Monday, December 29, 2014

Social Media for Introverts

If you're reading this, you're taking a step in the right direction of tackling social media even though you're an introvert. You know that you need to get busy on the social media front to promote your goods, services, skills, and business.

Social media is necessary for three reasons: showing your value and reach, promoting activities and products, and engagement that creates relationships.
  1. Showing your value and reach. At its most basic, this would be your numbers of followers, likes, subscribers, people in your circles, etc.  The numbers have surface value because they indicate how much reach you could potentially have, and they are considered as an indication of your popularity. A number of these subscribers could be false profiles (spammers who create accounts, people who forget their password and create new accounts while leaving the old accounts in the ether), people who followed you even though they don't know who you are/what you do, and the same one person who has several accounts (aliases, business profiles, etc.). People like seeing these numbers because they're an apparent popularity rating. Your reach extends beyond your immediate circle when you make content public and people share that content with people who aren't already on your social media list. You want to increase your numbers, but you can't stop there.
  2. Promoting activities and products. If someone hires you to perform in a public show, you are expected to promote that show and help that brand succeed, making the money to cover your fees. If you make widgets, you have to get the word out so people know what you have to offer. (Newspaper ads and printed mailbox fliers are like rotary phones in these modern times.) If you are on social media, you have something to promote.
  3. Engagement that creates relationships. This is what it's all about - getting people to care about you, your business, your product. You want them to think positively about you. You want to have real, valuable interactions like a real person. Social media fails if it seems like it's being run by robots. You have to engage with followers to create relationships with them. You never know where your next job will come from. If you engage smartly, you create brand ambassadors from your fanbase. These people will bang the drum for you because they think you're special.
Now you know why you need social media. How do you navigate the social media sphere without coming across as a robot or a jerk?
  • Be true to your product. Share things that reflect the values and attitudes of your product. If you juggle fire, you can share photos of getting your fire certification from the local fire station, videos of practice sessions, and tidbits about your life as a fire juggler. ("I've singed my hair three times this morning working on my new act. Time for a haircut!") If you make handbags, you can share photos of the raw materials you use, videos of great sewing techniques, and tidbits about your handbag adventures. ("We were asked to create a new messenger bag with interchangeable straps. I think this second prototype will be the winner. Stay tuned!")
  • You should post regularly so people who follow you know that you exist, and you should post slices of life. Yes, people want to know about your next show or your new product or your next community outreach activity. More importantly, they want to know about YOU. They want great storytelling and slices of life. Here is a sample:
  • Interact with other people and businesses that are in line with what you do. If you make handbags, interact with small businesses that make shoes and clothing designers and models. Interact with boutiques that might consider selling your product, and people who would be potential customers. If you dance, interact with other dancers, instructors, costume designers, producers, and potential audience. Like, favorite, share, and comment on their posts. You don't have to interact with everything they post, but you will have to interact in order to show up on their radar and engage. The goal is to get them to talk back to you. This is how you build social media relationships. Here is a sample:
    If you engage them enough, they may just follow you back. :)
  • Join online groups and tribes where people are talking about the things that align with your brand. Join performers groups in the areas where you perform or want to perform. Join sewing groups. Join outreach groups that support the things that are important to you and your brand. Comment when appropriate, but mostly you should sit back and watch until you feel comfortable saying something. Observe the rules and relationships of the group so you don't put your foot in your virtual mouth your first day in the group.
If you build relationships, you will have people who listen when you have something to promote. Your audience will already like and trust you, so they're more likely to take that next step and support you. Get them to like you so much that they'll part with $20 to buy your calendar or commit to leaving the couch and spending $15 on a ticket to see you perform live.

If you're incredibly introverted and need lots of motivation to post on social media, try this out for starters: two posts per day on every social media outlet you currently have, two likes/shares/comments per day on every social media outlet you currently have. These two posts can be videos, photos, or text posts ABOUT YOU. After you hit those two posts ABOUT YOU, then you can share the event page or flier for your next show. (I know producers will push performers to promote shows. In my experience, they're trying to reach the people who haven't promoted at all without singling them out. If you promote every couple days after posting ABOUT YOU, you'll be fine.)

You're going to be forced to leave your comfortable, introverted shell to have any kind of social media presence. It's called social media, not leave me the hell alone media. It's okay if it takes you a couple hours to like a comment. It's okay if you have instant messaging turned off. You are your own promotional machine, and social media allows you to do that without forcing you to bother putting on pants to get to work

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Tassel Twirling Basics Are Back!

I shared this video on YouTube back in 2011 before my nipples prompted the absolute cancellation of my account. If you want to learn how to twirl, here are the basics.

Friday, October 24, 2014

"I Don't Have a Tag Line ..."

All variety and dance stage performers will need to provide an introduction for an emcee to read at some point in their careers. My goal is to set you on the right path so you can give them something to say about you. I'll talk about tag lines and then about intros.

Tag Lines
The point of a tag line is to give the audience a quick and catchy idea of who you are as a performer. As an example, I'm "the Go All the Way Girl" because I like to get as naked as possible when I perform (without giving the producer venue/vice issues because I like to get booked again). It's a great catchall for the various acts I do. Someone told me I'm like the girl next door who knows you're watching her strip.

Here's some inside baseball: "The Go All the Way Girl" came out of a discussion of my performance style with the one I went all the way with: Mr. Snapper. I don't know which one of us came up with the exact phrase because we're so alike, but I contributed to my own tag line nonetheless.

My first tag line was something off the cuff that I came up with backstage before a show, a whopping three months into my professional burlesque career. As my performance style grew and changed, so did my tag line. To change my tag line, I had to send it in my booking confirmation emails and tell every emcee individually what the new tag line was. Some of them still remember the old one and want to use it from time to time, but they usually ask first.

Sometimes another person will sum up your performance style so beautifully that you wind up using that as your tag line. "She's a real stripping tornado! Watch out for ..." Keep your ears open for these gems.

What comprises a good tag line? I asked Mr. Snapper because he spends more time saying them than I do, him being a host and all.

Catchy, memorable, and above all, say-able. It should roll off the tongue, not trip up the speaker.
It’s not a bio, should not be a passage of prose. It’s poetry; a jingle.

The idea that the only legit tagline/intro is one that is given to you is a quaint myth. To paraphrase (or rather, blatantly edit) John Adams:

“Modesty is a virtue that can never thrive in public …. A performer must be her own trumpeter—she must write or dictate paragraphs of praise in the newspapers; she must dress, have a retinue and equipage; she must ostentatiously publish to the world her own writings with her name, make the mob stare and gape, and perpetuate her fame.”
I'm going to add that it usually needs to be ten words or less. Make it easy to remember and the emcee (and audience) will remember it. Think about the best tag lines you've heard for products. Jot down the first four or five that come to mind. They're not necessarily complete sentences, but you remember them. It's just another way to remember your brand.

