Saturday, July 21, 2012

Steamy Project Reveal!

Instead of my usual Saturday Steam round up I thought I'd show you guys something I've been working on since mid-May - though admittedly I've taken a lot of breaks.

This is one of those projects that I haven't mentioned before because I was afraid I'd fail miserably, and if there's one thing I hate, it's failing miserably with an audience. There have been a lot of bumps and set backs along the way, but I've finally reached a point where I'm reasonably confident the end result won't be a complete laughing stock. (Er, fingers crossed and all that.)

Normally I'd show you the end result right away, but this time I'm going to make you wait for it. Humor me; this little baby has been a labor of love - and I've risked more than my fair share of digits with the Dremel tool for it.

So imagine with me, if you will, what one can do...with this:
Hi, Lily!

That's a $30 Vader helmet & mask combo I purchased online.

Now I'm going to TRY and keep the chatter from here on out to a minimum, and just let the pictures do the talking now. We'll see how long that lasts. 

[Note: This was terrifying. And melted plastic is VERY HOT and tends to fly. Safety glasses are a must.]

(You'll see why in a minute. Patience.)

At this point I tried a primer that I wasn't happy with, so I ended up sanding it all off again. (Urg.) That's why the mask looks so grungy here:

I used puffy paint for the "rivets." Not sure I'd recommend it, though, since I'm not 100% happy with the end result. Still, from a distance I suppose it looks Ok.

This is another primer coat. As you can see, the spray spattered a bit and gave the mask a nice texture - as it turned out, a happy accident.

After the primer I base-coated the mask in matte black, and then applied a silver metallic glaze with a dry brush technique:

Comparison shot of the the silver dry-brush vs the matte black base coat. (The underside of the mask is done in both shots.)

Completed silver dry-brush.

Completed gold dry-brush. (Subtle, but it warmed it up a little.)

This was my first-ever experiment with dry-brushing, by the way, and I LOVE it. So many possibilities for props & costumes!

Metal copper trim.

(I wish I could tell you what these trim pieces are, but the truth is I found them in a bin at SkyCraft Surplus, our local tinkerer's paradise, and have no idea what they're for. If you know, please tell me in the comments!)

[UPDATE: per Darus in the comments, the trim is RF Shield Gasket. "It's used in cases for computers and other electronics that need tight electrical shielding. It goes along the edge where a cover meets the rest of the case. All those little points make electrical contact making sure the whole perimeter is electrically sealed." Hey, I learned something! Thanks, Darus!]

My mask literally has a button nose. :)

(John cut out the center portion with a Dremel [the one part he insisted on taking over for, since the piece was so small], and then I painted it copper.)

John fitting our first LED strip. (Which sadly didn't work.)

Our second LED strip had to be longer because the lights were wired in threes, requiring us to cut into the tusks and make a bit of a mess. Yuck.

To disguise the butchered tusks, I took one of these thin metal gears*...

 ...cut it in half, and then bent each half into a cone. Then I fit the cones over the tusks and blacked out LEDs:

(*these are the gears Sharyn made for me on her embossing/cutting machine. Thanks again, Sharon!)

They're both fragile and deadly, since those points are needle-sharp.

Here I put those tiny pin holes I drilled to good use; that's black vinyl I'm hand-stitching in place.

Top view.

Once I was finished stitching, I flipped the vinyl over and glued it down inside the mask, giving me this lovely padded, finished edge:

Next I made an elastic head strap:

It splits so the strap can go both over my head and behind my ears.

Aaaand....I think it might be done!

And now, the money shot:



It took a little experimenting to get the voltage right, since at full strength the lights tend to blind anyone I'm looking at. They're currently powered by three button cell batteries, which will be tucked inside the cheek.

And that's just the mask.

Sometime in the next month I'll show you the goggles, helmet, jacket, belt plate, accessories, and the rest of the costume. Or maybe I'll just do a grand reveal after Star Wars Celebration. At this point we're about three quarters of the way done with everything, but of course that last 25% is a doozie!

And, as I'm sure you've gathered by now, this mask is for me. John decided my female steampunk Vader character needed a name, so I'm calling her "Lady Vadore." Or "Lady V'dor." Or maybe just "Lady Vador," but I doubt anyone would know to pronounce it "vah-DORE" that way. (Which do you think, guys?)

Well, I hope you liked this little sneak peek at my first big cosplay project! And as always, if you see something steamy you'd like to share, hit me up on Facebook, Twitter, or e-mail. 

Happy Saturday, everyone!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Show & Tell, Part Two!

Last week I showed you some of your fellow readers' crafty creations made using my Epbot tutorials - and now it's time to show off some more!

First up, my Harry Potter wand display tutorial:

Cynthia O. had her heart set on her very own Ollivander's sign, so lucky for her she has friends like Chrissy & Aaron, who made her an almost exact copy of my own!

Woohoo! Check out that hand-painted detail:

Simply - dare I say it? - magical. Great job, guys.

