Dec 042013
 

Hey everyone. Chaos here, and I wanted to welcome everyone to the new site layout. Hopefully if you’re new here you’ll take this chance to look through some of the older posts and catch yourself up. Don’t worry, we’ll wait.

*crickets chirp*

Alright, great. Now that you’re caught up I’ll go ahead and introduce myself for those that didn’t look at the backlogs and are just going ahead with this. I’m the prop builder of the group, in so much that they let me paint over nerf guns and make interesting things that may or may not light up and make sound. I modify pieces or items we can find to fit characters (mostly weapons at this point) and in some cases I’ve even created bits from scratch. I kinda fell into the job since I’m going to school for an Engineering Master’s degree and I really can’t make costumes, but it’s actually been a lot of fun.

Bob- Gun and Holster

The gun was modded personally, but the holster was purchased.

I’ve done a few posts on what I think about when coming up with pieces for character costumes, but this is actually something that I ran into when going over my next project. I was talking with Yami about some of the ideas I had and she mentioned that it wouldn’t really work because if someone WAS wearing said prop as a real thing, it would be really hot and probably burn whoever was wearing it. I countered that Steampunk is somewhat fantastical so I didn’t see what the problem was, but she insisted that it didn’t make sense. We eventually settled on another design for the prop that worked with something less problematic, but it got me thinking. How much do the props we wear in Steampunk have to worry about real-world physics?

Not a clue what's it's for, exactly, but who cares? For SCIENCE!

Not a clue what’s it’s for, exactly, but who cares? For SCIENCE!

There’s some merit in not worrying about how props would actually work in the real world. There are a lot of props that you see at Steampunk conventions wouldn’t really work by the strictest sense of science, but they have enough grounding in them that you can see how they work with just that dash of outlandish that makes them interesting. Personally, I’ve always liked science fiction and the more outlandish the design, the more interesting I find it. I always find my mind wondering how such a device would work. Could you make something that actually functioned like that, and what sorts of science would have to be changed just for that one piece to work. It could just be my years of being facinated with sci-fi and robots and ray guns and all that stuff that makes me worry more about ‘what would look interesting’ rather than ‘what makes sense for the characters and setting’. Not that you can just ignore setting or characterization if you’re trying to make a coherent world.

Lucasbuild1

This is Lucas Warren. He’s my steampunk character and is something of an amoral businessman. He’s high class and does everything he can to keep it that way. Lucas knows all the right parties to attend, the right people to impress, and the good business sense to press an advantage when he has one. He has his prejudices, but they’re mostly to those he would find useless to his goals. If you provide him with an advantage, he has little qualms with what else you do. If you become a hinderance, he will not hesitate to cut you off and cast you aside. If you have something he requires, he will find every way to relieve you of it, and it will all be done with business deals and subordinates.

Lucas is a very particular character with a set of goals, characterizations, traits, and themes and while I’d love to give him something like a steampunk crossbow or some sort of mechanical display that hangs from his hat, I wouldn’t because it doesn’t fit his character. I think it would be cool, but it would just clash with everything that the character presents. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be some interesting additions to the props later (mostly once I get a bit more time) but anything he has needs to fit his character and theme. You have to strike a balance between ‘what looks interesting’ and ‘what fits the character’. It helps with making pieces that ‘fit’ a character rather than making a prop and trying to jam a character around it.

Ultimatly, it comes down to the goal of a prop. I think that if it’s something that’s supposed to go with a character, you need to keep the prop within the bounds of what the character would carry around. If you’re making a prop to just go ‘hey, that’s an interesting idea’ then I’d say the sky is the limit. Let your imagination run wild and see what sort of contraptions you could make.

I’d like to welcome anyone to give me their take on the topic. Do you think that props have to be bound to a specific set of rules or can they be completely unbound from any one interpretation of Steampunk? Do you think it can be both? Do you want to just share some ideas you might have on props you are/would like to make? Go ahead and leave a comment with your ideas and here’s hoping you’ve all enjoyed my little introduction to my side of the group.

