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Spotlight on Toy Soldier Electronic Tinkerer: LED-Master Gonzo!

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This weeks Interrogation Spotlight is aimed at LED-Master Gonzo! He grew up in Bussum, a medium sized town in The Netherlands. He now lives in Amersfoort a city not far from where he grew up.

When did you become a toy soldier?…and How did you find us?
I discovered Dr. Steel back in ´09, I think it was one of the flash animations of the songs that got my attention. I shared it with my roommate and we were both hooked, used to play it all the time during our regular Chinese chess matches back then. Just recently I checked and discovered I had signed up back in 09 but wasn´t very active. It was last year in June/July that Sokamin reminded me of this place, and I was delighted that it still existed, even though we´d received the news about the doctor´s resignation. That’s when I became more active, and now I can´t live without TSU!

What first got you interested in electronics? What was the first thing you made?
When I was a kid my dad always inspired me and my brother to play with computers and their parts. When I was somewhere between age 8 and 10 I learned programming BASIC on my old MSX computer.
At an early age my dad gave us (me and my brother) a board where we could put in a battery and some light bulbs and switches to play with. Later it went on to computer parts, disassembling and reassembling a PC and he would see if it worked. We learned binary counting by hand, and we had a C64 which we grew up playing on, and later I had my own MSX to play with. I learned programming in BASIC on that machine, the book was English, and that’s how I learned that language too. The first think I can recall I made was a chase game you had to play with 2 players, one was ¨it¨ and had to catch the other player. Just an empty screen and 2 sprites, but it was fun!

What do you do for a living?
Currently I am unemployed and looking for work. I used to work in embedded software engineering, specifically garbage retrieval systems that automatically empty recycle bins and before that for a company developing RFID readers on garbage bins for select access. I’m not sure at this point in time what I want to do in the future. Ideally I would want to work for ESA or DutchSpace.
I would also like to work on the robots they send ¨out there¨. As a kid I wanted to be an astronaut, or at least an astronomer. Since engineering seems to be my strong point I would like to work on that and go to space. But yeah, would want to work at some space related projects in embedded engineering on them!

You have also gone by other titles such as: Stargazer and LED specialist..Tell us how you came to be known by other names.
As a kid stargazing was a big hobby of mine, I knew a lot of astronomical facts and was outside a lot with binoculars or telescope gatherings when the night was clear. My family and I went on a camping trip when I was very young, and we visited an observatory. They had a projection of the sun there, I think my fascination for stargazing started there. We visited regular stargazing events in our neighborhood, my dad later had a shop that sold telescopes which was a huge advantage. I´ve even been on national television for some item about a lunar eclipse (I think I was 12).
The LED part is more recent, but maybe influenced by the lamp board my dad had us play with as kids. I know how to draw PCB´s and how electronics work from previous jobs. When I became a member of the TSU I wanted to make something cool. I came up with the soldierface LED during work, just popped up. Since then I´ve been experimenting a bit with them and got some prototypes made… The rest is history.

Speaking of Stargazing. You recently started the T.S.O.S.D Special Ops! What do you hope to do with this new division?
Well, we want to go to space! But getting there is something we need people for to help us research, and devise tactics to getting there. The T.S.O.S.D. was initially a joke when SilentAl asked me what I would want to do, well: ¨Go to space¨. He said I was in charge of the space program then we started a small brainstorm in the chat and the TSOSD was born. Some very cool projects for that are in the works. I am working on a project to help everyone get that cool rocket science experience first hand. The goal is to eventually terraform the moon to look like our friendly soldierface logo!

So what other projects are you working on right now?
The robot project is on hiatus as I have run into a problem with the audio processor. I am thinking of making a piece for my uniform to spell FUN in LEDs but I somehow misplaced my favorite soldering iron tip… Then there is the TSOSD project I´m working on, but won´t spoil until I have it ready.

Gonzo do you have any advice for other soldiers you would like to add?
Go with ideas that suddenly pop into your head, don´t linger too much on how or why, just go for it!

Thank you for this great interview Gonzo! It was a pleasure getting to know you better! :) *salutes*

Gonzo’s Amazing LED work is featured right now in our Toy Soldier Shop! Get them while they last!

The New Special Ops is ready for you to join should you wish to embark on any future Space Adventures!

Spotlight on Toy Soldier Craftsman/Hacker: YJ Rev. Geoff Nicholson!

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This week’s Spotlight is aimed at YJ Rev. Geoff Nicholson! He was born, raised and still lives in Albuquerque, NM. Although he travels a heck of a lot!

When did you become a Toy Soldier?
I Discovered Doctor Steel through a link on Something*Positive back in Jan 2008 but, I didn’t enlist until 1 April 2008.

What do you do for a living?
I’m officially a tech support analyst for Thomson Reuters, but really, that’s the job that pays me to run the lab and go out and do all the cross-country propaganda runs.

You go to a lot of invasions don’t you? How many would you say you have gone to and what do you do there? Or… How many states/countries have you been to now?
I’ve been to at least 35 invasions in six states, and have dropped propaganda in three countries in the northern hemisphere. USA, Canada, and UK. While at the invasions, I wind up being the person everyone points the folks with questions at, because I have a very well honed spiel which I give to all the curious people (while everyone else stuffs them with propaganda) I will be returning to the MCM Expo this year!

What is your favorite Propaganda to hand out?
Since I’m an avid reader (and a sometimes-contributor to WRITE) I really enjoy giving out the bookmarks.

