Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Journey to Senbonzakura no Kenshin

Today is a happy day!

And brings a week of creativity (and a lot of work!)

I got a job offer with better hours for school! Recently that had been taking a toll on me. My summertime was mostly working, which is great, but the school year brings a lot of demands. I got a job opportunity to have work while going to school, and it's closer to my interests in gaming. I'm definitely excited!

Hopefully this will bring a realm of stability I have lacked a little over the year. Like I mentioned before, I am blessed to be able to fit a lot of my interests in with my priorities, and it's a constant evolution. It is difficult due to my school hours to factor in a really heavy workload, so I hope that it will allow me to be able to care for my health too! I celebrated a year of progress on my back, and I want to keep on going!

I'm currently in progress to start my PMX cosplays just before I transition out of my old workplace. Most of my sewing will start this week, and I'm taking advantage of tomorrow's pattern sale to see if I need anything else for the while.

I've spent this week also watching Akatsuki no Yona finally, and then rereading Fushigi Yuugi! I'm so torn in wanting to do another cosplay, I may make Miaka, but I keep on thinking, "Control yourself, Kagura, you have so many designs and plans already!" Like it stops me from making things. I really love being able to catch up on some stuff over the year as the new fall anime season starts. I'm super excited for K: Return of Kings!!

I also have to catch up on my anison collection! I haven't gotten new singles in a while, and I need to get some new music! I last bought Exist by Angela...does she have a new single already?! Also Animelo! Next year, I'll be ready for those tickets!

For starters, a recent photo of me since I don't often put one because I'm naturally a goober.
So in midst of me catching up, I need to find out who to credit for these, but I'm super happy with some of the shots taken from Fanime of us on stage! I wanted to chronicle a little bit about my journey to making Kaoru and our skit, Senbonzakura no Kenshin.

Shii and I often wonder how my brother can see through his bandana.

I'll edit this to credit the photographer, because these are delicious! I mentioned that I rewore Kaoru recently, and I may have some time for Nisei Week this upcoming weekend. Maybe I'll be able to stop by and rewear it (or have a moment of durr and make a yukata for the event lol).

The skit was really fun to do! It took a span of six months of planning to get everything going. A few years back (so some entries ago too) we had conceived the idea of a Kenshin skit for Fanime 2013. We ended up switching to xxxholic instead when plans changed, so we left Kenshin aside as an undetermined project. After Anime Los Angeles, we were really surprised and pleased with the outcome of our Angel Virus skit that we ended up brainstorming som new ideas for Fanime.

We toyed with a few other ideas until I suggested for us to revisit Kenshin. It had been on everybody's minds. One of the issues with the skit I had personally had been how intimidated I was on making kimonos. I lacked a proper pattern and I didn't really understand what happened when I was working on Yuuko, although I kind of piced some ideas up by the last half of it. But I felt compelled to challenge myself, as did everyone in the group to make a skit fitting to the spirit of Kenshin.  

I love this photo of Lyric and Shii's epic fight, which I still don't know how my brother can see.
We started planning out the basics of the skit in late January, and I designed the skeleton of the skit's choreography since we wanted to make it more of an interpretive dance with a story. We figured out our roles early, although Lyric had initially chosen Aoshi for the final fight.

During the February-March season, we began working on setting up rehearsals. We rehearsed around one to three times a week, sometimes as a duo with Shii or Lyric, while other times as a trio with my brother and Shii, or Shii and Lyric. We made the most of the hours before and after work, and even sometimes stayed up past late-night park hours, with really confused park rangers.

Around that time, we also began preparing for our costumes. I had to both make my costume for Kaoru and for my brother, who chose Sanosuke.

To begin: I have evaded making this cosplay for years, mostly because I admittedly am intimidated by kimono and lacking the necessary knowledge of making one that doesn't look like it came straight out of a cheesy 90's Halloween catalogue. But I love kimonos, and after this experience, I surely will work on more. 

My biggest challenge for Kaoru was making the flowers and the concept for the kimono. I purchased a Folkwear pattern for the kimono to modify and add a lining to, and I worked on the flowers in various test stages to get the look that I wanted.

Progess while watching Frida.

I started out with this idea to overlay a sparkly fabric to make my flowers. My first attempt at creating the appliques out of them were a little challenging for me, mostly because the organza tended to move around. I eventually dropped that idea to go in favor of more traditional flowers.

Flowers, flowers, flowers!

