Aug 272013
 

Hey everybody following the group. I wanted to take a little time to throw something out while I’m working on the next prop.

 

Also classes started and I’m trying to learn a new language and things are a little nuts. That said, I wanted to talk about aesthetic. Yeah, I know, engineer talking about something that doesn’t have to do with function. I’m kinda bad in that regard. Just ask Yami about anything where we try to decorate.

To start off with, I want everyone to go ahead and listen to this:

 

If this isn’t new to you, then either you’ve tried to shop for props online or you’ve seen Yami post about it. Now, it’s not saying that it’s bad to HAVE gears on things. In fact, one of the bigger prop builds I’ll be starting in a couple of weeks might have some visible gears in places. But the thing about THAT is that it’s going to be a mostly mechanical prop and the gears kinda give it a look akin to some pocket watches. You can see that back of them and watch all the little pieces move and appreciate the work that must have gone into making it.

Look at all the little gears!

Look at all the little gears!

And that’s what I mean by aesthetic. I want to give off a particular idea and I pick things that’ll help it along. While costumes are the foundation on which a character or persona is built, the props are the extra touches that make them more original and unique. Anyone can wear a top hat, but it takes a special sort of character to have moving bits on it for a theme. Hmm….maybe that should be it’s own post. Tell you what, anyone reading this, tell me a couple of themes you’d like to see props for and I’ll make, find, and describe what I can about it and maybe help people along! If it gets good enough, it might become it’s own segment I’ll do bi-weekly.

Thanks for watching and look out next time when I put on some brainy specs and talk about science!

Not shown: Fight with steampunk Cyberking. Seriously, that was a thing. Go look it up.

 

Aug 252013
 

Hey guys and gals. Chaos here.

 

Now, I know this is usually where Yami does her costuming segment, but she’s been a bit under the weather, so you get a double douse of me this week. I’m sure you’re all excited.

Alright, so not exactly excited, but at least I’ll give ya something interesting and helpful. I’m going to talk about Men’s costumes. More accurately, I’m going to talk about how comfortable the ‘Dress’ clothing for Men’s Steampunk costumes can be a pain or completely comfortable all depending on getting properly measured.

 

So, I recently got married to the love of my life…which is something I’d do again in a heartbeat. Granted, I would have hired a wedding planner to deal with a LOT of the details, but I’d do it again. The one thing that stood out to me was getting fitted for a tuxedo. Now, prior to this, I was generally of the impression that there’s a degree of discomfort tied to almost all dress clothing. They’re always stiff in the shoulders and generally not something you’d wear longer than you have to, which was what I was expecting when I tried on my tux on the day of the wedding. To my surprise…it fit fine. I could move pretty well, and there wasn’t the usual stiff points that I had been expecting and outside of the shoes (Which I swear were made of special sore-causing plastic) it was really comfortable.

So let that be a lesson to you. You CAN wear Steampunk men’s wear and still be comfortable…though you may want to look out for being outside for long periods of time in the summer depending on where you are. Those outfits were not meant to breath very well.

This is Chaos, wishing you all well and hoping you have fun.

Aug 232013
 

Welcome to a new feature! I hinted about this obliquely before the haitus, but basically, Radiant Vanguard Events are going to be totally irregular features in which we, the members of Radiant Vanguard, try something new or interesting and then blog about it. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Mostly I wanted to give Kae something to write about between convention trips; we do interesting things all the time, but rarely write about them afterward. So! Without further ado, I introduce the first Event: Elegant Evening Elixers!

As you can probably tell, this has something to do with alcohol! In fact, the event involves authentic cocktails from the 1860s: specifically, producing and imbibing them, with commentary. It should be a lot of fun! Of course, myself being who I am, I’m going to write about the preparations one can consider when attempting to put on such an event.