So what exactly is “Hacking”?
Hacking is working on interesting projects, but is frequently applied (incorrectly) to breaking computer security. However you can hack your body (BioHacking), you can hack your car, and you can hack your dinner.
Mostly it’s about working on the interesting projects where you are going to change the normal operation of whatever it is, or use it in a method not intended on the labeling.

What is a Hackspace?
Hackerspaces are places where hackers get together to collaborate on projects, tools, and skills. Quite frequently, they’ve got WiFi and a supply of caffeinated beverages too (whether that’s soda, coffee, or club-mate depends on the hacker in question).
I keep the The Quelab running so that it’s a place for folks to express their creative sides. It’s our local hacker space. That it doesn’t pay doesn’t make any difference to me. I’m on the board of directors there, and am one of the founding members.

Nice! What kind of things do you hack?
I’m sort of a geek-of-all-trades, so I’m not just an electronics hacker. Mostly, I hack on the 7th Mountain’s website, building parts of it from scratch and integrating those bits with the WordPress base I use.
I also have been planning (but haven’t started construction on) a Arduino-based remote-locking system for the tools at the Hackerspace. Something that only lets people use the dangerous tools if they’ve had training… because hackers know that sometimes not enough knowledge is dangerous.
I also have a 3D printer which I’ve been poking around with for the past few years. Upgrading it as parts become outdated, adjusting and tweaking the parts that are working fine, and designing new parts to fit needs that weren’t known to be needed when the printer was created.

So what other crafty things do you make?
I do a spot of sewing at the lab, and that’s where I worked on my ARR uniform. I learned how to knit there too, but I’ve only made a potholder.
I’ve done some para-cord work as well; I do monkeys paws and chokers in my Etsy shop.
I’ve built some shelves and workbenches for the lab, but I’m branching out into Craftsman-style furniture, and with the new wood-shop at the lab I’ll be able to do it (I did all the workbenches with hand-power tools, and it shows)

Are you doing anything you hope to make a profit from someday?

No, and yes? I mean I really internalized the whole “If you’re not having fun, why do you do it” mantra from Doctor Steel. So profit model isn’t what I’m focused on.

Do you have any future plans for your Hacking?
Well, plugging the new idea that Gonzo and I have going on, I do hope to work more on hacking with an aim towards going to space.
The president of the lab is involved with a group called Mach 30th, which is another non-profit for doing Open Source Spaceflight, where the designs for the satellites and eventually rockets and capsules will be freely available for download and construction.
We’re not anywhere near putting people into space, but at the lab are building satellite tracking stations to interact with cubesats and the ISS. So I hope to get more space-hacking done, repurposing everyday objects into getting me closer to space!

Thank you for this interview and the insight into Hacking Rev! *salutes*

Please check out these links for Rev. Geoff’s Etsy and Hacklink information!

Rev. Geoff’s Etsy shop
The Quelab
Find a Hackspace Near you!
Map of Hacker Spaces
Jame’s Ninja Parade presentation

Also check out Rev. Geoff’s 7th Mountain Regiment page:
7th Mountain Regiment

Spotlight on Toy Soldier Musician, Composer, Writer: Zilpher Mercurius Drax!

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This week our Spotlight gets an extra special treat as we turn it towards Zilpher Mercurius Drax of the fantastic band Marquis of Vaudeville! They did a song a while back called Utopian Playland and have gained many Toy Soldier fans ever since!
He is originally from the middle of nowhere Texas, a place he playfully refers to as Neverwhere, being a fan of Neil Gaiman. Currently he is located on the outskirts of Dallas, TX.

So tell me..What got you interested in music? What were some of your early influences?
I was always a very shy little boy. As a child I had a fascination with theater, literature, and music. However, I allowed my insecurities & shyness prevent me from ever standing in front of another doing what I secretly loved. My grandmother used to take me to this quaint old Vaudeville theater for every single theatrical performance, I saw The Snow Queen, The Hobbit, Oliver Twist/many Dickens’s works on stage, and the list goes on and on. I always dreamt and wished with everything that I was to be in one of those productions, to be IN the story, but I never could bring myself to do so as a child. I suppose that’s from where the theatrical nature of Marquis of Vaudeville comes. My entire life, I have always been humming a melody to myself. People in school used to think that I was talking to myself in the halls. When I reached my teens, I became quite interested in bands like The Cure and Pink Floyd, bands that had an air of mystery about them. That really appealed to me. There is something magic going on within their music. I suppose I try to infuse that same sense of mystery and magic into my own creations.

Many of us are a fan of your band Marquis of Vaudeville! How many albums/songs have you produced now?
First off, if you happen to be reading this and are a fan, thank you to no end for listening and believing in us. This music is for you. It’s for the illustrious consortium of wanderers, wishers, misfits, outsiders, darers, dreamers, eccentrics, oddlings, and other strangefolk who roam the Earth; know that you will always belong in our world. As for the songs and albums, there are around 30 songs available online via iTunes, Amazon, and pretty much all of the major online music stores. Although we released around 13 songs online during the band’s early years, our only official album at the moment is our debut effort “The Great Promenade of fools & Ghosts” which we released at the end of 2012 and contains 19 tracks.

Do you go on tour, if so where?
We travel all over and frequently perform at pop culture fandom, steampunk conventions, and other astounding events. We’re widely known for our own extravagant Vaudevillian inspired sold-out spectacles such as ‘A Clockwork Wonderland: Through Aether & Mysterium’, ‘Gadgets & Gobstoppers: The Twisted World of Wonka’, and the show that shares the grandiose title of our album “The Great Promenade of Fools & Ghosts” If anyone out there wishes for us to perform in your area, then contact your local convention/event, encourage & inspire others to do the same, and express your great desire to witness Marquis of Vaudeville on stage at the event. As long as the people demand it, the conventions and events will follow suit.

