Monday, February 26, 2007

In Brightest Day ...


My Green Lantern outfit is (99 44/100%) complete!

On February 22nd, I went to get my muscle suit and Kyle Rayner/Green Lantern outfit.

Green Lantern was always my favorite superhero.

Now, I'm sure all little boys had a Batman Halloween costume at some time or another, and somewhere along the line, a Superman cape.

The original Silver-Age GL, Hal Jordan, was a very human human who became heir to one of the most powerful artifacts in the universe - so powerful in fact that at one point he cold-clocked Superman and laid him flat out on the ground! (Now, I bet that's something you didn't know!)

The GL oath when powering the ring:

In brightest day, in blackest night,
no evil shall escape my sight!
Let those who worship evil's might,
beware my power... Green Lantern's light!
is quite reminiscent of the medieval oath of fealty:

I {name}, do become your liege man of life and limb and of earthly worship.
And faith and truth I will bear unto you,
to live and to die, against all manner of folk.
So help me God.

Even though I've put on a good deal of muscle from the sword and bow work, I never really got the definition that I'd always wanted. Hence the muscle suit. Hey, if it was good enough for Spiderman and the latest Superman, it was good enough for me!

Corey Sosner of Action Actors makes the most comfortable urethane and spandex muscle suits you could ever ask for. A lot of his commissions come from Batman and Punisher and Wolverine costumes - so this was sort of a new experience for him. The process of building the suit took the better part of the day - it involves trimming and fitting the foam pieces, glueing them to the spandex body suit and basically letting the pieces "cook" onto the fabric.





Once that was complete, I tried on the outer costume - this included a pair of Shift motocross boots (red and white accents covered with Plasti-kote Vinyl Color) and with a white stripe (using Krylon Fusion) down the front. We took some minor liberties with the design of the costume and all of the symbols were silk-screened on the outfit. The picture above had something that looked like a dog-collar - which was not something I nor he was enamored with.


WOW!

It didn't feel like I was wearing any body suit - that's how comfortable it was - and Corey was also quite impressed with the finished product - "Dude, you look like you're completely juiced!"





What's a Green Lantern without a ring, though? Being the perfectionist that I am, the cheapie plastic or tin versions were out of the question.

Google.

The search led me to Russ Sharek of The Morpheus Company. At some time in the past, someone had asked Russ about a Green Lantern ring, and he has made several different versions over the years. Russ had mentioned it on his site and that's how I found him. We discussed what I wanted and Russ made some excellent recommendations - which I attribute to his feng-shui-ness. Again, the ring was quite close to the comic-book version, but with a twist - a black onyx center.



The only piece left is the mask -- Corey took a cast of my face and I'm waiting to have the piece molded. That was an experience in itself. First, you get your hair slicked back with some vaseline and put on a shower cap. Then you grease up your entire face and have this thick goo slathered on. Wait 15-20 minutes. (This is not for the faint of heart or claustrophobic!! And this was a half-mask - a full head molding is even more involved!) Then peel off slowly, so you don't lose your eyelashes or eyebrows.

UPDATE:

Corey gave me a call today - I had had an option of two different shapes of masks. His sculptor did a side-by-side so I could choose - I picked the more angular version on the left. I'll be getting the mask in about two weeks.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Geek Break ...

I saw this on a t-shirt - email me and tell me how long it takes to sink in:

There are only
10 types of people in the world;
Those who understand binary,
and those who don't.



I'll post results!!

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Duchy of Corwyn

Before LOTR, I had found Kathryn Kurtz's Dernyi series and like Tolkien, Kurtz was able to successfully create a fully developed "secondary world" which was a pleasure to delve into whenever a new book was released.

One of the main characters throughout most of the series (excepting some of the prequel work) was that of Alaric Anthony Morgan, Duke of Corwyn. Dernyi are sorcerers and have at their command powers unimaginable by the humans of the time - which is approximately the middle Middle Ages. The majority of the people of Gywnnedd hold the Deryni to be Evil and are held in at best, suspicion and at worst, revilement. The exceptions, though are the royal family of Gywnnedd and some of the more liberal clergy. An added twist to this long-running series is that Morgan develops the rarest of Deryni talents - the ability to Heal - a talent thought to have vanished in a great anti-Dernyi backlash in the not-too-distant past.

