Anya Ohmai is one of the most beloved creators in Second Life® for very good reasons. All of her creations are full of joy, her playful wit and quirky humor part of their DNA. Despite her unquestionable talent, she remains humble about her skills, seeing herself as a perpetual learner always striving to do better. She is also a person of character whose kindness goes to the marrow. She does not produce a lot of hair; but every year at Hair Fair, there is a crowd of eager fashionistas waiting to see what flight of fancy she has come up with this time.
Ohmai’s personal style is very soft and feminine, youthful and sweet. The humorous motifs in her creations lead people to adopt a more kawaii sort of style with her hair. I thought it would be a fun challenge to go in the opposite direction, showing that her hair works just as well for high fashion styles. You will have to decide if I succeeded.
It’s Only Fashion: What’s the craziest thing you ever did in Second Life? Most exciting? Silliest? Is there a story you can share that captures your Second Life experience?
Anya Ohmai: The most exciting thing that has happened to me in Second Life was actually one of the first few weeks I joined the grid. I was such an avid explorer back then because I was a blogger, so I made it a point to go to many different sims. I came across this little Japanese cafe owned by Amika Jewell and she was there to greet me as a newbie in Second Life. She asked me what I had wanted to do in Second Life and I told her I wanted to be a creator. Mind you this was an avatar that was a few weeks old, so Amika most likely thought I was completely insane. She did however give me some tips on how to do that and said if I ever made a store, maybe someday we’ll meet again.
Flashback to a year later, I actually met Amika at another Second Life sim and she asked if I had remembered her from back then. She proceeded to tell me how proud she was to see that I finally did make my Second Life wishes come true and that she owned so many of my creations. We proceeded to befriend each other and talk occasionally. I think that was exciting because no one else was too friendly with me when I started out, and for someone to remember me even though its been so long was just a lovely experience!
I think that captures the essence of Second Life’s warmth very well, there is a very human quality to it that you don’t find in many other games. I know that little gesture of kindness she showed me was probably not a big deal, but it did help solidify my love for Second Life.
!Ohmai Salon Uni. You can change the crown to a band with the accessories HUD.
IOF: What drew you to designing hair? When did you start? What are some of the changes that were most significant for you?
AO: I actually started out thinking I wanted to be a Hair creator. Before Second Life I sold Ball Jointed Doll wigs in real life, so that background actually made me wanna do it in Second Life too. I started with a small store in creators pavilion back in 2009, with 2 hairstyles and a random array of clothes. I stopped doing hair after because I wasn’t very proud of the way I did hair. When I heard about Hair Fair, I thought it’d be awesome if I created hairs once a year for it – just to challenge myself and also try to fulfil the ‘want’ to make hair. Sasy was kind enough to offer me a position in Hair Fair even when i was new and that was an awesome opportunity!
The biggest change from the first time I made hair to the way I do it now would probably be the thought process that goes into it. Hair making works very differently from other creations. You start with a texture that you work around in, whereas other items start with model ling before you bake and texture. Thats a huge struggle in the beginning to switch my brain gears to operate that way. My experience in working with all other types of mesh creation has helped me understand and figure out that process more. I think the work I do for Hair now is more deliberate than it used to be – in the past i’d lay out a bunch of strands and hope it works somehow, now I actually visualize the end product before going into it.
!Ohmai Salon Tako comes in three pieces, the pony tail, an additional cluster of curls to augment the pony and the tentacles. Each comes with a rigged and unrigged version.
IOF: How did you choose your store name? Does it have a special meaning for you? If your stores is named after yourself, how did you go about choosing your avatar name?
AO: When I decided to open a store, I used the name !Ohmai because it was also the name of my blog and also SL last name. I added the ! in front so that it appears higher on the inventory list and I could find my items. I’m not very creative with names in general to be perfectly honest.
Ohmai was the last name that I picked out from a list of other weird resident given last names, it spoke to me cause I thought it sounded like ‘Oh My’ and would be funny to walk around with it. Anya as a name was inspired by someone I met in another virtual reality game called ‘The Palace’. She inspired me to start learning pixel art and pushed me to be better at it. When I joined Second Life I thought it’d be a cool homage to her to have that name.