For those who don’t know..What genre would you say Marquis of Vaudeville is?
We always refer to ourselves as a “musical menagerie of melodic mischief”. One of our fans called us progressive, psychedelic, punk-cabaret which I quite like as well. Call us what you will, as we always allow the listener to label us however they wish. We don’t like to spoon feed people with what we create. We want those who listen to interpret and to get whatever they want & need out of the music without being coerced into how to feel or into what it should mean to them. What style would all of you out there in LaLa Land say the music is? Find us and tell us.

Besides music, what other creative endeavors do you have?

I tend to write a great deal, typically poetry and short stories which I affectionately refer to as “whimsical drivel”. I have several ideas for novels that I’ve been working on as well. It just happens to be a slow process being that music takes up so much of my time. Some of my work, including lyrical content, can be found hidden here and there on the Marquis of Vaudeville website if you’re curious and you dig around.

What motivates you to keep creating?
The cosmos, the fantastical, art, literature, theater, mythology, mysticism, mystery, & magic. I like to tell stories, and music affords me a way to tell my stories. I want to give people something to daydream about, give them hope, open their eyes, hearts, & minds, and I’ve found that messages can be more profound and persuasive when woven secretly within the melodies of music.

What are you working on right now personal or with your band?
More music with new stories to tell. Within The Great Promenade of Fools & Ghosts, there is content ranging from children of the night, to mysterious whimsical circuses, plundering gentleman highwaymen, intriguing labyrinthine understreets, and mad scientist toymakers (hint, hint), to name but a bit. This new music will be in the same vein, but will simply involve new wondrous stories. We should have this body of work completed by the end of the year.

We have many aspiring musicians on Toy Soldiers Unite. Can you offer them any advice on success?
Never stop. Do what you love, but be genuine. Take essence from your influences, yet put a twist on them that is unique to invent your own sound. Put everything of yourself into your art, all of your hopes, fears, pains, failures, triumphs, dreams, wishes etc. What you hear within our music is a significant part of who we are. As a child, all I ever wanted to do was find a portal to a magical world, and it’s no secret to those who truly know me that I still want the same. Marquis of Vaudeville’s music is infused with this wish.

Thank you so much Zilpher Mercurius Drax for this amazing interview! We *salute* you and hope you will always be a Toy Solider marching towards the Utopian Playland with us!

Please check out these links for more information and music from Marquis of Vaudeville!

Listen to the Music:
Steampunk Empire
Visit the official site:
Marquis of Vaudeville
Social media:
TV/Film credits
Book/Magazine credits
Anatomy of Steampunk
GearHearts Magazine

Spotlight on Toy Soldier Designer, Prop maker, FX make-up artist: Lt. JDUK!

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This weeks we need several spotlights as we turn them to Lieutenant JDUK! He grew up in South East London. He now I lives in South West London to be close to his Uni. He is also currently working in a pub while attending tending to his higher education.

So Lieutenant tell us..When did you become a toy soldier? and How did you find us?
Well its a long and whimsical tale involve an alien space ship, a rubber duck and a packet of sweets. No in all seriousness it was 2010 at the London expo and I stumbled across the TSU stand manned by Montee and Evelfa. I fired half a ton of questions at them and feel in love with the concept of trying to take over the world with nothing more than a group of creatives and a pocket full of fun *now space ships or sweets where involved * However there was a rubber duck, His name was Gerald.

What first got you interested in prop-making/art?
Well I have loved drawing since i was small but, I was a social wall flower for all of my childhood years.
When I was a young teenager I loved my drama classes because my drama teacher brought me out of my shell and helped me act comfortably like I did when I was home with my little sister and mum. So to capitalize on this, I joined up with a youth acting troop at my local theater and it helped me become more confident. I studied art and drama throughout my secondary/ high school years but stopped drama because I preferred art. Through art class I felt so restricted by just doing paintings or drawings that I think it forced me to want to do more 3D pieces or media like photography and film. In college I did a art and design foundation year and realized I could combine my art and drama by prop making. So you could say my drama teacher is the root cause of the monster I have become today XD

What was the first thing you created that you were impressed by?
I made a small chandelier when I was younger, my uncle thought I was going to blow myself up by screwing with the welding torch. I am happy to say now that I am a rather good MIG welder. No exploding for me!

What are you going to Uni for right now? And what do you hope to do for a living when you graduate?

I am currently studying Technical arts and Special effects for film and theater.
I would love to do a multitude of things when I graduate but I think for now I would like to work for a prop company to get myself better known in the industry, after 3-4 years I will see if I will go freelance. I would like to open up either a hotel or restaurant. design, fabricate, sell product designs or pieces of my art work. build my own house and maybe spend my retirement making furniture.
I will leave out the aggressive marketing strategies and stamping on any big companies that stand in my way bit for when I actually have a business portfolio.

So you have a lot of things you want to do! That is great! I take it you have no trouble with motivation then?
Only if the task is pointless, for example I have procrastinated a lot on some of my uni work because both my fellow students and I believe there are pieces of work that are only there to tick boxes and have nothing to do with the course apart from that yes I am very driven!

