Sunday, November 25, 2012

Katie Bair: World of Wigcraft First Glance Review

I'm calling it a first glance review because I just received the book last night and have yet been able to try out any of the techniques but after spending half the night reading the first part of the book and making my way through the beginner's section I felt compelled to do a quick review right away.

May I first begin this by saying, "HOLY COW, THIS BOOK IS AMAZING!"  I am really so very in love with it.  Opening this book is like walking into a one-on-one class with a Wig Master, that wig master being Katie Bair.  Each section is really well thought out, formulated in a step-by-step program complete with A BUTT TON (yes that is a real unit of measurement and if we are using my own booty for as a measurement of a butt, a butt ton is A LOT) of photos. 

The book is set up rather like a textbook, meaning that it assumes that you are looking to educate yourself on all aspects of Wigcraft, rather than just flipping through the sections to find the one tutorial you need to finish a wig.  I suppose you could use it like that but, the beginner's section includes some properties, techniques, and language that isn't explained in the later sections; she assumes you have read it by now.  I suggest using the book like a textbook and reading it from cover to cover.  Most of the lessons build on each other and use previous techniques to create more advanced styles.

Also like a text book, each section ends with a review section. It's essentially a walk through guide on how to style a practice wig.  The practice wig is of a particular style and uses a wig from one of her favorite manufacturers, taking it from a completely un-styled wig, to a total transformation.  I can hear a ton of people groaning and saying, "Why would I spend money on a wig I'll probably never wear?".  As a fellow cosplayer I can sympathize, but, honestly, I think it's one of the best parts of this book.  I like being taught techniques individually and then being able to link them together.  For me it makes the techniques seem more applicable than just individual lessons that seem to have little to do with each other.

Overall, I think this book has the potential to be a treasure trove of information for any cosplayer who is involved in wig styling, whether they are a beginner or even an expert, there is something for everyone to learn.  The instructions are easy to follow, the jokes are relatively funny, and the photos look extremely helpful.

I hope to bring you a much more detailed review after I pop out a few wigs.  I'll let you know if during the throes of passionate wig making, if the directions still make sense and if the photos are actually as helpful as i think they are...and hopefully I'll be showing you some successful wigs.

I'm planning on take some pictures during my wig making processes for both American Dream and Black Cat.  I've also decided as soon as I complete the Princess Tutu wig, I'll suck up my embarrassment and show pictures of the complete disaster that came before the arrival of this book.  Perhaps that will be the best way to determine the usefulness of the book.  (And Katie, I promise to take my time and do my absolute best to follow your instructions to the letter!  No poor reviews just because I didn't take the time to read!)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

World of Wigcraft

Yesterday, I talked about wanting to learn more about wigcraft.  I have been scouring the internet for tutorials but for every 1 tutorial that is well written with pictures that walk you through the more difficult steps, there is a dozen that leave me scratching my head.  Not to say that they helped others but, perhaps I'm just one of those hopeless causes so lost in the dark that I need a flood light to find my way out.

After the afore mentioned Princess Tutu wig disaster that I still can't bring myself to write about (suffice to say that the bangs ended up an inch too short with a bush that would make Hermonie Granger proud).
I realized I may need some professional help.  In the cosplay wigcraft community that seems to be Katie Bair.

I have my own reasons for not wanting to come back down this particular well trod path.  Years ago, I ordered some custom wigs from her and the transaction didn't go as smoothly as I had hoped.  Despite ordering the wigs months in advanced I was unable to wear them for the con I had ordered them for due to a multi-month delay (which was due to factors beyond anyone's control).  I accepted that fact and honestly didn't have much of a problem with it because I admired her work so much.  However, when she posted pictures of the wigs in her gallery she had some rather snarky comments to make about my wig choices although they were order for very specific reasons. After spending a few hundred dollars and not getting to wear them for the con, it's pretty safe to assume that my feelings were very hurt.  Perhaps the fault is partially my own.  I ended up selling one of the wigs on ebay shortly after receiving them because my opportunity to wear it had passed.  Maybe she thought I didn't like it or didn't appreciate it.  Anyhow, hurt feelings ensued and I never further pursued that particular avenue, although as always I still admired, and admire her work.

