puppetmaker: (Caroline at Nasa)
It is in January that I take a look at the conventions that I will be going to and figure out what I am going to make for each leading to, for me, the big show at Dragon Con.

One of my usual conventions (LunaCon) may be a no go this year. I didn’t go last year either due to a number of factors including Peter’s health. This year I might not be going due to happier circumstances that I will talk about when things solidify a little more.

So that leaves me Farpoint, Shoreleave, and Dragon Con to show at. I have to see if there are any other shows that might be a good place to display my art. If anyone has any ideas, I would like to know.

Usually I use Farpoint and Shoreleave to motivate me for Dragon Con.

Also this year I am going to be building a costume for me for the workmanship contest. It is one of those labor intensive costumes that I contemplate and then discard so this year I plan on doing it. I see a lot of rubber floor mats in my future.

I plan to introduce some new dolls this year. I haven’t done a doll in about two years and it is high time that I started again. Next March will be 10 years since I took the first doll course from Wendy Froud. Time to use that information to create art.

I am thinking that it is time to turn Holmes and Watson into puppets.

I still have the hand puppet Firefly idea floating around.

Also a soft doll idea that might work. I need to do a test or two. If so I don’t think it has been done in fandom and, if it works, it will be cute.

There has been a discussion on one of the doll groups about using one’s fabric stash before we aren’t around to use it. So this year I plan to work my way through the stash with minimal buying of new materials for my projects.

Monster puppets part deux are in the future as well.

I am grateful for things to work with.
puppetmaker: (Peter David and Me)
Last night after watching Face Off, we watched the last episode of Heroes of Cos-Play which was the second half of the costume contest at the Planet Comics convention in Kansas City. This was the group rather than the individual contest. This is the episode that Caroline has been waiting for since she saw the previews and knew somewhere along the line there was going to be an Astrid costume from How to Train Your Dragon.

Now this is a “reality” show where it is edited within an inch of its life to creates stories and drama that the audience will find interesting. Most of life can be pretty mundane and that doesn’t make for good television. I talked to both Yaya and Monika at this past Dragon Con and they were rather frank about the whole thing along with the editing process that either made them look good or bad.

In the first episode the Internet exploded because there seem to be an elitist attitude being portrayed. Only costume to your body type and the like. It was as I expected that choice lines were pulled out of context, which is was evident because they didn’t show the person talking but a reaction shot from another person. There was a lot more to that conversation than was portrayed.

Most of the other episodes were pretty much edited the same way. There was always a bit of drama some of which seemed pretty made-up and the music they were using wasn’t helping matters.

Then we came to this episode and the costume Caroline has been looking forward to since the show started. The drama was high. Costuming contacts were left in eyeballs overnight which begs the question of why she forgot to take them out. Another individual might have the flu or food poisoning. But the show must Go On!!!

This was bad enough but the capper to me was when the heckling started both by the audience and some of the costumers who were not part of the show. That was such bad form on so many levels.

One of the individuals did put up her version of events on the whole matter on her facebook page. You can read it here.

When Caroline saw it this morning she said, “They aren’t being nice. I always try to be nice even if I don’t win.” And a little later, “why are they being so mean to them?” We had a talk about reality TV and editing and the like but she still felt that the words shouldn’t have been said.

I understand being ticked because the rules have changed. I understand being peeved because the contest has been taken over by a reality show. I understand the hungry and tired after competing. That, in my book, does not forgive bad behavior. And the "they provoked us" defense just drives me crazy. As my mother would say, “Monitor your mouth.”

When you are in public or in the public’s eye like being in a costume contest or on a panel, for the love of glob think before you speak. These sorts of things do go around especially since the costuming community is not very large. Heck fandom maybe larger than it was but still it is a small group of people compared to some other groups.

I can remember way back in the mists of time that if people heard that the Stringers were competing then it was a lot of bellyaching and people complaining that now no one but them would win best in show. The Stringers turned their hobby into a business and have worked their hardest to make costumes that are wonderful to look at and easy to wear. But just because the Stringers were in the contest didn’t give them an automatic win. They were judged harder than everyone else because the judges knew what they could do. Eventually there was another group that came in and started winning various contests. It is almost the circle of cos-play that the vets cycle out and the newcomers become the vets. I competed against the Stringers. I participated in costumes with them. I won and lost against them and with them. All in all it was pretty even handed.