Do you have any thing motivational you could say to others who wish to be creative?
If you want to turn a creative project into reality then before you do anything else put it down on paper. I always carry with me an A5 notebook with me so I can draw/ write notes about little things i wont remember.
After you have your Idea rock solid but you don’t know how to do it, find the people who would know. You will be surprised at the wealth of knowledge that your friends and family have. Also in terms of tutorials YOUTUBE IS AMAZING.
Above all NEVER listen to someone who flat out says you’re stupid, whats the point in doing this, what a wast of time. Because its usually those people who are incredibly uncreative and unmotivated.
Surround yourself with people who are creative because a creative environment sparks creativity!

So what projects are in the pipeline for you right now?

I am currently making a prop costume head piece that will be a cross between a bush viper and a sarcastic fringe head fish. It will have an inbuilt camera and monitor plus a working jaw.

Thank you so much for this great interview Lieutenant JDUK. Looking forward to your future designs!:) *salutes*

If you would like to see some of JDUK’s artwork and creations please check out his website:
Defer Design

Spotlight on Toy Soldier Artist: Broken Looney!

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We have a new artist to shine our Spotlight on this week; Broken Looney! She was born in Florence, Arizona (USA). Her family moved around a lot so by the time she was three-ish, she lived in Arizona, California, and eventually West Virginia which is where she has been living for the past 23+ years.

So tell us Looney..How and when did you become a Soldier?
A friend of mine had briefly mentioned Doctor Steel in passing which then caused my curiosity to flare up. I found his website, complete with songs, webisodes, and interactive awesomeness. I was hooked as soon as I heard the opening to the song “Back and Forth”. I wanted more and it seemed the only way to get it was to enlist.

What first got you interesting in drawing/art?
Both sides of my family are fairly artistic but, I really started drawing when I discovered Japanese anime and manga. In high school, when I was a part of the LARP scene (Live Action Role-Play) for this Vampire: The Masquerade game, I used to draw the characters I had created for each game.

You seem like a very mulch-talented artist what all kinds of things do you like to create and what is your favorite kind of art to do?
Anime/Manga style. It’s my absolute favorite. My first ever anime was Sailor Moon which eventually led to Dragonball/Dragonball Z, Gundam, Cowboy Bebop, Fushigi Yuugi, Ghost in the Shell, FLCL, Naruto, Samurai Champloo…the list could go on. It truly is my little geeky-outlet but, I enjoy creating, even if it is a little doodle. Chibis are also fun to do as well.

I see you are also going to Beauty School at the moment (which is also an art form) What do you hope to do when you graduate?
The initial dream was that my sister and I would open our own Salon. She’s more into nails whereas I’m mostly in it for the freedom to express with hair color. We were thinking of “Sugar and Spice” or “Twisted Sisters” as possible Salon names….but now that we’ve gained a friend in school (and we call ourselves the Powerpuff Girls as a running joke), “The Powderpuff Girls” seems slightly more appropriate.

Do you plan on continuing with any other forms of art in the future?
I do. I can’t see life to be very fun or fulfilling without art in any form. A lot of older people tell me that they wish they could do what I do with my hair, but then they give the excuse of having gray hair. I don’t intend to stop coloring my hair. Natural hair color to me is just too plain. Blonde hair on me feels too much like an empty canvas.

Do you have any creative words of wisdom to share that may encourage others? What keeps you going?
“Just keep swimming.” Hahaha. But Seriously. You can overcome any obstacle with the right mindset. Don’t limit yourself to one outlook. Open yourself and your mind and you will find other outstanding ways to overcome….MAKE LIFE YOUR $%@#&!!

Thank you very much Broken Looney for this insightful interview! We wish you all the best in your Bright Future!

If you would like some great examples of Looney’s art check out her:
Deviant art gallery
You can also like and follow her Facebook page:
Broken Loony Art

Spotlight on Toy Soldier Artist/Musician: T.F.U. Lucas Usagi!

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This week our Spotlight zooms in on T.F.U. Lucas Usagi (aka Lewis Morris) He grew up in West Virginia and still lives there to this day. He considers Morgantown to be his hometown even-though he lives a good 25 minute drive away in what many West Virginians call a “hollar” or “hollow”, nestled in the woods with wildlife and beautiful scenery!
He is basically self-employed at the moment but, come spring time he likes to do outdoor work, lawn care, that sort of stuff, keeps him active and outside. If he is really strapped for cash he has been known to pickup a restaurant job.

How and when did you become a toy soldier?
I became a Toy Soldier in 2010, toward the end of summer. My wife (girlfriend at the time) and I were really getting into a steampunk kick, it inspired us both creatively, when a friend of hers introduced us to the music of Dr Steel, we were hooked instantly. Then once we started Googling his lyrics and whole story it wasn’t long before we found TSU, signed up, and started lurking.

What are some of your early influences in music?
I would have to say my earliest influence came not from a person or band, but from a toy. I had a cheap keyboard when I was a young child, like 4 years old. I can remember just pushing the buttons and listening very closely to all the different tones and sound effects. It had effects like an ambulance siren, helicopter, applause, gunshot, and so on. The standard for cheap keyboards of that time. So I would sit there and create these stories in my head and use the sound effects and synths to help carry it along. I had that thing for years. So it wasn’t long I started to pay attention to the music my parents were listening to. Lots of classic rock like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and The Doors. The first cassette tape I owned we the soundtrack to the motion picture Mortal Kombat, introducing me to the world of electronic, trance and industrial. The first CD I owned was Pure Moods Volume 1 which introduced me to the world of ambient and so called “new age” music.

