Thursday, November 28, 2013

Fabric Haul!

The glorious fabric haul begins!

Taking a break from my more recent remorseful, "My Hand Hurts Saga", which hasn't improved but I hope to get at least a day of rest this Thanksgiving before finishing towards most of what seems to be the home stretch for my classes.

Ideally once classes are done, I'd love to get started on my ALA cosplay going. I actually have two to make, and then a holiday one after buying some lovely fabric for a holiday dress. I had planned to make a Christmas Nia outfit, although I'm unsure if I can get the wig in time. I might possibly be able to do a holiday Mirai or Stocking?

So to show my homework productiveness, here's a preview of what's to come of the future of the real website I'm working on:

I've started to consider to keep this blog, but to eventually transfer it over as well to the main portion of the site. I'm quite happy with how it's all looking, and I've just completed my comps for this project and working towards adding some tweaks here and there. I'm starting on the proper coding this week early on so I can have plenty of time to get it to look the way I want it.

After the semester is over, I'm ideally hoping to transfer new projects into there, but to also keep a more organized way to get ahold of me in a more professional manner, and also see some of my work.

So derpy picture of me, but over the weekend, I managed to start getting some plans on how to make Kougyoku from Magi for my ALA cosplay. I am participating in the masquerade with another cosplay, but we haven't gotten into the nitty gritty yet with the group due to school. 

I made a quick sketch of her as my inspiration plan of action. She seems like she'll be quite some work, although I also see it as a chance on having a colorful selection in comparison to Yuuki. I worked mostly with grays, whites, and a lot of black. Now there's a lot of colors of the rainbow!

So I am uber happy with the results from my trip. I went with Emi and two other wonderful friends, and we managed to go through some more stores than usual. For the fabric, I went through a large selection of organzas for her puffs, rayon prints, heavy cotton, taffeta, silks, and surprisingly, my first time woring with ombre!

The trims were absolutely amazing to find, and as always, the Avant Trims store is absolutely amazing in helping us find exactly what we need. I loved this trim interpretation from the start, and then that and the beautiful flower print made me too happy for words. I'm so happy I went with the print design for her, since I was inspired by some of the pre-made dresses I've seen going that direction.

Patterning everything might take a few tries, but I'm willing to be patient. I'm more than excited to get started!

For now, I'll be working slowly ad putting my school efforts on first, but keeping a good reminder of the tasks ahead always keep me on my toes.

Saturday I'll be going on another trip for my next cosplay, sot hat way I can simultaneously work on everything!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Short Update

A short update because my hands can't really do this right now.

School is pushing towards finals, so my biggest focus these upcoming weeks (as if it isn't already) is finishing up all of my classes as best as I can. I literally haven't slept in days sans the one moment my mother found me catnapping on the sofa. I think the exhaustion is getting to me though, and I'm at the point where I'm just refusing coffee.

Given that these past weeks have been hell on the moon for my hands with their popular demand, I'd really like to get through this semester with my hands in one piece and give them a little rest before the spring semester starts. All of my classes are currently online, so my computer time is maxed out and my hands are like, "Oh honey no."

The lovely news is my spring semester looks promising, and I love the classes I'll be taking. I'm planning on moving forward with classes that are career-friendly too. I've also started my trasnferring process to a new art college! I got the chance to finally doodle for the first time in like a month in between work breaks.

After school finals, Anime LA will basically become my life. I have an actual cosplay plan a month and a half ahead of schedule, but it also mainly these cosplays will be challenging my construction skills far more than Yuuki. I will still be bringing Yuuki, as I love the dress too much to just wear it once, but my Anime LA lineup seems to be very tropical and colorful.

At the moment, it also sounds like a full team reunion is going to happen too! There are some wonderful plans this holiday season and onward, but it'll take some strength and stamina to survive. More updates to come, and those pictures I promised.

