Friday, December 7, 2012

It's A...Nice Day For A....Steampunk Wedding

Admit it.  You heard Billy Idol singing the post title in your mind.

Last weekend I attended the wedding of some friends of ours.  But this wasn't a typical wedding.  The bride and groom are geeks like us and decided that they wanted a rather different wedding.  Their theme was Star Wars and steampunk, something they both loved!

How does this tie in to a blog about costuming, sewing, and creativity?  The bride had something particular in mind for her wedding dress and couldn't find one she liked.  Knowing my costuming and sewing skills, she asked me to make it.  Remember my last entry?  Yeah, that was about this dress.  She wanted something Victorian/Edwardian/Steampunk, and I'm proud to say that with her ideas and my pixie-powered sewing machine I was able to make it happen.  Three patterns were meshed together with some original ideas to make a one-of-a-kind wedding dress.

The rest of the wedding was just as unique.  The groom was in full steampunk regalia.

The unity candles had candleholders made from lightsaber hilts.

The groom and the groomsmen came into the room to the tune of the "Imperial March" from Star Wars, played by a pianist dressed in steampunk clothing.

The bridesmaids and groomsmen had their own rather unique outfits that went with the whole theme.

Before the bride came in the children walked through with seampunked bubble blowers while the Star Wars Cantina band music played.

Costumes weren't limited to the wedding party!  The guests were encouraged to also dress up in their best steampunk outfits.

Thankfully I have numerous costumes at home and was able to simply use things I already had to put together an outfit.  And yes, I made it myself.

A friend of the groom (and us also) put together and modified some Star Wars action figures to represent the steampunk theme of the wedding.

Even the cakes fit the theme!

After the wedding was over the reception began and it was just as unique as the wedding.  Besides eating and socializing the guests were given the chance to play Rock Band on the Playstation2 as well as the Munchkin card game.  It was certainly the most unique wedding I have ever been to!  And I've been to plenty.  However, this was the first wedding my children had ever been to, so to them this is normal.  They are growing up going to sci-fi conventions, so it just fits in with the normal craziness and strangeness of their lives.  It will be interesting to see what they think of a "typical" wedding, and if they think it's too boring!

I wish the greatest of blessings and a long, happy marriage to my friends, Lord Chad and Lady Christyn Sides!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Wedding Dresses Are Scary

When I started making costumes I thought that I would primarily be working with cosplayers, though I was open to just about anything.  In the year that I've been doing it professionally I have discovered that I actually get more business from local theaters and acting groups.  But one of the most unexpected things was when I started getting requests to make wedding dresses.

As I mentioned in a previous blog, I don't find "regular" clothes very much fun.  My enjoyment is costumes and period clothing.  So I certainly don't plan on making "normal" wedding dresses very often.  But the ones I've been commissioned for aren't exactly normal.  One couple I know is getting married next March and wants me to make anime-styled clothing for the bride and groom.  And the one I'm currently working on is a Victorian/Edwardian style, as the couple is almost doing a steampunk theme.  For a costumer that's just more clothing, right?

No!  In fact, the idea of doing them scares me a bit!

Think about it.  Under ideal circumstances this is the only time a woman will wear a wedding dress, and it is supposed to be one of the most important and special days of their lives.  While every part of it is important, a woman really concentrates on the dress.  That is what makes her feel special and beautiful, and is what her husband-to-be really focuses on when she walks down the aisle.  It is the central point of any photos of her, and what people will probably remember the most about the event.  So as important as the dress is, if it's screwed up the whole wedding can be ruined.

No pressure.

Seriously!  I worry enough about someone liking their costume for a con.  But when I am responsible for the signature clothing they are going to wear on the biggest day of their life, the stress is magnified.  If it doesn't fit right or look right, I might be the one to make their wedding go from memorable to infamous.  It has to be perfect!


However, if everything goes right, it can be one of the most rewarding moments possible.  I'm very proud of how the current dress is turning out, and the bride is happy with what has been so far.  No, I can't post pictures until after the wedding, but this might be a masterpiece, if I do say so myself.

Assuming I don't mess it up.

Ah, the stress.  Then I get to start on the anime dress and tuxedo!  Another wedding!

Monday, October 29, 2012

My Second-Favorite Holiday

I love Christmas.  As a girl who loves happy endings and cheery stories, Christmas is the perfect time of year.  The lights, music, movies, and stories are all filled with hope.  I love giving and receiving gifts, and that is the biggest gift-giving holiday of the year.  And as a Christian I get to celebrate the birth of my savior.

But I love Halloween!

Part of it may be because my birthday is October 30th (nope, not telling you what year), so I have a birth connection to this time of year.  I have always loved spooky stories, though with a "Disneyfied" spin, such as Hocus Pocus or The Haunted Mansion.  No Friday The 13th or Paranormal Activity for this girl!  And I love dressing in costume.

