Few people can say that they do what they truly love. Most, live their life in a perpetual haze, rushing from one small job to the next without even beginning to think… or feel, let alone enjoy what they do. Iota Ultsch is remarkable, not only because she is among the few who enjoys her work but also because she has a boundless supply of super-charged energy. In real life she is a highly successful fashion designer, industrial designer and interior architect (among other things) and in SL, well…she is a highly successful fashion designer, architect and furniture designer.
I was fortunate to meet Iota this week and talk with her about her success. Our meeting began much like any other, but ended with me getting a sense of the real Iota; a wonderfully kind, funny and spiritually generous person.
Harriet Gausman: How did you hear about Second Life and what made you venture forth?
Iota Ultsch: I heard about Second Life about four years ago and avoided it like the plague because I knew it would be far too much fun and a major distraction from my architectural studies. Needless to say, I was right!
I took a well-earned break last year after I graduated and have been an active content creator in Second Life in the fields of architecture, furniture and fashion ever since.
Harriet Gausman: How quickly did you begin designing? Do you remember what your very first in-world design was?
Iota Ultsch: I started designing immediately. My first design was a chandelier I created from a photograph of a painting I was commissioned to do in RL. It was soon followed by my first building, an art gallery located where “très jolie!” is currently.
Harriet Gausman: Did you manage to establish yourself fairly quickly; some designers find it hard to find a footing initially?
Iota Ultsch: Yes, in fact I did establish myself very quickly. I’ve been in business for more years than I’d like to admit, so setting up was just a matter of going through the motions. Also the building tools are incredibly simple for me in comparison with the 3D and engineering software I use in RL.
Harriet Gausman: What do you do in real life? How has this prepared you for your role in Second Life? Have you had to learn many new skills?
Iota Ultsch: I guess the question should be, is there anything I don’t do? [insert filthy answer]. But in all seriousness, I’ve been blessed with a wonderful gift, boundless energy and the insight to recognize market trends which are prerequisites for any artistic endeavor to become a success.
I’ve spent several years of my career as a fashion and textile designer, forecaster etc., an industrial designer, interior architect and installation artist in the past few years. I’ve recently completed my architecture degree and am now in the midst of a Master of Architecture degree whilst practicing as a commercial and residential architect.
I guess the most ‘inconvenient’ skill I’ve had to learn is how to convey an idea within the limitations of a gaming environment. That is ‘primitives economy’, whilst exploring an idea which may require more detail.
Harriet Gausman: Where do you gain your inspiration from?
Iota Ultsch: Everything inspires me really… music, calculus, nature, love, etc. I engage with everything and everyone around me on every level. I’m in a unique position to draw from several design disciplines that invariably inform each other and strengthen my design proposals.
For example, in my furniture studio, MOOG MOOD design, you can see some of my installation work from RL. These were ‘inspired’ by a murder committed in Paris by Issei Sagawa.
Harriet Gausman: Your boutique building is very minimalist in design yet your clothing line is highly detailed and elaborate. Any reason why you chose such a sparse environment to showcase your creations?
Iota Ultsch: Absolutely. In retail as in our lives, we are constantly inundated with visual and aural spam… messages of propaganda, of fear, emotional blackmail, and promises that a product will somehow change our lives – all fighting for our attention.
As a designer of spaces I think it is of paramount importance to give people a chance to ‘breathe’ a little in order to negotiate what they are being presented with. To de-clutter and let the product talk….if it’s good enough it will sell. It doesn’t need excessive signage, discounts, campers or other trappings. I think SL is not a place to emulate RL but to challenge ideas prevalent in current RL commercial paradigms.
Harriet Gausman: Do you have a favourite of your own designs?
Iota Ultsch: Naturally I love them all….but I tend to wear “Femme de Fer” quite often.
Harriet Gausman: In real life you have designed for high-profile houses in all the top fashion cities including Paris and Milan. Apart from the obvious, how do SL fashion trends differ to those in real life?
Iota Ultsch: Although the trends in SL tend to be pretty conservative en masse, there are several outstanding designers who I believe understand fashion intimately. They understand allure. Fashion is about creating and sustaining that allure. From urban grunge to haute couture it is about creating opportunities for people to celebrate their individual expression.
I find a lot of the younger designers, particularly those involved with cybernetics, steampunk and the dystopian aesthetic to be incredibly gifted. It’s always a delight wearing their clothes when I’m not wearing one of my own creations. But the real buzz for me is when they drop by and shop with me too. There is a reciprocal respect for what we are trying to achieve in this unique world.
Harriet Gausman: Do you find your SL designs influenced by real life designers, if so who?
Iota Ultsch: Not necessarily. I’ve always created either for my own label or have been employed by others to lead and influence rather than be influenced. Which I guess brings me back to answering like I did in your previous question on inspiration. The influences therefore are ‘thematic’ based on external exploration rather than from within the fashion industry.
Harriet Gausman: As well as fashion design you also design furniture for your shop, MOOG MOOD, tell us a little about it.
Iota Ultsch: MOOG MOOD is a place where I test my own designs from RL, after patents have gone through, naturally. The pieces there are ‘safe’ now, so I’m having a quick look at how my designs are being received by the SL community. I must say, I’m astounded!I
Harriet Gausman: You are also an architectural designer in SL. Can you tell us a bit out some of the buildings you have designed and built?
Iota Ultsch: I design mostly private SIMS for private clients. However I have worked extensively as a commercial architect with RL companies in-world; Sun Microsystems being the most publicly known.
Harriet Gausman: Your clothes are very lavish and rich in design, would you find yourself wearing anything like them in real life or are you a jeans and tee-shirt gal?
Iota Ultsch: I’m afraid to say that I’m a couture junky. If I’m ever wearing jeans, chances are I’ve paired them with something fabulous from my RL collection or vintage French couture… or something minimal and deconstructed from my travels to Tokyo.
Harriet Gausman: If you could choose to be one great designer, who would you aspire you be and why?
Iota Ultsch: Difficult question… but Fortuny comes to mind instantly. I have a fetish for intricate pleating, silks, stampa [prints] and sumptuous colours. Whenever one of his Delphos gowns is on auction, chances are I’m somewhere in the vicinity!
Harriet Gausman: If you could change one thing to make Second Life a better place, what would it be?
Iota Ultsch: I guess I prefer intelligent people… so have no time for people who lack integrity, griefers, copybot users and those who use this medium to exploit others. Other than that, my Second Life is a blast!
Visit très jolie!, an exclusive clothing store for the disserning female.