Saturday, March 9, 2013

Not just a one trick pony (Part 2: Electric Boogaloo)

Alright, so I have a few other non-jewelry crafting accomplishments I wanted to share, but last post got kinda lengthy. And so, here's a special Saturday Edition, where I'll show off what is probably one of my crazier projects.

But first, another example of how I sometimes like to "edit" things. I bought these brown boots for dirt cheap on clearance at the end of the season last year. They were really cute, except that they had this ugly, cheap, sort of scuzzy fake fur on them. It was almost a deal-breaker, until I realized, hey, it wouldn't be too hard to just take that stuff off and put something better on. I chose lace.
In addition to being cute and unique for everyday wear, they look REALLY awesome with a pirate costume I have!
Just goes to show that a bit of hot glue and ingenuity can go a long way.

Oh, yes, and in the further DIY spirit, I guess I ought to mention that I have cut and dyed my own hair many times. That always surprises people.

And one time, instead of a snowman, I made a snow T. Rex.
Pretty popular with the neighborhood kids for awhile.
But I know, you're curious about what I would consider a "crazy" project. Well, it's edible. And it has to do with the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop roleplaying know, that thing geeky kids play with wizards and knights and odd-shaped dice and stuff, right?

Yeah, I made a cake shaped like a 20-sided die (or d20 for short).
This, but delicious!
 A bit of background, first. My boyfriend was the one to introduce me to D&D; he started playing in high school and from that forged a group of friends that is still intact. They, in turn, have become my friends too. Our D&D sessions, unfortunately something of a rarity nowadays with everyone's busy lives, are usually characterized by stupid jokes, innuendo, over-the-top imaginary fight scenes, vulgarity, distractions, dark humor, bad puns, good-natured bickering, and, now that we're all of age, a bit of drunkeness. And I wouldn't want it any other way.

Anyway, it was getting near the birthday of our friend Jonny. This was kind of an important birthday for us as his friends; he didn't really feel like celebrating the previous year because it was sort of soon for him after losing his mother. So, for this particular year, we all vowed to make it a truly awesome birthday for our pal. I took it upon myself to bake his cake, because store-bought just doesn't taste as good as when someone who cares about you makes it for you (that's how I've always felt, at least).

Now I'm no master baker, but I wanted it to be really special. Playing D&D was one of the things that brought us together, and we'd be playing it at the party anyway (yeah, that's how me and my friends party!) so I wanted to go with that theme. I can't exactly remember how the idea to make it a d20 came about, but it took some serious ingenuity to pull it off. After all, they don't just make icosahedral cake pans.

But they do make spheres. See, my mom has a penchant for odd-shaped cake pans. Rectangular was always just too boring for our house. So we instead have things like hearts, stars, christmas trees, flowers...and a perfect sphere. You bake it in two halves and then put them together with frosting. Now, the sides of a d20 are triangles. Originally, I considered cutting facets off the surface of the sphere, but since I'm not that great with geometry or knives, we eventually came up with the idea to make an "outer shell" out of cookie. So we baked a couple sheets of sugar cookies (which I swirled with food dye to mimic the "marble" appearance of some of our dice), cut them into triangles, then placed them over top of the cake. They were held in place by frosting.
Seen here half-completed. The assembly process, not including the baking, took around 45 minutes with me and my mom periodically needing to hold things in place for a moment for the frosting to set.

The whole thing was then wrapped in foil to be transported to my boyfriend's house for the party.
Once there, I added the numbers in frosting. Of COURSE it had to look like he rolled a 20!
Like I said, I'm no professional baker, so sure it was kinda...sloppy. It was far from perfect. But Jonny and all our other friends absolutely loved it. It's one of my crazier ideas for sure, but I'm really glad it worked!

Just because it sounds crazy doesn't mean it's not worth doing. :D

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Not just a one trick pony

My face when realizing I forgot a blog post last week:
The Office isn't the same without Michael Scott.

...We now return to your regularly scheduled Comparative Rarity update. This week, I'd like to change it up a bit and talk about what other crafts I enjoy besides jewelry making, because I lack the attention span to ever only have one hobby.

