26 Jul 2015

NZ Comic Con - Wellington Armageddon!

When Armageddon Expo announced that Kamui Cosplay would be visiting us for NZ Comic Con, I absolutely had to jump on board. I grouped up with Jungle Lady Cosplay and Sparky Cosplay to sort out accommodation and travel, and we started making excited plans!

Initially I intended to make the Witch King, but got quickly overwhelmed. Instead, I started work on my first Naruto cosplay, Hatake Kakashi. I was incredibly excited to cosplay a character I loved so much, but I decided to keep it a secret. Because, why not?

I had about four months to make the costume, which was probably plenty of time. However right in the middle of it I decided to make Rogue for the Auckland Cosplay Rave.

Which I subsequently ruined by raving too hard. Oops!

After finishing rogue, I was sewing pretty much non stop, every night after work, and every weekend late into the night.

But it was totally worth it.

Photo credit: Pixiscene Cosmedia
I'm beyond happy with this costume, and so happy I got to wear it to my first Wellington Armageddon. It's a perfect winter outfit - even the biting Wellington breeze didn't affect me. Having a face mask, headband, and basically a puffer vest is highly recommended.

Enough about Kakashi - I'll make a more detailed rundown of the build later on. How about the actual convention?

The drive down was fairly uneventful. We'll just forget the fact that I drove all the way to Paeroa before realising I'd left the vest back in Auckland. Yes, I drove all the way back to get it.

The weather was ideal. Slightly cloudy sky, relatively warm temperatures. Ruapehu looked majestic with its snowy blanket.

We got to Wellington at about 4:30pm on Friday - 'Geddon had already started that day. I was just excited to stay in a hotel!

We also visited Smaug at the airport. :3

Saturday started by me handing the reigns over to Sparky. Here she is reversing the car but looking fab. No, no posing! Meanwhile I was hunched over my knees in the tiny Starlet to avoid squishing my wig against the roof.

Jungle Lady's prop was Fishbones - a rather long and awkward (yet awesome) prop that we managed to fit into the back of the car. The jaw is removable, which I'm told cuts down loading time from about half an hour to a mere couple of minutes.

We started Saturday by jumping into Kamui's panel. I was not prepared for how hilarious it was going to be. I was in tears! Not only does Svetlana explain everything clearly, she also cracks the best jokes, and there was a lot of hitting Benni. Which elicited a few more laughs than he would like. 

Saturday also meant the Cosplay parade, where we ran around grabbing as many Naruto cosplayers as we could find. It was a great turnout. I was also particularly pleased that I correctly guessed the Menma, from the movie "Road to Ninja". Everyone looked fantastic; having a lot of cosplayers from the same show brings this great cohesion.

At one point walking the halls, everyone stopped. It became so blocked with people, no one was moving in either direction. Afterwards, we heard that the venue had easily reached capacity, and they had to turn away people at the door. I'm hoping they change the venue next year - a circular, narrow hall is apparently not ideal for the amount of foot traffic they received.

Saturday ended sooner than I would have liked, and I hurriedly finalised plans to have dinner at a nearby Japanese restaurant. In cosplay, naturally. Sparky and Jungle Lady headed back to the hotel to freshen up, while I grabbed myself a TwiggyOtaku. We milled towards the train station, tailed by a few more cosplayers.

It was raining outside, so naturally we situated ourselves on the floor and watched Soxy Cosplay, TwiggyOtaku, and Oxy Cos practice their flash mob dance.

Cosplaying in public is definitely a new experience for me, but to be honest it's the most fun I've had in a long time. Especially with friends, ha! We proceeded to be giant dorks, and took a whole lot of Naruto-esque photos. The food was good, and a couple of people asked for photos of our table (I'm not surprised, to be honest).

Exhausted, we headed back to the hotel, washed up, and crashed. Con-going is tiring business!

