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Costume-palooza: The Swedish Chef

Published November 1, 2017 by admin

What, it’s Halloweek, you really expect me to stop celebrating because it’s November? Silly reader! Sadly, I didn’t touch on all my favorite past costumes this year (gotta leave something for next year), but I definitely want to include this year’s effort. Plus, hey, how about a fun, light post while you’re waking up from your candy coma this morning, right?

One of the big influences from my growing up was the Muppets. Jim Henson was and is a big part of my life – his fantasy work got my mind working in ways it never could have without Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, and The Storyteller. The Muppet Movie provided the optimism and idealism I needed at certain times in my life. I grew up a hardcore Sesame Street devotee. Somewhere along the way enjoying everything Henson turned into me really wanting to figure out how all of that was done, and most likely was a reason I started getting into making big character suits, complex outfits that involve rigging, and working with puppets professionally. It’s really not that hard to make the leap from point A to point B in this case. For better or worse, I’ve not gotten to work with a Henson property yet, and after this they will probably never let me near them in the future, but oh well. This costume was totally worth it.

The Swedish Chef has been a long-running inside joke for years with me – it’s one of the voices I can do really well, and he just amuses me. I love puns, love silly stuff, and the old chef sketches just make me laugh so much. Depending on how bored I am and how good of a friend you are, you may or may not have had to suffer through me serenading you with popular ballads as done by the Swedish Chef on your voicemail if you don’t pick up.

So yeah, ta-da!

 

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Or is that ‘Bork bork bork!’?

 

 

As far as difficulty level, it wasn’t so bad, just mostly finding the different pieces. Apron, tie, and pants were shopped (and the pants were a miracle find that I didn’t expect), shirt is something I own for some reason. Obviously made the head, hat, and hands. Part of me is sad I didn’t spring for the antron fleece, but part of this exercise is I wanted to see if it was absolutely necessary to use it to do something like this. Short answer is no, but I do prefer it or a fabric with a stretch to felt. I think some of the detail work might have been smoother otherwise, but this idea was happening fast and on a budget. I played around with a spray adhesive vs some of the more industrial glues I’ve used in the past, and it actually worked out because I went back and adjusted some structural things on the head several times and I don’t know if I could’ve done that with something heavier.

All in all, this was a little bit of trial and error to make, but still a ton of fun. He’s fairly comfortable to wear, and I can foresee him being part of my notorious holiday card schemes in the future.

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Costume-palooza: Bring on the Weird!

Published October 27, 2017 by admin

Every so often, it seems like I feel the need to just go way over the top and do something…different. I’m not sure if this is from some subconscious need to prove myself or sheer boredom with the typical types of Halloween costumes, but this usually puts me in a really good mood until the moment everything starts falling apart and I have to make it all work. And then I love it again.

I know, it’s complicated. What can I say.

I was doing some work on an event one year and stumbled onto a French artist who does work with combining synthetic skin with fashion pieces (no, I have no idea what I googled to even find that), and it got me thinking of ways to use that concept which has led to a multitude of diverse projects – everything from a revamp of Elizabeth Bathory and a gruesome clown for the event I was designing for, to pouches and purses to spice up those late night trips to the grocery store (Okay, they’re actually for cons. I only accidentally wore one to the store once and it was completely worth it).

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And this thing. The whole killer prom queen archetype admittedly fascinates me for various reasons, and this was my take on it: cuteness on the top, party on the skirt (or however the saying goes). Originally this was made for a Simplicity Pattern design contest where you had to use one of their patterns in a new way. I’m not sure if this just wasn’t what they had in mind or it was the fact that I may have used one of their Disney patterns to base this off of, but obviously I didn’t win because people are no fun.

I’ve never quite gotten the whole look where I want it – I probably need to make a prom queen banner, and admittedly if I’m wearing it out I have no desire to dump a ton of fake blood on me because I have been there for professional reasons and I am not that invested in a look in my personal life. I’ve toyed with the idea of latex and paint up my arms to gore it up a bit, but again, I don’t really cherish the thought of doing that in a hotel bathroom. Anywho, skirt is latex over fabric with various (fake) parts ordered through the interwebz. Also molded the hand for the bag, though I’d likely try it a slightly different way if I had to do it again (also makes me wonder where I put that mold).

