Photo by Richard LaMarre | DragonCon 2014

The Stained Glass Costume Project: “Abbey” at DragonCon

Photography by Marcus Taylor | DragonCon 2014

Photography by Marcus Taylor | DragonCon 2014

Starting with a stack of thrift store coloring books, the “Abbey” costume project is easily the most labor-intensive and difficult task I’ve taken on.  So much…coloring. Seriously, I colored like manic five-year-old for weeks. Now, just the sight of a child’s crayon-ready placemat at Denny’s gives me the shivers.

Inspired by the outsized world of Warhammer 40K Adeptus Ministorum and influenced by Art Nouveau style, this costume evolved with my traditional tool kit of thrift store elements, no-sew shortcuts… tiny investement but lots of persistence.  It’s worth noting that I actually measured some things for this project (with a real measuring tape), which I consider a significant leap forward on my “things I can do” list. I’ll be posting the build background on the “Abbey” project pretty soon.

Abbey stepped out for the first time at DragonCon in Atlanta on Labor Day weekend.  And I had a fantastic time with this costume!  Convention-goers, friends and photographers were very kind – and happily, there’s a pretty good photo record from the event of her progress. The following images are Convention photos taken at DragonCon and I’m especially grateful to the photographers credited here (pros and amateurs alike!). Thank you to everyone who took a minute talk with me and help preserve the memories!

Photo by Richard LaMarre | DragonCon 2014

Photo by Richard LaMarre | DragonCon 2014

 

Photo by Angry Dog Studios | DragonCon 2014

Photo by Angry Dog Studios | DragonCon 2014

Photography by Marcus Taylor | DragonCon 2014

Photography by Marcus Taylor | DragonCon 2014

Photography by Jessica Stansel | DragonCon 2014 | Stained Glass Costume by Paige Gardner

Photography by Jessica Stansel | DragonCon 2014 | Stained Glass Costume by Paige Gardner

Photography by David Leo | DragonCon 2014 | Stained Glass Costume by Paige Gardner (with Doctor Q)

Photography by David Leo | DragonCon 2014 | Stained Glass Costume by Paige Gardner (with Doctor Q)

Photography  by Thomas John Spanos | DragonCon 2014

Photography by Thomas John Spanos | DragonCon 2014

Photography by Richard LaMarre | DragonCon 2014

Photography by Richard LaMarre | DragonCon 2014

TROLLOC Fist

Trollocs Nominated for Cosplay at 2014 Geekie Awards

2014Nominee-CosplayThe Trollocs are coming!

Well… not really.

None of the Trollocs can afford the airfare to Hollywood for the 2014 Geekie Awards show…BUT we will be there in spirit!

Our Trolloc costume group has been nominated in the Cosplay category for the 2014 Geekie Awards – and we’re over the moon! Not just for the compliment to our various contribution to the project, but also for the recognition for our beloved book series, “The Wheel of Time”, by the late Robert Jordan.

Paul, Kelcey, Chip and I, are die-hard fans of Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” fantasy series. And as we got to know each other at the definitive Jordan fan-gathering JordanCon…our plans for a Trolloc cosplay group came together.  We were all armed with VERY different skill sets for costuming but thankfully the varied nature of the beastly Trollocs allowed us to craft our own looks and still end up a cohesive group cosplay.

TROLLOC FistWe were of like minds when it came to crafting the human-animal hybrid Trollocs. And likewise, our little brain-trust agreed that Trollocs should make a grand entrance at the next JordanCon.

When we arrived at JordanCon, we hid our costumes until the day of the costume contest. Once we got all the boots on, prosthetics applied, fur combed, beaks polished and mismatched armor in place – we grabbed our weapons, sneaked down a hotel hallway and stuffed our beastly bunch into an elevator bound for the crowded lobby.

When the elevator doors opened, we burst out shouting, lunging, and waving our weapons. We began stomping and running loudly and long through the heart of the Con.  It was possibly one of the most exhilarating moments I’ve enjoyed in cosplay – before or since.  This play wouldn’t have worked anywhere else except this one day, this one moment when our fellow fans of the series were gathered in one place.  They knew what we were and everyone celebrated that crazy moment with us.  (Everyone except the poor mother-of-the-bride who had the bad luck to choose that day at that hotel for her daughter’s wedding reception. I thought she was going to faint. NOTE: The wedding party joined us later that night for some mad dancing at the huge JordanCon party. All forgiven.)

