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I have had the hardest time deciding which section to publish the interview you are about to read. That’s because Gwen Aloix is a jack of all trades! Her clothing line is beautifully made; she creates gorgeous skin; and lastly, but not the least, her photography makes you fall in love with your own avatar. As many of you, I check out Flickr streams often for either finding a new face on the scene to watch their development & growth, or established photographers who inspire us with their art and talent. I stumbled on Gwen’s Flickr about a year ago and was simply mesmerized by all of her work. I am not a fan of morph pictures – if I want an RL photograph, I will just make one. What I love about Gwen’s photography is that she makes the avatar come to life fully, without tricking us to think we are looking at a photograph from RL.

 

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I was fortunate enough to find Gwen in between projects and with some time to spare so that I could introduce her to our readers. I arrived at Gwen’s studio a bit discombobulated because I was running late. She could not have been sweeter to put me at ease, and also help me prepare for the photo shoot.  One reason I like to have a photo shoot as an interview session is that you get to experience the photographers in their element. Gwen was a joy, as you will read. Another reason, and perhaps a more important one, is that to have the same avatar photographed by different photographers makes their style more visible because you will be comparing apples to apples in a way. It also adds an element of fun to see how the deal with my often insane hairs.

Leda Carter: Thank you so much for your time, Gwen. I have told you before that I admire your work. Although, your flickr stream starts around 2012.  Tell us about your photography journey!

Gwen Aloix: I have liked photography and drawing forever! I don’t remember when it was that I began to take pictures and edit them. I used to take photos of my Second Life friends, until one day someone recommended that I blog my work, so that everyone could see it. That’s when I created an account on flickr.

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Leda: How did you find out about SL?

Gwen: My boyfriend introduced me to SL! I played the sims, but wanted something better, with online users where avatars could meet other people, chat and create a community.  To be honest, at first, I was disappointed, because I did not know how it worked. Also, people thought I was an alt of someone, and would not help me. After four months, I decided to try again. I met a girl who was very nice, and introduced me to how I could enjoy SL.  Today, I can say it has been better than my expectations.

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Leda: Did you face particular challenges in becoming a pro photographer?

Gwen: Well, I really didn’t have challenges.  I always did pictures for my friends, and people would ask them who made the picture. So, they started coming to me to do their photos, and along the way I gained more experience too.

When I started on Flickr, I saw many SL photographs. One of my main inspirations came from the work of Graphic-Dix! I was in love with all his pictures. It was what motivated me to want to learn more and more about image editing!  I started watching tutorials, searching techniques and practicing, until I discovered my own style.

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Leda: Yes, you certainly have your own style. Speaking of style, you have started your own clothing and skin line. How did that come about?

Gwen: With skins, it was something I had to learn, since I always wanted a custom skin, a unique face, but no one really did that. So, I had to learn so that I could have my avatar the way I wanted it. I looked for a tutorial online and started working on it! When my friends started asking me to make skins for them, I decide to open a store. It was basically the same thing with clothes!! *laughs*

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Leda: Does that mean your designs reflect your personal taste?

Gwen: When I started to make clothes for my first store (called Lapin Rose), I just made things for me. I didn’t really care if everyone like it or not! *laughs* But, now with lowen, I do try to see what people are looking for, waiting for, and I try to make them but still in my own taste.  If I don’t like something, I never make it.

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Leda:  Who is Gwen’s typist? Does she have fashion or photography experience?

Gwen: I am 22 years old and from Brazil, with Indian, Italian and German heritage. I have always been a curious person, and try to learn and do everything by myself. Oh, and my astrological sign is Cancer! *smiles*

I work as fashion producer & stylist for a local TV station here. I am the one they call to dress up actors and do their makeup when they are making TV commercials. In addition, I started learning to be a graphic designer, and today I do both of those things! I am very lucky to have the work I love to do. Like I said, I always love to draw, paint, do pictures, and all that. So, sometimes, when I have made a drawing, I put in PS and try to paint. In the beginning, I used to use a mouse, but the paint that comes with that is so horrible!

