PHOTOGRAPHY: Siri, A Helpful Communications Assistant (#2)

"Siri Appleton", a costume interpretation of Apple iPhone's 'Siri'

“Siri Appleton”, a costume interpretation of Apple iPhone’s ‘Siri’

This is the SECOND set of images for my costume vision of Siri (the Apple iPhone assistant), captured by Dim Horizon Studio (Atlanta) at the Historic Lyric Fine Arts Theatre in Birmingham, Alabama.  The “Siri” build incorporates old telephone parts, wiring etc., zip ties, along with salvaged hardware, and cast-off clothing. She embodies the punk aspects of what a helpful communications assistant in a more Dieselpunk setting might look like.  These images do not include the (salvaged) fiber optic plug-ins that illuminate the mohawk.

The Lyric Fine Arts Theatre in Birmingham, Alabama is a grand old vaudeville theatre (1912) that has fallen on hard times over recent decades of neglect. With special permission from its conservators, we carefully navigated its interior for this photo shoot.  Peeling lead paint, shedding asbestos, exposed wiring and soft spots in flooring were only a few of the hazards that our team skirted during the shoot.  In spite of her current state of dishevelment, we were all captivated by her lovely bones and her century-old beauty. It’s official. We’re in love with this old lady.

In recent years an energetic group of dedicated saviors have been working to save and restore this architectural masterpiece — with great success. If you would like to contribute to her rescue and repair, please consider donating to the worthy effort at http://lightupthelyric.com/!

 

 

Dieselpunk Siri telephone costume Birmingham Paige Smith h3

 

Dieselpunk Siri telephone costume Birmingham Paige Smith j3

 

Dieselpunk Siri telephone costume Birmingham Paige Smith i3

 

Dieselpunk Siri telephone costume Birmingham Paige Smith g2

 

Dieselpunk Siri telephone costume Birmingham Paige Smith f1

Advertisements

PHOTOGRAPHY: Steampunk Tooth Fairy at the Lyric (#1)

Steampunk TF costume Lyric Birmingham Paige Smith s2The Steampunk-inspired Tooth Fairy is one dark-as-hell vision of a night-time tooth collector who doesn’t always wait for teeth to come out on their own.  She’s equipped with vintage dental tools for extraction, irrigating (and digging when necessary). If she’s feeling especially generous, she can also dispense spirits (via her “swish & rinse”) that may take the edge off her procedure.

These are the first images of the entire Steampunk Tooth Fairy costume and gear, captured by Dim Horizon Studio at the Lyric Theatre in Birmingham, Alabama.

Steampunk Tooth Fairy

Steampunk Tooth Fairy

Steampunk Tooth Fairy

Steampunk Tooth Fairy

Steampunk Tooth Fairy

Steampunk Tooth Fairy

PHOTOGRAPHY: Aiel Maiden of the Spear from Wheel of Time

aiel maiden robert jordan wheel time 1Joined by fellow fans of Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” book series – fans who also play the costume side of things – I shared a grand afternoon at Sopes Creek park outside of Atlanta with the photographic talents of Dim Horizon Studio.

I think what made this photo shoot special was that each costumer brought along their knowledge of the books and ALL the characters – which helped each of us stage and style some really amazing images.  (There are also some really silly pictures that captured the fun we were having with the shoot.)

Some of the images from this afternoon of photography were also featured at JordanCon, an annual convention celebrating the legacy of author Robert Jordan.  Fellow photo subjects include: iObject Cosplay, Aradani Studios and John Strangeway.

Aiel Maiden

Aiel Maiden

Aiel Maiden

Aiel Maiden

Aiel Maiden

Aiel Maiden

Aiel Maiden with Rand al'Thor (Ardani Studios)

Aiel Maiden with Rand al’Thor (Aradani Studios)

Aiel with Mat Cauthon (iObject Cosplay)

Aiel with Mat Cauthon (iObject Cosplay)

This is the Aiel version of "Where's Waldo"

This is the Aiel version of “Where’s Waldo”

PHOTOGRAPHY: Siri, A Helpful Communications Assistant (#1)

"Siri Appleton" at the Lyric Theatre in Birmingham, Alabama

“Siri Appleton” at the Lyric Theatre in Birmingham, Alabama

I once saw an artist’s concept of what they thought the Apple iPhone’s “Siri” might look like.  She was in a modern, white, sterile environment and had a mohawk of wires rising out of her skull. It was lovely (and so cool!), but I had my own ideas about how Siri might perform in a Dieselpunk kind of world. My kind of world.

This “Siri” incorporates old telephone parts, wiring etc., zip ties, along with salvaged hardware, and cast-off clothing. She embodies the punk aspects of what a helpful communications assistant in a more Dieselpunk setting might look like.  These images do not include the (salvaged) fiber optic plug-ins that illuminate the mohawk.