As Andrea was doing my Aragorn shirts, I sent her this two little snippets of costume information:

Severely plain black silk tunic, sleek and close to the body and wrists; over that a sumptuous black velvet doublet trimmed in jet, high and close around his neck and with wide sleeves slashed to the elbow to show off the silk of the tunic beneath; silk hosen disappearing into short black boots of the softest leather.

The emerald Gryphon, its wings dripping gold and jewels, rearing up its head and claws in a rampant pose--segreant, when applied to gryphons--gleamed darkly, with an almost sinister aura from its background of shining black. Around the edge, a golden bordure--the double tressure floury counterflory of the old Morgan arms--gave homage to his paternal heritage.
I said, "Do you think you could do something in emerald and black?" I could almost see her rubbing her hands in glee. (Scroll down about 3/4 of the page ...)

So off we went to design Duke Alaric's costume.

We decided to do a high-necked emerald silk tunic with some golden vine tracery and use black satin and black silk velvet for the doublet. The arms of the doublet would be slashed open, as per the description, and emerald dupioni silk would be used as the lining.

I've always done a lot of walking and I have nicely muscled legs, so I have to admit that I'd probably look good in hosen, but I just couldn't bring myself to wear them. Andrea would look for some fabric for breeches that would go with the outfit and meanwhile I could wear the leather pants from Reg.

The cloak Andrea created was truly a work of art. This is what is called a fingertip cloak since when it is worn, it basically just reaches to the fingertips (get it?). Soft, black wool and emerald green silk (same as the tunic). Now, the only item left to complete the cloak was finding the gryphon.

After some searching, I came across a great picture which Garry could scan, trace and bitmap to their embroidery machine:



We decided to put two facing gryphons on the back of the cloak to fill out the design a bit more. Andrea also suggested some lion-head connectors for the chain fastener, since conceivably (what a great imagination she has!!) the cloak could have been a gift from the King, whose device was a lion rampant.

I went to a costume party wearing the Duke Alaric outfit with the Reg's leather pants and a pair of bucket boots from Joey at Caboots. A lot of the costumes there looked cheap (and they were) and you could tell people were not exactly having a good time wearing them. Again, everything that I was wearing was so comfortable, I had a great time. Which always proves - "You get what you pay for."

A few months later, Andrea finally came across some black-on-black patterned material that she *knew* would go with the costume - so now I have a nice change of pace whenever I wear the outfit - I can go for the more courtly or more sinister look (which I think is a hell of a lot more fun!)

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Finishing Touches

Compared to the rest of the work developing the costumes, the few small items left were easy:

  • Gloves
  • The ring of Barahir
  • The Evenstar necklace
  • The Horn of Boromir
I skipped the Elven leaf brooch, because it was such a pain in the neck (literally!), but I may get it sooner or later.

The gloves I purchased through Toughgloves. I got what were called "Bull Rider Gloves". These were sold singly, so for the Aragorn costume, I got a single right, for Boromir a pair, and Faramir a pair. Toughgloves didn't have the right color for the Faramir set, so I got a lighter color and - you guessed it - Fiebing leather dyed it! It looks like they replaced the Bull Rider Gloves with item number G200 - Deerskin Leather Gloves.

The Barahir ring and the Evenstar necklace I got off of eBay. These look really good with the outfit. The Evenstar pendant is very light and the ring looks a bit rougher, considering that it was made over 5000 Middle Earth years ago! I just needed a stronger sterling silver chain and I picked that up at a jewelry store.




The Horn of Boromir was a one-of-a-kind eBay find. All it needed was a little bit of gold paint and some detailed painting with silver enamel. I hand-braided the strap and I was done!

Forging On ...

This is (or was) a momentous occasion in my costume quest - I finished my FOTR Aragorn/Strider outfit. And not only that, I had the option of the Bree timepoint (green cloak) or Lothlorien timepoint (gray cloak, plus hunting knife). Plus sword. Plus quiver. Plus bow. I was well and truly stoked.

(I also need to credit the AlleyCatScratch site AGAIN for some wonderful wig links and how to create some incredibly realistic beard stubble using crepe wool.)

I had the occasion to go to a couple of parties for the holidays and also showed up at my friend's doorstep in costume for a LOTR Extended Edition marathon. Needless to say, after folks picked their jaws up from the floor, I was quite the center of attention.

Best of all, everything I had on was comfortable. Not tight. Not hot. Better than jeans and a sweatshirt. Perfect.


One thing that DID cross my mind, while watching the Helm's Deep battle in TTT was ... what would chain maille feel like?

