Thursday, 27 January 2011

There's a Spider in My Living Room! or living with Clockwork Firebird Designs

Gracewing (the woman behind Clockwork Firebird Designs) often fills the house with many exciting things. She uses the conservatory as her workshop for the most part and interesting things are produced on a fairly regular basis. More recently, I came into the living room and found Gracewing in full drider kit (she had realised that she hadn't any photos of her awesome spider-butt and needed some for her website). It was briefly extremely intimidating and more than a dash surreal.

The photo to the left is taken by Many Lemons. The ears, arm, greaves, tail and corset in the photo are all by Gracewing. Due to their immense popularity, there are very few detail shots of the items. Do email her if you fancy something along those lines (or not, with commissions, the limit is your imagination, after all).

Gracewing has just launched her etsy shop which is now stocked with a variety of leather pouches, scabbards and vambraces. She also has the beautiful Black Raven Corset with suede feather-shapes (also seen in the drider photo to the right).

We did some photos of Gracewing's leather goods and I modelled (using that term very loosely) the tooled leather cat ears (from the Crown of Gears range). The Pillywiggin adamantly disbelieves it's actually me in the photos and stated it had to be someone else wearing my face.

Of course, such posing wouldn't have been possible without Wongfu Productions' Poser! putting me in touch with my cultural heritage.

It really isn't very dignified at all, but it is apparently very funny (I'm sure the rest of those photos will be unearthed for the outtakes post when that happens).

And on the mercenary note, the coat worn by Gracewing in the catgirl photo is the steampunk tailcoat. Similar ones are soon to be found on the Character Kit website in a range of colours.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Prototype: Dieselpunk Greatcoat

The Dieselpunk Greatcoat is based on the Steampunk Pirates Concept Art we did a while back. It's not quite as flared as the original sketch and there are various other differences, including the collar not quite coming out the way I wanted it to.

The Mercenary had located some double-sided faux-suede-and-fur material in rifle green and leafing through the steampunk pirates concept art, it seemed like a good idea to attempt a coat from it. The material has a lovely weight to it and rustles satisfyingly when handled. There was enough to make one greatcoat and one sleeveless surcoat from the end of the roll, the latter of which will be appearing in a later post. Because of the nature of using the double-sided material, there is no lining to hide the slit pockets in, which are thus visible on the inside of the coat.

The coat also features two spacious patch pockets (including one on the arm), double-breasted fastening and our so-called buttons of chaos.

I had bought some embroidered badges to function as insignia on the coat, but we were collectively indecisive about which ones to attach so the greatcoat remained without them for the photos. Buying badges was rather an adventure as it seemed that the world demanded a great many designs of things on fire, including Betty Boop, Jesus and Hello-Kitty-but-a-skull. There were also equally inexplicable skulls with an H on its forehead, which also come in the following varieties: on fire or surrounded in tribal swirlies. I also found a great number of once-neon-coloured miffies and chococats in a bargain bin.

We tried to avoid anything with words or acronyms on it, to keep the kit more multipurpose. We're quite fond of the winged skull since it seemed like it would make fine insignia for an air pirate, despite it being really lots larger than the other badges. Perhaps it would tip the design into feeling more anime-inspired.

Worn in the photos by the Proprietor with the white frilly linen shirt, brown waistcoat and green tricorn, the overall look seems rather Freiboden rather than anything else. That said, the Anthropologist still calls it the Haslanti coat. Departure from the classic white-and-brown/black bomber jacket colour scheme into rifle green does obscure the cultural cues we were going for originally, but as always, the Mercenary works within the confines of the materials she finds.

To commission a greatcoat in similar materials would cost in the region of £110-120. For a fully lined greatcoat the cost would likely be closer to £150-160.

More photos of the dieselpunk greatcoat under the cut.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Commission: Dark Blue Triple-Caped Greatcoat

This voluminous coat is made from a dark blue wool-linen blend and is lined in a bright red faux silk. It is double-breasted and triple-caped, with deep red-braiding-trimmed cuffs and brass buttons.

The Designer and I had joked of coats with four shoulder capes, but it does seem that with a wool coat, three is the limit. It is already rather heavy around the shoulders. The capes are also lined in red so as one moves, the flashes of brilliant red can be seen. As the Proprietor put it, it is good to own kit that looks best when a bit messy.

