After cosplaying Warden-Commander Mahariel for the fourth time last year, I realised my breastplate was starting to look a bit battered and the paint was beginning to flake on my scales, so I decided it was time for a rebuild.
I didn’t have a heatgun when I built my original breastplate and did the best I could with what I had available to me, but I always knew it was a part that I would want to make again later on.
I actually really liked the way it looked as plain, blue foam, and if it hadn’t been for my visible lines, I would have been sorely tempted to seal it and wear it like that! After sealing and priming, I could get on with my favourite part – painting and weathering.
I was so pleased with how my knitted scales turned out but, aside from cracking and flaking paint, they were bulky and not very comfortable to wear for long periods of time. The more I looked at them and the more photographs I saw, the more I kept thinking about getting some decent hardware and seeing how much maille weaving I could remember from my time in re-enactment. Not only was it a much easier process but I’m completely in love with how these scales look against the blue.
The only thing that I’m keeping from version one is my velvet jacket, which has had the straps added to the sleeves and the griffon sigil to the left arm. Next to finish – gauntlets and greaves.
I was reminded today that I had started a bookbinding project with the short stories for the Dragon Age II companions, but had never gotten around to finishing it.
I was trying to come up with an in-universe reason for the companions to have shared these parts of their backstories and decided that it would be a single volume print as a birthday gift for my canon Hawke, Lyanna.
My husband deserves credit for his suggestions, particularly for inspiring the exchange between Anders, Varric and Bodahn, and for letting me use his own handwriting for Anders.
The plan is to get this printed and hand-bound once I’m done with my prototype, so I may be opening commissions on these eventually, with comments addressed to your own Hawke. But for the time being, the collection can be viewed by clicking on the cover pages below.
Four months in, 2017 has thrown me some real curve balls so far, which has badly depleted a lot of my energy and motivation – but my cosplay builds are still miraculously crawling along. I am going to get around to full posts for each project but for now, here’s a quick update on how things are going.
Celene has fallen onto the back burner a bit recently, as I had to postpone my plans to go and make the ballgown. That said, she now has a mask and a wig is on its way, so I’m going to have to get myself sorted out for dress making and fittings in May, otherwise my brother isn’t going to have an outfit to wear to the ball when The Calling comes around in June!
The other big task is going to be the lion’s head for the back of the dress, so I’ve been doing a few experiments with resin casting and need to find the time to actually sit down and make a clay master.
My Emerald Knight is slowly but surely coming together. I’ve finalised the embroidery design and started drafting patterns for the sewn garments. Her foam armor pieces are pretty much ready for priming and painting – just the sabatons to build and a few tweaks to the breastplate, then I need to settle on which shades of paint I want to use. I decided that I wasn’t happy with the foam scalemaille that I made for Mahariel, so I’ve been busy weaving chainmaille for Lindiranae’s sleeves, which is almost finished, and to remake Mahariel’s Regalia of Weisshaupt.
Other DA-related Stuff
A while back I booked an appointment to get another geeky tattoo and decided to get the Inquisition sigil just above my ankle, to balance out the Stark direwolf on my other leg. I have a couple of other designs pretty much ready to go – I just need the funds and to decide exactly where I want to put them!
Last month we went to MCM Birmingham and (after a few trips back and forth waiting for a quieter moment to queue) I got Gareth David-Lloyd to sign my Inquisition art book. I’ve since started stalking the other voice actors’ Twitter and Facebook pages to see if we’re likely to get any of the others at relatively local conventions so that I can get the other character pages signed.
Our next scheduled event is The Calling in June (UK Dragon Age fans, go check it out!) so I badly need to crack on!
There’s quite a few layers of paint, starting with base coats in gold and pewter, followed by varying shades of metallic acrylic, then watered down browns, blacks and reds for dirt and rust. The grip is actually brown vinyl painted blue, which gave the closest match in colour and texture to my screenshots.
The last thing I want to do is to add some watered down acrylics to the knuckle-bow to dirty it up a bit, then I think Evanura is ready for sealing. As she has a Master frost rune in-game, I had originally intended to add some frosting spray to the blade but I think it may be overkill at this point.