The drinks

Obviously, the star of the show is going to be the drinks. We found a digital copy of
How to Mix Drinks: Or, The Bon-vivant’s Companion, Containing Clear and Reliable Directions for Mixing All the Beverages Used in the United States, Together with the Most Popular British, French, German, Italian, Russian, and Spanish Recipes, Embracing Punches, Juleps, Cobblers, Etc., Etc., Etc., in Endless Variety by Jerry Thomas, publish date 1862, free and in the public domain online. There are apparently several editions of the book; it was originally titled The Bar-Tender’s Guide, as it was the first book of its kind, collecting and cataloging what had previously been an oral history of drink making. You can read more about Jerry Thomas on wikipedia.

With a source in hand, the next question is how to narrow the options down. It can be cost-effective to pick a single “base liquor” and pick cocktails based around that theme; we have chosen Brandy, as it is the alcohol most paired with Rum in the book, and we like rum. Rum, of course, was expensive at the time, since it had to be imported, so it was used for additional flavor rather than as the base to a given drink. Wine or cider were also used commonly as bases to drinks, since they were cheaply available as common drinks.

Do be careful, however, as the book itself is a product of its time period. I found the seeming unit of measurement “do.” repeated throughout the book and, after asking on Cooking Stack Exchange and discussing the book in chat, determined that it meant “ditto”, or in other words, repeat the measurement from the line above. Typographical errors are also common in the book, such as “Bogart’s bitters” for “Bokers bitters”, which are hard to spot when neither word is commonplace in today’s bar. Also be wary of ingredient changes; for example, “cider” before Prohibition always was a fermented product, as it is in the present-day UK, and not a juice like it often is in the US.

The music

While I quite like the cantina song from Star Wars, it’s a bit anachronistic. After a heated debate on whether “What Do You Do With a Drunken Sailor” counted as a drinking song, Chaos and I sat down and researched some proper Irish drinking songs to belt out at the table. Then promptly forgot how they went. But we did research!

Whiskey in the Jar is a classic drinking song from time immemorial, meaning probably the 17th century. It details a highwayman being double-crossed by his lover, and includes the singable refrain “Wack for my daddy-o, there’s whiskey in the jar”. It was recorded probably most famously by the Greatful Dead, who gave a happy ending to the highwayman:

But also by The Dubliners, who leave his fate more up in the air:

And by Metallica, who give him a poor ending:

None of the endings are any more canonical than others, as far as I can tell, so it’s up to you which lyrics you want to belt out drunkenly 🙂

The Juice of the Barley is another great song with one major drawback for American would-be revellers: the first line of the chorus is in Irish, which is practically unpronounceable unless you are a speaker of the tongue >.> Still, I quite like the twist ending. Here’s Sean Dunphy:

The Irish line translates to, roughly, “Cow’s milk for the calves”.

I must admit, however, that my favorite is The Wild Rover. Interestingly enough, it began life as a Temperance song, urging people to give up wild drinking and turn to the straight life, but today it’s apparently often considered the stereotypical irish drinking song. Go figure, eh? It’s as sing-alongable as The Juice of the Barley, but without the Irish, so easier for me to slur out:

Conclusion

There’s a lot more I could talk about here; for example, I’ve not touched on pub games any, but I think “Victorian Gaming Night” will be another event down the line, so I’m saving it for then. I’ve also not talked about food any; Kae has some ideas in that regard, but if it falls through, I don’t want to have promised anything.

Kae will be putting up photos and a podcast once he’s done editing them; we’ll be doing the actual event tomorrow, so certainly no earlier than Sunday and probably a few days later since podcast editing is hard work. Chaos says he might whip up some kind of post, so stay tuned for that. But basically, Events come with no promises of regularity, promptness, quality, or content 🙂 No refunds or exchanges allowed.

Aug 202013
 

Hi Everybody!

 

 

Alright, yeah, that’s a terrible joke that needed to have died a long time ago.

Anyway, Hey everyone. Chaos here with an interesting idea that’s blossoming into a segment to do between builds…or instead of builds if the only thing I have to say is “Yep, it’s still not quite done.” or “Dear God do I hate wiring things.” and believe me, this’ll be a good deal more entertaining too.