Greatcoats were apparently also known as cape coats or watchcoats, the latter presumably from them being worn on watch, especially in winter. For all it's faults as a book, there's a rather evocative passage about watchcoats in Moby Dick:

To be sure, in cold weather you may carry your house aloft with you, in the shape of a watch-coat; but properly speaking the thickest watch-coat is no more of a house than the unclad body; for as the soul is glued inside of its fleshy tabernacle, and cannot freely move about in it, nor even move out of it, without running great risk of perishing (like an ignorant pilgrim crossing the snowy Alps in winter); so a watch-coat is not so much of a house as it is a mere envelope, or additional skin encasing you. You cannot put a shelf or chest of drawers in your body, and no more can you make a convenience closet of your watch-coat.
Moby Dick, "The Mast-Head", Chapter 35
The dark blue greatcoat is worn with a white linen frilly shirt (£15 from the Mercenary) and a charcoal waistcoat with six pockets and rivet buttons (£35). The felt top hat was from ebay and is rather fine.

To commission a similar watchcoat from the Mercenary would cost in the region of £160.

More photos of the dark blue watchcoat under the cut.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Commission: Red and Blue Dungeonpunk Gambeson

This is very much a recolour of the dungeonpunk gambeson but with less asymmetry. It's made of dark blue faux suede and red linen, with gunmetal grey fastenings.

Much of the fiddliness of the original gambeson is present here. There's the vambraces with dagger loops, large pouches and the basic weaponsloops on the back.

Due to it being a commission, the gambeson doesn't exactly fit the Proprietor very well. It's a tad on the small side on him, but it's a reasonable quick snap of what it looks like for the website. Not all commissions end up photographed, after all, most of it depends entirely on whether or not we have the time and a convenient model at hand (or just a hanger and a white wall).

To commission a similarly fiddly gambeson from the Costume Mercenary would cost in the region of £160.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Tooled Notebooks

Whilst looking for a (belated) Christmas present for a friend, I ended up in conversation with a lovely woman whose surname happened to be a homophone of mine (yet another detail that is not longer hilarious after the fact). Some negotiation later, I had walked away with a number of notebooks with hand-tooled leather covers. They're quite nice and first few of these will be available at Character Kit for £13 each.

I had sourced the embossed leather-cover books (£5 from Character Kit) some time ago for the Proprietor and the various clockwork globe watches. We've no idea if these will sell, but we shall see.

In Other News: The books, along with many other things will be going to the York Science Fiction and Fantasy Society Convention this weekend. Or more specifically, on the Sunday morning. We should also be going (with Character Kit, of course) to the Roundhouse Trading Kit Fair in March.

More photos of the leather notebooks under the cut.

A Union of Blood and Lies: A Medieval Murder Mystery

It was amid a week of archive-diving between running around like a headless chicken that I found these old posters. I was having debilitating, if dull problems with a petulant printer-scanner as well as a struggle with an increasingly erratic sleep cycle. Finding this didn't exactly make my week better, but it did briefly amuse.

It was one of our first attempts at a photoshoot (indoors, in this very living room, with a white bed sheet over the curtain rail). This was before we learnt many things, including how difficult coordinating multiple people into a photo was and how much superior outdoor lighting was. I do remember the Proprietor complaining how awkward it was to hold the goblet at an angle that was pleasing to the photographer.

For the most part, the kit visible in these photos are from the Treasure Trap Armoury, though I do remember the red and black cloak belongs to the Proprietor himself. I have this strange urge to unearth the velvet dress and robe I was wearing from behind the wardrobe now.

The event was written by the Anthropologist and myself as a rules-light event to try and hook in new players who might be interested in larp but entirely sold on the idea it might just be playing-D&D-standing-up. We were essentially trying to sneakily trick people into larping by pretending it was a murder mystery. It was met with mixed success. A solidly good time was had by all (or so I was told) but outside attendance was disappointing, mostly due to clashing with a number of other events including end of term exam revision.

And that's the amble down memory lane over with...

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

The Case of the Missing Raccoon: A Steampunk Adventure

Yes, that is a photo of the Proprietor using a telescope as a sight on pistol.

Raccoons are sly, tricksy beasts, you know.

As can be surmised from the silly photography, we were out with the camera and the new costumes. We've had a busy few months and are sitting on a large heap of updates and things to be posted off to their new owners. We're also working on a prop-related project that's turning out to be more logistically complicated than originally thought. It's all very exciting, if a little chaotic.

So we're back to old favourite of our nearby locations, Chapel of the Hospital of St. Mary Magdalene. We had wanted to borrow the Proprietor's 'coontail hat, but it was not to be found. In the end, we did without and the photos are rather less silly (and perhaps more offensive). The costumes done included a "native" shirt and trousers for the Onontakhan culture at Profound Decision's Maelstrom, a three-tiered caped coat, some waistcoats and a dieselpunk greatcoat.

