A Note about Streampunk

Hello All,

With the house and yard starting to shape itself up, let’s turn for a post to another topic.  I have been slowly looking at and buying pieces to build my steampunk botanist. I mean, what the point of building up this plant nursery without a mistress to run it?

The basic idea behind steampunk is the product of a particular sect of the Science Fiction community. It is largely based in the Victorian Era, but with a kind of industrial revolution feel to it. It is largely got a technological feel, with the brass and gears, but with the values, and social “settings” (if you will) of the 1800s. Think the Sherlock Holmes Movies. Or League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Or Jules Verne books.

I spent a lot of time researching not only the culture, but how to build these costumes. I spent a lot of time trying to decide what exactly I might want. I thought about sewing it, and my momma and I talked about it in-depth. We looked at patterns and at prices for material. Eventually, we decided that it would be best (and cheaper in the long run) to just piece it together with pre-made costumes pieces, then possibly make the accessories. And so I decided to that, to me, the essence of the costume came down to three things. I knew I wanted a corset, a bustle skirt, and a headpiece of some sort. I just figured that if I’m going to do this, I want to do it all out. I want the costume pieces to be big and period specific. I mean, when I watch historical movies or shows, I spend more time paying attention to the costumes then the actually plot. (It drives GL crazy :P) I wanted my color palette to be greens and browns in varying shades. It speaks to the profession of my character, who would naturally be very in touch with the earth as a botanist. I wanted some subtle patterns, maybe slightly mismatched. Lots of rich fabric, lots of layers.

Well… I have the basics of the costume worked out now. I already had these brown boots with buckles that I knew would suit the theme, so I started with them. The first thing I ordered was a skirt piece with a bustle on the back. I was super excited, but it turned out that it left a very significant gap on one side that was not “family friendly,” for lack of a better term. I fixed that problem with a modern green maxi skirt. It gives it that pop of green I really wanted. My shirt was actually a homemade piece from another costume that Mom and I had made a few years ago (pirates… yo ho ho!). After searching for quite a while, I finally found a corset I was happy with on eBay. It is a under-bust, with rich brown texture. Best part was already embellished, so less work for me! Here is what I got so far!

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Quite Happy so Far

I am still looking for the perfect headpiece. Everything I have seen has been more expensive than I wanted, so I have a feeling Mom and I will be building a little while I am down south visiting. Sounds like fun to me. 🙂

Cheers,

BG

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DIY: What’s your Sign?

Hello All,

Ok… this project is slightly more involved, but I LOVE it because it is a method that you can use for anything (and not just Halloween)! In fact, I used it  to make these shields that hang outside my house. They are painted with the Scottish Seals for the three clans Green Lantern and I descend from!

Anywoo. Let’s get to it.

The first thing you need is wood for your sign. If you are comfortable using powertools, feel free to cut it into the shape you want. Since my hubby doesn’t trust me with a saw (and probably for good reason since I can barely operate a kitchen knife :P) I bought my wood pre-cut from a craft store. I left my wood raw because I want it to wear while it’s outside, but you could stain it if you want here.

The next step takes place on the computer. Figure out what you want your signs to say, or what design you want on them. I used Adobe Illustrator to create and manipulate type, but you could even use office just to type out fonts or use clipart. I chose a font with an old-world, steampunk-y kind of feel. Make sure that whatever you are using has thick clear lines that will be easier to follow during the transfer step. You might want to double check the measurements of your sign to make sure everything is sized appropriately. When you are satisfied, print it out. This becomes your stencil.

I like to cut down the excess paper from the stencil so I can place it better on the sign. Flip it over, and using a pencil, color over the back side of the words. DO NOT do this on top of the wood sign! You will end up with shadows of backwards letters on the sign… not the best effect. 🙂 You might have to do a couple of layers to get a good solid color. Place the stencil on the sign and tape it in place when you are satisfied with the placement.

Stencil in Place for Tracing!

Stencil in Place for Tracing!

Now you trace. In the case of my letters, which are thick, I did the outside of the letter, and the inside to create the internal spaces. When you press down on the top of the image with the point of your pencil, the graphite from the back with make a shadow print on the wood. Make sure you get all the lines!! There is nothing worse then picking up the paper and realizing you missed a section! Once you get through all of that, you can pull the paper stencil off and throw it. You will have a perfect guide on your wood to follow.

It will be light, but if you look closely, you can see my graphite guide!

It will be light, but if you look closely, you can see my graphite guide!

Now the fun part…. Painting! Depending on the size of your sign, the size of your brush could change. Since I had a lot of little details, I chose a small flat brush. Depending on how intricate you design is, it may take you a while to paint. I did three signs spread over a couple of days just because I didn’t want to rush it, and because I was working on other projects.