I also suggest that you avoid adding "of burlesque" if you're primarily performing in burlesque shows. "She's the stripping girl Of Burlesque." "She's the tile cleaner Of Burlesque." "He's the football cream Of Burlesque." Imagine a night where every tag line is "Of Burlesque." If you were named "The Ice Cream Sandwich Of Burlesque" by LA Weekly, use it. If you're working it out on your own and you weren't named "Of Burlesque" or crowned as "Of Burlesque," get clever about it. "She's an Ice Cream Sandwich because everyone wants to lick her ..." "He's a swamp buggy badass ..." "Empty your pockets because she's taking your milk money ..."

Your tag line needs to tell the audience who you are so they can remember you. Keep that in mind before you decide to make it something funny that's incredibly unflattering. "She'll give you the clap" may be funny once, but you probably don't want fans to come up to you after the show and ask who gave you the clap.

If you've been performing for a month, or maybe if you've been performing ten years, you may not have a tag line. That's okay. Don't force it. More importantly, don't expect your emcee to play tag line fairy godmother/godfather and endow you with the best tag line ever. It's not their responsibility to shape and label your brand; it's yours. Don't put the onus on the emcee. They do introductions, announcements, and stall as necessary.

Your introduction sets the scene for what you are about to show the audience. Your intro can change based on the act, while your tag line shouldn't vary with every performance. You can frequently just use your tag line (if you have one) as an intro.

You don't have to have a tag line, but you do have to have an intro. The emcee needs to prepare the audience for you.

What can you say about yourself? Remembering Mr. Snapper's paraphrasing of John Adams, say something good. General introductions can include where you're from, what titles you've won, what festivals you've performed in that someone in the audience might recognize (probably no more than three). If you produce, you can give the show you produce and where. If you have another show or exciting tour/festival coming up, you can include that information. "The next performer is a Pacoima native who has performed in the Daisy Chain Festival and is The Dairy Queen 2012."

What if you're brand new, you've been out of the game for a while, or you can't think of anything interesting to say about yourself in an intro? Look at what's unique about you. Can you tie cherry stems with your tongue? Are you stripping your way through college? Teacher by day, dancer by night? Are you returning to the stage after ten years off to raise twins? You can give this info to the emcee. As you gain more experience and notoriety, your intro can change.

There are times when you may want to give more information with your intro. For example, you're performing a Little Bo Peep number as Deadpool. That might require a little explanation to get the audience in the right frame of mind for the act, especially when the rest of the evening is glamour burlesque. For this sort of act, be clear and concise with your intro. Make it easy for the emcee to get the audience in the mood. "Cosplay and burlesque are a natural pairing. Comic book character Deadpool is often caught cosplaying other characters at conventions. Bringing you his take on Deadpool as a stripping Little Bo Peep, please welcome ..." Okay, that one's not particularly brilliant, but you get the idea. The audience now gets the basic concept of this outre act, even if they have no idea who Deadpool is or why he would dress up as Little Bo Peep.

If you haven't worked with an emcee before, if they're unfamiliar with your act or with you as a performer, don't ask them to make something up for you. Have some basic info ready to help them do their job.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Guide to Corset Shopping

I've gotten many questions about corsets over the past few years, so I put together a video to help those of you who want a burlesque look make wise choices based on your intentions for the garment. I give some simple tips to recognize a well-constructed corset, and recommendations on how to select and utilize an off-the-rack corset or corset-like garment.

Enjoy and share the love.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Sewing September - Day 30

I didn't post last night since I was finishing this for my sister. It's finished!

Glad I paid attention when I was cutting the fabric!
The laces in the back are red. I may replace the cord I got with paracord since paracord will make it easier for my sister to cinch herself in. She needed something that looked "burlesquey" for an upcoming poi performance at Harvest Festival, and I think this will do the trick.

I didn't get as much done in September as I had hoped. I wanted to do a sew-along, but there were plenty of speed bumps that prevented that from happening. I can plan better for next year. :)

Here's what I actually completed in September:
  • sparkly mint cardigan
  • sparkly mint headband
  • gray cardigan
  • my sister's striped underbust corset
  • my black zip underbust corset
  • a ridiculous sock monster for Coca Carter
  • two panels for my panel skirt
Here's what I worked on but didn't really complete:
  • e-textiles (I did complete some tutorials.)
  • quilted bag
  • two Doodle squares for the quilt
I lost some corset pieces, ruined some corset pieces, replaced a part for my primary machine, got attacked by a crazy person, did a couple shows, and started a new business in September. Despite these interruptions, I still managed to get some things done.
While I don't have the pressure of National Sewing Month, I'm always creating and will share my discoveries with you as I go.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Sewing September - Day 29

Hand sewing like a freak today. I'm not sure how many projects will be completed by end of business tomorrow, but I have put in a valiant effort.  I started the night with my final LilyPad project. I worked on it before, but something was missing. Today I sorted out that it was missing the negative trace from the final LED. Glad we have a multimeter and my husband is smart.

I love learning this stuff.
Since I was playing with LEDs, I wired up the LEDs on one side of my corset. I have to attach the power supply; it's going to be removable because I'm smart. Lights first, trim on top, then rhinestoning to enhance the look.

I couldn't help myself.
I ended my sewing night with the bottom binding of the other side of my sister's corset. I'm looking forward to finishing it and sending it to my sister. I love finishing projects.

This is going to look so good.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sewing September - Days 27 and 28

I got absolutely squat done Friday. That's three days off this month. I tried making up for it over the past two days.

I'm working on panels for my skirt to go with my corset. I draped them on my new dress form this morning. (I've also stuffed the cups because the dress form doesn't expand to a DD, even though the chest and waist expand. The shape is wrong if I alter the dress form measurements to try to make boobs.) They're getting serged tonight when I get home from the Dodgers game.

Excited about this number and its new direction.

I also finished the cardigan! That took forever. I found that by lengthening the stitch just a bit more made it easier. I also folded the area to be hemmed under and let the feed dogs do the work, instead of having the inside of the folded area against the presser foot.