However, when one searches for a master to teach, one doesn't pass over the opportunity to learn with the best just because they made a comment one didn't like however many years ago.  I also can't say that out of all the wigs I've seen, hers aren't the best.  I'm constantly in awe of the seemingly physics defying awesomeness that are her wigs.  I knew that she had published a book, and after seeing her in person at a con years ago, giving a talk on wigs, I have faith that the book is well worth the $60.  Katie in person, was inspiring.  Just a big ball of passion, energy, and giving off this aura of being just an infinite well of creativity.

So I did it.  I broke down and bought the book. Actually I didn't just buy the book, I bought the whole damn kit.  There was very little in the way of reviews to be find so I'm not entirely sure what I got myself into.  I'm excited about the potential the book has to enhance my cosplaying experience.  I'll be doing a book review in the near future, and you can decide for yourself after seeing a few of the wigs that I create using the techniques in the book if it's a complete idiots guide or a guide purchased only by complete idiots.

Given her track record, I'll bet anything, it's the first. <3

Monday, November 19, 2012

Wondercon 2013 - Planned Cosplays

As previously mentioned, I'm entering a slower period of time at the store which means that I have the mental capacity to actually start working on cosplay more often.  I already have tentative plans to head out to two conventions in the early part of 2013.  The first being Anime L.A. (in which I plan on cosplay Princess Tutu from the anime of the same name) and the second being Wondercon.  I mostly want to blog about Wondercon for the moment because telling people about 12+ hours of pink organza push ruffle just isn't that interesting.  I'll post pictures when that part of the outfit is done...if I can ever bring myself to finish it.

So the costumes in question!  I'm currently planning on cosplaying Black Cat from Spiderman and American Dream from A-Next.  These ladies are all kinds of kick ass and are hitting some major bullets on my "things I need to learn list".  And for that reason, I'll confess that I'm not actually doing a lot in the way of sewing.  I actually found full body bases for the costumes themselves which means that I can focus on other parts of it, like wigcraft and prop building.
Felicia Hardy, Black Cat

Shannon Carter, American Dream
I know that I can sew well, hell, I even pattern draft from scratch pretty decently but, I continue to explore cosplay more and more, I realize that to be good, truly great, I need to build my arsenal of skills.  I need to master wigcraft, prop building, armor making etc.  But, baby steps my friends, baby steps.

So I feel compelled to share my internal conversation to justify to myself why its okay that I didn't build the clothing completely from scratch.  I realize that this justification won't work for everyone, but I've made my peace.  In order to work on the aspects I don't know much about (and what I really mean to say is the aspects I know NOTHING about)  I wanted to find characters I loved who wouldn't be much of a challenge clothing wise.  I wanted to know that I could put the clothing together in as little time as possible, with as few tantrums as possible and save all the tears and suicidal thoughts for wigs and props and even, dear god, armor.  I came across an unexpected windfall through finding bases that fit both of these costumes almost perfectly, minor alterations so that the rest of the pieces could have copious amounts of time spent on them.

Ive built some tentative plans for both characters.  For Black Cat, I came across the most perfect body suit, the shape, the's all perfect, and extremely cheap, which is good because the price of the faux fur that I need to make all the trim out of made me want to barf.  $30 a yard, good grief...and of course I can ONLY purchase it in a minimum of a yard. I'm planning on opening the outer seams of the bodysuit on both the arms and legs to add the fur trim and keep it smooth as possible.  I'm still undecided on how I will add it to the collar, it's something I"ll probably drape on the dress form until I'm satisfied with the way it looks.

I manged to find faux fur that's approximately 3.5 to 4" long called Monkey Shag. In the pictures it looks like if I cut it carefully, I can get the texture that I want, but it's something I'm having to take a bit of a gamble on because I haven't seen it in person.  I think we already know how this story is going to end but, a girl's gotta have a dream of heaven.

Felicia's wig is the first wig I'll be trying after my Princess Tutu disaster.  I've decided to back pedal a little and try baby steps before I go back to that little gem.  I'll be using the Luthien wig from Arda in Pure White.  I'll be using some (supposedly) simple techniques to add volume and shape but, more about that later.

The final pieces I need to decide on are the gloves with nails, and how I'm going to do her mask so it doesn't look bulky and in accurate.  Shoes are a matter all of their own - do i go for the super butt lifting powers of a heeled boot, or stick with the more accurate parkour type shoe, like Zemgear or something.