Oct 312013
 

We bought a new camera 🙂

Happy Halloween!

countesschocula

Nettie was always a hanger-on of no account.. until the day Dracula turned her into one of his Undead Brides, apprenticing her in the ways of Streaky White Makeup and Posing In Front Of Bats.

fruitbrute

Lucas was always such an erudite social climber; after his hunting accident, however, he found his tongue thick and clumsy, and a strange temptation to howl at the moon…

booberry_1

Bob got shot. He doesn’t care much for cereal, even in the afterlife.

Some outtakes from the photoshoot:

May 192013
 

Details is an image-heavy feature in which I discuss accessories I’ve created or purchased and how they fit the overall vision of a character. 

One of the things that stood out to me last year was when we met a guy with an awesome costume and he handed us a calling card so we could find him again. Calling cards are the predecessors to modern business cards; while they are not meant to contain information about your business, I figure tucking the blog’s address on the back would be a great way to ensure any new friends we make can find us again. To that end, I designed a calling card for each character that will be portrayed at the Empire Symposium and had them printed on cardstock.

Business Cards

Four business cards, front

While it’s not really good manners to put your employment on a callling card, Lucas can’t resist; so much of his identity is tied up in the running of Warren Industries that it’s become almost like a title. Still, in a nod to convention, he’s put the company name in much smaller font so it doesn’t take too much emphasis away from his name.

Ricky, by contrast, is very no-nonsense. He put a small, subdued flair above his name, but he elected for block-printed cards off a newfangled printing press rather than the more classic hand-engraved cards, and his military rank is displayed prominently  as that was perfectly acceptable to put on a card.

Erika’s card is the most elaborate; as an unmarried woman, her card size is smaller, which makes it seem a bit crowded in comparison. She spared no expense promoting herself as both elegant and ladylike as well as mechanically-inclined, as though there were no contradiction inherent in her dual identity, and she managed to pull it off well, I think.

Bob doesn’t do frills. Or frippery. Or borders. He has his name, his profession, and a hat. So what if it’s not done to advertise yourself so blatantly? He doesn’t care.

Cards with Holder

The reverse side of Kendandra’s card, propped in front of a holder

The reverse of each card is the meta-side; it contains out-of-character contact information, including a link to this very blog. This is the practical side; we hand these out anywhere we go in costume, so it needed to have actual contact information in case people want to find us again. Or I suppose you could collect them like baseball cards?

The cardholders were a lucky dollar-store find Chaos made a few days before the Empire Symposium.

Bob Card

Bob’s card again, with the envelope he uses to carry them

Originally I planned to make a custom holder for each character; however, as time grew short, this was the only holder that got made. Bob wouldn’t bother with a leather card holder, instead going for an old envelope he had lying around. The envelope was fairly fun to age; we used some underflavored teabags we bought a while back and weren’t fond of, brewing 2 of them in minimal water then saturating an envelope with the tea. We let it soak for a while, then poured off the excess tea and baked until dry. Voila, aged envelope, just add crinkles.

May 142013
 

Howdy everyone, this is Chaos and I’m gonna talk about characters.

Now, I’m sure some of you have already seen the interviews with myself and the others, so it’s probably obvious that I’m not the successful owner of a shipping company in the late Victorian era. Nor do I own an airship. The prototype one I was doing pictures of doesn’t count either since it’s getting completely rebuilt so that it’ll actually work. It would be pretty sweet tho, except for the Victorian age being far enough back that you wouldn’t have the same things and I’m not sure how cheesecake would be made in an era before refrigeration was easily done and available to everyone. Sorry, I’m getting sidetracked. The point is that Lucas is a character that I play rather than being me, so when planning or coming up with prop ideas, it’s important to think of how the piece compliments and brings out that character rather than just what you would and wouldn’t have.

Case in point, I’m a rather large dude. It’s pretty obvious if you’ve ever seen me, and as a large dude, I tend to sweat a good deal. This makes most dress clothes now somewhat uncomfortable in certain times of the year now, so you can imagine how a vest, waistcoat, dress shirt, hat and slacks aren’t always fun if there’s no AC, but Lucas wouldn’t be caught outside in less than his best. The image he portrays is much more important than any discomfort that he could suffer and to be dressed ‘down’ in public would be a failing on his part. Everything he has has to show his standing and give an air of constant class. He’s a perfectionist in a world that already sees him as imperfect and he strives to give no signs of weakness in everything he does.