And I replaced the rear panels of my sister's corset. I grommeted and assembled it yesterday, adding a couple more boning channels and starting the bias tape this morning. It's going to be adorable. I'm really excited about it. Andrew's cutting the bones while I'm watching baseball. I figure it will be complete by Wednesday if I have no more interruptions.
This is going to look dope with the red laces.
I'm in the home stretch and there's so much I didn't get done! GRAH!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Sewing September - Day 25

My Thursday was a bit packed. My husband and I started our own social media company because we dig storytelling, problem solving, and being able to help people achieve their goals.While we get enough clients to focus on doing social media "full time," we're working on that in the hours we aren't at day jobs and aren't working on burlesque stuff. I'm also enrolled in three online courses (not Craftsy) that all have deadlines, so I'm spreading myself thinner than usual ... maybe. My excuse for not getting much sewing done last night was the new new job and a hot minute of actual social time.

I still got something done. I cut the panels for a panel skirt to be attached to a corset I made a few months ago. I was going to perform a number in that corset with a regular skirt, but I wound up with anemia, had to cancel the gig on doctor's orders, and didn't get to perform in the corset. Time passed, I found the perfect fabric for my panels, and I decided to change up the choreo. I think I may attach some of the panels with buttons and others with velcro. We'll see what comes to pass.

I love how this looks.
My goal for the weekend is to finish assembling the corset, serge all the skirt panels, finish that pesky cardigan, do a fancy t-shirt hack, and turn a lab coat into a dress. Let's see if that happens.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Sewing September - Day 24

I was making great progress last night. I got the busk completely set and it looks fantastic. I stitched the boning channels in the back panels so I'd be ready for grommeting, but something happened.

I use Chacoliner to mark the stitching lines for the channels. I used my new red Chacoliner on the shell of the corset, and it didn't wipe off as easily as the yellow. I tried using a scrap of the same fabric to rub the red chalk off, but that didn't work. I took the panels into my kitchen and hit them with cold water and a little dish soap. I scrubbed the lines with my fingers and rinsed the panels, leaving them to dry in my dishrack.

When I dyed the coutil for the quickie corset, I rinsed that stuff until the water ran clear. I rinsed it and air dried it, then rinsed it again and again and again. You can't wash a corset because of the bones and grommets, but there were no bones and I bought the coutil that was already dyed black. Imagine my surprise when I found that the dye in the coutil ran all over the shell. This was just from the hand washing in cold water with soap. Not cool at all. I have to remake these back panels. (What the hell is the deal with having to make corset rear panels twice per corset this month?!)

Not cool, black coutil. Not cool at all.
I'm fortunate this happened when it did. I've made black coutil corsets that didn't stain while being worn, but those were from a different dye lot. She's not going swimming in this corset, but she is going to get sweaty. I can't have it dye her skin or ruin the shell. The lesson I've learned is that you must rinse coutil that has been dyed to dark colors before using it, even if you didn't dye it yourself. I'm going to rinse all of the coutil I bought until the water is clear. I'm going to rinse the inside coutil panels that have already been assembled. It's a bigger pain to pull out the busk and rinse that coutil, so I'm going to try interfacing the coutil on that panel, essentially creating a fusible condom to protect the shell from the coutil. The panel is so small I don't think it will be an issue.

Learning lessons quickly by sewing so intensively. :)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Sewing September - Day 23

I'm trying to make up for lost time. The bobbins of my primary machine work on the spare, so I finished installing the zipper and attaching it to the handle for the crazy Craftsy bag. Shopping for corset supplies and that little project took a nice bit of my morning.

Slow and steady wins the race, yes?

The early evening was spent finishing a ridiculous alien sock creature for Coca Carter. It's front heavy so it doesn't stand on its tiny feet very well. I'm sure it will provide her some fun times, even when she guts it.

Felt eyes with marker pupils so it's totally crunch-free.

My last project for the night was my sister's corset. Since I finally have the busk and coutil, I cut the remaining pieces and assembled what I could before retiring for the evening. I'm really excited that I found a black busk and white grommets, which will make the corset look even cooler. (I think I can dye the grommets, based on what they were telling me at the supply store!)

I think the black busk and white grommets look cool.
I learned a technique in the bag Craftsy class that I'm using on the corset. The instructor used a glue stick to temporarily bond some velcro so it was easier to machine stitch. Busks can be slippery until they're stitched into place. I used a glue stick to seal in both parts of the busk. We'll see tomorrow if that makes it easier to sew.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Sewing September - Day 22

I feel so thwarted with my primary machine out of whack. The spare machine has less stitch variety and isn't as smooth. It functions but I'm spoiled.

Tonight I worked on the storage bag from the Craftsy class. I installed a stabilizer pocket and handle, and I started on the zipper. I may just finish up the zipper tomorrow before I put on pants. I have to restock some corset supplies in the morning so I can get my sister's corset done.

Completed handle on my janky quilting job.
I had so many awesome plans for this month of sewing, and things have just come up. We'll see if I get a few more things completed by the end of the month. I've done some form of sewing for twenty days of the month, which isn't too shabby.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

When Your Brother CS6000i Throws Shade

I noticed a lack of information on the error code F4 this morning when I discovered it on my machine this morning. Since I recommend the Brother CS6000i to people who want a nice machine for a reasonable price, I feel it's my responsibility to share what I've learned about this error code.

If you read my blog about my derailed sewing plans for today, you know that my baby dog pulled the pedal from my machine. My husband tried bending the plug back into place so I could use it. I was concerned by the F4 code that she actually caused internal damage to the machine based on that information.

The nearest authorized service center is in the San Fernando Valley. That's way the hell out of my way. I was willing to pay up to a certain dollar amount to get it checked out next Saturday, but I was prepared to purchase a replacement machine to save myself the hassle of arranging two trips to and from the Valley to get it fixed. (The machine manual recommends to call an authorized service center if you get any F codes.) Andrew is just as tenacious as me, so he obsessively combed the internet for a solution. If we could get out of spending much money and/or going to the Valley, he was willing to do whatever he could.

The F4 code meant the foot pedal was not properly connected to the machine. This was consistent with the baby dog shenanigans. There either had to be something wrong inside the machine at the point of connection, or the pedal plug was damaged. He turned the machine on without the pedal and there was no error code, which indicated that it was indeed the pedal plug. A little trolling on eBay provided a replacement pedal for under $30 and no trip to the Valley.

You know I'll be picking up my pedal when I leave my machine unsupervised so there are no more baby dog shenanigans with it.

Sewing September - Day 21

I wrote out my sewing plan for today before I went to bed last night. I was going to finish that pesky cardigan and put the waist tape and boning channels in the finished parts of my sister's corset shell.  I had plans to get more work done on the fancy storage bag project I'm doing via Craftsy. I got up and my sewing machine wasn't working.

