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January 26, 2012
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"Gold Like Crow" by merimask "Gold Like Crow" by merimask
This is a true story.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I was a struggling artist. I had no shop, I had no portfolio, I had no computer...I just had these two clever hands. I was very poor, but I was teaching myself to do leatherwork, and I'd stumbled upon a way to carve and shape 3-d things out of leather, so I was experimenting with that. I had started selling small examples of my new experiments at sci-fi conventions and such, but it was a pretty rudimentary setup (sometimes just myself, a tupperware box of my masks and things, and a blanket to sit on).

I was also a huge nerdgirl. My very favorite TV show (still, to this day) was "Mystery Science Theater 3000" and I never missed a single episode. I taped all the shows, and that's what I watched while I stayed up late at night, working on my little leather thingies. I loved the show 'cause it was smart, funny, a bit nostalgic, and nerdy (like me!). Also it had a wonderful "handmade" quality that I found endlessly clever and charming.

In spite of being dirt poor, when I saw there was going to be a very unique MST3K convention in Minneapolis, I saved my pennies and went to it. My beloved show had just been cancelled by Comedy Central and I didn't know if it would ever be on TV again (it got picked up by the Sci-Fi network, eventually...but I didn't know that at the time), so I felt compelled to make the effort to meet my heroes and thank them for being my late night "friends" while I was up all night, working, and for making such a wonderful TV show.

Joel Hodgson (the creator) had already left the show by then (to my sorrow), but I knew Trace Beaulieu was going to be there. Trace was just as instrumental as Joel, when it came to the clever hand built "thingies" on MST3K, and he was the genius behind the puppet "Crow"...a robotic sorta-bird-thing with a wise mouth. I loved Crow with all my heart. If I ever had to choose a "totem animal", it'd be Trace's Crow. So I was looking forward to meeting Trace, thanking him, and even giving him a tiny example of my fledgling leather work, as a gift.

Except...I froze. When I walked up to Trace at the meet-and-greet, I started to shake. All I could do was hand him the tiny leather dragon head keychain I'd made just for him, blurt "...I made it for you. It's gold. Like Crow". And, quite literally, run away.

I blew it! I have no idea why I freaked. Trace seemed like a really nice guy. Anyway...at least I gave him the gold dragon keychain. I had to be content with that.

Except...Trace Beaulieu is a ~really~ awesome person, who makes things with his hands too, and appreciates handmade artisan work. So the last night of the convention (at a really big, really fun party) he actually detached himself from a gaggle of fans, ~ran up~ to me and said "Hey! You! You gave me a little dragon...I love it! What is that made of...leather?" And since I had a drink in me and I was less nervous, we started to talk.

And he was really nice! And he said several things to me that were encouraging, like; he'd never seen ANYthing like that little dragon, and I needed to get online, and I needed to build a website. He said private websites promoting self-representing artists was going to be the wave of the future. He said he thought if I could get my work seen online, by a wider audience, there wasn't anything holding me back from being a real success as an artist.

Well, I took his advice to heart. When I went home, I bought my first computer. It was just a sad little used PC (dial-up...ugh! 32k. I used to keep a Rubik's Cube next to it, so I'd have something to do while I waited and waited for crap to load), but in 1996 it was the thing that got me off the ground. The name I picked for my AOL (haha!) screen name/email eventually became my business name; Merimask. I built a website. Because of that, I had to learn how to digitally photograph my artwork. I had to start taking credit card payments, so I incorporated as "Merimask Designs"...and it was off to the races.

In the midst of all this activity, I also found (to my joy, because I was so poor and isolated and lonely...) that the computer was great for social networking too. In an MST3K chatroom (remember those?) I met a really nice, funny, smart, nerdy guy who eventually became my husband. MST was the perfect dating tool; I already knew how smart he was, what his political preferences were, how well-read he was, and how nerdy (very important!). No way would I ever even consider dating a guy (much less marrying one) who couldn't quote Monty Python lines at will. A nerdgirl has to have standards...

So! Seventeen years later! Now, I'm international, baby. ;) I've done masks for Cirque Du Soleil and Japan's "Muscle Musical". I've been to Japan a few times...been on TV there as something of a celebrity. Been on TV here too; with Martha Stewart. And in just this last year alone, my masks have appeared in several music videos and commercials...all over the world.

I'm Global! And, in a way, I have MST3K to thank. It's "butterfly effect" stuff ( [link] ) but totally real nonetheless. A small change at one place in a nonlinear system can result in large differences to a later state. Who knows where I would be now, if not for MST3K and some kind advice from Trace?

Trace (and OMG Joel Hodgson too) is now involved with a wonderful evolution of the MST3K idea; Cinematic Titanic. ( [link] ) Next week, I'm going to see their live show in Hartford Connecticut, and I'll get a chance to thank Trace...again. So, I made this mask for him.

I called it "Robot Raven"...but his will be numbered #1 and subtitled "...Gold Like Crow". I kind of really hope he loves it. :)

I'm also stoked that I'll finally get to meet Joel! Been waiting for over twenty-some years!! No doubt I'll make something nice for him too, start shaking, blurt something really stupid, and not rectify the situation for another couple of decades. ;)

Such is life, when you are a nerdgirl.
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