Saturday, June 17, 2017

Identifying a Recast: Minifee Moe

I recently made an international trade for a Minifee Celine. After waiting patiently, the beautiful Fairyland box arrived in the mail with Celine inside. The downside though, is that Celine turns out to be recast.

I won’t show the head or share any identifying information on the trade partner, as I do believe she had no idea it was recast. We have started working out a solution and I’m waiting for the outcome.

In the meantime, I figured I would share a little bit on how to identify a recast. I’ve seen my share of legit and recast dolls, especially Minifees. So for those who are unfamiliar with recasts, please feel free to use this as a starting point in determining the legitimacy of your Minifee.

So just explanation, this is a Minifee Celine in “normal” skin on the Moe Line body.




For starters you can tell right away that the color and the resin is wrong. Fairyland has a nice pinkish color and this doll looked too pale for both a brand new or mellowed Minifee. The resin also has a shiny appearance to it. Fairyland resin is smooth but matte and unless you sand it or scrub it too much with a Mr. Clean eraser, it shouldn’t be shiny. The recast resin also has a translucency while Fairyland resin is opaque.



Here you can see the head cap is very thin on the recast. This happens from the shrinkage of the mold, making all the parts smaller and thinner.


Note the typical shrinkage that happens when a resin doll is recasted. During the recasting process, the molds shrink and cause anywhere from a 1%-5% reduction in size each time the mold is made. So if a mold of a recast is used to recast, you can expect the shrinkage to be greater. If you have a legit doll, you can compare the lengths of “easy” pieces like the forearm or the feet. You may also find that pieces such as recasted hands and feet won’t fit onto legit dolls if the shrinkage is too much.


Another red flag for identifying recasts is the drilling on the inside. Look for flashing inside the joints (extra resin that should have been sanded off or removed). Not all joints will have flashing, but legit dolls will have smooth channels where they’ve been appropriately drilled and processed.



Also pay attention to magnets. In the Minifee Moe Line and Active Line Renewal, Fairyland always inserts the magnets in the back and butt (and all newer heads). Recasts never have the magnets unless an owner put them in. You’ll find the channels where the magnets go are usually thin or misshapen, where legit dolls have very distinct cutouts for the magnets.


I believe this doll was recasted by Steven and Luo because of the polarity on its hands and feet. Fairyland is very particular about the polarity of the magnets so magnetic hands and feet always go on the same way. S&L always flips the right hand magnet and one of the foot magnets (can’t remember which). Legit right hands will be propelled away from the wrist joint.


So this was quite the bummer, but it shouldn’t turn you away from trades if you’re up for it. I’ve have conducted probably close to 100 trades in the last few years and this is only the second time something did not work out.

Feel free to ask questions and I’ll do my best to answer.


Monday, June 5, 2017

Alpaca Wig Part 3: Making the Wig



I made my wig cap using a white t shirt and three layers of Elmer’s Glue. I trimmed the glued portion on the wefts and began applying one layer at a time.



You can definitely leave the “underneath” layers a little thinner, otherwise you’ll end up with a wig that’s way too thick. Apply the layers around the bottom edge of the cap and work your way up towards the top.

The two wefts used for the part need to be thick enough that when folded over, the glued parts won’t show. I knew I wanted bangs so I went ahead and picked the wefts I wouldn’t mind cutting for the front.


I used the typical “fold over” method for the part. It took a little bit of finagling to make both wefts meet at the center and I had to use a toothpick to press the two halves together. It only took a few minutes for the first half to become dry enough to start the second weft.


After folding both wefts to their respective sides, I started to brush it out a little to cover the glue.


Trimmed the bangs.



Once everything is where I want it to be, I placed a piece of cling wrap over the head and rubber banded it on. Some people suggest spritzing the wig with water beforehand, some apply head using a flat iron (no cling wrap). I left mine wrapped overnight. By the next morning, the part was nicely flattened and stayed that way. I straightened the wig one more time and BAM.



Monday, May 29, 2017

Alpaca Wigs Part 2: Coloring and Weft Making

Coloring

I know I said I would do an article to cover the coloring process but I completely forgot to take any photos so you will have to do with text.

