ODD BEAUTY: The Techno-Eccentric World of Steampunk

I only knew Art Donovan by reputation. I’d followed with enthusiasm an art exhibition that he had curated in Oxford years earlier. His own body of work as a distinguished light designer and artisan captured my attention and held it in the intervening years. So it was rather a surprise to be contacted out of the blue by Art and his wife, Leslie. They were planning a new show at the and invited me to participate. But rather than sending static examples of my work, I was invited to come to the Hamptons and inhabit my work for a day as part of a living exhibit at Odd Beauty: The Techno-Eccentric World of Steampunk.

Hosted in the historic surrounds of the Southampton Arts Center, the collected works of some of the world’s most respected Steampunk artists were collected and displayed to their finest advantage in the Odd Beauty exhibition. It was a complete delight to examine and study the work of craftsmen and artists first-hand. It was an honor to move among these compelling creations inside my own contribution to Steampunk eccentricity.

I’m humbled to share space with many of my artisan heroes. And I am profoundly grateful for the opportunity to experience this beautiful community and make new friends in the neighborhood. Thank you, Art and Leslie Donovan for the kind hospitality and a wonderful weekend in the Hamptons!

Photo by Amy Kirwin Photo by Amy KirwinPhoto by Amy Kirwin Photo by Amy Kirwin



A Junky Journey to Warhammer 40K Cosplay at Dragon Con 2016

Inquisitor Oriza, a Warhammer 40k costume. Image by Conography (Joe Hacker) for Blastr Media

Inquisitor Oriza, a Warhammer 40k costume. Image by Conography (Joe Hacker) for Blastr Media

With just 5 weeks to build a legitimate Warhammer 40K costume using only salvage and thrift materials (excepting corset and boots), I didn’t have a chance to try the whole thing on before taking it to Dragon Con 2016. That’s cool, though. I knew going in that there were some lingering issues and that the convention photography would reveal all. But the photos also revealed the best of it, too.

The response to the “Inquisitor Oriza” project was overwhelmingly positive and I’m especially grateful to every camera and phone that took a minute to record the result. I’ve gathered a few of these pictures here (with credit to the photographers) to recognize the compliment that’s paid every time someone takes time to craft your image in a photo. It’s sincerely appreciated. Every time. Thank you.

Photographer: Conography

Warhammer 40k Inquisitor Oriza (costume by Paige Gardner) Photographer: Conography

Image by Subversive Photography

Image by Subversive Photography


Image by Ethereal Visionz

Image by Ethereal Visionz

Original Image by Dan Gary

Original Image by Dan Gary


Image by Timothy Helbing

Image by Timothy Helbing


Image by Adam Felts

Image by Adam Felts


Photographer: Conography

Photographer: Conography


Image by Charles Felts

Image by Charles Felts


Image by Daniel Sharps

Image by Daniel Sharps


Image by Sally Shalett

Image by Sally Shalett

Dragon Con 2016: Paige Gardner and Her Poor Feet

I’ve been invited back to Dragon Con 2016 as an Attending Professional, and I’m more excited I’ve ever been. Mostly because it’s the 30th Anniversary year. But also because I’ve had a difficult year personally, and really need to recharge my battery through close (crowd crushing) association with 60,000 of the best sort of people. I’ve made a new costume. I don’t know if I like it yet. But I did meet my goal of building a Warhammer 40K character entirely from re-purposed junk. I’m going to call that a win.

NEWS: My panel/event schedule includes some pretty cool stuff (including my first foray into the Art Track!). The high points are posted below with hopes that some of my friends may be able to come out and join me for one or two events.

FORECAST: Dragon Con has a HUGE footprint – and there’s definitely some aggressive walking that’s going to happen with this schedule.  I’m investing in TWO layers of squishy insoles. My poor feet.

See you very soon!