Anyway, this blog entry isn’t really about the costuming process or the builds we undertook.  I think it’s more about the fact that we had our moment in the sun, that day at JordanCon. We achieved our goal then, when as a unified and terrifying force we stormed the very lobby (and later the bar) where our kindred spirits (victims) awaited.

As for the Geekie Awards…that’s some legit stuff.  It really IS an honor to be nominated. We’re up against astonishing and talented competition.  We’ve tagged some friends in L.A. who are going to the award show in Hollywood and empowered them to accept for us on the off-chance that we win the category.  And while Paul, Kelcey, Chip and I can’t make the trip to the show, hopefully we can live-stream it and catch the geek awesome on the red carpet. R U Geekie?  We are!

Paul of Aradani Studios and Paige of CostumeArt | Photography by Dim Horizon Studio

Paul of Aradani Studios and Paige of CostumeArt | Photography by Dim Horizon Studio

Photography by Dim Horizon

Confessions of a Middle-aged Cosplayer

temp dc logo 2014Even though I’ve been a panelist and presenter for years at Dragon Con, I’ve never received the distinction of being an “Attending Professional” until today. I got the official word last night and am truly excited to be included with all the other attendees who have put the years into their craft. I also understand that there may be a ribbon attached to the badge and truth-be-told, I’m really stoked on that front. I never seem to get fluttery ribbons on my badges. This is an important development through my lens.

More importantly, this news arrives just as I approach a personal milestone.

Photography by Argo Road Images

Photography by Argo Road Images

I’ll be turning 50 in mid-August, right before Dragon Con 2014. While I am definitely in the mind-camp of “age is just a number”, my age had MUCH to do with my drive toward mask-making. When I finally decided in my 40s that I would take my costuming public and into the convention world, I fretted about my age. I was so concerned that I might be perceived as ‘too old’ to cosplay some of the edgier looks, that I decided to focus on masked costumes; costumes that would hide my face, my skin, ie. hide my age.

I literally hid my identity at conventions crowd for the first couple of years. And it was grand. Stepping behind a mask allowed the focus to remain on the work, the costume itself. I moved freely among crowds with an unselfconscious anonymity that let me admire others’ costuming and prop work (without obviously creep staring – ha!). I love crafting masks and truly revel in the wearing of them, but the initial impetus toward hiding my aging face was simply a fear of being harshly viewed by the much younger majority of individuals who cosplay.

 

Photography by Dim Horizon

Photography by Dim Horizon

But over time, as I settled into the costuming and convention world, the mask came off with more frequency. I started making masks that showed my eyes (crow’s feet and all). I began to accept invitations to serve on costuming panels – with my real face – and I eventually become a Guest at select events. My early fears of being marginalized due to my age proved unfounded as I found the warmest welcome, the most rewarding friendships among this tribe of all ages. Despite some of the drama to pops up here and there, the cosplay world is truly an open-minded, supportive and wonderful world of artists.

I decided last year that I would start driving toward my 50th anniversary on this earth with a mission. I resolved to take on big projects that challenge my skill set, to learn new things. I resolved to travel/Guest everywhere I was invited. I resolved to not hide my age, but rather celebrate it. And it’s been a whirlwind of awesome since then. In the past year, I’ve crossed the country from Comic-Con International in San Diego to Contemporal in Raleigh with a host of adventures in between. Middle-age is rocking so far!

Dragon Con was my first convention back in the day. Dragon Con is where most of my volunteerism goes. Dragon Con is the big deal that’s close to home. Dragon Con is the pilgrimage event that my friends and I point our hardest costume work toward. Dragon Con is the event that is so energy building it requires – nay, demands – a daily countdown from its fans. That said, in the larger scheme of things, my new status for Dragon Con 2014 is really just a small ripple in a very big pond of talent. It is, however, important to ME as a very welcome and important milestone in my Year 50 journey.

It feels a bit like I’ve finally arrived.

The truth is, I’m just getting started.

