Shore Leave con report, part deux

As you could tell from some of the pictures in the last entry, some Stargate fans had gotten together and assembled a life-size version of the Atlantis gate. For some reason they built it up on a platform (that you had to access from a makeshift plywood ramp), so it didn’t look like it was set into the floor like it’s supposed to. I imagine they incorporated the platform so as to have something to bolt the base of the Stargate to, thus making it more OSHA-compliant and less likely to fall and smash someone into the ground. Lest you think I’m just being nit-picky for no reason, I’d like to point out that I’ve already seen a fan-created Atlantis Stargate that is totally free standing and not bolted to a platform. It’s all a matter of how you engineer your build.

We still ended up taking pictures in front of it.

I mean, how can you not? Huge freakin’ Stargate at the end of a hallway? How could you not? What made it even cooler was the fact that someone had brought along an LCD projector and pointed it at the blue fabric hanging in back of the gate, so it had the whole “ripply water” effect going on. You can’t really make the effect out in the pictures we took of it with Maggie’s camera. I think we were at the wrong angle to catch it. However, you can see it in the first picture on the last post. We didn’t take that one.

After lunch we split up for a bit. Well, Megaganie went one way and LeeAnn headed off to the pool. Megaganie putzed about the con for a while. Originally we had intended to wait in line for Jason Momoa’s autograph. When we headed over, though, we learned that they were trying something a little different for his and Rachel Luttrell’s lines. Instead of having folks stand in lines in the hallway, they were going to call people’s badge numbers. You know, “All folks with badges 1-100” and so on. When your badge range was called, THEN you could go stand in line. That’s right. You still had to stand in a freaky long line. We had badges somewhere past 1000. I think we might have been around 1045, but I’m not sure.

Now, in some ways this might be a good idea. It can cut down significantly on the number of people waiting in the line, if done right. Personally, though, I think there were more things wrong with this method than right. First of all, they sent people around with boards announcing the badge numbers. Okay…it’s going to take a while for these folks to get through all of the rooms where the convention is going on. What if people are sitting in a panel? Are you going to bust into the room and announce numbers, thereby disrupting everyone else’s day? What if someone needs to go up to their room – either to retrieve something, go to the bathroom, lay down because they have a headache, etc. They miss hearing their badge number called. What if someone only had a specific time period in which they were going to be able to wait in line. They’re number gets called but not when they can get away from their other duties, and they’re screwed. What if someone is Deaf and can’t hear when the volunteer wanders around, bellowing numbers? From prior experience, I can attest to the fact that there are a great number of individuals at cons who have a disability that might prevent them from hearing the number called or getting to the line in a timely fashion.

Before I go much further I want to point out that I’m not being bitter about this aspect of the con because I didn’t get my autograph. I did. He signed the insert of one of my Atlantis DVDs. It’s important to look at the success of a con through eyes other than your own, though. To that end, I want you to consider this: we didn’t hear badges in our number range being called until we were already very much in the middle of preparations for the Masquerade on Saturday evening. I had already put on my gray trouser socks and sandals and had started to get into costume bits when someone walked past the Green Room calling “All Badges!” LeeAnn, whose costume consisted of nice street clothes, offered to go stand in line but I didn’t want her to do that. It’s not a barrel of laughs waiting in a line with friends. Waiting by yourself for a signature from someone whose show you don’t watch? I’m not going to make anyone do that for me. Besides, I was having a fun time being incapacitated in the Green Room. 🙂

No, I’m not being snide or sarcastic. (Not there, either)

The Green Room was in a bit of a shambles throughout most of the set-up to the Masq, as well as during and afterwards. Gone were the den mothers that Maggie and I had loved so much during our first competition up in Canada. Groups were just settled here and there throughout the tiny room, belongings getting jostled and mixed up in the excitement. Our little quartet set up camp in one corner of the room. We needed an out of the way place to set the wings and hula hooped dresses until it came time to get dressed. There were none of the check-ins and overviews that were so present and time-consuming at Polaris and, quite honestly, I kind of missed that. Even though it was tedious, you came out of the whole planning part with a pretty good idea of how things were going to work. With the Shore Leave masquerade we didn’t even know that we were supposed to walk off the front of the stage until the first entry came out!

