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  • An interview with cosplayer and artist, Erica Willey

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    Youmacon Chairman Morgan Kollin with artist/cosplayer Erica Willey
    Youmacon Chairman Morgan Kollin with artist/cosplayer Erica Willey

    Erica Willey is a freelance artist from Grand Rapids, Michigan.  She is a recent graduate of Kendall College of Art and Design and also is a fan of Anime, Steampunk, and cosplays both.  Check out the interview and then follow her links to enjoy her artwork.

    John N. Collins (JNC): It was a pleasure to meet you at Youmacon, Erica. It was impossible to miss you as the corridor was blocked with all the photographers and con attendees shooting your picture as I was trying to work my way through the Renaissance Center. Tell me about your cosplay.

    Erica Willey (EW): Well this year for Youmacon I decided to replicate Ryuko Matoi final from the anime Kill la Kill. I fell in love with her character right away. Unfortunately I don’t know how to sew yet, so I ordered the base of my costume, altered it, and created the chest pieces, out of craft foam. Altogether the costume took about a month to make.  I have some modifications I want to make that will probably take a couple more weeks.

    (JNC): What inspired you to become a cosplayer and what other characters have you cosplayed?

    (EW): I’ve had a passion and love for the Japanese culture for as long as I can remember. When I first discovered cosplay in high school it immediately captured my attention. What I think inspired me most to become a cosplayer was the excitement of the cosplay world. People take it seriously and get excited.  Cosplayers really appreciate the work that goes into making the costumes. It’s also fun and gives everyone a chance to be whoever they want for a day.

    I only started taking cosplay seriously, though, about 3-4 years ago, when I attended JAFAX for the very fist time. That year I actually created my own steampunk get up. And I rocked that cosplay outifit for my first year at Youmacon too. My next project will be Satsuki Kiryuin’s final form.

    (JNC): Not only are you a cosplayer, but you are also an artist. When were you first inspired to become an artist and who or what inspired you?

    (EW): Art has been in my life for as long as I can remember. My mother, throughout the years, has done freelance work.  So it was her artistic skills that got passed onto me.  Besides my mother, the first artist to inspire me was Salvador Dali. But I’d say what really had an impact of my style and approach towards my work is the fantasy and sci fi world that we all know and love. The artwork from games such as League of Legends, Legends of Cryptids, and Magic the Gathering has had a very huge impact on me. I admire the work of their artists very much and hope to one day be at that level and work for Riot Games, Applibot, or Blizzard. I just graduated from Kendall College of Art and Design this year, and have been successful in my frelancing career.  Working for one of the big time companies is my ideal.

    (JNC): As an art student and a freelance artist you take on assignments where you are told what the professor or client wants from you and then create it based on their orders. How do you work up the creative flow when you are told what to create?

    (EW): For artists it is hard to follow strict instructions from a client.  When there isn’t much wiggle room the creative flow is restricted.  That is the life of an artist.  I guess you could say we improvise.  As I create a piece for a client, I am creating it for myself as well. Whether or not I like the concept of the piece I’m working on, I keep in mind the client’s needs and enjoy the creative process.  I know that if I don’t enjoy the process, the final product won’t turn out as well.  So the key is to love every minute of the process and let that inspire the final product.

    (JNC): Is it easier or harder to create without any input?

    (EW): It really just depends. Sometimes the creative flow comes to you while you’re walking on the streets and see an odd shape in the clouds, but a lot of times it doesn’t come to you at all, which makes producing any sort of artwork challenging. So having some sort of input does help at times, but too much input, confines the creative mind we artists are known for.

    (JNC): What media do you use and what is your favorite?

    (EW): The only media I work in currently is Digital. A majority of my time is spent in photoshop. Originally I strictly used traditional mediums such as oil paints and watercolor, but have fallen in love with the digital world.

    (JNC): As a recent graduate of Kendall and a frelancing artist, where do you want to go from here?

    (EW): As I had mentioned, my goal is work with Riot Games, Applibot, or Blizzard. To prepare myself for that future I am working with kickstarter companies and taking other freelancing opportunities.