Yours truly,

Paige

PGS photo william mcleod

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m also @CostumeArt on Twitter and Facebook, if you want to see what an old lady does on the weekends!

'Alien' | Model: Kearney Smith | Photography: Dim Horizon Studio

H. R. Giger | Saying Goodbye to a Visionary

The Alien | Model: Kearney Smith | Photography: Dim Horizon Studio

The Alien | Model: Kearney Smith | Photography: Dim Horizon Studio

Waking up to the news that H.R. Giger has passed away … changes everything.

Introduced to his visionary work in the early 1980’s, my first impression of his art was a distinct combination of compelling attraction … followed by a visceral instinct to recoil.  His bio-mechanical aesthetic that blended the organic shapes of a human form with elements of hardware and xenomorphic signatures had the powerful effect of pulling the viewer in just as it was pushing them away. Attractive and repellant. And brilliant.

H R Giger RIP Art

When I turned toward costume crafting as a serious indulgence, both my son and immediately decided to take on building an Alien costume (inspired by Giger’s art, from the ‘Aliens’ movie). It wasn’t built from scratch, but rather the pieces were cast from an outside vendor and shipped to us. We spent many months working on the latex forms; trimming, sanding, patching holes, painting, finishing and finally, figuring out exactly how these pieces could be assembled in such a way to be inhabited. And inhabited is the word.

The Alien isn’t something you wear. It’s an art form that you inhabit.

'Alien' | Model: Kearney Smith | Photography: Dim Horizon Studio

‘Alien’ | Model: Kearney Smith | Photography: Dim Horizon Studio

Giger’s brilliant design brings some of the same cache along with it in the 3-D form of a costume. Its sinuous lines, its glossy patina, its shocking symmetry and phallic undertones all combine to draw people forward… even while disconcerting elements within the work are suggesting ‘step back’. That’s powerful art. It’s a powerful costume to inhabit, as well.

And every costume art project I have attempted since the ‘Alien’ has been informed by Giger’s style, always striving to emulate Giger’s power to create that same ebb and flow. Draw them in, push them away. Danger couched in beauty. A perfect organism.

Alien | Model: Kearney Smith | Photography: Dim Horizon Studio

Alien | Model: Kearney Smith | Photography: Dim Horizon Studio

The costume  images here of the ‘Alien’ were photographed by Dim Horizon Studios at Sloss Furnace in Birmingham, Alabama. As enormous fans of Giger’s work themselves, Dim Horizon’s  view through their lens is clearly influenced by their own deep respect and personal appreciation for H.R. Giger’s signature style. And I think it shows in their work. The photographs move today, from a celebration of fandom to a visual memorial celebrating uncompromising artistic genius.

The man is gone. The art remains. The legacy is forever.

 

 

Dieselpunk Siri telephone costume Birmingham Paige Smith g1

BUILD: The “Siri” Mohawk Headpiece

The Mohawk Headpiece for the 'Siri' costume was a huge learning curve. While happy with the result, the journey was fraught with errors that demanded serious improvisation.

The Mohawk Headpiece for the ‘Siri’ costume was a huge learning curve. While happy with the result, the journey was fraught with errors that demanded serious improvisation.

I learned SO MUCH from my mistakes during the “Siri” build.  It was an ambitious project and my lack of crafting skills and aversion to measurement REALLY made themselves known along the way. But…I also discovered that improvisation, desperation and flexibility of vision can fill in many of those gaps.

These progress pics for the Siri costume’s headpiece really emphasize my lack of real crafting skills. Hopefully, they also highlight how flaws and mistakes can be hidden along the way; being willing to change and alter your design mid-stream is vital when you’re a mistake-maker like me.  There’s a LOT of re-purposing going on in this costume, many learn-as-you-go mistakes, and some poor planning errors, too.  Just the same, I’m happy with the end result.

Since no one is probably interested in duplicating this costume, rather than presenting it as a “how to”, the following images are intended to illustrate what kind of materials can be used for a project like this.  They may also illustrate a fair number of “what NOT to dos”.

All thumbs,

Paige

The phone/light cords were the perfect disguise to hide my measurement mistakes and provide support for the mohawk quills. AND it fit into the whole theme - so disaster averted!

