2016 Year in Review

Hi all,

I’m back with another one of these, despite only having made one other post in 2016. See the thing is…well, I’ve realized that craft blogging is difficult for me. I just get caught up in my crafting whims and want to make stuff – documenting tends to get in the way! We’ll see what we can do about that in 2017 (odds are, not much).

January and February were very busy for me crafts-wise. During this time, I was preparing my most ambitious cosplay yet – The Boss from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater – for MAGFest 2016. This was such an amazing and empowering project for me. I sewed a full stretch bodysuit with numerous complicated embellishments and tested my skills to their fullest. I was certainly nervous and unsure of myself at first, but the desire to accomplish something I could be proud of kept me going and pushed me to complete this epic project. Maybe I’ll be able to do more complex costumes in the future!

Photo by Houkakyou Cosplay and Photography
Photo by Houkakyou Cosplay and Photography

March and April were pretty busy for me as well! I got accepted into GeekCraftExpo RDU as an exhibitor and spent much of this time crafting to build up my inventory for the show. I sold some handspun yarn and hand-dyed roving, as well as introducing a new type of patch! These ones are digitally printed on heavy twill and blanket-stitched around the edges with a iron-on backing. They’re much faster for me to make, and it was super fun illustrating all of them! GeekCraftExpo was a much more enjoyable experience for me than Animazement’s Artist Alley, since it wasn’t attached to a convention I didn’t feel like I was missing out by being stuck at my table. I still felt like I put a lot more work into it than I got out of it, but maybe one day I’ll find that perfect craft that I love to make and people love to buy. ;)

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So many cute printed patches!
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So many hair colors in 2016!

After MAGFest and GeekCraftExpo, I vowed for a much simpler Animazement this year. I certainly put a lot less work into it than I did last year, but it ended up being the most fun I’ve had at AZ in a long time – probably since my very first one in 2011. Originally I was just going to whip up a silly, casual cosplay of Bulma from Dragon Ball (I have the hair color, so why not?), but at the last minute I frantically finished sewing my custom kigurumi of Cream from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure – Stardust Crusaders. I started sewing it back in October 2015 but didn’t finish it in time for Halloween or MAGFest, but I knew I wanted to show it off for the JoJo’s events at Animazement and would be disappointed with myself if I didn’t. It ended up being totally worth it! The JoJo’s panel was lots as fun and the photoshoot was a BLAST!

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The next few months were fairly quiet. I had a big move at the end of July and spent a lot of time either cleaning and packing or just not crafting because I didn’t want to make more of a mess. I did get a little bit of sewing done, but for the most part I was probably playing video games in my spare time!

In September I finally got back into the full swing of crafting again. I started sewing more dice bags, which I had been making casually for friends over the past few years, but I thought I could try selling them. They’re a lot less stressful and more enjoyable to make in bulk than the patches, that’s for sure!

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In October I participated in Inktober. I had wanted to do it last year, but gave up after just the first day. Drawing is something I used to really enjoy but I have fallen out of practice over the years, which I am extremely self conscious about. I have been wanting to get back into it for years but it has been very difficult for me, so I wanted to give Inktober a try. I was able to have the willpower and drive to lose 25lbs this year, so why not use that same willpower to complete this 30-day drawing challenge? And I did it! Not every drawing is very good, and a lot of them I’m not very proud of, but I completed the challenge and I’m very happy that I did.

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One of my favorites from the month – a redraw of White Day Kotori from Love Live School Idol Festival.

Which brings us to November and December! During this time I’ve continued to sew dice bags as well as some clothing items for myself. MAGFest is in less than a month, so I’ve been working on getting my cosplays ready for that! I’ll actually have three this year, which is probably a record for me, but they are all fairly simple to put together. One is already done! For that one, I sewed a hoodie from the Halifax pattern by Hey June Handmade and had the fabric custom printed at Spoonflower. It’s all solid colors, but I wanted it to be neat and clean and to use all the same fabric, so I didn’t want to have to source imperfect matches or do any appliques. It ended up working out really well! I made two hoodies before that from the same pattern in order to test out the fit. I also finally made some leggings from my Rainbow Road fabric that I’ve had sitting around for almost a year!

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And that’s about it! I’ll try to be more diligent about documenting my remaining cosplays for MAGFest, and those should be posted with a write-up in about a month or so! 2016 wasn’t the best year, but it was definitely fun and productive for me crafting-wise.