Sunday was our day to buy ALL THE THINGS. Most of the morning was spent attending Kamui's third panel, and assisting with Pixiscene Cosmedia's minishoots.

Behind the scenes! Coloured light and fake snow

That day I was Iruka! This costume is such a cheat - two characters, same uniform! Just roll down the sleeves and ditch the wig and gloves. ;)

Photo credit: Pixiscene Cosmedia
I nabbed a couple of Kamui's books which she graciously signed. I made Benni sign them too. I also grabbed a Pakkun plush that I spotted hiding away out of sight, and my first scale figure of Anbu Kakashi! Plus matching Zabuza and Haku mini figurines. Ugh, the feels.

Loved this Hinata!!

I feel bad for buying this, but then again, NO REGRETS!
The cosplay competition was amazing, the calibre of the costumes there was really high. There were some great skits too, with the De Wild's taking away a well deserved best in show! We made a hasty retreat shortly after the competition as we were all exhausted. Stuffing our spoils into our bags, packing the car the next day went better than expected, and we headed back up.

The Desert Road had snow all along the sides, but we didn't pull over to play. Instead Jungle Lady and I enjoyed spotting icicles from the warmth of the car.

We pulled into Tauranga after dark, and I spent that evening with Sparky pouring over the photos that had already made it to Facebook. Just hanging out with other cosplayers gives you way too many ideas for new costumes. TwiggyOtaku convinced me to enter the Overload Cosplay Competition - we'll even be doing a skit! I'm also fairly sure I've planned my cosplays for the next year already. They involve Teen Wolf, more Naruto, Free! Eternal Summer, Disney, Attack on Titan...I've lost track!

Auckland Armageddon is the next big convention. I'm mostly very excited as it marks one year from when I started cosplaying. I really had no idea what a big impact this community would have on my life. I've made tonnes and tonnes of friends - more often than not, failing to recognise them out of cosplay. The number of fandoms I'm a part of now is getting out of control - I'm finding it hard to choose what to cosplay. ;)

Attending Wellygeddon again will definitely depend on the guests, and I will definitely be flying. The drive was loooong, and I would have gone insane if not for Jungle Lady and her fantastic taste in music!

I really can't wait for Auckland Armageddon. The biggest convention in the country, and already they've announced some exciting guests. I'm not sure what I'm going to cosplay yet. It'll probably be Naruto characters, though.

10 May 2015

Naruto headband tutorial - finishing

After building your headband and painting it, the last thing to do is to weather it. It looks a little funny with just a coat of metallic paint!

Assemble your tools:

  • Water
  • Paper towels
  • Black acrylic paint
  • A couple paintbrushes

The basic premise is to load a brush up with the acrylic paint and a little bit of water. Water is actually optional - for me, it just ran off the paint, so I omitted it.

Start with the leaf. Smoosh paint into the impression, then grab a paper towel and rub it all off. It will leak out into the rest of the headband, but this is what you want. Use circular motions to blend it all around.

Continue in this method for the sides of the band and the rivets.

I went over each section twice, then used a small brush to outline the rivets for a more dramatic effect.

The final result looks a lot better than just having a base coat. The final step is to protect it with a clear coat - I haven't actually done this yet, but testing is essential. Use the back of the headband to make sure the clear doesn't react with whatever you put on it already. The clear coat is to protect the weathering and base coat from casual damage.

After that, it's all done! Congrats, you're a ninja now!

28 Apr 2015

Naruto headband tutorial - sealing, painting, and making the fabric band

In the first part, we stuck some Worbla to some foam and made a forehead protector!

In this part we'll seal the Worbla, apply the base coat, and make the fabric component.

You'll need:

  • Wood glue (PVA)
  • A paintbrush
  • Water
  • Paper towels
  • A base coat (I luckily found some metallic silver Plasti-kote)
  • Some fabric (half a meter should be plenty)
  • The other halves of those metal snaps

Start slappin' down the PVA with your paintbrush. Don't worry too much about brush strokes - you're going to be layering a lot of this stuff on.