What is this new idea, you ask? Well, it’s going to be a mix of research, information, and a generous dash of my own random thoughts called “Chaos Theory”

 

…Look, it’s my blog space and I’ll call it whatever I want as long as it’s on topic.

It’s going to be a nice little blog post done about once or twice a month on a facet of the great fandom we’re all a part of: Steampunk.

Basically, I’ll be doing a little bit of science research to talk about Steampunk and the several things we all love, loath, or just find too interesting to look away from.  I’m hoping to make it informative, while still having a bit of fun with it.

So, I hope you’ll all join me on the first episode of Chaos Theory, where I’ll be going into the Steam Engine.

Aug 182013
 

The word “Magic” has many meanings.

The first meaning that comes to my mind, as a sometimes-pagan, is the ritual/spiritual meaning, the meaning my brain wants to call “real magic”. This meaning is all about power: Old Magic, or new Magic, or Majick; all about imposing your will on the world. In a sense, it’s about taking the desires and dreams in your head and making them manifest upon reality, making the impossible possible, kicking reason to the curb and piercing the heavens with the sheer might of your willpower. Mad science, the kind found in comic books, can be a kind of magic in this sense: the vehicle is different, the trappings are altered, but the end result is the same.

The second meaning is stage magic, prestidigitation. This meaning has little to do with manifesting your will on the world and instead has to do with deceit, trickery, cunning — or, alternately, showmanship, skill, performance, depending how you want to spin it. It’s conceptually the opposite: taking something real and boring and mundane and making it, in the minds of the audience, a thing of dreams and faerie tales and mysticism.

In Laika, I wanted to embody the duality of the concept of magic. Laika is a creature of science, a constructed being, and as such, cannot enforce her will on the world in even the somewhat common way of creating offspring. But she can do stage magic, can be an assistant and help create the illusion of true magic via nothing but slight of hand. The mere fact of her presence whispers that there is something more in the world than just parlor tricks, that real power can be had, and that lends credence to her illusions, making people want to believe them.

As you’ve probably guessed by now, Laika is Isaac’s greatest creation and his right-hand assistant. She’s dressed in a fetish style because he created her to his tastes; a tophat and tails to represent the prestidigitation, a corset and fishnets to signal that she’s eye-candy, the assistant, not the real thing. To Isaac she isn’t. But she has the potential to be so much more than he makes of her…

Sketch of Laika costume

Oh yeah, did I mention she’s a lion robot?

Aug 132013
 

So, something different I wanted to bring to people’s attention. While at the Steampunk Symposium this year, I managed to score a couple  of nice things in the dealer’s room. I got a nice pocket watch that I’ve already shown off on the site, some excellent candy (My god, they make chocolate that tastes like real rye bread!), and then there was this.

So cool!

So cool!

 

This beauty was made by Kiniska of Kiniska’s Circus. She’s awesome to talk to and her pictures are beautiful. Being the kinda guy I am, I couldn’t help but buy this great bit of Steampunk art.

The group has a Facebook page that has more wonderful art. Fear not, for not all of her creations are bug themed and I would encourage everyone to take a look.

 

Aug 112013
 

Louisiana is a state rich in heritage and history, ripe with potential for a steampunk world. For Chaos’ second character, we decided to explore that heritage.

We thought about doing the classic voodoo doctor route:

But decided that with Princess and the Frog so recent, we wanted to go a little more original. There are two major French-catholic subcultures we looked into: the Creole, who are descendants of the melting-pot of Louisiana combining French, Spanish, and African cultures, and the Cajuns, who are the descendants of a specific group of French-speakers from Canada being chased all the way down south. While Creole seems more typical for someone of African descent, the Cajun have a legend that struck me as useful: the legend of the Rougarou.

