Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Interview with Mikati Slade

By Bixyl Shuftan

For those going to the Second Life Birthday, one build dominates the grounds of the mega-event, the "Cake Stage" which is so big, it takes four sims to hold it. For three of the past five years, the "Baker" of the stage has been builder and artist Mikiati Slade. Recently, the Newser met up with Mikati, and we sat down for an interview.

"For those newcomers who know you just by this year's Cake," I asked her, "how did you find out about Second Life?"

"I am from Japan," Mikati answered, "and I came to Second Life in 2007. SL was hyped even in Japan at that period. Second Life is everything dynamic and on-time for creating, so I thought I can show people (around the) world my creativity."

"How did your first days here go?" I asked.

"In real life, I learned classical sculpture and then worked for commercial graphics," she explained, "So, the first day of Second Life, I searched art galleries in SL and visited. I enjoyed a lot of artworks. Then I (was) amazed with avatar shape edit and I (was) excited that I can use my sculpture skill for avatar designing. That's my first day of SL." "Sounds like from the beginning, you were doing much building and creating." "Yes. I (was) amazed. Second Life is very wonderful world for creators, more serious than what I was guessing before. So I had ideas to create things."

I then brought up, "What were some of the things you built early on?" Mikati thought for a moment, "Can I rez some things what i built on that period? It's chair and shoes." I told her okay, and after some moments, she made appear some items, "These are first buildings of me, chair and sandals. The chair is something like modern Eames chair." Taking a closer look at the footwear, I commented, "The shoes look a bit detailed for a beginner's work." Mikati told me, "Yes, I worked for commercial graphics with 3D an 2D things. So, I already had some skills about it. And SL is very flexible to making shape from regular prims. So, I really enjoyed to create things, like (a) puzzle."

I then asked her, "What were some of the easiest things to learn, and some of the most difficult?" She answered, "On building in SL, most easy thing is making 'big shape' and 'sketch' in world directly and fast, this is very big advantage. And most difficult thing is, more technical thing specific in SL prim building. It is,  alignment of the parts. It need to use numbers and calculations. This is very important to keep the quality."

My next question was, "About what time was your work starting to get noticed by others?" Mikati told me, "I exhibited first time was, 2008 Burning-Life in SL. I created some pop display together my friend, and Molly Linden gave us a trophy. This was the first time of exhibiting." "I'll bet that got you some attention." "Yes, I thought so, and excited that people saw my works. And that's one of big excitement of SL I realized also showing people around the world in real-time, 3D world."

I brought up, "I recall in 2011, you had an exhibit at the Second Life Birthday that year." She smiled, "Yes exactly! I exhibited at SL8B, 2011, first time as a regular exhibitor. And SL Newser came to interview with me. This was my first time of having connection with SL media. I still remember it was so cool experience." "Oh yes, Grey Lupindo found you and interviewed you." "Yes!"

"And the next year, you ended up being the designer of the cake stage." I asked, "How did that come about?" Mikati answered, "Yes, I got opportunity to build the cake stage of SL9B. A staff, KT Shakumi, IMed me and she told me. She told me that she already visited my another exhibitions, like 'Kuru Kuru World' at MiC: Museums of Rome Capital, and 'PICO PICO LIFE' at LEA: Linden Endowment for the Arts. They liked my work, I guess."

"What was the inspiration for the cake's design?" I asked. Mikati responded, "About the 9B cake, this year one?" "Well, all of them." "Okay, can I tell you about it one by one?" "All right." "I built SLB Cake Stage three times. And each have different inspirations and concepts. About 9B, it was the first time, and I just tried to make it to express celebration mood using my style. " "How would you describe this style?" "My style is using a lot of retro-console game style pixel icons in 3D. I designed the style because such pixel things can be one of primitive symbols of current digital age. And the 'cubic' shape can be done with perfect shape, even in regular SL prim period. Also, it reflects Japan pop-culture, like Nintendo games. So I thought this is rational style for me."

My next question was, "What were some of the reactions to the first cake stage?" She answered, "About the 9B Cake, people had interest about such pixel 3D things in the huge size. And also the mood was very optimistic and pop, which was not so usual in SL before. So, I think people enjoyed it. ... SL12B Cake Stage, I created a lot of icons for this time and tried to create mood of dreamy. SL13B Cake Stage, the SL13B official theme is 'Shared Adventure.'  For the cake, I defined the Cake Stage is the treasure of the birthday party and 'goal of the adventure.' So I combined a lot of coins, treasure boxes, and jewels with the Cake."

I then brought her attention to the badge she was wearing, "I see that your SLB card says 'Baker.' I take it that's one of a kind?" Mikati told me, "Yes, the badge I wear is an official thing of SLB, and it says 'Baker,' SLB Cake Stage builder called like this. One optional thing I can tell, the role name 'Baker' is not just a 'cool name.' On birthday party, person who make the birthday cake have not to open the 'oven' until done to bake, even if people complain to open it!" "So people were asking you where it was when other builds were going up?" I asked. "Sorry my English," Mikati answered, "You mean, if people wonderd when I finish the cake?" "Yes." "Okay, yes, the SLB cake is the biggest opportunity for Second Life builders, I am thinking. And every time I did all of my best to make good thing seriously. So I spent all of time until the final deadline. And I think many people were getting tired to wait for it, heehee. Some people actually asked me about it. ... I also understand their feelings. So I told the people, 'I am sorry.' But I did not open the oven, heehee."

I chuckled a little at the giggles, then brought up, "And after a couple years, you were asked to do the cake again, and then the year after that." "Yes," she answered, "I think this is pretty rare thing of SLB. Because I heard that every year different builders build it. I think cake builder who built three times, I am the first."

