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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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

Abbey at Sloss Furnace with Dim Horizon Studios (More!)

From Abbey’s first photo shoot with Dim Horizon Studio, this is the second set of images from an exciting afternoon at Sloss Furnaces Historical Landmark in Birmingham, Alabama.

Costume: Abbey | Paige Gardner Photography by Dim Horizon Studio

Costume: Abbey | Paige Gardner —  Photography by Dim Horizon Studio

 

Costume: Abbey | Paige Gardner Photography by Dim Horizon Studio

Costume: Abbey | Paige Gardner Photography by Dim Horizon Studio

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 17

Costume: Abbey | Paige Gardner Photography by Dim Horizon Studio

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 18

Costume: Abbey | Paige Gardner Photography by Dim Horizon Studio

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 21

Costume: Abbey | Paige Gardner Photography by Dim Horizon Studio

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 20

Costume: Abbey | Paige Gardner Photography by Dim Horizon Studio

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 19

Costume: Abbey | Paige Gardner Photography by Dim Horizon Studio

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 30

Costume: Abbey | Paige Gardner Photography by Dim Horizon Studio

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 29

Costume: Abbey | Paige Gardner Photography by Dim Horizon Studio

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 28

Costume: Abbey | Paige Gardner Photography by Dim Horizon Studio

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 31

Costume: Abbey | Paige Gardner Photography by Dim Horizon Studio

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 33

Costume: Abbey | Paige Gardner Photography by Dim Horizon Studio

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 32

Costume: Abbey | Paige Gardner Photography by Dim Horizon Studio

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 22 Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 23 Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 24 Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 25 Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 26 Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 27

Abbey at Sloss Furnace: Photoshoot with Dim Horizon Studios

I’ve often say that any costume project of mine isn’t really complete until the folks at Dim Horizon Studios turn their lens toward it. It’s a true thing.

I’m always excited by their interest in these costume projects, thrilled with their keen eye for outstanding settings and – after years of working with them – deeply grateful for the close personal friendship that emerged from our mutual professional interests.  I’m especially glad when they have client bookings in my city – because these occasions bring us together for gaming, goofing off, good times…  and sometimes a photoshoot!

These are the first official images of the Stained Glass “Abbey” project as captured and crafted by Dim Horizon Studio at Sloss Furnaces in Birmingham, Alabama. (this is the first half of the images from the shoot – the second set will follow in the next post.)

And the costume is now complete. 😀

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 8

 

 

Costume: "Abbey" by Paige Gardner / CostumeArt Photography: Dim Horizon Studios

Costume: “Abbey” by Paige Gardner
Photography: Dim Horizon Studios

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 4

Costume: “Abbey” by Paige Gardner Photography: Dim Horizon Studios

 

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 2

Costume: “Abbey” by Paige Gardner / Photography: Dim Horizon Studios

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 5

Costume: “Abbey” by Paige Gardner / CostumeArt Photography: Dim Horizon Studios

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 6

Costume: “Abbey” by Paige Gardner / CostumeArt Photography: Dim Horizon Studios

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 7

Costume: “Abbey” by Paige Gardner / CostumeArt Photography: Dim Horizon Studios

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 8

Costume: “Abbey” by Paige Gardner / CostumeArt Photography: Dim Horizon Studios

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 9

Costume: “Abbey” by Paige Gardner / CostumeArt Photography: Dim Horizon Studios

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 11

Costume: “Abbey” by Paige Gardner / Photography: Dim Horizon Studios

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 12

Costume: “Abbey” by Paige Gardner / Photography: Dim Horizon Studios

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 13

Costume: “Abbey” by Paige Gardner / CostumeArt Photography: Dim Horizon Studios

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 14

Costume: “Abbey” by Paige Gardner / CostumeArt Photography: Dim Horizon Studios

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 15

Costume: “Abbey” by Paige Gardner / CostumeArt Photography: Dim Horizon Studios

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 10

Costume: “Abbey” by Paige Gardner  Photography: Dim Horizon Studios

Stained Glass Costume Paige Gardner Warhammer Steampunk cosplay 3

Costume: “Abbey” by Paige Gardner Photography: Dim Horizon Studios

For more images, events and WIP costume updates, find me at CostumeArt on Facebook and @CostumeArt on Twitter. I’d love to see you there!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stained Glass “Abbey”: Photoshoot with COTC Photography

I had the extreme good fortune to meet photographer John Spectre while I was at at Gaslight Fantasia in South Carolina.  He was attending the event and capturing photos of some of the participants.  I was flattered when he expressed interest in photographing the Abbey costume there at the hotel. We found a cool mosaic alcove at the host hotel and John took the needed time to set up some really cool shots. Here’s some of the images from that day.

Costume: "Abbey" by Paige Gardner Photography: John Spectre, COTC Photography

Costume: “Abbey” by Paige Gardner
Photography: John Spectre, COTC Photography

Costume: "Abbey" by Paige Gardner Photography: John Spectre, COTC Photography

Costume: “Abbey” by Paige Gardner
Photography: John Spectre, COTC Photography

Costume: "Abbey" by Paige Gardner Photography: John Spectre, COTC Photography

Costume: “Abbey” by Paige Gardner
Photography: John Spectre, COTC Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We got the chance to meet again at AnachroCon some months later where he brought a ring flash and more cool camera equipment along.  These “dark” images of Abbey  (below) reveal SO MUCH more of the costume’s detail!  John’s crafting of these images just leaves me floored.

John has since gone on to craft some of the most amazing cosplay photography I’ve seen in a while through his COTC Photography venture. I’m just one of his grateful photography subjects – his portfolio is exploding!  If you’d like to see more, you can find John’s photography through his Facebook page, COTC Photography.  Recommended viewing!

Costume: "Abbey" by Paige Gardner Photography: John Spectre, COTC Photography

Costume: “Abbey” by Paige Gardner
Photography: John Spectre, COTC Photography

Costume: "Abbey" by Paige Gardner Photography: John Spectre, COTC Photography

Costume: “Abbey” by Paige Gardner
Photography: John Spectre, COTC Photography

Costume: "Abbey" by Paige Gardner Photography: John Spectre, COTC Photography

Costume: “Abbey” by Paige Gardner
Photography: John Spectre, COTC Photography

Keep up with CostumeArtist appearances and more WIP projects through CostumeArt on Facebook and @CostumeArt on Twitter. I’d love to see you there!

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

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! Here are a few m

Dieselpunk inspired version of "Siri" - from repurposed phone parts and salvaged electronics | image by Dim Horizon Studios

Dieselpunk inspired version of “Siri” – from repurposed phone parts and salvaged electronics | image by Dim Horizon Studios

ore examples of an old lady in costume 😀

Warhammer inspired Stained Glass "Abbey'

Warhammer inspired Stained Glass “Abbey’ | image by Lynx Pics

"Trolloc" inspired by Robert Jordan's 'Wheel of Time' book series

“Trolloc” inspired by Robert Jordan’s ‘Wheel of Time’ book series | image by Dim Horizon Studios

Aiel Maiden inspired by Robert Jordan's 'Wheel of Time' book series

Aiel Maiden inspired by Robert Jordan’s ‘Wheel of Time’ book series | image by Dim Horizon Studios

Darth Nihilus | image by Dim Horizon Studios

Darth Nihilus | image by Dim Horizon Studios

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