Wednesday 30 July 2014

NärCon 2014 - Duo Performance

Hi everyone! I'm back from Närcon, that was organized in Linköping, Sweden. Because the convention lasted a total of 4 days, I decided to write about my experience in two parts. The first part is about travelling there on Thursday and our Duo Performance on stage! All photos are taken by Cidi unless otherwise told.


Our flight to Sweden was so early, that we had to travel to Southern Finland on Wednesday. I started my trip straight after work, when I took a train to Jyväskylä. From there we got on bus with Minorea and traveled to Helsinki. Because we were staying at a friend's, we had to take the train once again from Helsinki to Riihimäki. :--D

When we got there, it was already 11pm and we were super tired because both of us had tried to finish our costumes in time. But no, it wasn't enough and we had lots of sewing ahead of us. We kept working on our cosplays until 4am and managed to sleep about 1,5 hours that night...

In the morning our friend took us to the airport by car and we met there with Satu of Uruhara FC and Cidi of Exciter's Momentum. ^_^ Because our props were pretty huge pieces of wood I used an old trick - my guitar bag! It works very well for carrying big vulnerable items. I couldn't fit it in completely, so I protected the rest of my scythe with foam. To my fortune an old friend from school was working at the airport and I got my guitar bag in as special baggage. It got carried on the airplane more carefully and our props got to Sweden undamaged.

From Arlanda airport in Stockholm we took the Arlanda Express train that takes about 20 minutes to the centrum. From there we found really easily the Närcon bus and our trip to Linköping began! It took about 3 hours to get there, but the trip was nice. A person working for Närcon was with us and we played funny games and were amazed by his magic. xD

When we arrived to Närcon we met Päivi of Uruhara FC and then hurried to our hotel by a taxi. Our hotel, Elite Stora Hotellet Linköping, was about 4 kilometers away from the university area, but it was really nice! It was in the middle of the city and looked gorgeous. The rooms were high, all the room numbers were hand painted on the walls and our room was really spacious with comfy beds. The room didn't have air-conditioning, but we could open the windows and walk on the roof under our window. We could also see some pretty church towers from the window. And the breakfast... oh, it was the best breakfast I've ever had at a hotel! They had everything from blue cheese to different kinds of melons and pancakes to smoothies. <3 From the hotel we either walked or took a taxi or a bus to Närcon depending on how tired we were and how high heels we had. xD

Duo Performance - Preparation

When we arrived to NärCon, the first thing we did after getting our tickets was registering to the cosplay contest. This  happened in the cosplay workshop, a classroom with sewing machines, needles, hot-glue guns and pretty much everything you might need in making cosplay. It was both good and bad thing - our cosplays got rescued by all the stuff they had, but some people seemed to spend their whole weekend there... Finishing their costumes at the con. I hope they didn't miss the whole event because of it, I didn't see their costumes even on Sunday...

Uruhara FC putting my cosplay together while Minorea's posing for the camera.
In the middle of our last-minute sewing we had to run to the stage and do our rehearsal. It went pretty well expect that I broke my prop during it! After that we hurried back to the cosplay workshop to get our costumes on before judging. We would have never been on time for the judging if Satu and Päivi hadn't helped us. You have no idea how grateful I am for all your help! I seriously felt like crying the whole time you were helping us, and I told Minorea that I'm gonna cry the moment I get off the stage because I'm so moved about their help. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! We would have never been able to make it if you hadn't been there for us <3

"Mistress will be very pleased."
I'm so offended!
Duo Performance - Judging

(c) David Johansson
The judging went quite well in my opinion. The judges didn't really look at our cosplays. They asked us to tell something about the costume (i.e. material choices, making etc.) and what kind of things we're proud of. We told them we made our props from wood because we're going to use them for real and they need to be made from material that doesn't break from one hit.

(c) David Johansson
(c) David Johansson
I still need to do many changes to the costume because I run out of time. For example the underskirt is not even with the dress! And I need to do some slight edits to the wig too.  I was also mad at myself, because in the hurry I had forgotten my headband at the hotel. Luckily that was the only piece missing in my cosplay! Next time I'll have everything with me.. :D Other than that I'm happy with our costumes and performance! We asked the judges if we could get feed-back on our costumes and performance after the contest. They seemed rather surprised, but told us that it's possible. I'm waiting for their answer now~

Duo Performance - On Stage!

It was time for us to gather to the backstage and get ready for the performances to begin. The performance contests were the last part of the NärCon opening ceremony, so there were a lot of people following it. With just 1,5 hours of sleep I didn't really realize what was going on, so I didn't feel too nervous. First they had Solo Performances, and after that started our Duo round. I just got on stage and started to do what I was supposed to do. When Minorea got on stage I saw nothing but her and felt super good being on stage. Especially when the adrenaline started to flow and both of us looked like we're going to kill each other! xD I broke my scythe completely, it's missing about 5cm from the tip and it has a few other cracks. It was totally worth it and many people asked afterwards if we were supposed to break our weapons, because it looked cool. "Way to go girls!!" was the first comment I got after getting off the stage. Even though I forgot one knee kick and did a really sloppy kick instead I'm happy about our performance.