 

I colored my fiber using Ion Color Brilliance. It’s a cream based hair dye sold at most cosmetic and pharmacy stores, and it’s pretty inexpensive. The best part is, ICB comes in natural colors and brights.

On a sheet of aluminum foil, I removed the rubber bands from the cleaned and brushed alpaca. The dye is brushed into the locks. I use a palette knife to blend colors and smooth the dye into the hard to get places. I flip the lock and work the dye into the other side. Repeat with as many locks as needed.

You can test multiple small locks of fiber at different times until you find the shade you want. I prefer bold colors so I left the dye in for 45 min – 1 hour. Rinse gently under warm water under it runs clear. With the cream dyes, the locks will feel really slimy at first and eventually rinse down to a super soft, slick texture.

After gently squeezing out the excess water, lay the locks out to dry on some paper towels.

I noticed the towels would have some color stained from the locks, which is fine. You can choose to rinse again, but I have yet to have any of the dried locks stain my resin.

After drying overnight, you can begin to brush them out. I usually pinch the middle of the lock and shake out the ends a bit. They come apart really nicely. Brush carefully and prepare to make your wefts.

Weft Making

Use a silicone mat, wax paper, acrylic pane as your base. If you use wax paper, double it up so the glue doesn’t seep through and stick to your tabletop.

Now is the time to re-brush and straighten your locks. I actually use a small comb. I find that it forces you to be slower and work with smaller amounts, reducing fiber loss.

Before and after brushing & straightening. 

What I normally do is lay down a line of white Elmer’s Glue, smear it into an even bar about 2-3” wide. I take one lock of alpaca and trim the top just so it’s even-ish. Gently spread the lock open across the glue. As long as you’re careful about not getting the glue everywhere, you won’t have much of a mess. The fibers will look like they’re all messy and tangled but if you brushed it out beforehand, you can easily fix this later.
 

Across the top of the lock, I place another line of glue on above the first glue line. I use my palette knife to spread the glue evenly across the lock. One of the important things to look out for is spreading the glue evenly and with straight edges on both sides.


With the exception of your parting wefts, your other wefts can be thinner. I overestimated how thick to make my wefts and the wig came out fuller than I wanted. Parting wefts need to be full so you can fold them over the glue. If you don’t make the wefts full enough, you just need to do some creative combing and styling. That’s what I did.

So it will take a while for your wefts to dry. I left mine overnight, although 3-4 hours should do it. Have all the glue dry is important so when you peel the wefts off your surface, they come up as one sheet.

Trim the glue as necessary to clean up the edges. I cut the glue off so only about ¼ inch is left holding the weft together.

Gently comb out the tangles. You might lose a little bit of fiber. If there was a spot where glue did not saturate the lock, you might lose a whole chunk. Don’t panic. Just cut that lock in two and trim again. Some people prefer to work with long wefts, others work with tiny pieces at a time. You’ll find that both have their uses.

If you’re storing your wefts for later, lay them flat between two pieces of paper. You can pile them together, it won’t tangle up unless you agitate it. Just make sure to brush it out again before applying to the wig cap.

There are many ways to both color and make wefts so look around on youtube for tutorials. 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Safety II: Sharing Hotel Rooms

It’s been a while since I wrote something for the safety category (a long while). Ever since I retired from conventions, I’ve been really removed from the scene itself. I still have many friends and contacts in the show circuit though, and they occasionally bring up stories or questions that I feel would be beneficial to others.

Today I want to write about sharing hotel rooms.

I’ve experienced my share of hotel rooms split among a half dozen or more people. The idea of splitting hotel costs with so many people is great for the penny-pinching artist, amiright? Nothing seems more logical than reducing that $300 bill to $25.

As I progressed in my art career and it became a little more relaxed on the budget, I started reducing my number of roommates from 6-8 to 2-4, usually a friend and their significant other or similar. By my last year, I almost always had a room to myself. Sure, it cost more, but let me explain why it was worth it.

Peace. Comfort. Security.

Peace should be obvious. You’re not trying to sleep while drunk friends crash in at 2AM after an adult panel or karaoke at the bar. I was such a light sleeper, I was never able to sleep well with other people coming and going, turning lights on and off and watching anime on their laptops. A tired artist is a grumpy artist.