What does that have to do with props? Well, for one thing, it means that none of my previous methods are going to work as something he would actually have on him.  I couldn’t find a plastic toy weapon that, while fitting for the setting, would look elegant enough for Lucas to keep on his person. I was also not nearly good enough with paint or metalwork to make something that would fit. So, as usual, Yami comes up with the brilliant plan of looking on the internet and finding something I can modify. Enter this nice little number:

Absolutely in love with the vine pattern

Absolutely in love with the vine pattern.

 

Now, unfortunately the problem here is that A) The gun barrel doesn’t rotate when the trigger is pulled, and B) The barrel or gun doesn’t move in any way that would allow you to put in rounds. I understand that is part of it being a non-firing replica, but I figured that something like that wouldn’t prevent it from at least functioning like it could. I haven’t fully decided what additions and other such things I’ll have to do to make it fit a little better, but it probably won’t have much to do with paint, why? Well, because a couple weeks before I got that, I picked this up at the Steampunk Symposium:

It even has a similar design as the gun on the edges.

It even has a similar design as the gun on the edges.

This worked out even better than I thought since they’re a similar color and some of the design on the gun is on the watch. That’s something that would immediately drawn Lucas to commission that particular firearm. Not because he plans to fight often, since he has people to do that for him, but because he could afford a personal firearm that actually goes with his watch. This was pretty much an easy sell, since the look of the watch worked for the character and I just liked that it showed a lot of the internal workings.

I also like the red roman numerals as it's a prominent color in the character's overall design.

I also like the red roman numerals as it’s a prominent color in the character’s overall design.

Look at all the little gears!

Look at all the little gears!

So, what was all this about? Well, I felt like giving everyone a good look at how I approach props and accessories for characters. Some people complain that the general idea of steampunk is to glue gears on some clothing, dress like you’re going to a fancy party, wear some goggles and call it a day. I wanted to show that myself, and others I’ve seen, put a lot more thought into it. Also that it’s not exactly hard. The idea is that after you’ve picked a period in “history” come up with a persona. You don’t even really need a name starting off, just an idea of what kind of person you want to portray. From there, think about what that character would need to have and what they’d WANT to have. Not only will that reflect in the pieces and accessories you build, buy, or find when they’re put together, but you’ll have a lot more fun putting said things together and seeing how it all fits.

Anyway, if you want to ask any questions or want to say how YOU choose what to make for a character go ahead and comment below. I promise I don’t bite. Also leave a comment if you like hearing more about the ‘signature props’ as I’ll most likely get into those for each character as ideas come.

Hope to see  you next time, when either I’ll get into dismantling a firearm or start work on a REALLY big weapon (Which of course means it’s for Owen)

 

May 102013
 

Kendandra here!

In his previous incarnations, Lucas was Evil.  That’s capital E-evil.  The kind that makes Mermaid Man wince.  How evil was he?  I’m not sure.  I wasn’t a part of Radiant Vanguard back then.  But I’m sure the level of evil was somewhere between the hammy Evil Emperor Zerg and omnicidal maniac Davros.  It is probably safe to say he’s no sweet little old lady.  Probably.  Like I said, I wasn’t there so anything I’ve got to go on is mere hearsay.  But for the record, I’m picturing Chaos as a sweet little old lady.  You can too at home if you want.  I won’t judge.

But the bottom line is Lucas’s theme should be sinister.

Ah villain themes, they are the best aren’t they?  I half want to write condescending lyrics about how Lucas is richer and better dressed any everyone else.  But then Chaos would have to sing it and if I got him to sing the world might end.  Or at least my world, he seems to hate singing.  Why?  I have no idea.  I don’t know if some kind of energy parasite attacked his vocal cords, traumatizing him for life, but the fact of the matter is he won’t sing.  But the real question is what makes a theme sound evil?  In my mind it’s pretty much a combination of two very important aspects of a song:  the key signature and selection of instruments.

So can anyone following along at home guess what type of key signature makes for the best villain songs?  Did you guess something in a minor key?  Well, damn, how did you know?  No seriously, I wonder what started the cultural phenomenon that made minor keys sound sullen or evil.  (And yes, for the record, it’s mostly the Western rooted music that applies such gravity and sensibility to the minor chords).

