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It Takes A Tiny Army

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Madame M at a Tiny Army event. Photo courtesy Kim Wagner-Hemmes.
The Ever Expanding, Creative Assemblage Brings Artists Together To Share Ideas, Inspiration

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By Kim Wagner-Hemmes
Special for Modern Times Magazine

Oct. 5, 2011 — Artists, designers, writers and those like them get a bad rap as lonely toilers.

Sure, creating anything takes time and effort — more of it than anyone who doesn’t create could probably imagine — but maybe it is because they just don’t have a group to join. The Chamber of Commerce, after all, might not be the best place for an emerging comic artist seeking to print his first book.

In the Phoenix metro-area, though, a group like that does exist — Tiny Army —and since it was launched in 2008, it has been attracting people desiring to share what they have learned about the business of art. Started by Daniel Davis of Steam Crow, the group meets on the first Wednesday of every month from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Art Institute of Phoenix, 2233 W. Dunlap Ave., Phoenix.

Visit the Tiny Army Facebook page

When Davis first formed Tiny Army, he envisioned it as an independent artist’s community for local Valley residents where they could come together in a safe, non-pretentious, environment, to exchange ideas, experiences, and advice. He said he wanted more than merely meeting up with creative-types once or twice a year at the big Cons.

This self-proclaimed “total nerd-loser in high school,” turned super-cool monster creator, wanted to reach out to other local like-minded individuals. He wanted to find a local group where he could share what he was learning on the road and hopefully find some locals with good ideas or contacts. His early experiences taught him that, “artists really aren’t very good at marketing themselves,” and that lack of marketing skills is the difference between a working artist and one who only dreams of quitting his day job.

But there wasn’t anything like that in the Valley.

So, the prominent web designer and co-creator of Steam Crow (a company that produces an original brand of monster-themed products), decided to use his marketing skills to create one.

Davis has helped grow Tiny Army into an impressive community which meets for two hours on the first Wednesday of every month at the Art Institute of Phoenix. The group also conducts forums on both Facebook and Twitter and has conducted a Tiny Army panel and attended the last two consecutive Phoenix Cons as a group.

Read Modern Times Magazine Interview of Daniel Davis.

From the beginning, Davis found a tremendously talented and interesting group of individuals waiting were seeking the same sort of inspiration and instruction and were just hoping for someone to put something together. A great idea met a great marketer and the Tiny Army was soon born. Nearly three years later, new and old Tiny Army troops flock to the Art Institute of Phoenix on the first Wednesday of the month.

One Tiny Army trooper is Christy A. Moeller Masel — aka Madame M — who has been involved with Tiny Army from the start. She first met Davis through his wife, Dawna, after having approached her at the 2007 Arizona Book Fest.

“I had had a booth at the Book Fest in previous years, but that year I had the twins so I couldn’t do it,” she said.

Having been known as the lone “creepy kid’s book person” at the event prior to that, Madame M was happy to see someone else there with a “creepy kid’s booth” in her place.

Her first book, Creepy Little Bedtime Stories, won the Arizona Book Publishing Association 2001 Glyph Award for Best Children’s Fiction and Best Publisher’s Website. Creepy was soon followed by Eerie Little Bedtime Stories and later a slew of other distinctive publications: Trauma Queens/Trauma Kings (for that friend in your life who is always complaining), Tales of the Truly Grotesque, Super Vamp (a lovable, super-hero vampire), and Major Mediocrity (an absurdly average avenger).

Despite her apparent success, she confessed, “I don’t like to walk around saying I’m a writer” and that she was often mislabeled as a children’s author early in her career.

Preferring to describe her work more in terms of “children’s books for adults,” she went on to explain how she used to be asked to attend numerous library events where she had to explain to teary little four-year-olds that Santa Claus hadn’t really exploded due to the excessive wants of greedy little children around the globe.

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