While it dries, copy drawings from your favourite manga. Or whatever it is you do when you're bored.

I did about 7 layers, I think. The last two were applied using a finger. 

To smooth it out, dip your finger in the water and buff the dried PVA. It'll go from transparent to opaque while you do this.

When that dries, run over it in a circular motion with fine grit sandpaper. I used 600, then 1000. Run over it once more with your finger dipped in water.

It should look something like this (hopefully better):

I gave this overnight to fully set. In the meantime, make the fabric component. It's a big rectangle with pointed ends. Cut two strips and sew 'em together. Use your forehead protector to measure how tall you want it - don't forget to add seam allowance!

I'm not 100% happy with this - it's a little too thin. In the manga/anime it has a volume to it. I might experiment with polyester batting, or multiple layers.

Now how do we attach our pretty headband to our pretty forehead protector? If you used snaps, you'll just add snaps to the fabric part. If not, you might want to try some hefty glue like ADOS.

It's easy to match up. Centre the worbla piece onto your band and tape it in place with the delicate stuff. Use tailor's chalk to mark the impression of the snaps. Then attach the other halves in the right spots.

Now you can paint it! Follow the instructions on the can. Multiple light coats are better than one heavy one.

In the final installment we'll weather our headband to make it not look so flat, then seal it all up to protect it!

23 Apr 2015

Naruto headband tutorial - base

It's been over a month since Hamilton Armageddon, and I haven't even realised. In that time, I think I've spent my waking hours either reading or watching Naruto.

I finished the manga a few weeks back, no more spoilers for me! However, the anime continues on. Right now I'm up to episode 288 of Shippuden, right in the midst of fillers. I don't really mind the fillers though - sometimes they do more to develop the characters than the manga ever did.

Since I can't be spoiled too badly, I've decided it's time to dive right into some Naruto cosplay!

The first thing to make is obviously the Konoha headband. While the plate varies in size across episodes, and even on the same person, I chose a few random sizes and picked one that looked right on my own head.

Things you'll need:

  • Craft foam (usually 2mm)
  • Metal ruler
  • Sharp knife (preferably a hobby knife)
  • Crappy pearl stickers from the $2 shop used as mobile decoration
  • Worbla
  • Heat gun
  • Snaps - the kind you hammer into fabric is what I used

I made mine 13cm x 5cm. Here, you can even have the template:

After that, print it out and use a sharp hobby knife to cut it. If you look closely, you'll see I left a gap under the triangle to keep the placement correct.

This is very fiddly, and accuracy is important in the early stages. Since you'll be transferring this to foam, then layering Worbla on top, a small mistake now will be made more obvious.

Now transfer that design to foam. Having a very sharp hobby knife helps. Don't get too worried about jagged edges - the Worbla will smooth it out. Just make sure your edges are all straight around the outside. You'll end up with a small triangle left over - don't lose this, it's important!

In the previous photo, you'll see a packet of stickers I used for the rivet texture. Stick them on in sort of the right place. As long as they are symmetrical, you're all good.

Here's the fun part! Cut out some Worbla slightly bigger than the foam template. I cut mine much too large, I think. Place it shiny side up on a surface - I used some plywood; the Worbla didn't stick to it. Blast it with your heat gun until the whole thing is floppy and looks a little wet. Yuck. You can carefully move it around to make sure it isn't sticking to the table or whatever you're using.

Now take your foam template and lay it onto the Worbla. Remember using Duracel over your schoolbooks? The principal is the same. Get the angle right, then start from one end and press it gently onto the Worbla as you go. This helps minimise bubbles. Also make sure you aren't sticking the Worbla to the table.

Now take that little triangle - you didn't lose it, right? - and plop it into the right spot.

Now you'll heat the other half (shiny side up) until it is floppy and wet looking. Quickly run over the other piece - the two bits of Worbla should be warm to make a nice bond.