We don’t have any conventions or shoots planned until MCM Birmingham in March, so (in theory, at least) I’ve got a few chilled out months to prep and build Lindiranae’s armour. I’m growing quite a nice collection of fabrics for her… the difficulty is going to be choosing which ones I want to use!
The knuckle-bow turned out to be much more frustrating and time consuming than I imagined. Getting a good reference image was a nightmare – I ran poor Cassandra around a few different locations, trying to find a spot that was well-lit and with a handy boulder/wall/staircase available to stand her against so that I could force the camera as close as possible. I ended up with three actually useful images – two that showed the shape and curve, and one fairly clear shot of the depiction of June.
Almost a week on, I’ve got the hard part done and the longest part (waiting for layers to cure) is almost over.
I tidied up the edge below the spines with some 2mm craft foam, sealed it with two layers of PVA and tried out my can of Plasti-Dip on it… which just seemed to make the entire thing bendier. I coated the whole thing in a thin layer of resin to give it a bit of stability, then slapped three layers of PVA/water/casting powder over it.
I damp-sanded the blade and sprayed on three coats of Plasti-Kote as a base. Once it’s done curing, I can make a start with the acrylics.
Like the Ardent Blossom helm, Evanura is secreted away in the Emerald Graves and can only be acquired after picking up the codex entry The Silver Knight (a tale which I have rambled on about in other posts, so I shall refrain from doing so again). It is restricted to warrior class characters, so I was gutted that my Dalish rogue couldn’t carry it. I really wished that there were a way to display certain unique weapons on the walls of Skyhold because their designs are gorgeous and the backstories make for interesting reading. I think my Lavellan would have felt much the same affinity for this blade as I do and it seemed a pity that my options were to sell it, keep it hanging around in my inventory or stick it in the Undercroft chest.
When I began making plans for Lindiranae , Evanura was the first thing I wanted to tackle. I’ve tried my hand at a couple of foam creations (Silencer – which I must get around to finishing! – and Mahariel’s breastplate) and decided that foam was probably going to be my best bet. I spent ages working out how the measurements for Evanura in-game (based on an estimate of how wide Cassandra’s hand is!) and made a cardboard mock-up… that was absolutely enormous! The stupidest part is that it wasn’t until I had finished taping it all together that I actually realised how badly I’d calculated it. So I gave all my mangled mathematics to my engineer husband, who laughed at me and scaled up my reference sketch to the right size. The difference was more than a little bit ridiculous…
I stocked up on 3mm yoga mats when our local Poundland had them in, so armed with my new template, I started hacking mats into pieces. I built up the first layer around the cardboard to give the foam a bit more support and slapped on a couple of coats of PVA.
I found foam too fiddly and flimsy for the grip and despite my best efforts to carve my thicker floor mats into the right shape, I just couldn’t get my edges even. I ended up building a scaffold out of corrugated cardboard and layered sections of hardboard over it to keep the octagonal shape. I experimented with a few ways to make the cross-guard and decided I would have to do it in three sections – the écusson built onto the grip to keep the defined edges, then the foam quillons were slotted on underneath. The knuckle-bow has a design worked into it so I thought it would be easier to build that separately to be attached prior to priming.
Building up the layers was significantly easier than I expected. I thought I would end up having to take a rotary tool to it where the edges meet, but by the time I had finished gluing it down, it already looked pretty much how I wanted it. A third layer under the spines went on in the same way.
The next job is to get the knuckle-bow finished and then I can start getting it ready to paint.
I’ve already got several posts sitting in my drafts folder that need editing and finishing, but between the day job, events and costumes it’s been a busy month or so! As I’ve spent all of my free time over the last few weeks working on Mahariel, when I decided I needed something quick and easy to get me away from the sewing machine for half an hour, I thought I’d try my hand at the gift received by the Warden if Alistair is romanced.
If you want to make your own, there are loads of instructional vids on YouTube. This is the one I used in the end, and slightly modified the size and shape. My original plan was to paint it a darker shade of red but I quite like the shades of pink I’ve ended up with, and to fit it to a long bobby pin to wear in my hair, but it’s a bit heavier and bulkier than I imagined so I think I may just fit a chenille stem and a couple of foam leaves.