When did you start creating music yourself? What instruments do you play?
Following the course of my music influences to the beginning of high school I was eventually introduced to Tool and Nine Inch Nails and then discovered Brian Eno. Those are three influences that really propelled me to create something musically. I recorded my first round of ambient music from 2005-2007 when I debuted Neuron Dreamtime and the album “I Am My Own Mushroom”. I play guitar, bass, keyboard, some percussion and experiment with a lot of weird experimental techniques present in “noise music”. Increasingly, I’ve become acquainted with Digital Audio Workstations. Which is where I spend most of my time experimenting now, they are like their own instruments to me.

I’ve seen some of your awesome hats that you have made. What are other artistic endeavors do you get into?
Oh gee, a lot actually. The hat thing just sort of happened, years ago I would have never guessed I’d be dabbling in millinery. I made one to wear for a mad tea party we threw. I picked up the technique quickly and found it to be a fun process and that I could be very creative with it. I recently started airbrushing too, which has been a dream to do for a while. I still have a lot to learn, but then again when does one stop learning? I’ve drawn and doodled for almost my entire life, art classes were always my favorite in school. I now bounce around from one project to another, from one medium to another. Painting with acrylic, drawing with pencil and pen, making logos and digital art with Photoshop, writing and directing Neuron Dreamtime music videos. Some I’ll do more than others but I feel that having all these outlets is extremely liberating.

What do you hope to be doing for a living someday?
For me it’s all the music and art I produce. It’s what I love to do. I’m slowing starting to make some progress toward that goal but, it’s still only the beginning. I’ve also had dreams of opening up some sort of shop or gallery with the wife. There’s so many ideas floating around. And like I said it’s only the beginning. Who knows what wackiness will become.

We all have self doubt and down times but, what keeps you going and creating?
I find that, by having all these creative outlets and mediums, when I start having doubts or get frustrated, instead of quitting all together and never finishing, I just move on to another project for a while. I come back with a new perspective on the problem piece having used my mind in a different manner for a different project. The self doubt is a big trap especially in the beginning stages of learning an art or the middle stages of creating a piece but you have to power through it and carry on. Art (including music and lit.) will almost never be perfect in the creators eyes (ears), we really are our worst critics, but by powering through all the self doubt and just creating the art benefits the creator. Its the simple rule of “practice, practice, practice”. You’ll make crap piece after crap piece but, you’ll hone your ability, you’ll discover a workflow that works for you and eventually you’ll find it was silly to have ever doubted yourself while you stare at your umpteenth piece and realize it’s wonderful and inspires you to do more. When self doubt rears its taunting head just flail your arms about, yell “It’s a trap!” and kick it in the junk, then carry on. You’ll be glad you did.

Can you tell us a bit about some things you are working on now?

Yes, there are a few. I have some new tunes headed to TSU. They were inspired by and created for Sgt Dutch and a project he’s got in the works. But, that’s all I think I can say about that, I don’t want to spoil anything. The hat making has picked up, they’re each one of a kind and will all be available on Etsy soon. I am providing art for a start up psychology/science/verse/art webzine. I am working with my frequent music collaborator buddy on a “New Media Art” installation for his college course. And I just recently finished my first soundtrack work for fellow Toy Soldier Captain Mayo and his short horror film, “In His Name”, so I’m in the post-promotional stages with that. Boredom never sets in unless I let it and, just to be safe, I keep practicing my front kick in case of self-doubt.

Thank you so much for this great interview T.F.U. Lucas Usagi! It was great finding out more about the creative entity that is you! *salutes*

For more info and examples of T.F.U. Lucas Usagi please check out the links below:


Lewis’ deviantART
The Etsy store to include the top-hats
“In His Name” horror short

Spotlight on Toy Soldier Electronic Craftsman: Sgt. Voltor!

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This week we are turning our Spotlight towards our Sgt. Voltor! He grew up in Waukegan Illinois, the oldest of two kids. They moved to Gurnee IL. in 1991, but he moved back to Waukegan a couple years ago. He works at the James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center as an LPN on the psych ward.

Sgt. Voltor when did you join TSU?
I found out about the TSU while searching for steampunk stuff on Google. This was 2008, or so. I didn’t sign up to be a Toy Soldier until 2009, though. TS29176 reporting! I stayed for the friends I made and continue to make. I love being a Toy Soldier!

So what got you interested in electronic modification/creation?
I took electronics classes in high school and college. I have always been fascinated by circuitry and everything that goes along with it. I always found it fascinating how components move voltage around in a circuit and make something that is fully functional. I was heavily influenced by Dr. Robert Moog, inventor of the Moog analog synthesizer, as well as the work of Edison and Tesla. My electronics background actually started at the age of 5 when I took apart my first car stereo. I was building and fixing electronics starting in seventh grade, when I was an A/V assistant in the school library, fixing record players and setting up 16mm film projectors, because I was the only student in a school of 400 to know how those work.

What kinds of things do you make/modify?
I not only make and modify things, but I also repair broken VCR’s, radios/stereos and televisions. Things I make are mostly circuits that others have designed, then I put that circuitry in a housing I’ve designed myself. I prefer the steampunk aesthetic, so my designs can get very costly very quickly, seeing as how quality components and old components can be very expensive. The perfect example of that is my 10 step analog sequencer. I could have bought the kit for much less than I paid for steampunk components like switches, knobs, and decoration. Right now I’m building mostly synthesizer components for my ever changing synthesizer rig. The Light Box is kind of a break from that.

Where do you get the parts you use from?
Parts, right…I either salvage them from old TV’s, stereos, VCR’s, etc. or I buy them new from science supply stores, Amazon, hardware stores, specialty websites like MFOS or PAiA, as well as Chester Electronics (a local electronics boutique larger than Radio Shack). The awesome thing about Chester’s is that it’s owned and operated by a guy who helped build the first electronic computer in the 1940’s, and he carries all kinds of stuff, from the mundane to the impossible to find anywhere else. He’s been in business for 50+ years, and carries New Old Stock dating from the 1960’s through the early 90’s, as well as some newer stuff.

