Mardi Gras Madness Begins

In my hometown of St. Louis, we have the second largest Mardi Gras celebration in the US. Right now, the costume shop that is my “day” job, is hopping with customers ploughing through beads, masks, and decor.

I’ll be attending at least one parade, the Beggin’ Strips Pet Parade this Sunday, as long as the weather holds out. There’s also a Weiner Dog Derby race and band/party afterwards.

And I’ve added some great pieces (including the mask below) and a SALE in the Etsy store to perhaps help you celebrate. Use code LUVMASKS25 to get 25% off through 2/13 to celebrate both Valentine’s and Mardi Gras. The store link is here:

Haute Hen

So I created a new mask with some steampunk syle:

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I started with a basic plastic form (to keep the mask light weight) and painted it with copper and gold paint to give it a metallic feel.

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I added lace and my own scroll design which was hand cut before adding to the ears. I then added hand painted roses, embroidery, ribbon and gears for additional steam style.

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I was really pleased with the results and shot the pics for the store yesterday. Lipstick via Clinique, Shadows via Avon, Ben Nye.

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More goodies coming to the store soon. Thank you as always for reading!
Victoria

______________

-A new photo/comic book/essay “The Heroine” is coming soon to Amazon/Kindle.

-THE LADY HAS ARRIVED AT HER DESTINATION-“Strax and the Widow” is an ebook on Amazon/Kindle. Please take a peek, enjoy and review on amazon and goodreads! The sequel, “Revenge and Machinery” is coming soon!

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Day of the Dead 2014

It’s been an insanely busy Halloween season. I managed to squeeze in some new creations, all with a Day of the Dead/Halloween theme. My last creation first, a Dead of the Dead, Mardi Gras bunny mask, now available in TheHauteHen Etsy store.

I built this on a pre-existing black mask, a template I have used before in “The Heroine” series.

DOD Bunny 6

After hot glue, some embroidered trim and roses, I got the result I wanted. A sassy bunny mask that’s perfect for any costume occasion.

DOD Bunny 3DOD Bunny 4DOD Bunny 5

Add a little makeup…

DOD Bunny 7

And let the photo fun begin…

DOD Bunny 1DOD Bunny 2DOD Bunny 8DOD Bunny 9

Then on to business…I had a great buyer in my Etsy store who bought my Day of the Dead Groom Hat with a few modifications…

Groom 7 Groom 8

And then she commissioned a voodoo belt for her husband, which was really fun to put together. I sent her a sketch, bought some neat pieces including a beaver skull from the Etsy store (and friend) Guiditta Testa.

Voodoo 1A Voodoo 1B Voodoo 2 Voodoo 3 Voodoo 4 Voodoo 5 Voodoo 5A Voodoo 5AA Voodoo 5B Voodoo 5BB Voodoo 5C Voodoo 6

And Elizabeth Rios and her husband looked fabulous in their creations!

Rios 1 Rios 2 Rios 3

So much more happened last month, but that is for the next blog. Thank you for reading!

Victoria

And then some style. Day of the Dead Indeed

And then some style. Day of the Dead Indeed

Will has returned in v.9 of The Vampire’s Little Black Book series, “Svetlana Red and the Chevaliers” on amazon/kindle. Volumes 1-8 are also available on amazon/kindle. They are always FREE if you have Kindle Unlimited!

-A new photo/comic book/essay “The Heroine” is coming soon to Amazon/Kindle.

-THE LADY HAS ARRIVED AT HER DESTINATION-“Strax and the Widow” is an ebook on Amazon/Kindle. Please take a peek, enjoy and review on amazon and goodreads!

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-Like on Facebook-The Countess, Official Fanpage of Victoria L. Szulc

-Follow on Twitter-@TheCountessSP

-On Pinterest-Victoria Szulc (nee Schultz)

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-Fine Art America-store coming soon

Random Thoughts on Being Sick

This is a short one and not what I expected to blog for October. My car got broken into about a week ago, but they stole nothing, just busted a lock. I’ve been working like crazy. Hopefully the next blog will be filled with Halloween and costume happiness. Meanwhile, enjoy these random thoughts on being sick:

-I absolutely hate being sick. Period.

-I have now returned to my classic pre-summer vampire white skin.

-Of course we have two of the most wonderful Fall days in St. Louis. The Cardinals lost in the playoffs, but the Rams and Blues won this weekend. Yet I am stuck on the couch or in bed.

