Shop Design Tips

What’s the best way to design and lay out a store in the virtual world? One of my responsibilities in our virtual world is building most of the shops, so this is a topic always on my mind. In search of some fresh ideas, I recently visited the Hair Fair in Second Life. Although the hair creations showcased at the event are interesting, I am always more fascinated by the venue–the design of the sims and the individual shops.

I complain that I struggle with creativity, that I am more of an engineer than an architect. But instead of just whining about my deficits, I do my best to try to learn what I can about design, style and composition, so that I can become a better builder. For my own education, I photographed all 60 shops at the Hair Fair, and made notes about what I liked and didn’t like about each design. I was struck by how each tiny shop was uniquely and meticulously designed, and how lovely they all were.

I decided to share some of my observations here, for the benefit of my friends on Littlefield Grid. We are blessed on Littlefield Grid to have a lot of creative people, who generously share their creations with other members, so we have lots of shops. While there is nothing wrong with pasting vendor signs on the walls of a rectangular room, it can be fun to challenge yourself to think creatively, and come up with new and different ways to arrange a store. Please allow me to support you, by sharing some of my observations.

1. GET OFF THE WALL!

There is no law that says you have to paste vendor signs onto a wall. Sometimes someone will complain to me that they have used up all their wall space. While making a bigger store for them is not a problem, there are lots of other ways to use the space. Use the middle of the room!

This shop sported hotel lobby luggage carts:

HairFair_002

Here the signs were hung from the ceiling:

HairFair_038

Products and vendors can sit on various types of tables, shelves and racks. This also allows you to use the wall for other things, like windows, to enhance the appearance of your shop.

HairFair_011

HairFair_030

HairFair_029

HairFair_052

.

2. BREAK THE BOX!

Frank Lloyd Wright famously waged war against the tyranny of the “box.” When every room is a rectangle with corners, it gets pretty boring and can feel confining. Although the space assigned for your shop may be rectangular (as all these examples were), you can take steps to make the shape more interesting. When the corners disappear, the room feels more spacious.

These shops varied the shape of one end of the room, making it round instead of square.

HairFair_026

HairFair_018

Who says that the floor has to be flat? Or the walls or ceiling, for that matter?

HairFair_032

Here they made the corners vanish into darkness.

HairFair_010

This shop got rid of the corners… and the walls and the ceiling and the floor… leaving nothing but product.

HairFair_042

.

3. USE A MOTIF

You can make your shop more interesting with a theme or motif that reflects your style and the style of your products. Here are a few interesting ones I saw:

Parking Garage:

HairFair_006

Make the indoors outdoors – go to the beach:

HairFair_060

HairFair_023

.

4. FRAME WITH ALCOVES

If you have to use the wall, consider creating alcoves to frame your product.

HairFair_051

HairFair_047

HairFair_024

HairFair_020

Above all, make the experience of visiting your shop an interesting one for your guests. It’s a great way to make life more enjoyable in our virtual world. Your creations are and should be the center of attention. I hope this shows you some ways to make them stand out!

.

When dreams are more real than waking

We speak of “real life” in contrast to the virtual world, as if the physical world is more legitimate, more authentic. The virtual world is relegated to the status of playful fantasy. A dream.

When I entered the virtual world, I dreamed the person I wanted to be. I thought I was fantasizing. Some would say I was creating a character. That it was “playing.” I thought so too.

I immersed myself into the dream. It was rich with color and feeling, alive with relationships and possibilities.

The woman I dreamed was me inhabited a boundless world. There were no constraints on her. She could be anyone she wanted to be. She didn’t become anyone. She became someone. She blossomed, becoming an authentic individual with a unique personality and style. She was not a character. She was not a fantasy.

One day, I realized that this dream person is the real me.

The physical world that my flesh and blood body inhabits is confining. I am trapped inside walls of limitation. Not only physically, but in terms of just being who I am. I have never been able to be myself in the so-called “real” world. But I didn’t even know it, until I had the opportunity to dream myself into existence in the virtual world.

There are still a few who choose to look through my virtual self, ignoring me as if I were not real, or just some kind of placeholder, or at best, dismissing me as a fantasy character. They consider my physical self to be the “real” me.

