Dragon Con 2018: It’s Changed…For the Better

Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of opinion (lament) about how Dragon Con has changed.

“It’s become way too crowded.”

“It’s turning into a frat party, with too many drunks.”

Call me an optimist, but even with the inherent costs of burgeoning attendance as geek moves more mainstream, I see Dragon Con moving its pieces around to retain its core as a mecca for fandom to revel in their various passions. The event, in partnership with the host hotels, appears to be strategically moving big events into peripheral settings, relieving some of the congestion that usually clogged the arteries of the Marriott. I saw hotel staff working quietly and effectively to settle rowdy behavior before it escalated into drunken melee. In short, the convention is certainly enduring uncomfortable change which naturally follows explosive growth. But Dragon Con and its volunteers are evolving their management and planning to address and correct what can be improved just as quickly. If you were as shocked as I was to find actual elbow room in the Marriott on Saturday night…it’s not due to fewer attendees. Dragon Con’s shrewd planning to accommodate their expanding audience is proving effective. Thanks, Dragon Con!

On a personal note, this year has been immensely challenging. Due to issues on the home front, any costume work was shut down as I navigated some important life changes. That’s cool, though. Priorities. But I confess that coming to Dragon Con without a new project to inhabit was going to be an uncomfortable first. I decided to revisit ‘Seraphina’ and make all the color corrections she needed (honestly, I originally worked on her in dim light, and the color conflicts revealed in photography were just awful). I also made repairs to ‘Inquisitor Oriza’, whom I’d only worn once and briefly. They both got a second wear this year.

“Seraphina” Image by Dave Lee

‘Inquisitor Oriza’ Image by Orami Kantama

My friend, John Strangeway (KittyBear), was watching my real bad year unfold and knew I was secretly sad about lacking the bandwidth to work on a new project. So, in his generous way, he made and assembled something NEW for me to wear at Dragon Con. Under the superior tutelage of Stephen Taylor, John spent months learning how to make chain mail. He also tracked down Crusader robes, courtesy of Dave Lee (Hatton Cross). My dear friend did all of this, just so I could become…

That’s me. In the beard. Looking old. With John Strangeway (Senior) and Austin Polifka (Junior) — “Choose friends, wisely.”

…The Grail Knight from Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade. I spent Friday night as a dusty old man soberly following Henry Jones Sr., Henry Jones Jr. (“We named the dog, Indiana”) and the exquisite Gambi as an as-yet-not-fallen Elsa – as we made our way through the Hilton, Hyatt and Marriott. It was hands-down, the most fun I’ve had in costume! Even though, KittyBear (John) is my treasured friend, we NEVER hang out at Dragon Con. He’s got his things, I’ve got mine. So this was the first time we actually did a thing together. It was hilarious and wonderful. 10/10 would do again. (Thank you, Kitty!)

There was a late development heading into Dragon Con 2018 that challenged my normal expectations. I was contacted by Jaclyn Shultz, features reporter from The Atlanta Scene at Fox 5 Atlanta. They were interested in doing a story on Costuming at Dragon Con, and using me as a focal point. Cognizant of the honor, but profoundly uncomfortable with the specific attention…it took a few phone calls with my superiors at the convention to get me fully on board. It turns out that Jaclyn is a costuming/fashion enthusiast herself (in addition to being absolutely charming!). Her natural interest in the topic and her team’s consummate professionalism made it much easier to commit to the interview, filming and interior viewing of my experience at Dragon Con. And although I’m still profoundly uncomfortable with seeing my face and hearing my voice, the result is a respectful and complimentary piece, and I’m grateful for the opportunity.

And about those friends. I’m blessed with the most extraordinary roommate situation. For the past several years, I’ve been welcomed by my special friends April, Terra, Vicki and visiting Erin (plus their significant others in a rotation of awesomeness). We get a lot of time to reconnect, catch up, hang out and socialize. But spread across the enormous footprint of Dragon Con are a multitude of others that its nearly impossible to connect with. Some friends, I only see in the passing blur of a crosswalk. Others are shouting distance away in a crowded ballroom, thumping with music. I only see certain friends among a panel audience, with no real time to visit before we’re rushing to our ‘next thing’. And there’s a handful of texts flitting around with variations of ‘WYA?’, ‘ETA?’ and ‘Where…in the Marriott?’. It can feel like a LOT of missed connections. But, really…even these fleeing recognitions and hellos are little miracles. If you think about the sheer size of the event population, its sprawling landscape…every running ‘Where’s Waldo’ encounter with a friend is our astounding good fortune. I got lucky this year. To every friend who shared a hollered name, a guerilla hug, an elevator debriefing, a crosswalk commentary or otherwise hurried connection with me — Thank you! It’s not quantity time, but it certainly counts as quality time, all things being equal.

It was great to see you at Dragon Con!