So that tided me over for a couple years, and then I had the need to go further, to be bolder, to be…more.

Again, I was playing with stuff professionally and a friend and co-designer and I somehow hit on the idea of delving into the world of stalkabouts, but tried to make things somewhat more user friendly for a gal – not that gals can’t wear a full suit, lord knows I have – but in this particular situation it was better to do everything possible to keep full visibility. We decided to play with a few different variations, and of course I wanted to incorporate this into my definitely not having a life crisis costume moments, so we ended up combining my fascination with Gothic Lolita street fashion and, well…weirdness.

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So what this is supposed to be is a creepy girl with her imaginary friend/demon companion/whatever – admittedly I think I can do more for it to read better, but I was literally finishing it as we were going out the door to road test it (and that, itself, had some more entertaining moments of my life that aren’t suitable for a public blog). Eventually I’d like to put a leash on Martin (that’s the demon’s name, because I was watching a lot of Doc Martin at the time) to kind of pull things together a bit. Unfortunately, poor Martin caught a hand in my car door at one point, and got dropped on his head, so I’m going to have to give him some TLC before wearing him out again – I’d also like to adjust his height because while walking through a convention hall is fine, the actual doors are not so easy. And I probably need to adjust his arm position, too, because he grabbed a lot of people’s butts and I just don’t need that problem in my life. The rigging, too, probably needs some slight re-calculating, but overall it’s actually more comfortable than it looks, just a bit hard to get into and navigate. Much to the distaste of those around me, Martin lived in my car for a while and then hung out in various rooms for my own amusement before retiring to current lair.

My friend the Amazing Larry did the initial dress, but I’ve since added things to it and adjusted the fit a bit. I did the cape, but have since swapped that bonnet out for one I was given. Obviously the bag is all me, and I did most of Martin, though I was working a lot at that point so Larry cut the basic skeleton pieces so I wouldn’t be a hazard to myself.

Like anything else, everything is in progress, and fluid, and I think that’s important to keep in mind, especially when doing big, weird things like this. It’s always how it is at the moment, or where I’m content for it to be for right now, but I fully expect for things to keep morphing and adjusting in the future – just like my life, oddly enough, so I suppose these are less reflective of some weird discontented breakdown and more reflective of me being in process. And that I am positively cool with.

Costume-palooza: Princess Leia

Published October 14, 2017 by admin

Some more Halloween costume fun for the weekend:

This was actually made for a Star Wars party, but I’ve worn it off and on for some Halloweens, so I’m counting it. I was a huge Star Wars geek growing up, and though I’ve burned out some, I’m still always going to love the originals. And Leia is always going to be one of those characters that I always love. It’s weird, because growing up I was Vader and a Jedi for Halloween, but I never really fathomed myself being Princess Leia. Somehow that felt beyond me, that I was too geeky or awkward or plain or whatever. I don’t really know why it took me so long to do this outfit, but it was a long time coming.

And no, it’s not the outfit you’re hoping for.

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This took more picture research than I would have anticipated, and the friend who helped pattern it with me and I did change it slightly. The original is done as a big giant T with the side seams sewn, but there was no way I could find white stretch jersey that had that kind of wingspan. So, we added the sleeves on separately. I also had to double up the fabric to make it opaque, and figuring out the hood attachment and the neck was a little bit of a job, too. Boots are borrowed, wig is bought, blaster is actually one of the sound effect toy storm trooper blasters that I sanded and painted and now can never take anywhere without huge disclaimers. The belt is a vinyl base, with silver vinyl over car liner and some convenient look alike buttons I found. I can’t remember the total cost of this one (it’s been a while ago), and I still need to actually buy my own set of boots for wearing this out (I’ve cheated and worn black flat boots if it’s dark out when I’m wearing it. The real versions are flat white boots and if you’ve ever tried to source those, you’ll know how fun it isn’t).