I think that Google and eBay are my best friends (next to Andrea and Garry, of course)

I found a great auction for a maille shirt on eBay and purchased it. Picking it up at the post office, this thing was heavy. However, once I put it on, it didn't feel as bad - still heavier than I thought, but I could get accustomed to it. And I did.

How? Simple. Wear the thing constantly until it didn't feel like I was wearing it. The biggest (and easiest) piece of advice I can give is to wear a belt. This prevents the total weight of the maille from resting on your shoulders. Since it was getting a bit cooler, I wore it under my sweatshirt on the weekends and when I got home from work at night. When I went food shopping. When going to the cleaners. On the eliptical. I had started working out more strenuously anyway for the sword work, but this really seemed to supercharge the exercise regimen. It's wonderful to actually see the results of your workout in the mirror. After about 10 weeks of wearing the maille shirt, it felt more like a thin bulky sweater. When I tried it on with the burgundy shirt and other accouterments, it felt great. (I also noticed that the shirts, coats and tunics were noticeably snugger around the shoulders and chest, and the pants were looser in the waist)


Which also got me thinking - what about Boromir and Gondorian plate armor? From the Weapons and Warfare book, I figured out I'd be wearing a maille shirt, plus a cuirass, pauldrons, vambraces and greaves. Plus a surcoat and a cloak. I didn't think the weight would be too onerous and Andrea could absolutely, positively do the fabric items (which she did).

Now where was I going to get armor?

I'm going to diverge a little here from my usual naming of the place and person. At the time I found the maker, there were some rather dogged minions from NewLine and the actual Tolkien estate that were quite interested in people who were doing replica work and not paying out licensing fees and/or royalties to them. As part of the commission, I agreed to not reveal who did the work - just a "very good friend" whom I will call JJ (and not his initials either!). I would still love to credit him with the stupendous work, but a promise is a promise.

JJ was as responsive as Andrea and just as much a pleasure to work with. I always got my emails and voicemails returned - this commission took the better part of a year since he had a large queue of work in front of him. JJ made a maille and suede undertunic that was composed of maille sleeves and a maille skirt. This wasn't as heavy as I had imagined, since the suede body and suede undersleeves actually supported the maille. I actually had to wear the undertunic to soften up the suede rather than get used to the maille. (After a while, I had to send it back to JJ since it got a bit too snug around the chest and -- I swear to God -- my arms grew about 1.5" longer. He altered the suede body and added some additional rows of maille on the sleeves.)

What really was shocking was the weight of the armor. It was ... LIGHT. JJ used 18ga steel for the items and thanks to his meticulous measurements all throughout the process ("Hi, it's JJ. Could you do me a favor and just double-check this measurement for me?") the armor literally slid on. Once buckled up, there was a little loss of movement, around the arms, but nothing to speak of. The armor DOES get a bit warm in the summer, so I usually wear it in the spring, fall and winter.

If you look at the picture above, everything that Boromir is wearing I have. Thanks to JJ and (again) Andrea.

Here are some pictures of the armor:


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Ironica


No, I'm not writing about Beethoven's Symphony #3. Or Susan Lucci.

My humor has sometimes been described as
  • black
  • twisted or
  • very, very, VERY dry
This is a shameless plug for a truly hilarious site that I came across - lileks.com.

James Lileks has put together some of most enjoyable juxtapositions of old advertising and new captioning that I've ever seen. You can look at one his commentaries and chuckle for the rest of the day (you'd be amazed how fast you get a seat on a bus or subway if you're grinning and laughing to yourself!)

Here's an example from his site:


We cannot see what happens in the lower part of the painting, but one might surmise that she has grasped the broom handle, so to speak, and suggested it might be a good idea to "store it in the closet." The husband certainly has the dopey look of a man who finds himself suddenly, and unexpectedly, broom-handled.

The other theory is more disturbing, and suggests that murder follows this happy domestic scene. Not today; perhaps not tomorrow. But some day, and some day soon. Look at this guy: he's hammered. Three sheets & a mattress pad to the wind. She put up with him for years, but now she has a new man, and this fellow has given her a new outlook on life. Yes - she can love again. Yes - she can live again. But only if she breaks free from the sodden bastard to whom she pledged eternal troth. So she has stopped complaining about his drinking. In fact, she's had a complete change of heart - why, she likes him better when he's drinking. Here's your Tanqueray, dear - I've decided to keep a backup supply in the closet. If you ever run out, there's an extra bottle here.

