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By Mandy McGee

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I have finally caught up with Vicki of Museum of Robots in between conventions to chat. Museum of Robots designs and manufactures retro-futuristic housewares, home and personal accessories. The center of their design philosophy is that they are fans first: they go to sci-fi conventions and fine art museums, vintage car shows and sci-fi movies, science exhibits and toy shows.

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(Richard and Vicki; photo by Frank Pryor Photography)

Mandy: Who are the humans behind Museum of Robots?

Museum of Robots: We’re Vicki Küng and Richard Küng. Richard has been collecting robots for 25 years; Vicki is a lifelong science fiction fan who got her first robot at age 6. We are designers by training and profession, and the line is what happened when we decided to create things we’d like in our own home.

Mandy: Why did you start the site?

Museum of Robots: We started the company 5 years ago. We’re both designers and we wanted to move from design consulting to developing our own line of products. We began selling at large wholesale shows, and immediately had a great response from museum and design stores, so that really inspired us to keep going. We found that it was important to get the products in front of the actual consumer, so we started selling at conventions. It was exactly the right move.

And to clarify - there is not a real Museum of Robots. Someday, we hope. We’ve started with the gift store and we’ll bootstrap a museum you can visit from there.

Mandy: Do you design the items in your store or do you out source?

Museum of Robots: Our work is original design, and we work with manufacturers to produce the products. We use a range of manufacturing methods, from traditional to digital, from sand-cast to 3D printing. When possible, we manufacture in the USA; when we utilize foreign manufacturing, it is with producers of high-quality goods who understand our creative and company vision, working responsibly with materials and processes. We also license art from artists we like, and use that on some of the products we make.

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Mandy: Why did you choose the style of steampunk/vintage?

Museum of Robots: We don’t really think of the line as steampunk, or even vintage. Retro-future seems to sum it up better - it gives us a range of design influences to work with, although we do sort of fall into a something-punk arena: atom punk, steampunk, diesel punk, cyber-punk. But our influences come from everywhere. We love toy robots and mid-century modern chairs, and urban vinyl, and Italian design. Add a love of technology, sci-fi books and movies, vintage cars, modern design, Googie architecture and Disneyland, and the resulting mash up is Museum of Robots.

Mandy: What is your most popular item?

Museum of Robots: The Rocket Salt & Pepper continues to be our strongest seller, although the rocket and raygun jewelry are catching up. We find the most popular items are rockets, rayguns, and robots. We’re apparently good at things that start with R.

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Mandy: How well do you do selling at conventions vs the web site?

Museum of Robots: Conventions and the web site are two different selling venues, although some customers do both. At the conventions, it gives us a chance to see how people respond to the products, and our designs and products are constantly improved by what we hear from people. Not everything goes online - there are new products and limited production items that are show-only. Online is more of the core line, and we are so fortunate in our customers - they are from across the US, and work at some of the most amazing and innovative technology and science companies.

Mandy: Do you enjoy conventions?
Museum of Robots:
Love, love love conventions. We started out on the fan side of the aisle, and I truly can’t think of anything more fun than days spent at a con, marinating in convention culture. As exhibitors, we think it’s our job to be a part of convention fun, so we really focus on having a nice booth and product offering. It is hard to miss a good panel, and we are generally too tired to take in much of the evening activities, but these are small things compared to how much fun the conventions are.

Mandy: What is your favourite convention?

Museum of Robots: That’s like trying to pick a favorite robot! Our favorite shows are the ones with a good vibe - happy attendees, nice people, and management that understands why we are there. Not every convention gets it. The ones that do are the happiest places on earth.

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(Me and Vicki at Emerald City Comic Con last March)

Mandy: Do you have any plans to expand the site to a physical store?

Museum of Robots: We’d love to experiment with a pop-up or two as way to dip our toe into a retail presence. No immediate plans for a physical store, but yes, we’d love to have one when the time is right.

Mandy: Are you going to get more merch on the site this year?

Museum of Robots: We’ve got new items that we introduced at San Diego Comic-Con this year, and we are busy getting those on the site. We really listen to comments from people at the cons we attend and use that information to tweak and improve the entire product line. The result is what goes on the web site.

Mandy: Do you take commissions?

Museum of Robots: We’ve done a number of custom projects and are always interested in collaborations. We created a special exhibit t-shirt for the Shelburne Museum’s Steampunk show last year, and a custom product for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

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Mandy: If you had a superpower what would it be?

Museum of Robots: There is a rumor that my superpower is weaponized sarcasm, but I think something involving flying would be more useful. Although with all the lifting and toting of things we do going to conventions, I think that the ability to pack up all our stuff and smallerize it so that it fits in a pocket would be the holy grail of superpowers for the convention circuit. I always wish we could just pop things back into a virtual inventory like we used to do when Museum of Robots was in Second Life. Then fly home without a plane.

