June 29, 2015

Propworks: Beauty & the Beast Enchanted Mirror

This past weekend,I got to be a part of a surprise birthday party for a friend of mine, and the theme was Disney (of course!). As attendees we were all encouraged to dress up as a Disney character of some kind (yes, I did dress up, you shouldn't really be all that shocked here).

While the party had a general Disney theme, the movie Beauty & the Beast happened to be the movie du jour, as it also is the favorite movie of the Birthday person! So we transformed a friend's house to having a "ballroom" and featured all sorts of lovely goodies to eat based on the movie. 

Yes. They had grey stuff. I hear it was delicious!

ANYWAY, as the main gift, the coordinators commissioned a fantastic Belle gown (the yellow one from the movie), and during the planning phases I thought it'd be cool if I could construct a prop to go with her outfit! And NOW I can finally show you what I made. :)

I decided to make the Enchanted Mirror from the movie!

I've never been so proud of a prop in my life.

The mirror itself ended up being like a foot & half long (approximately, I honestly didn't measure the darn thing), and pretty darn sturdy. It had to be, I went through two mirrors before this (the mirror had cracked - and yes, we're counting them as cancelling out the bad luck on each other!), and then realized it was probably going to be taken to conventions so a new method needed to be used.

PVC, Foam, Worbla, a little bit of Sculpey & a Decorative Knob.

So the "mirror" part of the prop is actually a 0.25" thick piece of clear plastic with a mirror sheen sprayed onto the back of it. That way it's "kind of" reflective. I mean, you can sort of see your face in it, but I wouldn't recommend doing your makeup with it. Also a bonus, that way you can't get weird reflections in it if anybody takes a picture with the front part facing them! And if shouldn't crack like the glass mirrors did...

The mirror is designed to be life-sized, and I actually covered the whole thing in Worbla. Don't worry, I'll have a separate post where I show some of the stuff I did. (I'm never making one again! Unless lots of money is involved....)

The mirror is coated in a silver spraypaint, that I then drybrushed with a gunmetal grey silver over the top, and finished with a black wash to get all the details to show, as well as give it that "weathered" look. I was hoping to make it look like an old metal mirror (much like it'd be in the movie).

Lastly, the mirror is clear coated in a UV resistant gloss, to prevent chipping and damage when holding it. Conventions, amirite?

SPEAKING of conventions, it had come to me (of course at the last minute *le sigh*), that the Recipient would probably want to bring the prop to conventions, and I don't think they'd have a good way to transport it. Honestly, a common problem for most props...

So I decided to make it a travel carrying case, which also conveniently doubled as a fancy birthday wrapping and display! I went to Michael's and got one of those decorative boxes with a handle and latches on it (needs to be easily carryable!), and bought some 2" foam from Joann's (egads, use a coupon, that crap's expensive!) along with some nice inexpensive satin.

I used two layers of foam for the bottom half of the box, and trimmed down the top half so it'd close. The satin was gently placed over the foam, and held down with hi-temp hot glue. Same with putting it in the box itself - it's just hot glued in, but it sticks really well to both surfaces, and both sides of the foam meet so the mirror doesn't bounce around either.

NEVER underestimate the value of good packaging.

Needless to say, the gift was a success! I'm sad to see it go, but I'm glad it's in good hands.

PS. Before you ask, no I'm not making one of these again unless lots of money is involved. You'll see why when I post the "making of" later this week...

June 11, 2015

Adventures in Foam - Just the Beginning

Alright, so if you've kept up with my cosplay facebook page (karmada cosplay), you might have noticed some new pictures on it! *insert dramatic reverb here*

One of the things I've longed to figure out how to make is armor out of EVA foam. And not just any EVA foam, but those huge floor mats everybody seems to make Commander Shepard armor out of (yes, this costume is on my 'someday' list, if I can figure out what I want my Shepard to look like...)

So what's EVA? It's Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate, and it's in a bunch of things. You probably know them from something like this:

photo from Walmart
(I don't really shop there, though. I prefer Michael's)

Most often they're found in craft stores in the kids area - it's those spongey sheets you can cut and glue and make all sorts of decorative things out of it. Usually used for kid's crafts, or holiday things. But that's not the only size or shape they come in!

EVA foam comes in much larger sheets, but you won't find them at any craft store - they'll be in your hardware stores (I go to Home Depot or Lowe's)! They're actually those huge floor mats that look like puzzle pieces.

They come in colors, or in dark grey!

So why am I talking about foam armor?

WELP, I happen to actually be working on a set of armor for myself and my husband (it's really a joint effort, I can't take full credit here).

...for Gencon. WHICH, by the way, is happening earlier than usual here. Which is the end of July, start of August.

Yeah, yeah, I hear you now: "But karmada! That's CRAZY TALK!"

It probably is crazy. BUT, I've always wanted to make space armor, and I've finally got a little bit of the know-how to do it. We've spent the past couple of weeks working on prototypes and finished pieces.

You see, I happened to have gotten inspired by a really awesome thing I forgot about but recently re-discovered (THANK YOU NETFLIX), and well... the cosplay gods shone down and said "YOU NEED TO MAKE THIS" (*whispers* in two months). Then we did some research and found that there are people who have already mapped all sorts of armor pieces, and they go PLEASE. USE OUR PATTERNS FOR THIS, and it's great. No, seriously, it's awesome because otherwise I would have NO IDEA what to do.

So this is a "pre-thank-you-for-being-crazy-and-making-cad-of-armor-for-us"! I'm hoping I can get brave enough to talk to people after it's done. (I'm seriously anxiety ridden right now!) According to the Husband, the forums all seem pretty nice, and everybody's really positive and stuff (which is a huge change in my experiences with other forums/hobbies). So here's hoping I don't hide in the corner for the entire show once we make the costumes.