Comfort. Most rooms come with 2 queen beds. Unless you like snuggling close with friends, someone is on the couch, someone(s) is on the ground hopefully with a sleeping bag and a hoodie as a pillow. I don’t know about you, but after working a booth for a day I do not want to sleep on the floor. Ever had a sleepy person trip over your face? Sucks.

Also, it’s extremely difficult to keep that many people organized and clean. The clutter from cosplays, makeup, personal items, and vendor booty is going to pile up and explode all over the room. I don’t care how “neat” anyone says they are, six people in one hotel room cannot keep their stuff in one concise location. Being really particular about clutter and mess, I hate empty pizza boxes, piles of Ramune bottles, and dirty laundry all over a room.

Lastly, and the whole point of this article, security.

The more people you share a room with, the more people you have to be conscious of. Even in a room full of trusted friends, there's a lot going on and misunderstandings breed in chaos. In a room of acquaintances or even strangers, you just never know.

I've shared rooms with people I only met once at another show six months ago. Good people, but I always felt uncomfortable leaving my belongings in a hotel room someone else had access to. With really close friends, it's not much of a concern. I still won't leave my firearms or cash unattended just as good sense. No need for a misunderstanding or straight up crime. I think it's fair to say that while we may see each other many weekends each year, most artists don't have relationships beyond casually acquainted.

So things to consider when rooming with others:

Do you have any personal or hygiene habits that may conflict or bring out self-consciousness?
  • Leaving makeup all over the sink counter
  • Eating in bed
  • Sleeping in the nude 
  • Leaving the TV on for white noise all night
  • Snoring, sleep talking
Alcohol related activity, under age or of age
  • Coming back drunk
  • Drinking in the room
Where will you be keeping your valuables?

Not saying your roommate is a villainous thief, but at least be mindful of where you're storing things while you're in the bathroom, at your booth, or sleeping. Some people are pretty comfortable with "unpacking" and making themselves at home in a hotel, while others like to keep everything in the bag it traveled in.

For things like clothing and toiletries, you're probably ok to leave it out if you're not self conscious about it. However for electronics, purses, wallets, and anything of value, you should probably keep it out of sight and secured.

Keeping your valuables out of sight and out of mind is the easiest way to reduce issues. Most crimes are crimes of opportunity, so simply storing things away under the bed, inside your suitcase, or anywhere not immediately visible will help. For securing things, locked suitcases, inside your locked vehicle, or with your person at all times is definitely the way to go. I'll admit, I rarely locked my suitcase, but I did toss a lot of things in my car or carry my personal gear around in a backpack.

Who has access to the room?

Sure, you have a room key and Greg has a room key. That's two people right? But Greg's girlfriend and her two best friends are meeting him on Saturday. He'll probably let them in the room to fix their makeup, hang out. Oh and Todd and Angela from the Cosplay 101 Panel wanted to play Cards Against Humanity and they were going to bring some friends. Two people becomes two dozen pretty fast, even it's just to "run in and use the restroom."

Obviously good roomies will let you know if they plan on bringing anyone (especially if the other is trying to sleep, hint hint), but I've had plenty of people see it as no big deal to drop in the room with a few friends for a minute while they drop off vendor hall loot, or grab a jacket.

I keep my laptop, phone, and cash with me. Nothing else I leave in the room is worth stealing.

Ikr. But in reality, it doesn't have to have "value" in the sense of $$ for someone to take it, break it, or move it. Clothing, that Ultraman figurine, the signed art print, your Ramen, those three defective acrylic charms you decided not to grab in the morning. Seriously, people will take anything if given the opportunity. If you even remotely plan on keeping it, use some common sense.

So let's move away from property security and talk about personal security.

I've talk to many good friends and artists who have mentioned anecdotes about roommates turned stalkers, sexual harassment, general lack of boundaries. It happens and sometimes you don't see it coming. When you set up the hotel situation six months before the con, that person you set it up with might fall out, change, disagree, or simply not know each other well enough.

Never feel pressured into staying in a bad spot simply because you don't want to back out of a room or because you don't want to pay the money to split with someone else/get a different room.

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Story time.

Alyssa (not her real name) met an artist, Jared (not his real name) and his wife at A-Con. They started to see each other around the convention circuit, B-Con, C-Con, D-Con, and became friends. Alyssa, Jared, and his wife got along really well for about a year and decided they wanted to share a room at E-Con, because the convention hotel was more expensive than usual.