Now as for instrument selection, only one thing came to mind.  Lucas is wealthy, in power, and a bit shady.  To me, that screams “harpsichord”.  I’ve heard very few harpsichord pieces in the minor key that didn’t grab me by the collar, tilt my head to side and yell in my ear “rich evil bastard”.  That’s where Lucas’s theme’s main inspiration comes from:  I give you the bastard-est of rich evil bastards with harpsichord themes, Oliver.

Finally, you’ll notice in the demo that I’ve got this piece set in ¾ time.  A waltz is just another way to convey Lucas’s affluence.  After all, when you rub elbows with rich people in the Victorian era, you’re going to be doing at some kind of ball, waltzing away.

Anyway, here’s a rough demo.  All subject to change of course, and right now it’s far to short.

That’s a wrap for today, cupcakes.  Next time I think we’ll gab a bit about how bad I am at getting Fruityloops to sound like marching snare.  Speaking of the word “gab”, that’s what we call a dialog.  Dialogs are held between two people, hence the “di” part.  In other words, read and comment, even if it’s just to say you hate my guts.  Try it!  I’ve been told my guts are rather hate-able.

–Kendandra, we’re done here.

Apr 282013
 

Transcript:

Yami: Hello everyone. We’re here today with Chaos

Chaos: Hey

Yami: Why don’t you tell me a little about how you got started in Steampunk?

Chaos: Well, mostly you… I’d been interested in the, um, genre, but as far as actually wanting to go to Steampunk cons and sort of being immersed in it that’s mostly after I met you.

Yami: What are your biggest Steampunk influences?

Chaos: There was an old cartoon show called Big O, I don’t know if anyone actually remembers it, but, it had a giant steampunk robot.

Yami: Would you say you’re particularly interested in giant robots?

Chaos: You know, there is a– yes. I’m not going to do the joke where I simply say that there’s a slight chance, but, yes, I am. I mostly was into a lot more of anime stuff before I got into Steampunk.

Yami: Why don’t you tell us how you came up with the idea for the character of Lucas?

Chaos: Well, I originally came up with the character of Lucas because I remember, I believe… I want to say it was Romance of the Stone? It was an old — late 80’s, early 90’s — um, like, B movie. But the actual antagonists were these like, was this couple of pretty much business people who were just these almost amoral to the point of being funny. And I thought  well, I was trying to come up with some villains for a couple of um, roleplay games we were doing, and I thought  maybe I’ll go with someone who’s got more of a corporate angle. And it’s originally where I came up with the idea for Lucas.

Yami: So would you say Lucas is more of a villain character?

Chaos: Usually yes. I’m not– I haven’t really nailed down the character as far as this iteration as of yet, he’s probably not going to be exactly the, um, upstanding citizen, but he probably won’t be as, well, dark and manipulative as he usually is.

Yami: So you’re going for more of an anti-hero feel?

Chaos: Maybe not hero, but there’s definitely not a– maybe more anti-protagonist?

Yami: That’s an interesting new term. How do you see him relating with the other characters?

Chaos: Well, that would based be[sic] on what he had to gain from the particular interactions as well as what he could actually expect him to do when he actually gets the results he needs.

Yami: Were there any other interesting influences into Lucas’ character?

Chaos: There was actually the book that you had actually suggested that I read, which pretty much had– after I made the character, someone wrote a book about exactly that same character, and it’s like, ‘well that’s pretty much how that worked out’

Yami: Consultation with a Vampire?

Chaos: Yeah. And it was like, ‘oh, it’s a little short story. Oh, that’s exactly the character I made, like, two months ago. Oh, if only I could actually read books.’

Yami: Now, I understand from your blog column that you’re somewhat of an engineer?

Chaos: Well, somewhat, I’m still in school to be an engineer, so I guess I’m engineer-like?

Yami: Well, what drove you into engineering as a field?

Chaos: Um, mostly I’m very interested in being able to make things; most of the things that we’ll be seeing is… a lot of them, um, figures outside of being just interesting technology in general was, um, kind of an interest in prosthetics, seeing as how I’ve seen people have really interesting, um, prosthetics, and doing replaced limbs and I think that they work fairly well, so I’m kind of interested in being able to do.