Is this a grand hobby or something you want to do for a living someday?
Grand hobby, yes. I tried to sell my stuff through TSU under Voltor Enterprises, but that kind of died, sadly. Part of the problem is that I don’t have the proper tools to make quality looking things. For example, the holes for the speakers in my Bass Cannon were cut using Dremel tools and a power drill. No jigsaw, you see. Even though it doesn’t look bad, it’s really rough around the edges. I’m happy with the way it turned out, but I would rather not sell that low of quality product. I don’t think it would be fun if I had to do it day in and day out, either. Electronics are an amazingly fun time killer, but would I do it for a paycheck and be happy? Probably not.

What are you working on right now?
Right now I am working on a few projects. The biggest one is my steampunk modular. I’ve been working on it for the better part of four years. It’s a 32 space modular synthesizer with a red velvet covering and brass accents. It has a MIDI to CV converter I built myself, a steampunk style transparent bronze multiple module I also built, and some custom bits made by Kevin Lightner. I’m also making the cables for it…really big project. I’m also working on my Light Box and 10 step sequencer.

If someone wanted to get into creating electronic things like you do. Where is a good place to start?
The library. Read all the books you can…start with the books that are 30-40 years old, so that you are able to get a good idea of how electricity flows through a circuit. The old books are awesome for learning the basics of transistors, capacitors, resistors, diodes, etc. They don’t teach that stuff much anymore, and without that knowledge, you can’t effectively create your own designs. An op amp from 1970 works the same way as an op amp from 2010, just not as well. Learn the basics, and go from there. College courses on DC Fundamentals, AC Fundamentals, and instrumentation as well as algebra help, too. There’s some very basic trigonometry involved, but the old books will teach you that. Practice soldering…A LOT. Buy a dual heat Weller, or two soldering irons: a 40W and a 90-120W. Know what type of iron to use when and ALWAYS use 60/40 lead solder and a 40W iron, unless you are working on a high voltage circuit…use low lead or lead free solder and a hot iron for that. Also get a good multimeter…expect to spend $200 on tools when you first start. Screwdrivers, socket wrenches, wire cutters and strippers, stuff like that, you can get at Radio Shack to start with. Most of all, HAVE FUN!

Thank you so much for this interview Voltor! It was great finding out more about you and your craft! *salutes*

If you would like to check out some of Sgt. Voltor’s work here are the links:

Voltor’s Deviantart
Voltor’s Flicker album
Voltor’s Light Box video on Vimeo

Spotlight on Toy Soldier Artist / Seamstress: YJ Caecilia Kolibri!

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This time we aim our Spotlight on YJ Caecilia Kolibri! She has always lived in San Diego, California. She is currently a henna tattoo artist/face painter at Belmont Park in Mission Beach, CA. Which is an amusement park at the beach! She is a soldier of many talents!

You have been with us for many years now Cae. When did you become a Toy Soldier?
I became a toy soldier in 2008. I was introduced by a friend in high school and I really got sucked in by all the awesome people that seemed to share my passion for creativity, activism, and fun!

What first got you into sewing/costume making? And what was your first project?
I was always interested in theater, and my favorite holiday has always been Halloween. Since I was a child, I would go through big plastic tubs of clothing and costumes and put together different
things. This interest in dressing up spilled over into my everyday wardrobe. My family supported everything I did and everything I wore, luckily. My mother even taught me to sew a little bit when I was about 10. By the time I was 13 I was sewing my own costumes for Comic-Con and Anime Expo.

You are a lady of many artistic talents what other things do you create?
I’ve been a singer and actress since I was young, going to singing lessons and taking part in productions such as Little Shop of Horrors and Guys & Dolls. I have always had an interest in drawing, which led to painting and other types of media. I also crochet!

What are you currently going to school for?
I am currently attending the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) for Visual Studio Arts. I was initially a German Studies major, and have received two Associates degrees with honors, one in German
Language, and another in Fine Arts and Humanities. After my first quarter as a German Studies major at this new institution, I realized that I needed to follow my passion for art, and thus changed my major.

What is your ultimate career goal in life?
I would love to have a boutique. I would love to have my own series of illustrated children’s books published, which I am working on. I would also love to go around to various Renaissance fairs, sell my wares. Also play and read stories to children as my character, Dawn the Faun.

So what fun projects are you working on right now?
I am currently in a performance art course, so all of my creative energy has been forced towards that. Just this week I crocheted myself into a body bag for a camera! Dang thing took me 7 hours straight!
I’ve also been selected by a good friend to create all of her belly dance outfits for her performances with a dance troupe she has been accepted to, Pink Boombox Revue. Above all however, I have been
working more and more on Dawn the Faun, and my main project has been a ball gown for her to wear to Labyrinth of Jareth and Myth Masque. I think it will be a lovely outfit for tea with Queen Elizabeth as well!

Do you have any words to inspire others who would like to be more creative?
Yes. Don’t worry if someone has done something before. The moment that you take an idea and run with it, you begin to develop your own concepts and the project develops into your own creation. Also, don’t
get so hung up about perfection. Sometimes it’s the mistakes that turn out to be the most beautiful!

Thank you for this interview Cae! It was great finding out more about you! We wish you all the luck in the world with your many talents! *Salutes*

Cae is also a part of the furry community called Furaffinity! She has some great drawings on her profile, if you would like to check out her page it’s right here!:)

Spotlight on Toy Soldier Codemonkey: Engineer Airhead!