Also I made an AMPLE account finally. I absolutely love the interface!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

20 Facts About Me

So I got tagged by a friend on Facebook to write facts about myself, and I've seen it going around on everyone's posts. I filled one out, and thus I also thought to post it here since they're really more about who I am and what I really do beyond cosplay.
  1.  I subconsciously think I’m eternally 17, and I apologize to anyone in the past if I’ve ever seamlessly said, “Oh, I’m 17!” I’ve been doing that every year after being 17, and I think it’s just me really just liking that age number. I’ve been carded before for saying this by accident. 
  2. My real name is Alexandra, but I’ve gone by Kagura as a nickname since I was 12 when it stuck in middle school after Fruits Basket came out. Ironically, I don’t know if I really have Kagura’s personality much, but she was also my first cosplay then too. I’ve come to love her personality more now than before as the manga made her more of a complicated person. I really love my real name though too, and I don’t usually go by Alex because that’s my brother’s name.
  3.  I’ve been cosplaying for almost 10 years, and consider the past 5 of them really focused on actual garment construction. The past years before, I basically was modifying clothing and though I rarely got commissioned items, I would try really hard to ghetto sew. It worked for appearances but I wanted to get better and really learn.
  4.  I don’t really tell people often what I’m studying, but I’m a game design major. I got inspired while working on a project that’s opened to me a whole new world of experiences. I’m transferring to a design college early next year as well to further my studies and networking, and am hoping to do more supplementary work in London in the future.
  5.  I have a huge addiction to Japanese visual novels. I’ve loved them since I was really young and confused them for anime. I’ve gotten chances to work on some projects to help and learn how to do digital illustration CG's and script work. I have my own small circle currently, and am hoping that together we can grow and push new ideas and projects in the future.
  6. I secretly obsess about Sailormoon fanfiction, and I have since I was about 15. I’ve never written any though, just love to read it! My absolute favorite is Usagi x Mamoru, which is my ideal dream OTP.
  7. I previously worked at a costume house for the film industry for a short but amazing period of time. During my time there, I was able to work on several projects and meet several film costume designers. I got to handle some classic film costumes that to this day, leave me in a surreal and grateful place.
  8.  I’m terrified of most horror movies -  I can’t even be near a TV that’s playing Jurassic Park (not even horror xD), but I adore the Alien series. I really don't know why, and I find Facehuggers absolutely adorable.
  9. Anything I cook explodes. I’m so terrible and clumsy at cooking or chemistry. At one point, my chemistry teacher told me to hand the tube to someone else while I did the calculations.
  10. I just think Europe is the place I should be at, somewhere there. I adore everything about European cultures, and hopefully I’d love to go travel and be inspired.
  11. My dream is to eventually work hard enough to compete in the World Cosplay Summit. I love cosplay, and I love the idea of being part of something that unites countries together creatively.
  12. I love classic literature and British period films. My first piece was David Copperfield when I was 10 because Daniel Radcliffe was in one of the film versions of it.
  13. I’m terrible with spoilers. I get so impatient that I spoil movie endings and shows. I also do that because I tend to get very anxious and sensitive about what I watch. Ironically, this doesn't apply to anime, but live-action violence sometimes gets to me, so I make sure it's something I can deal with.
  14. I love automatons and dolls. I think they’re fascinating, and a lot of my inspiration comes from them. And I absolutely love mannequins. I have a dress form I named Ema Heshire or Emy, after the mannequin from the film, Mannequin. (Mannequinception!)
  15. I have a homemade collage of Christian Bale magazine over my bed. It’s so outdated with The Dark Knight and Terminator Salvation photos, but I refuse to take it down. <3 
  16.  My favorite topics are usually about anything on psychology or surrealism. I’ve been a huge fan of David Lynch movies for a long time and my favorite anime of all time is Shoujo Kakumei Utena. I saw it when I was really young, but even then, I know I understood it. It’s a part of me now. I also like studying alchemy symbolism during my breaks at work. I’ve been fond also about the psychology of myths and fairy tales, and often read Jung or Von-Franz in the back room at work. 
  17.  I’m a self-taught graphic designer of 8 years, and consider myself as a trans-media artist since I like to blend all kinds of art into my work. I’ve been drawing for way longer than that too. 
  18. I’ve played the violin for over 10 years. I constantly practice and also compose my own solos and songs. I've performed and recorded before for some of my friend's local band events, and got the chance to be in their music video. My violin is actually a 200-year old custom Italian violin I named Constantine (Yeah, after the Keanu Reeves movie.).
  19. I have a huge obsession and love for Italo disco. My father introduced Italo disco to me when I was about 9, and since then I’ve seen some older bands live like Trans-X, collected and mixed dozens of songs, hear fantasy radios, and even now have my own Jupiter 8V, Cubase, and Arturia software to make my own. I dream of making my own Italo disco group and play at a crazy underground Italian disco club.
  20.  Arthurian Mythology is another huge part of my life. I love King Arthur and he is the basis of a lot of my allegorical artwork. I secretly think that I was Morgan le Fay in a past life. 