    (JNC): Where can the reader go to see more of your artwork and how can they contact you for more information or to contract artwork from you?

    (EW): They can check out my art and contact me by visiting my website. I can also be found on Facebook.

    (JNC): Thanks again for taking the time to chat with me at Youmacon and for agreeing to do this interview!

    (EW): Thank you for giving me this great opportunity and taking the time to get to know my passions a little more.

    More about John N. Collins

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  • Featured ImageMeet the Musicians: Frenchy and the Punk

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    Frenchy and the Punk
    Frenchy and the Punk

    Frenchy and the Punk can be seen at conventions and festivals across the US and in Europe.  Their music is a marvelous mélange of mellifluous melodies and deliciously diverse ditties, the best description comes from the source.

    John N Collins (JNC): How would you describe your band?

    Samantha Stephenson (SS): We call it Indie Folk Punk Cabaret.

    (JNC): Who are your band members?

    (SS): Samantha Stephenson – Vocals, Percussion, Drums Scott Helland – Guitar, Live Guitar Looping, Vocals, Drums

    (JNC): Can you give me a bit of a history on the band?

    (SS): Frenchy and the Punk – Imagine Siouxsie Sioux and Dee Dee Ramone had a duo that was inspired by Django Reinhardt, Edith Piaf, Toulouse Lautrec and Deepak Chopra, this is what it might sound like. One part Dresden Dolls, Sonny and Cher and one part White Stripes. Raised on punk rock and ballet, eclectic and uplifting… fun with a capital F!

    In 2005 Stephenson, the sultry French born singer jumped onstage and joined, Helland, the fiery punk rock guitarist from the golden days of the hardcore scene, and Frenchy and the Punk was born. Along the way they became the ‘jewel of the steampunk scene’ and were named one of the ”Top 25 dynamic duos in America’ by Yahoo music. Their show is a carnival of two that will take you from the Moulin Rouge to CBGBs and back again. A rollicking flapper folk punk steampunk indie cabaret with Taiko  meets Rio de Janeiro pounding drum instrumentals.

    Scott Helland whose serpentine guitar lines and creative guitar looping technique perfectly complement the playfulness and spirit of Frenchy’s lyrics. Helland was co-founder and bassist of the legendary Massachusetts hardcore punk band Deep Wound, whose members included future Dinosaur Jr. members J Mascis and Lou Barlow. Deeply entrenched in that 80s hardcore scene, Scott’s follow up band, Outpatients, shared the stage with some of the biggest bands of that underground movement like Black Flag, Husker Du, G.B.H., Agnostic Front and Cro-Mags.

    (JNC): Can you give me a list of your album titles, dates, self produced or record labels, whatever you want to add about each album if you have anything you do want to add.

    (SS): Frenchy and the Punk Albums:

    Happy Madness (2010) EA Recordings
    Hey Hey Cabaret (2012) EA Recordings
    Elephant Uproar (2013) EA Recordings
    Cartwheels EP (2014) EA Recordings
    Bonjour Batfrog (2014) EA Recordings

    (JNC): What are your plans for the future? New albums? Movies? Video?

    (SS): We just released Bonjour Batfrog this Fall and we’re working on some music videos for some of those new songs like ‘Don’t Fear The Rabbit’ and ‘Forever and Ever MC Escher’. There’s always a tour coming up too.

    (JNC): What are your links?

    (SS): They are:

    Website – www.frenchyandthepunk.com
    Facebook – www.facebook.com/frenchyandthepunk
    Twitter – www.twitter.com/frenchyNthepunk
    Instagram – www.instagram.com/frenchyandthepunk
    CDbaby – www.cdbaby.com/artist/frenchyandthepunk
    Bandcamp – www.frenchyandthepunk.bandcamp.com

    More about John N. Collins

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    Check out some concert video and interviews with Frenchy and the punk!



  • An interview with ArtPrize Steampunk sculptor Anthony Jackson

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    Anthony Jackson from Lake Odessa, Michigan, is an industrial welder and a sculptor that has been entering the Grand Rapids ArtPrize since the first year.  His creative endeavors go back to when he was a kid growing up on a farm where he had the opportunity to use tools and equipment in his artistic explorations that most folks don’t have in their homes.