This was only the second masquerade that Maggie and I have participated in. It was the first for Mel and LeeAnn. I had originally hoped to put together the audio for the skit before the con. Actually, to be fair to myself, I did. In fact, I had three different versions of the skit, each with different variations of echo and volume. Unfortunately, to get my taped bits loud enough and sound like the sound clips I had of the Doctor’s speech from the “Blink” episode I had to put a fair bit of echo on my clips. When I joined said clips together the Doctor’s bits (teeheehee) came out rather tinny and hard to understand. David Tennant speaks really quickly anyway, so the echo effect doesn’t help. In the end we had to use Mel’s computer to cobble together the skit. It opened with about 20 seconds of the current Doctor Who theme music and went on to Maggie and I doing the voices for the Doctor and his companion. I’d still like to have a better version of it, but it did the job. Thank goodness for Garage Band’s podcast setting!

I had brought along an extra cd to burn the final audio copy onto, but when I popped it into the computer we found out it wasn’t blank at all. Oh joy. Thankfully, I had my thumb drive on me and I just saved it on that instead. Not having the sound on a disk that I could hand over meant an extra step in the whole process, though. While Mel and Maggie set things up in the corner of the Green Room LeeAnn and I walked down the hall to the ballroom with instructions to talk to the sound guy.

This is where we met some resistance.

We found the doors to the ballroom, but they were being guarded by two volunteers. We explained why we were there but were told that, unless we were part of the tech crew, we couldn’t go in. Even though the tech director for the masq had just told us to come here? Yep. Even though we had been given instructions to go in by someone in charge, we couldn’t go in. I was frazzled by that point – and standing in a crowded hallway wearing knee high gray trouser socks, shiny pewter-colored sandals, a pair of blue gym pants that ended just below my knees, a bright red tank top, and my olive green Jedi tunic like an open robe, I might point out. Thankfully LeeAnn was there to take over with her teacher voice. She asked if they could get someone from inside the ballroom, then, so we could resolve the situation and get back to getting ready. They hadn’t even thought of alternate solutions. The sound guy waved us past the check point a minute later and we made short work of transferring the audio for the skit onto his laptop. That done, we headed back to the Green Room.

My Blink Angel costume is probably the most restrictive thing I’ve ever worn. When everything is on, my hands and arms are completely covered, as is my face, neck and head. The mask isn’t necessarily uncomfortable – it’s got breathing holes for the nose and mouth, and my vision in the mask isn’t nearly as bad as it is when I’m wearing my Potter Puppet Pals head. In fact, the biggest problem in regards to vision is simply that I can’t wear my glasses when I’ve got the mask on, so things are blurry, rather than simply hard to see. I can see people, where I’m going, etc. I just can’t see fine detail.

One of the things about the the Blink Angel costumes that does irritates me a bit is that it kind of requires another person be there to help you get into the whole thing. I’ve not worn many costumes that require a handler, even at the dressing stage. Mel helped me untwist the tights as I put them on over my head; Mel, Mag and LeeAnn had to pin my head sleeve to the tunic, I couldn’t tuck the back flap over the wing harness and into my skirt by myself…at times it felt like I was a kindergartner who hadn’t yet mastered the art of getting dressed. By the end of the night, though, I was able to put the wig and mask back on all by myself. There were a couple of moments during the initial dressing stage where I was completely surrounded by Mel, Mag and LeeAnn. My tunic was being tugged and pinned, my head sleeve stretched, and my personal bubble very much invaded. It was that point at which I realized how much I’m really able to deal with. If I tended more towards the claustrophobic end of the spectrum I’m sure I would have run from the room screaming. As it was, I was rather relaxed. It was similar in some strange way to the state of zen I enter when I get my face wrapped in cold, dripping plaster.

The wings weren’t as big of a problem while I was walking around as I thought they’d be. They change your balance a bit, of course. They feel heavier when you’re carrying them around in your arms than when you’re actually wearing them, too. I ended up using part of an old backpack for the harness for my wings. And duct tape. Lots and lots of duct tape. My wings also got a nice, new paint job from Maggie and Mel in the hotel room Friday night. They had looked fine in the light in my workspace down in the basement, but when compared to Maggie’s they were WAY too dark. Of course, a lot of my stuff, when compared to Maggie’s, tends to look like crap. Stoopid artist training….

In the end the biggest problem with my wings came from other people. For some reason they just could not seem to avoid running into them. There was one guy in particular – who had been wandering around selling ratty looking Tribbles earlier in the day – who just didn’t seem to care that he was nearly destroying them every time he shoved by in back of me. As I had my back to him (as I straddled a chair in a very undignified but rather comfortable manner), I couldn’t glare at him. Maggie, Mel and LeeAnn did that for me. A few other people in the Green Room weren’t paying much attention to where they were going or whose wings they trounced on. At one point I was nearly dragged off my chair when someone ran into them. I’m actually surprised that the wing didn’t pop off the harness. And that I managed to remain seated and vaguely upright. Folks apologized that time.