Mandy: Do you have any hidden talents?

Museum of Robots: I make great orange marmalade, and it won a blue ribbon at the county fair one year. I think it was the single malt scotch in the mix that tipped the balance in my favor.

Mandy: Do you have any plans to do anything else creative besides museum of robots like a different kind of design or a different creative area all together?

Museum of Robots: We are both designers by training, so we use those skills - graphics, 3D, exhibit design, fashion design, digital design - on all aspects of Museum of Robots. We have individual projects and clients in addition to Museum of Robots, so we keep our skills and design brains current.  

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By Mandy McGee

Photographer Catharine Maloney was born in Austin, Texas in 1982 and currently lives in Delaware. She has an MFA from Yale School of Art and is in the band Teen Men (with members of Spinto Band). Her photographs have been featured on websites such as It’s Nice That, Serial Optimist, I Heart Photograph and Print Liberation and her work has been exhibited most recently at Vox Populi Gallery in Philadelphia and Higher Pictures in New York City. Catharine’s style is playful and whimsical mixed with nostalgia and intentional awkwardness. I was super excited when she agreed to chat with me about her work.

Mandy- How long have you been doing photography and how did you get started?

Catharine- Thirteen years, I took a class in high school after failing out of theatre arts because I was bad a memorizing.

Mandy- How would you describe your style?

Catharine- Candy-colored, playful, men!

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By Mandy McGee

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Self portrait (hair accessory designed by Whisper)

Whisper De Corvo is a woman of many talents and an inspiration. She is a burlesque dancer, model, producer, wife and mother. Any spare time she gets she stays creative, doing art with her family, making costumes or gardening. I have had the pleasure of working with her on many burlesque shows and recently she started running the Seattle Dr. Sketchy’s (where I take pictures). Her style and attitude will leave you in awe of this gorgeous strong woman. We chatted for awhile about being a performer, body issues, costumes and family.

Mandy: Tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from?

Whisper: I’m from northern California. I was born in Berkeley, lived in San Francisco  but was mostly raised in Sonoma County.I grew up in a town called Guerneville under redwoods and near a river that flooded badly every few years.

Mandy: When and why did you move to Seattle?

Whisper: I moved to Seattle after living in Sacramento for a few years. I was tired of the heat the boring city, the flatness. I had a chance to go stay with a photographer and model for a couple weeks so I came up May 2007 and stayed for two weeks. I modeled, rode buses, saw a few sites and saw my first burlesque show. I knew before leaving that I wanted to move here I went back and I moved up in August.

Mandy: Do you have theater or dance background?

Whisper: Both! I did a lot of Shakespeare, worked ren faires, did a lot of improv and bellydanced.

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Photo by sevenseven

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Photo by Mandy McGee (Me!)

Mandy: How did you get into burlesque?

Whisper: I did a lot of modeling when I moved here and got into a group called Urban Bombshells. They wanted to start a troupe and I was one of two girls with any dance experience at all. I danced with them, then burning hearts, and produced a couple shows with another friend as the Dynamic Duo. After that I joined tempest Burlesque.

Mandy: How did you come up with your stage name?

Whisper: My stage name is my alt modeling name. I model fine art nude under my real name but for latex, fetish, corset..whatever modeling I wanted a name that was mysterious, sexy, and magical. Had something to do with crows and also incorporated my parents celtic game of opposites. If my parents told me I was a mild mannered sweet lass they meant “You’re being a crazy assed wild bitch” but the first one is easier to say in sizzlers so I became Whisper de Corvo or Whisper of the Crows. Since i started dancing with a modeling group my name just transferred over.

Mandy: How long have you been a burlesque performer?

Whisper: Since about 2009. I spent about three years as a first year performer. Giving birth to my son changed how I approached a lot of aspects in my life and fortunately burlesque was a major change.

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Written by Mandy McGee

Atropines Creations and Oddities is artistry made by Atropine Steele who currently resides in New Jersey. She designs Victorian Gothic jewelry, hair accessories, wearable taxidermy, alters clothing, and other various oddities. Atropine also sometimes sells vintage, hand painted clothes and custom made creations. I am going to get her to make me a necklace with a picture of my brain from my MRI. I will show off the picture once it is made. 

Atropine by Forma Photography

Mandy: How did you name your company?

Atropine: Atropines Creations and oddities is the name I give my artwork. I couldn’t decide between creations or oddities so I used both. I know the name is a little long but it’s unique.

Mandy: Where were you born?