Anyways, I have worked with absolutely everything in the fashion world – from makeup artist to model. So, the life in SL is something I have always been involved with in RL.

 

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Leda: What are some of the other things you enjoy about SL?

Gwen: I am a very shy person, and when I moved from my hometown, I felt a little lonely without my childhood friends.  In SL, I have made some very good friends, and have met some of them in RL too! Besides the friendships I have formed, SL gives me the freedom to express myself, to create what I want, and that is really cool.

Leda: It is really cool! What is also cool is that you have shared yourself with us here. Thank you so much for your time. And, I have to tell you that I love seeing Leda through your eyes. That’s a beautiful piece of work! Thank you.

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Don and I had a peculiar friendship. We hardly spent time together in SL. I could count on one hand those occasions. Our relationship was made up of three main components; long telephone conversations, often on our commute home – we both drove long distances to get to work, and in the mornings I was either sleep or getting ready when he was heading to work, so we talked on the way back – or during hospital stays, video chats at odd times, and daily texts.  It was a bit of an oddity that we became so close so fast, where our daily texts did not stop even when I traveled 8 thousand miles away for a month. An odd development, on which Don would often comment.

We were not lovers, and neither of us was interested in that. Don had Socco & Grazia, and I was a born again virgin (this always gave him a chuckle). I am not claiming he was platonic in all ways, as a big brother. If you know anything about Don, you would know that if I ever claimed such a thing, you could call out the bullshit. He liked to flirt, he liked women, and his claim was that his heart could house many.  He liked skirting that fine line between friendship and something-else, now and again. But, he never crossed that line. And, because we had so much to say to each other, the combination made us life long friends. We shared a passion for arts, women in high tech, intelligence, and witty humor.  He would have genuine insight into my poems, constructive critique of my photography (RL and SL), and would let me ramble on and on about the challenge of being a woman in the tech world.

As I told Don’s wife, her 3am informing me of his passing shattered my world. I had never imagined the world without him.  The most difficult part is the peculiarity of our friendship – it formed a bubble that held only me and him in it. We never shared our time with anyone. Now, in his absence, I am so so lonely in that bubble. In some ways, that is one of the main reasons I keep poking Grazia and Socco. For those brief moments of contact with them, I am not alone in the bubble.

Since Don was a supporter of my pursuing poetry, I thought I would share one of my pieces he liked (please do not share or reproduce without explicit permission):

This is 
what it has 
come to 
and every morning 
by that 
expanse of light 
on the sill 
I line up the bottles 
of my destruction 
the flight of seagulls 
reflected in color, yet beauty 
distances itself, a chase 
following its smell 
into far corners of my memory 
a red suitcase covered 
in dust, tucked 
behind a curtain 

This is 
what it has 
come to, 
and every morning 
in that 
trapped smell 
of sex in a wintered room 
I roll in refusal 
of the rise, drowned 
by the cheerless chirp 
of a mocking bird 
a feather’s harsh reality 
that lasts 
from the warmth in one man’s arms 
into the next 

This is 
what it has 
come to 
and every beat 
of that 
yellow anger 
in my voice trumps 
the seagull dances on the bulging 
innocence of grandmother’s goblets 
hanging fat 
Buddhas of transparency 
blurred against the window pane 

Yes, this is 
what it has 
come to 
the memory of my fists, blooming 
sunflowers in a sky 
of concretes, now pushing 
my inked palms, deep 
into worn pockets 
in one single moment, shame 
becomes a permanent companion 

Yes, this is 
what it has 
come to 
and it finds me 
in round drops 
of tub water, wobbling 
down my neck 
in the salty wind, climbing 
up my spine 
in the flames 
of a bonfire, luring 
in my eyes 
in every bottle lined up on the sill. ©

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Dress: Azul, Nayomi in Sapphire
Hair: Boon

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Friendship is one of life’s most precious offerings, one which for centuries poets have tried to emote, performers have aimed to illustrate, fables have tried to capture, singers have sung about, parents have tried to teach, and people of all sizes and colors have tried to find.  This is all because, just like love, it is hard to define. It is a bit like porn, if you will, in that you recognize it when you see it, even if you can’t define it. Don Mill was a friend. His most special gift to me was his almost-brutal honesty and wit. You always knew where you stood with Don. He illustrated how you could be a manly man without hiding from feeling your feelings. A challenge that many are not up to, in either sex frankly. He was always willing to discuss anything, no matter how mundane or how deep. More importantly, he had something to add – a new angle, a different understanding, or simply to convey that he would have your back no matter how you approached the topic.