 

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‘Seraphina’: From Russia, To Dragon Con

With Russia often in the news in 2017, it’s no surprise that my recreational thoughts were also drifting across that cultural landscape. This effort included my own take on a traditional Russian kokoshnik headpiece, fur trim a la Ivan the Terrible, with garment cues and colors taken from Russian royal fashion (pre-Rasputin).

I’m happy with the silhouette of the project, but candid photographs revealed some color conflicts that I hope to resolve before submitting this project for collaboration with professional photography. I’m looking forward to posting the entire WIP story for this costume project inspired by Russian forms and color. But in the meantime, I’ll go ahead and share some preliminary images taken by various photographers at Dragon Con 2017.

All thanks to the folks who turned a lens toward ‘Seraphina’!

Photo by Courtney Crawford

Photo by Jen Yates of EPBOT

Photo by Ashley Strickland

Photo by Ashley Strickland

Photo by Carlos A Smith

Photo by Anita Sims

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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

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CostumeArt: In the Media

Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of talking about costuming, steampunk and related interest in media outlets. Sometimes my projects appear in other outings from small films and art galleries, to magazines and blogs. I’ve tried to keep a record of these interviews and notices along the way, mostly as a reminder of the journey. It’s been a pleasure and an honor to meet and work with so many talented folks along the way.

CostumeArt In the Media

b-metro magazine paige gardner steampunkFeatured in Cover Story on Steampunk for B-METRO MAGAZINE.  This online version includes cool video which is worth viewing for the peek at a local furnace in Birmingham, Alabama.  This issue won an ‘Addy’ award for B-Metro Magazine.
http://b-metro.com/steampunk/808/

Paige Gardner presents at Odd Beauty: The Techno-Eccentric World of Steampunk, Southampton New York.

Feature in DAN’S PAPERS (The Hamptons). http://www.danspapers.com/2017/10/odd-beauty-illuminates-steampunk-special-programs/  Noted in THE HAMPTONS http://www.hamptons.com/event.php?eventID=40563#.Wezs9ohrzIU PAINTING the HAMPTONS: https://paintingthehamptons.blogspot.com/2017/10/odd-beauty-and-steampunk-abbess.html SAG HARBOR EXPRESS: https://sagharborexpress.com/back-future-steampunk-merges-magic-machinery/ NOTEY: http://www.notey.com/@danspapers_unofficial/external/18279319/art-donovan%E2%80%99s-%E2%80%98odd-beauty%E2%80%99-brings-steampunk-to-southampton-arts-center.html

Feature in STEAMPUNK CHRONICLE (“The Steampunk Exhibition at DragonCon”)
http://www.steampunkchronicle.com/ArticleView/tabid/238/ArticleId/109/-Function-Dominates-Form-at-Dragon-Con-s-2011-Steampunk-Exhibition.aspx

Costume Art featured at PLAYBOY.com (Gamer Next Door at San Diego Comic-Con)
http://www.playboy.com/videos/view/gamer-next-door-comic-con-wrap-up

ca-daily-news-comic-con-paige-gardner-costumeCostumed Appearance on CBS SUNDAY MORNING with Mo Rocca “Steampunk: Yesterday’s Tomorrow”
http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-3445_162-20127610/steampunk-yesterdays-tomorrow/

Costume Art featured at New York Daily News (San Diego Comic-Con International)
http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/comic-con-2013-gallery-1.1403713

Costume Art featured at CraveOnline (San Diego Comic-Con International)
http://www.craveonline.com/lifestyle/articles/539663-comic-con-2013-cosplayers-invade-san-diego

 

ca-paige-gardner-crave-online-comic-conCostume Art featured in B-METRO MAGAZINE (May 2012)
http://b-metro.com/dr-who/5777/

Costume Art featured in behind-the-scenes VIDEO for B-Metro Magazine
https://www.facebook.com/paige.g.smith.5#!/photo.php?v=10150864627142423

 

ca-tor-dragonmount-blog-aielCostume Art Featured at TOR.com
http://www.tor.com/blogs/2012/05/on-our-radar-cool-photos-of-real-life-wheel-of-time-characters#comments

Costume Art Featured at DRAGONMOUNT.com
http://www.dragonmount.com/index.php/News/events/fan-art-friday/fan-art-friday-dim-horizon-studio-r333?st=0#comment_3248

 

Costume Art Featured at ABC 33/40
http://www.abc3340.com/story/22216023/woman-turns-tornado-debris-into-art

VIDEOS of Costume Artist

VIDEO Costumed Appearance in the teaser trailer for film series “REMNANT” (Penny Dreadful Productions / Brothers Young)
http://youtu.be/Xm-lWr81bGs

VIDEO Costumed Appearance and Character Role in ‘Wolf in the Woods’ (Sick Sense Productions)
http://youtu.be/CD3eZ2VEWV8

VIDEO of the MECHANIZED Ouija Board (Part of the Steampunk Automaton Fortune-Teller).  The movement of the planchette is directed by discreet glove contact on the sides of the mask.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eLiWj0wNewU

VIDEO INTERVIEW: Paige Smith, Costume Artist, ABC 33/40
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLziRvlOSj4&feature=youtu.be

VIDEO INTERVIEW: Paige Gardner Smith, Director of THE GADGETEERS SHOWCASE at DragonCon | Interview with Professor Upsidasium 2012 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFVj-GtuEiw

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Stained Glass “Abbey” at Abandoned School

I can’t believe I missed sharing these Dim Horizon Studios images of Abbey crafted in abandoned Banks school in Birmingham, Alabama.  The school opened its doors specifically to cosplayers and photographers for one afternoon in 2015. It was dark, dirty…and magnificent in its urban decay. The setting felt more like a Warhammer 40K environment (which inspired the costume) so that was a welcome plus! Here are some of my favorites from the day.

