Oct 27, 2014

His name was James "Jake" Kenneth Bush

In 1997, the summer before my senior year of high school, one of my best friends was killed when he walked into his home in the middle of a burglary.  There were no suspects and the pain and memories began to fade.

Then a month before my burn this year, an arrest was made.

Needless to say I had business to conduct at the temple.

How I made my insect headdress - and it's VEGAN

Turns out Denver has a rather kickin Burner community, and aside from Decompression (and Apogaea) my favorite local events have got to be parties thrown by The Fantastic Hosts. The crowd is a bit more "grown up" and dressy than your typical EDM fans.  Their Halloween party this year is called The Ugly Bug Ball with some Día de Muertos thrown in.   Heaven forbid a Burner party have a simple theme.  (BTW, the Denver Decompression theme this year was Steampunk Gypsy Oasis, which I suspect may have started as a joke and just ended up with the most votes.)

For those who don't know me, I only make vegan headdresses.  I eat meat, I just like the challenge of working without feathers.  Plus with feathers it's too easy to end up with something that borders on cultural appropriation.  

Ok but on to my headdress for The Ugly Bug Ball next weekend.  I started with a fedora for the base frame.  I cut off the brim and a bit of the forehead, and added a strap that goes around the back of my head.  I took some half spheres of craft foam, spray painted them black (with foam-safe paint) and then hand glued on hundreds of glass beads to create that insect compound-eye look. That's a wooden embroidery hoop glued on top to act as a rigid frame which I glued things to in the coming steps.


I spent several weeks visiting all the craft stores in my area looking for fun abstract silk floral items, trim, beadwork etc in my black/silver color scheme.  FYI it's really effing hard to find fake flowers in the color black.  I saved all the receipts since I'm never sure what I'm going to actually use.  After the headdress was done I ended up returning about a hundred dollars in unused materials. 

First go on the eyeballs and antenna, then I experimented with some different configurations for what to do next. 

I loved some black super realistic looking orchids I found at Michael's but they were just too large and not "buggy" enough to be included in the final headdress. 

And the finished product!

Yes the silver glittery things are super-moopy so I DRENCHED them in clear gloss acrylic to lock that stuff in.

I'd like to add that I'm a huge fan of the work of Caley Johnson, aka Miss G Designs.  If making a headdress isn't your thing and you want to support an amazing craftsperson please consider giving her your business. 

Jul 11, 2014

Apogaea - A Whole new shade structure and new adventure

It came to my attention from a friend (in The Org's accounting dept I chat with on twitter) that people researching geodesic domes stumble upon my site still.  So I figure why not post an update.  Here's what I've been up to.

I recently sold my 1V starplate dome to an Aussie coming for his first burn next month. What replaced it I'll get to shortly.

I've cut back on my gay activism greatly.  When I was 18 I went through pray-away-the-gay therapy and have spent much of the last ten years speaking out against it.  Here I am doing an interview with Stephen Fry a few years back for his 2-part documentary series Out There

"Ex-gay survivor" activism is important work but I can only re-live a painful part of my past for so long before it begins to wear on me.  During the course of my activism I also put my photo and video skills to use and developed them greatly. 

Ergo, I have recently pivoted and took a position with the photography department of my local burn, Apogaea. I started out as a basic volunteer but after the photo lead turned out to be MIA the board promoted me, an Apo-virgin, to photo lead. 

This year I bought a Honda Civic which is NOT the best car for loading up with gear -- hell it doesn't even have a roof rack.  So in the spirit of radical self reliance I set out to design a shade structure that would fit in the truck of my Civic, meaning every piece had to be less than 5 ft long.  

My first step was developing a tower element that was strong, lightweight, and could break down into pieces less than 5 ft long. Here are some of the rejected designs

This design below is a well established concept called "Noah's Tarp" which is supposed to be great but I ultimately decided I wanted something that would provide more protection from the wind.

Here's the design I settled on.  It's not shown in the sketchup model, but two of the sides are flaps that can be opened to allow air to circulate. 

Here's the tower under construction along with my virgin friend Jeff.  I can't tie knots worth shit so ratchet tie-downs from Harbor Freight Tools are a huge must-have for me. 

And here's the finished product in action at Apogaea.  Notice one of the side flaps lifts up to become a covered entry/porch of sorts. 

Dec 26, 2013

I finally made it.