-Why does everything look so good on tv, yet I have no appetite?

-I wanted to at least severely reprimand the guy (an adult mind you) that picked his nose in the fitting room line. OK, I wanted to kill him, but I can’t afford to go to jail.

-The part I hate most about going to the doctor (besides cost, I don’t have health insurance), explaining my low body temp. Today at Urgent Care I checked in at a comfortable 97.7. Yep. I feel like dirt and have the temperature of a reptile that runs through it. But my neck is swollen like a chipmunk. I’ve had strep and the flu and not run a fever. OK, at least my blood pressure was awesome.

-This time it hit pretty fast. Went from a slight headache Friday afternoon, to not sleeping that night because I felt like I’d gargled with razor blades.

-Sleep is my friend at last. When I did finally fall asleep on Sat. morning I had to text in sick to work. Got some OTC meds and gatorade and went back to bed. Watched some tv and did a little work on my costume. Took another nap. More tv. Bed early. Slept ten hours. Text in sick again. Urgent Care and pharmacy about 3.5 hours. Home and another nap. As of 3:30pm today, I’ve slept almost twenty-four hours. Sad to see most of my waking hours were at the doc’s office or getting meds.

-Surreal sick moment of the day, got my windows open and wake up from nap to people yelling and stuff. Turn on the tv to see that the Rams won. Lookout to notice the happy traffic of fans and the leaves changing color on the Arch grounds. Another beautiful day wasted. Cursed flu, but at least it’s a pretty day.

-The Countess is having tea and a bit of a lie down as they say in the UK. Stupid f’n virus, as we say in the US.

OK, will stop groaning now. What’s coming up?

Will the vampire returns soon in v.9 of The Vampire’s Little Black Book Series, “Svetlana Red and the Chevaliers”. Since I really don’t feel like doing anything else, I will be writing a bit later on. Keep a watch on my social media links for its release.

Stay healthy my friends, and thanks, as always, for reading,

Victoria

___________

Will returns soon in v.9 of The Vampire’s Little Black Book series, “Svetlana Red and the Chevaliers” on amazon/kindle. The latest “The Vampire’s Little Black Book” series volume 8, “Everyone Looks Better Undead” by Victoria L. Szulc and volumes 1-7 are also available on amazon/kindle. They are FREE if you have Kindle Unlimited!

Product Details

-A new photo/comic book/essay “The Heroine” is coming soon to Amazon/Kindle.

-THE LADY HAS ARRIVED AT HER DESTINATION-“Strax and the Widow” is an ebook on Amazon/Kindle. Please take a peek, enjoy and review on amazon and goodreads!

Image

-Like on Facebook-The Countess, Official Fanpage of Victoria L. Szulc

-Follow on Twitter-@TheCountessSP

-On Pinterest-Victoria Szulc (nee Schultz)

-Etsy-TheHauteHen

-Instagram-Steampunkcountess

-Tumblr-thesteampunkcountess

-Fine Art America-stores coming soon

Hats Off for Dia de los Muertos!

As Halloween approaches, I wanted to do a little more Dia de los Muertos style and autumnal hats. This blog celebrates those who have left us with some Day of the Dead creativity done in photo essay style. The hats and many other unique items are in my Etsy store, https://www.etsy.com/shop/TheHauteHen  Please enjoy!

First off, a simple sun hat for fall festivals and wineries….

Autumn Hat 6 Autumn Hat 3 Autumn Hat 1

Next up, a classic Day of the Dead Katrina Veil. I decided to go with traditional “less perfect” sugar skull makeup for this shoot and focus on the hats.

DOD Veil 1 DOD Veil 2 DOD Veil 3 DOD Veil 4 DOD Veil 5 Veil Full

Then a beautiful bride’s top hat, complete with a long veil and light up sugar skull!

IBride Etsy 1 Bride Etsy 2 Bride Etsy 3 Bride Etsy 4 Bride Etsy 5 R Bride 1 R Bride 2 R Bride 4 R Bride 7 R Bride 9

Finally, the Groom’s hat, a sweet little topper, also with a light up sugar skull on top!

Groom Etsy 1 Groom Etsy 2 Groom Etsy 3 Groom Etsy 4 Groom R 1 Groom R 2 Groom R 3 Groom R 4 Groom R 5

Thank you for this quick little visual foray into the Day of the Dead. Thank you for reading.