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If you are making a normal sign, that’s it! Go you! For me, I wasn’t quite done. Obviously my plants are carnivorous… They kill things. SO… I needed a little blood. Using red paint, I applied it with a combination of two ways. The first was spatter painting. I used a paintbrush (but a toothbrush would work better) and ran my finger across it quickly across the bristles while pointing it down. Very easy. After I was satisfied with the amount of splatter, I got a bit more hands on. I actually painted parts of my hand to leave prints and drags across the signs. It really gave it that Halloween feel I was looking for. 🙂

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Bloody Good!

The last thing is deciding how your sign will be displayed. The first was easy for me. I attached it to a yard stake which I got from the hardware store. The other sign, which I intend to hang, was a little more tricky. Luckily my next door neighbors are good sports, and he handled the hardware. Basically we used a long piece of chain (also from the hardware store) and screwed it into the back of the signs. Each sign (since it is two hanging together) has four points on the back where a screw is attached through a link in the chain. We left the top long so I could hang it from the ceiling of my porch. Here the finished products!

Hanging and Stake Garden Signs for my Evil Botanical Babies <3

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Back to work I go!

Cheers,

BG

DIY: The “Eyes” have it!

Hello All,

I had a big photography project come through so I got a little behind on my Halloween Projects. But never fear! I’m back at it and working like crazy! As the inside of my house slowly transforms, I am getting the outdoor themed stuff made as quickly as possible. Which leads us to the DIY for today.

Way too pretty to be in my  nursery right now!

Way too pretty to be in my nursery right now!

Now, as a reminder, we are working with this steampunk botanist theme, so obviously what I needed was some mutated plants. Because I don’t want them to all be mutated the same way, obviously I still have some work ahead of me. But the first mutation is super quick and easy!

So I found some eyeballs at my local craft store. Already painted, bloodshot and red on the back, and just perfect for what I was needing.

After clearing out the clearance rack of flowers, I chose the sets of flowers that DO NOT have a visible center (i.e. not the daisies or cornflowers). I peeled the petals so they would not be in the way, covered the back of my eyeball in hot glue, and pressed them directly into the center. After letting it dry for a couple of minutes, I pulled the petals back so they would cup around the eyeball, making it look like it was growing out of the plant. It is THAT easy. Can you believe it? Here it is in a couple of different flower options.

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So obviously I am using this for my themed house, but it has the versatility of being used in a number of situations. Centerpiece for a halloween table? Check. Being a ghoulish bride for your party? Wrap some green floral tape around a few different types and make yourself a bouquet. Be creative and have fun with it!

Anyway… back to work I go. Still lots to make!

Cheers,

BG

DIY: My New Pet Spider

Hello all,

This is a super easy DIY I made for Halloween. And trust me, after I week I had, I needed to do something a little different. Not that I don’t love editing pictures and wandering in and out of doctor’s offices, but  seriously… I needed a project that I could do in a splint. This one is quick and fun, and I think will look great outside.

I got the idea from Pinterest of course, though mine process was a little different. The link to the original is here. But the basic process follows.

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the “ingredients” so-to-speak

I got a spider that was a little too big so that I could make it look like it was trying to escape. He also has creepy light up eyes; I thought it would be a nice touch on Halloween night. I took two black wire baskets and hot glued them together around the spider. I brought out fishing wire to tie it together, but ended up not using it. The hot glue really did the trick for me.

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Hot Glue… and a lot of it

After that, I took a section of pre-made spider web that you can find in pretty much any store with a Halloween section and wrapped the baskets in it. Now I did it a few times before deciding exactly what I wanted. I really pulled it apart so it would be thin enough to see through. Once I got it to the consistency I was happy with, I hot glued it in just a few spots to hold it in place. All it leaves me to do is attach a chain to hang it from once I finally get to a hardware store!

My Finished Product

My Finished Product

Done and Done! Nice to feel like I got something accomplished at least. Little victories.

Cheers,

BG

Boxes of Parts and Doodles on a Page

Hey All,

So. An update on the Halloween Happenings around here. Even though I have been SUPER busy, (My first Dance Showcase is THIS WEEK…. insert hyperventilating noises here) I have managed to get some work done. It’s really a good thing I decided to document it here… it’s keeping me motivated. lol.

My little orange helper... my kitten Ivy

My little orange helper… my kitten Ivy

We had three boxes and a tupperware hidden around the house with our existing Halloween decorations.It took me a while to find them, but once I did, I split them between three big bins. I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t kinda excited about it. Some of this stuff I hadn’t seen in years; Donations from my Momma, Phoenix,  who was more then happy to give them to me since she mostly just decorated when I was young to appease us kids. It brought up for me little waves of warm recollection as I slowly unpacked the little pieces of my childhood…. but that is a completely beside the point.