The phone/light cords were the perfect disguise to hide my measurement mistakes and provide support for the mohawk quills. AND it fit into the whole theme – so disaster averted!

Why even send this card? Clearly your thirsty recipient would rather just have a damn bottle. Cheap ass.

Bizarre Vintage “Happy New Year” Postcards

As a collector of vintage St. Patrick’s Day postcards, I’m continually surprised by what passed as festive good wishes ‘back-in-the-day’.  Weird images and scenarios abound in the aged greetings of yore.

With the new year on approach, here are some vintage “HAPPY NEW YEAR” postcard images with questionable (to our modern eye) messages. Seriously, WTF.

The Danish know how to party like it's 1883. "Quick! Grab sausage, booze and pretzels! And skis!" This is all kinds of crazy.

The Danish know how to party like it’s 1883. “Quick! Grab sausage, booze and pretzels! And skis!” This is all kinds of crazy.

Nothing says "Happy New Year" like gettin' boozy with the baby.

Nothing says “Happy New Year” like gettin’ boozy with the baby.

Charging into the new year on the back of a beetle. Because ...bugs?

Charging into the new year on the back of a beetle. Because …bugs?

Who wants to start the new year with a rain of champagne dropped from a zepplin by scary clown-apes. And cheap champagne, cause that bottle's HUGE.

Who wants to start the new year with a rain of champagne dropped from a zepplin by scary clown-apes. NOTE: cheap champagne, cause that bottle’s HUGE.

Raise your glass if you are five.  WTH.  Maybe baby-sitters were a 20th century thing.

Raise your glass if you are five.
WTH.
Maybe baby-sitters were a 20th century thing.

The gal isn't having a happy new year. She's four glasses in a giving a 'piss off' toast to her ex.

The gal isn’t having a happy new year. She’s four glasses in… and giving a ‘piss off’ toast to her ex.

Running off the pigs of the previous year by beating them with shamrocks. Sounds legit.

Running off the pigs of the previous year by beating them with shamrocks. Sounds legit.

Your previous year is at an end. The new year dawns. Prepare to be disciplined.

Your previous year is at an end. The new year dawns. Prepare to be disciplined.

The message: "If you get her drunk enough..." This guy's face just screams roofie.

The real message: “If you get her drunk enough…”
This guy’s face just screams roofie.

Why even send this card? Clearly your thirsty recipient would rather just have a damn bottle. Cheap ass.

Why even send this card? Clearly your thirsty recipient would rather just have a damn bottle. Cheap ass.

Happy New Year, Clumsy McButterfingers!

Happy New Year, Clumsy McButterfingers.

Wishing you a Happy New Year and  Goose that spits money. Into a spitoon.

Wishing you a Happy New Year and Goose that spits money. Into a spitoon.

Let's see...a winged baby, a wicked scythe, an hourglass...and a box. Hmmm.. I'm thinking that time's running out and OMG!!  What's in the BOX? What's in the  BAHHH-XXxxx?

Let’s see…a winged baby, a wicked scythe, an hourglass…and a box.
Hmmm.. I’m thinking that time’s running out and OMG!! What’s in the BOX? What’s in the BAHHH-XXxxx?

Maybe this vintage gem was sent by abstainers to their more festive friends to put them off their New Year's Eve drinking plans. HOwever, according to this image, he should be most afraid of the foot odor demons the next day. The person who sends this is not your friend.

Maybe this vintage gem was sent by abstainers to put friends off their New Year’s Eve drinking plans. However, according to this postcard, the foot odor devil is the real threat. Either way, the person who sends this is not your friend.

This postcard's message seems pretty clear. "Hey 1888. Go die in a fire."

This postcard’s message seems pretty clear.
“Hey 1888. Go die in a fire.”

Maybe this was the way to kick off New Year's Day back then. But I can guarantee you that if the New Year's Day dawned with this triumphant racket today... Child services would likely be part of that family's 2014.

Maybe this was the way to kick off New Year’s Day back then.
But I can guarantee you that if the New Year’s Day dawned with this triumphant racket today… Child services would likely be part of that family’s 2014.