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This week we aim our Spotlight at our very own Codemonkey: Engineer Airhead! He lives in a smallish town called Dongen, somewhere in the south of the Netherlands. Having yet to fly out of the nest, this also happens to be the place where he grew up. His town may have the biggest glass factory in the BeNeLux, as well as the biggest Coca-Cola factory!

So Airhead..When did you become a Toy Soldier? And…are you having fun yet?
I became a Toy soldier during Gonzo’s Efteling invasion, last summer.
Not that much of a story around that either.
I was dressed in an old English looking outfit, trying out the Newsie look and hoping for some good responds. When Gonzo walked up to us and told me about Toy Soldiers Unite and how I looked like someone who could easily fit in.
After coming home and giving it a few days of rest. I decided to have a look at the website and all.
And was hooked right off the bat! Seeing how many people with different hobbies, cultures and backgrounds come together and build up something they believe in.
That’s simply amazing! And I wanted to become part of that and help out in any way I could.

What got you interested in becoming a codemonkey?
What really got me interested were the challenges and possibilities.
The first thing I actually programmed, was a calculator for resistors.
Having “enjoyed” one year of electrical engineering, it was something to do while taking some time off the regular homework and stuff. After that, I switched educations and actually started to learn the basics for web development.
It’s a combination of formal training and teaching myself.
Learning the basics at school and trying to combine them with experiments at home (or at friends).
Having enjoyed a complete education in both IT management and Media Technology.
I’ve had my hands full with almost everything from fixing computers to building websites and applications. Both during training and in my free time.

Do the goggles help?
Well, they do prevent my eyes from getting too much light while at home.
Having to look at 2 screens from the office (where I can’t use my goggles for obvious reasons) for 8 hours. Followed by another set of 3 screens at home (where I can use them).
It’s a good thing that my keyboard at home has some back-lighting in the keys… Otherwise I would not be able to code with the goggles at all!
But for a short answer. No… No, they do not help. They are more of a stylish point, keeping the engineer part to the name I guess…

What would you tell someone who would like to be able to code for a living like you do?
Practice makes perfect..But that goes for many other things.
If you really want to make a living out of it, it’s important to combine your job with your free time.
Make time to practice while at home but don’t forget to keep on going with your social activities.
Also, make sure you really like to do this for a living. Every job has it’s ups and downs, and so does programming. Not every assignment will be as fun to take on as the last one.
And that’s why it’s important to have some personal projects you can work on in your own time.
Just so you can get your mind off of the things at work and can work on some self improvement.

What is the most frustrating and/or strangest thing you have had to code?

Well… I am not allowed to share company secrets with the outside world. So I can’t tell you about the most frustrating thing in detail. But the general idea was that I would build a system based on an Excel file, which took me over 40 hours to build. Only to find out that the client had send me a new template in the last stage of presenting the system involving a complete rebuild of the system.
As for the strangest thing… That might as well be the bouncy logo page. Which started off as an experimental facebook app, involving you throwing the avatars of your friends around. But…Dutch told me that “Friend tosser” was not that good of a name for it, seeing as it could have a double meaning.

Since you have been with us you have created a few amazing features for our site. The ID generator, The Toy Soldier map. The Bouncy logos page. We greatly appreciate them all! Are these fun for you?
Heh, funny that you should ask that. I was in a conversation with Dutch the other day about the things I made and why I made them.
“What I do for the TSU is what the TSU does for me.”
I have been looking for new challenges, to test my skills and learn new stuff along the way and after the Digital playground topic, I started looking at the feature requests and asked Dutch if there was anything I could do for the site. Those requests were the challenges I liked!
And thus, the TSU provides me with a challenge, which I am more than happy to accept.
I ask, the TSU provides, I deliver. It’s a win-win situation that keeps everybody happy :)

What other computer skills would you like to learn if any?
I still want to learn more about server management and front-end developing. I’ve been giving both a few goes during the last few years but, neither are good enough for use in the corporate market.
I can’t apply for a job with the words “yeah, I’ve tried a few things, so I think I could handle it”.
Also, a little designing wouldn’t hurt, seeing as I am never happy with the designs I create because, they are to flat and to basic in my eyes.

What is your ultimate goal in your career?

My ultimate goal is to go freelancing. Being my own boss in a cabin in the woods. Not having to deal with projects I don’t like but, focusing on the things I do like and eventually making a name on the Internet without having to use an alias. But yeah, for now that’s just a dream.

Thank you Engineer Airhead for providing us with another great interview! We certainly appreciate all you do for us! We are so glad you joined us and that you are having fun! *salutes*

If you want to see some of Engineer Airheads work check out some of these links within our own site:
Toy Soldier Army Map
The ID Card Generator
And this fun Ball page he created:
TSU Logo Balls!

Spotlight on Toy Soldier Craftsman: 3D Sniper!

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This week we turn our Spotlight towards 3D Sniper.
He grew up in a rural area, it was a small town called Ochten, an old roman trading post on the Waal river, with about 4500 inhabitents, 2500 of which within the build up or urban area, the rest being farms, most of them fruit orchards.
When he was 16 he moved to Rhenen, a 750 year old city with 10000 inhabitants, still small, but twice as big as where he came from and it is in between three of the Netherlands’ most significant nature reserves.