See under the cut for the full preview.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

An Extravagance for the Eye: Early Renaissance Gown

The gown draws heavily from gowns of the early renaissance, specifically of Venice. It's a veritable patchwork of period elements that will no doubt make the lovely people over at GoFugThyself want gouge their eyes out.

But it is rather too tempting to dabble in the described by some as an "extravagance for the eye." Especially after revisiting the sumptuously costumed if extremely problematic Dangerous Beauty (there was once a page of caps on the Period Movies Blog, but it seems to have vanished).

Whilst certainly inspired by history, this gown is by now means accurate and in some ways, that I'm wandering around a dubiously romanticised recreation of Venice in the photos is rather appropriate. I am neither wearing the fascinating and very fashionable chopines of the era nor do I have my hair in an exciting headdress.

The giornea and sleeves are of black silk velvet and the shift is of cotton (the sleeves aren't quite long enough, but it was the only out of the wash at the time). It's all laced together with black ribbon (and may I add it takes forever to get into this dress - it really isn't a gown for someone looking for quick costume changes.)

The lighting in many of these photos is so strange because of the fact that we aren't actually outdoors as they are taken at inside Macau's Venetian, hardly the "dreamed of city." The camera seemed to go into overcompensation with the lighting and the results are certainly interesting.

It was when I was looking for the exhibition photos of the asymmetrical naval coat that I unearthed these photos from my trip to Macau almost half a year ago. It had seemed appropriate to gamble (read: play slots) with an over the top "Marie Antoinette" gown on and once I was on that train of thought, swanning through The Venetian in a similarly themed gown was only a small step away.

More photos of the early renaissance gown under the cut.

Monday, 3 January 2011

A Length of Linen, with a Rider-Waite Tarot Theme

There isn't much of it left, but I couldn't resist: white linen with a Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot print. That is indeed the Empress (with her crown of stars) and the Ace of Wands (though it seems to be sprouting more foxgloves than usual). Many of the smaller motifs also come from the deck (the sun and the moon, from their cards respectively; my eagle-eyed friend has also spotted the winged lion's head from the two of cups, there are others, just keep staring).

For those who aren't immediately recognising the images, the Rider-Waite-Smith is one of the most iconic and widely used tarot decks out there. Numerous modern decks have drawn inspiration (and often basic layout) from the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot. A brief gander at Aeclectic will throw up a plethora of beautiful decks drawn in the RWS tradition (including the Real Art of the Tarot, a really rather swoon-worthy incarnation). They were originally commissioned from Pamela Colman Smith by Arthur Edward Waite and was the first to illustrate the minor arcana.

(I did briefly wonder about the copyright of the RWS images used and it does, perhaps unsurprisingly, have quite a lengthy and complicated history.)

I'm very much in love with it, though I have no idea what should be done with it. There's about two and a half yards, enough for a shirt, a waistcoat (perhaps even two), a skirt or the contrast of something.

Given the prominence of the Empress and the Ace of Wands, I suspect this isn't exactly the print for everyone, but if you feel inspired, drop me a line.

New Year and Directions

It's been almost a year of this blog (and the business) and it is also New Year (Happy New Year, by the way), so it seems appropriate to reflect a moment on Directions and where this is all going.

The blog itself has ranged far and wide in terms of content. I feared at first it would just be an endless wave of costume picture (would that have been a good thing?) with the occassional concept sketch thrown in. Briefly, I toyed with discussing inspirations and clothing history in greater detail. Equally, more snippets from my daily life seems tempting (espeically when my friends do geekily awesome things), but how far do people really want to read about me bitching about my latest cold? I often find cool things online, but does the Escapist's cosplay gallery really need my linking to it?

In the next few weeks, I'll likely be experimenting with what goes on the blog. There will still be many costumes, but I may become even more verbose than I already am. You have been warned.

The business itself still lacks a certain direction (this skit seems curiously appropriate). My primary market is still, in theory, larpers, but I've sold to all sorts of people and I'm not sure if I should be trying to expand exclusively in that direction. I seem to draw what I think is pretty and/or functional and go from there, but really, how many Tudor-larps are there? Is trying to eek my way into the territory held by many giants of goth and alternative clothing?

Though that said, I've a bucket of steampunk buttons so doubt over markets aside, the Mercenary will be focusing on clothing that can shift some (if not all) of that in the near future. There are a number of waistcoats with them on the horizon and perhaps some more colours of the steampunk coat (or maybe just the blue one, the red gets very little love).

Anyway, Happy New Year.
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