He does not realize that she has purchased a brand of cleaning fluid, quite toxic, that's packaged to look identical to Tanqueray. One day soon he will stagger to the closet, looking to slake his damnable thirst, and he will drink from the bottle of cleaning fluid. They'll find him on the floor, bottle in hand. A suicide. No one would suspect, and even if they did, what of it? He drank it. They can't prove she did it, because she didn't do anything.

She considers the flawless logic of her plan. And she smiles.
 
Soon.

Soon.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Blood Vapors, Liver Wraiths and Hell Broths ...

It has got to be the fumes.

As I mentioned in an earlier entry, the clasps and other metal items were quite difficult to come by. I went through three (count 'em - THREE!) artisans before I could find myself a decent set of Boromir clasps, Boromir cloak lacers and belt buckles and aglets.

The design of the clasps and the lacers was very accurately portrayed on the LOTR section of the Alleycatscratch costume research site. The first hard part was finding someone that would do them. I would find metalworkers or jewelers, but they didn't seem interested in only creating a single set.

The first place I contacted and got a response was the Wareham Forge in Canada. The owner (Daryl) and I discussed what I wanted, the materials to use, and I gave him the links to the sites where the designs were located and gave him a deposit.

Then he vanished for a couple of months. No email, no return phone calls. Arrrggghhhh!

When I finally got in touch with him, he was finishing up the pieces and was ready to send them out. When I received them, they were nice, but they just looked, well, ROUGH. They didn't have the elegance of the pictures and the clasping mechanism just looked primitive. We had originally agreed upon silver and gold for the metalwork. It turned out to be german silver and brass.

Hello eBay!

I seem to be quite fortunate in that what I find lacking for a costume, others think are superlative. The clasps and lacers sold for only a few dollars less than I paid for them.

While Googling for "Boromir cloak lacers" - an entry in a Council of Elrond web forum led me to the next artisan I found. It turned out she was married to an officer at an Air Force Base in Alaska. We corresponded back and forth a couple of times and I asked her if she could do the lacers and clasps since she already had done some very similar work. She was also taking some college classes in metallurgy and design, but unfortunately, she didn't get the workshop time to actually do the project. Oh well -- no harm, no foul.

Finally, I contacted Doug Strong (of Talbots Fine Accessories). Doug had done a white brass custom belt buckle on one of the Blades By Brown custom leather offerings. Doug was sometimes difficult to reach and didn't always respond quickly/at all to email/voicemail, but overall, he was excellent to work with. Even with him coming down with pneumonia, he let me know what was going on and I eventually got the lacers, clasps and everything I wanted. Here's the surcoat clasps:


What is it with people that work with leather or forge metal? I understand that this is a more "creative" choice of profession and lifestyle, but don't these people understand that without customers, they can't afford to BE creative? If these folks don't develop some common sense for running a business and maintaining a customer focus, they are going to wind up like this:



Or maybe
this article explains it all.

It has GOT to be the fumes.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

A Real Pain in the Foot


A lot of people (myself included) bemoan the fact that while there's more and more "stuff" out there to purchase, the quality just isn't "like it used to be."

My grandmother had a chicken-yellow General Electric stove. This monstrosity had such a heavy, baked porcelain finish on the top that nothing short of a nuclear blast could put a scratch, let alone a chip on it. In the 40 years that she used it, a single small burner had to be replaced.

Wall paint doesn't last as long and doesn't cover as well. No one plasters any more - it's all drywall.

I found the same preponderance of cheap footwear when I was looking for my Aragorn, Boromir, Faramir and pirate boots.

Now, the good thing about being a perfectionist is that when you finish, you have something to be truly proud of. The bad thing is, it usually takes much longer to get what you want. Sometimes, it's taken so damn long you aren't even sure you want it anymore ... but I'm stubborn.

A lot of the footwear from the various "Ren" sites falls into one of three categories - (1) cheaply made, (2) poorly designed or (3) all of the above. All expensive. Can you imagine a zipper on a Middle Earth boot? I don't think so -- they remind me of those idiotic half-boots that went the way of leisure suits.

I found Caboots (pronounced like "ka-boom") using "pirate boots" as my Google search item. Joey and Priscilla Sanchez are the owners and have family-owned custom cowboy boot business.

At this time I was also finishing off a pirate costume and I ordered a pair of custom pirate boots from the company. Joey asked for several measurements and the process began. When I got them about 4 weeks later, I was really pleased with the way they felt and fit.