Changing the subject slightly, I asked, "Besides the cake stage, what else have you been working on recently?" Mikati responded, "Recently, I joined an art project of a university teacher from Germany, It is purposed to archiving SL artists works for the future. Virtual world is still early period, I think, And in the future, the Second Life culture would be a great material for researching how virtual world started. So I was interested in it and joined."  "That is interesting. How has this art project gone so far?" "It is managed by a person, Art Blue, in SL. The project already exhibited at LEA semi-official SIM, and in near future, the buildings will go to OpenSIM and bring to real life art biennare."

My next question was, "Of the SL13B, what were some of your favorites among the other builds?" She answered, "All of the buildings at SL13B is a part of the celebration, so I love all of the builds! And this time, I love all the performance stages especially. All the stages did really great job!"

I then asked her about her appearance, "I notice you have a few items on you right now, those gloves, the cake hat, the heart-shaped glasses, and the flower." She smiled, "Oh yes, heehee! The heart sunglasses is what I wear since 2011 or more earlier, my trademark I am thinking. It inspired from a move Lolita by Cublic. The hat is gift of the SL13B cake stage. I made this and I think already 2000 - 3000 people got it."

Another question was about her native language being Japanese, "Earlier you brought up language. You don't seem to be having much trouble with English. Has it been a difficult language for you to learn?" Mikati agreed, "English is my big trouble point, yes. Usually, most Japanese people are not good at English, and me also almost zero skill about English when I came to Second Life. But SL gave me amazing big opportunity to learn English while having communication with western people, and my English skill improved very much. Learning language is very big advantage of SL also I think."

"About how many other Second Life users are Japanese?" I asked. She thought for a moment, "I am not sure the exactly numbers of population about it, but I think Japanese Second Life users are many, like, European countries. Japanese SL users are usually enjoy together, but having communication with Western SL users is not so often." "So interactions between most Japanese and most US and European users are uncommon?" I asked. "Yes, I think so," Mikati answered, "This because wall of language." I then questioned, "In what interactions there are, have there been many misconceptions, mistaken ideas, of Japan and it's people among Westerners?" She answered, "Most of Japanese people is respecting western culture very much, and always interest to have communicate with western people even in SL. But also Japanese people think that making mistake on English can be rude with western, I think. So, usually become shy I feel."

I then asked, "Did you have any other future plans besides the art project you mentioned?" Mikati answered, "I developed my style for everyone even out of Second Life. So my future plan is , showing and making enjoy people out of SL. This is my current plan and dream." Wondering about her noted build, "Might we see another Mikati Cake Stage in the future?" She responded, "I am thinking my style is perfect for SLB cake. so i want to make it in the future again of course. But also the cake is good opportunity for another builders. So, It also nice if another builder will make it, I think."

Mikati offered to show me the scale model of the Cake Stage,  "I can guide you, cake mini scale model, if you like." We went over to a skybox in her sim she which used as a building area, "As we see, this is 1/10 scale model of this year cake. I designed and worked in this scale, then stretch to the real scale. 1/10 scale is easy to see and easy to calculate real size." She then asked me to follow her inside, "Okay, please follow me a little. ... This is interior part of the cake. Now we are 10-times giants, heehee!"

She directed my attention to a small stick several inches tall, "Do you see the red small stick here? This is the avatar size in 1/10 scale." I asked, "So if someone is 1.6 meters high, this would be .16 meters?" "Yes, exactly! But many times, SL avatars are near 2 meters. So i made it as 0.2 meters. Heehee!"

I then asked her if she had seen some giant avatars in the official Cake Stages. She answered, "Oh yes! I have seen once such very large avatar at the cake few days ago! It was nice humor for the cake, because the cake is huge. Heehee!" It did cross her mind that it made everyone else look like her scale model, "The viewing looks similar with real size when you hold your camera to the red small stick."

She then brought me to a platform where there was a model of last year's Cake Stage, the one for the SL12B.  "This themed '12,'" she told me, "The twelve candles have twelve icons." At one point, she compared them to the twelve tribes of ancient Israel.

I then brought her attention to two huge pillars on the other side of the sim. She answered they were for the art archiving project she mentioned earlier, "Oh yes. These are the things of the art project that themed archiving SL arts. The tower shape outside is given parts. Artists build things using their typical style inside it." Of her sim, there was no house or relaxation area, "This sim is just for my private work place ..."

It was about time for the interview to come to a close, "Did you have anything else that you wanted to add?" Mikati's answer to that was, "I just want to add a thing (for the residents), I thank you to have opportunity of featuring the cake, and thank you for contributing for SL culture for long time."

It was about then the interview came to a close. Mikati and I would later meet up again at the "Cake Explosion" in which she brought down her build in a spectacular manner as a public event, as well as her making an appearance at the SL Newser beach party. While it's unclear whether she'll be building another Cake Stage soon, no doubt this cheerful designer is far from finished.

Bixyl Shuftan


  1. I really impressed with the post! It shows very accurate mood with what Bixyl and me talked. Also the interview gave me awesome opportunity to talk about various things that not only about the Cake build and I am very happy to read this now. I will keep the post for ever! Thank you very much for having the interview with me.

  2. sorry there is no birthday cake sim this year. Wish you were still here. Maybe you are.. . I have found another wonderful artist. following in your path though... "Fionafe." i I think she is Chinese or Chinese American but not sure.. She is a wonderful artist and has been winning many awards in second life. best sim in the Relay For life. hope you are still doing wonderful things . I miss you.