So Sniper when did you become a Toy Soldier?
I became a Toy soldier after (like many) discovering Dr Steel’s music online and looking into it further than I had before. My music taste had changed since last running into him online, as had my interests and view on the world. My registration date was the second day of may in 2010.
I saw this new message, I had come into the dutch fantasy world where people of all walks created things, mostly costumes, but also a lot of music, dance and other forms of art.
When I first came into contact with Toy soldiers in the physical world I just felt right at home, for the first time in.. my life possibly. That, combined with the messaged that Dr Steel started it gave me a sense of belonging. It was a sense so strong that in 2013, I had decided to dedicate my first tattoo to the group, I must say that I had some trouble choosing whether I wanted the steel logo, or the new robot head. I chose to go with the robots, as robots have always made for good companionship, when building them, sinking my soul into their code, my blood into their structures and tears into their electronics. That combined with 32894, my original TS enlistment number made for a nice, personalized tattoo that hods a lot of meaning to me. In November during a relapse of my depression (a depression I thought cured by joining the TS) I had thought about handing in my resignation due to recent events. Instead I have decided to go on doing what I do best and that is lurk in the backgrounds and observe how the group evolves and changes while I look for my own merry way to go and have FUN!

What all mediums do you work in as far as crafting goes?
I will work with just about any medium in the physical realm, but I reckon I am most well known for my fire and metal crafts, from weaving chainmaille to forging irons to casting aluminum. But my education and upbringing have always been electronics, which have become almost sort of an instinct for me, in college they would ask me for flow charts and calculations, which I would never have until I finished my projects.

What got you interested in creating things with your hands?

I have always had a lively imagination and was never very good at concentrating or sitting still, even though I have always been a quiet person, my brain was always working. I would think up contraptions, mostly functional, sometimes just for the fun of it. But I never had the impulse to go from a quick sketch that only I could interpret (due to lack of coordination) to go and actually make things, in fact most of my childhood was spent taking things apart and looking to find out what made them tick. In kindergarten I would refuse to do finger painting unless they gave me a brush.
Then Lego entered my world and I was never satisfied with the kits made for my age, and was always more interested in making things that moved and where rated 3-5 years above my actual age.
When I was 15 I went to a fantasy/ren fair and saw all the pretties, bought a €20 chainmaille starter kit and I got hooked! That quickly led to me building my own aluminum foundry but, as for any sculpting skills I quickly found myself dropping the hobby because my molds never came out looking the way I wanted.
I found out that the best way for me to create was through building blocks, whether they where Lego bricks, chainmaille rings or program codes, I found a way to express myself without making things look horrible. This is why I started to describe myself as “technically creative” I can make you just about anything you want but, may need a hand at making it look pretty.

What long term goals do you have for your crafting?

I would love to make a living off it, at the moment I do need a full time job to make sure I have the income if I want to go out and live on my own. Living in the Netherlands isn’t cheap and I have always described my jobs as being the bread and butter of my life but, my crafting being the toppings and cupcakes (speaking off, I can make a raisin and rum cupcake to die for). Recently I have found myself attracted to the notion or saying that “those who can’t do, teach” and I don’t mean this in the sense that I can not craft but, more in the way of not making enough money from crafting to live off of and teaching might be a way to fill that income void. This is why I am working on getting a mobile workshop together and start teaching workshops/introductory courses at schools, festivals and hacker spaces.
I would love to someday create a prop that for a film or series that will become an icon, whether it gets a mainstream following or it will forever be a cult hit is not my concern. The important thing is making things that will survive the ages, whether on celluloid, stage or embedded in a rock on a hill is my way of trying to be remembered and leaving a mark on this earth.

Do you have any advice to give to others who may want to get into chainmaille or metal working?
Just do it, chainmaille is so easy to get into, it is a low initial investment, (you can easily get started for 10-20 euros, pounds, dollars, ) however, you need to be really careful.. I have seen people quit smoking because they couldn’t afford to maintain their chainmaille hobby and as far as other metal crafts go.. it all depends on what you want to do. For sheet metal, you need to have a good pair of shears, a drill with assorted bits, and either a way to rivet things together (pop rivets look good and work well especially for non structural parts) Epoxy glue can be used as long as the project is not subject to large temperature swings, as epoxy will melt, and will become fragile when it gets too cold, after all, its just a plastic. They say you NEED to know how to weld, but when I made a jetpack for Alice, I couldn’t weld, but I picked a metal which I knew I could use tin to solder together, its not as strong and a bit harder to do but, cheaper, need less equipment, and you could do this inside your apartment, as long as you open a window, although burning rosin and molten lead smell great, its not good for you.
Blacksmithing, welding, and other types of ‘hot’ metal working require a yard. With soil or sand as a ground surface as molten metal might make concrete and bricks explode if there is any moisture locked in. Someone who knows what they are doing is nice but, I am completely auto-didactic as far as my crafts go, I read one or two tutorials and simply have a go at it. Just make sure you do take the proper safety precautions, ESPECIALLY when just starting out.

So what is in the works for you right now?

I just received a request for some examples of projects that I would be able to do with students together with a list of restrictions on my equipment. So I would say that the mobile workplace is the main thing in the works, together with a costume designed for my by the great Hungarian (Sgt. Grinner) that I will be using for performing with fire at festivals and events, most likely in the form of a gladiator battle.
Also I am working with several filmmakers, actors, fire artists and a choreographer to put together a video showcasing the suit, my fire arts and music made by Dan Bull
That, and I am looking for a job so I can afford all the necessary investments.

Thank you Sniper for sharing your story with us! It was great talking to you! *salutes* :)

If you would like to see more of Sniper’s work please check out his site!
Also Right now we are featuring some of Sniper’s work in our very own TSU Shop!

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