(By the way, if you're looking for some classic pirate wear, go to to Center Stage Costumes. I got a really great looking pirate sash there - black satin and gold fringe. Check out their hats on Page 3 of their site!)

Seriously - when you have a really good custom shoe or boot made, it feels better than wearing sneakers! This is what Joey produces. Snug, great ankle support and a massage on your lower leg that indeed puts a spring in your step.

When I needed the pair of Aragorn boots made, my first thought was to ask Joey. I sent him a bunch of pictures and asked if he could make up a pair. Yup. Since this was really a made-to-order pair, it did take a while longer - maybe 8 weeks - and when I first received them, the top lacing was on the side of the boot as opposed to the back. I gave Joey a call and he said to send them back - no problem. A week later, I had a pair of Aragorn boots to be proud of! (Joey later told me once he put the pictures up on his site, he sold about 100 more pair.)

The Boromir boots were easy - Joey had a pair of plain black "Han Solo" boots that worked perfectly (and fit perfectly too!)

So when I wanted a Faramir pair, Joey was more than happy to oblige. The color was a little lighter than I had wanted, but - Fiebing leather dye rides to the rescue! - it not only darkened the leather to the right shade, it also gave just right amount of "weathering" to them.

And speaking of Gerard Butler ....


On March 9, "300" is being released. This is an adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novel about King Leonidas and the Battle of Thermopylae. It dramatizes the story of 300 Spartans defending Greece from the invasion of Persians led by King Xerxes.



David Wenham is also starring in the movie.



Check out the movie's site here.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Meanwhile, back at the Opera Populaire ....


I had seen the original Broadway version of Phantom of the Opera with Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman and I wanted to see how the movie version compared.

Quite well. Quite well indeed.

Gerard Butler made a wonderful Erik despite the critic's reviews that his disfigurement looked more like a bad case of sunburn. I found that I enjoyed both his and Emmy Rossum's voices far better than the originals.

Ahhh, but Gerard's costume ... damn, that was a good looking piece of work.

Time to call Andrea again.

This time, like the Boromir surcoat, I did some of the more estoteric materials purchasing. Andrea (as usual) had the skill, cunning and expertise to put the stuff together.

From this picture, and watching the movie in slow-motion, we figured out I'd need the following:


  • Tuxedo with tails and peaked satin lapels
  • Period-appropriate white linen shirt
  • Black silk cravat
  • Period-appropriate waistcoat in a silk brocade fabric
  • Black cloak with white silk lining and high collar
  • Police search gloves
  • Mask (of course!)



The Tuxedo


I was able to pick up the tuxedo online for a great price. I did need to have the sleeves lengthened a bit and Andrea mentioned that the back of the collar would need to have some black silk velvet on it. So after a quick trip to the tailor, off it went off to Virginia. Andrea was also going to need the jacket to make sure the waistcoat was cut properly.

The Gloves


Seeing what Gerard was doing with gloves on, I knew these weren't your run-of-the-mill unlined leather dress gloves. They reminded me of the gloves that Ponch wore on CHiPs, so I asked a good friend of mine (a police officer) what he thought. Definitely search gloves, he said and offered to get me a pair. The ones I wound up with were called Damascus D302's - I could do anything in them! Type. Pick up change. Take out my MetroCard. They really felt like I didn't have a pair on.

(I always had problems with gloves - the fingers were always too long. After Frank got me this pair, I found that police gloves - whatever the style - tend to have stubbier fingers. Now if I need any type of glove, I order them from
Quartermaster. They have great prices, my hands stay warm, and I don't have to take off my gloves when I need to do stuff!)

The Shirt, The Cravat and the Cloak

Andrea was doing the work on the cravat and shirt and cloak, but she was having some problems finding the right material for the waistcoat. Working in NYC near the Fashion District does have some benefits - so off exploring I went!

This was a bit harder than I expected. A lot of the shops (and there were literally hundreds of them) sold wholesale only, so my quest was to find a shop that 1) had the material and 2) sold retail.

The Waistcoat

On Day 2 of the Great Waistcoat Fabric Quest, I found N.Y. Elegant Fabrics on 40th Street. This store was HUGE!!! I asked one of the salespeople about brocaded fabric and was directed to an area of the store that was literally the size of a small auditorium. After about 40 minutes of going through bins, bales, bolts and whatnot, I was about to give up. But wait! At the very bottom of two piles, I came across two fabrics that were incredible!

