away - the supposedly hidden insult turned into a gracious gift instead.

A tiny handmade crafted box of earthen clay, spirals dug into the exterior blue glass beads pressed in. The spirits of ancestors pressed under glass suspended by brackets. A small touch of a hell that specialized in graphic designs.

In the corner you can't see is a hint, a pinkfaced white haired witch in white whispers into the ear of a black clad greenfaced witch with a small smile and black unruly hair, their images surrounded by many many names the same dusky blood red behind them as the sigils on the opposite wall, underneath them in neat black portfolios and rolled paper tubes are hopes and dreams and passions all stored for future consumption.

The Spellcaster's workroom fully organized, because having recently gone up a level, knowing where your components are is mandatory, and the amount of time you spend working on those higher level spells and memorization for the next take will double if you aren't together.

The seven year old boy who had stumbled into the room by accident thought he recognized the witch on the wall but was in for a world of surprises when he left the room find the owners of the rest of the house . . . . nothing at all was the way things were at his house . . . .

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Dao of Cleaning out Closets

This picture was taken after the Poppet Gypsy Wagon had been shaken about by a silly human. It was of course an accident, but the Poppets then had to clean up.

And one of the rules of cleaning up is that sometimes you make a bigger mess first to make things cleaner later.

It is a time to reduce things and to empty things.

When I chose The House. I was a particular kind of person. I am a person who likes to arrange things, but almost all of the things I built were virtual, verbal or flat. I was not a person with small children, my children were exactly Big Enough Not to Worry. I was not a person who needed a big TV room, but I was a person with computers and books, and flat art made on a computer, and occasionally I might make a rug. But rugs always went away as soon as I was finished.

So I chose The House for a number of it's charms and potentials but did not buy it intending to have a sculpter/hacker/crafting mixed media artist, a mechanical engineer and a painter in it.

I didn't realize that I would have to reinvent myself every decade or so. All three of us have large scale work and large pieces. All four of us have paper intensive hobbies and two of us have record intensive professional lives. So I need a real workspace and the office which really had been started with on person playing games and the other person doing multimedia work needed to be restructured - the three artists all have to use technology we need centralized storage and systems to keep track of the peripherals, some of our supplies are outsized now. We are different than we were.

But the office holds things - the legal detrius of life and health and school and career. I'm clearing it out and it's been disorganized for some time. Now things have shaken us up so I'm making a bigger mess to have less mess in the future. I found drawings and stories and (God Help Me) poetry from my high school years - small betrayals of my claim not to be an artist - reinforcement of my position that if I am one, I'm really rather mediocre.

But they are valuable in some ways - they are baselines for ideas I will be developing for school so I won't have to get stuck in the now, I can improve what I started 20+ years ago.

There are things I've finally lived long enough to outlive their legal lives and I can throw them out into the giant shredder. There are things I was going to throw out that I realized I couldn't because they definitively mark some health concerns and therefore might be important later, since some of the members of the House might be special that way.

But one of the interesting things to me is that through 10 different moves in less than 20 years all of my worlds and the people I built in them are still with me - from junior high school through now. And they all have stories, and the stories are not bad to start, but might become better if I worked on them. It is very, very difficult for a multimedia artist to throw away anything because I have proven over the years that I do reuse it, physically and intellectually.

However, that's no excuse for it to be disorganized. If it's going to keep travelling with me, it's going to have to travel tighter and be more easily found.

Dao is a sword in Chinese - it is single edged and slices and chops
DAO is a data access object
dao is also when pronounced slightly differently "way" and "path" and "road" and represents a philosophy.

When you clean out your closets and look at your paper you cannot lie to yourself. You did this, you ignored this, you bought this, you called a lawyer about this. Here is the evidence. Do you hold on or do you shred.

And there is no one answer that holds for all of everything, not if you do it right. You need to deal with each piece honestly. Then you figure out which keeps going with you and what gets left behind until the next time silly humans shake up your wagon and you have to clean out all over again.

Then you'll look at all the pieces that got added from this time, and you'll look back at all the things you saved from before and that will most likely guide your way when you make the next choices.

And you'll shed (or shred) some more and travel on. It's just like that.

Cleaning closets out sometimes gets a little sad. But there will be room for all the chargers and tablets and canvases and photo boxes and cameras and tripods and portfolios.

Travelling on.