HGE: We thank you so much for becoming a sponsor of the Home & Garden Expo (HGE). What led to your decision to be a sponsor this year?
Apple: It’s something that I always do in any event if I have the chance. For the Arcade and other events, likewise; I feel myself that to be in such an event which helps me build my brand, sponsoring is just a small way in which I can help the event managers out. Having 3 sims, I know it isn’t cheap, so I understand the struggle with that.
HGE: Are there things that you are most looking forward to at HGE this year?
Apple: With it being my first round, I’m looking forward to participating! I’ve visited in the past and it’s always a joy to see the beautiful displays people put on. It’s a good place for me personally to see work and other specialisms in SL that I wouldn’t go out to see on a regular day.
HGE: We would love to know about your work! Do you have any background in your First Life that suggested you would focus on the areas of design you have chosen for SL?
Apple: It’s something I grew up with for sure. My father, in his younger days, was a watercolour artist and my mother did a lot of pencil work. My grandparents also, specifically my late grandfather, was heavily into art. I think it’s definitely in my blood. As for pursuing it, I really can’t do anything else. I used to work at a chartered accountants, ‘pencil pushing’ so to speak, but it did not feel like me. I knew that I had to be doing something creative. So art, it’s something I have enjoyed and studied for a long time. I love to draw and ‘go back to the basics’ with art sometimes; just to go out and draw what I see. Other times I come here and mesh. For me, meshing isn’t work; it’s an artistic process in itself. I love to surround myself with creative things and creative people; I’m an avid collector in real life of magazines (I have probably too many), books, and teapots/teasets.
I draw inspiration from everywhere. With SL especially the market is so fluid, there are new stores popping up every so often and it’s hard to keep up! Everybody has amazing talent and it’s great to be around, and it also inspires me to try harder with my own work, not only to keep up, but to make Second Life a more visually beautiful place. I strive for realism. I’m very meticulous in my creative process, and while some have come to me and said what a hindrance it must be, as I slave over tiny details, to me it is very therapeutic and it completely pays off in the end. I’m rarely inspired by any particular artist, more an era, a period of time, and I love capturing in my 2d work as well as my 3d work a moment in time; a feeling, an emotion. I’m personally a huge fan of Picasso’s early work, the detail in his pencil work is astounding, and it’s not something many would associate with Picasso (more the abstract) but there’s definitely something there in his early work also which is completely admirable.
Being an artist… it’s the way I think, the way I see the world and the way I work. If I wasn’t an artist, it would be something mathematical. It was my logical route and there comes a time in life, especially for a creative job, where you have to look realistically at where you want to be. It’s unfortunate in the way it works but more often than not an artist (a painter) will have a hard time making money; history has shown itself many times to overlook an artist until years after his/her death. Van Gogh is a very prime example of that. So there is always maths to fall back on for me and I think that’s where I would be if I hadn’t pursued art.
HGE: What were the origins of your store?
Apple: It started as a joint venture between me and a friend who I worked with at the time on the Sims 3 DLC. We both joined to create for the game specifically, and my friend, Ana, had heard that at the time we joined, mesh was being implemented into Second Life, so it just felt like the right time and place.
She owns a store in SL called estatica, although she has other things going on also so she doesn’t spend much time working here.
HGE: Do you keep up with the latest technologies? Which do you consider most important and why? Do what extent have technological advances impacted your work, e.g. creative process, workflow, etc.?
Apple: I usually have a pretty good idea what the final product will look like; what does evolve is the set in general. The larger picture tends to unfold as i go; I’ll make a chair and then what I originally had paired up with the chair will no longer match, so I’ll put it aside and make something else. I end up with a bunch of unused meshes but they then implement unexpectedly into future sets perfectly.
In terms of technicality, creating for the Sims 2 and Second Life are very similar processes. It’s your regular process of creating a mesh and texturing it. With the Sims 3, the process changed a lot with the create-a-style tool, where we had to create many different textures for one mesh; a multiplier (shadow layer), a mask (to determine where each pattern would go) and then your regular speculars and normal maps etc. I didn’t enjoy this much, although I loved the CAST tool in the Sims 3, I felt that you couldn’t achieve the detail that you can with say baking textures and such like we do here in SL. This was where I started to phase out of the Sims, the method of content creation was highly unconventional and not something that I particularly enjoyed. Another huge advantage of creating for SL over the Sims 3 is the direct interaction you have with your customers. Here they can approach me, tp me and I can see my creations in real-time in this world. On the Sims 3 while sure, it was nice to see screenshots of your creations being used, it isn’t the same as actually walking amongst them. And with the Sims was just a download interface; a website. So there was very little communication and interaction between me and the customer.
HGE: What have you considered key to your success as a business person in SL?
Apple: I get people from all walks of life contacting me, from families, guys, girls, people owning clubs and other store owners. My customer base is very wide.
HGE: So many of us dream about having a business in SL but it’s harder than it looks! What are some of the things you would recommend to a talented individual who is considering embarking on starting a business?
Apple: Just keep at it. Now more than ever it’s easy to get your brand known. Back in 2011 when I joined and events culture wasn’t so big it was hard to get your brand in the public eye. But with events such as the Home and Garden Expo, Arcade, collabor88, etc, if you are good at what you do, you’re accepted into these events in time and you’re right in the spotlight. It’s really great how the social scene for stores has developed as opposed to being secluded mainstores on various different sims being the only way to shop.
HGE: We would love to know more about you, ie, where you live, what do you do for fun in SL, etc. Anything you would like to say or share!
Apple: I really don’t spend any time in SL that isn’t creating. I love SL but I love RL, too. Anytime I have that isn’t spent creating I am immediately into RL spending time with my husband or going to watch a movie or something. We like to get away on day trips a lot, too. I love traveling and taking photos, mostly of textures for my work, and of architecture. It’s always good to have the references for work. It all builds towards that realism. A few of our favourite areas close to where we live are Bakewell and Whitby. Both very different in terms of what to do; Bakewell is a rural country village with lots of walking and little tea rooms.
There’s this really nice little tea shop in Whitby that sells all sorts of unique infusions. I love to brew my tea the original way; loose leaf in a teapot with a strainer. It really gets the true flavour over a teabag. At the moment I’ve been drinking mango tea and summer fruits tea which is red berries, really sweet in itself; doesnt need sugar or milk. Fauchon is also another favourite tea brand of mine. I recently purchased choclate eclair tea so i’m looking forward to trying that.
Whitby is a coastal town and I love to take the boat out to the sea (on a nice day) and just enjoy the clean air. And they’re both only around an hour or two drive from here. I’m definitely privileged to live so close to beautiful areas.