Don was bright, confident, and full of affection even if his heart didn’t always make it easy (pun intended). His heart finally gave up at 4:30 this morning. He will be dearly missed.

Don Mill: April 10 1971 – July 18 2015

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For years, I have kept my RL photography on Google (which not too long ago graduated to Google plus). Believe it or not, I have been on gmail since its beta days.  As a result, I have hundreds and hundreds of photos on there. Moreover, it was so easy to remember that Flickr had SL pictures and Google had RL. I didn’t have to log out of one account, and into the other; worry about posting one photo on the wrong feed that was meant for the other. Yesterday was the end of an era .  The upgraded Google photo drive does not allow you to reorder your photos – as you wish – in an album. What??  This is what happens when engineers get to make product decisions.

While I have way too many engineer friends, and I love most of them dearly, and while I appreciate the concept of engineering-driven companies – that would be companies like Google where Product team does not have an authority over the Engineering team to tell them do this or that. This makes sense in that you don’t want to build a company where Product and Sales just run amok & promise badly-designed, crappy things, just to sell & make customers happy in the short term, and engineers are just minions to follow orders.  You do want engineers to have a say, where they make leaps and come up with innovative and improved ways to do old things, as well as novel ones. But, at the same time, engineers – left to their own devices – often builds something that no one buys, which is why there is a team of product people who help avoid that disaster. From my point of view, the most successful innovations come from the collaboration of the two teams. See, now I have gone a full paragraph on my tangent!

As I was saying, while I appreciate Google’s pride in being an engineering driven company, forcing people to use photos in albums that they cannot reorder, edit in batch, etc, is a terrible terrible decision for the user. So, yeah, I gave up on them, and created an RL Flickr account. You would think I would be a Flickr pro and would immediately feel at home. But, I am feeling all lonely and lost. Really. So, if you are so inspired, come and take a look. I haven’t posted a ton of pictures from past or anything. Just a few pictures from an event where I broke my knee. Ahem, I didn’t mention that? Well, yeah, that’s for a whole other Oprah ;)

For those of you who have not broken your knees, here is a photo for The Last Dance. I thought it fitting since I had had my last dance with Google. Heh. The shoulder dressings are from Zibska, who never fails to inspire me with both her photographs and her designs. They made me feel special, like I could do anything. So, I paired them with part of a dress I had from Phoenix Rising called Coco Chanel Tribute. Is there anyone old enough out there to remember that store? *sigh* Once I was ready to go, I ended up staying in (on my little patch of beauty at Neva River) and photographing it. Go figure!

 

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Shoulders: Greer by Zibska
Horns: Zoya by Glam Affair 
Skeleton hands: Part of Toga by Shi
Skirt: Part of Coco Chanel Tribute by Phoenix Rising
Hair: Blown by Shi
Skin: Neva by Glam Affair
Location: Neva River

It’s the last dance, we’ve come to the last dance
They’re dimming the lights down, they’re hoping we’ll go
It’s obvious they’re aware of us, the pair of us, alone on the floor
Still I want to hold you like this forever and more
It the last song, they’re playing the last song
The orchestra’s yawning, they’re sleepy I know
They’re wondering just when will we leave, but till we leave, keep holding me tight
Through the last dance, each beat of the last dance
Save me the first dance in your dreams tonight
They’re wondering just when will we leave, but till we leave, keep holding me tight
Through the last dance, each beat of the last dance
And save me the first dance in your dreams tonight

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