Atropine: I was born in a little town called Mineola, its somewhere on Long Island.

Mandy: What kind of art do you make? Why?

Atropine: I like to make Victorian Gothic jewelry. I usually let my brain take over, it seems to feel complete when creating this type of art. I also enjoy abstract stuff, but more an a canvas as opposed to a necklace. I also enjoy modeling.

Mandy: Have you always been an artist?

Atropine: I’ve been an artist since I was able to hold a marker. I can thank my loving mother for letting me use her supplies as a small child. She was the one that encouraged me.

Mandy: How did you learn your craft?

Atropine: I taught myself how to make jewelry. In fact, that’s how I learned most of the different mediums I like to work with.

Mandy: What has been a seminal experience?

Atropine: My entire past has been a seminal experience. Growing up in the type of household that I did really molded me into the person that I am today. My parents had undergone the worst divorce I had ever heard of, this is back before divorces were popular. I took a turn for a negative direction forcing me into creating art. I can thank this terrible experience for my artworks.

Mandy: What materials do you use in making your art and why?

Atropine: I like to use metal, bones and paint as these are some of my favorite things. I chose theses materials because they are fun and easy to use. Sometimes I go back to my roots and play with acrylics and a big old canvas.

Mandy: What work do you most enjoying doing?

Atropine: My favorite medium is acrylic paint. I just wish I had more time to paint these days. I am a busy girl, I have many names

Mandy: How has your work changed since you started?

Atropine: Since I started making art, my work has changed drastically since I get bored easily. I used to only paint. I guess the mediums have changed more than my actual work. I feel that I am a better artist today than 10 years ago, I have more time and knowledge on my side.

Mandy: What’s your favourite piece that you have done?

Atropine: My favorite piece is the reproduction of Odd Nerdrum’s “the back”. I think thats the name.

Mandy: Do you listen to music when you are creating? What do you like to listen to?

Atropine: I do listen to music, mostly 80s Goth music and some 70s Goth. 70s Goth is similar to disco but it’s so awesome.

Mandy: What do you think is integral to the work of an artist?

Atropine: The most important thing to me is making people happy. If a something of mine finds its way to someone and they love to wear it, it makes me happy.

Mandy: What role does art have in society?

Atropine: Art in society plays many roles as we are influenced by it daily. Just listen to the radio or watch tv, the stars will be wearing the latest creation from the hottest designer. Without art there is nothing really.

Mandy: What’s your strongest memory of your childhood?

Atropine: The strongest Memory in my childhood, hmmm. I remember lots, sadly they are always bad things that happened. Never the good things. I remember when I fell and scraped my knees on orange bricks that were decorating my Mother’s garden. I think I was 2.

Mandy: What’s your scariest experience?

Atropine: Scariest experience. I’d have to say it was when I almost fell off the side of a mountain while skiing when I was young. I was too close to the edge of the cliff and I slipped. I somehow managed to not fall off, dodge some trees and almost smash into a boulder. My Father saw the whole thing and was amazed at how I didn’t die.

Mandy: Describe a real-life situation that inspired you?

Atropine: A real life situation that inspired me was my parent’s divorce. It really fueled my fire.

Mandy: What’s your most embarrassing moment?

Atropine: I’ve had many embarrassing moments, like walking into tables. I do have to say when I was 7 I was afraid of the tupperware lady and ran head first into the corner of a mirrored wall. Blood was gushing everywhere. My poor Mother.

Mandy: What jobs have you done other than being an artist?

Atropine: I have had many jobs, mostly because I get bored. Once I can’t move up anymore I find another job and continue my learning. One of my favorite jobs was being a jewelers apprentice.

Mandy: What is your favourite or most inspirational place?

Atropine: My favorite place is Arizona, mostly Sedona. When I am there I feel at peace. If I can’t get to AZ I’ll take a nice, quiet hike in the woods.

Mandy: What memorable responses have you had to your work?

Atropine: Memorable responses to my work. I’ve had people tell me they love their pieces so much that they would wear them everyday.

Mandy: What is your dream project?

Atropine: My dream project, to create an entire line of products so that name brand stores could carry them. Everyone should own an Atropine’s original piece even if it is mass produced.

Mandy: Name three artists you’d like to be compared to.

Atropine: I don’t wish to be compared to anyone. I am not here for competition, just to make others happy.

Mandy: What artists do you most identify with?

Atropine: My favorite artists of all time are Odd Nerdrum, Dahli, Ralph Steadman, Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Mandy: What superpower would you have and why?

Atropine: Superpower, to heal people. I hate to hear or see people in pain and there is nothing I can do to help. If I could heal, my life would be complete.

