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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Interview With Dusk Griswold


By Bixyl Shuftan

Those whom have been with the Sunweaver/Angel community for a while know about Dusk Griswold. Newcomers might not notice much out of the ordinary about her at first aside from her "full-figured" appearance amongst thinner avatars as she often describes herself as "boring." Actually, she has quite a bit of history behind her, including outside of Second Life where the person behind the avatar was involved in the early days of some Furry conventions.

To begin with, Dusk was one of the founding members of the Sunweavers, or a "charter member" as she describes herself, "I introduced Rita to SL." But a number of Second Life's Furry residents know her better for her time in conventions of the genre in the years before Second Life, "I have a long history in furry." Her story there began in 1992, "Got my first computer and joined AOL, and discovered furry art on there." She didn't join any groups at first, "but by posting to forums, got to meet some people and learn more."

Dusk's first convention, "was in 1994. It was actually a sci-fi con called Duckon, near Chicago. MFF branched of from it several years later, Midwest Furfest."The con had a furry track, but it was floundering. I answered an ad about it, and showed the track lead my puppets. By adding the puppets and helping jump start the idea of a furry variety show, we started to get notice." Dusk had only been involved in puppetry for a couple years, "The puppet shows I did at MFF in 1994 were the first ones ever done at any furry con or furrytrack. I went to Confurence in 1995, which spread the puppetry to a larger audience. After a few years of mainly solo work, other people caught the puppetry bug, and it spread to other cons." She was becoming more successful as a puppeteer, but did other things as well, "Like directing variety shows, doing various staff jobs at cons, teaching puppetry in con panels, helped start MFF."

Of the star characters among Dusk's puppets, "Early on, I had an otter named Odie, a squirrel named Gracie, and a fox named Scarlett. I think it was Vixie that brought me to the next level." Vixie had come about, "By accident, actually. Back in 2000, I was in California at a con, and spent a few days at a friend's house. This friend had a stage set up to record puppet videos, and we recorded several of them that week. One puppet he had was a little fox named Vixlet. I started playing around with it, and soon this personality emerged that the others helping with the videos seemed to enjoy. It was funny because it was a bit obnoxious, a little fox who thought the universe revolved around her. She had a little bit of an ego. The puppet itself was a stuffed animal my friend turned into a puppet, one he found at a thrift store. I had so much fun with it, I started looking on eBay for one. Took about six months to find one. But when I did, I sent it off to my friend who turned it into a puppet." So why spent months looking for a specific kind of plush fox? "I had no choice," Dusk explained, "Not all plush can be made into puppets."

"Vixie was a lot of fun, and she became pretty popular," Dusk went on, "No one big thing, just a lot of appearances at cons, I wrote skits for her, and she also acted as host for the puppet shows. It helped develop her character. Like a lot of characters, she is best when she has someone to bounce off of." Dusk described her as something of a mad scientist. So what were her most memorable scenes? "Hard to say, but she has been blown up, shrunk in size from a juicing machine, and electrocuted, to name a few things.  I see her as a bit of a mix of Miss Piggy, Wile E Coyote, and Dr Bunsen Honeydew from the Muppets. She even has her own company, Vixie Labs."

And like a number of mad scientists, "things always backfire on her. Her main nemesis are the ferrets, the Folkmanis ferret puppets. She experiments on them, but they always turn the tables. They got their ultimate revenge in 2008. I needed an excuse to introduce the new Vixie." Dusk had created a much more detailed Vixie puppet, "Vixie invented a ferret washing machine that used gamma radiation. The tables were turned, and Vixie ended up in it, transforming her completely. Actually, in the end, was a good thing. Vixie ended up loving her new look. I had to find a way to explain the big chage in Vixie's look."

Dusk stated that Vixie "was getting popular, but the one problem I had was, being as she was a converted stuffed animal, the design was not mine. I felt it was better to own her fully, character and design." What influences were there in the newer Vixie's design? "A main was was a little know Canadian show that had really nicely made puppets in it. It was called The Longhouse Tales. Except for the nicely made puppets, pretty forgettable. But I borrowed a bit from the fox in it for Vixie." Dusk went on to say. "The ... puppet was built by a former Muppet performer. ... Cost a lot ... over $2,000." She admited the price was hefty, "can get a fursuit made for that," but feels the price was well worth it.