"Tornado Jane" exhibited with Photography by Dim Horizon Studio

Steampunk: The Exquisite Adventure | Scotsdale Public Art

Steampunk Exquisite Adventure Scotsdale AZI had the distinct pleasure of meeting curator Susin Rubin at Comic-Con International in San Diego this summer.  She found me sometime after my Steampunk panel, and was very complimentary of both my costuming work…and curious about the notion that I didn’t sew.

Susan was representing Scotsdale Public Art which was presenting a large exhibition called “Steampunk: The Exquisite Adventure” - and as such, invited my participation.  I was honored and very excited about the potential.  They were also very impressed with the talented photographers whose skilled eyes capture my projects to best advantage – and requested images of additional costuming to be framed and shown alongside one of my costumes and gear. The photography of Dim Horizon Studio was selected by SPA to accompany my static exhibit.

Together SPA and I elected to exhibit “Tornado Jane” as a strong example of re-purposing salvaged materials. Tornado Jane was constructed using storm debris from the tornado that savaged the Birmingham, Alabama area in April 2011. (NOTE: the debris was collected with permission and care at the home site of my friend Stephanie who lost everything but her life that day.)

"Tornado Jane": Constructed using debris collected in the wake of the April 2011 tornado that savaged Pleasant Grove, Alabama.

“Tornado Jane”: Constructed using debris collected in the wake of the April 2011 tornado that savaged Pleasant Grove, Alabama.

Scotsdale Public Art had a highly professional method in place to collect and curate various Steampunk-inspired work from as far away at the British Isles.  They were patient and practiced throughout the run-up and opening of the event. They even took time to text me images of my own work being assembled at the venue.

While I missed the October exhibition opening due to distance (Arizona is FAR!), I enjoyed the images and online coverage from the event, marveling at the other artists’ creations and vision. I connected with many of these artists through the only means at my disposal – social media!  Even long distance, I was in the finest company.

In December, I received a call from one of the event curators who was very dismayed to report that my particular exhibit had been tampered with and parts of it stolen. Part of the headpiece had been taken and some of the handpiece had been dismantled and stolen. They were so upset and seemed gravely concerned about my response to the incident.  They were sending me an incident report for my review and asked me for a dollar value to compensate for the loss.

Truth be told…it doesn’t have real value. I mean, it’s debris that’s been torqued, attached and turned into costume art.  I assured them that I wanted no money for the loss, but rather hoped that they would take a page from my method and look around to see what they could replace the missing parts with.  It suddenly seemed like a fun idea that the work could morph mid-exhibition into a group project – smile!

They seemed deeply embarrassed about the thievery, and I appreciate the feeling of violation the curators and host venue must feel.  But in the end, I’m glad it was my ad hoc, eccentric collection of oddments that was pilfered rather than some of the finely crafted works that are on display there.  Instead of any compensation, I asked only that the event grant their permission and blessing to me as I chose to talk about what happened publicly.  I didn’t want to portray what happened as any kind of failure on the event’s part.  They have been exquisitely careful with all the artists’ work throughout.  This unfortunate theft was just a bizarre exception in an otherwise flawless exhibition.

"Tornado Jane" exhibited with Photography by Dim Horizon Studio

“Tornado Jane” exhibited with Photography by Dim Horizon Studio

But, hey! Someone wanted part of my work badly enough to cross the ropes and do some rather involved deconstruction to get what they wanted.  That’s a STORY right there.  Who was the person who wanted these cast-off and damaged bits so badly? Why take time to disassemble it and steal parts? Why not take more? Why mine? Instead of a standard show, I now have a unique memory – a tale to tell from the show I couldn’t even attend in person.  That’s like gold, y’all. I love a good story, something to think about, a unique experience best of all. Achievement unlocked.

Tornado Jane was taken off exhibit after the incident. And that part does make me sad. I’m hoping that my friends at Scotsdale Public Art have since hit the thrift

store-junk drawer to see if they can replace the missing parts with things THEY think might look good on the costume.  I think it’s in keeping with the whole tornado theme; a community putting things back together after parts of it are damaged or lost.  I hope Tornado Jane can come back strong.  She’s tough. And she’s been through worse.

It has been – in fact – An Exquisite Adventure after all!