The first fabric had the exact same design as the vest in the picture, but was a creamier brown. The other fabric was a vivid match to the vest in the picture but in a solid shot silk of bronze, copper and black. I really couldn't decide which one I wanted. For the price, I got three yards of both. Andrea decided to do two waistcoats since she couldn't decide which one she liked better either!

The Mask

Ebay had a number of masks, but again, a lot of them looked cheap and went on with elastic. Yecch. Googling found me XtremeDesignFX. These folks specialize in Batman-type latex costumes and prosthetic appliances. Lo and behold, there was a perfect Phantom mask! So I ordered it with some adhesive and remover.

Done! Of course, now it was up to Andrea to work her magic. I told her that there was absolutely no rush on this outfit and I was secure in the knowledge that when it was completed, I'd have no complaints.

Construction

Andrea's attention to detail is AMAZING and the fact that she has a theater background is incalcuable. Buttons for example. The linen shirt she was making for the costume has real mother-of-pearl buttons. Since they didn't have plastic buttons in the 1870's, the shirt doesn't get them! The cloak was also a work of love, as well as art. In the scenes where Gerard is wearing a cloak, the entire front of his outfit is showing. But how is it fastened? Andrea figured it out! The cloak collar strings go DOWN the front of the tuxedo, BEHIND the lapels, AROUND the armpits and TIE in back. Even Garry couldn't figure out how she did it until he saw it! Ingenious!

Another success for me and Twin Roses!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Weapons and Warfare


Swords


Surprisingly (or not) this was one of the easiest facets of the various outfits that I've put together. United Cutlery (UC) actually made decent Strider swords and Elven Hunting knives, as well as some relatively well made scabbards. These I was able to get through any Google search for "Strider sword" or something to that effect. The UC sword, though is made of stainless steel which is a bit too brittle for real combat and has what is called a "rat-tailed tang" which isn't suitable for battle ready swords.

Strider's belt I got through Blades By Brown - they only appear to have the Anduril belt on their website now, but perhaps it can be specially ordered.

Boromir's sword was a bit harder to find, since UC did not make the decision (or had a production line ready) for this for some time. Where I got the sword, I honestly don't remember, but it was called a "Marauder Sword" and was exactly the same as the movie Boromir sword, even down to the dark bluish-black leather wrapping and scabbard. This is also made of stainless steel, but has a full tang.

Faramir's sword was actually the most difficult to get, mainly because there didn't seem to be the buzz and demand as the other ones. Faramir's sword appears to be the love-child of Strider's hand-and-a-half bastard sword and Boromir's single-hand sword. Amazingly, Reg started carrying swords and had a few of these available - and shipped out on a surprisingly timely manner. Stainless steel and full tang here. There may be a variation on this theme for the sword, but this is tied into the Ithilien Ranger sword story below.

The Ithilien Ranger sword is indeed a niche product. I'll be discussing that in a later post. That involves another artisan and a private investigator!!



Bows

Bows, too turned out to be relatively easy to get - and gorgeous ones at that! My search lead to bowstick.com. Justin Steinmetz (the owner) makes some incredible "fantasy" bows. I use that term loosely since all his bows are fully functional. I ordered a limited edition Strider's bow and a "captain of the army" bow. Accurate estimates as to time, great materials and quick delivery. Answers emails and answers the phone!

Justin also has arrows for sale with some wicked looking medieval tips. I actually got some darker "Strider" arrows from Reg (again, these took a long time, but worth the wait) and some lighter "Faramir" arrows (which didn't take as long).

Rumor has it that the British "finger" (a backwards-pointing "V for Victory" sign) originated with the Welsh longbowmen during the Hundred Years War - taunting their French adversaries after a successful volley of arrows into enemy troops. If a bowman was captured, however, the enemy would often amputate these first two fingers for revenge. If you'd like to read more about longbows, check out the wikipedia entry. Fascinating stuff.

Strider's quiver I got off of ebay and used a highly diluted mixture of Fiebing's leather dye to age it a bit more than it was aged already. The Faramir/Ithilien ranger quiver was done by Reg. The linen quiver bag for Aragorn's quiver was made by Andrea and also Fiebing dye aged.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Faramir - more than a man, less than a Maia??


As a brief respite from my travails of costume creation, here's a discussion topic:

A comment on a thread on khazadum.net sparked this line of thought...