I’ve worn this one while handing out candy in the past, and I’ve gotten some great reactions over it (except the mini Vader who cried because he thought I wouldn’t give him candy when I opened the door. That was nearly a galactic emergency). I’m a little particular with this one since it’s gleaming white, but I love it and love wearing it.

Costume-palooza: Batgirl

Published October 3, 2017 by admin

It’s one of those weeks where I’ve got nothin’ new goin’ on, so let’s go to the archives and see what we can talk about. And since it’s Halloween and my daily artistic life is costumes, guess what another theme this month is…

Pssst, it’s costumes. Totally costumes.

At the moment I’ll stick with stuff I’ve done for myself, because I’m still going through the 9 million possible portfolio shots I’ve taken in my lifetime of other stuff that I have yet to edit and arrange (seriously. So great with documentation, not so great about doing stuff with it). I also like showing stuff I’ve done for myself, because some years I pull out all the stops and other years I am tired and lazy and end up being a car lot noodle (and you think I’m kidding).

This one falls somewhat between extremes, and is admittedly one of my faves. Babs Gordon/Batgirl somehow ended up as like a giant beacon of a role model for me as a kid. I grew up watching reruns of the old Adam West show, I vaguely remember reading comics during church choir practice when I was supposed to be paying attention (I guess I felt I wouldn’t be allowed to borrow them from my guy friends, so I have no idea. It seems silly that I was hiding that habit, now). Of course, as I grew up and really delved into her storyline, it just blew me away. The fact that this character could go through intense trauma, be forced to give up the one of the things that made her who she was, and then come blazing back as Oracle has always stuck with me through my own changes and growth. And sorry, I do not accept non-Oracle plotline Babs. Not gonna happen.

It was the animated series, though, that really grabbed me by the nostrils as a teen. That whole show had an artistic sensibility and design that I really hadn’t seen up to that point. The storylines blended humor with some really serious plot points, and kept the characters fairly true to their roots. I can’t help but think that I learned a lot about story development from that show, as well as episodic fiction, because I just straight up devoured it as long as it was on. Beyond the Tim Burton movies or anything else that I’d grown up on, Batman TAS was and will always be my Batman. So years ago when I was part of a group costume challenge where we decided the theme was cartoons, after some brief debate, I went with Batgirl.  Admittedly I had to go with the redesign because I was also working a ton of hours building Halloween event stuff, but I’m pretty in love with the outcome.

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The basic suit was actually done with cuddleduds – they have a nice sheen and honestly with my body proportions (long torso, wide hips, short legs), I didn’t have the time or desire to build my own catsuit (and I likely would have had to. I’ve had some bad moments with store-bought catsuits). The tops are usually pretty long, so if I keep it pulled under the belt, you really don’t notice from a distance that it’s not all one piece.

The cape was fairly easy to do out of stretch jersey, and it took some off and on googling to figure out which bat was the right bat for that uniform. Admittedly the belt isn’t completely right (I think it’s actually like a series of circles). At the time I could only find partial views of her head to toe (or mid-move where things were blocked), so I went off the original belt a litle bit combined with what I could see, but I don’t really mind it. I was going for a purposefully cartoon look to match the TAS feel, so I used car upholstry liner as the base then covered it with fabric. Gloves and boots are bought because I don’t hate myself that much, and I made gauntlets to go over the gloves out of a yellow party satin and more car liner. The mask is spandex and involved me sitting still for it to be draped to the shape of my head – the one thing I didn’t do (and should have) is put the wig on for that (it may have still been in transit, actually), so the fit is a smidge off, but nothing too bad. The mask was the thing that did take me a while to do since I wasn’t the one draping it. Figuring out how far the darts had to go and positioning the holes did give me some fits, but it was definitely worth it. I think, all in all, I got this done for a little over 150 – for as simple as it looks it did take a little bit to pull off.