For someone who loves wearing and making costumes, Halloween is the perfect holiday.  Other than a geeky, cosplaying girl like myself, this is a time when otherwise normal grown-ups can dress in the most outlandish outfits and be socially acceptable.  The kids get to look like their favorite character and beg for free candy while the adults get to hang out in equally fun costumes and admire each other.

Maybe that's why I've grown to love going to cons like Dragon*Con so much.  Halloween is only one day of the year.  When I'm at a con I'll wear 2 to 3 costumes, and sometimes have worn multiple ones in the same day.  For cosplayers, we get to enjoy the most fun parts of Halloween multiple times per year.  It's ironic that the same people that stare at us as we pass by on the streets during an event are likely the same ones who go to Halloween parties in costume.  I think they're just jealous!

I hope that everyone enjoys their Halloween events.  And remember, I'm always available to make something special for you for next year!

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Business Of Costuming

I'm a good costumer.  I've learned how to create new patterns by piecing together existing ones, as well as creating patterns from scratch.  My sewing and creative skills have grown over my several years of doing this and I have a growing portfolio of great work.  However, I still have to learn how to manage a business.

Honestly, I think the hardest part of being a costumer is figuring out how much to charge.  I know how expensive custom work can be, having priced it with other costumers.  So I've always wanted to make costumes at a reasonable price, allowing more people to enjoy the cosplay hobby or be able to simply dress up to have fun.  However, I've had to balance that cost with my time and expenses, making sure that I don't lose money on materials as well as being worth my time to do.

I have a formula that I use to give people a price quote.  It takes into account the wear-and-tear on my sewing equipment, the cost of materials that I use plus a mark-up, and an hourly rate for my labor.  And I've had to tweak that formula several times over the last year as I realized that I was significantly under-charging, especially for my time as a seamstress.  That's not an easy thing for me to do, as I've had people inquiring about price and then complain about the quote.  One person argued back and forth with me via email until I broke down the exact costs, showing that I wasn't really even charging for labor costs with the deal I was giving her.  She shut up after that.  And I learned that I needed to charge more.

It's a balance that I'm still learning.  I don't want to price myself out of the market, driving down the business.  At the same time I know that hand-made custom costumes are not something you can walk into a store or even Ren Faire and purchase off the rack.  I have become very frustrated with certain commissions because I was spending a lot of time working on them yet getting little financially in return.  Though I enjoy sewing and being creative, it also takes time away from my kids, husband, and keeping house, so I need to be able to make it a worthwhile endeavor.

Thankfully my husband manages a business and has been helping me through all of this.  Well, to be honest, he's been nagging me a bit about my pricing structure.  With his help I'll continue to develop my business skills, and though I may make fewer costumes, I'll have more satisfaction for the ones I do get to create.

I never knew that starting a business would be so challenging.  I'm just glad that I work out of a home office and don't have to worry about renting space.  I have new appreciate for entrepreneurs!

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Family Affair

When I started my costuming business I had planned on it being a one-woman affair.  Just little ol' me creating things for other people.  But it didn't take long for me to realize that one person can only stretch so far.  That's when I roped in some helpers.  And the best helpers can be family.

My mom taught me how to sew and enjoys doing it as therapeutic.  So of course I called on her sympathies and started having her help with some of the overflow and simpler things.  Now, she doesn't completely "get"  geek events and interests, so I keep the odder things for myself.  But she has been intrigued by some of the costume concepts I do and I think under different circumstances in life may have headed in that direction herself.  It certainly takes a lot of stress of me to know that I can rely on her skills when I get overwhelmed.

My sister is a professional stylist and knows how to make and work with wigs.  That is often an important part of costuming as certain roles require a different hair length, style, or color than is natural.  I have quite the collection of wigs, so much so that at some cons people haven't been able to figure out what my real hair looks like since I wear different ones each day.  I can do minor wig crafting so it's nice to have someone who really knows what they're doing.

My daughter has started learning how to sew and is one of the biggest geeks in the family, even though she's only 9.  She's done some minor work but I can easily see her getting more into it as she gets older.  Who knows?  Maybe A Touch Of Magic Costumes will become hers one day.

One thing that I've discovered is that doing costuming with my mother, sister, and daughter has brought us together in surprising and wonderful ways.  It really is a family effort even though I'm the front-person.  I couldn't do it without them!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Dragon*Con 2012 Memories

My eighth Dragon*Con ended last week (boo!!!) and it was a great success.  This was my first one as an official costumer, having started my business after last year's con.  It's interesting to me how my views and outlooks have changed in the last 12 months and how that had me looking at things differently.