As for 2017, I can’t wait to see what it brings. I’ll most likely be participating in Geek Craft Expo again, and I have a few more cosplays in mind which hopefully I will finish for Animazement, but other than that, I’m not sure what I’ll be up to. I look forward to seeing what’s in store!

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Effort, Detail, and “Craziness” – Understanding What We Put Into and Get Out of Our Craft

If you are any sort of artist (or crafter, artisan, maker, etc), or have any sort of hobby where making things is involved, you’ve probably heard some of these a fair share of times:

“Oh my god, that’s so much work!”

“I don’t think I’d have the patience for that.”

“You did that all by hand? You’re crazy!”

For many, it can be wearisome to hear time and time again “I tried knitting a scarf once but gave up halfway through,” any time we are seen with our yarn out in public. These are things we hear time and time again, usually from well-meaning folks who want to express how impressed they are by the skills we possess and they do not (or, as I like to think, haven’t learned yet ;P). It’s easy for us to get frustrated, and as someone who is personally extremely prone to this sort of frustration, I am doing what I can to start giving people the benefit of the doubt a little bit more.

I think this is a very easy attitude to have, this fascination and puzzlement with the handmade process, considering the industrial society we live in. For many, many people, the idea that clothing or furniture or other products have to be “made” is just not something that crosses their mind; you just go to the store and it is there, and you buy it. We assume that everything is made by machines, an automated process, and we forget that often someone has to be there to work the machine. I come across this attitude at my job all the time – I work in a factory setting, where we do custom printing from images that users upload online. It’s quite obvious from some of the images I see on a regular basis that some people probably don’t even realize that real people are processing and packaging their order. Consumer culture, especially now with so much happening online, makes us forget just how much work goes into making the things that we buy.

So much so has this been forgotten, that when someone meticulously works on something handmade, if it’s not a hobby we share, it is considered “too much work.”

For those that are not creatively inclined, this is an attitude that I admittedly find disappointing, but one that I can at least reasonably understand for the above mentioned reasons. What honestly upsets me, however, is when I hear these sorts of statements from my fellow artists. A friend of mine from college, who is a fairly serious painter, once asked me why I choose to spin yarn when I could just buy it in a store. Several of my coworkers, all of whom partake in some sort of creative art, have noted amazement (tinged with concern for my sanity) over my hand embroidered patches. I have to ask myself, why this knee-jerk aversion to attention to detail? Though it may not be the particular craft they practice, surely they can understand the pleasure that comes from making and creating. It’s not always about the end result, but the process. In that sense, it doesn’t necessarily matter how many hours went into making something – we did it because we enjoyed doing it. Surely, there are times when we might go overboard to make something truly incredible, and we may feel like we have gotten in over our heads. But I would say, even then, if we choose to keep going it is because at the end of the day, it is something that makes us happy.

Trying to combat this attitude is part of what keeps me going, and I know it is a big part of the maker movement right now. Just take a look at the #slowfashion hashtag on Twitter. Handmade, indie, ethical, local…all these things have been rising in the public eye in recent years. Because of this, it is my hope that people will start becoming more conscious of how we think about and talk to artisans, makers, and hobbyists. If our goal is to fight our dependence on mass-produced consumer culture, I think it is important not to be dismissive of the time and attention to detail crafters put into their work. Even if the intention is to express admiration for the person’s skills, think about how saying “Oh I couldn’t do that” can unintentionally imply a waste of time. Not everything is about filling a consumer need, either. We humans do a lot of things to fill our time on this earth and give it meaning. Some people like to bike or run marathons – these things are simply not for me. However, both running and embroidery take time and dedication, and have a similar kind of worth in that they bring enjoyment to the people that practice them. I’d like to see more people recognize that others, just like themselves, find hard work to not really be so much work at all when it is something that makes them happy.

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2015 Year in Review

It’s been quite a year for me, though that may not be so apparent for all my lack of activity here at Illumine Artisan Works. I keep saying I’ll try to post more, but perhaps I’m not really the blogging type. We’ll see! I’ve made a lot of changes to how I spend my time on social media recently, so hopefully I will have more time for more updates here. I certainly have been crafting quite a bit!

The first part of the year was dominated by preparations for Animazement 2015. I have dreamed of selling at craft fairs for many years, and this year I was finally in a position to do so. I spent much of February through May preparing my stock for the convention. I also finished a cosplay (my first in a couple of years), participated in several craft swaps, rediscovered my love of spinning and fiber art, made a few fabric designs, and caught the sewing bug.

