Monday, July 8, 2013

An Unexpected Sabbatical

I guess you've probably noticed my sudden absence online this past week or so. I'm sorry about that. I never meant to leave everything so abruptly, but I didn't know what to say. I still don't. All I know is that I woke up last Friday and suddenly couldn't face the thought of spending even one more day online. Nothing happened to provoke it; I just... stopped.

I assumed I would be back to normal within a few days. Instead, I found myself taking all the daily insults and complaints and trollish comments that come with running two websites too seriously, too much to heart. They used to be par for the course; now each one keeps knocking me flat, and makes it that much harder to keep trying.

I've always tried to create happy, positive places online. Places you can go for a smile or to be encouraged. I think most of you have found those things here and on CW, but I'm having a harder time finding them for myself online. I'm tired of people ripping each other to shreds. I'm tired of the negativity, and the faceless criticism, and the constant stream of "I AM OFFENDED" - not just on my sites, but everywhere.

Maybe it's stress, or five years without a break. Whatever it is, I know I'm not strong enough to exist in this world right now, and I need some time away. I need to remember what real life feels like for a while, and stop spending 14 hours a day glued to a laptop.

I can't quit my day job, though, so I'll still be writing for Cake Wrecks as I'm able. I have John and Sharyn to help me, so with luck you won't notice too many more disruptions over there. I don't expect I'll be tweeting or posting much on Facebook for a while, though, or answering any e-mails. In fact, please don't e-mail me; the numbers in my inbox are already overwhelming enough as it is. I promise I'm ok; I just need some time to unplug and recharge. In fact, I'm actually looking forward to reacquainting myself with sunshine again.

I hope it won't be too long before I can pick up again here, but 'til then, please just subscribe to Epbot in your RSS reader so you'll know when I'm back.

Thank you all for being patient and supportive and generally awesome. I'll see you on the flip side.

- Jen

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Down The Rabbit Hole: My Next Cosplay Project!

If you've noticed my lack of craft posts the past few months, it's because all my crafting energy has been going into my next cosplay - which is fun, but also saps my creative mojo, so to speak. I'm looking forward to finishing just so I can get back to smaller, immediate-gratification projects!

Sadly I'm nowhere near the finish line yet, but I think the most important part - my mask - is finally finished enough to show off.

As most of you guessed from my sneak peek ages ago, I'm working on a steampunk White Rabbit from Disney's Alice in Wonderland.

Now, this is my first-ever foray into leather working, so naturally John and I jumped in head first by starting with a fairly complicated mask. Heh. I turned to Youtube for tutorials - and highly recommend this one from Merimask - but we still were figuring out a lot of things as we went along, since every tutorial offers slightly different advice.

I started by modeling my mask after Andrea/Merimask's "Gentleman Bunnies" design:

You can actually buy one of these (or a similar style without the monocle) at Andrea's Etsy shop for $200, but since this is to be the focal point of my entire costume, I was determined to make it myself. I'm just stubborn like that. And cheap. But mostly stubborn.

Aaaaand here's my mask (so far):

I may still adjust one or two things, but over all I'm pretty pleased for our first try!

John did the hardest part, which was drawing and adjusting the paper template, stopping to crinkle it over my face every few minutes to check the fit. When he was satisfied, he cut it out of vegetable-tanned, 8 oz leather and handed it over to me to sketch on. I drew in my design details, and then he did the carving:

John is really enjoying this new hobby, so I practically had to pry the mask out of his hands to do my own work on it. :)

Next we soaked the mask in water and formed it on my face. This was tricky, since the muzzle really needed to stand out, but I kept working at it with my fingers, and was eventually satisfied with the shape. (Interesting note: saturated leather is oddly clay-like, and very malleable.) We also shaped the ears a bit.

We propped up the formed mask on parchment paper, and then baked it at about 200 degrees until it dried:

You know it's dry when the mask color lightens up again. (It gets quite dark when you soak it.) Takes maybe 20 minutes, tops.

We used 7 to 8 pound leather for the mask, although I've since learned that we probably could have used something a bit thinner. This thickness is rock hard when dry, and feels more like wood than leather on my face. Good thing it's molded to fit so well!

 Here's the formed mask next to my original sketch. As you can see, we got it pretty close.

As much as I like the color of undyed leather, I couldn't really be the White Rabbit without, well, some white. So next came priming and painting:

I used a water-based primer, and then plain acrylic craft paint for the white. The gold sections were painted with Liquid Leaf - which is NOT water-based, but gives a nice shine.