First, I had a reputation to uphold.  This meant that my family's costumes had to be representative of my skills as a seamstress and not just for fun.

Then there were the people that had commissioned costumes to wear at the con.  I was able to run into them and talk about it.  The Captain Cold costume was noticed by legendary comic book artist George Perez, who stated it was the best version he had ever seen.  That's a huge thing from someone who has actually drawn the character and has been going to cons for decades!  The confessor dress from Legend of the Seeker was also a hit and loved by the customer.

It was great to see people really enjoy what I had made for them.  I'm anxious to see what costumes of mine show up at the con next year!

Now can I go a bit "fan-girl" on you?  Sure I's my blog.

The absolute highlight of the con was getting to meet my long-time idol, Dean Cain.  I've had a crush on him ever since Lois & Clark was on the air and my husband has often said that Dean is the one man I'd leave him for.  So when I was standing in line to talk to him and get his autograph I actually had tears in my eyes!  The experience was better than I could have hoped.  He was so very nice and personable, smiling at me and my family and being so sincere and genuine.  When it came time for the picture, he gave me a genuine, double-armed hug!  Superman himself had his arms around me!  And oh, that smile!!!!

Now it's back to reality (boo again!!!).  Time to organize my thoughts and start planning the next costume.  I already have several commissions to begin, and with around 500 cards passed out at Dragon*Con, I may have more business than I can handle!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Steampunkin' It

Over the last few years my family and I have gotten heavily into the steampunk genre.  "What is steampunk?"  Ah, glad you asked.  If you do a quick internet search you will be bombarded with pages and links.  If you want a more "scholarly" approach you can just check Wikipedia.  Steampunk is a bit hard to describe and define since it covers so many things and is kind of "fuzzy" around the borders of what it includes.  But in a nutshell....take the Victorian time period, including clothing, social structure, and so on, give them modern-ish gadgets that are powered by steam and clockwork rather than electricity and microchips.  It's as much a philosophy and style as it is a setting.  Type in "steampunk" and here is the first image you get...

But since steampunk involves so many things, you never know what you'll see "steampunked".  Steampunk X-Men anyone?

Or what about Batman?  This one is actually a personal friend of ours.  Really!

My husband and I are no stranger to the genre, having first costumed as steampunk versions of Green Arrow and Black Canary.  Yes, I made those costumes!

The following year we joined the rest of the Justice League (and a few villains).

There is something so magical about steampunk.  It's all about honor, adventure, and romance.  Plus the clothing is just so cool!  It harkens back to a time when men were handsome and dashing and women were sexy and feminine without being scantily dressed.

As I write this Dragon*Con is only 10 days away.  And this year we're unveiling a new steampunk costume set...Thundercats!  The costumes are still being made otherwise I'd post props.  But we're very close to being finished, and I think we'll get a lot of great responses and lots of pictures.  Once the con is over I'll post plenty of photos of what we've done.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Award Goes To....

I sew because I enjoy it.  When I don't have a backlog of commissions it's actually relaxing for me.  Even if I didn't decide to do it as a business I would make costumes for my family.  But sometimes you want more than just enjoyment.  Sometimes you want people to say "oooh, I love your work."  A bit of an ego trip?  No, not really.  Just human nature and the desire to be liked.

I've actually won several awards before.  In 2010 we won "Best In Shire" at the Evening At Bree costume contest at Dragon*Con.  Last year we won "Cutest Family" at the Yule Ball (Harry Potter themed) at Dragon*Con.  Last year I won (along with a co-costumer) Best Costume Design at the Pumphouse Players Awards for our steampunk version of Jeckyll & Hyde.  I'm proud of those awards, but I didn't put as much work into them as I did this past theater season.

The Pumphouse Players is a community theater group in Cartersville, Georgia.  My husband and I have been involved with them for three years and have become regular members of the organization.  This past year we did a version of Romeo & Juliet using a pirates/colonial theme to represent the Capulets (British) and Montagues (pirates).  In a four month period I hand-made over 30 costumes!  There was a lot of sweat, tears, and blood (literally) that went into those costumes.  Here are a few....

I absolutely loved doing this show and these costumes, but it was a lot of work.  Even though other plays for the 2011-2012 season did good work, nothing was on the scale of what I did.  So when the awards ceremony came, I was a little worried that I wouldn't win.

Once again, I worried for nothing.  My hard work paid off, people loved my work (it was voted on by all active members of the group), and I won Best Costume Design.

This coming season I'm costumer for several shows, so we'll see what else I can pull off!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Making Clothes Is Boring

Most of my friends probably don't realize it, but I find sewing clothing quite boring.  Seriously!  But let me explain.