Eventually they called our number for the masquerade. We marched down the hall – a much shorter walk than the one we’d had to contend with at Polaris – and headed into the backstage area. Stage ninjas were waiting to guide us up the three or four short steps leading to the stage. I want to pause here and say that, of the two stage set-ups I’ve been privy to for a masq, I MUCH preferred the one at Shore Leave. There were lights underneath the stairs, with little cut-outs in the front, so you could really see where they were going. The stage was marked with white tape, so it was easy to figure out where you needed to go and where the stairs going down were. There was a wonderful amount of wing space, too. Actually, the wings for the temporary stage were deeper than the wing space on the stage back at my old high school!

The skit itself went pretty well. There was a moment’s bumbling on my part, as I started to step into the hula hoop at the bottom of my dress when I moved forward. Mel and LeeAnn did fantastically well with their part (LeeAnn later told me it was weird to be on stage, syncing to Maggie’s voice) and I heard from a number of people that we were wonderfully creepy.

The judging for the masq took longer than it usually does, apparently. Eventually we wandered back in to the ballroom area and listened as the results were read. The workmanship awards were announced first. Mel and LeeAnn were both of the mind that we should have entered for workmanship – a notion that was further supported by other folks who had been in the masq that night themselves.

We ended up winning 2nd place in our division – and received an honest-to-goodness trophy this time! We couldn’t figure out what to classify ourselves as when we filled out the forms, so we put ourselves down for Recreation. One of the theories is that we would have placed even higher if we’d entered in the straight Sci-Fi division. I was happy with what we won, though. Especially considering it’s only the second time Maggie and I have made things for a competition outside of our Halloween party.Although winning the trophy and placing 2nd was a pretty cool achievement it was the comments made by all the folks in the Green Room in the time leading up to the show that I appreciated most. As Maggie and I balanced in our backwards chairs we could hear the other entrants oohing and aahing over the wings and our stone-like arms. I kept hearing “I hope they win for Best in Show” over and over again. Maggie and I just kept shooting each other looks and tried to hold back our grins.

Now, it might seem odd that people who are in the running themselves for Best in Show are cheering for other people to win. Most of the folks I’ve met in masquerades – though they admit winning would be nice – are not actually in it for the win. They’re in it because they, like me, love costumes. They love to have a place to wear them around and not be mocked for having a “weird” hobby.

Personally I think a big part of their well-wishing had to do with one of the other entrants. Apparently the girl who won Best in Show this time around always wins. In fact, she’s won so many times that other people have just given up going up against her. It’s just been a given that she’ll win. From the impression I got from one of the judges afterwards, though, we made it a really tough decision this year. That brings me joy – not the least because the judge waded through the crowded hall and sought us out to say that it was a difficult choice.

In the end, I’ll take the feedback from fellow costumers over the actual award.

So…do I consider the con a success? In part, yes. The masquerade was fun, though poorly planned and rather disorganized. It would be hard for me to not enjoy a chance to wear a costume. Plus, I got to share the evening with three awesome friends. There were opportunities to geek out and I got the signatures I planned to get. I met some interesting people and had a couple ideas for new blog posts. I laughed for a good part of the weekend.

In part, no. While the guests were all fantastic, the staff was kind of lacking. Not in amount. They were kind of lacking in quality. Mel lost her badge on Saturday night, while changing for the con. When she went to the info booth/lost and found to see if someone had dropped it off, they refused to help her. They just looked at her and said “We’ve already packed everything up.” Even though they knew she’d need it for the rest of the evening. The next day they were going to charge her $30. We ended up just heading out earlier than we originally planned.

While there were some familiar, friendly faces (Tom – who was the masquerade director and Marty Gear) we also encountered a fair number of staff members who were entirely unpleasant. I can understand being overwhelmed and tired and wanting people and problems to go away. I’ve been in that position. I’ve run big events. Granted nothing like a con, but a powwow with no funding and only two other staff members who are as clueless as you are is nothing to sneeze at. If you are on the staff for an event the one thing you can’t do is take your frustration out on the folks attending the con. If you do, they won’t come back.

Case in point: we don’t intend to return to Shore Leave in the foreseeable future. From now on, it’s Polaris or bust.

Shore Leave 31 con report (part 1)

And now, at long last, the much promised and long delayed con report!

What do you go to a convention for? The obvious answer is to have some wonderful fanboy/fangirl fun. As I’m assuming no one repeatedly goes to cons and has bad experience after bad experience, I have to say that “because it’s fun” isn’t really an answer. Of course it’s fun. If it wasn’t fun we wouldn’t spend all that money on admission and wait around in long lines for autographs. “Because it’s fun” is much like the response my theatre teacher hated hearing when students were asked to give critiques of shows – “I liked it. It was good.”