American Dreams outfit came a bit more complete (and feels slightly more like I'm cheating).  I really only have to cut the blue sleeves short and add white sleeves. I am also planning on altering the faux corset to get the shape more accurate to the red and white stripes on her jumpsuit as well as removing some of the studs and straps.  I'll post pictures of both of the bases in their unaltered form in a few days.

Using similar techniques to the Felicia wig, I'll be creating a lusciously full blonde curly wig  (I LOVE her hair).   After that I'll be trying to stay alive in the unexplored waters known as prop making.  The helmet and mask combo, shield, guantlets with throwing disks, and knee pads.  I can't even speculate on how I am going to do any of this.  I'll post often and I promise to even post my failures so that perhaps others can learn from my mistakes, what works, and what absolutely doesn't.

I'll be posting updates more regularly than I have been, and I hope that you enjoy following the creation of these two cosplays!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Another Update!

So, those of you who know me IRL know that recently I was promoted to the Manager position of my store and my life has been literally sucked up by being at the store (and quite possibly playing Boderlands 2) and by the monster that is known as Halloween so I hadn't had much time to continue my cosplay endeavors.  However, it's now over and with the upcoming holiday I find myself with a balance of days on and days off that allow me to do some work on some upcoming cosplays.  Until that time when I can add some awesome updates and start working on a blog that deserves to be followed - or at least deserves your attention once in a while, I thought I'd update a few things that went on over the past month.

First, our Halloween party/Store Anniversary party provided an awesome chance to dress up (because we all know that cosplayers go into some sort of weird withdrawl if they don't dress up often enough). The party was sponsored by J. Valentine, a FABULOUS clothing line for clubbers and ravers.  They do these great furry animal costumes and we got to pick one we would like to rock at the party and for the month of October while we were at work.  I did not pick a furry animal but, instead chose this too-too bad ass number.  I was beyond stoked and wanted to walk around and shout things like "Skoal" and "Another Ale For My Good Friend, <insert name>" although a fair amount of quotes from Game of Thrones made their way in.

This is the Dragon Slayer Costume I chose.

So exciting news number two!  Comikaze was a resounding success in my book, but mostly due to the fact that my favorite artist Jamie Tyndall thought my outfit was "cool".  So cool in fact that he gave me a complementary print that he signed of my character, Babydoll.  He took a photo with me and the print and put it on his facebook...where I promptly stole it off to share with you!

I'm Super Stoked even though you can't tell in this pic.
  And...a little Halloween update.  I managed to find a little time to make it out to West Hollywood to play "I Spy" in the crowd of party goers.  I chose to wear another fabulous J. Valentine creation and tried to take as many pictures with matching characters as possible.  Somehow though, my extremely badass tail never made it into a single photo, which may me a little sad.  Also, there wasn't a single camera between us, so all I have are cell phone photos.  >.<

I choose you...Ash (from the 8 Ash's I took photos with)

You sir...were my favorite!

I promise that some good updates are coming your way, including some play by play on my first prop making experiences.  You'll laugh, I'll cry, and the world will keep on spinning. <3

Friday, July 6, 2012

Suckerpunch Complete! Some Anime Expo Photos

So I guess I've learned my lesson, if you wait till the last minute before a con to do something, blog updates shall not happen.  I swear it's not my fault though!  I work almost full time and I go to school full time and have lots and lots of homework of the fashion design variety!  I HAVE NO TIME!  So first, the bad news.  Due to a crazy work schedule since our staff went from 6 to 3 in the matter of a week, I didn't have enough time to work on Princess Tutu, which was oh-so-sad.  I have the bodice done, and the skirt bottom was made but, pushing through 80 yards of tulle ruffles, just didn't happen.  The good news is, that the Babydoll Costume was completed and was so popular that I made it through 3 days of con without boring anyone. :)

First things first.  Anime Expo was AWESOME and AUH-MAZING!!!  I have never been to a con of that caliber and it was just out of control!  I have been to Sakuracon in Seattle, and although I have heard it has grown quite substantially in the last few years, when I attended a handful of years ago it was quite small by Anime Expo standards.  I still loved it though, and I did get to go once in an almost full costume and there is a great story behind that one buuuuut, this was a completely different situation all together.  The sheer amount of people was just mind boggling!  It was also an AMAZING ego stroke.  Even if you're not the prettiest person there, and I definitely wasn't even in the top half, people are still really stoked to take your picture!