That makes me sad. Because those people have chosen to limit me. They have chosen not to see the real me.

Dream the real world with me.

to dream

The appearance of niceness

Back in the 1990’s, when it was still new to many people, my work involved conducting workshops about online communication. Twenty years later, most of what I taught then is common knowledge. But there are still a few points that might usefully be revisited.

One principle is that “silence cannot be interpreted.” When we are missing information, often our imaginations fill in the blanks with our fears and suspicions. Alternatively, our imaginations might fill in the blanks by creating a fantasy of that which we wish were true. Neither tendency is reliable. Without solid clues, you can’t know what is in those blanks.

Without the cues of body language, tone of voice, facial expression, and observing real-world actions, written communication leaves out a lot of information. People feel very deep emotions through the written word and very deep connections to other people. Thoughts put into writing can go very, very deep and be very expressive. But they are still only partial.

Imagine the phrase, “Thank you,” as said by the following:

  • Growled by a surly clerk at Motor Vehicles after stamping your paperwork
  • Squealed with glee by a child who just received a wished-for toy
  • Sneered with sarcasm by someone calling an insult to your attention
  • Whispered tearfully by your lover in an intimate moment

The words are the same, but the meaning behind them could not be more different in these situations. You discern the meaning—and the sincerity—not from the words, but from the non-verbal cues—cues we don’t always have available online. Without that information, our imaginations make assumptions that may or may not be correct.

Some of us compensate for this lack of information by trying to add expression to our words through emoticons, or just by writing more elaborately. That can be very helpful. Unfortunately, it can also be a trap. It’s helpful when you are communicating something genuine. It’s not so helpful when one is communicating something false.

From time to time, one will encounter a person, quite skilled in the use of language, who seems to be very friendly, courteous and kind. Sadly, based only on their words, we cannot know for sure if they are genuine. They might say to you:

  • [Name] smiles softly. “Thank you, my friend.”

At first glance, this seems to communicate warmth, and friendship. It might inspire trust. Alas, you cannot really know whether this person really is smiling softly, or if they are blank-faced, or yawning, or laughing derisively behind the screen. I hate this, because words like those above appeal to my own fantasies about warmth and kindness. I really want them to be true.

For my own self-protection, over the years I have learned not to form opinions about people online based on what they say, or how they say it. Instead, I form opinions based on what people do—how they treat people, the choices they make, the actions they take. I love words. But actions mean more.

I admit I am disappointed when I meet someone whose words project an image of kindness and nobility, but whose actions reveal them to be manipulative, self-serving and deceitful. I really want them to be that kind, warm person, and it is a big disappointment to learn otherwise.

It is far better to place my trust in someone whose real-life actions repeatedly demonstrate generosity, honesty, kindness and real caring.

Being “nice” is only a façade if it goes no deeper than words and expressions. Buying into the appearance of niceness is a great way to get hurt.

.

How to compliment a builder

I just learned that one of my projects, the Chinese Garden on Qoheleth, and its owner will be featured in a Second Life magazine. I call it a project, rather than a build, because although I designed the layout of the property and landscaping, I chinese gardendidn’t do the heavy lifting of actual building. The remarkable Chinese architecture on that project was the work of the fabulous Ryusho Ort. I just deployed it. Nonetheless people still think of me as the “creator” of the place, which is very flattering.

I am blessed that so many people take pleasure from things that I have built. It gives me pleasure to build them, so it’s good to know that I can share that good feeling with others.

From time to time, people will express their appreciation to me. Of course it always feels good to hear nice compliments. It’s also important to get feedback from the people who use the builds, so that I can continue to improve my skills and make even better and more enjoyable spaces. So I’m always grateful to hear from people.

But there is one compliment that gives me the most pleasure of all. It is Moon Gate frames the Tang Dynasty style mansion of the Chinese Scholar's Garden on Qoheleth in Second Lifenot “You are a wonderful builder, Camryn!” or any other compliment about me. As nice as it is for people to think so, that’s not what a builder like me longs to hear.