Okay. How was it good?

I pose this question to you. Why do you go to cons? Or, more specifically, what tends to draw you to one con over another? Do you weigh the distance? Cost? Do you find yourself in panels all day? Do you decide based on whether they have a masquerade or not? Solely on the number or quality of guests (bigger names? smaller names but more of them?). Do literary guests help to sweeten the deal?

The reason I ask is this – how does one review a con? How do we figure out whether it was a success or not? It sounds like I’m trying to weasel out of reviewing Shore Leave, but I’m not. This is actually an important step. In order to judge anything, one needs to set up some sort of criteria for said judging. This isn’t to say the criteria will be the same for everyone. Sizes of cons change which will affect our impression of the event as a whole. Certain criteria will change, depending on the individual con, but there will most likely be some standards. Understanding what draws us individually to a particular con, however, helps us see for ourselves how we judge a con successful.

One of the reasons I go to cons, quite honestly, is because they provide me with an opportunity to dress up and not be ridiculed for it. At least, not ridiculed once inside the con location itself. There simply aren’t a whole lot of opportunities for safe and emotionally rewarding play for adults. I’m not talking about the dirty, role-playing dominatrix type of play. Get your mind out of the gutter. I’m talking about the kind of play we used to engage in when we were children. The make-believe that was once such a big part of our world. I loved pretending to be a medieval knight, or a Jedi, or even a simple explorer hopping over stones and hoping to avoid falling in a pit of lava. It was play at its simplist, where your imagination could convincingly make a stick into Excalibur or a bed into an airship. When we grow up society tells us that we shouldn’t engage in that type of play anymore. It’s not “normal.” It’s not sane. Well screw that. You know what isn’t sane? Wars, famine and working ourselves to death. We might be living longer, but where is the life in that life? I honestly believe that many people have forgotten how to embrace the simple joys of play. Conventions are where that sense of play is still very much alive. Granted the line between the imagined world and the “real” one has blurred (or possibly never existed) for some of these con-goers, but I would argue that that particular sub-group is not actually as large as the rest of society would have you believe.

Phew.

So, simply put, I go partly for the costumes. I saw some absolutely fantastic ones over the course of the weekend, too. I made the decision not to bring my camera bag with me this time (I felt weighed down by my costume and “regular” clothing bags as it was), so the majority of the pictures in this entry come from Maggie – with one or two picked up from flickr. As with any con, there were a couple of costumes that I spotted in the hallway that I couldn’t place. Thankfully, with the combined geekiness factor that is Megaganie (two of my friends and myself – just so you know, any references to the three of us together will be shortened to “Megaganie” for the remainder of this post) we were able to figure out what most were. Looking for an example? I saw these two wandering around on Saturday. I thought the costumes were great. They were cute, quirky, and had a definite sense of humor to them. I just didn’t know what they were in reference to. When I pointed them out, Mel informed me that they were from the television show Roswell. Not having been a fan of the show during its run, I never would have known that. Now, because of some kitschy costumes at Shore Leave, I have added it to my extensive Netflix queue.

Mel and Mag kept spotting Klingons running here and there but I really only ever got a good look at one. I was a little upset, as I had sort of gone with the agenda of interviewing one of them for a later blog entry. ::sigh:: Alas, that idea will have to wait.

The dealer’s room was fantastic. Or, should I say, dealer’s room and assorted hallways. There were so many booths that they couldn’t fit all in one room. They spilled through the doorways and lined the main hall coming in to the section of the hotel where the con was kept. It was just to the side of the Hunt Valley Marriot’s main lobby and a part of me wondered if the management wasn’t just hoping that we’d stay in our corner. If they were, they certainly didn’t get their wish. We sci-fi fans are an insidious lot, prone to wandering. This notion was supported by the fact that it took us for-freaking-ever to find a quiet, secluded place in which to record our audio for the Masquerade on Saturday. First, we went downstairs, only to find that many a costumed con-goer was trooping around on the incredibly loud carpet.

The carpet wasn’t noisy. Just blaringly offensive to the eyes in color and pattern, as I’m sure you’ll see in the occasional photo.

All in all there were a fair number of people wandering the halls in costume over the course of the weekend. Certainly nothing on par with Polaris but enough for me to feel welcome.

Meganie stayed to watch a performance of the play “House Calls” on Friday night. It was an original play written by Robert Picardo and Ethan Phillips, based on their characters from Star Trek: Voyager. I never really followed that show so Mel had to occasionally clue me in, but the show was fantastic! Although they have a script the two engage in a lot of improv throughout the show and their friendship is quite evident.