This was my first time getting swarmed and it's seriously like being attacked by the paparazzi.  There was a few times I couldn't move for 10 minutes or more because that many people wanted a photo.  It made me feel just a little bad about being on the paparazzi side of some of those picture swarms later on...but really some people's costumes were just SOOOO cool I had to take a photo!

I also came out of my shell towards the end of the first day, said f**k it, and did some action poses!  WHOO!  I felt like Babydoll, it was so B.A.!  Now I get it.  I get cosplay, 100% and now I'm totally and completely addicted.  I already have my next 10 costumes planned, and some crazy ones at that.  I really hoped to keep you guys entertained over the next year.  I know that I have at least two more cons in my immediate future.

So now the only part you probably care about, PHOTOS!  Here are a few shots from Anime Expo, and I will update these when I get some more. I have a few photographers that gave me cards to hit them up for the photos later so I'll get on that when my crazy 7 day work week is over and I have some time to recover from my finals-> 40 hour work week -> con-pre -> con  month.  I seriously haven't had one day off without an obligation in the past 3 months.  I have two days coming up back to back and while I'm recovering from my bout of con-plague, I'll get a hold of some of those photos.

 Yay, pretty shot of the costume!  This was on the first day, towards the end.  I found it on flickr, with the photographers name being Mr. Muggles.  Here you can see that the sleeve didn't turn out just right.  I did a placket on the sleeve in matching fabric and it made it just a bit too stuff.  I am planning on taking the placket out and replacing it with a matching cotton one.  I also would like to take the entire sleeve out and add some more fullness to the bottom.  FInall I would like to make the sailor color smaller in the back.  I have never made a sailor collar before and I followed my drafting instructions to a T and it just didn't look the exact same, so I'll be redrafting the collar.

 My first action shot.  It took me a little while to warm to the idea, so the first ones were a little awkward.  Still  I thought I would share, because it will be fun for me to come back in a year or so and see where I started to forget what other people *MIGHT* think and got into character for the first time.

 Yes, things got better as the days wore on.  Now I'm IN TO IT BABY!  I spotted this Babydoll in the hall and had to get a picture.  I thought she was really adorable  and it was interesting to see how other people interpreted parts of the costume.  I think that's a really cool part of cosplay.  Alot of us never get to see things out outside of pictures and games and on the rare occasion that we get to see something live action - it's still not always clear what something is- so it's rad to see what people take from it and how they perceive what the costume is.  If I find out who this cosplayer is, I'll be sure to add!

I'll be adding more pictures soon so keep checking this post if your interested!  Also I'm considering adding some pictures from Anime Expo, just so you can see some of the other cool costumes walking around!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Take that Life: Sucker Punching Life one Draft at a Time!

HAHA!  Take that life!  I clawed my way out of cosplay hell into a cosplay purgatory last night by drafting Babydoll's top in about two hours and *gasp* actually enjoying it!  I didn't get as far with the top as I had hoped.  I wanted to sew a muslin mock-up to test the pattern and the fit but, I'm still recovering from 3 back to back 12 hour work days, that piggy backed on the a week of finals that left me with 5 or less hours of sleep every night for a yeah, here at the late hour of 8p.m. I'm exhausted.  The plan is to curl up in bed with a piece of pizza and watch some more episodes of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.  Yes I am 26 years old and in times of extreme vulnerability I enjoy watching kids cartoons.  Besides, I'm old enough to remember the original cartoon and toys, so if I want to indulge in a little throw back I will.

And yes...I will be cosplaying one of them soon, because I can.  **In the spirit of full disclosure I just stopped writing this for about 42 minutes and went and gathered my little pony picture wondering which one of them I should do.**  ANYHOW....

I took a few pictures of what I was working with but, wasn't sure if it was worth explaining what I did or not because if you already know how to work with slopers then you'll already know what I did, and if you don't know how to work with slopers what I'm saying won't mean anything anyway.  I will note though that I only worked with the size 8 sloper from my classes because I have not had time to create blocks for myself with which to create slopers.  It's on my things to do list for this summer tho, along with many a cosplay costume.  Following the photos found in the website I mentioned in the  Babydoll reference thead, the only real modifications I did to my existing sloper was to use the slash and spread method to move my darts around to match the original outfit, cut my front and back to 4 inches past the bust point, add an all in one placket for the buttons and drafts cuffs for the sleeve and the bodice.