Let me back up. My beloved Coca Carter was running through the house when I was away last week. If it's me reading the signs, I'd say she got caught on my sewing machine's foot pedal and yanked it out of the machine in order to get free. She knocked several things from my sewing table onto the floor and bent the plug for my foot pedal. I haven't tried using the machine since.

The error code my machine was giving indicated it needed to go to an expert, which meant I had to switch to the simpler machine this morning. The simpler machine is great, but it doesn't have the free arm table and isn't as easy to change the bobbin. This altered my plans for the day. (I'll post another blog about troubleshooting the error code.)

I did get the work done on my sister's corset and some of the work done on the storage bag. I had to quit on the storage bag because the next part requires multiple thread and bobbin changes. Too much hassle for this machine. I'll finish that pesky cardigan when the troubled machine is back up and running.

Corset fixings and part of the storage bag.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Sewing September - Days 19 and 20

Yesterday was hand sewing time. After the crazy interruption, I didn't have the mental acuity to do more than stitch on a sock creature. I did some work on it backstage at the Lynch show. I didn't get very far, but I did something.

Perhaps a new plaything for the baby dog.

This evening I did a little more. I attached the legs, installed the teeth, made lips. I was too tired to finish it tonight, so I have to complete this sucker tomorrow. I realized I should have installed a squeaker since this sock alien might just become a buddy for Coca Carter.

I also picked out the collar topstitching on that pesky cardigan. I picked up more gray thread so I can finish it up tomorrow. I've fallen behind on my intended projects for the month, but I'm still going!

This Service Interruption Sponsored by Crazy

When I was a child, I thought I was invincible. I'd climb tall trees and hold on with one hand. I'd walk rural highways with no concern. I'd throw shade back at jerks because they weren't going to escalate it into a physical throw-down. I've even been in some scrapes on my younger days. I never believed anyone would actually attack me without provocation.

Imagine my surprise when I was attacked by a random woman in at a busy intersection in a nice part of town yesterday morning. I had just finished my chai latte and some reading about small business. I discarded my cup and began the half mile walk to my daily grind. It's usually a nice walk, giving me time to organize my pre-workday thoughts. I head down a main drag before winding my way through neighborhoods where they disregard the lawn watering rules of the LA drought. Kids sell lemonade on street corners and people walk dogs in their J. Crew pajama pants. It's safe. I wasn't on guard like I am in less idyllic neighborhoods.

I was waiting to cross the street and walk to work when a crazy woman walked behind me, yanked my hair, and twisted my head. She was muttering like a crazy person. I didn't provoke her, try staring her down, loudly ask who invited the kook to the corner. I just stood at the corner waiting for that walking man to pop up on the sign. She yanked and yanked while I shouted at her to stop. When she released me, she headed the other way. The light changed and I darted across the street.

Time moves slowly during an attack. There were two people on that part of the corner with me: a woman on a bicycle who got the hell out of there before the light changed, and a man with a child in a stroller. Neither was going to help me. There were more people just down the block, but they were far more shocked than I was. I didn't scream or shout for help. I broke out my Actor Voice and yelled at her to stop.

Taking every bad thing as a lesson, here's what I've learned:
  • When something bad happens, yes, it is actually happening and it is for real. Don't waste valuable time trying to sort that part out like I did. I could have swung around and clocked her with my handbag, taken a photo of her after, and hollered after the motorcycle cop in the area that didn't seem to notice.
  • No one is obligated to help you, and chances are no one will even if you scream or shout. Be prepared to handle the situation yourself. After she went the other direction, the man with the stroller asked if I was okay. I crossed two streets at the intersection, and someone who witnessed it on an opposing corner asked if I was okay. No one was going to dart across a busy intersection to get a crazy woman to disengage.
  • If a man attacks a woman at a busy intersection, people are more likely to get involved. If a woman attacks another woman, it's a different dynamic and doesn't prompt interference. If I was a man, she would never have attacked me like that. An attack can come from anyone, so you sadly must keep up your guard.
  • Report any incidents as soon as possible. In Los Angeles, you are discouraged from tying up 911 when a situation is not posing immediate danger. It's a big city and there are limited resources. If you witness or experience something like this and you're not wounded, you may decide to fill out the anonymous web tip form and submit that. You can also text CRIMES (274637) on your cell phone and begin the message with the letters LAPD. If enough people report the crazies, they may be removed from endangering others before they kill someone.
  • No one has the right to derail your intentions with their crazy. I was on my way to work with a gig at night, and I wasn't seriously injured. (I was just sore and shaken up.) I could've given up and scurried home to hide out and cry, going over and over how I could dare be so vulnerable that something like this could happen to me, canceling everything on my agenda and skulking in my dark bedroom. I pushed through, put in most of a workday, and did my show at night. It was tough. I was pretty fragile until I had a nap, but I didn't give up on getting things done.
  • You have a support network, even if you feel like you don't. One of the marvels of social media is being able to stay connected with people in real time. I've received so much support and many encouraging words because I shared what happened. I was urged by my friends to file a report. I have a friend who teaches self-defense and is trying to sort out the best technique to defend against that exact means of attack. I had offers of help, and I'm working on a growler of comfort beer from a very dear friend. People care about you, even if they don't say it all the time. Keep that in mind.
I ended the workday with an Uber ride home. I use Uber and the bus frequently when my husband has the car. I took an Uber so I could be around a safe stranger. Not everyone is crazy. Not everyone is out to hurt you. It was therapeutic to just be in the same space as someone I didn't know who wasn't going to hurt me.

I hope you never face something like this, but I hope that my experience informs your safety and survival should you ever face a crazy.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Sewing September - Day 18

I decided to work on a ridiculous hand sewing project since I have a show tomorrow night. This is something I can complete backstage if not before I go to the venue.

This is a project from the Return of the Stupid Sock Creatures. This is a great book to learn hand sewing technique, and it's a great way to get rid of ridiculous socks that have stretched-out elastic or mismatched mates.

I chopped up one very long sock that only had a mate the first time I wore it. I assembled the body, legs and ears this evening, and I may just wrap it up tomorrow night. I can't recommend this book enough for hand sewing technique. It's very fun. The book has a number of projects and explains the technique to create your own imaginative sock babies.

I should mention that in my very early sewing days, I made dolls from colorful tube socks. In many ways, this is like returning to my sewing roots.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Sewing September - Day 17

As my cardigan gathers dust on my ironing board, I take on a new project. (It's not really gathering dust. More precisely, it's gathering papers and projects because I'm terrible with flat surfaces and I fill them with projects. My ironing board is half craft table, half ironing surface.)