Afterwards, we stayed in the room to watch a performance of all seven Harry Potter books by a group called Luna-C. Some of the jokes could have been better and some of the “actors” seemed uncomfortable and unsure of themselves on stage, but the guy who played Hagrid throughout the show was absolutely spot on, and the guy who covered Dumbledore was hilarious. Actually, now that I think of it, the guys were all rather good. It was the girls who tended to give most of the weak performances. There were a couple of references that others in the audience didn’t always get (I was shocked that more people didn’t laugh at the David Tennant/Tenth Doctor joke and was apparently the only one who got the Blues Brothers reference), but I ended up laughing through most of the show, and I’d call that a success.

The guests were all tremendous, as well. The first actor I got to see upon our arrival Friday night was actually Christopher Heyerdahl.

In short, he’s tall. Really tall. I don’t even come up to his shoulder. I was standing in the hallway at one of the dealer booths and happened to look over at the extremely tall man standing near me. My first thought was “man, he’s gigantic.” My second thought, on further examination, was “Oh wow, it’s Christopher Heyerdahl!” He strikes me as someone who is very into sci-fi himself. I saw him skulking around the dealer’s booth and, during the award ceremony for the Masquerade on Saturday, he asked to try on someone’s helmet.

Jason Momoa is a force all his own. We barely got in to get autographs from him – a problem with the way they arranged for people to wait in the lines – and were standing around when a fan brought in a cake and a pan of brownies. Well, it looked like brownies. He reached over, said “That piece is mine,” and stuck his finger in a part of the cake. When it came time to cut the brownies he’d cut a piece and eat the raspberry on top, cut a piece and eat the raspberry on top. Someone asked him to hold their newborn baby for a picture. The child looked even smaller, being held by him. Later, we saw him walking through the dealer’s room and down a hallway. There was a kid inside the hotel’s little deli/cafe thingy who pointed at him with a look of star-struck awe on his face. Jason nodded at him and said something along the lines of “Hey man, how’s it going?” I’m sure he made the kid’s week.

I got a smile from Clifton Collins (he recently played Nero’s second in command in Star Trek) as I walked by in full Jedi gear on Saturday. I felt kind of bad for him, as there didn’t seem to be many people stopping by his booth. I probably would have gone to get an autograph, but they cost an average of $20 and I was on a budget. I spotted him later that weekend, reading and highlighting a giant book.

Unlike Polaris, Shore Leave doesn’t boast a whole lot of panels, and most of those that were planned didn’t interest me. There were three or four scheduled to go on most of the time, but the discriptions and topics all seemed kind of blah. I think that I’ve been spoiled on this front by Polaris. It seems like Maggie and I are always running from one event to another at that one. That wasn’t so much the case here. We did attend a panel titled “Tool Time.” It was sort of like the one that we attended at Costume Con, only with different panelists. Well, panelists who weren’t on the original panel. They were attendees of Costume Con, though. In fact, one of the guys running the panel was Marty Gear – one of the guys who runs Costume Con (at least when it’s here in this area).

One of the other guys on the panel was dressed as Indiana Jones. We had actually run across him in the hallway earlier. While LeeAnn was busy buying her day pass (she only joined us for Saturday) Megaganie settled around a post near the registration table. Indy stepped up and complemented us on our Jedi garb. He knew what we had made our lightsabers out of but said they still looked authentic. He asked us, during the panel, to hold them up for people to see. I swear, those things get the most interest of all our pieces.

We had made the conscious decision to dress as Jedis for Saturday because we were going to be entering the Masquerade in the evening. Since the costumes for the masq were going to be kind of unwieldy and just a tad bit uncomfortable, Maggie and I opted for a day in our comfy Jedi jammie-jams. I brought along all my extra Jedi bits (I’ve got three tunics and two obi belts, of various colors) and, between all of that, Maggie’s stuff, and the bits of Patrick’s Anakin costume that Mel could find, we had enough to outfit ourselves as a Jedi, a Padawan, and a Sith. There were more fellow Jedi at Shore Leave than I’ve noticed at other cons so far, but we didn’t have a lot of contact with them. We did have a lot of other folks come up and talk to us about our costumes, though. In fact, a few of these experiences will be put aside for yet another blog entry).

One of the fellows from Costume Con’s Tool Time panel (the one with all the cool Time Lord accessories) was the director of the masquerade this year. When he saw us at the table, registration form in hand, he got excited. He thought we were entering with a Jedi skit and was surprised to learn we would, in fact, be something totally different. Apparently he was in the green room for part of the evening, after we had already changed into our costumes, and Maggie said he couldn’t stop grinning when he looked over at our corner.