Now, I’ve been looking to introduce supernatural elements into the world I’m creating on this blog. Supernatural is what I’m familiar with, and frankly, it’s what I like best. I love steampunk, but I love it more when it comes combined with the sort of low-fantasy elements I tend to read and write. This character build, as Chaos and I kicked around ideas, became more and more the distinct point at which magic would be introduced to the setting already in progress.

The Rougarou, like the Loup-garou (silent ‘p’), is a type of lycanthrope; in this legend, he is said to haunt the swamps of Louisiana, formed by breaking lent and sent with a mission to devour naughty children. What would anyone want with a beastie like that? To study it. To become it. To kill it. The answers are many and varied.

Chaos is a scientist by trade, so the idea of studying it seemed like it resonated well with him. The idea of becoming the monster is a favorite cliche of mine; but why would someone want to study a rougarou’s source of transmission so they, too, could become a monster? Perhaps the monster is immortal-until-killed, as many werewolf legends hold them to be. Immortality is a fairly universal goal among mad scientists. My thoughts were drawn immediately to the Fountain of Youth, claimed by Ponce de Leon to be in Florida, but perhaps sought among the swamps in Louisiana when Florida’s everglades proved unfruitful. So. This doctor, this mad scientist, this studier of the supernatural, craves immortality. That I can work with.

But what does he LOOK like?

There’s an archetype for a Catholic who studies and fights monsters; the holy Cleric of DnD fame. So I wanted to work in a holy motif. Mad scientists tend towards lab coats with many pockets, while those who braved the wild west tend toward (Kae’s favorite) dusters. And of course, if you’re going up against a werewolf, armor might be nice. Guild Wars 2 has some images Chaos liked:

Distilling all of this down to individual elements, we have: a floppy hat, a large prominent cross, some kind of robe or coat with many pockets, armored shoulderpads, and lots of belts with pouches. And maybe some gloves. Badass armored gloves.

Now let’s talk a moment about color. I don’t think I’ve touched on this yet on this blog, though I’m getting forgetful in my old age of a quarter century. I try to keep the color palettes of each character fairly distinct, to make things easier to design: Erika wears blues-into-purples, and while Lucas runs the gamut of colors, Bob is dominated by primarily browns, with Nettie wearing all red-and-black. In this instance, Chaos himself volunteered a color palate without my having to ask, so I immediately accepted it: “He seems like the kind of guy who wears dark greens a lot.”

And there you have it: Isaac (after Sir Newton) Gautreaux was conceived.

Sketch of Isaac design

Aug 062013
 

Wow, it feels like I haven’t done a post in a while. So how’s everyone…

What’s that?

It’s been HOW long?!

 

Eh…sorry about that. It seems my zeal for science and getting research done has cut into my time on the site drastically. Fear not, I’ve started working on a couple of ideas to do to fill the time between prop buildings and when I honestly have no clue what to do.

Anyway, I should get right back into it! So, I’ve been meaning to work on these particular props for a while, but I’ve been distracted a lot. So, we’re gonna start with this one:

Complete with the same 9 sounds that all cheap laser guns make!

Complete with the same 9 sounds that all cheap laser guns make!

I wanted to try something that would actually have some lights in it, so what better than to modify something that already flashes. Now, the big problem was that the sounds would have been at home in an episode of Flash Gordon, but it’s not really steampunky. Still, it had a nice design and I figured I could make a nice side-arm for a character I’m planning to make.

First things first, lets get this bad boy open:

Not shown: The several screws that seemed to hold this together, including one behind the batteries.

Not shown: The several screws that seemed to hold this together, including one behind the batteries.

As you can see, the gun came apart rather easily. Unfortunately, it was then that I realized those plastic panels that the light came through were actually bright orange. Now, I’m not going to be able to do much about that, seeing how I can’t change the color of the plastic, but I will not be beaten just yet! That problem will wait till I deal with the event, dealing with the sounds that come out of this thing.

Well…that and the plastic cap on the end of the gun was actually GLUED on and not just fastened.