 Inspiration and work space.

My weapons of choice, mechanical pencil, tape, scissors, hip curve, drafting ruler, and that rounded spiked thing whose name I cannot remember but, is useful for marking folded darts and protecting yourself in dark shadowy alleys.

  Finished bodice front pattern piece.

Tomorrow's post should be far more interesting as I plan to draft the sailor collar, make a muslin mock up, check fit and if everything is good, I plan to sew together the whole top in jeans.  So, if everything goes right (which given my history and the fact that I'm kind of a Negative Nancy, I probably will at least get a mock up done and make corrections....maybe.  I also may play a bit with the sculpey...we shall see.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Wigs, Pointe Shoes, and Craft Clay - OH MY!

It's been a pretty eventful weekend - and it hasn't been easy on the pocket book by any means!  Princess Tutu is turning out to be quite the cash drain, good thing I love her outfit so much!

So I finally got around to order some of the more important items for the princess including her toe shoes and wig and I just couldn't be more excited.  I purchased my toe shoes from Discount Dance online.  Thank goodness the princess's shoes are pink because I would just hate to have to change the color.  My roommate who is doing Princess Kraehe will have to cover her beautiful shoes in black shoe sad.  We've been slowly breaking them in.  Neither of us has done pointe although we both danced, she has far more experience under her belt but, given that the primary function of breaking these in is just so we can walk in them for hours and at least balance on pointe (both feet firmly on the ground thank you very much, I'm a walking disaster) for photos, I don't think our dance background is really relevant here.  Honestly, even this far out, I'm not sure to what to expect in terms of "breaking in". 

The hot pink on the inside is my gels...they work...mostly.

For those that care, they are Bloch Aspirations, in a 6.5 (three sizes smaller than my street size as advised by the website).  I chose these particular ones because I have an Greek foot meaning that my second toe is longer than my big toe.  In point it means I have issues with something and other and many websites suggest that I get a shoe with a wider base.  I'm glad I did, because a wider base means more width for the walking disaster to balance on.   To break them in we warm up the block, put them on and do about 10-15 minutes of basic dance exercises and about 5 minutes of balance practice.  Most of our practice happens in the first, second and fourth positions.  We do basic plie and releve in all three positions 8 times, ending with an 8 second hold in a releve at the end of each set, twice.  Since Kitty has had several years of dance, ballet included but, primarily ballroom she has a certain grace that is having to be beaten into me.  Ah, the play of the cosplay.  She also got to purchase very pretty toe shoes with a narrow box because she has a wondeful arch and great balance, not to mention the cute Egyptian foot.  Whatever.

For my wig, I went back and forth A LOT in terms of color and style.  I knew I wanted something short to build the feather hair piece around but I wasn't completely sure on the cut.  In the end it was the color that decided it for me.  It really depended on where and what I was looking at, but her hair looks like it could be anything from milkshake pink to a really dark coppery orange.  In the end I settled for something in the middle.  I purchased my wig from the wig store.  I chose the wisp wig as I think it will be the easiest to build on.  I'm also excited that I will not have to do much in the way of cutting.  This will be my first attempt at a wig and I wanted to try and do the least amount of work possible so I don't scare myself from ever trying it again.  Besides I already have to build the feathered headress, which will most likely be permanently attached to the wig and that will probably have A LOT of hand sewing involved.  Don't worry my fellow cosplayers, I am not afraid of work - just afraid of work in small spaces of time.

Wisp Wig in Classic Orange

Finally, I purchased some super sculpey and some translucent sculpey to try and make the princess's necklace.  This is the part I am most nervous about.  I suspect this will be the item that makes me collapse in a defeated heap in a pool of my own tears and vomit.  If that happens I will make sure someone documents it and posts it for your good humor. Enjoy it, with only a few weeks to go and school finals looming ahead, I suspect that it will happen far more often than it should.

Well that's all for today.  There wasn't much time for much work to be done, but I am trying to keep good track of where I'm getting my supplies from in case anyone cares. Happy crafting!