To me "clothing" is something I would wear just about every day:  shirts, blouses, skirts, pants, etc.  Even given my sewing skills I would much rather buy such things than make them.  In fact, before I really got started with A Touch Of Magic Costumes I was commissioned to make a western-style shirt for someone.  It turned out well and they really loved but, but I didn't enjoy the process at all.  It was tedious and boring and I didn't feel any sense of satisfaction.

Costumes are a completely different story. I love playing pretend, indulging my creativity, and imagining something beyond our reality.  There is a challenge in taking an idea, concept or character and bringing it into three dimensions, breathing life into it.  My birthday is October 30th (I am NOT telling what year), and one of my nieces and nephews said that I must love dressing up so much because I was born the day before Halloween.  Even if I'm not wearing it I love seeing the finished product.  There is so much satisfaction in figuring out how to make something real that was previously only imagined.

I have been asked to make wedding dresses by a few people.  I'm even looking forward to that! Again, there is creativity and it's something that you don't see around every day.  Because of the design and the occasion I don't consider these to be "clothing".  One couple is wanting to do an anime-style wedding with appropriate tuxedo and dress.  Coming up with original designs will be challenging but still quite fun.

Want me to make something that you've seen in a comic book or movie?  Bring it on!  Want a day-to-day dress?  Go to Wal-Mart.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

You Need A Starting Point

When I'm costuming, I have to start somewhere.  Yes, I have patterns.  But since most of my costuming is custom work based on a specific character I rarely have a pattern specific to the need.  I'm not yet at the point of completely creating my own patterns with a computer program, but I've gotten darn good at taking existing patterns and modifying or mixing them. 

Costuming is a creative process and you have to know where you're going in order to make a map to get there.  For me it helps to have sketches, whether I make them or have them made.  Here's a picture of my current "idea wall" with several of my works-in-progress.

And here's a close-up of the sketch my husband made with notes about my steampunk Cheetara costume. 

My husband is quick to state that he's not an artist and that this is not to scale (those are not my proportions).  But the sketch gives me an idea of where to start.  With a picture at hand I can go through my patterns and find something that will meet those needs.  Though the costume is still being created, you can see how it's starting to look like the picture.

Here's a sketch provided by one of my customers, based on an episode of Star Trek: Voyager

And here's that costume in progress. 

There's still a good bit of work to do, including modifying it to have that "dip" in the cleavage.  But again you can see how a basic sketch give a costumer an idea of how to get started.

The difficult part is actually creating something from a sketch.  And that's where the skill of the costumer comes into play!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Just Call Me "Tink"

Last week I was helping with a kids' drama camp.  After a few days the children noticed that I always wore something with Tinker Bell and it became a game to them to "find Tink" on me.  It was easy not to disappoint them as I am a teeny-tiny bit obsessed with a certain Disney pixie.

Did you ever wonder why I call this blog "Creatively Tink"?  All of my friends (and even acquaintances) know that I love Tinker Bell.  Over the years I've even taken on the nickname "Tink" and will answer to it as readily as my own name.  Even so, very few people know the sheer depth of my love of Tinker Bell.  Sure, they see me with clothes, purses and such, as well as see me use her as an online avatar and screen name.  But you don't really understand until you set foot in my house.

And since you can't do that, let me share it with you.  This is actually the first time I've posted a large part of my Tink collection online.  Let's start with some wall pictures.

But that's only the start!  There are very few places in my home that you can go without running into Tink.

You can even find her "hanging around" in a few places.

Warmed up now?  Let me show you some of the shelves and true gatherings of my collection.

This shelf?  All of those are journals and notebooks, every single one with Tinker Bell.

It doesn't end there!  How about the kitchen...

And the husband painted it in a Tinker Bell theme, including glitter in the paint!

Okay, so that's the inside of the house.  But the Tink experience actually begins before you ever walk inside.

And then there's what my husband has called the "Tink-mobile"....

So that's what you'll see around my home.  What about me?  Yep, I have some personal Tink items.

Pretty impressive collection, right?  Well, this is only part of it!  I have about 10 more bags and purses, numerous pairs of underwear and socks, dozens of shirts, and a couple of bins in storage containing items that I don't have room for.  We've tried counting everything a few times but always gave up.  Our best estimate is that I own somewhere around 700 individual items related to Tinker Bell.  Yes, 700!  I think that I've gone just a bit beyond "really liking" Tink.  In fact, I am sometimes bemused when someone sees me wearing something with Tinker Bell and they say "Oh, I love her also!"  Somehow I doubt that their "love" quite reaches the point of my obsession.  Yes, obsession is probably the best description for my little problem.

Hi, my name is Stacey.  And I'm a Tink-a-holic.  Better yet, just call me "Tink".