(Click here if the video fails to play)

I noticed that Dusk's Flickr page had the name "Rose Raccoon." "An old name from the past," she told me, "little used one from my pre-SL days." There was no puppet named "Dusk." The name came from an online comic called Faux Pas (http://www.ozfoxes.com/fauxpas.htm), pronounced 'fox paws.' She is actually kind of a nasty fox in the strip. Very pretty fox, but not very nice. I like her, so thought the name would be fun, although I am not her at all." So how would she describe Dusk as a character to those outside Second Life? "Actually, just a decent person. Tries to be nice and friendly, and a bit independent as well."

One thing that sets Dusk apart from some Second Life residents is she doesn't really have a set species, appearing as a bunny, gazelle, fennec (which she did for the interview, and others, "probably a rabbit more that anything, but enjoys sometimes switching species. ... it's more just what I feel like on any given day, no real meaning to it. I like a lot of species, so hard to always be just one."

Dusk first came to Second Life in August 9, 2006, "I learned about it from friends of mine, and I was a bit clueless at first. I talked Rita and Jenni into joining a few months later." Dusk isn't quite sure how long it took to more or less get the hang of things in Second Life, "Been too long." Much of the Sunweavers' early days have already been described by Rita in an interview in 2014. Besides being a charter renter here, she was one of the first DJs at their first club, Club Cutlass, "I just know a lot about music, but no real DJ experience. I like older music, so mainly 60s and 70s music. I try to fit the theme if I can."

Dusk would bring Vixie into Second Life as an alt, Vixie Valiant. "That was part of having her remade into my own character," she described, "I wanted to see if a fully anthro Vixie would work. So SL became a testing ground. Yes, what I leanred was her personality was more important than her looks. But having her custom made was a big investment, and I wanted to make sure." Dusk almost always has Vixie act in character, "Vixie I play more like how the puppet is. If you read her profile, it is explained there. I try to keep her more in character all the time."

Dusk found out about the Relay for Life in Second Life in 2008. Her early days there were "hard, as I got involved when Fimi (Artistic Fimicloud) was going downhill." Her passing was hard for Dusk and everyone else who knew her. But Dusk went on with the Relay, "I did DJ at several events, and (the song) 'Calypso' became a favorite on our team." She wasn't sure why it was popular, though it was a favorite of Fimi's, "just something about it people liked."

In 2012, the leaders of the Passionate Redheads stepped down for personal reasons, and Dusk became co-captain of the team along with Longrem Smalls, at least until a permanent leader could be found. But after the season was done, the decision was made to retire the Redheads and start a new team, "It was a sad chapter, but I think we have moved on." Of the team that replaced it, the Sunbeamers, Dusk feels they have done, "very well, actually."

Of Dusk's plans for the Relay this year, "I am on a different team this year, and hope my experience can help them. They are called Mel's Maniacs." The Sunbeamers have held joint events with the Maniacs last year, "and the plan is to continue that this year. ... Their team is small, but has a lot of similarities to ours. I felt that I could help them. And since the Sunbeamers are doing so well, felt they could spare me." Of the Maniac's plans, Dusk is, "Honestly, not real sure. All I do know is they have started building their campsite. They have the space to make a floating platform to build on. They do start early."

Of her puppetering in real lire, Dusk says she hasn't been doing much of anything recently, "It's actually been a very slow period, not many gigs in reall ife, and no more furry cons." She is taking a break from conventions that she feels is, "likely a permanent one. ... cons have changed, the demographics. The bulk of people who attend are younger, and their interests have shifted." From Dusk's observation, the new generation of furry convention goers shows little interest in puppetry, "or much performance related. Fursuits and fursuit dance competitions are big now. The younger crowd just doesn't seem to care about skits and such." While this may change, Dusk feels, "by then, will likely be too late for me. I mean, I will be too old." Dusk did say that, "someone is writing a book on the history of furry cons, and I will be in it. It will mention my role in the founding of MFF."

It was about this time the interview wound down, and we went our separate ways. Dusk Griswold can be reached by instant-messaging her. She also drops in on events at Club Cutlass, though may leave early if she has plans early the next morning.

Bixyl Shuftan

Editor's Note: Dusk had been earlier interviewed by Grease Coakes in 2012

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