The best compliment may not even be expressed in words. It is shown in actions. The best compliment is when it’s clear that the build works, because people use it. People hang out there. People enjoy life there. They bring their friends, and tell people about the place. That’s when I know I did good.

When it is put into words, the best compliment is, “I love being there.”

The Chinese Garden gets many such compliments. People who do not know I created the place have said to me, “I love hanging out here,” and “it’s so peaceful.” A group of Chinese members did a photo shoot there. A magazine wants to write about it.

That’s what I like to hear.

Architecture and Personal Growth in Littlefield: How I Spent My First Year

One year ago, on April 6, 2013, Littlefield Grid was born.

With the birth of the grid, we embarked on an amazing adventure. In just one year, Littlefield Grid has attracted a wonderful, active community of over a thousand members. In our very first year we have become one of the most active and popular Opensimulator grids. We have a fabulously talented group of people making this grid what it is. It makes my head spin to realize how much has been accomplished already. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

For me the first year has been a frenzy of building: creating the spaces to be the theater for the friendships and relationships that are the lifeblood of our grid; making something out of nothing. The occasion of the first anniversary made me sit back for a moment and take stock.

I am impressed with how much the grid has grown. But I am also impressed with how much *I* have grown. At my advanced age (rapidly approaching a milestone) I have developed a completely new interest – architecture. This is all because of my Master, Walter Balazic, who encouraged me to build a very BIG thing: a reproduction of Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpiece, Fallingwater. I had never tried to build anything of that magnitude before, neither in size nor in significance. It was a daunting task. But he inspired me and encouraged me and before I knew it, not only had I built it, but I had won an award, built a whole city covering nine regions and immersed myself in learning several new styles of architecture. Imagine! Truly, one is never too old to grow.

We are just getting started. But I just want to take a moment to reflect on a few of the architectural projects I have completed for Littlefield Grid. This is basically the web version of my in-world exhibit for the Littlefield First Anniversary Expo.

 

PAINTED LADIES are American Victorian homes in the Queen Anne Revival style painted in three or more colors to enhance their architectural features. First used to describe San Francisco’s colorful Victorians, the term also refers to Queen Anne Revival homes in other American cities such as Cape May, New Jersey. Distinctive features of American Queen Anne Revival style include a wraparound front porch, a corner tower (often round), painted gables, spindles and balustrades, windows crowned with pediments or gables, bay windows, and combinations of patterned wood shingles in a fish scale design.

Littlefield Victorian Store, American Queen Anne Revival Style

My build: Littlefield Victorian Store

Famous RL Examples of “Painted Ladies“:

 

 Painted Ladies: American Queen Anne Revival Style houses in Haight Ashbury district, San Francisco  Carson Mansion, Eureka, Calif., American Queen Anne Revival Style

 

STREAMLINE MODERNE was a late type of Art Deco architecture and design that emerged in the 1930s, stripping Art Deco design of its ornament in favor of an aerodynamic expression of motion and speed. The style emphasized long, sleek profiles and rounded corners. Applied to everything from automobiles and trains to toasters and radios, the futuristically aerodynamic style of Streamlining was associated with prosperity and an exciting future.

Littlefield Adult Mall Store in Streamline Moderne Style by Camryn Darkstone

My build: Littlefield Adult Mall Store

Famous RL Examples of Streamline Moderne:

Pan-Pacific Auditorium, later used as design for Disneyland entrance Joseph Stalin Locomotive, example of Streamline Moderne

 

MINIMALISM is a trend in architecture in which unnecessary elements are removed to achieve serenity in design. Basic geometric elements of lines and planes are organized as simply as possible to define the space. Unnecessary interior walls are removed, creating open floor plans. Where walls are necessary, glass is used as much as possible to unite exterior and interior space. A single shape or the connection between two intersecting planes may be used as a design motif. Furnishings are often predominantly white, leading to the nickname ‘white chic.’