There are wonderful things about working with the same people and the same patterns over and over. I'm making a corset for my sister for the Harvest Music Festival in October. She's spinning poi and probably doing some other hippie performing arts (like fire fans and hoop and stuff I can't do). Her group is doing themed costumes, and she decided she wants an underbust corset. I made another for her earlier this year for fun.

Since I have the pattern for her underbust corset on file and I've made this particular style a few times, I cut and assembled the sides within 30 minutes. I have to get more coutil and a busk before I finish each half, but I might just drop in the waist tape with room at the ends and put in some boning channels before I have the rest of the supplies.

I asked her to send me canvas for the shell. This stuff is dreamy on the machine.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sewing September - Day 16

I took yesterday off because I was too busy with work and the show to get anything done on the machine, and I didn't have any hand sewing projects to tote along with me. I did perform in my newly completed corset, and I drafted some schematics for the LEDs for my corset.

How is this damn cardigan still not done?!?!

I basted the stupid sleeves in place and machine stitched them in. It was then that I noticed I was almost out of gray thread. I thought that by bypassing the topstitching I would have enough thread to make it to the end.


It's probably for the best that I ran out. You see that jagged seam before the thread ran out? That's what happens when you sew knit on the bias when your sewing machine table is too small and you didn't let it hang overnight so everything drapes nicely before stitching.

This sucker won't be finished until I can get more gray thread. It seems like this project has been the bane of my September.

In the meantime, I am cutting the outside for a corset for my sister tomorrow. I may also cut the fabric for a Star Trek Hawaiian shirt. I think those will go much smoother.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sewing September - Day 14

Bested the corset! Today I finished the assembly, so I'll show you how it all turned out. I rarely make single-layer corsets, so now is your chance to see the nuts and bolts.

I use fusible web to baste the waist tape and boning channels before I stitch them all in place. The waist tape floats between channels, meaning it's not stitched down on all edges. The boning channels were once intended for magnetic tape, but the supplier ordered more than they used so they sell it at a discount. If you use two layers of coutil, you don't need the boning channels. If you use a single layer of coutil, you can buy the discount channeling and have the print face the coutil; no one will be the wiser unless you spill the beans on the internet. ;) I'm not taking this off during a number, so it's an inside joke for me - "dangerous near a pacemaker."

Boning channels with built-in comedy.
Here is the front of the corset. I embellished it with some black stones to make the ebony panels in the back look a bit more intentional. (I had to use a filter so you could see the stones.) You might notice there is no facing behind the zipper. Since the piece isn't intended for removing on stage, I didn't bother with a facing. I have to loosen the lacing and take my time unzipping it so I don't catch my skin when I remove it.

Front view
The back doesn't have my standard modesty panel. I'm not removing it on stage. I also rarely wear black, so I didn't take the same care constructing this piece that I would a piece that I planned on wearing frequently. If I intended to use it regularly, I would add the modesty panel and the front facing. I would also get some thicker lacing cord because the paracord shifts pretty easy in the grommets. This will work for tomorrow. Since I had all of these supplies on hand in my house, I didn't go out of pocket for this piece.

You can barely tell what was once lavender in this light.
The reason I had to crank this out for Monday was to match Lili's silhouette when I perform her number in a tribute show tomorrow night.

I think I fill out her bra reasonably.
Monday may just be a little hand sewing. I'm hoping that Tuesday ends my wrestling with the cardigan.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Sewing September - Days 12 and 13

Yesterday was a busy day of me looking like this:

I made this dress, and I loved wearing it all day.
That's about all I can say about yesterday for now. I can say I had fun and slept incredibly well when I turned in before 10pm. Of course, I did find a moment to work on the corset for Monday.

When last we left off, I abandoned half the back of my corset at the Farmer's Market like a dipshit. The one corset supply store I know of in all of Los Angeles is only open 8am to 5pm Monday through Friday. I was tied up from 7am until 4:30pm yesterday, and I have to have this piece completed by Monday. Fortunately I had an untouched chunk of lavender coutil that I bought for my in-class project for corsetry class. (Note on class: Locating a space for classes that will accommodate sewing machines has been tricky. The class may be online exclusively.) I also had some black dye in my kitchen cabinet.

Not the clearest photo, but you can see how light it is.
Last night I dyed the hell out of a tiny chunk of the lavender coutil. I let it simmer for a good 45 minutes, then let it soak overnight. I had to rinse it several times to get it to run clear. It turned out a nice, rich black. Too rich. I had to pick apart the remaining corset back and replace both full back panels so it looks even. I turned the light back into another facing for the new ebony backs.

For the second time, I cut grommet holes and inserted grommets. I use the tape to hold the male ends of the grommets in place until I get them fully secured. You can see the difference in color between the facing on the left and corset back panel on the right. Oops.
Color differences. Oops.
I stitched the waist tape and boning channels inside the more complete portion of the corset today. I also attached bias tape where I could at the top, and popped a few rhinestones on the front. This sucker will be finished tomorrow.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Sewing September - Day 11

Yesterday I was all "I'm so busy for the next couple days," so today I packed my corset backs cut the holes for the grommets. I figured it would be a good idea to get it done when I could, so I sat down at the Starbucks at the Farmer's Market at the Grove and set to work before the day job. I was so proud of myself for getting all the holes done with spare time to read. I packed up my stuff and set out to start my day.

I had a Skype with my nephew when I got home and started unpacking my bag, realizing I didn't stick the male end of the grommets into the holes while I was out. Time was ticking because I had some house chores to tackle and outfits to gather for Friday's taping. Digging through my bag, I only found one of the backs!!! Andrew called Starbucks and I called lost and found and no one had seen it. It may have been thrown away or taken by a transient to line a worn shoe. It's gone. Let's remember that I'm supposed to wear this corset Monday night. SHIT!

My dear friend and corset-making goddess didn't have any black coutil at her house. The only corset supply in town is open 8am to 4pm Monday through Friday, and that won't work with my shindig tomorrow. I don't even have scraps of black coutil.

Saturday I'm dyeing a tiny chunk of the lavender coutil I just happen to have. Once it's black and dry, I'm getting to work on the boning channels and grommets. There are other things I can do before then, like finish the side I do have, and do the waist tape and boning channels for part of this side. It's just a bit more work than I anticipated. Ugh.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Sewing September - Day 10

I did no sewing yesterday. Absolutely none. I left my day job and zipped off to the Hollywood Bowl to see a presentation of Gustov Holtz's The Planets, then got home late to get less than five hours sleep. Meh.