My machine is a little on the older side, and it doesn't have as many cool gadgets as other snazzy new machines, so my satin stitching function is actually a small crank you have to hold down as you work through each of them. I basted them onto their placements before I could get to satin stitching them down.

It was kind of nerve wracking throughout the experience, mostly because my hands suffer from carpal tunnel. Yet they became these precious things:

Overall, there were about twenty six flowers made and were then trimmed and cleaned out to prepare to place on the fabric. They contain stabilizer in the back, and and were then laid over the individual pattern pieces first before sewing everything together.

I then went off to work on my first under kimono piece (which I should apply the proper terminology). I had initially chosen some different fabrics beforehand, but I went with this taffeta I found in the proper color. It was light and airy, and it's very easy to wear. The shinier side became it's own lining in a way.

I then completed the rest of my kimono, as shown here sans the neckband. This was roughly the night before we had to head out to Fanime, so all of the flowers had been satin stitched into the pieces, the pieces were sewn, and the kimono had been lined with another fabric I previously purchased but never used. The kimono is actually made of a vivid blue doll satin, courtesy of our favorite seller at the fabric district. Although I had intended to make my kimono out of silk, it ended up going closer to my vision.

The kimono pattern I used was from Folkwear, and it's a handy pattern to make a simple kimono out of. I had previously admittedly made a really bad kimono for Yuuko two years before (for the same con, ahem), and it had been a disaster to figure out the mobius strip that is the lining. However, it came a little more naturally this time around.

By the time this was all done, I had a few hours before packing up to work on Sanosuke for my brother.

I took a karate pattern and whipped it up. It's made of a heavy bottomweight cotton to give it that sturdy feel to it. Then I satin stitched the kanji on the back:

My brother got a lot of awkward looks from the local Asian restaurant when he stopped by for directions wearing this.

When we got to San Jose, I went ahead and finished the pants for Sanosuke, which I had cut out here, and then painting the branches on Kaoru, and handstitching the neckline. For the most part, the costumes endured much of our performance, which is a huge plus!

Overall, this skit means a lot to our group and to myself. I have yet to write more on how our Angel Sanctuary skit went, as well as subsequent projects, but I am so glad that we can look at this and really experience the joy that it was to perform it.

And here are some more recent photos of where I've worn Kaoru!

Credits to American Cosplay Paradise!
I recently wore Kaoru again to PMX 2015! I enjoy this cosplay so much, and I look forward to wearing it again soon!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Because I'm lazy, I'll change the old post pictures later.

And as usual, it's 3am here and I'm completely elated to be journaling again.

I honestly feel like I own my blog a personal apology for not keeping up with it, even though not keeping up with it feels like a good sign of actually living life, yet I like chronicling things, and it's one big paradox!

And as usual, I have my portfolio site but I cannot abandon this blog at all. I won't. I decided, and it's final. If I could find an awesome way to integrate it, that would be amazing. I'm don't want to just let things go by without getting the chance to talk about them, because otherwise I feel like it just fades away in a sense.

I spent today ruminating that my work situation, which I have mentioned here before, has been extremely busy and without sugarcoating it, difficult. It is severely understaffed and I spend fifteen hour workdays alone, and while I'm blessed to be able to motivate myself, I'm definitely suffering a little creatively on the inside. Cosplay and art fuels all of that goodness in me.

All is not lost however! Despite my lack of updates since 2014, I've actually done quite a lot more productively than I have in most years. I think I'm transitioning out of some of the early struggles in my sewing, where I felt like I was doing something right, but I was really falling short in it. Costumes are always like foreign yet familiar puzzles to me, and I am getting a better sense of how things work.

I have been doing some great work in midst of 35-40 hour workdays and 4+ full-time classes in school! I chronicle some of it on Facebook, but I want to be putting it out in other places too. I definitely want to be a presence that can be helpful and supportive towards other people's creative endeavours.

I can only assume that I've survived the Great Era of Derp thanks to art! 

I'm a goober in a blue kimono.

So in summation of my crazy cosplay projects since last time:

PMX 2014: Tsukumo from Karneval, Atago from Kantai Collection, and Shiro from No Game No Life, Shindo Shuichi from Gravitation
- Con Experience: PMX started out as the, "everything will go as planned" convention, but then suddenly, things went awry and unfortunately out of our four person skit, Lyric had to sit out due to a last minute emergency and Emi was unable to attend the con at the last minute. However! Shii and I had a super fun skit experience! We dressed in our Gravi outfits and sung karaoke like goobers, performed to dat~Booty Swing, and had way too much fun with ribbons and roses. I really love my Tsukumo cosplay and probably for the best season, is that it was my first cosplay coming out of my experience with my back!