Ohmai Salon Donburi has a HUD that allows you to change the noodle color to yellow, white or green or change them out with a sprinkling of rice falling from the chopsticks. The HUD presents them as different sauces for sushi.
IOF: What is the most challenging part of being a creator in Second Life? What is most rewarding?
AO: The most challenging part of being a creator for me is that when you start an item, you think it’s all about creating an item and then finishing it. But its really a lot more than that. The larger your store becomes, the more inconsistent things start to look if you didn’t have a solid plan to begin with. That inconsistency bugs me to no end, and that made me stop and actually do a complete restart on my store.
Now when I make anything I always have at the back of my mind – what vendor will i do? What packaging will I make? How do I make the next item work with this and how do I make everything look like it comes from the same place. Thats challenging because my brain ends up really bipolar as I talk to myself and figure all that out.
It’s super rewarding to finish any item in Second Life as a creator. You put out a piece of yourself and offer it to a small world in general. I think that feeling is unexplainable but its close to what success feels like in my mind.
Ohmai Salon Ikura is decorated with roe and other sushi ingredients. Fortunately, the roe in Second Life does not have the briny smell of non-digital roe.
IOF: Where do you get inspiration for your designs? What is your process like?
AO: Since so far I’ve only made Hair solely for Hair Fair, my thought process is always – how do I create hairs that are exciting, fun and a little quirky. I don’t normally make hair, so there are things I can do outside of hair, and that made me think: rather than just make hair why not do things to add onto it and make it more interesting. I started off by adding accessories in the past, then last year I decided to add on some birds cause I loved working with animals in second life.
This year I wanted to follow the ‘animal’ route and did an octopus to start off. I thought of all animals, an octopus resembled most like Hair. I showed that idea to my real life sister (sl-er Suetabulous Yootz) as she’s got this insane creative mind that I adore, I like to run things by her like a filter. She then suggested, why not make sushi hair? Crazy idea set in stone. As I create, I then begin to think – how do I make this more ‘wearable’ and less crazy. So that’s really my overall thought process through creating hairs this year.
IOF: What sets your hair styles apart from other hair designers, in your opinion? What is your style or aesthetic?
AO: I think my experience working with other things aside from hair sets me apart from other hair designers. I’m able to use what I learn outside of hair making to create accessories or fun add-ons to hair.
With all my work even outside of hair, I’m honestly not the best at technique – if I wanted to aim for that, I would always stress myself out. It’s an impossible feat for anyone. Someone out there will surpass you in technique, and thats alright – thats ok! It just gives you more room for growth. My style and aesthetic has always been to put myself in everything I do. I try to take whatever i’ve learnt in the past and put it into every new work i produce. I think that keeps my item always looking different as I continuously grow but still retain an essence of myself.
!Ohmai Salon Omakase includes a separate fishbone barrette that you can wear or leave off. It has a HUD that allows you to choose from several color options.
IOF: How has your second life changed your first life? (no need to reveal personal info at all, just something general)
AO: I had a lot of confidence issues growing up, I think that came from being brought up in a culture that didn’t quite embrace individuality. I felt very out of place as a child because I liked things that adults would advise me not to. I was proud when I did a doodle of something, whereas my parents would much rather me come home with an A for math. It led me to think there was something wrong with me, because teachers would say I was a troubled child, and friends around me would tell me to forsake my interests.
Second Life allowed me to embrace a very artistic side of me and then have a venue where people appreciate me for that. Having that validation that there are people out there who think you’re doing something ‘right’ is a great feeling for a person who’s always felt she was ‘wrong’ if that makes any sense at all.
I’ve grown a lot more confident as an adult because of Second Life and I’ll always appreciate that about it.
IOF: What does Hair Fair mean to you?
AO: Hair Fair aside from being an amazing cause was the platform for me to create hair and constantly push myself at it. I improve every year because of Hair Fair, and that’s just a great great thing as a creator.