And speaking of my Ollivander's tutorial, Michelle F. tells me it inspired her to use the same technique to make this Hogwarts crest for her son's room:


Awwwwesome. Michelle tells me she actually liked it better without the colors (which is why I included both pics) but her son likes it more colorful, so that's all that matters.

But wait, there's one more! Here's Kristi H.'s wand display:

I am LOVING that script, and the simpler, rustic design. Rock on, Kristi!

All of my penny jewelry posts continue to be pretty popular - and I've already featured some reader creations before - but these pieces by Laura P. knocked my socks CLEAN OFF:

So gorgeous!

And to be fair, I haven't even made a bracelet like this yet myself; I just talked about it in one of my posts. Laura bent each coin to fit her wrist, drilled all the holes herself, lacquered them twice (after a quick e-mail conference with me on which kind of lacquer to use), and then paired them with those lovely sparkly crystals. That's a Christmas design, of course, and it was her test run before making these pieces with some special souvenir coins from Israel:

Don't you just love those shades of blue, teal, and green with the copper? SO PRETTY.

Here's the matching necklace:

Dang it, now I want to break out my smashed penny stash and make more penny jewelry! (Fun fact: I usually get a few more pennies each month in the mail from you readers, so I'm amassing quite the collection for something EPIC someday. I just have to figure out what. Heh.)

While we're on the copper kick, remember my tacky ceramic seahorse make-over?

That is, the statue was tacky - hopefully my makeover wasn't. o.0

Well, Maple found a gold ceramic geisha at a thrift store that she decided to give the "Jen-Instant-Metal-and-Rust-Statue-of-Awesomeness" treatment. Ha!

Whoah. Isn't she beautiful? Maple calls her "The Lady of Tears and Song," since the patina makes it look like she's crying - and Maple tells me she's perfect for her Asian-inspired decor.

Cathy B. used some of my ACEO framing tips for this fabulous Shakespearean Hamster:

(I just love typing that: "Shakespearean Hamster.")

{UPDATE: Oops. Ok, so it's actually a guineau pig. And Amanda V. found the art here if you'd like your own!]

Cathy used clear photo corners to hold it in place over that lovely scripty scrapbook paper.

And Carisa W. mounted her ACEO using photo corners and a few gears:

I really love this shadowbox look - so many interesting pieces to look at! Plus, Carisa made those glittery designs on the frame herself using a stencil, glue, and glitter. And I am ALWAYS in favor of more glitter. And gears. And if possible, glittery gears.

I'll end with the giant ego boost I received from Erika T., courtesy of this picture:

This is Erika's living room wall, and those are three of the photos I took during the 24-hour Disney Day. Look at 'em up there, all professional-like!! Aiieee! [Head...swelling...]

Erika asked me to make them available as prints so she could do this, so if by some odd chance any of you want one, too, they're over on DeviantArt - which has a great ordering system I've used myself a few times, and the prices are pretty reasonable. (Full disclosure: I get a 15 or 20 percent kickback.)

My next Show & Tell post will be all steampunk stuff, since I've got several different versions of your goggles, ray guns, and even medals to show off. Can't wait! (And if you have something you've made that you haven't sent in yet, do eeet! Do eeet NOW!!)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Schmedical Update: HIGH FIVE!

Today was my new doctor's appointment - the one that's had me terrified for nearly a month now.  

I never want to turn this blog into a personal medical journal, but I had to update you guys because a) you all showed me so much support over my last cancelled appointment, and b) several of you have been e-mailing to make sure I made a new appointment, and kept it. I think one even called me "young lady." :D

Anyway, after looking over all your doctor recs and a lot of online research, John & I made an appointment with Dr. Parmelee Thatcher of Women's Care Florida here in Orlando.

Last night I was a bit of a mess; I was wobbly and my palms wouldn't stop sweating and I couldn't focus on anything else. Finally I mentioned it on the Epbot FB page, and the notes you guys left for me there made such a difference. Just like last time, I could physically feel that outpouring of support, and I actually felt so confident leaving this morning that I didn't even take a Xanax.

Ok, so maybe I was a little over confident.

The staff was wonderful - we saw nothing but big smiles and attentive workers from the moment we walked in. The waiting is always the hardest part, so I was a bit shaky and sweaty by the time we sat down with the doctor for the pre-exam office consult. (Although we were only in the waiting room about 10 minutes - not bad, right?) 

I held it together until I had to mention the trauma from my last visit, and then my control slipped. John took over while I sucked air and had a bit of a cry, and Dr. Thatcher, wide-eyed, talked quickly over my tears about how different a biopsy is from a pap, and how this exam would be nothing like that, and a few other things I didn't quite catch because I was so stinking embarrassed and I didn't have any tissues.

Dr. Thatcher herself is quick, a bit brisk, but extremely attentive. I didn't feel rushed at all, although once or twice later I had to work a tiny bit to get a question in, because she's a very quick talker. 