(c) David Johansson
And one more shot of the very same scene.. This one seemed to be popular. :D Photo (c) Emma Andersson
On the video our performance starts at about 1:16:00.

A couple of broken props and enormous amount of bruises left us very pleased with our performance - and hungry for some more. I bet you'll see more of Tentacle Girls on stage in the future. :D

Monday 21 July 2014

Maid from the Netherworld - WIP

Närcon is getting closer, we're travelling there next Thursday. It's the first time I'm going to a cosplay convention outside Finland so I'm excited to see what's it like. We originally planned to go there to cheer on Päivi from Uruhara FC, but I ended up registering me and Minorea for Närcon's Cosplay Group Performance contest.. whoops! The contest is on Thursday, the 1st day of the con.

So, as I earlier revealed I'm going to cosplay Airi from Queen's Blade. I'm usually really shy about showing lots of skin, but it's starting to look like that as long as I'm going to compete with the costume, I can wear revealing cosplays... So Närcon's visitors are going to get some pantsu shots, wohoo!

I was the most worried about the scythe, but luckily we got help from a carpenter that Minorea knows. He let us use his tools and told us what to do with them so we wouldn't hurt ourselves. I used to study woodwork for 6 years in elementary and junior high school, so it was really fun to work with something like this after such many years (and with better tools too). I added details from Apoxie Sculpt and started the paint work. :3

It... it looks like a scythe! So pretty!
Sculpting the handle. I used Apoxie Sculpt because it's so handy! It's really soft to sculpt and dries in air in about 2-3 hours. It gets really hard and after that you can sand it, saw it or drill it! :) It also gets attached to pretty much anything, which is why I covered the scythe with sticky-backed plastic.
The handle is drying. I had to balance it with a cutting board (that I made in elementary school ;D).
The sticky-backed plastic worked and I could remove the handle! Yaaay! Now I can separate the prop into smaller pieces for easier transport. ^_^
Sanding the handle.
Priming paint!
Spray painted scythe. After it dries I will add darker paint to the edges for more contrast.
I also got the wig and cut the bangs right away. It was harder to get the piggy tails done than I expected, but they look rather nice. I still need to make the small tufts on top of them and add some fibers to the back side. But it's nice and red, red is always good! <3

Make up test.. I think I look really scary (and cross-eyed) like this! xD But Minorea told me it looks cute, lol.
The dress itself is more complex to make since I still have no idea how to sew clothes. I've managed to make the skirt and cut out all the fabrics. There's so much ruffles and little details everywhere, even though I thought it's a simple costume to make. Oh noes! Currently I feel like the time is running out and I even sewed at work at the hotel reception... orz

It's still not finished, but looking good so far! The last time I attempted a puffed sleeve it looked.. not so puffed. But this time I edited the pattern and it came out just perfect <3 Also, a piece of my ruffles..
I've never done a ribbon before, but it turned out pretty~
The underskirt weights a ton alone. It's going to be so hot wearing this costume... T__T
My cosplay at work. I didn't notice one customer coming to the reception and had to show him what I'm sewing. xD
I still feel kind of positive that I'll finish the costume in time, even though I had only one day off from work in two weeks before a convention. I have to say I'm really looking forward to finishing the costume and the contest, our performance is going to be awesome because our audio is great already (so great that even neighbours came to the backyard to see what the hell we are doing). x3

My little helper got tired of all the pieces of fabric and ruffles.

Tuesday 8 July 2014

Birth of a Kitsune

I got the honor to build a realistic fox/kitsune fursuit partial to Stanfar. The character is called Saki and I was excited to make the head when he asked me. I've never built a fox before so I started my work with a few quick realistic sketch studies. I used some Google image search results as references. Unfortunately I lost the sketch paper so I couldn't take a picture of it. xD

Character (c) Stanfar, Picture (c) Nautilusta
This time too I started to build the head in a slightly new way, and I think this is the best way I've built a base so far. I think I'll stick with it in the future too! At first I couldn't find the right shape at all, but eventually I had a fox base in my hands.

I had fun with sculpting the details, those are my favourite parts when making fursuits. I used resin eyes from my earlier cast (the same eyes were used for Lei's head) and hand painted them with acrylic Game Colours. I love the result and the colour! It stands out so nicely from the black fur. ^_^ The nose was a bit harder for me to sculpt, but I think it looks nice anyway. I used Apoxie Sculpt for it - a very handy material that dries in the air. And I also sculpted something I'm really proud of - a realistic canine jaw set! The upper jaw is only partial because the teeth won't be visible despite the front teeth and canines. I think they look really nice and they match perfectly! The brown paint around the gums make them more realistic. I also added some gloss to them for the effect of saliva.