Victoria

________________

Will returns soon in v.9 of The Vampire’s Little Black Book series, “Svetlana Red” on amazon/kindle. The latest “The Vampire’s Little Black Book” series volume 8, “Everyone Looks Better Undead” by Victoria L. Szulc and volumes 1-7 are also available on amazon/kindle. They are FREE if you have Kindle Unlimited!

Product Details

-A new photo/comic book/essay “The Heroine” is coming soon to Amazon/Kindle.

-THE LADY HAS ARRIVED AT HER DESTINATION-“Strax and the Widow” is an ebook on Amazon/Kindle. Please take a peek, enjoy and review on amazon and goodreads!

Image

-Like on Facebook-The Countess, Official Fanpage of Victoria L. Szulc

-Follow on Twitter-@TheCountessSP

-On Pinterest-Victoria Szulc (nee Schultz)

-Etsy-TheHauteHen

-Instagram-Steampunkcountess

-Tumblr-thesteampunkcountess

-Fine Art America-stores coming soon

Happy Birthday to mysteampunkproject.wordpress.com

It’s been two years ago this month that I started this blog. I can’t believe that much time has passed already. My adventure into steampunk as an art form has been creative, stimulating, educational, fun, but most of all, satisfying. If you want to read any of my blogs, there all here. But if you only have time for one, let it be this because there is such a spectacular array of neat things here.

I’ve welcomed you into this process and I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride so far. I’ve had my share of ups and downs, creative explosions and delays. Personal and professional challenges have arisen, sometimes seemingly out of nowhere. If you’re new to blog, please take a gander at my previous entries. It was one year ago this week that I had a major surgery that truly changed my life.  I am grateful to be alive. And yep, I blogged about it (see How to Turn a Herniated Umbilical into Vampire Material).

I’m keeping this entry short. I’m going to share a few of my favorite pics and give an update on Strax and the Widow. Strax will be digitally published next month. I’ve jumped some incredible hurdles to finally get it into print. But I don’t regret a single minute of the work. It has been pure pleasure. Thank you to my beta readers, editor and designer. I can not wait to unleash Kate Church on the world. Please watch my social media links below for a definite release date and enjoy some of my most popular works.

As I selected the pics below, I realize how far I’ve come as a maker, creator and chameleon. I did all the make up, modelling and costuming for the pics below unless credited otherwise. Enjoy! And thank you for reading.

Steam WhiteSPCountess  (480x640)My first and favorite hat, not for sale.

DerbyBrown SuedeBlue

Yes, I love hats. I hope you do too because….

Fire Feather Hat 1Another favorite hat. But it’s for sale in my Etsy store.

CH8The Clockwork Hat, also available in my Etsy store.

Dual key hole necklace.

Dual key hole necklace.

 Some unique and gorgeous jewelry.

I’ve definitely had some fun with horror and cosplay as well:

Cover of Everyone Looks Better Undead.

Cover of Everyone Looks Better Undead.

 

And then some style. Day of the Dead Indeed

And then some style. Day of the Dead Indeed

Cover shot for "Can You Hear My Heart Beating?"

Cover shot for “Can You Hear My Heart Beating?”

 

Iconic image of how a hero "should" be.

Iconic image of how a hero “should” be.

A bit pensive.One of my fabulous hats and my favorite steam wig.

Some steam influence on two large public art projects, The Harry and Hanley Project (“The Clockwork Cat”) and stl250 Cakeway to the West (“The Spirit of St. Louis”).

Clockwork A3Cake 32

GM 1

A little mystery here.

 I’ve gone on some fun adventures:

Compton Heights Water Tower and the Gypsy Caravan.

Compton Heights Water Tower and the Gypsy Caravan.

Autumn In Lafayette Park. Photography John Moore.

Autumn In Lafayette Park. Photography John Moore.

The Countess Awaits on the Bridge. Photography John Moore.

The Countess Awaits on the Bridge. Photography John Moore.

Under the Bridge. Photography, John Moore

Under the Bridge. Photography, John Moore

Comic Con STL 2014

Comic Con STL 2014

 

PL12Best house tour ever, from Lafayette Square earlier this summer.

And so much more to come, thank you for reading,

-Victoria

The latest “The Vampire’s Little Black Book” series volume 8, “Everyone Looks Better Undead” by Victoria L. Szulc is available on amazon/kindle.