I had to stop sewing tonight at 9pm, but more on that shortly. I bested the shoulder seams that gave me fits, machine stitching through the basted areas, serging and topstitching. I also stitched and serged the side seams before quitting time. I should have it finished Saturday morning, spending tomorrow night on my grommets for the corset.

Wearing my sewing goggles and Batman jammies under the incomplete cardigan.
Friday we're on deck to participate in a game show. There's a lot I can't say yet, but I can say we aren't guaranteed screen time just because we show up. I can say we've been familiarizing ourselves with pop culture in hopes that makes us better at playing the game. I can say that if we win it would be incredible, but I don't want to put too many eggs in that basket. I can say I had to pick outfits that didn't show cleavage. I can say that our Friday will be very long and busy, and that we're focusing on resting up so we don't play the game like idiots and fail to entertain because we're so tired. I may not be able to say much more than that for a while, but I will share what I can when I am permitted.

My point is that there won't be a lot of sewing tomorrow or Friday, but I'll pick it back up in full force on Saturday.

"I Would Sew But I Don't Have a Sewing Machine"

I grew up in a financially poor household, but we were rich with creativity. My mother spent hours and hours of every day at her sewing machine. She made fancy shirts for my father, summer dresses and camisoles for herself, pajamas for all of the kids, and fabulous day dresses for me. She used every scrap of leftover cotton and bias tape to make doll clothes for me, and she did some soft sculpture toy making. She even did a few commissioned projects when I was young. This is how I was exposed to machine sewing at such an early age.

Mom's first sewing machine was an old Singer. (I tried finding a photo online of the same machine but failed.) It was a simple machine with a pedal that seemed to go too fast when I'd step on it. It rested in a canvas-covered fiberboard box that was full of lint and bits of thread. I don't think you could remove the pedal. I was barely five when she let me sit in her lap and try to machine stitch with her. That machine didn't have the safety bells and whistles of modern machines, so I did most of my sewing by hand until I was ten. I loved teh sounds and smells of that machine. She made magic happen with that machine, and I wanted my own as soon as I could have one.

When I was eleven or twelve, Mom finally got a new machine -- another Singer. She gave me her old machine, and I used that until I moved out at seventeen. Sometimes I'd get to use the new machine, but I did my fair share of sewing on the dinosaur. I made clothing before I learned the importance of pattern layouts, and more toys than my siblings really needed or wanted. If I saw cool fabric, I could buy it and make something cool with it. I could also alter existing garments, like making a bra from a jacket lining and hacking Ralph Lauren Polo shirts to look cooler. I had the same magical powers as my mother.

I took home economics in high school and aced the sewing semester. I don't remember what machines we had in class, but I already knew how to do a number of things. I was bored by the sewing requirements for the class: a drawstring bag, a jumper or t-shirt. I made a stuffed rabbit with glass eyes and the teacher realized she couldn't grade me the same as the other students, forcing me to make the standard t-shirt. The football team hogged the serger, so I learned the joy of using the zig-zag stitch available on any machine to finish the inside edges. I whipped out the required project that had to be done during class within a few days.

I got my first brand-new Singer sewing machine for Christmas when I was seventeen. (I was familiar with the brand and had developed brand loyalty from my Mom's machines.)  I mostly used it to make dresses and Halloween costumes in the late 1990s, and I moved it with me from Arkansas to St. Louis to Los Angeles. I never cleaned it, never changed the needle unless it broke. I put it to use again in 2008 when I started making burlesque costumes, and it crapped out in 2009. I borrowed a friend's very old Singer to finish some projects, and returned it when I got a new machine in early 2010.

I grew up using Singer machines, but Brother had a great sale on Amazon when I got my new machine so I now have Brother machines. (I try to stick with one brand because it's easier to switch feet.) My 2010 machine is a Brother CS6000i and is a bit fancier than all the machines I had before. That one is on sale through Amazon for $145.44. It's usually a $450 machine. It's my primary machine. I use it for appliques and delicate sheers and corsetry, for gowns and alterations and daily wear. I've gotten it serviced twice since I got it, and I keep it clean.

When you get your first sewing machine, you don't need all the bells and whistles. All you need for most projects is a simple machine that does straight stitch, zig zag, and buttonholes. Amazon has the Brother LS2125i for $79.99. That's what I have for my second machine, and Andrew uses that one when my primary machine is dedicated to a specific project. I worked on a delicate robe with this machine, and I made a corset on it. It's louder than the primary machine, but it's a workhorse.

My serger is also a Brother and set me back about $200, thanks to an Amazon sale. I bought the one that was the easiest to thread. It's loud but it's fast. I use it on so many things, and it's really upped how clean my projects look.

When you get a sewing machine, keep these things in mind:
  1. Try to read the entire manual that comes with your machine, even if you read a bit at a time in the bathroom over a series of weeks. It's totally worth it to know what your machine can and cannot do. When you're done reading it (or if you don't manage to read it), keep it near your sewing machine so it's easy to grab when you have a question. Your machine may have a special stitch for buttonholes on knit fabrics. The manual will tell you what needle sizes to use with different fabrics. You can usually find error codes in the back for newfangled machines so you don't pay for unnecessary service calls.
  2. Change your needle every project or three, when it breaks, or when your fabric requires a different size needle. If you're working with fusibles for appliques or quilting, use a cotton swab and alcohol to clean your needle when it gets gummy; change that fusible project needle when you change projects.
  3. Learn to clean your own machine. It takes 10-15 minutes when you first start doing it, and you can get it down to five. There is a free class in sewing machine basics (including a lesson in cleaning) on Craftsy.
  4. Get a cover for your machine so it's less exposed to the elements. Ideal setup would be a sewing table where the sewing surface is level with the table top, and a case or soft plastic cover for the top. Protect it from dust and spills by at least throwing an old pillowcase over the top. Dust the machine with a Swiffer when you notice it's dusty or linty.
  5. Put a sticky note on your machine with the current needle size on it. If you aren't always working on something, it will help you remember if you have to change your needle before sewing jersey or silk.
  6. Don't throw away a part that comes with your machine if you don't know how to use it or you think you already have one. Some parts look incredibly similar to others. Some things you think you won't use, then you'll figure out what the free arm table is for when you start working on appliques and you'll need to dig that out because you were smart enough not to throw it away.
If you get a good machine and take care of it, you should get many years of fulfillment from it. If you are able to upgrade from an inexpensive, basic machine, clean up your training machine and keep it as a spare or sell it. Better still, give it to a young person who is ready for a creative outlet. :)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Sewing September - Days 7 and 8

I'm cheating by doing two days in one post. I have some great excuses:
  1. I've been spending huge chunks of my spare time boning up on pop culture for the game show we're taping Friday. I can't really say more than that, and I don't think I'll be permitted to reveal whether we win or lose until after the show airs. I can say we've spent hours preparing, so if we lose it won't be for lack of preparation.
  2. I'm working on a new business venture. Nothing to announce yet, but we already have requests for our services and clients. That's taking some time.
  3. All the work I've done in the past two days has been on the gray cardigan.