I think these help sum up quite a bit about me. More recently, I don't really go and share a whole lot other than cosplay photos and the occasion, "Oh my gosh, my homework is getting to me." moments, even on Facebook.
I don't really think I noticed how many different types of artsy things I like to do, I suppose. I once listened to a seminar by graphic designer April Greiman once for my graphic design class, and I not only loved her work but also felt that the term, "trans-media artist" really applies to me too. If I'm not doing one artistic thing a day, I find yet another.

When I was about 10/11, I had a teacher who really encouraged me to write down my stories. She and I still keep in contact, and she's seen a lot of my more recent work and what I'm studying, and she's pretty happy I found my way back to writing. I've kept a good record of the stories and ideas I have and it grows everyday.I love the research and inspiration part too. My friends also have great ideas, so we often sit and talk together and help one another. One of my close childhood friends is also studying creative writing after all those years of us bouncing ideas together.

I've been playing the violin since I was 12, and from there got to learn a bit more about other instruments like some basic piano, knowing the viola, and trying out the trumpet. When I was a kit, I really loved classical music. I listened to it for hours daily, and when I saw my local middle school's orchestra perform on Incoming Student Night, I immediately signed up. I'm the winner of the National School Orchestra Award for my high school too, which is still a huge honor for me.

My brother is also a drummer and plays flute, and then my younger sister is starting the piano soon. I know how to compose and transliterate music as well. I've worked with Finale for years and love adapting music to play solos or small groups. I even used to be in a small anime music quartet, except we were all students so it was a learning process.

I started graphic designing for little anime sites when I was about 14 and had started high school. It was a great hobby to have and I would spend my weekends working on something while jugglign AP classes. I moved on more towards helping school projects, local businesses, charity events, and musical sites shortly after high school. I still design, but it is more for my projects and also whenever I end up getting a burst of creative freetime to make a new wallpaper.

I started drawing since I was really little, but I don't think I really got super into it the way I am now till I was about 10/11. Right in middle school, I often drew for my classmates and then eventually that's also when anime became an even bigger part of my life and hobbies than before when I was just watching some shows. I began to practice more, and one of my friend's had a really talented older sister that inspired me too. 

In high school, I began dancing more too and learned Para Para. It's pretty easy to do, and I followed a lot of routines on Youtube from the old games and training videos. It ended up being a regular thing for a while, and while I still do it, I feel like I only can at the moment. I think the ability to perform however has helped encourage me to perform dances for skits, and I occasionally still hold panels.

I don't think anyone technically foresaw me making costumes as a huge part of my life. When I was 12, I saw an ad for Anime Los Angeles online when it was going to be first held, but they had then pushed it a year later for more time. I waited and remembered, and the very first time I went there, my family was confused but I was totally digging it. I went back on Saturday with my middle school friend Sara, and we had a pretty fun day getting to know the con, buy swag, and see all the amazing cosplayers. It inspired me to cosplay the very next year, and it became a reoccuring hobby for me to bring friends and go have fun.

From there, I really got into cosplaying because it was a pretty unique art. Granted, I was afraid of the sewing machine (an embarrassing truth) for a few years first, so I would modify things little by little, and my Kagura cosplay was commissioned by a family member. I also used to only have 1 wig, which was my pink Utena wig that I used for several other cosplays (except really Utena).