 It took me three years but I managed to get both tickets and a group to camp with in 2013. Even after three years of planning and research Burning Man still managed to blow all my expectations out of the water (I read JRS and the official blog religiously and have seen every documentary I could get my hands on).

I originally started this blog to chronicle my creative process in prepping for Burning Man, but I spent so much time and work preparing I had little energy left over to blog.  A suit covered in google-eyes, a hand painted jacket, several hundred dollars in faux fur, and a LED tutu made from 24 square yards of fabric, it was a hell of a process.

I did however take an old point and shoot with me to the playa and over the course of the week shot snippets of the most amazing parts of my trip.

Upon returning I took a volunteer position with Apogaea (Colorado's regional burn), I'm designing a new shade structure that fits in my Honda Civic, and I'm tentatively planning on returning to BRC in 2014.

Feb 2, 2012

Ticket lottery, what happened.

I'm not going to yell and scream, I'm just sort of quietly baffled at what happened.

For an event that took months to sell out last year, did the economy really come roaring back and boost the number of people wanting to attend by that much? Or did scalpers manage to buy up enough tickets us regular BRC residents couldn't get any? That doesn't seem very likely either.

Dhamma Seeker has some different cause and effect theories that I also find interesting. He's finding an approx 33% ticket purchase rate which will no doubt affect the ability of many theme camps to, well, exist, and he goes on to ask:
If there isn’t a glut of unwanted tickets available through STEP, then the event truly just hit an inflection point. The culture dynamics will be instantaneously affected.
But back to my own ideas, my best guess is that with all the hysteria and vitriol currently directed at people who entered and won the lottery multiple times, those who ended up with extra tickets are laying low.

And with that I say, I'm still in need of two tickets and would be interested in using the secure exchange system if you have some.

I won't hassle you for having entered the lottery more than once. '-)

virginburner at gmail dot com

Sep 28, 2011

Triumphant News

For the last three years I had been out of traditional full-time employment as a licensed architect. Things got so bad that over this last summer I had to get a job at Walmart. This financial strain combined with the end of a friendship 1-month before BM cancelled my travel plans for 2011's event.

For the sake of my architectural design portfolio I assembled the completed dome to take some photos.

And that triumphant news I promised?... I resume normal employment as an architect on Tuesday. This means I should have the disposable income to attend BM in 2012.

Lastly for all you shade-structure-philles I also whipped up a quick youtube video explaining the more technical details of construction.

Jul 29, 2011

falling apart at the last minute

Of all the things that could derail my plans I didn't expect a friendship falling apart to happen at the 11th hour.

I'm now seeing if other friends want to purchase the tickets from my former travel partners. Meanwhile I have a Burner friend in LA suggesting I find a craigslist ride-share buddy to split costs with. That would leave me still camping essentially alone, without the close emotional support of friends I feel is necessary to experiencing the event.

Sorry for being somewhat glum and less entertaining than normal; I prefer to deliver bad news in a straightforward manner.

Jul 15, 2011

Hushville placement rejected by BM org

Ugh. I'm very not happy with BM org at the moment, they have rejected Hushville's theme camp placement application. Hushville mind you has been in existence since 2001 and out of the blue BM org has declined to place us. Mush as Kidsville provides a refuge for those seeking a camp for their families, Hushville provides a refuge for those seeking a home away from the amplified noise of BRC.

Hushvillian leaders are appealing but pending that I suppose I'll be looking at other quiet places to camp like the walk-in zone.

Your thoughts on relatively quiet places to camp in BRC are appreciated.

May 11, 2011

Getting a coat pattern with a hood

I'm pretty sure I'm going to use an Ilaniowear pattern (above) as the base for my jacket. Only problem is that Ilanio's male coat has a collar, not a hood, and I'm more of a hood kinda guy. However their super girly coat pattern has a hood:

So for a while I considered shelling out $300+ for a custom made coat cos I wanted a hood by gum!

There are a number of playa-coat companies out there and I'd like to compliment Wild On The Inside for making such a beautiful product at one of the more reasonable prices. (A local Denver based company is easily the most overpriced.) Wild On The Inside also has pretty spiffy presentation (image below) so if I had the cash I would totally order from them.

But back to my poor-man's coat. Fortunately as my day job I'm an architect so working with lines is kinda what I do. Tonight I loaded a male collar jacket and female hooded jacket into Illustrator and compared the two side by side to see what makes each unique and how I could adapt my male pattern.