As soon as I finished the gold I realized the contrast was just too stark, so next I aged the entire mask with a lovely yellowish-brown water-based glaze. (The advantages of being married to a former faux-finisher: custom glazes on demand!)

I went a little overboard with the aging, though, so even though I loved the look, I had to go back and white-wash the white sections again to brighten it up. After all, I don't want to be the Cream Rabbit.

(More on my giant pocket watch in a minute.)

The monocle was WAY harder than the mask, and took three times as long to make. I spent hours on the paper template, shaving off millimeter by millimeter to get it to fit the mask contours exactly. I first made a vinyl version, but then started over with a thicker leather for a more authentic look. I also started out with a vintage flashlight lens, but then abandoned THAT for the fun metal edging you see here:

I cut my own lens out of plexiglass, and added a scrim by stretching a scrap of thin black pantyhose over the back. Finally I formed & stitched the cup, added decorations, and riveted the whole shebang onto the mask.

The finishing touch was a thick gold chain attached to the side.

That process was stretched over more weeks than I'd care to admit. I've come to realize I am the world's slowest crafter, just because I figure things out as I go, instead of starting with a clear-cut design and plan of attack. I like the process, but it does get frustrating.

Now check out this loveliness:


This is what you get when you let weeds overtake your backyard: a lovely, springy ground cover in brilliant green. Who needs grass? I like this stuff!

Oh, and I just realized the scale of this picture makes my mask look tiny, but I can assure you that's just a giant pocket watch. :) It's actually a vintage wall clock, but I removed the electrical guts and replaced them with a lightweight battery operated clock mechanism, so it even works! I also jazzed up the face with metallic gear cutouts and gems. (Still not 100% happy with it, but it's on the back burner for now.) The thing still weighs a ton due to its heavy metal case, but there's no way I could make something like this entirely from scratch.

Welp, that's all for now!

I have lots more to show you, but nothing finished, so I'll save all that for next time. 

'Til then, I'd love your suggestions on what I can do with my hair/head. Hats are out, so I'm debating either a white wig (which might look too stark) or some kind of head wrap with white & gold cyberlox on the side, kinda like so:

What do you guys think? Any other options come to mind? My hair is too dark and long to leave showing as-is!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Book Reviews: The False Princess, Fablehaven, & The House With A Clock In Its Walls

I went a little overboard stocking up on both Kindle and physical books from the library this month, so I'm trying to write quick mini-reviews as I go! Here's the first three:

The False Princess is like a cozy blanket for your soul, hitting all the right notes while still allowing for a few tense moments and surprises. It begins with despair, as Nalia is cast out as the stand-in, false princess, basically a place-holder for the real princess who's been hidden away since birth. From there her journey is a classic tale of adventure and self-discovery, combined with a friendship so sweet and fiercely loyal that it actually made me cry a few happy tears. If you're looking for a YA fantasy with magic and real heart, definitely check this one out.

Fablehaven is a pretty decent kids' story following the time-honored "siblings stay with an eccentric relative in his mysterious mansion" thread. It's a quick and easy read, which is good since not much happens 'til the halfway point. It picks up from there, though, and carries you through to the end with plenty of action, adventure, and blood-thirsty fairies. Points off for the willfully stupid little brother - you'll spend half the time wanting to throttle him - and one or two situations that try a bit too hard to be funny, but otherwise Fablehaven is a good fantasy adventure aimed at the younger reading crowd. (Not quite as good as, say, Artemis Fowl, but still in that general category.)

Fablehaven is also the first book in a series of five, and I get the feeling the next four will be better, just because the overall premise is so cool. I just hope the annoying little brother gets a little LESS annoying in book two.

The House With a Clock In Its Walls is another kid-stays-with-eccentric-relative story, though this time the child has been recently orphaned instead of just visiting for the summer. It's a deceptively sweet story that packs a creepy wallop, even getting downright scary in a couple places. (I've since seen it described as a "gothic horror for children," if that gives you an idea.)

The Edward Gorey illustrations definitely add to the creepy gothic vibe, and if you're like me, they'll have you reminiscing about Vincent Price and Masterpiece Mystery:

This is my childhood, right here. (Well, not the murder-y parts.)

Getting back to the book, though: I really like Lewis, the kid in question. He's unapologetically bookish and awkward and fat, and he makes the kinds of mistakes we've all made in our struggle to be liked, so you can't help but cheer for him.