The following images of my own vision of Siri were captured by Dim Horizon Studio (Atlanta) at the Historic Lyric Fine Arts Theatre in Birmingham, Alabama.  The Lyric is a grand old vaudeville theatre (1912) that has fallen on hard times over recent decades of neglect. With special permission from its conservators, we carefully navigated its interior for this photo shoot.  Peeling lead paint, shedding asbestos, exposed wiring and soft spots in flooring were only a few of the hazards that our team skirted during the shoot.  In spite of her current state of dishevelment, we were all captivated by her lovely bones and her century-old beauty. It’s official. We’re in love with this old lady.

In recent years an energetic group of dedicated saviors have been working to save and restore this architectural masterpiece — with great success. If you would like to contribute to her rescue and repair, please consider donating to the worthy effort at http://lightupthelyric.com/!

Dieselpunk Siri telephone costume Birmingham Paige Smith e2

 

Dieselpunk Siri telephone costume Birmingham Paige Smith d1

 

Dieselpunk Siri telephone costume Birmingham Paige Smith c3

 

Dieselpunk Siri telephone costume Birmingham Paige Smith b1

 

"Siri Appleton" at the Lyric Theatre in Birmingham, Alabama

“Siri Appleton” at the Lyric Theatre in Birmingham, Alabama

BUILD: All Hands on The Aiel Maiden

Aiel Maiden from Robert Jordan's 'Wheel of Time' book series. | Image by Dim Horizon Studios

Aiel Maiden from Robert Jordan’s ‘Wheel of Time’ book series. | Image by Dim Horizon Studios

My re-purposing passion only took me so far when I wanted to build an Aiel costume based on Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” book series.  This costume is the result of several friends pitching in to make it happen.

I was lamenting to my friend Jonathan over lunch that I wanted to make an Aiel costume, but hadn’t gotten my head around how to make the spears.  Jon started quizzing me on what kind of spears (how long, what type etc.) and finally said “I can do that”.  And true to his word, he went home and spent a couple of weeks woodworking and pondering to produce three excellent Aiel spears for me.  Best friend ever!

Now that I was gifted with swell spears, I was obligated to come up with the rest. I found the perfect (and I mean perfect) fabrics for the cadin’sor, but without sewing skills, I’m still sitting on go.  Happily, another friend joined me on the journey and together we found a simple pattern and together we cut it, she sewed the big bits, and I hand stitched the rest. Go team!

Using the left over fabric, a wire headband and some safety pins, I fashioned the cowl.  I ran part of a wire coat hanger through an old black cotton scarf to make a veil that would draped quickly and properly across my face.

I found some cheap boots, poked holes in them with an ice pick, and made some simple laces so they’d resemble Aiel boots described in the literature.

I still needed a hide buckler (shield) to complete the outfit.  I found a round wooden lazy susan platter at the thrift store and  a brass bowl. Using some suede from an old pair of pants, gorilla glue and some upholstery nails… I assembled a decent shield the night before DragonCon 2010. Sadly, when I was smacking the shield with a hammer – to give it some battle damage – I smote it in half.

Aiel spears hand-crafted by Jonathan Gardner

Aiel spears hand-crafted by Jonathan Gardner

Blood, and bloody ashes.

More Gorilla Glue and some tears bound it back together before the convention started the next day.  It was first time I wore the Aiel to a ‘Wheel of Time’ track event, it was my introduction to an army of fantastic fellow fans who have since become my dear friends – both in Wheel of Time fellowship and costuming clanship.

I’ve since been included in several fun Wheel of Time photo shoots which have only amplified my appreciation for the world. Every time I wear it, I think of the friends who helped me do/fix the parts I couldn’t. The Aiel Maiden has since been my “go-to” garb for the past few years whenever I want to celebrate my enthusiasm for the marvelous world that Robert Jordan created and Brandon Sanderson carried forth when Jordan died. Many hands touched this one costume along its journey – and I’m grateful for every one.

PHOTOGRAPHY: Steampunk Bird Hybrid (Dim Horizon)

Steampunk Bird Hybrid | Costume by Paige Gardner Smith | Image by Dim Horizon Studios

Steampunk Bird Hybrid | Costume by Paige Gardner Smith | Image by Dim Horizon Studios

Most of my work is inspired by one simple item; a vintage element or salvaged piece that begs a costume to grow organically around it.  For example, the Steampunk Bird Hybrid idea grew from an earring that looked like the tip of a bird’s talon.  As the costume evolves and develops, so does the story behind it.

For example: Miss Ava Fortune was once a lovely and celebrated high-wire artist known as “The Bird of Bombay”, but hungry for even broader fame, she sought the help of a disreputable Calcutta doctor – a man whispered about as dabbling in forbidden and fledgling genetic science. She paid him to imbue her with bird-like traits that would enhance her high-flying performances. But alas, the experimental treatments only left her disfigured and deformed, and a bit demented (hence, the muzzle on her beak.) Now Miss Fortune flits among the shadows, an exotic outcast in the Bombay underworld.

The following images were captured by Dim Horizon Studios during a visit to Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark in Birmingham, Alabama.  The costume “Miss Ava Fortune” was crafted by Paige Gardner Smith almost entirely from salvaged, re-purposed and re-cycled materials.