Using the same technique as before, lay the Worbla over the other piece. Since there are bumps and texture, you're going to get bubbles. When that happens, take a pin and piece the bubble from the side while it is still hot, then meld it down flat.

Now you'll want to bring out all the details. I'm using the end of a hobby scraper thing - it's meant to be used to apply modelling paste but it works well here. Start pressing into the hot Worbla, piercing bubbles if they come up. Press all along the outside as well. Heat the Worbla up every now and then; cold Worbla won't be easy to form.

Are you happy with it now? I hope so. Now you'll want to trim the edges. Heat the whole thing up again, then trim as close as you damn can to the foam, but not so close that the foam starts peeking out. While it's still hot, use your fingers to meld the seams downwards into nothing, then use a metal ruler to straighten all the edges up. Yes, it's hot, stop complaining.

From here you can heat form the whole thing into a curve so it fits snugly on your head, or you can move to the optional step that I'm not actually sure will work well but it looks cool anyway.

Take the male halves of four snaps, and lay them out on the underside of your headband. Draw around them so you can remember the placement. Heat up a section, then cut an "X" where the snap will go. Use your knife to peel the edges up and off the foam.

Now jam the snap in there. Fold over the Worbla, but press it down as flat as you can - you want to make sure the other half of the snap will still fit. Do one snap at a time.

Once they are all in place, let it cool down a little, then press the other halves of the snaps into place. This will ensure the Worbla cools down in the right shape.

WARNING: Applying heat to metal makes the metal very hot. These snaps are metal. I hope I don't need to explain any further.

The last step is to heat form the whole thing. Rest it on something with the right shape (I placed a piece of foam on my head then let it rest there) and wait for it to cool down.

And that's it! That's the base. Next up we'll be sealing and painting, and making the fabric component.

The idea behind the snaps is that you can make a different fabric component to attach to it. This headband would be fine for Naruto, Iruka, Kakashi, Shikamaru etc. Just swap em out!

18 Mar 2015

Hamilton Armageddon!

After so many late nights finishing off my PA Jane cosplay, it was awesome to finally bring it out at a con!

The convention started early for a lot of us with a picnic and photoshoot on Friday at the Hamilton Gardens.

I pulled out my Season 4 Korra for the occasion. The shoes are now more durable (ADOS instead of hot glue) and I've weathered the garments a little more.

Here are my favourite photos from the day!

Photo credit: Dan Hardwick

Photo credit: NichelleMedia Photography

Staying in Tauranga meant getting up early and driving to Hamilton in the morning, but with Courtney of Sparky Cosplay, one and a half hours passed almost too quickly!

We had about 15 minutes at the actual event before running out to our group photoshoot at the gardens. There are so many different kinds of scenes, it was easy to find a setting for all of our characters.

The four of us - Kealy-Ann, Brooke, Courtney, and I - had Cyren from Pixiscene Cosmedia as our photographer. We all got some really incredible shots! Here are my favourites.

Our full group!

After the photoshoot, we headed back to Claudelands Arena to experience the rest of the con, which included the Cosplay parade, and buying excessive amounts of merchandise!

The next day Courtney brought out Six Tails from Naruto, and I was Korra (season 4) again.

Hamilton Armageddon certainly has a different atmosphere to Auckland. There is a greater percentage of people cosplaying, and it's easier to run into friends! I had such a fantastic time, and bought a whole lot of merchandise.

The competition had only a small amount of contestants compared to last year. Most of them being our friends, we got a lot of cheering done. Our voices were hoarse by the end!

By the end of it all everyone was already making excited plans for Wellington Armageddon. I'm going to be making my Witch King costume for the competition, and on one of the other days I'll be wearing PA Jane. So that leaves one day where I will most likely be Korra - only, which Korra? There are a fair few months to decide, but I might be making something new....again!