After we registered for the masq, we decided to break for lunch. We ended up going off site for food, as the options at the Hunt Valley Inn weren’t promising. We ate at some grill over in a shopping complex down the road. Still very much in our Jedi robes. I think the wait staff got a thrill at seeing us walk in, but that didn’t extend to providing great service.

I’m actually going to break there, as I feel the whole masquerade experience and the final tally of pros and cons (haha…get it? Cons?) for the convention deserve their own separate entry. That, and this one’s getting kind of long.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

Blog Filler

I returned from Shore Leave on Sunday afternoon. I had a fun, busy weekend and I even started writing the new con report blog in the car on the way home from Timonium. However, I left the little booklet with my notes in my camera bag yesterday, so the official report will have to wait.

Instead, I bring you a question I received in a message from a new acquaintence earlier today. When they learned that I wear costumes to conventions they asked: if I could dress as any sci-fi character (animated or not), which one would I choose, and what character do I think I could pull off the best?

Well, for those of you who have been reading this from the beginning I’ve kind talked about this before – in regards to the list that is pinned to my bulletin board. However, while each of those items on the list is something that I plan to do (and obviously have some connection to, as far as costume choices go), I think this question is actually a little more inclusive. Which character would I dress as? If I could choose anyone? Hmmm…well, again, there follows a list. Although I don’t play Resident Evil, I want to make a Rebecca Chambers costume (the original green and white one…not the one with the red tank top or the one that looks like Daisy Duke). I’d like to dress as Padme (pre-pregnancy). There are a couple of her costumes from Episodes I and II that I like (Coruscant gray kimono-like dress, Parade dress, Indigo Senate Gown, picnic gown). Of course there are a couple of Jedi costumes I like (Jocasta Nu – the archive, Luminara Unduli). I would absolutely LOVE to do this costume from Stargate SG1 (“Emancipation” Season 1, Episode 3). Thanks to Gateworld and their section of screenshots I’ve finally managed to get a couple of pictures of the dress, but most of the pictures tend to cut off at a certain point.

As for the characters I could pull off…I think the closest to my normal look is Velma. I’ve actually done that costume before for Halloween, albeit without the knee socks. I had a devil of a time finding bright orange knee socks to go with my shoes. I just found some at 5 Below a few weeks ago, though, and I’m now in the process of remaking my Velma costume. I’ve still got the skirt and the shoes from before, but the shirt needs to be remade.

I was directed to an anime character database by the afore-mentioned acquaintence. It’s not terribly helpful if you’re fairly poorly versed in anime and manga (which I am), but it does provide a couple of ideas. You basically type in certain characteristics – male/female, hair color, eye color, that sort of thing – and it pops up with a couple of recommended character choices. If only they did similar things with sci-fi and fantasy characters. You could just type in a couple of features that you have and up comes a list of folks that you can dress as without altering your appearance too much. So far, this is the closest I’ve managed to come to something I could possibly pull off. I’ve actually got a lab coat already – left over from when I used to work at a doctor’s office. I’m not sure how the sea foam green will look against my skin, though. And I’d much rather know what the character is from and who she is, but I haven’t been able to find out much about her apart from the fact that her name seems to be Furoku Tsukumo. Anybody here able to give me any other information?

If you’re interested in looking up your own possible anime-based cosplay costumes, I suggest you check out the site: http://www.animecharactersdatabase.com

I’ve already done a Toad costume and, while the initial costume had a lot of problems, it was a pretty good “first draft” of a character I had wanted to make a costume of for a while. I’ve recently acquired materials to make a newer, much more comfortable version of the Toad costume. Gotta love foam.

In other news, I finally acquired an important piece for another costume while on a trip to the National Museum of Natural History yesterday. It doesn’t look exactly like this, but this is to give you an idea:


Some people go to the museum to learn new things and expand their understanding of the universe. I go to pick up supplies for a giant puppet hat.

Coming Up: Another costume weekend

Shore Leave starts Friday. Maggie, Mel and I are traveling up for the first night and LeeAnn is joining us on Saturday. We’re staying off site, a few minutes from the Hunt Valley Marriot where the con will be taking place. As per usual I was in charge of securing lodging for this trip and I managed to get an awesome deal. We will be staying in the very nice Crowne Plaza – the same place Costume Con was held earlier this year. When I found out I jumped for joy all day long.

The main construction of both dresses is finished. All that is left to do on mine is the paint job and adding a hook in the back. I believe Maggie is finished painting hers. She stopped over yesterday to pick up her dress.