Yami: Are you going to build us cyborgs?

Chaos: Not right now. Everyone keeps asking if I’m going to make cyborgs or, um, arms that shoot rockets. No. Maybe someday, but I have no idea how to even begin doing that kind of stuff.

Yami: Alright. So what sort of projects are you looking forward to doing?

Chaos: Well, there’s the airship, which actually now that I’ve started having some kind of idea how to make a gian– how to make an airship that flies around that I can actually control it’s going to be fairly interesting.

Yami: Cool. Anything else down the pipeline?

Chaos: Um, well there is one other thing, but I don’t want to talk about it yet, I actually want it to be somewhat of a surprise.

Yami: Alright, fair enough. If you had infinite time and resources, what would you build?

Chaos: Infinite time and resources… um… hmmm… a hovercraft.

Yami: A working hovercraft?

Chaos: It would be cool. A working hovercraft.

Yami: Alright. Now, before we wrap up, is there anything else you think our audience should know?

Chaos: I am really bad at talking about myself apparently.

Apr 212013
 

Let’s address the elephant in the room first: Chaos is black.

Technically I’m half-black myself, but I look white; Kaelas and Kendandra are both rather white. I decided I’d rather use Chaos’ race as a building block instead of ignoring it and just hand-waving that the character was ethnically British or ignoring that he’d be in the minority because “hey, steampunk, whatever”. Which isn’t to say there isn’t a level at which I just handwave things, but my personal preference is to go as far as I can with the information I have before I handwave things to make it more fun.

So. Black people generally tend to originate in Africa. (Fun fact: Chaos has recent Jamaican heritage.) A little research tells me that the British Empire spread primarily into Egypt (wrong phenotype for Chaos), West Africa, and South Africa. South Africa was on the trade route to India, meaning a lot of wealthy merchants passed through; since Lucas is the financial backer of our expedition, I wanted him to be wealthy, and the shipping empires of the British Empire seemed like the perfect backdrop for his owning airships. So I decided that his father was born in the Cape Colony (established 1652 as a resupply station for the Dutch East Indian Corporation and traded back and forth between Dutch and British rule several times), and that Lucas had inherited his wealth and company but was eager to grow the business.

It made financial sense for his headquarters to be in London; since Lucas, a pre-existing character, tends to be hands-on and controlling about his business (whatever the industry), it made logistical sense for him to live in London as well. While today, 13% of London’s population identifies as black, in 1841 the largest immigrant population were the Irish at 4%. Lucas is likely to be the only black person he knows.

Slavery in Great Britain is a fascinating topic for an American to research. For us, it’s taken as a given that you had slavery when you started and then became enlightened and gave it up. However, the Brits have a lot longer history than modern America does. Slavery existed when the Romans occupied the isles; it was abolished in 1102. In the 1550s, British merchants were selling slaves to the Americas, though few ever came to England properly. In the 18th century, slaves started being brought to England, but in 1701 it was decreed that a slave would be freed the moment he set foot in England. In 1729, though, it became legal again; it was re-abolished in 1834 by an act of parliament. In any case, the Britsh no longer hold with slavery in Lucas’ time, but slavery still exists and the image of black people as slaves or generally inferior is still something he has to struggle against. Add to that the fact that his father has a rags-to-riches story and you get the driving force behind Lucas Warren: ambition.

In short, Lucas is a wealthy merchant, a black man, and a man driven by a need to be respected and a strong ambition. His costume design is fairly common: the rich, elegant gentleman character that’s so easy to costume for 🙂 Essentials include a vest, a coat, and a cravat:

Chaos has expressed his desire for a cane and monocle as well, though sadly his glasses don’t allow for the latter.

One prop I’m particularly excited for is the calling card. During the Edwardian period, it was expected that when you called on someone and they were out you left a custom-made card if you were anyone of note. Business cards, then called “Trade cards”, go back even further to the 17th century in London, where they were a handy way to advertise and provide a map. I’m certain that, fashionable as he is, Lucas would always carry cards with him.

Mar 092013
 

The following post was originally posted on Yamikuronue’s blog Raven Wings on Feb 12, 2012. It is highly out of date, but contains interesting information. 