And then probably getting older in late high school, I began actually working on some of my cosplays a bit more, learning more how to sew, and actually try harder. It was a great way to also escape some of the harder times of my life back then. One summer, I just had a moment where I felt pressured to make a choice before entering senior year, so I thought because I loved cosplay, I could become a fashion designer.

It was a great idea, and it transformed into wanting to become a film costume designer. I went to college for a year and a half for it, but after my father passed away and my life was very confusing, I figured out that I lvoed costumes and cosplay, but as a hobby. I was a good student, but something was missing.

When I began getting my current circle of friends, they inspired me creatively to pursue game design, which I think is a way better fit for me and all the hard work I've put throughout the years. As an awesome byproduct, I think it also helped me see cosplay and costuming as more a hobby and has allowed it t bloom in its own way. Even as a hobby, I think it's opened so many doors for me emotionally, socially, and even professionally. It's kind of surprising that maybe just under three years ago, it was a hobby I wouldn't really talk about with people unless you were familiar with it. Nowadays, it's someting that my family members and people I know and work with are supportive of, and it means a whole lot to me.

I think cosplay in my life needed a purpose, so that's why I compete in some ways, but more than anything, it's about showcasing my art. I adore cosplay as being a way to globally communicate with others, and it's allowed me to make true and valuable friends and learn life's lessons along the way.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Post-PMX Review and well, let's get to ALA!

So the verdict is in....and Yuuki Kuran was victorious!

I won the Honorable Mention in Craftmanship at the Masquerade!

While loading the new pictures, here's the current picture I have of the completed cosplay for Yuuki:

I've been so exhausted since yesterday from all of the hectic amazingness that PMX was, and it was all quite worth it! So many experiences and all probably in less then 48 hours considering I missed nearly the whole Day 1 of the con unintentionally. Coming back to the reality, going back to work on a crowded day, everything hit me how these con experiences really add a break to the norm.

I honestly don't think I ever had gone to PMX, I really couldn't remember before, but getting there, everything felt so foreign that the only reason why I probably questioned why if I had been there before was because of the local area. It's right by ALA's current home, and previously had also stayed at the Renaissance nearby for this past AX with the gang. I have to admit that the layout was a little confusing, since because of it I msised some panels and locations. At the same time, I became acquainted with other common rooms - the Cosplay Lounge, which was super easy and convenient to find, and then ome of the main lobbies and boutiques.

In terms of PMX activities, as I said before, I unfortunately arrived late due to a plethora of mini-delays. I ended up making Tohru's blue dress cosplay for a Fruits Basket event that I totally missed. Unfortunately the gatherings were very small too. But the dress was made in less than an hour, bur surprisingly looked clean. It resulted in me having arrived to the hotel at around a late seven or eight at night, but was greeted to the awesomest roomies ever. My two good friends Emi and Rina were there and we enjoyed a little time having some good room pizza, and then I got to meet some of the other roomies who shortly trickled in after. Most of them were absolutely awesome, and over the course of the weekend, we all bonded and had a great time!

My swag totals came up to a higher price than other previous conventions, but I actually bought my first lolita JSK, a lovely Steampunk/aristocrat blouse, a pair of Justine et Juliette tights after which I got to greet the designer! and then bought Shii her birthday gift for tomorrow. I wanted to buy a new wig, but the Assist Wig booth only had a few samples, so I'll wait on it since I want to pick a good wig for a character I'm next planning on. I also got some awesome goodies and prizes on the side; a lot of PMX survivors have probably brought home a year's worth of Pocky from the ever-pink Pocky room, and then I got some post-masquerade and panel prizes too! 

My masquerade information and check in as hands-down one of the smoothest processes of any con. Having now competed at ALA, AX, and Fanime, PMX was clearly on time, prompt, and Mikari-san and the rest of the Masquerade Ops Team were some of the friendliest people I have ever met. They were so professional, hardworking, and absolutely supportive towards the contestants. It was made into an even better experience by also seeing the high level of sportmanship among the contestants. I bonded with a group of them and they were all just friendly and equally as creative to talk to! Turn out that we also had the awesome benefit of all actually winning!