But just what am I making, you ask? WELL. That's a little secret for now. I'm currently giving in process pics, mostly because I like to make y'all wonder.

....and I like the surprise. :) Don't worry, I'll actually reveal it once I've got some good production pieces ready and wearable (and once I'm not having huge anxiety attacks about it). We're still amassing all the proper clothing and such to wear under it, as well as adjusting parts of it to fit on my scrawny arms.

Meanwhile, I'm just gonna leave some of my hints here! :)

I'll give you one big hint - it's armor from a video game!

Prototype #2
Pardon the graininess, it was taken late at night....

And an almost-ready-to-paint piece!

June 2, 2015

Retro Recap: Anime Central 2015

Yeep. Anime Central has come and gone, as has other deadlines, and honestly I was super duper busy getting those handled, but now it's done, so it's time for at least a short recap of the show.

Compared to last year, I had little/nothing going on during the show, so ended up spending most of my time at the booth. Heck, I didn't even cosplay except for on Saturday (which yes, I'm now finally going through some of those pictures and maybe I'll post them?), which is really weird for me, because usually Anime Central is one of those big shows I like to bring fancy costumes to.


*coughs* Ahem! Anyway, onto the very very brief recap/assessment of Anime Central.

...and of course, I forgot to take pictures of my booth or anything like that, so it'll be another dull mostly picture-less post, but hey, this one's not too long. (I honestly did not do much here this year)


+ Check-in was pretty flawless (for the most part). They've finally got it set up where the Artists will just check in at the Exhibitor's booth, get all the badges and paperwork, and then we can head into the hall. Also, they had the swag bags already out and suggested we get them on our way to set up. OMG THANKS! I kind of collect them, so it's a good thing to have them right there for artists at check in.

+ Huge space, lots of artists! I always love how huge and big the alley is, along with how tall/big the actual convention hall is. It helps a lot in me not getting too claustrophobic in the room!

+ Helpful Staff! Exhibit hall staff, and line security people were pretty nice to us, and we just let them know we were needing the handicapped ramp for all our carts (otherwise it'd be hopping down a small set of stairs which is dangerous with all our stuff)

Also, as a side note, a couple of times throughout the day, they actually had specified staff set up to come around and make sure we were doing okay, which was pretty cool.

+ Late Set Up Hours. Due to how the hall and registration was set up, the hours to set up our artist tables ended up being much later than we had originally anticipated - which was great because then my pal who got in much later than usual was also able to at least bring her table supplies over and avoid the rush in the morning.


~ Lack of backspace. It's always been somewhat of a problem, but we had much narrower rows this time around, and I couldn't do the backdrop idea I had in the first place, but we made due. This is why you need to have multiple set ups of your booth - YOU NEVER KNOW.

In addition to lack of backspace - the end tables were kind of shoved up against the row, and they (and the other corner booths) lost quite a bit of real estate there. I felt bad for em, I've been in that sort of position before.

~ No early map. We got our table numbers a decent amount of time before the show, however, there was no accompanying map so we couldn't really tell where we were supposed to be. It was only when a fellow artist group member divined the map out of the guidebook application on their phone we knew where we were. We'd gotten maps earlier in years past, it was more of just a hiccup this year. (I blame the show being 2 weeks earlier than usual).

~ Crowds were up, but down. This isn't something the show really has a handle on, and it's more of just a side mental note, but there was a definite change in the crowd. Oh sure, there were tons of people there, and many pleasant fans, but the market took a change a lot of us weren't expecting. There was a lot less stopping, browsing, and looking than in years past (not just my booth, but many booths). I didn't get nearly as much traffic as I am used to from this particular show, but that's not going to stop me from re-calibrating and trying again!

~ Lack of balance in tables. In years past, there's been a pretty good mix of print vs 3-d artworks, and I almost felt like there were too many print artists this year, and not nearly enough of the 3D kind? I'm obviously a print artist, but I enjoy having a good mix of many kinds of works so then the customers will have a lot of variation to look at and they won't zone out. It'd be the same if they had more of a percentage of 3D overall - attendees eyes kind of just, glaze over if all they see is the same type of products. It's a weird thing, but just more of a thought from my end.


I don't really have a lot to suggest, as mostly everything went smoothly at the show as it usually does. It's a well-oiled machine, and that's honestly one of the reasons I really like it. I also love the crowd, size of show, and all sorts of other things.

It might be time to return to the concept they used a year or two back on "categorizing" the artwork - where you could put down what you had at your booth - and I think they used that to keep the playing field balanced? I don't know how many complaints they got from it, so that might have been part of the problem? (To be fair, I did technically "win" a table at the show this year, so I don't know if they tried to keep the same sign up process as before)


Did I have a good time? Kind of. I was awfully depressed through a lot of the show, I'll admit I wasn't at my 100%, but that wasn't entirely the show's fault. I did miss cosplaying, and it certainly rejuvenated that part of me, but it probably led to part of my being bummed out - that and the change in demographics I wasn't prepared for (I didn't do nearly as well as I had in previous years). Everything else was so smooth, and well-run, I can't really complain otherwise!

Would I go back? In a heartbeat! I love this show with all my heart (it was my first big convention, tbh), and I usually plan on trying to vend at this show if at all possible. HOWEVER! I'm thinking about spending more time actually visiting some of these conventions next year, so there's a good chance I'll actually just attend for once. :P Besides, I could probably use the break!


P.S. They finally released the numbers for attendance, and this year they had 31,113 people this year. HOLEEE CRAAAP you all, that's pretty hefty. It's probably the second largest show I visit all year (and I freakin' VEND at this one!).

...It does mean I'll have to start watching room blocks early now. :P