After my outburst I reluctantly took half a Xanax, we talked a bit more about my history, and then moved on to the exam room.

Dr. Thatcher gave us a little extra time there to make sure my Xanax had kicked in, which was very considerate of her, and every room had a TV on the wall, which made for a nice distraction. 

The exam itself was very quick, and only minimally painful. Really, by the time I was thinking, "Ok, this kinda hurts," she was done.  Like I said, the waiting is always the hardest part. Also, John was beside me holding my hand the whole time.

Before she left the room to let me change, Dr. Thatcher made sure to stop beside me, look me in the eye, and ask if I was Ok. And you know what? I was. 

After that I had to immediately face another fear of getting two vials of blood drawn, which hurt, dangit, but by then I was past the point of panic, thanks to the Xanax and to John being beside me (although he was careful not to look at the needle). I'm glad they do blood draws there in the office, too; that's one less thing to stress about later.

And now I'm home, and utterly relieved, and ready to attack this stack of paperwork about endometriosis and Lupron shots and yeesh why does all this stuff have to be so complicated? Urg. I go back for more tests in about a month, but I feel ok about that now; I think the biggest hurdle is behind me.

Words aren't enough. They never will be. But I'll say them again anyway: Thank you. 


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Kids, Don't Try This At Home

I was writing an old-fashioned snail-mail card to my brother tonight when I suddenly remembered how, back when I moved cross country during high school, I printed my new return address on an envelope under the name of a fictional correctional institute. (I used a fake logo and everything.) Then I wrote to some of my friends in crayon, telling them how much I reeeeally liked them and missed them.

Let's just say I found out which friends' parents had a good sense of humor with that stunt. (And some most definitely did not. Ha!)

We made a game of inventing ridiculously long titles for each other on our letters, too. Things like "His Supreme Arbiter of All Trekkie Goodness" or "She Who Wields The Phenomenal Cosmic Power." (My friend Chris and I were HUGE Aladdin fans. We still quote it at each other to this day.)

I was about to say we've kind of lost that opportunity for fun these days, but then I remembered the envelope that arrived yesterday from 13-year-old Epbot reader Brie, covered in cat stickers. (Thanks, Brie!) And this return envelope a reader included when asking for an Epbot button:

In fact, a lot of what arrives in my PO box each month is addressed to "Her Cakey Goddess" or "Crafty Queen of all Steampunkiness" or what-have-you, and those that don't are usually covered in cute/geeky stickers and doodles and funny little sayings. Every one makes me smile. Every one reminds me how much fun mail can still be. And, from now on, every one will remind me how much trouble you can cause with a fake logo and a few crayon-scrawled pages.  :D

Monday, July 16, 2012

Jen's Gems 7/16/12

I bet it would be impossible to feel sad if you had this hot air balloon mobile to look at all day:

 Spotted by Lydia F. over at  Craftiness is Not Optional (Hit the link for lots more pics & details)

It's just so gosh-darned cheerful.

Jess hand-stitched the balloons from felt, and even though I literally draw blood every time I even thread a needle, I am seriously tempted to try making one. (Jess promises to post a template and tutorial soon, too, since she also made that awesome wooden hanger. WE ARE NOT WORTHY, Jess!)

Speaking of hand-stitched cuteness, look what I stumbled across while researching my Villain Sweets for CW last weekend:
 Plush Joker & Harley! Made by Nebulous Frog over on Etsy, found via SuperPunch

I especially like Joker's hair, and Harley's ruffled cuffs. So perfect.

Harriet spotted these custom Mario shoes commissioned by a bride for her wedding:

At first I assumed they were decoupage, the art is just so fantastic. Then I realized it's all hand painted! WOW.

They're by Alexandra Trim of Bbee Shoes on Etsy, who has so many jaw-dropping works of art for your tootsies it's kind of ridiculous. Plus, if heels aren't your thing, she also paints Vans!

Calvin! And Hobbes!! [SQUEEEE!!!]

You know, I've never worn Vans before - just Chucks. I'm thinking I should change that...

This video is a bit old for an Internet find, since I waited a whole week to post it - but if you haven't seen this cutie-pie baby Jedi yet, you must:


Watch 'til the end - it just keeps getting more adorable! (And thanks to Sarah L. for finding it!)

For those of you who've already seen that video, though - and even for those who haven't - I'll leave you with the most visually delightful minute I've had all week. Robots, dubstep, and a some Tron-esque lighting effects? What's not to love?

P.S. I know not all of you follow me on Facebook (for shame!) so I just have to share my update from yesterday:

"Just video-chatted with my mom for an hour, during which she excitedly showed me all FOUR of the steampunk hats she made for herself for Dragon*Con. Yep, she has a different hat for every day. There are lots of gears. And feathers. And glitter.

"In short, I am being shown up BY MY OWN MOTHER."

Yep, I've created a monster.  
But I couldn't be more proud.