What I was really trying to do was separate the stuff out into categories. The first bin was for stuff that didn’t fit the theme. Basically that will just end up being the stuff I used to decorate the house. The second was for stuff that was usable, and not in need of any alterations. Things like the fog machine, the big fake spider, plastic skulls, the cobweb-y cloth, etc. The last bin was for stuff that needs to be edited or fixed up. The pieces and parts, if you will. There wasn’t a whole lot of that to begin with, but Green Lantern and I have buying little things here and there to add to it. You know… fun stuff like body parts, pots and silk flowers for my soon-to-be mutated plants, ping pong balls which will become eyeballs, and baskets which will soon become the cage for my new “pet.” So excited. 🙂

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Two of the Sorted Bins… Sans Ivy

The other things I have been doing with my time is sketching. Lots and lots of sketching. I think that is the graphic artist in me. We were taught in design school to make thumbnails or draw out our ideas so we can get a clear picture of where we are going. I have never really let that go. I was a sketcher from way back anyway, so it just helps me clear my head of all the jumbled mess of ideas I have for this. Likewise… I would like to make a note and say I love Pinterest for this. It has give me a great inspiration for what kind of creepy contraptions to build. More excitement.

At Phoenix’s suggestion, I am entertaining the idea of just building my shop outside of the house and not a real and actual “haunted house” in the garage like Green Lantern and I had originally planned. The point is that I probably just don’t need as much space as we needed for our original theme. So I have played around with layout a little, and have in place a working vision of what I think I would like it to look like. I think it might still be a little ambitious… but what is life without a little risk, right? Maybe I won’t get all the way there… but I will have fun trying anyway.

An Early Concept. Don't want to give it all away!

An Early Concept. Don’t want to give it all away!

So I’m not expecting to have any updates on this for a little while. It is gonna be a killer week (which I might feel the need to comment on later), and my focus is going to be entirely on work and dance. However, I am hoping to maybe have a project to talk about next time. Way cooler, right? Have a good week everyone!

Cheers,

BG

The City of Shifting Lights

Hello All,

Today I am missing Europe. It has been months now since we moved back to the states. Enough time that I am starting to feel like I can’t say I JUST moved here from Germany anymore. And maybe it’s just because of the deployment, but all I want to do right now is hop on a plane and travel somewhere. Specifically on my mind right now? Scotland.

I got behind on my blogs last year during the summer, so there was a whole set of stories I never got to tell you guys. I have saved them up, and I hope someday to get to all of them. Maybe I will someday. But It was a year ago today that Green Lantern and I were wandering around the city of Edinburgh. I didn’t know or understand at the time how much that one trip would change everything. Melodramatic? Maybe. But I would be hate myself if I didn’t say that there was something about this city that spoke to me in a way that most other cities did not.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

When we stepped out of the airport… It felt different to me. Like… immediately, but in a way I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Later I realized that Edinburgh was a city built for people like me. It is home to brilliant writers… artists… actors. People who value tradition. People who believe in a little magic, and even some people who were not afraid to cause mayhem and create a colorful and interesting history. Robert Louis Stevenson. Alexander Graham Bell. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. All of these men came from Edinburgh. Even Harry Potter’s J.K. Rowling got her inspiration for Hogwarts within the borders of the city. It is a wondrous place drenched in History, and I wanted more than anything to immediately be part of it.

The First thing we did off the plane (after dropping our stuff in the hotel) was visit the Edinburgh Dungeons. I’m not going to go into excruciating detail about it, because the concept is the same as the passage I wrote when Green Lantern and I visited London. If you want to read about that, the link is here. I will say, however that I enjoyed it just as immensely as I did in London, and have a great love for the Scottish-specific pieces of history lodged there. My favorite sections were Sawney Bean (He was the head of a 48 person clan who lived in the caves near Bennane Head. He and his inherently incestuous family would capture travelers off the road, dismember them, and eat them.) and Burke and Hare (Whose story I will explain later). I was so interested in the subject matter, that I have since read a few books about it. Knowledge is power I guess. 🙂

That night we realized that we were visiting Edinburgh during an amazing time. It had literally become the crowning jewel of festivals. Obviously the big thing that was going on was the military tattoo, which were so disappointed about not being able to get tickets to. However, what little bit we saw at night as they marched out of Edinburgh Castle was enough for my Lantern and I to look at each other and promise we would come back someday to actually see it. But that was just the start of what we saw. There was an open market for crafters and artists selling their wares… a book and writers festival… and of course the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which is an ode to all things comedic and dramatic. There were performances in the street, and special venues with events all over the city. It was can’t miss.

The following day, Green Lantern and I visited the Edinburgh Castle, St. Giles Cathedral and a few other of the historical churches, the Royal Mile, the Writer’s Museum, and the Queen’s Gallery at Holyrood. I could go on for days… literally days about all of the things we saw and did that day. Green Lantern and I were in love with everything we saw. The castle was beautiful, with so much to do and see. We spent the whole morning there before we ever moved on. We had pictures taken in traditional Scottish clothing taken on the Royal Mile that I look at fondly whenever I am on the stairs in my house. Everything was just beautiful and so full of history and life… I was drunk on it.