I glued the sculpted parts on the head with hot glue. The ears are not yet attached.

I have now figured out how furring the head is easiest to do, and I thought about sharing pictures of the process in case you are curious how I do it!

1. First I wrap the head in cling film. Many other fursuit artists don't do this, but it makes things a lot easier! It prevents the tape from tearing the foam and when you cut out the patterns the tape won't tangle with itself and all the fur. Remember to leave the mouth open, especially if you are building a moving jaw!

2. Next wrap the head with duct tape. I've found it's the best tape for this since it stays in shape and is easiest to attach evenly. But in this case, as you can see, I run out of duct tape and had to use packing tape for the rest of the head. It works just fine. :) You can also leave the nose and the eyes without tape, but I find it easier to cut those part out later.

3. Draw the fur patterns on the head. I draw lines for different coloured markings and also different fur fabrics (in this the slim pieces on the cheeks are for long pile fur, the rest for short pile). Also draw the fur direction with small arrows. You don't want the fur to go to the wrong direction or the head will look funny! If you're not sure which way the fur should go, look at pictures of real animals. They'll help you out! :)

4. Cut out the patterns! They don't look like anything after you've cut them out, but believe me, this will work out.. :D

5. Now you have to copy the patterns on your faux fur fabric. I usually use chalk for this. Because the base is not flat you will have to make small cuts to the round parts so that the pattern will lay flat. For this head I had to cut the face pattern in half for the best result. Remember to check the fur direction on your patterns and the fur fabric before drawing!!!

6. Check for the 10th time that the fur is going to the right direction before cutting out your pieces of fabric! Carpet knife is the best for this. If you cut with scissors you will damage the fur and get some ugly edges.

7. Time to vacuum-clean! At the factory they cut the fur fabrics and leave a lot of loose hair on them. If you look at the edge of the fabric you can see how damaged the edges are. That's why you don't want to cut your patterns straight from the edge.

8. Next you should sew the patterns together. I know everyone doesn't do this, but believe me - you'll enjoy your fursuit head a lot longer if you sew the parts together instead of just gluing them down. The end result is a hood that you can just pull over your base. I usually leave the hood open from below the jaw so the fur is easier to get on the head.

Finished hood, all patterns sewn together.
I tested the hood on the base before gluing.

9. Use hot glue to glue the fabric on your base. Be careful around the edges (lips, eyes and nose). By folding the fur just a little bit and gluing it down doubled over makes the edge look nice and clean.

10. Time to trim! I use a simple pet trimmer to get fur on the face trimmed down. I see many artists trimming with scissors, but I don't find the result as smooth as with a trimmer. If you have not trimmed before, you should try it on a small piece of fur first before attacking the head. If your trimmer goes to the wrong angle it might damage the fur and leave bald spots on your fursuit - no one wants that (but it does happen even after some experience with the trimmer..)! The trimmers have different kind of blades for different lenghts of furs, so you can switch them as you trim shorter and shorter. I only have one metal blade with mine and the plastic ones just won't work with faux fur, so I start with a 1-3mm blade right away. It only means you need to be more careful. :D I usually trim the head 4-5 times.

After the first trim.
Trimming in progress. The fur hasn't been glued down around the edges (eyes, lips and nose) yet because it's easier when the fur is shorter. And yes, you'll need to keep your vacuum cleaner close by!
11. This is optional, but I think it makes the head's features more expressive - time to airbrush or paint! I use acrylic paints and paint brushes for small details. For lighter fur colours I would add more details, but for black fur the amount of details is quite limited. In this case I can just make the line between white and black smoother. Later, after I took pictures just before shipping Saki to his new owner, I noticed I should have added more shadow to the white part of the fur. The white part stands out so much that the muzzle looks really long even when it's not, oh noes! ;__;

After this I added the neck piece and the head was finished! I realized the snout is too low and the head is not completely symmetric. I think the head looks more like a wolf than a fox because I underestimated the thickness of the faux fur fabric (again). This means that even though the base looked good, the fur made it bolder and the more delicate look of a fox disappeared. I like the over all look of this head, but there are still many things I'd like to change. Maybe I'll do those little changes when I see the head next time in a fur meet. ;)

If you have some other comments or critique, feel free to write them! I'm always looking to improve and receiving critique is the best way to notice my mistakes. ^_^

The insides of the ears and the tongue are made from fleece. I dry-brushed them with acrylic colours.

When the head was finished all I had to do is make hand paws and a tail for the partial fursuit. :)

Close up on how the paw pads are sewn on. It's not the prettiest option, but more durable than other techniques I've tried.
Doesn't the paw look adorable in this picture?!
This is the biggest and fluffiest tail I've ever made! I love it so much I wanted to keep it for myself!
Have fun with your first fursuit, Stanfar! ^_^

Olia just had to photobomb this time too. "Rawr! The kitsune has little dogs for breakfast!"