Architecture Exhibit, Littlefield Grid First Anniversary Expo: Minimalist Design

My build: Exhibit – One Year of Architecture in Littlefield Grid

Famous RL Examples of Minimalist Architecture:

Mies van der Rohe: Barcelona Pavilion: Minimalist Architecture Tadao Ando: Church on the Water: Minimalist Architecture

 

BRUTALIST architecture flourished from the 1950s to the mid-1970s. Examples are typically large buildings, massive in character, fortress-like, with a predominance of exposed concrete construction, used for its raw and unpretentious honesty to communicate strength and functionality.

Littlefield Engineering: Brutalist Architecture

My build: Littlefield Engineering

Famous RL Examples of Brutalist Architecture:

Boston City Hall: Brutalist Architecture Delft Technology University, the Netherlands

 

‘PARKITECTURE’ is the nickname for the style National Park Service Rustic that was employed in the National Parks of the U.S. to create visitor facilities without visually interrupting the natural or historic surroundings. The style matured in the 1930s with the construction of the luxurious Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite. To attract Eastern visitors to the National Parks of the ‘wild’ West, America’s railroads built grand hotels like the Ahwahnee, offering every amenity of the era, in the guise of a rustic mountain lodge.

Littlefield Conference Center: Parkitecture Style

My build: Littlefield BDSM Workshop Center

Famous RL Examples of Parkitecture:

Ahwahnee Hotel, Yosemite: National Park Service Rustic Grand Dining Room, Ahwahnee Hotel, Yosemite: National Park Service Rustic

 

Littlefield, grow old with me. The best is yet to be!

My Christmas Struggle

grumpy-cat-christmasI struggle a lot with Christmas.

Wait, let me rephrase that. Truthfully, I don’t struggle with Christmas at all. What I struggle with is fitting in during the holiday season.

Nearly everyone else observes Christmas in a completely different way from me. I have reasons for following a different path, but it’s very difficult to hold true to myself without offending the people around me. They tend to think that because I don’t do things their way, I must be criticizing them. I’m not, but their attitudes toward my customs range from indignation to puzzlement. Well, let me try to clear it up.

Up until about 25 years ago, Christmas had a very unpleasant stranglehold on me. Then one year, I finally broke free. At the time, my loved ones thought I’d lost my mind. I hadn’t, but I knew I would lose my mind for sure if I didn’t change my ways.

You see, my family, when I was growing up, was enslaved by a holiday defined by quantity and a drive to impress others with perfect decorations, food, presents and parties. My mother actually counted the number of gifts under our tree as a way of “rating” the quality of that year’s holiday. And it wasn’t only about gifts; to qualify for a “good” Christmas, our house had to be decorated better than any other house, inside and out, and we had to give “the” party of the season with the most impressive gourmet food and drinks. And of course we had to put on a good show, exhibiting “holiday cheer”—whether we felt it, or not.

From the outside it looked great; with decorations, parties and gifts my mother certainly knew how to “impress with excess.” But in the frantic rush to do everything, perform perfectly and be artificially happy, everyone got far too stressed, and made each other thoroughly miserable.

When I became a young adult, not knowing any better I began to duplicate that craziness. I, too, made myself crazy trying to give outrageous gifts and do everything perfectly for the holiday. I didn’t have financial resources like my parents so I tended to spend a lot more money than I should have. As things in my life started going sideways, the stress of trying to be perfect, and exhibit holiday cheer when I felt none became a bigger and bigger burden. Finally, in one particularly depressed year, I couldn’t face it, and I said: no more.

I knew that I had to change. I just wasn’t sure how to do it. My head was swimming, trying to grasp the difference between trying to impress someone, and trying to please them. My mother’s methods had always seemed a little aggressive to me, as if gift-giving were a contest that she was trying to win. It seemed less about pleasing the recipient and more about showing off how much money she had. I knew that was not the way I wanted to keep Christmas. I had to replace that competitive attitude with something more meaningful. I just didn’t know what that was.

The only thing I could think of was to start totally fresh, with a blank slate.