We have been fighting the elitist tag on costumers for years especially if you participated in the International Costuming Guild. I am a very inclusive person. I want to learn from others and teach what I know to others. I want to help people become better costumers and make some amazing costume that I couldn’t even contemplate making. The ICG is inclusive too. Marty Gear worked for years to convince people that the ICG was not just for those who made historical costumes, but for all costumers no matter what skill level. You just have to have a passion for costuming.

And maybe this “reality” show might encourage some new blood to join us. I am more concerned that it may have chased some of those who were about to dip their toe in to just forget the whole thing. Cos-play as a business is a very small group of individuals who have worked very hard to get where they are. A number of people I know have gone onto jobs in films, television, and theater along with numerous haunted houses that are staffed by fans. It just doesn’t help when they can make it look like we eat our young.

I am grateful for all the costumers and cos-players I have seen over the years that help each other rather than snipe.
puppetmaker: (Goatboy)
Ok it didn’t really go away but it did go quiet for a while.

Since I talked about it at Dragon Con this year, I thought I would do an entry on what Crafty Tuesday is and why I do it.

The why is simple. I had been talking about how I put things up on my web log at various conventions. Someone asked what day I did that. At the time it was kind of all over the place. I said rather glibly, “Tuesday” and Crafty Tuesday was born. I am not saying that Tuesday is the only day I talk about my artistic endeavors, it is just the most consistent.

So for the new readers, hi I am Kath the Puppeteer. I make puppets, costumes, masks, dolls, plushies and whatever else strikes my fancy. I have been doing this for more years than I will admit but the number is over 30.

I have made just about ever form of puppet that there can be but enjoy making hand and rod and hand puppets the most. I learned the form of doll making I like best from Wendy Froud so if you find a tip or technique that you love, she is the one who taught me. I learned about building puppets from working at the Center for Puppetry Arts and from my fellow puppet artisans. The costumes came out of the puppet clothing. The mask making from working with a number of artists who had learned from other artists and they passed on what they learned to me.

Because so many people over the years have been so giving with how they do things, I feel like it is my responsibility to pass on what knowledge I have onto others. I don’t have a “secret methods” on how to do things. (OK I do know a couple of magic tricks that I can’t tell you how they were done since I signed an NDA a long time ago but I don’t use them in my puppets and art.) I have what works for me. And people have taken what I have shown them and made it their own. No two people are going to do the exact same thing unless they are copying on purpose. I can teach you exactly how I make a Phluzzie (my signature puppet) and you could do what I did but your puppet is going to look different from mine. I take my role as teacher very seriously. I do consider myself as a student as well. I love learning how people do things.

I am working on figuring out how to create a website so I can show what I do. I have been saying this for a number of years (try over 10) but I think this year might finally be the year I get it together. I have enough photos to put into something like that. It would also be a good place to sell puppets to the public. If anyone had any ideas on the matter, I could use some help.

Next week, I hope, how I do arm rods for puppets.

Do you have a topic or trick you have seen in my art you want me to talk about? Please tell me.

I am grateful for all the people who have taught me over the years.
puppetmaker: (Angel on my Shoulder)
31 Days until Dragon Con! Yikes!

At this point this blog is probably going to mostly change over to what I am doing for Dragon Con for various things. Blogging about it keeps me honest about what I have done and what I have to do.

I also have Caroline’s Costume to do for Shoreleave (this weekend kids) and I would like to bring the beginnings of the next set of puppets I am working on.

So that’s a bit to do but I am going to start now and just work it. My brain seems to be firing on all cylinders now and my muse knocked on the door with her suitcase in hand so I am going to assume she is going to stay a while.

Here is the Master List of things I would like to get done before Dragon Con

Yes, I am leaving the titles as is. I figure part of the fun will be figuring out what I am going to do with them.

Secret Project #1 (Hand and Rod Puppet)

Secret Project #2 (Hand and Rod Puppet(s)) aka Puppet Slam project

Secret Project #3 (Hand and Rod puppet)

For the Art Show
1) All Magic… (Hand and Rod Puppet)

2) Comes at a Price (Hand and Rod Puppet)

3) Blue Phluzzie (Sort of my signature piece)

4) Yellow Phluzzie (Signature part 2)

5) Grrr (Monster hand puppet)

6) Argh (Monster hand puppet)

7) Goat Boy (Doll)

8) Lioness (Doll)

9) Lion (Doll)

10) Lizard Wizard (Doll)

11) Can’t take a sky from me (Hand puppet set of 9) {This is in my iffy category}

12) Bite my Shiny Metal … (Hand Puppet Set of 9) {Again iffy}

13) Not the Doctor (Hand and Rod Puppet)

14) The Shape Shifter (Hand and Rod Puppet)

And that’s my insane idea of what I can get done in the time allotted time.

