Current Projects

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Hocus Pocus - Booooooook!

Hocus Pocus is still technically on hold right now, pending the time to do it justice, so this is kind of a major throwback. But I had already started the spellbook before the rest of the project was delayed, and I decided to finish it to have a prop to carry at WonderCon when we did Jay and Ice.

As soon as I decided to be Winifred, I knew I needed her spellbook. It's been on my dream prop list for a long time, and this was the perfect excuse.

By chance, we already had a book box laying around, which is how I've always wanted to make it (built-in storage is always a win).
As a bonus, it's even Disney.
It's only slightly smaller than one I was considering buying, so it works really well. I'm thinking this'll be a prop to carry around at events. Being undersized is less of a hassle, and being a first attempt I don't mind if it gets a little beat up. Then I'll go back and buy a larger box as a nicer duplicate for display and photoshoots.

I did some minor mods to the box itself (cut down and flattened the spine, which was originally very curved), then marked the placement for all the seam lines and attached pieces on the covers.
I found some old shoelaces that worked well enough for the raised seams, gluing those down and leaving a slight gap between them that the eventual paper coating can be tucked into.
But the hot glue soaked into the shoelaces more than I expected and I wasn't able to stitch through it anymore. So I pulled the shoelaces off, did a bunch of tests, and replaced it with strips of 2mm craft foam (cut at an angle to soften the edge and help blend it with the cover) glued down with Tacky Glue. No photos of that, but whatever. I was making steady progress at that point so I just kept rolling with it.

I also sculpted the snakes for the front and back covers, the three parts of the clasp, and the fingers for the spine, all from Premo Sculpey.

I initially planned to buy and modify toy snakes and fake fingers and sculpt as little as possible, but once I started playing with the stuff it was a lot easier and more fun than I expected, so I went ahead and did it all. The second set of snakes turned out a little rougher than the first, so those went on the back and the nicer first set went on the front. All the snake and clasp pieces were painted solid black, making sure to fill in all the lines and holes, then drybrushed with pewter, then drybrushed even lighter—just catching the edges and highest raised surfaces—with a brighter silver.

The fingers were glued to the spine with E6000, and I made the seams around the fingers and the ridges for the gathers at the snake's mouths with puffy paint. After all the base pieces were attached, I applied paper towels to the entire front/back with watered down Mod Podge, pushing it around a little to get some wrinkles and extra texture. I did a solid base coat of dark grey to mask the colors on the paper, then a solid coat of medium brown, then several different drybrushed layers of lighter browns and yellows.

I got the eye from MisterEyes on Etsy. This was the hardest piece to find, but this is better than I hoped.

After the eye was glued down (E6000 again), I made lids with more paper towels and Mod Podge and painted that to match the rest. In hindsight I should have just applied the eye first and then done all the paper towel and paint, but I had the time to set aside for doing the cover and didn't want to wait for the eye to arrive. I initially left off the eyelashes, but I have a lot of fake lashes and recently found one that's missing its pair, so I might cut that up for the eyelashes someday.

The stitching was the slowest and most time-consuming part, and the part I'd been actively avoiding, so that's what held up finishing. Dental floss ended up being a good match for the sinewy looking stitching on the book.
So I just went through doing random messy stitches. I kind of referenced the screen-used book, but mostly it was just getting the same overall look without replicating the exact placement. Once all the stitches were, I weathered them all a little with light brown paint.

The clasp pieces were glued to a metal hinge, and there's a set of magnets in the book cover and the underside of the front clasp (under the rhinestone), so the clasp actually functions.

Aside from stitches, the last big thing was just gluing all the snake and clasp pieces on, and that was that.

It was pretty handy and a good amount of fun carrying it around at WonderCon, though weirdly a lot of people mistook it for the Evil Dead Necronomicon or the book from The Neverending Story.

I haven't had another chance to bust it out, so for now it has a place of honor on the shelf in front of my Hocus Pocus wall.

I'm currently in the process of researching and prepping version 2.0, which will be more screen accurate in size and detail.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Long Beach Pirate Invasion 2019

2019 recap continues!

After a mixed bag experience in 2017 and skipping 2018, I made it back to Pirate Invasion in 2019. We did modified Jack Sparrow and Pirate!Norrington last time and enjoyed it, but this time we went full historical with our chemise dresses. They've served us well as French aristocracy at Labyrinth and French and American middle class at Huntington Beach Revolution, and were reinvented yet again for pirate shenanigans (before we wildly distressed and weathered them for French Revolution Zombaes 2.0; this was actually their last pristine outing).

Back in February as I was prepping for HB Revolution, I did a poll on Facebook asking which side I should support. After getting the clear majority vote for America and wanting to make my ancestors proud, I decided to do an American impression. But Anglomania was always kind of in the back of my mind, so I decided Pirate Invasion was the perfect chance to finally go British. And pirates are cool and all, but I'm Royal Navy trash, so here we are.

First and foremost, this meant getting to make the Horatio Nelson portrait I wanted to do for HB Revolution.
Via Royal Museums Greenwich
Except that didn't happen. And that was really the first in a long line of failures for this event.

Most of the outfit was recycled from HB Revolution—all the undergarments, dress, hat, neckerchief, sash, shoes—and I just made tweaks as needed. The petticoats got a proper hem, both shorter and cleaner and actually finished. I used similar jewelry but swapped out a few pieces to be a little more flashy (I was aiming for a slightly more aristocratic impression, and this is a much less historically accurate event). For the hat, I just added the obligatory feathers and extra ribbon I never decided on when I first made it, and used some hatpins.

I was undecided on shoes for a while. I love, love, love my Kensingtons, but they're a little rough on my feet, especially when walking on hard surfaces (at HB Revolution, walking on the grass was a lot less fraught than on the paved paths). They really need to be stretched, but I haven't got to that yet. And of any historical-esque event I do, this is one where taking shortcuts with footwear for comfort is definitely a guilt-free option. But failure #2 was deciding to wear the Kensingtons anyway, because I have too much pride and my whole ensemble was accurate and stylish enough I didn't want to compromise. Wearing the Kensingtons wasn't a complete disaster, but the discomfort was definitely distracting at times.

We ended up being probably some of the most historically accurate costumed attendees there, which was a strange experience. At cons I usually fall in the "average to good" quality category and at reenactments I feel like I'm probably somewhere between passable and good for accuracy. But we got a lot of compliments, and I think it had to do with being (humblebrag here) good quality and detailed and also standing out aesthetically from the more stylized Ren faire steampunk-ish crowd (no shade; I love those costume genres too). I even got maybe the best compliment on one of my costumes yet: "You look right out of a painting." She went with Vermeer when Gainsborough would have been a little more on point, but I'll take it. On the flip side, two people complimented our "cosplays," someone said "Oh wow, I love the Regency," and I accidentally got into a spat over the timeline of the chemise dress (our respective insistence on worn before/during/after "the Revolution" was all just a misunderstanding over which revolution each of us was talking about, but she wasn't very gracious about it). So you win some, you lose some.

There were some bad and kind of sketchy experiences with vendors and event staff that really put a damper on the whole experience, funnily enough right at the beginning and end of the day. Everything in between was pleasant enough. And ironically, despite the event usually drawing a somewhat rowdy crowd, all the attendees (and in fairness, most of the vendors) we interacted with with were pretty excellent. I really can't say whether I'll be back for a while. There's not a lot there that's a big draw to begin with, and some of these experiences left a bad enough taste. Time will tell.

Stay tuned!