Not shown: Badass butterknife skills

Not shown: Badass butterknife skills

Anyway with those off and the gun in two pieces, I moved on to seeing what the inside looked like.

Um...alright, so this is a little more than I bargained for.

Um…alright, so this is a little more than I bargained for.

In all seriousness, I didn’t think that many wires went into making 80’s scifi laser noises. I mean, the speakers prominent and easy to find, so disabling the sound is pretty easy, but I’m going to need a little more knowledge if I’m doing more than that.

Not shown: Nostalgic haze from all super-annoying sounds these guns make

Not shown: Nostalgic haze from all super-annoying sounds these guns make.

I got as far as taking out the speaker (it took about 10 seconds and a pair of fingernail clippers) and presto! I now have a flashing gun without all the noises. Of course, I’d love to make my own sounds come out of it when the lights flash, but that’s a little more than I know how to do right now. I’ll give you guys an update on the painting and if I actually get custom sounds or not.

 

Now, on to the next gun:

Yes, it's back.

Yes, it’s back.

So I finally decided to try and work on this non-firing prop to see if I couldn’t do something about it. I figured I’d take a few pieces off and see if I can do anything  the parts later.

About 30 minutes later, I had this:

Deja Vu

Yes, it’s back.

 

Yeah…the thing literally can’t be taken apart with a screwdriver. At least 9/10 of the screws on it are fake and the one I DID manage to get out of it looked so non-essential that they probably didn’t figure anyone would mess with it. So anything I’m going to do with THIS has to be done as is. I’m thinking this is going to take a good deal more work on this one. You might not see it for a while.

 

And that’s it. Yeah, a little short, but they’ll be some regular posts going up for a while so you won’t want for any more of my escapades.

Tune in next time when I paint a laser pistol and talk about alternate uses for old-timey radio parts.

 

Aug 042013
 

We’re back!

Since you missed the entire design of this outfit during the haitus, I’ve combined what would normally be a WIP post with what would normally be a photoshoot post and brought you the entirety of Nettie’s second costume, start to finish.

I alluded in my State of the Blog post to some changes in the way I communicate designs. Well, I’ve decided to get a little more professional: I’ve downloaded a pair of croquises, rough outlines of the body that people draw fashion sketches onto, so I can put up a sketch of each design before I make it. This ought to improve the quality of my blog posts tremendously, as while I always can picture the outfit vividly before I make it, I can’t always communicate the design efficiently to my readers.

Side note: Most croquises look something like this:

Who the heck has a body like that? Okay, I guess some people do, particularly fashion models, but I’m not designing for the runway, I’m designing for three much larger individuals. I found a free plus-size croquis here that looks a lot closer to my body type, and I’ve been using the male from this site for the guys.

So, without further ado, Nettie:

nettie2_sketch_resized

Based off Simplicity 2851. With that sketch and a pattern in mind, I sat down to make the costume. The bodice came first:

fabric

Fabric and ribbon for the skirt

It's  been hot, so I've been using whatever's handy to weigh down the pattern pieces while cutting

It’s been hot, so I’ve been using whatever’s handy to weigh down the pattern pieces while cutting so I can run the fan

A bunch of parts for the bodice, cit and partially stitched, with boning

A bunch of parts for the bodice, cit and partially stitched, with boning

Unfortunately, the machine had a little… mishap.

The first sign of trouble: this sort of jam happened every few inches of stitching.

The first sign of trouble: this sort of jam happened every few inches of stitching.

Until finally I head a hideous clunk and the needle came loose, yanked into the undercarriage. When I detangled it, a little more came out of the machine than I’d have liked:

broken_machine

That piece on the right? Goes inside the bit in the middle. It’s all very technical and complex.

So I’ll have to get that fixed before I can finish the  costume :'( I’d have hoped I’d have more to show you on this outfit, but I instead wore Erika to the event in July so I could buy more time to finish this up.