The House is actually an old book, first published back in 1973, but there's nothing to date it other than that cover up there. (In fact, I had no idea it was that old when I read it - I figured it was from the nineties.) That's probably why the modern reprints look like this:

It's a good cover, although I wish they'd tried to match Gorey's style a bit more.

Anyway, I've since learned that The House is the first in a series of twelve books by John Bellairs, and the most recent was just published in 2008. Nice! I'll definitely be looking up the next one, The Figure In the Shadows.

K, that's it for now!

If you're looking for more of my book reviews and recommendations, you can find the complete list right here. And as always, feel free to share your own picks in the comments; everything I read and review these days is taken directly from your suggestions!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Jewelry for DizGeeks

There comes a point in every Disney geek's life when you've had all the Mickey-head charms you can take, and you just want something a little more interesting to show off your pixie-dusted passions.


 Yep, here are some of the best goodies I've found during my online shopping therapy sessions:

Ellie & Carl Up Necklace, $25 by BeautifulBaublesSC

This Up bottlecap necklace is just the thing for inspiring teary-eyed smiles. (Or is that just me? GAH.) That "balloon bunch" of beads adds the perfect sparkly touch, too.

Rachel has lots of Disney-inspired necklaces at her shop, but that and this Neverland design are my two favorites:

The little bottle is filled with "pixie dust," and there are two stars on the chain so you can always follow "the second star to the right!" (LOVE.)

I spotted my friend Michelle wearing this fun Orange bird necklace a few weeks ago, so of course the first thing I did when I got home was hunt down the seller on Etsy:

Orange Bird Beaded Necklace: $20 by MigotoChou

Oh! And while I was searching for that one I also stumbled across this one:
Orange Bird Necklace, $15 by BeyondCuteBoutique

(John, sweetie, you better hide my credit card!)

There are lots of Alice-inspired "Drink Me" bottle necklaces out there, but this one leaves them all behind because LOOKIT THAT TINY DOORKNOB:

Drink Me: Alice's Adventures Necklace, $32.95 by Rhea's Renditions

I love how elegant this is - and there's actual blue liquid in the "Drink Me" bottle! Cool! 

(On second thought, John, just leave those cards out. It'll be fine. Honest. In fact, I'll just hold on to them for safe keeping...)


I had a couple of you send me the link last week when Dreamfinder's original top hat was up for auction on Ebay - but it sold for something like $2,500 by the time I saw it. No problem; this Figment charm bracelet would make a FINE consolation prize:

 Figment Charm Bracelet, $29 by Melody Loves Disney

I was trying to figure out why I love this so much, and then I realized it's all those orange touches. (Of course!) Who knew orange, pink, and lavender could look this fabulous together?

There are tons of boring ol' "print out some art & slap it under resin in a plain bezel" necklaces on Etsy, which I'm generally not a fan of. However, this Haunted Mansion Tightrope Walker pendant is an example of Doing It Right:

Daisy De La Cruz Cameo Necklace, $20 by AmyLynnButtchin 

 The floral bezel/frame picks up the colors in the painting perfectly, and makes it look like fine china! Love it.

This Monsters, Inc necklace is being sold as a toddler's necklace, but if you're into Kawaii style then I bet you'll want it for yourself:

Gumball necklaces make me happy. :)

I know the Muppets aren't exactly Disney, but they have licensing agreements Disney owns them, so that's close enough, right? Besides, I want to show you this elegant Kermit cameo:

Kermeo in Carnelian, $24 at DiamondStarHaloATL

It also comes in green, but this red reminds me of The Muppet Show's theater with it's rich red curtain and gold scrollwork. Aaaand now I'm going to be humming the theme song for the rest of the night. ("It's time to play the music, it's time to... CURSES.")

And finally, let's end with some cute to end all cute:

 The Alchemian Shop has TONS of squee-worthy pendants like these, all handmade with polymer clay in Italy. The Evil Queen is just under $30, and the Snow White is just under $34. 
(Be prepared to pay over $20 for shipping if you don't live in Italy, though. Ouch.)

I also may have squeaked something girly and unintelligible when I spotted these ADORABLE Alices:

They're hanging on to silver keys! Brilliant! (And not Disney, but these Wonder Woman ones and this Harry Potter have stolen my heart completely. DO WANT.)

Hope you guys enjoyed this roundup as much as I did researching it! Now let's see how many of us can make it through the week without buying one/all of these. ;)


Oh, nearly forgot! Time to announce this month's art give-away winner! So, the randomly selected winner IS ... Rachel Brown! Congrats, Rachel! Please e-mail me your mailing address and choice of art - though going by your comment, I think I can guess which one you want. :D