You can see the hole I worked into the fabric from ripping out the tiny stitches and failing to baste first.
I spent last night seam ripping and today basting. You can see my solution for the hole was to catch that pesky hole in the seam allowance. The yellow line shows me where I need to stitch. Everything is basted and ready to be thrown on my sewing machine when I'm home again. (Tonight I'm going to the Hollywood Bowl.) I tried the cardigan on to make sure it sat correctly and evenly, particularly since I had to tweak the seam allowance to deal with that hole.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sewing September - Day 6

I don't love basting. I don't love it at all. Not at all. I recognize the necessity of basting, but I do not love it.

My cardigan is not finished.  In fact, I have to pick out some seams tomorrow and finagle my way around a curious hole in the fabric because of the complicated neckline of the cardigan. You know what makes it so complicated? I failed to do one tiny thing they listed in that clump of instructions. I didn't baste. Basting appeared so unimportant on this pattern that they didn't even capitalize the first letter of 'baste,' and they didn't give it its own number in the instructions. This fabric is so damn stretchy that it needs to be basted. If you decide to make this cardigan, read through your instructions first and highlight that tiny note to baste.

Today was not an epic sewing failure, despite the cardigan issue. I started the morning by working on a Craftsy bag that has lots of pieces. Then I worked on a couple Doodle appliques for my quilt.

Not a cardigan, but projects in progress.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Sewing September - Day 6

Corset making time! This is the single layer corset I'm whipping out for Lili's birthday show. It's an under bust corset with a brass zipper closure. (I opted for the brass zipper for a few reasons. I don't plan to take the corset off onstage, but I want to be able to get into it easily. As a teacher, I know not every student will want to spend the $15-$20 on a busk but wouldn't mind spending $5 on a brass zipper. I also wanted to increase my zipper skills by sewing more zippers.)

Look at that perfect zipper and the Doodle Hulk.
I learned a zipper-setting trick in a Craftsy class. I use a bit of stitch witch and secure the zipper to the fabric with an iron. It's important that the vertical lines of a corset be as clean as possible, so I had to make sure that the stitch witch was perfectly placed before pressing the zipper to the corset. I dotted craft glue along the stitch witch to secure it to the zipper, preventing slippage when I steamed it later. The sturdy fabric, the strong zipper, the stitch witch all contributed to the perfect setting.

Zipper teeth are attached to twill tape, and twill tape is very sturdy. I pressed the seam allowance and the zipper's twill tape inside the corset to create a boning channel. No need to add separate boning channels to support the zipper because I stitched them into the seam allowance.
Inner workings of the corset.

Since it is a single layer corset, everything inside is exposed when the corset is open. You can see where I pressed the seam allowances open. Once I set the waist tape, boning channels will be stitched over those open seam allowances. It won't be gorgeous, but it will be well-made.  I should have this done within a few days.

Tomorrow I will change the thread on my serger, change to a ball needle, and make that second cardigan!

Sewing September - Day 5

My Friday was packed with work and Greek Fest, but I managed to get a little sewing done. I finished up another LilyPad circuit. I was on the verge of finishing all the the LilyPad Kit projects today, but my programmed board isn't working. Boo hoo.

For my next new number, I'm wiring LEDs into my costume. All of this LilyPad training is giving me the basic knowledge to work out the electronics part.

Lighting it up!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Sewing September - Day 4

Yesterday was a crazy busy day. I spent time at the job that pays my bills. As soon as I got home I had a Skype with my nephew about the online dinosaur class we're taking. That was followed immediately with a conference call about the game show that we'll be contestants on in a week or so. (No idea when the episode will air, and I don't think I can spill any beans about the outcome until the episode airs.) A quick jaunt around the block with the dogs, a speedy workout, and we darted out to a birthday party for a friend. I had very little down time for sewing yesterday.

Here is my button.
My sewing for the day was on my lesson for e-textiles. I had to make a button with felt and conductive thread, and stitch it together with non-conductive thread so I could test it out in a circuit. Pretty unromantic hand stitching there. It was sewing, so I'm counting it!

I finished the circuit today, which you will see below. Today is another busy day, so I'll post what I accomplished on the sewing front later tonight.

The weekend will hold some actual machine sewing. I can finally whip out the other cardigan, and I'm hoping to finish the underbust corset for Lili's number that I'm performing. I'm sure I'll be finishing up the tutorials with my LilyPad as well.

Look, Mom! I'm playing with electricity!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Sewing September - Day 3

Today was another very busy day so I had to make an effort to work in my sewing projects.

First up, I did some stitching on my latest LilyPad learning project. The LilyPad Kit is incredible. I'm hand stitching with conductive thread, learning how to create a button for wiring. I'm getting this knowledge under my belt so I can really soup up my new costume.

Then I cut a new corset. I'm performing one of Lili vonSchtupp's numbers in just under two weeks, and I don't have a black corset to go with the other costume bits. I'm building a single layer corset with a zipper instead of a busk, so I figure I'll have it finished within a week. I cut the corset today, but I won't be stitching it until tomorrow.

I photocopy my corset pattern pieces so I can alter them. (I prefer working from existing patterns whenever possible because it saves me time. I'll only reinvent the wheel if I must.) You can see in the photo where I reshaped the top of the overbust pattern to create an underbust shape. I'll bag up these pattern pieces, mark the bag, and keep them in my drawer of individual corset patterns so I can pull them out the next time I need to make a longline underbust corset.

Copies of patterns are easier to alter.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Sewing September - Day 2

Simple and practical
I knew that I would have a busy day, so I picked a short but sweet project for today. This is the headband that I mentioned in yesterday's blog. It was very simple, and would be very easy for you to try at home.

I used a 20" x 4" strip of knit fabric. With roughly 1/4" seam allowance, I stitched the fabric into a tube. I turned the tube inside out and pressed the tube. I folded one and inside the tube by roughly 1/4". I slid the raw end inside the folded end of the tube. I used a little bit of stitch which and some steam to secure the end, making it easier for me to topstitch. I stitched very close to the fold line and again slightly farther away. Headband done within 20 minutes.