Here's a link to the male pattern (yetti) and female pattern (fuzzy bunny).

Most likely this week I'll print out the patterns at a blueprint shop and make a test shell out of cheap fabric just to see how it fits on my body and if the adapted hood even works.

May 4, 2011

And we have goggles!

The star looking thing is a total old lacy brooch I found at Goodwill and the green and gold beads are from a bracelet I found at epic vintage/costume shop and Denver institution Flossy McGrew's.

These are my only pair of clear lens ski goggles so if I go night skiing next season I'll just have to show up with my playa-bling goggles.

May 2, 2011

So apparently it gets cold on the playa at night

I'm thinking a coat is in order now. Not necessarily faux-fur but some sort of festive fabric. The easiest and free-est patterns I've found are from IlanioWear. Here's their basic full length coat design:

Now I'm not a big seamstress so I'm making a 1/3 size mock up shell first.

Oddly enough if I do proceed ahead with faux-fur it won't be my first time sewing with fur. I made a stuffed guinea pig in 7th grade home ec.

May 1, 2011

A question for experienced burners

It's my understanding that at night the playa can still be roasting, or can drop to near freezing.

As a Coloradan I plan on bringing my ski socks, under-layer thermals, and even a high performance jacket to help combat a worst case cold scenario.

Now on to the fashion question... I've ordered 20 LED blinking keychains (like the picture) that I would like to attach to a single article of clothing.

My question to you is, what sort of lit-up clothing item might I assume I could always wear out at night regardless of the weather?

I was originally thinking along the bottom of a knee-high skirt? I couldn't see myself wearing that out if we're going to have cold nights.

Apr 30, 2011

Outfits begin!

I think it's Halcyon that says not to call them "costumes" since in costume you're dressing as something other than yourself.

Burning Man outfits are meant to be anything-goes representations of yourself and your aesthetic... I just have some pretty tight budget and talent constraints to work around.

First stop, Craigslist for a $30 sewing machine. It has two modes, forward and back. But it's totally idiot proof, runs smooth, silent and powerful compared to a plastic piece of crap machine a friend loaned me first that went nowhere.

For most of the thrift store items I'm working with I'll be making modifications of their outward appearance. The sole exception is this skirt which already visually complex enough I don't want to add any more to it. It's one of my longer skirts, that's so I'll have one for sun protection.

It's two sizes too large and combined with my guy figure it totally doesn't want to stay up so I added a liner for a drawstring. I dunno where the zipper was supposed to go originally but I'm saying it's a fly now.

Yes I did a pee test and the new zipper-as-fly works just great thank you very much.

First clothing item done!

Apr 27, 2011

The dome gets some decoration

In the clutter of Black Rock's dense urban blocks my plan for not looking like trash is keeping the design simple. It appears fewer camps are illuminated at night so I needed a cheap way to light the dome in a festive way. Here's a mockup:

In an ideal world I would paint the wood and possibly canvass roof but it's looking like I may not be back at my folks' place (where the dome is kept) before our actual BM trip in August.

BTW the dome's current name is "The Homo Hut" and a lesbian graphic designer friend of mine is going to be designing a small sign for us, possibly in this fun "hut appropriate" font.

But back to the lamps... I needed something big, cheap, durable, and translucent to act as the lantern shade. That's where Ikea's $2 Fniss trash can comes in.

Here's how I plan to attach and illuminate them. The light sources are blinky LED bike lights I got for $2-3 dollars each from Deal Extreme.

I did some very technical* tests in a dark room to determine the optimal placement of the bike light within the trash can. It turned out gravity and the gods of LED illumination were in agreement on a simple solution.

*totally not technical

Apr 17, 2011

Spring break dome progress

Well my folks and I got some more practice setting up the dome frame, this time it was so I could begin creating the massive canvass cover that sits on top of it.

To be honest, the dome is far larger than I expected. Should definitely be enough room for my two friends and I.

The pink rope strung around the roof members (pictured above) are tensioned and prevent the canvass from sagging.

The roof cover will be hemmed at the blue line (pictured below) so there's an approx 12" valance to provide a little extra shade. But for the most part the sides will be open. The finished dome is going to be more of a cabana that only provides shade, for the most part the sides will be open.

