For ten years in a row a Burning Man, I produced in my factory in China a couple thousand Fimo pendants to give away. They are hand made with a very time-consuming sculptural process known as “millifiore.” See a video on how it’s done her: millefiore technique. The technique is thousands of years old, done in glass or ceramic (and sushi) but I was one of the first in the U.S. to help create the art form, and also one of the first to do it commercially (I had built the factory in China in 1993 to do it, but there were factories first in Guatemala and South Africa.)
For the first few years, I designed the pendants myself, often making a variety of sizes, different colors and varieties, and some special items, such as the Alien Love Nest lighters that I gave to all of my fellow firedancers in the Conclave that year. Every year I’d try to outdo myself, but I have to say that the pendants the first couple of years were probably the best. Fimo is very tricky and you never really know what the result is going to be until the end. It’s easy to over-do it and create too much detail, which makes the design lose its vibrancy.
Most of the pendants we gave away to people who performed at our Alien Lovenest Camp. This tradition started because my ex-wife Karen used to ask beggars to tell her a joke and if they could make her laugh she’d give them a dollar. What happened was that when people saw the pendants they would start to beg for them, so she suggested that they entertain us. Of course our camp agreed this was a great idea, so in 1998, the first year of the pendants, the tradition of performing for a pendant began, and all day, every day, there was a line of people waiting to perform to “earn” a pendant. Very quickly around Burning Man it became the must-have schwag of the playa, and everyone would ask “What did you do to get your pendant?”
I personally considered the pendants to be “participation awards” that we wanted to give to people who were making Burning Man what it was. Every year I would bring a box of them to first camp and give them to the organizers… I’d give Crimson Rose and Larry Harvey extra-large or extra-special pendants that I had made just for them, and also I’d give a hundred or so for all the rangers.
Every night, we would walk around Burning Man and give them out to people who we thought deserved them. We’d find beautiful pieces of art in the playa, and somewhere on the art we’d hide a pendant or two, which we hoped would be discovered by the creator(s) when they were disassembling their work.
Anyone with a great costume, or a beautiful art car, or firedancers, or DJs and performers, would get pendants.
Sometimes we’d use the pendants to try to create playa magic. For example, once we saw a guy on a bicycle get clotheslined by a rope that was holding up the corner of a large tent. As he was laying stunned on his back in the dust, we ran up and said “That was awesome… you just earned a pendant!”
Another time, we went to the man itself, and gave pendants to everyone who was sitting on the structure underneath (back in those days the structure was a lot smaller). Perhaps 50 people… Most of them were high out of their minds and were literally stunned with gratitude that someone had randomly appeared to give them the best thing they had wanted at Burning Man. All of them, most of whom didn’t know each other, started screaming for joy in unison, and their happy shrieking, coming from the center of the Burning Man world, was answered all throughout Burning Man. Afterwards, a young couple came up to us and the guy said “That was REALLY amazing what you just did.” and he opened a portfolio and said, “Take two.” Inside he had a dozen or so very high quality photographic prints of a naked shaved pussy, each with a different tasty food item such as strawberries in syrup, chocolate pudding, etc. Unbelievably erotic. I asked “who is that?” and the girl said, with a twinkle in her eye “That’s me!” I have since looked up the photographer’s name on the internet and it isn’t to be found there. I thought for sure he would have a coffee-table pussy book for sale, or an exhibition in Soho or something, but as far as I could tell, their art only existed for a handful of special people who happened to be in the right place at the right time. More Burning Man magic… repeated a thousand times in a thousand different ways.
At some point during the Alien Love Nest experience, I started a contest and participants from around the world would send me designs for the pendant, so I stopped creating the design myself. And, our camp sort of broke apart and I was unable to go, so a group of friends from Seattle started to carry the torch, calling their camp “Alien Monkey Lovenest” That lasted for a few years until the tenth year, when I was able to make it back to Burning Man again. The final year, they submitted what I thought was a terrible design, and I told them that I was sure it would look terrible in Fimo because of the way the production is done, but they insisted on making it. So I decided to make my own design to insure that Burning Man would have a great pendant for its 10th and final year. AMLN gave away their pendants on their stage, and I gave away mine on the playa as usual.
Every year at Burning Man, a few people would find me to tell me a story about how their Alien Love Nest pendant had changed their lives. For example, a couple told me how they had met in Thailand after one saw the other with a pendant, and knew they had gone to Burning Man. So they started chatting, then dating, and soon they were married! Other people came to show me that they had a tattoo made from the art on their pendant.
As fun as the pendants were, they had also become a curse. All day, every day, random people would hunt me down and beg me for the pendants. They’d try to trade for them. They were desperate and pleading. The begging really ruined the experience for me and I would do everything to avoid these people. It was the fun of giving them out that I craved and when people asked for them it spoiled it. So as fun as it was, I was relieved when the pendants ended.