Tomorrow will be another busy day, so I plan to cut coutil for a corset and tackle another sewing project with my LilyPad kit. Thursday may just be another cardigan.
Raw end tucked inside the folded end.

Topless Vlog #48

I'm back with a brand new dog! Meet Coca Carter. I also talk about National Sewing Month, upcoming shows, and trying to learn ice skating.
Sewing September
9/15 Monday Night Tease presents Pictures of Lili
9/19 Peepshow Menagerie presents Beneath the Surface

Monday, September 1, 2014

Sewing September - Day 1

September is National Sewing Month, and I'm challenging myself to sew on something every day. (Yeah, like that's a stretch.) I don't vow to complete a project a day, but I will spend time sewing on some project or other every day. If you'd like to join me in this challenge but don't know where to start, I'll be sharing my projects as I go. I can also recommend simple projects and ideas so you can succeed with this challenge. Email me or comment on any post if you need help. :)

Good for beginners, but read the instructions first.
Today I cut two cardigans: one in aqua and one in gray. One has long sleeves and the other mid-length. The pattern is McCall's M6084 1-hour cardigan. It took me just over two hours, and here's why:
  1. I had to serge the exposed interior edges. I have a serger so I have no excuse not to make the garment look as professional as possible.
  2. I had to topstitch every hem. I have the know-how so I have no excuse not to make the garment look as professional as possible.
  3. I didn't change my needle to one made for jersey/knits. I knew I should have so I had no excuse not to change the needle. I thought I'd give it a shot without, and that's why some stitches are incredibly short and others are the correct size on the seams. The fabric didn't move along as neatly as it should have, and that's because I was feeling lazy and experimental. I'm changing the needle for the next cardigan.
  4. The fabric is very drapey and is a challenge to keep flat while stitching. I had to pick out a couple accidental tucks. If I had a recessed sewing table, that wouldn't be such an issue.
You can see the serging and the uneven topstitching!
I'm pleased with how the cardigan turned out. It's perfect for backstage in the winter, not too hot and appropriate as a cover-up to step into the public eye.

Long enough to cover a naked butt!
I cut some headbands from the knit fabrics when I cut the cardigans so I'll have a couple quickie projects this month. I also took the opportunity to stitch up some raveling edges on a grocery tote.

I have plans to make two corsets, another cardigan, a fancy storage bag, a couple hacked t-shirts, and a romper. I may also get some squares for the dog quilt completed.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Thursday, July 24, 2014

How to Give Feedback

Photo (c) John Nelson 2009
Let's say you see an act and you have an opinion that you want to share with the performer. These guidelines have developed over my three plus decades as a performer, two decades as a director and performance coach, and seven years in burlesque. They should help you give feedback.

  1. First ask yourself if your feedback will help improve the performance. Be sure you don't just want to tell the artist how you would portray it because it was done all wrong and you would do a way better job. That's not feedback; it's "you beat me to the concept and I'm upset because I would've been better than you and your idea sucks."
  2. At least 12 to 24 hours after the performance, ask the performer if he/she is open to feedback. Don't be offended if you are told no. Some people work with choreographers, performance coaches, and legends to develop an act a certain way. Some people feel like the act is already as good as it could possibly be. Some people take feedback too personally and don't want to expose themselves to potential negativity. Some people will feel that you don't have enough experience/street cred/understanding of live performance/education to be the one giving feedback. Ask lightly and politely if the performer is open to feedback. Don't include your feedback in that initial exchange.
  3. If the performer wants your feedback, be sure it is based on your perceptions of the act and make it specific. Here are some examples: "You pulled sandwiches out of your clothes twice. I feel like a third sandwich could really send the comedy over the top. Rule of Three." "You have such a beautiful smile, and I think that if you smiled more in the act then the audience would be bowled over with your glamour." "It was unclear to me what the stuffed fish had to do with the rest of the act. I don't know if there was something else that I didn't see that would've helped me understand that better." All of these have to do with how I feel, what I saw, what I didn't understand. Notice none of them said that the act sucked and the performer did something all wrong. All of these give room for a conversation.
  4. Be open to the conversation. You might hear from the performer that there was a malfunction, an ex was in the audience and threw off the entire night, or that you didn't see the part where the tiny third sandwich was pulled out and immediately stuffed in the performer's mouth. You also might have thought they were doing one character but they were doing another.
  5. Clarify as necessary, but do so gently. You're still dealing with an artist, and artists tend to be sensitive. Make sure your end goal is the better understanding and appreciation by the audience. Examples: "I didn't see that third sandwich. Maybe if the sandwich was bigger, or maybe if you showcased that third sandwich a bit longer before you put it in your mouth. That way the audience can see it and process how funny it is that you have a third sandwich and this is the one you finally eat." "I wonder if there is a way to make sure the audience gets that the stuffed fish is the reason you have to strip. Is there something you can do that would communicate that more clearly?" "I didn't realize you were doing Floyd - Dick's Roommate from True Romance. I thought it was The Dude. The intro didn't really give me the info I needed, and I know both characters wear bathrobes."
  6. If you're giving feedback as a peer, a general audience member, or a classmate, give feedback on one thing. If you saw five things that could use work, pick the most important and give feedback on that. You don't want to overwhelm the person, and you don't want the person to feel attacked. (You make yourself vulnerable when you open yourself up to receiving feedback. You don't want to feel like you've opened the gates to a Trojan Horse.) You can pile on the validation of what went right to you, but only discuss one aspect that you feel needs to be addressed. If you're giving feedback as a coach, instructor, collaborator, or expert, give no more than three things for the performer to address before the next performance. How many things can you remember without writing them down? Three is a good standard. You want these three things to be considered, corrected, improved, clarified, but you want the performer to still be able to perform while implementing any changes.When those three things are handled, then you can look at three more.
  7. Validate the changes when you see them. Examples: "I really like the big sandwich. I heard the audience laugh so hard when you pulled that out at the end." "All that juggling with the stuffed fish and dropping it in your dress was brilliant. Nobody wants a fish flopping around inside her gown." "I'm glad the emcee said your act was a True Romance tribute. You were channeling Brad Pitt."
Keep in mind that the goal is to make sure the performer gives the best possible performance. When I do private coaching, I ask what the story is and what the audience should get from the number. (What's in your head and what are you hoping I take away from what you're showing me?) Then I can pinpoint where I didn't follow the story and where I didn't get the information as an audience member that would help me understand what's in the performer's head. It doesn't matter that I would do a mermaid differently or that I wouldn't choose the poppiest pop song if I was trying to show the aristocratic struggle during the French Revolution. What matters most is that the audience is entertained and that the performance communicates the intended story to the audience.