Masquerade was one of the most fun experiences ever. Rehearsals were extremely great and a chance to also see the stage, work on getting to know my gown and wings a bit more, and the feedback from the previous was actually really strong. I was truly surprised. When the show went on, the nerves started, but I amde some great friends backstage and we all began boding about cosplay plans, similar nerves, crazy con stories, and everything else in between. A few of them also had some seriously amazing props, and I was so stunned by them! And the performance was great, I was absolutely in awe at the response and how people complimented me on my performance. I cant even begin to describe the feeling of being on stage, and even in muddled and heavy music, I just felt like for a brief moment, everything I had put all my heart and soul towards was there in front of everyone to see. I couldn't believe that all of the stumbles from the past rehearsal were gone, and I felt much better and comfortable. It was just, unbelievable. I think one of the hardest things to do in masquerade is to make a solo performance, because it's really all about how you can fill that space and truly entertain.

The response on wearing my gown both on the floor and on stage was overwhelmingly positive. I was praised for my craftmanship, attention to detail, my own design spin on the bottom of the gown, and overall the whole cosplay. It was a little harder to walk in, especially when taking the stairs, but one of the cutest thigns ever was one of the contestants was a little girl who cosplays as Suenaga Mirai. She's about six years old, and she is probably one of the cutest cosplayers I have ever seen. She's also absolutely sweet and loves talking to the contestants, and while on the floor, she somehow found me after rehearsals and ran up to give me a huge hug, saying how amazing my performance was and how much I looked like a princess. I couldn't believe it, and it just warmed my heart.

Winning an award for craftmanship seriously was memorable, considering that my goal was really to push my boundaries in my craftmanship. I think this was a great opportunity to see that I have advanced, even just from AX honestly, with my work and my ability to craft and fulfill that part of cosplaying that is special to me. I actually had originally asked for help from peers on this cosplay, and unfortunately no one was available at the time. In the end, it resulted to me finishing nearly every detail on the costume by myself, sans for one hem that my mother helped me on with the skirt trimming. It makes the award even more special to me.

Even after winning, I even got the chance to talk and share WCS talk with Ali of Fox Gloves Cosplay, who gave me her information and we just began talking all about WCS! She is part of the team that represented as Team USA with their Yuuko and Watanuki cosplays, the very cosplays that inspired Shii and I to work towards WCS soon! She is absolutely one of the nicest people ever to tak with, and she began sharing so much about international cosplay, WCS, and gave me so many compliments about carrying the spirit of WCS. It was just amazing. I'm so pumped to work hard at it! I really think I know what I want to do in cosplay now, and to keep working at conventions and trying harder, as well as really envisioning myself as a trans-continental cosplayer. I want to travel the world and explore cosplay, and really feel the experience of cosplaying under that nation's culture. My dream of going to Japan Expo in Paris is being realized!

Day 3 was all about lolita and J-fashion, and I got to see my first fashion show! I went with Rina's husband and some new friends to see Rina and Emi model for some huge brands, and I was floored by all of the beautiful dresses and brands. I was so happy to have really had the chance to watch my friends do what's most important to them too!

I also got to participate in Iron Cosplay, and our team won 3rd place with a hysterical attempt at a Fallen Angel Seifuku. I was partnered with two really awesome new cosplayers, Rachel and Richard, and we all became fast friends and went to the fashion show together. They are absolutely awesome!

The convention pretty much ended with me celebrating with junk food and sharing some laughs with the friends. I think I've made so many more friends than ever during this experience. I made friends with my roomies, who I hadn't known well at first and we've all become pretty chill with each other, and Emi and Rina and I all had some great bonding time together. It was so awesome to see Rina and her husband together too! He came and waited for nearly five hours to see her at the fashion show!I met two great new friends through Iron Cosplay, ended up sitting for four hours till dawn hearing philosophical stories through the night, made new lolita fashion friends,and made great new masquerade friends and connections. I think also in the long run, I also feel like I got more respect for my craft and hard work. It felt revitalizing.

