We celebrated the end to 2012 with a vengeance. There was not one person in the shop who wasn’t happy to see that calendar turn over. With the year behind us, we looked to a much calmer 2013. We didn’t book nearly as many events, and we all made plans to see our families. But we set out at the very beginning of the year with focus: recover, rebuild and reorganize. In January of 2013, we filmed an episode of Oddities, and worked on getting the shop in order. We focused most of the early parts of
2013 on melding into New Orleans. We organized a Mardi Gras parade krewe for the St. Anne Parade. We got to know the people in our neighborhood and the Quarter, and we focused on shoring up our personal lives. We did book some new conventions and ventured into Ohio as well as returning to Arizona for Wild Wild West Con. We made an effort to reach out to other performance art troupes, makers and steampunk artists. We got to know the steampunks in our city. We coordinated a stop of the Steam tour that featured The Cog is Dead, Frenchy and the Punk and This Way to the Egress in New Orleans, and brought in our old friends Marquis of Vaudeville for good measure. And for the first time since the start of ASI, we slowed down. We settled in, and we started carefully moving forward. When our lease was up in May, we found a more suitable and stable base of operations in uptown, and in June opened the doors to an actual brick and mortar store on Lyons St. In August, we met with Kinematic Entertainment out of Pensacola, Florida and contracted for a gig as the wardrobe department for a music video for the metal band, Mind Cage, which was released at Prog Power USA in September. We were approached by a lovely couple for an international art festival in Fort Payne, Alabama, Boom Days, and decided to give that a shot as well. We were also featured in The Anatomy of Steampunk by Katherine Gleason.
In October, Zombie and Lulu relocated to New Orleans and became full time shop members, and we were finally able to operate with an in house art department. With their addition, we were able to provide on the spot concept art, started work on developing a coming and with two more leather workers in the shop, greatly increased both our production rates and reduced our turnover time. We were promoted from vendor to coordinator of the White Court for the Endless Night Ball. Cedric became more involved in the Sabertooth Clan in the Vampire community, and he was granted permission to produce
merchandise with the Sanguinarium Ankh. By the time Dickens rolled around in December, the pains we experienced during the previous year were a distant memory, and everyone was refreshed and ready to once again pick up the pace.
Which brings us to this last year. 2014. Where as 2013 was calm and steady, 2014 was a strong wind in a sometimes stormy sea. We relentlessly pushed forward and the year didn’t have the normal lulls and breaks we were accustomed to. There was no more than a few days pause until the week before Christmas, and that pause was a decision to rest on the part of the group. As I sit here and try to think about what happened over the last year, I, once again, find it hard to recall. The Oddities episode we filmed aired in January. It had been so long since we filmed that we were all terrified because no one could remember what we had said or done. In the end, we were really happy with the results.
We traveled from Florida to Tuscon to Ohio and made lots of stops in between. We once again started embracing the idea of convention runs, but none of them more than 5 weeks at a time. Sales picked up significantly, and much of our time in the last year has been, well, working! We developed a returning client base. While many of us might have been hesitant at the idea of becoming more involved in the Vampire community, by early 2014, we had all gotten past that and embraced the idea, and a lot of our time, energies and some of our biggest projects were with them. For the first time since 2010, we took on new prospects, not to replace members, but because there was need and room for growth. Projects that were put on the back burner in 2010 have resurfaced and are coming to life. The comic series was introduced, and I couldn’t be happier
with what Zombie, Lulu and Becca have done. We started hosting socials in the Quarter for the dark subcultures and in the process made many new friends. There has been more, but as strange as it is to say, a lot of what we’ve been working on, I can’t even acknowledge exists. All I can say is, we’ve been busy. But in the midst of what was easily the heaviest workload we’ve seen to date, we managed to find our way back out into the world. Not as steampunks or even as vampires, but as people.
We rounded out our calendar with regular plain clothes outings and for the first time since the inception of ASI started doing things that really didn’t have any connection to our job except for the people. Somewhere in 2014 we started finding a balance. While work was strong and steady and often chaoticly busy, we still managed to make time to escape the shop on occasion if only to walk a few blocks for a few hours. Thank you, Suzo, for finally convincing us that maybe some time in the outside world would be good for us. It was and is.
Early on when Zombie and Lulu first moved in, strange and unpredictable things would happen. They happened before they moved in, but we just didn’t notice until Zombie started pointing it out. He would burst out laughing and scream…”This doesn’t happen to real people!” After countless times of this happening, we finally responded with “Well, then we’re not real people! Because it happens to us all the time!” Most of the time, it’s funny or really great things, and occasionally it’s on the level of bad that makes you cry. But we have been doing this for long enough now that it’s hard to remember what the real world is like. To realize that what we see as everyday occurrences are really unusual to a lot of people, and even to our own crew mates who don’t deal with the shear amount of crazy that seems to be bound to this journey. And in 2014, we were given the opportunity to see just how far we’ve come through the eyes of people who haven’t been sailing for 5 years. It’s easy to forget the back porch of the Lake house, the Ike shack and even Celina in the steady march forward. It’s even easier to forget the secretary and the fire fighter. But it’s good to look back at that desperate family with an old box of leather and turn around to a world, while far from perfect, which is so much richer than the world we left behind.