Product Details

-A new photo/comic book/essay “The Heroine” is coming soon to Amazon/Kindle.

-“Strax and the Widow” will debut this summer on Amazon/Kindle.

Image

 

-Like on Facebook-The Countess, Official Fanpage of Victoria L. Szulc

-Follow on Twitter-@TheCountessSP

-On Pinterest-Victoria Szulc (nee Schultz)

-Etsy-TheHauteHen

-Instagram-Steampunkcountess

-Tumblr-thesteampunkcountess

-CafePress and Fine Art America-stores coming soon

 

 

Everyone Looks Better, I Wish

In the latest “Vampire’s Little Black Book” series, Will, the main character, jokes that “everyone looks better undead”. That phrase became the title of my new short story in which Will assists a newly changed Lycan. The good looks of the freshly turned male model do not go unnoticed by Will’s vamp cohort, Anna. In their world, the transformation to undead life is a ticket to not only eternity, but increased beauty as well.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be bitten just once and have all your perfections gone? But we don’t always have that option, unless you can afford a pro makeup artist or some pricey surgery. So what do you do when treatments and regular beauty days are out of your reach?

The answer is a choice, but you might not like either answer: accept what you see in the mirror, or do what is necessary to change it.

Recently I had one of those cringe inducing experiences that made me even more aware of our vanity or on a more basic level, the need to be accepted. This is a bit more personal, but please, hang with me for a while here.

A group of people came into the retail store where I work to try on some costumes. One young woman had picked out several pieces that were junior sizes and one plus size. These were the kind of costumes that basically fit a stick. She however, was a bit more than a curvy girl, so to speak. Now, I don’t judge. I am not a thin woman. In fact, my weight has gone up and down over the last twenty five years. I’ve gone from being super fit to borderline morbidly obese and back again. People will judge you no matter how you look. I learned to get over it. So I handed her the selections with a kind smile and tried not to worry.

She first tried on a deluxe princess costume that retails at over $225. I was respectful, didn’t say anything, until she complained loudly to her friends that not only was the costume it too tight, but she couldn’t figure out how to get it on.

I gently suggested that she try something else; that the brand of designs she had chosen were cut very small, which is absolutely true. I would not sell one of these garments to just make a sale to someone it didn’t fit. I just prayed she didn’t ruin the piece.

When the second small cut costume didn’t fit, I offered up the plus sized costume. I honestly don’t know if it would’ve fit her, because she didn’t try. Instead she left the fitting room without a word.

Please note: in no way did I bully this young woman. I didn’t use the word fat, which would’ve made me a hypocrite. I tried to be as kind as possible when suggesting she find a plus size, I didn’t raise my voice and I didn’t harass her. When she left the fitting room, I instantly knew that there would be trouble even though I was only doing my job. Sure enough, the next day, one of the guys that had been with her, called the company to complain for her and of course I had to listen to a small reprimand from a manager. His calling immediately told me that this woman was feeling badly enough that she was too embarrassed to do it for herself. Fortunately the manager understood my predicament and nothing further was said.

At first I questioned whether I’d done the correct thing. I’m an adult; I don’t feel the need to torture anyone on purpose. But after a few moments I realized I can’t fix how she felt about herself OR how she felt others perceived her. This brings me back to the choices we have to make in regard to how we feel about our looks and how we handle others reactions.

I wish the world was a more loving, thoughtful place. And having been in her shoes, I know how it feels to not have your pants zip up without a muffin top spilling over or maybe not go up at all. To have other people stare at you because of your size. But in this world of unrelenting wild opinions from a 24 hour cycle of endless forms of media, it can be a challenge to filter out a genuine honest opinion from the “someone” who has out for you. Or even worse, there’s the trolls who just want to start a war because they just feel like commencing a landslide of unhappiness. And more than likely, they blister others because they don’t like themselves.

I wanted to tell this young woman to learn to love herself, grow a thicker skin, and own it or change. The options aren’t easy. Anyone who has been a minority, has had gender/sexual orientation issues, been disabled or is in any way different from the “norm”, has been down one of these well-worn roads.