Now, I've already explained before that I come from a crafty, creative, DIY kind of family. That has been one of the few constants throughout my entire life. Naturally, I've dabbled here and there with various craft hobbies. I did all your typical kid stuff, like filling sheets of paper with colorful scribbles, making lanyards at summer camp, and built (and destroyed) countless LEGO structures. In high school, one of my very favorite subjects, and one of the few things that really captured my apathetic teenage interest, was art. The funny thing was, I never thought I could draw very well - not on par with any great artist, certainly. But that didn't stop me from doing it all the time, from covering my notebooks with spiralling doodles to drawing little stick figure comics for my friends. I developed a rapport with the art teachers at my school, and took all the art classes that I could. Since I didn't have much confidence in my drawing abilities, I stayed away from traditional drawing and painting and instead explored graphic design, sculpture, and ceramics. Finally, in my senior year, I was able to get into Advanced Placement Art (which, along with AP English, was the best time I had in all of high school) where I made some pieces I'm pretty proud of. Here's a few:
This one's huge: 18"x 24". And all those black parts? Cut outs.
Teen angst at its finest. But expressing these emotions on paper helped me deal with them in a healthy way.

This took a LONG time to get the shading just right!
 Art was a huge part of my life, and looking back, I'm really glad I was given that kind of opportunity to express myself. (One of these days, I also need to get some pictures of some of my other pieces, like from ceramics and scultpure!)

During this time, I was also beginning to dabble in photography. My high school didn't offer a class on it, but we had a club. By "club," I actually mean, "me and two other guys and our cool English teacher." This was when I discovered that one of my main strengths in creating anything visually appealing was that I had a good eye for composition. One of my photos even made it into the Scholastic Art exhibit. It didn't win anything, but it was cool to be a part of it!
I called it "Apple in the Sink," because it was an apple. Floating in the sink. Art!
As I started college, I tried to pursue graphic arts. I learned a lot, and had decent ability, but eventually realized that it just wasn't for me. Too much was computer graphics, and I'm too hands on to just stare at a computer all day. But along the way, I took some more photography classes, more for my own enrichment. I even learned how to shoot, develop, and print actual film. (My classmate VyntageDude would be proud!) That's definitely the sort of thing that, maybe someday, if I have the right equipment, I'd like to pick back up.
How else could I acheive such a unique, intimate portrait like this of my boyfriend Alex? I did that all with my own two hands.

Now, other arts. The one thing I really wish I could do is sew. I've tried to learn, but it's just one of those things I can't quite seem to develop the knack for, and I don't currently have enough time to practice. I kind of know how to operate a sewing machine, but that's about it. As for hand-stitching...I can't sew on a button.

But even if I can't sew, I still love to make outfits and costumes. I'm at least pretty good at planning things out, and thinking how it could work from a construction standpoint. I like to call it "editing" - taking a piece of clothing, and changing it to look different. My mom and I have collaborated on this for a lot of things. I love shopping at thrift stores, but sometimes you find something that would be perfect if just one little thing were different. Well, we make that happen.

Probably the most carefully planned example of this was a costume I wore to last year's Youmacon, an anime and video game convention held in Detroit. Half the fun of attending these kinds of things are dressing up in costume as a favorite character (called "cosplay"), and seeing everyone else dressed up. You can also put your own original spins on your outfit. Last year, I really loved the game Borderlands 2 and wanted to cosplay a character from it. Trouble is, my favorite character was, well, this guy...
Salvador, the Gunzerker. He goes berserk, but with guns.
And I'm a petite girl. So it took a bit of imagination to create a costume for myself that would be unmistakable as the character, even though I lack some necessary equipment to be a perfect double. I mean, I can never grow a beard.

I worked in conjunction with a friend to create this:

It even involved sewing! The double gun holsters on the character's back required me to rig a sort of harness out of faux leather and plastic bullets. (Mind you, there were only about four lines of stitching that needed to be done, but by the last one it was nearly straight!) One of the most essential, and most fun to do elements was the red gun (this character is called the Gunzerker, after all!). It was originally a blue Nerf gun, but to pay more homage to his game, I wanted to customize it in a way that resembled some of the guns in the game. I chose to give it a red paint job with a snarling grin along the barrel, like this digital weapon here:
And my version, which took several coats of acrylic paint:
I was awfully proud of that. I received a lot of compliments from other con attendees on my costume and props, one of which was that I successfully created a "genderswapped" character version that stayed true to the original and wasn't some sleazy, miniskirted bundle of sex appeal, as is often the case. As the young lady admiring my work so aptly put it, "You're actually wearing PANTS! It's great." That meant a lot to me.

Jewelry is still my number one favorite craft hobby, but who knows what it might be in the future? Maybe one day I'll even learn to sew. Then, who knows what kind of crazy costumes I can come up with?

Psssst: check my Facebook page for some bonus old artwork!