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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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!

Paige

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)

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

Darth Nihilus: Dim Horizon Studio Captures a Villian

Thank God my best friends at Dim Horizon Studio are also some dedicated gamers, y’all!  They totally said “Yes!” when I asked if they might be willing to help me document the Darth Nihilus (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic) costume I originally built for my son.  These are some of my complete favorite Dim Horizon images from our afternoon together at Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham.

Costume Notes: The Nihilus mask was crafted with gauze tape, wire mesh and wall putty.  The costuming includes a layers of ladies circle skirt, a black graduation robe and a black bed sheet, all from the thrift store. The lightsaber is a legit Master Replica that is really bad-ass even though it doesn’t look like Nihilus’ particular saber. The sound effects compensate for the discrepancy.

Darth Nihilus (KOTR) costume by Paige Gardner | Photo by Dim Horizon Studio

Darth Nihilus (KOTOR) costume by Paige Gardner | Photo by Dim Horizon Studio

 

Darth Nihilus Star Wars Costume Paige Gardner  o

Darth Nihilus (KOTR) costume by Paige Gardner | Photo by Dim Horizon Studio

Darth Nihilus Star Wars Costume Paige Gardner  p

Darth Nihilus (KOTR) costume by Paige Gardner | Photo by Dim Horizon Studio

Darth Nihilus Star Wars Costume Paige Gardner  t

Darth Nihilus (KOTR) costume by Paige Gardner | Photo by Dim Horizon Studio

Darth Nihilus Star Wars Costume Paige Gardner  z3

Darth Nihilus (KOTR) costume by Paige Gardner | Photo by Dim Horizon Studio