Steampunk bird costume artist  3c

Steampunk bird costume artist  7b

 

Steampunk bird costume artist  2b

BUILD: The Steampunk Bird Hybrid (Mask and Gauntlet)

The costume elements were my first real attempt at basic leather-working.  The results were:

1) I absolutely love wet-leather molding

2) I absolutely suck at anything else leather-related

Steampunk Bird Hybrid (Image | Dim Horizon)

Steampunk Bird Hybrid (Image | Dim Horizon)

The HEADPIECE and MASK:

I’d collected a moldering old sequence (the feather panel from a Vegas showgirl-type of costume), a brass lampshade, two cheap half-beaks from Party City, and a feathery little girl’s headband from the Dollar Store and some earrings from the China import $1 jewelry store that reminded me of bird talons. The whole collection of oddments kind of coalesced into a plan to build a big bird costume. But not the Sesame Street kind. I wanted to build big, beautiful, dark and bothersome.

I has a Spotlight Fashion skull cap (these are ideal for attaching things to when building a headpiece). I just needed a strong, flexible and durable way to attach all the bird-face bits.  Leather seemed ideal…but how?  I’ve never used leather before.

My friend, Drew (Tandy Leather in Birmingham) suggested that I might try wet leather molding to build a mask, or at least a framework to connect the items I wanted to use with my Bird mask and headpiece. He showed me how to wet the leather and then press and stroke and push it repeatedly in the shape and direction I wanted it to go. Sounded legit. I was definitely going to try this at home.

Using raw leather, I sort of pressed it to my face (dry) to get an idea of how to cut it before wetting and shaping it. I could do finer cutting after it was shaped. Once I wet the leather, I pressed it over my neck and face, sculpting the folds and striations that I hoped would hold as it hardened.  What I didn’t realize is how LONG it takes for leather to dry into its shape.

Claude Rains, "The Invisible Man" (1933)

Claude Rains, “The Invisible Man”

Without a head and neck mold, I only had me for it to dry on. So I grabbed some thin scarves and tied the damp, shaped leather tightly to my neck and face. I looked just like Claude Rains in the 1933 film, “The Invisible Man”. I stayed like that for 3 hours. My kids were terrified. But it worked.

When it dried and hardened I had a flexible yet sturdy face piece to affix the beak and face bits to. Experimenting with leather dye was also cool. I used brown. It was too brown.  I covered it with black…which was too black.  I tried rubbing off the black, which left me with a really cool blend of the two. Accidental awesome.

The leather face piece need to affix to the headpiece, so I asked my friend Drew to show me how to put snaps in leather.  He did. But after watching me futz through the first snap, hovering on the edge of snap disaster…he quickly stepped in and did the other three snaps for me. I realize that it’s nerve-wracking to watch me teeter on the edge of ‘fail’ when crafting…but it’s important that I do it myself.  I’ve since found a hack for snaps – so my crafty friends won’t cringe so much when I pick up a leather tool – smile!

While I can’t sew in the traditional sense, I can hand-tack the hell out of stuff.  Using an icepick, I poked holes in the Spotlight Fashion skull cap, used the holes to tack the ancient feather piece on it. I also tacked a fabric remnant along with it to hang down the back and hide my hair, and the clumsy leather working I did in the back of the neck.

THE GAUNTLET:

While hanging around as The Invisible Man, I was playing with the leather scraps left from my earlier cutting. As I wrapped them around my fingers, it occurred that I could use wet-leather molding to craft a scary bird hand (with earring talons) while I waited for my face to dry.

I cut the leather scraps into long triangles, wet the leather and wrapped it around my fingers.  Then I ran right into the same problem I had with my currently drying face and neck.  How to keep this leather in its shape long enough to dry and harden?  Further, I’ve only got one hand, and no helpers (the kids are still hiding from my scary head at this point).

Noticing scraps of tulle netting on the floor from another project, I picked them up with my toes, tossed the scraps on the table, and used my free two fingers and my teeth to wrap and tie the tulle around each leather encased finger.  The tulle was strong and ventilated, so I merely slipped my fingers out and let the leather “fingers” wrapped in tulle dry overnight.

When I unwrapped them in the morning, I realized I had tied the tulle too tight ( <- alliteration bomb!)…and the tulle had left its netting impression in the leather’s surface. Oh no!  But after looking at it for a while, I realized it was another case of accidental awesome.  The pattern left my the tulle looked exactly like bird flesh!  When it was dyed, it really popped and added a cool element to the bird claw. The $1 earrings with the dangling hearts made excellent talons – simply bent around the “finger” tips.  A cocktail strainer with a claw-like handle worked out for the thumb. I used the last scrap of leather to wet mold an arm gauntlet – just used two screw posts and two holes to fasten it on and off with ease.

These costume pieces are wrought with errors and rough work — but I’m very happy with the overall outcome.  The clumsy stitching, the mistakes, the unevenness are all largely hidden from view.  That’s what a costume is – it hides what’s underneath. By that measure, this totally succeeds.

Miss Ava Fortune, Steampunk Bird Hybrid (Image - Dim Horizon)

Miss Ava Fortune, Steampunk Bird Hybrid (Image – Dim Horizon)