Something else really interesting happened while we were visiting, but that needs a little extra explanation. You see my Lantern is actually Scottish on both sides and from too different clans. I am way more of a “cultural mutt” if you will; However, I do have a strand of Scot-Irish that runs through my mother’s side. The strangest part of being in Scotland was seeing the natives in Edinburgh. Everywhere I looked I could see the similarities on my own husband’s face. It was as if those men across the street where his brothers, or those old men sitting in the pub were his uncles. Good to know I suppose, if we ever decide to have kids, that the Scottish gene is so strong. 😉

My favorite part of this day though was the ghost hunting tour. Maybe it sounds a little silly, but I begged Green Lantern to take me on a tour. Edinburgh is considered by some to be one of the most haunted cities in the world, and I have always been fascinated by stories about paranormal activity. It started when I was very young. They say that everyone has a certain degree of sensitivity to things that they can’t see… and I do believe that. I have been prone to boughs of deja vu, displaced and odd feelings (that later corresponded to times of events that changed my life), and dreams that come true are things that I have been privy to since I was a child. It was so interesting to see and explore pieces of the underground city which claimed so many lives years and years ago, and then conclude the tour wandering through the Greyfrairs Kirkyard Cemetery at midnight. You could definitely feel an energy there. It is said to be the home of the Mackenzie Poltergeist; a particularly violent entity who tends to pick one person in the group and terrorize them. The reports say that people have experienced everything from cold spots to unexplained bruises or scratches to being knocked unconscious.  I would never tell someone what to believe; It is simply not my style. But I will say that when the environment is right, it’s easy to feel like there is something else out there.

Home of the Mackenzie Poltergeist

Home of the Mackenzie Poltergeist

The next day we visited the National Museum of Scotland, Holyrood Palace, and Mary King’s Close. We used a hop on/hop off bus tour to get around it was fabulous. We learned so much history there that we hadn’t gotten anywhere else and it was a blast. I found the tour of Holyrood particularly interesting. Maybe it’s a little morbid, but I was fascinated by the story of Mary Queen of Scots. The story goes that Mary had a private secretary named David Rizzio. Mary’s husband at the time, Lord Darnley, was jealous of the friendship and was convinced that Rizzio was the Queen’s lover. On March 9th, 1566, David Rizzio was stabbed over 50 times and  murdered in the presence of the pregnant queen while in the palace. You can still see the bloodstains on the floor. How chilling is that?

Another cool thing that Green Lantern and I did that day actually had to do with the pub we ate lunch in. The name of the pub was the White Hart Inn and it is one of the oldest businesses in the city. It is located in the Grassmarket, where the public hangings used to be held, and has been operating since the 1600s. It was also the pub where the infamous serial killers William Burke and William Hare found their victims. The West Port murders, as they were called at the time, took place in the 1828. They killed 16 people and sold the bodies to a doctor who used them as cadavers in a prominent medical school of the time.

The White Hart Inn

The White Hart Inn

We had enough time on our last day to hit the Edinburgh Zoo before we left for the airport. It was a wonderful zoo, well planned and with a wide variety of animals. The pregnant panda was the bug news of the day, and we did get to her. As we made our way to the airport, I remember being quiet and lost in my thoughts. It was one of the few places I was overwhelmingly sad to leave. I had told Green Lantern early in the trip that I thought we should retire there, and I was only half kidding. I was positive I could work in the Edinburgh Dungeons and just be blissfully happy for the rest of my days. We both agreed though as we boarded the plane that we should have taken longer than a four-day weekend to explore. What about the Highlands? What about Loch Ness? I think we could have spent weeks exploring and it wouldn’t have been enough for us. It is one of my dearest wishes that someday we will go back. Maybe a 10 year anniversary? I’m looking at you GL! 😛

I spent the weeks that following the trip full of inspiration. I wrote. I mean, really wrote for the first time in years. I went back and researched the culture and the stories I had heard during our visit. I tried to become more in touch with the roots I knew I had from Scotland. The legends and myths of the early religions even made their way into my Necronomicon reproduction. I wish that I still had that magic streak that Edinburgh gave me. I wish I could wander those gorgeous streets again. I wish I could sketch in the castle from the park surrounded by flowers, or write quietly in one of the pubs in the early afternoon. I find myself, even now, so completely taken by Wanderlust and the ease of travel that here in the states I sometimes feel isolated. I would even say it’s alienating, especially since my Lantern left for his deployment. Let’s hope that when he finally finds his way home again, he is just as ready to pack a bag and run away for a while as I am.

Cheers,

BG