We ended up opting for a dress that came apart – so, basically, a tunic and a skirt. This should make putting everything on with the wings much easier. Looking at my dress, though, I think I could actually sew the tunic and skirt together and not really have a problem getting it on and off. I might do that for future wearings. Here’s my dress, being modeled on my dress form. At the moment the pleats and drapes are actually hanging pretty well (on the skirt, at least). We’ll see if the paint that I’ll be using will change it drastically.

We were never able to find gray toe socks. It’s impossible to really even find any toe socks at this time of the year, let alone a specific color. For now the plan is to pick up some gray tights and just wear those with the sandals.

Maggie has volunteered to come over and help with the paint job tonight. If I can just get the thing covered with the base coat, I should be fine for all the details. I mainly just need a good base to build off of. Last night was spent putting a bit of a dark base on the skirt (With me getting sticky paint all over the floor – need to move it outdoors today) and starting the paint job on the wings. I’m really hoping that I’ll have enough paint to finish the job. I’m thinking of adding the fabric medium to the paint that I put on the wings, just to make it stretch further.

I also started taking a few little nicks out of the feathers on the wings, to make them look a little more like real feathers. You know how bird feathers tend to have a notch or two in them, where the feather has worn naturally? That’s what I’m trying to emulate.

I’ve also got to figure out how we’re making the audio for the masquerade. I have a feeling most of today is going to be spent searching for audio clips online and seeing if I can alter them enough for our use. We’ll see how that turns out.

Quick Updates

Since I’m at work on my birthday I think it only fair to use this time to create a short blog entry. And when I say short, I mean short. At least, that’s what I’m shooting for.

Shore Leave starts this Friday. Between now and then I’ve got to finish my dress, Maggie’s dress, two wigs (possibly just one) and paint everything – except the mask, that is. Neither Maggie nor I were able to find gray toe socks, so we’ll probably just have to settle for gray tights worn with our sandals. I’ll be okay with that.

Maggie’s dress is actually pretty close to being done, at least sewing-wise. I’ve got to add the hula hoop on the bottom hem, and tuck and sew the top half of the dress into the skirt, but I need her to actually be wearing the piece in order to do that. I also need to construct a new yoke for the top of the dress – again, something I need to do when she’s actually got it on.

Mine is pretty much at the same level of completion at the moment. I’ve got to sew the belt onto the skirt half of my dress, but I think the top is pretty much done. Since I’ve got a dress form that is pretty close to my size at home, I should be able to figure out the fitting for the two pieces fairly easily.

I think tomorrow is going to be dedicated solely to wig construction. I’m off on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, and only have one alumni interview scheduled for the afternoon tomorrow, so I will be able to focus on sewing and gluing and so on and sew forth (haha! puns!).

The thing I’m actually most worried about in regards to my costume is the painting. I find myself desperately hoping that the paint will not only adhere to the fabric, but that it will be the proper shade. I’m mainly concerned with matching the look of the mask. Also, I’m worried that some of the paint will make the fabric too stiff to fall into the folds that I need it to.

We’ll see.

I plan on taking some pictures tonight and tomorrow, as I work through the costumes. Cross your fingers!

Upcoming Con = New Costume

Although conventions are held year-round I always tend to think of summer as “Con Season.” It’s not that I typically go to a lot of cons during this time. I actually usually only make it to one regularly. Occasionally there will be a year when I manage to squeeze two in. This is one of those years.

I had originally wanted to go to a couple more this year: Farpoint, Balticon and another one I can’t remember at the moment. The initial schedule of events I had seen for Farpoint didn’t look very promising, so we ended up not going to that one, but I took a look over the finalized schedule (it’s incredible the things you can find on Google) and I kind of wish we had gone. Balticon ended up not being a go simply because too many things were already planned for that weekend.

The next con that we are absolutely committed to attending is Shore Leave. The con takes place July 10-12, in the same hotel where Costume Con took place. I think we’re planning on staying at the hotel for Shore Leave.

Now, usually we’re up in Canada during the time period for Shore Leave, attending the absolutely lovely Polaris. Polaris wasn’t the first con we ever went to but it was certainly the one that cemented our attendance at more in the future. This year, as with last year, Shore Leave and Polaris actually fall on the same weekend. The first year we went to Polaris they were actually on different weekends. If I had had any money left over after our trip to Canada that year I would have gone to Shore Leave that year, too (Paul McGillion was there and, by that time, I was a big fan of Stargate: Atlantis). Alas, that was not to be.

The scheduling of these two events for the same weekend forces a very painful choice upon us: do we scale back on expenses and travel time and attend the local con (which has been going for a little longer than Polaris and is apparently one of the best cons on the East Coast) or do we set forth on another trip into our beloved neighbor to the north, spending quite a bit more but definitely getting our money’s worth?