If the Ring is a source is a source of immense power, let's make the assumption that "if power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely"

We have a very small cast of characters that can reject the ring out of hand.

  • Tom Bombadil (Maia)
  • Gandalf (Maia)
  • Aragorn (Canon and Movie)
  • Faramir (Canon and semi-movie)
  • Galadriel (although quite tempted)
  • Sam Gamgee (sort of)
My focus here is mostly on Faramir. Canon-wise, Faramir recognizes the ring for what it is and utterly rejects it, as does Gandalf.

Movie-wise, he doesn't really *want* the ring, but wants his father's approval. Again, he willingly rejects the ring, even upon pain of death for abandoning it.

How does he do it?

Is part of his resistance due to his close (I'd say even surrogate fatherly) relationship with Gandalf? Does his several traces of Elven blood (Numenorean plus Elven blood from the Royal House of Dol Amroth) give him some added spine-stiffening?

If blood does tell, why did Boromir fall? God only knows he was (supposedly) in better mental shape than Faramir.

Talk amongst yourselves....

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Silks, satins and linens - oh my!

While interminably waiting for my leathers, I came across one of the most incredible costume sites on the web - Twin Roses Designs.

Based out of Virginia, Andrea and Garry Wakely produce outfits that you wish you could wear to work - even if hunting down orcs and other fell creatures was not in your job description.

I found a kindred spirit in Andrea - not only did she feel the same way about LOTR, she made the costumes! Sorta like the old Sy Sperling ads - "I'm not just the president, I'm a customer too!"

The light black shirt was made of linen and weathered sufficiently to really look worn. It was everything I was looking for, fit great and felt grand. I also ordered a FOTR green cloak - also nicely weathered and tattered along the edge. This goddess of stitchery also figured out how to put in strap holes into the cloak so I could wear a quiver and still have it drape and flow around me. What attention to detail!

The best part? She followed up! I got progress pictures and emails when the shirt and cloak was in the process and - wonder of wonders - a real, honest-to-goodness delivery date and notification when they shipped!

At this point, I also ordered a Two Towers Strider burgundy linen shirt ... and a gray Lothlorien cloak. After all, how could I go wrong? Again, not only were the finished products things of beauty and comfort, they were done on time! Oh, why couldn't my leatherworker be such a pleasure to work with?

If you visit their site and look at the Lord of the Rings portfolio, you'll see a number of the items she made for me.

I think one of the most fun projects we did together was for a Boromir tunic. I did research. She did research. The material was a heavy silk satin with zardosi and zari threadwork and embroidery. Andrea told me how much she would need and I found a place in India that could produce a obscenely luxurious bolt of cloth that was encrusted with the same gold threadwork. Again, I contacted Reg for a Boromir surcoat. I figured that as long as I'm cooling my jets for one set of items, what's the wait for another one? "Not a problem" again - but I knew that I'd be waiting a looonnnggg time for it.

The surcoat clasps, on the other hand, proved to be one of the most daunting tasks so far in my quest.

But that's another story ... (to be continued)

Dunedain leather

Welcome back!

So, after my rather mediocre experience with armsofvalor.com, I hit Google again and I found Ravenswood Leather. Now, these folks seem to know that there needs to be the right mix of usability and sheer enjoyment in an outfit. After all, if someone is making a "Tralius Two" leather jerkin and has another model in a pair of snug leather pants in the middle of a swordfight, this was type of person I want!!

I spoke with the owner - Reg - and his lovely wife Larkin. "Sure, we can do that!" was his reply. We went back and forth on colors, materials, fasteners, etc. I was excited. I was happy. Things were looking up!

One thing that absolutely, positively makes me crawl the walls is lack of followup. If I get a phone call, I call back. If I get an email, I return it. When I sell on ebay, I send the seller all the tracking information. If I tell someone that I will have something done by a certain day, it's done by that day and they get verbal or written confirmation. It's just good business sense. I'm organized.

Reg is truly an artist, but he absolutely no sense of deadlines or managing expectations. He can't seem to grasp the concept "I have a deadline and I have to raise a warning flag if I'm going to miss it." How does this guy pay his bills???? I would ask for an estimated completion date and after it came and went, we would start the neverending followup call:

"Hi Larkin, what happened? The items were supposed to ship on Tuesday"
"Oh, we got busy ... so sorry! We'll get it out next week!"
"OK, send me the tracking number when you ship? {sigh}"
...
"Reg ... where's the stuff?"
"Oh, man. I don't know where my head's been at. I promise I'll finish everything this week"
...
"Larkin -- tracking number????"
"Whoops! Let me check ... oh, here it is ....didn't you get it"
"No, that's why I'm calling you again..."