 

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Obviously I don’t have fun with this one at all.

 

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Want a creepy read for Halloween? I’ve got ya covered! Check out Mooner, my historical vampire tale, or try any of the genre-defying shorts in Lost in the Shadows! Not into horror? No prob, check out all the other fun titles I’ve written!

 

 

Project Pics: My Little Trenty

Published September 16, 2017 by admin

Alright, something fun for the weekend!

So, I am blessed and cursed to have friends that forget nothing and love to never let me forget anything, either.

Yeah, I now have photographic evidence of the time I made a Closer-era Trent Reznor My Little Pony for a friend’s birthday ten million years ago.

I would like to take time to heartfeltly apologize for bringing this into existence.

No, I am never doing this again (unless heavily, heavily bribed). Mostly because (at least at the time, maybe circa 2004-2006) that small of scale got to me. Now, maybe if I did something more to my liking, I might be alright. I’d have to test it out again, but I remember this specific project being pretty tedious. I’m sure part of it is I’m used to a much larger scale (usually human and above), but I think part of it is that the more modern MLPs are just that hard to work with (at least for a novice like me). It took me at least two goes, because in order to change out the hair you have to slit the head off, and I remember slipping enough the first time that the head wouldn’t fit back onto the body, and it was just a mess.

Yep.

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So, basically, I boiled the original hair out of the head, and made sort of a larger-scale needle threader to pull the hair through the existing holes. It’s about as much fun as you think. The tail was somewhat easier because it’s basically one bunch and it’s enough to actually grab onto. I can’t remember, but I may have scalped a doll from a craft store or a generic dollar store Barbie for the hair. Yeah, I know, I feel horrible just typing that.

Eyebrows, eye color changes, the NIN cutie mark/tramp stamp, and I think the boots were all done with model paint (maybe the silver boot detail with silver sharpie – that stuff is pretty magical). I just couldn’t get the hang of the molding I’ve seen on a lot of other custom ponies, and I was working on a schedule, so I played to my strengths and what I had on hand. Plus, back in my day, MLPs wore actual fabric clothes, so I’m a purist.

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If you have never tried patterning out a vinyl coat & pants and fishnet shirt for a freakin’ miniature toy horse, you’re missing out on a life experience. Granted, my original MLPs are some of the few things that have made it in tact through the years, so I likely patterned off some of the clothes I had for them as a kid (God bless the 80s). I think the shirt was the easiest part – I either crocheted or knit that on a really loose gauge then seamed it up on the body of the pony. the bandages on the forelegs are just muslin, I can’t remember if I bothered to hem the raw edges, but it appears that I did. The vinyl for the coat and pants is something I had on hand, so I did my best off of stills from the Closer music video. Because that is apparently what I was doing with my free time back then.

I never really figured out a great way to do the goggles on that scale, so point deducted for that, I guess. But yes, this exists, probably to be immortalized for all time now. It is honestly pretty cute and seeing it after all these years does amuse me, but man oh man did it take some finger gymnastics to get this thing done.

Project Pics: Paddlelump

Published September 5, 2017 by admin

So for once in my life I don’t have any columns or reviews to share – some things are scheduled, but nothing new at the moment. I did put up the new flash stories under the free reads page, updated the books page, and I’m working on getting all the other pages on this thing up to date, as well. So, let’s just get the shameless promotion out of the way:

Buy My Stuff

Okay, now that that’s done, I figured I’d show some more project pictures today, and believe it or not, they’re actually tied in with my other work.

So, when Olde School released it was in the back of my mind what I could do to get people to my table at events, or at least get their attention. I don’t really accomplish a lot by acting like a carni barker at my table, and I’m short, so in a crowd, it’s easy to be overlooked. However, I do have a special set of skills that others don’t have…

Meaning I’ve spent the bulk of my career making big giant stuff. So I figured, why not make Paddlelump Stonemonger, the main character of the book, and let him walk around handing out swag and terrifying people into coming by my table?