Typically the decision of which con to go to comes down to the guest list. Last year’s author guest of honor at Polaris was Jim Butcher. That was all I needed to hear to cast my vote for Polaris. In fact, I remember Maggie coming into my office and asking if I had seen the author they had chosen yet. She was tremendously excited and I figured only two authors were likely to get her that wound up. Since it was unlikely the other author would be there (J.K. Rowling, in case you’re interested) I figured it had to be Butcher. When I found out I was so excited I couldn’t sit or stand still. Glee like you’ve never seen before! The actor guests that they had scheduled just made it even better: Zachary Quinto (who, unfortunately, had to cancel), Rachel Luttrell, Gareth David-Lloyd, Rainbow Sun Francks (a last minute addition and my favorite experience of the whole con), Terry Farrell – who apparently does con appearances EXTREMELY rarely. There were others, but these are the ones I remember.

Now, lest you think that Shore Leave gets guests who are less illustrious, let me set the record straight. Their guest list read as follows that same year: W. Morgan Sheppard, Mark Sheppard, Malcolm McDowell, David Hewlett, Kate Hewlett, Jewel Staite, and…George Takei! I found it interesting that they had two families there. David and Kate are brother and sister and Mark Sheppard is W. Morgan Sheppard’s son. Maggie said the biggest draw for her that year was Malcolm McDowell. Honestly, the presence of George Takei was almost enough for me to miss Jim Butcher in Toronto. I didn’t, though.

This year Shore Leave actually has the more enticing guest list: Jason Momoa (*le sigh), Rachel Luttrell, Robert Picardo (we saw him briefly at our very first con and he is VERY fan friendly), Ethan Phillips, Adrienne Wilkinson, Christopher Heyerdahl, Vanessa Angel, Michael Welch and Kevin Sorbo.

I’m honestly worried about Maggie’s sanity at this con. I don’t know how she’s going to react, being so close to Kevin Sorbo. Come to think of it, I’m more worried about Kevin Sorbo than I am about Maggie. I suppose I’ll have to bring along one of those big paddles they use to pull pizzas out of the oven with to scrape her off the floor. 🙂

For the most part my major costuming demands are already taken care of. I’ll most likely be wearing Molly Weasley and the Jedi. I have two other costumes I could use for the third day, but I might try to pull together something new. Maggie suggested making the costumes for the Blink angels. I think this might actually be what we end up doing.

The costumes are deceptive. They look rather simple – angels wearing Grecian dresses, with a scary looking mask hidden by their hands. What looks easy, though, takes on the real degree of difficulty when you have to figure out how to make your skin look like stone.

Lucky for me, I found a blog that gives tips for how to make the costumes. If we end up doing this, I think we’ll aim for presenting them at the Masquerade. I’ve even got a skit worked out for it…just need to get the audio clips that I want.

The plus part of this costume? I don’t have to buy any of the fabric! I’ve got a bolt of black polyester that I got for free from my sister’s grandmother-in-law (well, she’s not really the grandmother but that family tree is too confusing to figure out what the actual term is so we’ll simplify for the sake of this blog entry). Apparently there are at least two more bolts of the stuff back at their house. Bertha gave me the bolt of black and some random yardage of an equally random white and turquoise ripple check fabric that I have no idea what I could possibly need it for. It looks kind of like this only, you know, ickier and turquoise.

I’m not really a fan of using polyester in my costuming or when making clothes for myself or others. Occasionally it is right for what I need but this isn’t usually the case. There are a number of problems inherent in using polyester: it doesn’t breathe, the material doesn’t manipulate well, it doesn’t take dye, and it just doesn’t really feel all that nice against your skin.

There are a couple of advantages, though…polyester tends to resist wrinkles. That’s on the “good” side of the list for costuming, as wrinkles are bound to happen when you sit down in your costume. Sometimes wrinkles can be a good thing – it makes some items look more realistic. However, there are such things as unsightly wrinkles. Polyester also tends to self-extinguish after coming in contact with flames, which is definitely a good thing if you have a costumer who has a potential fire-hazard in their skit or nearby. Ideally, if you want to include polyester in your costuming, look for poly-blends which incorporate other, natural fibers.

Although an entire bolt of black polyester (which actually tends to shed microfibers something awful!) would not normally be my first choice for ideal material, in this case I think the sturdiness inherent in the material will help add to the illusion of a carved stone statue. Plus, it was free! I’ve already used a good deal of the material for other projeccts, but I should have enough to make my costume.

I plan to start construction on the dress next week.