Metal washers (serving as grommets) were glued to the canvass at points with double layered fabric for strength and will be bungee anchored to the dome frame. The above photo shows some of the grommets and fabric doubled up for reinforcing. Here's a close up of a grommet:

The roof canvass is old left-over drop cloths from when I painted my condo. Rather than sewing I'm using a flexible, waterproof marine adhesive sold at Home Depot.

I'm not a big knot-tying guy. I was in Webelos for a year and a half. I was never really sure how I was going to laterally tie down this beast of a dome but stumbled upon a ratcheting tie-town system designed for securing loads in the back of pickup trucks. Each tie down has a rated working load of 440lbs with a breaking strength of nearly a ton. There will be one of these at each of the dome's 5 corners, perhaps with an additional tie down on the prevailing wind side. Considering the roof is going to be tied on with bungee cords I think an extreme wind loading event the roof would be torn to shreds before the dome frame moves an inch.

The idea of this thing breaking free and taking off like a tumbleweed in a wind storm scares the shit out of me so that's why I'm over-engineering it.

Tie downs are anchored to some awesome 18" steel stakes I found online for cheap.

In the coming weeks I'll be starting some work on clothing. All I'll say now is that I appear to be a women's skirt size 6.

Mar 2, 2011

The group sits down

The crew (all 3 of us) have our admission tickets already.

Tonight we sat down and worked out our travel schedule and booked our flights to/from California.

I'm having another one of those "wow, this is one step closer to happening" moments.

Sat Aug 27th - fly from Denver to LA (where my folks live)
Sun Aug 28th - prep day at my folks house or sightseeing round LA
Mon Aug 29th - drive from LA to Reno, stay in a hotel that night
Tues Aug 30 - enter the festival, camp in Hushville

[4 fabulous nights of burning]

Sat Sept 3 - after the man burns drive to Reno to avoid the exodus and stay in a hotel
Sun Sept 4 - drive back to LA
Mon Sept 5 [Labor day] - fly home from LA to Denver
Tues Sept 6 - return to our roles as unassuming members of society

Feb 2, 2011

In the event of emergency

My experienced burner friend sent me this, half for the humor value, half to tease me, and half I think to remind me that I need to be mentally prepared to face the unexpected fiasco at Burning Man. (yes I know three halves adds up to 150%)

Incidentally it was this photo of a wind destroyed Xara that I emailed to my folks to explain why I was having 18" long solid steel tent stakes shipped to their house.

Tonight my main partner in crime and I got to talking about the circumstances under which we'd say "enough is enough" and pack up and leave; they mostly involve freakish acts of god. I'm bringing extra water/food, extra shoes in the event of mud, and even a few orange Home Depot buckets in case there's a porta potty crisis of some sorts.

Yes, I am mentally prepared to shit in a plastic bucket and then carry it away for disposal later.

Some people have visions of how they are going to die. As a group we have decided that a renegade art car possibly shaped like a whale/pirate-ship/platypus/vagina is going to plow into our shade dome.

In our imaginations it can't be just a run of the mill mediocre art car that takes out the dome, it has to be a spectacular one.

Hopefully we won't be IN the dome at the time of the crash but perhaps nearby as to see the destruction first hand and hopefully laugh after we're done being horrified.

Jan 3, 2011

It feels official

They arrived in the mail today. One's for me, the other is for my main partner in crime.

I've already purchased my bike, started work on my shade-dome but holding a ticket with the words "burning man" makes it feel so much more real.

It also makes me feel like I've lost my mind and gone and committed myself to quite a ordeal journey.

Dec 28, 2010

After a long quiet the dome rises

One of my main partners in crime recently ended a 5 year relationship so I was being a good friend and not talking about BM while he got his life back in order. Shortly before I left for Christmas vacation he brought up the subject on his own, indicating he's still good to go. That of course meant I could proceed with planned dome shade structure construction over the holidays. Here's my folks helping test that everything bolts together as planned. They're not going with me to BM but they're a great test crew since if they're able to build the dome then surely anyone with me on the playa will be able to handle the physical demands too.

It feels huge now but I realize that everything shrinks out on the playa. Still it will be perfect for our 3-4 people to lounge under.

Shortly after I took this photo I realized the roof section would be near impossible to put on with a mere step ladder so we disassembled it and re-built it starting first with the roof and building the walls up underneath it. Using 8' studs the peak of the dome will top out at 11'6".

Tomorrow my mum and I start the fabric roof cover.