If you can like who you are, “forget the haters, cause only God can judge us” as Miley sings, you will be rewarded with unyielding confidence. Some will stare. Dare to smile back at them. People will say rude things; they don’t know you. Ignore their comments and only let positivity into your wonderful brain. Happiness is your best defense. Find others like you. There is empathy and strength in numbers. It won’t be easy, but with time and practice people will see your beautiful soul and not the shell of a body that carries it. Recognize constructive criticism. This is a dodgy one. Someone could be looking at your chest because you spilled a few bits of your lunch on it. Your fly could be down. A dress might be way too tight for the office. When someone corrects you in these kinds of situations, be grateful. The suggestions probably come from someone who genuinely cares.

Or you can change. But if you decide to go that route, do it for yourself. Don’t do it to attract someone you have a crush on. You’ve invested in yourself. Don’t blow it on anyone that’ll waste your time. This choice could be hard too. You might spend hours working out and dieting to get thin. You might get surgery that could be painful or have a long recovery time. You might have to save money and work two jobs to get a procedure done. People might try to talk you out of it; they may have liked the old you for nefarious reasons. And once you’ve reached your goal, whether you get a nose job, lose fifty pounds, or get breast implants, you’ll need to adjust to the attention. Some may not recognize you. You might be invited into groups that really aren’t that cool after all. Just know to be true to what you want to be, don’t continue to be swayed by others. They’ll just find something or someone else to pick on.

There is actually a third choice available, the worst one, which is to do nothing. Yep, to have no desire to accept who you are and/or don’t choose to change your “in the now” to a pleasurable place to be. Keep in that negative frame of mind and your life will be hell.  You’ll draw fake friends, users, abusers and the like. This small incident really got me thinking and of course creating. The next day, I did a whole series of masks with a variety of different emotions behind them. I’ll debut them with another blog shortly, but here’s a sample to hold you until then.

Iconic image of how a hero "should" be.

Iconic image of how a hero “should” be.

But for now, life is what you make it; it’s too damn short to be unhappy. It is not wrong to like yourself. You will be a better human being because of it. I do a lot of costuming, and cosplay, then share with anyone who’ll look or listen. I don’t see it as vanity. I make art, throw it on me, photograph it and in the process create more art. I’ve used self-portraits for the covers of my books. In the last couple years in working on mysteampunkproject.wordpress.com, it’s been a great adventure. I actually forget the negative parts of me. The true beautiful soul rises to the surface.

I wanted to tell that young woman in the fitting room to come back, try on another item that fits her size and wear it proudly. I hope she gives herself another chance at acceptance, to stand strong and be herself. Spread your wings and fly darling. I hope we all do.

Thank you most kindly for reading,

-Victoria

The latest “The Vampire’s Little Black Book” series volume 8, “Everyone Looks Better Undead” by Victoria L. Szulc is now available on amazon/kindle.

Product Details

Like on Facebook-The Countess, Official Fanpage of Victoria L. Szulc

Follow on Twitter-@TheCountessSP

Etsy-TheHauteHen

Vanity Thy Name Is a Hat

I love hats, always have. Yesterday was National Hat Day in the U.S. I found out a bit too late about this special day to post this blog in time.  But I wanted to put it out to celebrate what the French call the chapeau and share how my collection has expanded to some fun Steampunk items.

I have a hat collection. It’s much reduced from the one I had over fifteen years ago, although I have started restocking. I’ve sold some at flea markets and others became just too beat up to even attempt repairs. My Cardinals baseball collection is embarrassingly massive, from the good old fashioned red and STL logo white to an odd space like silver (yes silver). Then to the others: top hats, fedoras, flat brimmed Andalusian’s (one is black like Zorro wore), cowboy hats and church lady like bonnets.  I like a wide range of fabrics: straw, wired lace, wool and satins. I definitely have a few favorites including my Indiana Jones “official” reproduction.

IndyBlueBrown Suede

I love to add to preexisting hats to make them more interesting or to celebrate a special occasion, like the ones here to celebrate the Kentucky Derby.

Derby

Horse Head Hat

The “horse head” paper-mache won a Derby Hat contest.

My latest work was part of last year’s Halloween Steampunk creation. I started with a basic black coachman’s satin top hat and added fabric, ribbons, lights, feathers and goggles to create what has become one of my favorites.  Enter vanity.

I liked it so much that I spent about an hour photographing it with my iPhone 4S. On Halloween, I must confess that I basked in a few compliments. I hope to be able to wear it again soon. But until then, enjoy the photos and please pardon my vanity.

SPSteam WhiteCountess  (480x640)