    While he has worked in other media, airbrushing and such, his favorite is welding and finishing metal.

    His first ArtPrize entry was his well-loved dragon, “Edgar.”  “Edgar” was a metalwork dragon made of scrap metal and was about seven feet tall.  Edgar “wowed” the crowd, placing in the top 50 entrants during the first year of ArtPrize.

    "Steam Baby" at The B.O.B. during ArtPrize 2013
    “Steam Baby” at The B.O.B. during ArtPrize 2013

    Last year at The B.O.B., Mr. Jacksons entry was another dragon with a Steampunk twist called, “Steam Baby.”

    This year, in front of the Gerald Ford Museum, his entry is an amazing, mechanical, steampunk creation called, “Looking for Alice” and has Alice in Wonderland’s Mad Hatter on a tricycle.  “Looking for Alice” is also made with scrap metal and found pieces that he assembled and formed by welding, bolting, and other tricks of his trade.

    Anthony Jackson's "Looking For Alice" at the Gerald Ford Museum during ArtPrize 2014
    Anthony Jackson’s “Looking For Alice” at the Gerald Ford Museum during ArtPrize 2014

    The art enthusiasts can spin the front wheel and watch The Mad Hatter’s legs pump and the mechanical, winding key on his back rotates.  His use of negative space in the sculpting allows the viewer to look inside the figure and see his heart and other internal workings.

    When not creating works of art like “Edgar” or “Looking for Alice” he also makes beautiful, handmade knives.  Be sure to go to the Gerald Ford Museum before ArtPrize 2014 is over and check out “Looking for Alice.”  In case you can’t make it, the video interview with Mr. Jackson starts with views of the sculpture.  Also stop by his website – DontCutYourself.com/Welcome.html – and check out more of his creative works.

    More about National Art, National Music, and Grand Rapids Social Issues Examiner John N. Collins

    For more photos and fun, follow John N. Collins on TwitterInstagram, Youtube, and Facebook and be sure to let him know your favorites at ArtPrize 2014!



  • Crypto-Historian Jimmy Diggs to be featured at SteamTopia

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    Jimmy Diggs interviewing with Lesley Scott of The Steampunk Soiree and The Weird Review
    Jimmy Diggs interviewing with Lesley Scott of The Steampunk Soiree and The Weird Review

    Jimmy Diggs is an actor, writer, director, and the producer of the upcoming web series, “The Crypto-Historians.”  Mr. Diggs has confirmed to this Examiner that he will be one of the featured guests at the steampunk convention, Steamtopia, at the Doubletree Hotel in Southfield, Michigan from June 12 to 15, 2014.

    While the official announcement of Mr. Diggs has not yet been made, it was confirmed by both Mr. Diggs and Mr. Wiggins of the Steamtopia convention.  More news on other guests will be forthcoming.

    “The Crypto-Historians” is a science fiction, action adventure series of the steampunk genre.  It takes place in a world where the writings of H. G. Wells and others of his era were veiled truths to a reality of dangers that threaten mankind.

    In this world, the Crypto-Historians work behind the scenes to protect humaniy through time and space using technologies of Nikola Tesla, H. G. Wells, and others.

    The series will star  as Nathan Cain,  as Eugene Jacques Bullard,  as Sakichi Toyoda,  as The Invisible Man,  as Winston Churchill,  as Lincoln Colt,  as Deimos ‘The Greek’ Kourkoulou,  as Aleksandra Slepova,  as Lord Vladaslav Yegor,  as LCDR John Hood, and  as Professor Marcus O’Bannon.

    During a recent trip to Burbank, The Steampunk Soiree and The Weird Review writer and editor Lesley Scott had the opportunity to chat with Mr. Diggs at the Video Symphony TV & Film Post-Production Institute where he is currently studying.  Check out the interview with Jimmy Diggs and give “The Crypto-Historians” a like on their Facebook page!

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