At the time I was juggling a lot (switching day jobs, one of my best friends was passing away, I was still doing a weekly podcast and was prepping for the first Imaginarium), but I managed to find free time for store runs (the sheer amount of times I’ve been questioned/encouraged to leave hardware stores because they think I’m trying to be funny is amazing), sewing, and building the head in my backyard. Seriously. I nearly got in a fight with a dog over that head, its success is well-earned.  Also a huge thank you to the friend who made Clyde for me because I was literally working on Padd up until the night before Imaginarium.

Because this is so close to my professional work, I’m not really going to go into huge detail, but I think from head to toe he took maybe a little over a month (because I was cramming in the work in between everything else). Since then, he’s shown up at various events in different states, and people either love Padd or flee in terror (which is pretty close to the book, so I must be doing something right). All of these shots are by my friend/editor/wrangler Robin Blankenship, who’s amazing in her own right and puts up with so very much from me.

 

padd and me booth

At a book fair, because I bring only the best booth babes, 

 

padd library

 

padd and clyde

Clyde also tends to make appearances, because what’s a book event without the personification of evil in a cute little bird?

 

padd jumping

There is a 99% chance something like this will happen as soon as my back is turned and it always freaks me out to see the photos later. Yet I was the one who ended up in urgent care that day.

 

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Product Placement at its finest

After all this, if you’re curious about Paddlelump, Clyde, and Kingdom City, might I suggest going here for more info on the book (including buy links), as well as interviews, free shorts, and other fun stuff involving that world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Project Pictures: Thou Shalt Not Do This Ever Again (aka Lost Boys David plush)

Published August 29, 2017 by admin

Bonus post for today! I feel like it’s going to turn into a vampire sort of week, and I haven’t shared a project in a long time, so why not?

Admittedly I didn’t quite forget that The Lost Boys was turning 30 this year, but the past few years fandom and I have had a weird relationship in general. Even the Labyrinth stuff last year, while fun, couldn’t quite cut through the funk. At the end of the day, though, for some reason this 1980s horror comedy is something that has shaped how I art in a lot of ways (more on that later).

Here’s something goofy I made for a friend years upon years ago:

 

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made by moi, copyright mine, because I suffered too much for this freakin’ thing. 

 

Ugh, don’t judge me. So this started nine billion years ago when the David action figure came out, and my friend, who is all about David, was complaining that there wasn’t anything bigger.

Of course, this meant I had to make her a cuddly chibi-esque version, because reasons. Look, I don’t get it either. My muse is stupid. For similar reasons, I ended up making her a Trent Reznor My Little Pony one year, so this is pretty normal in comparison.

The schematics: I bought the base doll at Michaels and looked at way too many shots of a film that is incredibly darkly lit to try to figure out what the hell David is wearing. I kind of compromised and did the coat as a double lapel one piece with the lapels in different fabrics. The shirt is a basic jersey and I think the pants were just a regular suiting fabric or something similar. I used a thicker stretch vinyl for the coat and gloves (seriously this was like a decade ago I cannot believe I can recall this so vividly).The medal is off a keychain from a dollar store. Yes, I know it’s not exact. I don’t care. I spent way too long patterning tiny vampire clothes, I implanted all the hairs on that thing’s head and unraveled them to look fluffier, I embroidered and drew the face, and made the thing ears so I could include the earring. By the time I got to accessories, I just wanted him out of the house. You can’t really see his fangs that well, but I remember embroidering them on. As you can guess by my snarking, the scale isn’t my favorite and is honestly probably the smallest I’d go at this point. I think he stands at about 18 inches tall if I remember correctly.

Although he weirds me out a little, I’ll admit I’m pleased with the result. I’ve had inquiries over the years if I’d do all the vampires or other characters or even another David, and at this point, likely not. There may be one or two more on the horizon if I really felt whacky. These days, I could probably pattern the clothes out faster (and I have better machines than I did at the time), but I’d have to have a really good reason to be convinced to go back to something like this.