Costume Stained Glass Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk Cosplay 3

 “Abbey” (Paige Gardner / CostumeArt) Photography by Dim Horizon Studios

Costume Stained Glass Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk Cosplay 5

“Abbey” (Paige Gardner / CostumeArt) Photography by Dim Horizon Studios

Costume Stained Glass Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk Cosplay 6

“Abbey” (Paige Gardner / CostumeArt) Photography by Dim Horizon Studios

Costume Stained Glass Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk Cosplay 8

“Abbey” (Paige Gardner / CostumeArt) Photography by Dim Horizon Studios

Costume Stained Glass Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk Cosplay 9

“Abbey” (Paige Gardner / CostumeArt) Photography by Dim Horizon Studios

Costume Stained Glass Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk Cosplay 10

“Abbey” (Paige Gardner / CostumeArt) Photography by Dim Horizon Studios

Costume Stained Glass Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk Cosplay 12

“Abbey” (Paige Gardner / CostumeArt) Photography by Dim Horizon Studios

Costume Stained Glass Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk Cosplay 15

“Abbey” (Paige Gardner / CostumeArt) Photography by Dim Horizon Studios

Costume Stained Glass Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk Cosplay 17

“Abbey” (Paige Gardner / CostumeArt) Photography by Dim Horizon Studios

Costume Stained Glass Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk Cosplay 21

“Abbey” (Paige Gardner / CostumeArt) Photography by Dim Horizon Studios

 

Merry McQueen: 15 Minute Photo Shoot

We were filming a tiny scene at Sloss Furnace for the 2nd Steampunk Boba Fett fan film (the 1st film, Trial of the Mask can be seen here). The Merry McQueen costume was needed for a very brief appearance as the major domo in the film. Dim Horizon Studios was on hand for all the BTS and cast photography, and it was my good luck that Matt Nicholson took an extra 15 minutes with me after the brief scene to craft some really outstanding images of this most recent costume project.

The following images are examples of what Dim Horizon magicked up in just 15 minutes.

Photography or witchcraft. You decide.

"Merry McQueen" (Paige Gardner of CostumeArt) photographed by Dim Horizon Studios

“Merry McQueen” (Paige Gardner of CostumeArt) photographed by Dim Horizon Studios

Merry McQueen Costume Art Paige Gardner Cosplay Steampunk 11

“Merry McQueen” (Paige Gardner of CostumeArt) photographed by Dim Horizon Studios

Merry McQueen Costume Art Paige Gardner Cosplay Steampunk 14

“Merry McQueen” (Paige Gardner of CostumeArt) photographed by Dim Horizon Studios

Merry McQueen Costume Art Paige Gardner Cosplay Steampunk 18

“Merry McQueen” (Paige Gardner of CostumeArt) photographed by Dim Horizon Studios

Merry McQueen Costume Art Paige Gardner Cosplay Steampunk 19

“Merry McQueen” (Paige Gardner of CostumeArt) photographed by Dim Horizon Studios

Merry McQueen Costume Art Paige Gardner Cosplay Steampunk 21

“Merry McQueen” (Paige Gardner of CostumeArt) photographed by Dim Horizon Studios

Merry McQueen Costume Art Paige Gardner Cosplay Steampunk 23

“Merry McQueen” (Paige Gardner of CostumeArt) photographed by Dim Horizon Studios

Merry McQueen Costume Art Paige Gardner Cosplay Steampunk 01

“Merry McQueen” (Paige Gardner of CostumeArt) photographed by Dim Horizon Studios

PHOTOGRAPHY: Steampunk Bird Hybrid | by Chase Lawrence

These photos of the Steampunk Bird Hybrid by photographer Chase Lawrence of Affliction Cosplay Photography are some of my favorites – especially for the colors that bloom in his images!  We had a great afternoon at Sloss Furnace capturing some cool photos together.  I’m especially grateful to Chase for tapping me for these Steampunk images which were later featured in “We Rise” magazine.  It was an honor to be included and I hope that I’ll have the chance to work with him again!

pgs bird hybrid Affliction photography Chase Lawerence 3

pgs bird hybrid Affliction photography Chase Lawerence 4

pgs bird hybrid affliction photography chase lawrence

pgs bird hybrid Affliction photography Chase Lawerence 2

pgs bird hybrid Affliction photography Chase Lawerence 1