I declared a moratorium. I announced that I would accept no gifts, nor would I be giving any. That year I did not decorate, or prepare any special treats. I had no Christmas tree, did no shopping, and listened to no Christmas music. I rejected all offers of Christmas dinners, parties and other gatherings. It was a truly minimalist Christmas.

christmas-night-skyMy only acknowledgement of that season was going to church on Christmas Eve, alone, in a small church nearby. I didn’t speak to anyone after the midnight service. I slipped out the back, and set out alone to walk the few blocks home. I remember feeling so light, and peaceful. It was a beautiful night, crisp and clear; it needed no artificial decorations to make it beautiful. The sky was deep black, studded with diamond stars, stretching to eternity, more stunning than any Christmas tree. It was still, and quiet. Quiet enough, finally, for me to hear what I needed to hear, without the noise of all that pointless activity. In that silence I felt like an enormous weight had been lifted and I breathed freely of the cold night air, feeling at peace for the first time in a long time.

Wrapped in that crisp, bright darkness, gazing up at the infinite night sky, I suddenly comprehended what it meant for eternity to enter into time. In one blazing flash of insight, I realized that Christmas is about one thing. To immerse myself in that one thing is all that I need. Anything that flows from and serves that one thing is good. Everything else is a distraction.

And at that moment, I realized that I was free.

Since that cold dark night 25 years ago I have settled into my own lovely, small Christmas celebration. Others are welcome to do as they wish, but I know what works for me. I ignore most elements of commercial and secular Christmas, not because there is anything wrong with them, but because I find them irrelevant. I have come to understand what is important for me, and I focus on those things.

Gift giving, for me, now, is not a way to impress, but a way to honor the gift that originated this holiday. I exchange modest gifts with a handful of loved ones, as I am able, not out of any sense of obligation, but because I enjoy pleasing them. My loved ones mostly feel the same, and I am always genuinely pleased by them, too.

I do not decorate. I have no use for Santa, elves, reindeer, or anything else commercial. I don’t object to them, but they are meaningless to me, and certainly not worth expending any money, time, attention or effort. For me, they have nothing to do with the one thing that gives Christmas meaning.

I keep a few quiet traditions that are deeply meaningful to me, but they are private, and ancient, and intimate, and since most people would not understand them, I tend to keep them to myself. I don’t need anyone else to understand them, and I feel no need to convert anyone else to my way of observing the holiday. I do what I do because it’s right for me.

People with families have different priorities, of course, but I feel no pressure to participate in holiday gatherings just because it is Christmas. I treasure time with my loved ones all year long, but I am perfectly comfortable with solitude. In fact, my most intimate Christmas ritual is spent alone, at home, on Christmas Eve morning, listening to a famous radio broadcast. I say alone, but I am not alone. I join an invisible audience of 200 million people who, like me, are in front of radios and computers all over the world, listening to the same broadcast at the same time. Even though I can’t see them, I know we are all attuned to the same thing. I immerse myself in the beauty of that one thing, and I wait to bow my head humbly, honoring that moment when the eternal and the now became one.

That is my Christmas.

I don’t expect anyone to understand it, and certainly don’t expect anyone to change how they celebrate the holiday. Others will find meaning in other ways. But hopefully they will understand that I am not judging or criticizing. I am simply honoring what is meaningful to me.

As the commercial holiday season gets underway, I wish everyone happiness, and joy, and peace.

Virtual Thanksgiving

As a solitary person with no “real-world” relatives, my observance of Thanksgiving differs from most. I have RL friends who are as family to me, but for the past several years circumstances have prevented us from celebrating holidays together. Since coming to the virtual world in 2006, my Thanksgiving has been almost entirely virtual.

In the early years, I sat down for a virtual dinner with one or two friends.

Image

Thanksgiving 2009

Then after Master took me as his, we had very lovely Thanksgiving dinners in our home in Second Life.

Image

You may think a virtual feast is easy, but I worked hard cooking the meal!

Image

Today in Littlefield Grid, our “family” has widened to include everyone on the grid. We have a table set up at Stonehaven and some folks dropped by to share good conversation and friendship.

Image

Apparently the virtual meal is still quite satisfying!

Image

I am so grateful for all the fabulous people I have known in the virtual world. Thank you, each and every one of you, for the beauty and joy and fun you have brought into my life. And thank you, Master, for loving me–it is what makes everything possible.

.