My  Yuuki coplay was intended to be a new milestone and a segway into what I consider to be a Phase 2 in my life as a lifestyle cosplayer. I don't think I entered cosplay in hopes of becoming famous or anything super like that, but really as a fan and an artist, a way to truly express myself and share the talents I have acquired throughout the years in art, music, design, fashion, dance, and even a little theatrics that I don't outwardly use on a daily basis. I think this was a wonderful opportunity for me to see my own personal growth not only as a cosplayer, but as a human being. The experience of being in this cosplay was one that truly tested my abilities as a cosplayer and seamstress, but also having the ability to juggle work, school, and a heavy amount of sewing work all into one place. And clearly, my health was a challenge too. My hands survived and endured, although they are probably a bit sore right now from all of the commotion and then coming so quickly back to work. I have them on a brace again, but taking a small break and making better plans to break up my work as well.

In the long run, I see this as a turning point where I really now understand where I sit with cosplay. I'm only more inspired to run with it further, as even minutes before I went on stage, I mentioned to someone, "Maybe tonight, it'll all change and I'll be wanting to get there further to WCS." I suppose WCS is aa Holy Grail dream. It's possible, with lots of hard work, but I think in the long run, it's also about making possibilities open in the future for me. I can't even begin to express how happy I feel in realizing how many friends and connections I've met, and people who legitimately made this experience so much worth while, but alsohave instilled this promsie that future conventions will be just as fun because of them. I also terribly missed my usual gang, but it's inspired me and them to all reconnect and now see ALA as our way of combining all of these new experiences and adding more fun to the mix!

Pictures will hopefully be added soon, but also I'm meeting the usuals tomorrow to celebrate Shii's birthday and also to get a foundation laid for our new plans. We actually on the car ride to drop me off to PMX had a change of heart with our original ALA masquerade choice, and it resulted in us picking another idea we think will absolutely be more fun and enjoyable for all of us. So much work is to be hard, but here we go again!

On the side, I think I am planning on another fun cosplay to make for ALA. Will it be more rigorous than Yuuki? We shall see. I have a few on my list I'm now tempted to try, but I would have to start now and not December when finals are on. For masquerade, I have chosen a cosplay that's a little out of my comfort zone, but here's to new experiences!

My next post will probably be either pictures or cosplay construction details on how I completed Yuuki in about a week and a half nearly nonstop. <3

Friday, November 1, 2013

Post-Halloween and Pre-PMX

Happy November!

I can honestly say I remember very little about what happened in all feels like an odd blur of homiegoshness. I haven't had a proper chance to post a decent, Happy Halloween! although I hope everyone had a fun and safe Halloween.

I'll add pictures of progress work, I promise! But this year I completed Hermione and it was fun being her! I worked on the costume till the last minute before I headed off to my good friend's house, which was absolutely fun. All the friends were around and we were goofing off and playing Project Runway (psssst Michael Kors digs my designs. xD).

But unfortunately what I do remember of October was I actually got Carpal Tunnel Syndrome on both my left and right hands, which are now in wrist braces. Over the past couple weeks, I've been really working hard on my homework, juggling work and then trying to sew and get other items done. Unfortunately my consistent lack of sleep and lack of breaks have probablymade things a bit worse. Stress has been a bit higher than usual, and it's resulted in me needing to see a doctor finally and taking a bit of a step back from being so intense about my homework. ~_~;; My teacher has been absolutely understanding however, and thanks to him, I've been able to work through what I can do for the meantime till the pain subsides.

Surprisingly though, sewing through Yuki has been a peaceful experience. I've only got the sleeves done, which have required a lot of sewing and handwork on it, and still so much left! Today and tomorrow I will be working on the bodice and getting more work done. Next Friday is PMX!

I went from just thinking of going for one day to the con to three days, because I ended up getting a room with Emi and some of her friends too. It'll be a new experience! Already we're discussing ALA though, so the fun never really ends.

I'll have more progress pictures up soon, but it'll be about keeping things light and easy. The excitement is growing!