Title: Vintage Vogue Fashion Show: Historical Costumes Real & Imagined
Time: Fri 04:00 pm Location: Grand Salon West – Hilton
Description: Bringing historical fashion AND costumes from Alternate History to the runway, the timeline gets twisted at the Vintage Vogue Fashion Show. Join us for a stunning time-traveling costume adventure at Dragon Con 2016! (Show Manager)

Title: Steampunk Adventures in the Land of the Wonder Women
Time: Fri 08:30 pm Location: 204 I – Mart2
Description: Brett King’s popular alter ego Gustaf Danielsson takes you on an all-new interactive steampunk adventure with comedy, fantastic props, and wild tales of exploration. Join us as we go in search of the Land of the Wonder Women! (Panelist)

Title: Chosen Cosplay Pre-Judging
Time: Sat 05:30 pm Location: Offsite GA Aquarium – N/A
(Preliminary Judge)

Title: The Desperate Steampunk (Garb & Gear on a Budget)
Time: Sun 02:30 pm Location: 204 I – Mart2
Description: What’s a costumer to do without money or skills to build a top-drawer steampunk ensemble? Take desperate measures. “The Desperate Steampunk” is your insider intro to low-cost resources, costuming shortcuts, & innovative ways to craft Steampunk gear and garb with a minimum of skill and funds. (Emcee / Moderator)

Title: When Two ARTS Collide: The Intersection of Art Photography & Cosplay
Time: Sun 04:00 pm Location: Grand Hall C – Hyatt
Description: Come hear from experts in cosplay/costuming, art photography, and “geek-culture” publishing. Learn tips and pointers for raising your art form to the next level, and increase your chances of getting publicity and exposure for your work! (Panelist)

Title: Extreme Makeover: Steampunk Edition
Time: Sun 07:00 pm Location: 204 I – Mart2
Description: This game show follows three lucky individuals chosen by our “extreme team” of top designers as they are tasked to take leftover items and found objects to clothe our contestants top to bottom in a complete retro-future makeover, with the winner chosen by our panel of celebrity judges. (Judge)

Title: Something from Nothing: Reverse Engineering a Cool Costume Crafted from Thrift
Time: Mon 11:30 am Location: 308 – Hilton
Description: Resident recycling, up-cycling, and no-sew costuming expert discusses her creative process for creating award-winning and museum-worthy costumes out of the most unlikely of materials. Space is limited. (Sole Presenter)

Title: The State of Steampunk
Time: Mon 01:00 pm Location: 204 I – Mart2
Description: Find out where Steampunk is headed. Has Steampunk finally peaked? If so, what comes next? This round-table discussion panel explores the current state of the subculture and how it will evolve. Will other sub-genres become more prominent (dieselpunk, rococopunk, etc.)?

Title: Embellishments for Costuming
Time: Mon 02:30 pm Location: 302-305 – Hilton
Description: Sometimes a few beads, a gemstone or two, or some fringe is all your costume needs to look stunning. We tell you how to use them and how to get them to stay attached. (Panelist)

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

The Uncontested Weirdness of Vintage “Happy New Year” Postcards

With the new year on approach, these vintage “HAPPY NEW YEAR” postcard images deserve a second look. A double-take, really. What the actual hell was going on with New Years of yore?

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

Sausage, booze, pretzels, group ski. Apparently the Danish were rad AF in 1899.


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

Resolution: Spend more time 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 = goals.


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.

Ringing in the new year with a rain of champagne dropped from a zeppelin full of clown-apes.


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

Starting the New Year with a savage side-eye from your lit kid.


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’s four glasses in… and giving a ‘piss off’ toast to her ex. Or the previous year. Whatever. Piss off.


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

Running off the previous year’s pigs by beating them with shamrocks.


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.

An early example of vintage roofie face.


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

Why even send this card? Clearly the 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.

A New Year Goose that spits money. Into a spittoon. Why did this go away?



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?

Winged baby, wicked scythe, an hourglass…and something awful in the New Year box? Probably 2016 in that box.


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 is the real demon here.


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.”  FACT: 1900’s sentiment, still timely in the 21st century.


Party on, vintage people. I like your New Year’s style.



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!