The “Wheel of Time” Community Responds to Bullying: And It’s Awesome

Wheel of Tme Cosplay | Photo by Dim Horizon Studios

Wheel of Tme Cosplay | Photo by Dim Horizon Studios

It’s a natural thing for fans of books, movies, comics, television shows and more to gravitate toward each other – especially via social media – to share their passion, their fandom, for the entertainment that means something special to them. Some fandoms are huge and well-known,  others are more esoteric, but just as enthusiastic when it comes to their media jam.

There’s no secret that I’m a dedicated fan of Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” book series. I have a personal history with the books that became a touchstone for two decades of my life. I’ve celebrated my fandom through WOT cosplay, as well as trips to JordanCon and other WOT-related events. And I totally get that the books aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. But that doesn’t diminish MY enthusiasm for the literary world that Jordan (with later support for Brandon Sanderson) crafted. And I’m not alone.

Ashaman and Aiel | Photo by Dim Horizon Studios

Ashaman and Aiel | Photo by Dim Horizon Studios

There’s other people who feel the same way I do about the “Wheel of Time” (WOT for short) world. We’re not a massive army of fans that dominate the mainstream media channels, but a strong, dedicated and constant group of enthusiasts who connect at conventions, events and especially through social media. It’s a legitimate community of folks spread across the world and joined by their love of these books. We connect and communicate through various websites, forums and importantly…through the Wheel of Time group on Facebook.

On the Wheel of Time Facebook group page it’s not unusual for us to ponder which character we might like to cosplay. Yeah, we sometimes “dream cast” celebrities who could best portray characters from the books. And sure, there are sometimes spoilers for newcomers to trip over in some threads. We geek on WOT.

Sometimes we wonder who WE would be in the WOT world. And that’s okay, too.

Of course, human dynamics are present everywhere – even in a community like ours. And our corner of the social media landscape was probably overdue for trolling. None-the-less, it was disappointing to see it finally play out when one group member simply posted their own picture and asked “Who would I be in the Wheel of Time?” – and was subsequently trolled and bullied in the comments.

The page admins pulled the post. But what followed was one of the most inspiring and redemptive things I’ve ever witnessed in fandom.

In response to the earlier bullying, WOT group members began posting photos of themselves asking “Who would I be in the Wheel of Time?” with the hashtag #WOTme.

Wheel of Time Party in Chattanooga TN

Wheel of Time Party in Chattanooga TN

It’s important to understand that for many folks within literary fandom, posting a selfie via social media isn’t necessarily an easy thing. Putting yourself out there, asking for others to comment on how they see you – that takes some courage. What started  a trickle of group members taking the #WOTme plunge, turned into a flood of group members from every corner of the world – posting their faces and asking “Who would I be in the Wheel of Time?”.

The responses have been positively overwhelming as well. Drawing from the massive list of WOT characters, the suggestions pouring in on each photo have ranged from the series superstars to obscure bit players (and trust me, we KNOW the bit players in Wheel of Time).

And, who knew we had so many gingers among us? Those sneaky Aiel.

In one day, a group that was previously connected only through their enthusiasm for a book series, transformed into a real community, coming out from the group shadows and joining together to take a public stand against bullying. My Facebook feed is blowing up with the faces of my fellow WOT fans – and it’s kind of glorious. I think that every fandom, great or small, should pay attention what has happened today in the Wheel of Time community. It’s a testament to power of positivity within the ranks of fandom (and also illustrates how the Light really can triumph over the Dark. Sorry, I had to add that.)

I’ve never been more proud of my corner of fandom than I am today. I think Robert Jordan would be proud, too.

THEIR QUESTION: “Who would I be in the Wheel of Time?” #WOTme

MY ANSWER: “You would be awesome. Just like you are now. That’s what you’d be.”

 

 

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

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

PHOTOGRAPHY: “Trolloc” from Robert Jordan’s ‘Wheel of Time’ (#1)

20130216-_MG_4880-Edit-Edit-2385003875-OThis is the first set of images for the Trolloc costume I made for JordanCon 2012. As an uber-fan of the Robert Jordan book series ‘The Wheel of Time’, it was a project that I wanted to attempt for a while.  But it was only when a fellow fan – and master costumer – suggested a group cosplay of Trollocs for JordanCon that I really considered making a run at it.  I knew I had to make it using mostly recycled items, but bits of it would have to be made from scratch (my Kryptonite). Still, I cobbled the Trolloc together, stormed the halls of JordanCon with the group and had an amazing time wearing it.

These images include fellow fan, artist and artisan Paul Bielaczyc of Aradani Studios.  His Trolloc is really a master work. How good was it?  It was so realistic that someone seeing it called the police to the Sopes Creek park where we were doing this photo shoot, and reported that there were – and I quote – “Monsters in the park.”

The Dekalb County Sheriff’s Department arrived (along with another patrol car) in response to the call.  Once they rolled up, they confirmed that the “monsters” were in fact merely harmless, eccentric costumers making pictures in the woods. The police made their own pictures – Evidence, I think – asked us not to eat the hikers, and left with a smile.

My own costume was a serious beta version. My first attempt at a big mask sculpt (using model magic) was a bust – and this Trolloc headpiece no longer exists in its original form, as it deteriorated after a few outings.  Still, Dim Horizon Studio captured it in pictures while it didn’t look too bad. Honestly, they make everything look good.  The images hint at what could be  – a Trolloc build, done right.  It’s on my list.

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Paul Bielaczyc – Foreground

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”

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.