Friends of the Champion

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.

Friends of the Champion cover page 1 - resize

Friends of the Champion cover page 2 - resize

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2017 Update

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.

Empress Celene

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!

Celene mask

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.

Lindiranae

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!

inkquisition

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.

Solas sig

Our next scheduled event is The Calling in June (UK Dragon Age fans, go check it out!) so I badly need to crack on!

Evanura – Part Two

ICYMI – Part One

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.

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Almost a week on, I’ve got the hard part done and the longest part (waiting for layers to cure) is almost over.

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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.

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Evanura – Part One

floral paper or parchment

**SPOILER(ish) ALERT**

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.

evanura-blade

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…

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“Can I climb it?” – Bran

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.

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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.

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“If I can’t climb it, I’m sure it would make a good scratching post…”

The next job is to get the knuckle-bow finished and then I can start getting it ready to paint.

 

Alistair’s Rose – quick craft

 

floral paper or parchment

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.

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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.

Potions, Poisons, Tonics and Grenades – Part Four

floral paper or parchment

I have been looking forward to making this grenade since I made the first round of potions and poisons back in October.  Initially, the plan was to build the grenades out of clear Christmas baubles, filled with liquid and sealed with silicone caulk but I had a few logistical issues with them. Then I happened upon the perfect jars for the job.

I managed to misplace my gold mica, so made do with some edible glitter that I bought to experiment with drinkable potions and tonics, and added some glycerine to give the fluid a slightly more viscous consistency, since the flames it produces are described as “sticky.”

 

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My reference image, from the Dragon Age wiki

Because the jars have clear plastic screw tops, I made a quick cover for the lid out of craft foam and spray paint.  I’ve had my Inquisition wax seal stamp for months and have so far only used it on a couple of scrolls from the Inquisitor and advisors, so I decided to cover the top in a layer of wax, stamped the Inquisition insignia into it and carefully fitted the wick with a hot skewer.

Antivan Fire - small signed

The edible glitter isn’t quite as visible as the mica indoors, but my husband got some great photos of the swirling effect outside in the sunshine.  I love the edited version above so much that I’m going to have to redo the wick at some point to add a blue LED to the tip!

And with the new addition to my Inquisitor’s arsenal of potions, I decided it was time to make…

 

floral paper or parchment

 

I keep the chest that came with the Inquisitor’s Edition of DA:I on top of a bookcase behind my desk and periodically I looked up at it and wished I had another for storing random cosplay bits in.  So when I got my hands on some thin but sturdy card and a few rolls of textured craft paper, I decided to see if I could make a potion storage box.  I’ve made a few revisions of the design and materials for when I come to build it again, but I am really quite pleased with my mock-up.  I do wish that I had waited for my Worbla to arrive instead of trying to use craft foam to make the gold edging, but I know for next time.

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Inquisitor’s Potion Box with the Inquisitor’s Edition chest.  I even accidentally managed to misalign my lock in the same way!

The box is lined with black foam and I made a cushion to support the bottles from some off-cuts of wadding and faux suede.  It will comfortably fit four of the rounded potion bottles; a grenade (if you don’t mind bending the wick back into shape afterwards) and two potions; or one of each of the three shapes of bottles.  I still plan to make a larger version that can hold more bottles but the little box will pack nicely into my prop bag and will give me somewhere to keep my potions safe while traveling to and from events.

Potion box 01
Antivan Fire grenade, lyrium, jar of bees and health potion

 

Photography by Darren Allen

 

Silencer – Part One

floral paper or parchment

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Glitchy blades are glitchy

Since The Descent DLC was released, Silencer has quickly become one of my favourite weapons for my duel-wielding rogue, but sadly the mesh is bugged.  I did come across a mod over at Nexus to fix it once I decided that I would be making Silencer with a matched dagger in the style of the Stone Stalker Blade schematic… and then found that I can’t take screenshots anymore, which made doing research for this one somewhat interesting.

As it’s my first foam weapon build, in retrospect a simpler design would have made my life significantly easier but, hell, I always like a challenge.  I used as many screenshots as I could gather to put a couple of sketches together, then drew out the template onto a thick piece of card.

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Once it was cut out and sellotaped together, I decided that I wanted to add the details of the grip last, so I trimmed them off, traced around the shape onto EVA play mats and hot glued the whole thing together.

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I must have watched a dozen or more tutorial videos for foam weapons, most of which used either a hot blade or Dremel multi-tool to shape the edges.  With neither a hot blade nor a multi-tool, I made do with what I had on hand (some rather elderly Stanley knife blades) and hacked the edges into submission.  Subsequently, a multi-tool is now at the top of my “to buy” list!

Since it was looking a bit raggedy, I’ve spent this evening sanding it down to make a reasonably smooth edge to layer Worbla over.  I’ve never used the stuff before and (as usual) tutorial vids make it look ridiculously easy, so I expect that I will spend several hours irritated, swearing, burning my fingers and trying to wrestle it into place without making a complete mess of it.

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I’m still deciding whether to do the detailing in craft foam first and stretch the Worbla over it, or whether to Worbla first and use off-cuts to create the patterns along the blade.  Either way, I still have the grooves to mark in along the edges with my pyrography tool and any nicks or scratches that I want to add as weathering.  Part two will be prepping and applying the Worbla and part three will be painting (definitely the best part of the process!).  Once I’m happy with it, I get to do it all over again to make Silencer a partner!