I am grateful for my muse showing up even with her baggage.
puppetmaker: (Vincent Face)
This week I want to discuss Hall Costumes. Hall Costumes have become a thing in their own right. And some of the Hall Costumes out do the ones that come up on stage. DragonCon is a great place to catch all kinds of costumes you will only see in the halls or at various points where photo shoots have been organized.

A couple of things to think about

Can you walk around a crowded space in the costume? How much space are you taking up? Can you see so that you don’t trip over small children or not see obstacles in front of you? Do you take up an entire elevator to get your costume down to the floor? Are you going to knock over displays as you walk through the dealer’s room or if you have to turn around? (I have seen this happen). Is your costume going to ride up or down exposing parts of the body that aren’t allowed in public in that state? Can your costume take the friction of just walking around? How comfortable are your shoes/hooves/furry feet on various surfaces? How heavy are your props? Can you carry them around for a long period of time? Can you drink water in the costume? Can you eat? Can you go to the bathroom or do you have to go back to your hotel room for this? How does your costume look from all angles not just the front? Are you willing to look at photos of this costume for the rest of your life on the Internet?

Here are some of my solutions to some of the questions I have just asked in no particular order.

If you can’t see all around you, I strongly suggest that you get a friend to be your handler and help you navigate the convention. Someone to watch your back especially when you have wings or a large backpack is a good idea too. This protects both you and the other convention goers from possible harm or costume damage.

Walk around in your costume before you bring it to the convention. Consider if things are going to ride up or bunch up over the simple movement of walking. I watched a Power Girl’s costume go from PG to an R while she walked from the elevators to the escalator at DragonCon. There are several schools of thought on skimpy costumes (including no costume is not a costume). I really don’t care if you want to coplay Red Sonja with the chain mail bikini, however I really don’t want to see parts of your body that aren’t allowed by local laws (check those laws before going to the convention).

Skimpy costumes aside, is this costume going to last for the period of time that you are wearing it? I have seen plenty of costumes that look great in the AM but are pretty homely by the PM. Paint flaking. Pieces ripping. Wigs riding up and off. Shoes that were painted that now have parts that have returned to their original color.

I have seen a couple of people that had serious damage to their bodies from shoes that didn’t fit to hooves that caused them to strain a hamstring to a tendon snap when someone toppled off their high heels. Can you walk in your footwear? Can you walk in your footwear comfortably? Can you walk in your footwear comfortably for an extended period of time without damaging your feet or legs or back? Last year I did a X-men First Class uniform. I had a pair of black hiking boots that I had used for other costumes over the years. They have always been a bit small. I wore them for close to 12 hours and my feet seriously cramped up in them by the end. I knew going in that they weren’t perfect but I also knew I could deal with the consequences of wearing them for long periods of time. Which is why I had a slight limp at DragonCon after Friday Night.

Hydration at a convention is hard enough when you are wearing just normal clothing and walking around. In a costume it can be harder. Before going to a convention make sure you have what you need to hydrate be that a straw or a hydropack. Don’t assume that you are going to be able to find a straw. I learned that one the hard way a number of years back. You are responsible for your health in that costume. Can you eat?

Going to the bathroom in a costume can be an adventure in itself. Much more so for women than men but still both genders have to think about that basic function. I have had costumes where to go to the bathroom I had to almost strip the whole thing off. Ariel was so grateful the first time I made her a costume that she could go to the bathroom in without taking off the whole costume. I plan for it now. Fitting into the stall can be a whole other issue. There are some costumers that wait for the handicap stall because that’s the only space they can fit into. The X-men First Class Costume was not too much of a problem but I did have to take off the jacket and the harness to get to the suspenders that were holding up my pants. Years ago I had a friend who couldn’t go to the bathroom because to make the costume look right, he had to be sewn into it. He held out as long as he could but eventually he had to get cut out of the costume so he could relieve himself.

Dealers rooms are a bit tricky to navigate any way. Trying to go through in a large costume is a whole new tricky. Wings make you wider and thicker than you think you are. Backpacks and props do the same thing. I watched a person coplaying Sora take out a spinner rack totally by accident with the Key Blade he had on his shoulder. The spinner rack was not in the aisle at all, he just tried to sneak through the crowd and cut a corner too sharp. Be aware of where you are in space and where your props are. It might behoove you not to go into the dealer’s room in costume.