Let’s talk about Steampunk.

One of the things I enjoyed most when studying Theater was costume design and creation. I did almost all my practicum work in the costume shop, and picked up a lot of technique and even more ideas. I’ve been doing thrifty cosplay for years; only recently, however, have I had the means and the time to start working on costumes I’ve been designing in my head for years. So, naturally, I’m diving headfirst into steampunk.

This costume trio is based off 1840s fashion (I find when doing historically-based costumes it helps to have a specific decade in mind as a basis, even though I’m dealing with an alternate future setting for this specific design). I’ve designed their outfits off a specific adventure in their lives, one that brings these three disparate people together in much the same way as a roleplaying campaign would bring PCs together: one part chance to two parts “fate” (aka player fiat).

When I make costumes, however, it activates the same parts of my brain that have had years of practice making characters, both for roleplay and for creative writing. Therefore, I almost can’t help but ascribe personality and lives to the characters being portrayed, as though there was going to be a whole performance rather than just a costume. So I figure, what better place to showcase the backstories than my blog?

I’ll put up more pictures as I complete the costumes.

Sir Lucas Warren was born in London, the son of a highly wealthy entrepreneur whose early and wise investments in shipping and exported goods helped him rise from poverty in the Cape Colony to wealth, though not prestige, in the British Empire. His mother was a noblewoman who taught him to compensate for his dark skin with impeccable manners and a ruthless ambition for business. With the discovery of gold in the American Colonies, he was in a ripe position to expand his shipping business even further, hoping it would someday become the equal of the famed East India Company. However, a number of violent uprisings by those pesky Seperationists, still bitter about their country’s failed revolution, have recently disrupted his profits. Knowing that the best way to understand a problem is to see it firsthand, and with a taste for adventure inherited from his father, Lucas boarded an airship and headed for the Western Coast.

Costume notes: Lucas is a gentleman, upstanding, with fine clothing and even finer goods. Bright colors and dandy influences would show off his vanity and ego, while not stepping too far outside the bounds of polite society. I’m toying with the idea of adding an accident resulting in a replacement hand to give him something extra to compensate for and myself some cool design ideas.

Erika Smith is an engineer under the employ of Warren. She lives for her work; even when not on the job, she’s constantly coming up with ideas and sketching out blueprints. Warren snatched her up years ago in the hopes that she could improve the efficiency of his airships, and while she’s done well with that, she’s also invented some pretty nifty gadgets along the way. When Warren needed to ensure that his particular airship would not be sabotaged or suffer from malfunctions with him on it, he refused to settle for less than his best engineer at his side. Constantly.

Costume notes: This one’s proving to be a real challenge for me because most 1840s costume references focus on the upper-crust, white-collar or gentleman. What did working-class people wear? Depends on the job. What did engineers wear? Bloody hell if I know. My original design has overalls, but I suspect cotton pants with suspenders would be more period-appropriate. The costume itself will likely be fairly plain, but I get to go crazy with gadgets, goggles, and other accessories.

Robert Lee Owens doesn’t work for Mr Warren. Point of fact, he doesn’t work for anyone but himself. He’s a hired gun, plain and simple; one of the best, plus he knows the territory real well. He spends most of his income on his guns. He likes guns. He likes guns real fine. Warren hired him as a bodyguard, so for the moment he’s dedicated to the man’s survival; after this, someone else could hire him to kill Warren and he’d do it without a second thought. For the moment, though, the man’s safe: Bob never breaks a contract. That just wouldn’t be sporting.

Costume notes: This is where the American influence comes in. Bob’s a steampunk cowboy/gunslinger, with high-tech weapons being the main futuristic influence on these designs. My initial build for him let me down severely, however, as it turned out the coat I ordered was simply horrendous. I might end up making one myself rather than fall for misleading catalog images again; it’d be a lot of work, especially given I only have weekends to do it in, but it might be worth it.

This is the first take on the costumes; they’re still a work in progress, as I don’t have all the pieces I wanted. We wore these at Ohayoucon 2012 😀 I plan to improve them for the Steampunk Empire Symposium in April.

Image of the Lucas costume

Image of Erika costume

Image of the Bob costume