Anime LA 2015: Alexiel from Angel Sanctuary, Kinomoto Sakura from Cardcaptor Sakura, Matsuoka Gou from Free, and Anzu from Indolm@ster: Cinderella Girls
- Con Experience: ALA is a special convention. It was rainy and gray, and I almost feel like the con was mourning a little that it's moving next year, but it's still so magical on its own! We performed the skit that we had been waiting to do for over a year, and we did it! We got a great reaction and I am so happy to see us in those skit videos and see our costumes for the journey we had gone through. I was super giggly all weekend for that reason, despite that I was half asleep thanks to the decision of making not one, but two 24-hour cosplay challenges. So it was like 2 in 24. Bahahahaha what is sleep!

HanadokiCon: Lacus Clyne (Final Plus) from Mobile Suit Gundam SEED, then re-wore my Sailor Stars Usagi seifuku
- Con Experience: This was a last minute plan. My friend asked if I had wanted to go with her to the con for a weekend in San Diego, and I figured that I hadn't had a weekend off in a while, so I went ahead. Shii came along as well, and we had a really fun time! It was a small convention, but we got to watch the masquerade, and watch Saiyuki at the pool side. We also took really silly pictures of each other near these pretty gazebos.

Fanime 2015: Kamiya Kaoru from Rurouni Kenshin, Kusakabe Ringo/Yuka from No-Rin!, and Tadokoro Megumi from Shokugeki no Soma, and unofficially, being the Mega Milk Ane-chan
- Con Experience: This was a super fun convention! We worked super hard on our Kenshin skit, and while not perfect, we really made the most of it. The car ride is always hilarious, and I fit the convention having lots of fun doing a comfy group cosplay. I seriously love my kimono, yet the journey there brought lots and lots of carpal tunnel. But it's so pretty. *_* I also had a lot of fun wearing Ringo, and I bought my MegaMilk shirt to wear while sewing, but I ended up unofficially cosplaying from it, and it was fun!

Anime Expo: Filia Ul Copt from Slayers TRY, Caster from Fate/Stay Night, and Miyuki/Cure Happy from Smile Pretty Cure
- Con Experience: This was a tough convention to judge because I feel like I only saw mere hours of it. The crowds were better and I had fun finding fellow Cures for our Pretty Cure Event! However, I sadly had to leave early and I also couldn't wear my Caster in the heat. I finished Filia, but hours before competing, our friend had to drop out due to illness and it was a little heartbreaking for how close we were. At the same time, it was a wonderful experience to make Filia and I'm so proud of my craftsmanship on her. I'll be rewearing her for ALA!

Along with those, I made my brother and Sagara Sanosuke cosplay, a Mudo Setsuna cosplay, and fixed up Zelgadis for him (I made it two years back for my friend Justin for our Slayers skit), Syaoran to match my Sakura for Shii, and I also completed a Link commission for another friend for Comic Con. That's nearly 12 costumes for myself, 3 commissioned/pieced together, and 5.5 cosplays extra for others! My mind is blown!

Out of the four conventions I have attended, I competed in 2 and won with my group awards! We got Best Group Performance in Journeyman for our Angel Virus skit at ALA and another materials award, and at Fanime we won for Best Dramatic Skit with Senbonzakura no Kenshin!

PMX is officially known as Pink-Roses Con.

I'm slated to be attending and competing at PMX this coming year, which is actually in about, less than three or four weeks now? Eek! I haven't started on anything besides patterns. I'm currently working on Hirose Yasuho from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Shirakiin Ririchiyo from Inu x Boku SS (the actual sewing, not wearing the old commission), and Luna from Sailormoon! My best friend Lyric is also making some really amazing acccompanying costumes since the main group will be taking a short break till ALA hits, where we have a really amazing project planned (and a dream project!).

It's always this time of the year when I tend to go through the transition of where I want to be when the cosplay season hits. Where am I? In a heck of a lot better place than last year. Even with my work and school season also hitting hard, I'm pretty satisfied that I have greatly improved on my crafting in midst of these hilarious times. The next projects will be super busy but I feel much more confident about my sewing that I hope I can get into the nitty-gritty and really enjoy this!

Next post when it'll be before 3am (likely 1am), I'll be posting actual pictures of progress work I have. I'll definitely be chronicling my cosplays as well!

Forever a goober.

I literally posted this at 3AM. Am I good or what?