E-Con was 4 months in the future. During those 4 months, Alyssa still saw Jared in the artist alley, but sometimes his wife wasn't there because of her work. Totally normal. One weekend, Jared asks Alyssa if she is attracted to him. She says, no. A few weeks later, Jared asks Alyssa if she is serious about her boyfriend. Alyssa says yes. Jared starts texting her outside of conventions about her relationship with her boyfriend and Alyssa asks him to stop. Jared becomes angry and calls her a slut because he has "seen the way she looks at him".

I'm hoping by now, you're cringing at the very least. Jared started sending threatening text messages, some with sexual innuendo, to Alyssa. Alyssa became so uncomfortable she emailed the artist alley coordinator for E-Con and requested to be placed on the opposite end of the room from Jared AND cancels her hotel room that she was going to split with him. She finds another friend who agrees to let her crash on their floor instead. Just kidding, she crashed in the second bed because I'm spoiled and book double bed rooms for myself.

During the weekend, Jared talked about Alyssa being a whore and "leading him on" to the artists around him; he even started tagging her artist alley name in some pretty terrible social media posts. It became a pretty difficult weekend for her and we reported the behavior to the convention. Like most conventions, the staff weren't able to do much more than listen in and ask Jared to stop. Alyssa didn't want to contact law enforcement and make a big deal out of it, which was unfortunate.

This behavior is wrong. And it's coming from another artist. It's not just the "weirdos preying at the con," it can be anyone. Do not be afraid to stand up for yourself in this situation.

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So what can you do if someone is scaring you, following you, etc.? Note: this does not refer to someone who is simply annoying. If you feel like you are being threatened or your safety and well being are at risk, you have many options:

1. Leave.
Leave? Leave?! I paid a lot of money to be here! This is how I pay my bills! But is that money a greater priority than your health and wellness? No. Leaving a convention, hotel, or group of people is always an option. You might lose out on the money, but you'll go home safe and not spend the weekend feeling angry, scared, or anxious. 

2. Buddy system.
Surround yourself with good company that will watch out for each other. The ones that won't leave you trapped in an awkward conversation because it's hilarious. Buddy system works. One friend is better than none, but more good friends is always a plus. Even if they aren't at the table all day, ask them to check on you occasionally and maybe be there during setup/tear down.

3. Talk to security.
I understand some conventions don't have security. In these scenarios, find a staff member (not a volunteer), to report the issue. Depending on the situation, I would also contact local law enforcement, especially if staff aren't able to reign the issue in. What if security is just some kid with a SECURITY tshirt? As long as the convention has designated him as security personnel, he has some responsibility to try to help. As with all convention staff, they may or may not be able to do something.

4. Call law enforcement.
Many people I've talked to don't want to make a scene, or they don't think their problem is important enough to call police. If someone is following you to your room, threatening you, or trying to harm you, call. It's called prevention. It's better to have a police officer come by and nothing happen, than to not call and bad stuff go down. We take calls from stubbed toes to armed robberies, you might get some huffs from saltier cops, but we'd all rather take a "nothing" call than have to investigate an assault that could have been prevented. Also know that other first responders can also help, such as on site EMTs, firefighters, medics.

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Know your state laws and if/how they define certain crimes so you can report it if necessary. For example, in the state of Missouri:

565.090. 1. A person commits the offense of harassment in the first degree if he or she, without good cause, engages in any act with the purpose to cause emotional distress to another person, and such act does cause such person to suffer emotional distress.
2. The offense of harassment in the first degree is a class E felony.
565.091. 1. A person commits the offense of harassment in the second degree if he or she, without good cause, engages in any act with the purpose to cause emotional distress to another person.
2. The offense of harassment in the second degree is a class A misdemeanor.
565.225. 1. As used in this section and section 565.227, the term "disturbs" shall mean to engage in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that serves no legitimate purpose and that would cause a reasonable person under the circumstances to be frightened, intimidated, or emotionally distressed.
2. A person commits the offense of stalking in the first degree if he or she purposely, through his or her course of conduct, disturbs or follows with the intent of disturbing another person and:
(1) Makes a threat communicated with the intent to cause the person who is the target of the threat to reasonably fear for his or her safety, the safety of his or her family or household member, or the safety of domestic animals or livestock as defined in section 276.606 kept at such person's residence or on such person's property. The threat shall be against the life of, or a threat to cause physical injury to, or the kidnapping of the person, the person's family or household members, or the person's domestic animals or livestock as defined in section 276.606 kept at such person's residence or on such person's property; or
(2) At least one of the acts constituting the course of conduct is in violation of an order of protection and the person has received actual notice of such order; or
(3) At least one of the actions constituting the course of conduct is in violation of a condition of probation, parole, pretrial release, or release on bond pending appeal; or
(4) At any time during the course of conduct, the other person is seventeen years of age or younger and the person disturbing the other person is twenty-one years of age or older; or
(5) He or she has previously been found guilty of domestic assault, violation of an order of protection, or any other crime where the other person was the victim; or
(6) At any time during the course of conduct, the other person is a participant of the address confidentiality program under sections 589.660 to 589.681, and the person disturbing the other person knowingly accesses or attempts to access the address of the other person.
3. Any law enforcement officer may arrest, without a warrant, any person he or she has probable cause to believe has violated the provisions of this section.
4. This section shall not apply to activities of federal, state, county, or municipal law enforcement officers conducting investigations of any violation of federal, state, county, or municipal law.
5. The offense of stalking in the first degree is a class E felony, unless the defendant has previously been found guilty of a violation of this section or section 565.227, or any offense committed in another jurisdiction which, if committed in this state, would be chargeable or indictable as a violation of any offense listed in this section or section 565.227, in which case stalking in the first degree is a class D felony.
565.227. 1. A person commits the offense of stalking in the second degree if he or she purposely, through his or her course of conduct, disturbs, or follows with the intent to disturb another person.
2. This section shall not apply to activities of federal, state, county, or municipal law enforcement officers conducting investigations of any violation of federal, state, county, or municipal law.
3. Any law enforcement officer may arrest, without a warrant, any person he or she has probable cause to believe has violated the provisions of this section.
4. The offense of stalking in the second degree is a class A misdemeanor, unless the defendant has previously been found guilty of a violation of this section or section 565.225, or of any offense committed in another jurisdiction which, if committed in this state, would be chargeable or indictable as a violation of any offense listed in this section or section 565.225, in which case stalking in the second degree is a class E felony.
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I know that's a lot to read, but legal text is pretty spelled out for you (usually).

So after all that, it sounds like roommates are a terrible idea. Wrong!

It's still great to have people to talk to, watch movies with, split the cost with. It's just really important to keep your safety and security in mind when coordinating rooms. Know who you're rooming with, have boundaries and expectations communicated, and be aware.

Stay safe in your travels and take care of yourselves and each other!



Wednesday, March 29, 2017

ME:Andromeda on PC & DS4


My awesome second half pre ordered ME:A for me for PC. I've been waiting for this release since they first announced it. Can't get enough ME.

One thing I discovered is that I am absolute garbage at mouse/keyboard gaming. Could barely make it through a fight on normal difficulty. Naturally I went on the hunt for a way to connect my Playstation DS4 to my pc. For some reason, I assumed technology had advanced to the point of plug n play but apparently not.

I ran into quite a few issues with setting up ME:A and the DS4, which consumed a frustrating few hours. Here's how I ended up making it work:

My PC specs:
(Will post later)

So after the grueling 12 hour download, Origin kept giving me an error and I couldn't run the game. The play button was grayed out and I kept getting a message saying the game was not released yet.

Solution: ran the .exe directly from the program file folder Origin Games.

I also set up my DS4 with InputMapper. IM is a free download that essentially tricks your computer into thinking your DS4 is an XBOX controller. It works out pretty well, although you have to let the program boot up before plugging in your controller, and leave it running while you game.

About 20 hours in and I'm really enjoying the game and being able to finally take advantage of my gaming laptop.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

2D Roombox: The Garden

References:




So the idea is pretty basic. I have a small obsession with roomboxes and since I can't build any 3D models, I thought it would be cute to draw some. First one is based on the scene from Studio Ghibli's Spirited Away, where Sen invites No Face into the bathhouse. Dun dun dun!






Almost done!