Reg has done a number of leather outfits for me, notably the Aragorn duster, undertunic and black leather pants. The stuff feels WONDERFUL and fits great. He's also done a Boromir surcoat, and a Faramir cuirass and pants. I've also gotten Boromir/Aragorn and Faramir bracers and belts from him.

The big problem here is timing. Reg can't meet deadlines - even if the deadlines are 6-9 months in advance. If you're willing to wait (and wait and wait) and make constant followup calls, he can't be beat.

Let's start at the very beginning ...




... a very good place to start.

I was not exactly having a high point in my life when FOTR came out in 2001.

There was a rather large shakeup at my company and a lot of the middle and upper management got replaced. After surviving two previous shakeups AND a merger, my number came up and I was "downsized." The good news was I got 15 months of severance. The bad news was looking for work after a long time - and the job market in NYC after 9/11 was not exactly booming.

I saw the movie with my very first boss and his family - I've known Alex since I was 16 years old when I was doing signal dispersion programming on geostationary satellites for him (this just screams "GEEK" doesn't it?) Anyway, I couldn't believe how well Peter Jackson cast everyone. Strider immediately became a favorite character. Something in the scruffy-looking, serious Ranger with hidden depths struck a chord with me. I was waiting to see how PJ would portray Faramir since he was actually my favorite character in the books.

After a rather nasty period of unemployment, I got a new job working in a related field, with many thanks to a former "C" level executive - I hate to say it, but networking really DOES work!!

It was after The Two Towers that I made the decision to get a Strider costume. I wasn't interested in some cheap Halloween crap - I wanted the real stuff - leather, suede, linen, etc. and I wanted something that would be comfortable to wear and to LAST.

My first stops were eBay and Google. I found some promising sellers with similar items and contacted them regarding shirts and such. The stuff I got was okay - but didn't really have that "suspension of disbelief" reality if you wore them. This was particularly the case with Arms of Valor. This etailer was offering "Ranger" outfits, but it was basically off-the shelf Renfaire stuff that was bundled together. The original Strider gray shirt also turned out to look more like a 17th century dueling shirt than anything else.

I wasn't happy, but I found that there were a LOT of people that weren't as picky as me (but with the same obsession) on eBay so off the stuff went. At times, I even got more than I paid for, thanks to some really great copy on the eBay auctions themselves.

I was determined. I would get my Strider outfit no matter what!

Welcome!

As you can probably surmise from the title of the blog, I am *slightly* LOTR-obsessed . Faramir and Aragorn are my two favorite characters.

Now, I'm not your regular "Tolkien-geek" obsessed - like decorating a room or buying elf-ears and other cheap paraphenalia.

Nope - when I do something, I do something RIGHT.

  • I've taken up archery - using a 72" longbow - and I'm up to a 40-pound draw weight
  • I'm learning how to fight with a sword - rapier and broadsword
  • Put on about 15 pounds of muscle
  • I've worked with some very talented folks and have LOTR human outfits that would make your jaws drop (more about my adventures with deadlines, measurements, artisans and whatnot in another post)
  • Wearing full plate armor and chain maille now feels like wearing a moderately heavy winter coat
I've always been interested in costuming and I guess that LOTR brought it to the fore. Now, I'm actually indulging in what I enjoy most.

I'm a Capricorn, and like most Cappies, I find that I tend to live life backwards. I'm having more fun now that I'm older, and as my buddies develop the receding hairlines, wrinkles and spread around the middle, I get the thicker hair, rugged good looks and muscles.

I was not exactly the athletic type all during high school or college (ok, I worked as part of the library staff and was valedictorian). I happened to bump into one of the jocks I knew and I don't know what was more enjoyable - finding him on his third marriage, fat, and wearing a toupee so bad it looked like a racoon died on his head or him babbling, "I can't believe you look so good" over and over again.

My current projects are an Ithilien Ranger and Green Lantern/Kyle Rayner. Barring a snowstorm, I should have my Green Lantern costume completed by February 22nd.

Some of my past projects included Duke Alaric Morgan (from Katherine Kurtz's Deryni series), Gerard Butler's Phantom of the Opera and some generic piratical outfits.

More to come, and thanks for visiting!