Mandy: Professionally, what’s your goal?

Atropine: My goal professionally is to get my products into name brand stores, I want everyone to own one of my artworks.

Mandy: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given and what advice would you give others?

Atropine: Best advice. Be yourself, wouldn’t you rather be a leader than a follower? It seems there are too many sheep and not enough shepards. I would tell others the same thing and let art tell you what to do, its a way to express yourself and release your inner demons.

Thank you for interviewing me!!

-Atropine Steele

Places you can check out Atropines Creations and Oddities

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Etsy

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She wrote this on her facebook page and I really like it. 

"I have to give my mother the credit, she taught me to be myself.
At a young age I was given markers to play with, I would doodle endlessly.
Most kids were playing and making friends, I was hiding in my room, drawing, alone.
I was never like any of the other kids at school, they would call me names.
I was told I was too crafty by another student, like it was a bad thing.
I was a loner.
I would always find comfort in art, it was my safe place.”

Written by Mandy McGee

Born and Raised in Fredericksburg, Va, Amber Renee is a fashion photographer who has amazing compositional skills and intimate understanding of light and shadow. She effortlessly captures the beauty and detail of her subjects with breathtaking results. Her images range from light, airy and romantic to edgy and brightly colored high fashion (like her Alice in Wonderland series). I have had the pleasure of working along side her doing a duel shoot with Tessa Goetz. In every shot she explores the subtext to tell a persuasive story. Beyond the technical and artistic, Amber really connects with her models on a deeper level and gains their trust and respect to really get them to shine.

How long have you been doing photography and how did you get started? 
I have been doing photography since I was 10 or 11, my dad is photographer, always used film. I mergerd to digital photography 3 years ago, started shooting models about 2 years ago.I started photgraphy because of my dad. He always pushed me to keep up with my creativity. Capturing moments is truly precious, whether it’s fashion, glamour, alternative or just a candid.

What inspires your style?
My inspirations include anything vintage, it’s a true love of mine. Embracing the past and presenting it in a future tense. Gwen Stefani, as far as her style, inspires me as well. She has such a vibrant look that I adore.

How did you learn photography school or self taught?
My dad taught me a lot about the techniques involved with photography. I have learned a great deal from other photographers. So many to name. They have been kind enough to take me under their wing and guide me in the right direction while keeping me motivated at the same time. I do learn a lot from trial and error though.

Have you always wanted to do photography?
Photography has been in my life since I was very young. My dad would pull out his camera and photograph everything he saw. I truly believe I am just like my father. I catch myself photographing anything and everything.

Why do you choose fashion photography to focus on?
Fashion photography is my personal preference, however, I do branch out to various genres. Fashion is just a true and complete expression of emotion and passion. The way a dress can change the entire mood of the photograph because a designer made it so spectacular it tells a story.

What else do you enjoy to photograph?
I also love to shoot still-life! Creating something magical out of household items. I also adore landscape. It puts me in a great mood!

What is most important to you, technique or vision?
Technique is by far important, however, vision falls extremely close. Both to me are incredibly important.

What equipment and software do you make use of in your work flow?
I shoot with a Nikon d3000…. not fancy, but I don’t need anything fancy at the moment. I edit with CS5 but nailing a shoot straight out of camera is my goal.

Tell me about the magazine you are starting?
Essere is a magazine Chris Mangune and I started to present artists to the world, work that may go unnoticed, and showcasing today’s epic artists.

What have you learned lately in photography?
I am now focusing of studio lighting. I have always been a passionate”au natural” light, the sun! I have decided it’s time to step it up and learn new and fun techniques that studio lighting can provide.

Why did you start modeling as well?
I started modeling for my friends who are photographers. I easily became hooked. I love expressing myself in front of the camera as well as behind the lens.

Amber by Chris Mangune

What was your favourite modeling adventure?
My favorite modeling adventure is by far a shoot I did for C. Scott Designs, based out of D.C. Photographers Chris Mangune, Mike Boycourt & Erwin Simbulan were a pleasure to work with as always. It didn’t feel like “work”, we all enjoyed each others company.

What photographers inspire you?
Mario Testino is my true inspiration as far as famous photographers go. He allows his emotion to show through his work. The creativity I see in his work is very motivating. I always think, “I want to be like him when I grow up!”

If you could work for any publication what would it be?
VOGUE! Slap my work in that and I will die a happy girl

What advice do you have for individuals interested in pursuing a career in photography?
As far as advice, don’t get discouraged. This industry is time consuming. You will be kicked down a lot. Keep your head up. For one, it’s admirable. Two, you’ll go much further if you do.

For more…check out her official website.
Amber Renee on Face Book
Essere Magazine