Photography is cool. Getting your picture taken is a lot of fun for everyone except the people trying to get from point A to point B and there is an impromptu photo shoot in the middle of it. I don't understand people who put on hall costumes and don't want anyone to take pictures of them but there is a time and place for this. Last year the New York Comic Con set up a number of spaces to take picture in. They were accessible but not directly in the path of traffic. When allowing others to take your picture, consider where you are and what is going on around you. I try to pull out of the path of traffic and take the photo. If I have to walk a little further on, I do. Also figure out beforehand how you want your costume photographed. Pose a little to see what looks good and what looks goofy. Remember that the Internet is forever.

Hall Costuming is great fun but there is the added complication of the convention all around you.

I am grateful for all the cool Hall Costumes I have seen over the years.
puppetmaker: (Default)
A week from Friday is Farpoint. I have a lot to do between now and then. This week I managed to get a majority of Caroline’s costume done and a part of Ariel’s

So we get into how many hours do I have left and how many of those hours can I devote to the projects and how much is everything else that need to be done.

The postcards are on the back burner for the time being.

I have a few things I have to shop for to complete the looks I am creating. Once I have those items, the costumes will be pretty much a snap.

Here is how I am looking at the next couple of days. Mondays are not great days to get things done due to all the other things I do.

Today-Make a list of missing pieces and go and get them

Tomorrow-Finish the headpiece for Caroline’s costumes and sew either snaps or Velcro to get the pieces to fit together. Finish Ariel’s tunic which is taking a little longer than I thought it would and her wig is going to be a two to three day project but it can be done in between other projects.

Thursday-Continue Wig. Start doll 1,2,3. And Ship since I have permission from one of the creators to make one.

Friday-Finish all costume pieces and clean up.

Saturday and Sunday-Wig finishing and doll making

Monday-My busy day in the real world

Tuesday-I hope to be at clothing the dolls having painted them on Sunday/Monday (and do another Crafty Tuesday with an update)

By next Wednesday I want to be basically done so I can spend the next two days getting ready for the convention.

So that is my time management plan for the next week or so.

I am grateful to be able to see my pieces of lawn again without snow on top.
puppetmaker: (Caroline Ninja or Pirate)
Out of the things I planned out for the week, the only things that fell by the wayside were the postcards. I did a test one and didn’t like it so I am doing some more research on them to see where I went off track.

I got the puppet bodies done and have the cloth for the costumes along with how I am going to make the rest of the costumes.

This week is mostly going to be costumes with some postcards sprinkled in.

I have been asked how these costumes come about. It is real simple. Someone comes up with a crazy idea and we execute it. This time we are finally getting around to a costume that we came up with about 7 years ago and a costume that Caroline wants to do. There are complexities to each but over all they are pretty straight forward.

Here is how I go about figuring out what I am doing for a costume. If it is a recreation, which most of mine are, I look at pictures of the outfit I am making. I sort out what is most distinctive about the piece. What has to be there to make everyone say, “Oh, that’s so and so from such and such.” ? Those are the must haves in the costume. After that I look at the details of the outfit and see what I think would add that extra level to the costume. The details really can make or break a good costume.

Color is important too but it can be hard to figure out what color a costume really is because of the lighting. Do you go for the color you think it is or do you go for the color that the garment actually is? I tend to go for a blend of the two. There is also the problem of finding the right fabric once you decide what you are going to do. I am lucky that I have the New York fabric stores to peruse for the perfect fabric but that is a double-edged sword because that can make the garment pretty pricey.

Make-up is another thing to consider. I am a fair make-up artist. I know all the basics and have done foam-rubber latex. I also know my limitations and work within those. Currently I don’t have a life mask that I can use for me or anyone else in the family so I fake my way through things.

Shoes can be a problem. Again I have a number of ways of faking my way through shoes including covers and finding something close that I can change to what I need. Also sometimes finding out what the footwear looks like can be a real pain because there are few to no full-length shots to work from.

I will say that the internet has made it much easier to research costumes and techniques. I can find much more information rather than trying to work off of a few blurry pictures in a Starlog. Also with the ability to freeze-frame and get a clear freeze rather than the jumpy blurry video tape freezes is amazing and very helpful.

As I will do every week, I am opening the floor to questions. So what do you want to know?

I am grateful that I can break things down into smaller pieces.

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