The convention itself was a bit of a disappointment for me, which I have talked about on the blog previously. The things I like to make are not necessarily the things other people want to buy, and being by myself at a booth all weekend can be very isolating. This experience kind of got me down and I took a break from Illumine Artisan Works for several months.

In the meantime, I spent a lot of time sewing. I was very fortunate in the first part of the year to get a new job, which in addition to surrounding me with lots of amazing people and a wonderful creative environment, gives me access to tons and tons of beautiful fabrics. I’ve sewn several new garments for myself and some for others as well. It feels awesome to be able to do this! I also got major work done on a new cosplay for MAGFest 2016, which I will be posting photos of once it is 100% complete.

In November, I was invited by one of my coworkers to assist her at her table at Durham Comicon. It was an eye opening experience for me! It was very low-key compared to Animazement, since I was just there as a helper (though I did bring a few of my items). Since there were the two of us, we both had much more free time to go out and explore the convention, as well as just having each other for company. It re-inspired me to try selling again, just this time I’ll make sure I have a partner to help me! I had a really great time at the con and Animazement 2016 is certainly not off the table at this point.

December has been spent sewing up a storm to prepare Christmas presents for my family and friends. I have had lots of fun doing so, but it has also been exhausting! It’s over now though, so all that’s left is for me to enjoy the holidays… as well as get started on all my crafty plans for the new year! I have rediscovered spinning (again) and am trying new techniques for patch-making. Oh and of course there are more cosplays to do! 2016 is looking pretty good for crafting.

See you in the new year!

-Liz

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Animazement 2015 Recap

So, Animazement was two weekends ago, (I’ve been trying to write this post since then and between resting after a busy weekend and then getting the con crud, well…here we are now) and as you may have heard, it was my first time selling at their Artists Alley. I’ve been going to the convention since 2011 and pretty much since then have dreamed of being able to sell there with the other artists. Since starting Illumine Artistan Works last September, I’ve had that goal in mind as a focus for what to work towards; it’s a con I’ve been to several times so I’m comfortable with the atmosphere, it had started getting a little stale so I was ready for a new “con experience,” and the kinds of things I was making would have their best audience with the crowd that attends. All in all, seemed like a good first venue for me to sell my wares to the public. So obviously, I was pretty stoked to get accepted, and ever since February have been working even harder to make sure I was prepared for my first show!

Flash forward to Friday. I got up early and headed out of the house to make it to the convention by 9AM when registration opened and artists could begin setting up their tables. I’m lucky that I have never experienced the long wait lines for picking up preregistered tickets – when I was in college I got special badges through volunteering with my school’s anime club, and last year I only attended in the evening so I picked my badge up after the rush – and I’m glad I got to miss out on that this year too! Artists, for the first time ever apparently, had a separate line for badge pick-up, which honestly makes the most sense and made getting into the convention a breeze. I didn’t have very much stuff with me so I was able to easily fit everything onto a little hand cart and wheel it through the convention center to the hall that housed the Artists Alley. Setting up took no time at all, and after that it was just manning the booth for 11 hours! woo!

The first day I really plugged my custom patches, taking commissions all day that I promised to fulfill all throughout the weekend. This ended up being a bit of a mistake – I spent ALL DAY Friday working on commissions, and it was super exhausting and I think I gave myself serious eyestrain from embroidering all that time. I did get 5 custom patches done for people though, so that was certainly cool! Saturday and Sunday I did not offer to make patches at the con, because I knew I would get extremely tired if I did and I didn’t want to make any promises I couldn’t reasonably keep. I continued to let people know that I do take custom orders through Etsy, though.

All in all, though I hate to admit it, I have to say that I did not have a particularly good time. Two 11-hour days in a row (followed by a 5 hour one) where I didn’t really get to take a break was very, very exhausting. I had my boyfriend there to take over for me every so often, but for the majority of the time I was there all by myself. It got pretty lonesome, especially considering I knew that all of my friends were out and about having fun at the rest of the con’s activities. I was definitely expecting that the majority of people would either pass by or look and not buy, but it got very wearisome after a while to see people look for a few moments and then walk away. I did make some sales, and I managed to recoup the cost of my table/badge and even make a little bit of a profit, but when I consider that the majority of the people I sold to were my friends and acquaintances, that number isn’t very encouraging to me.

To be honest, I kind of expected going in that there isn’t a huge market for my products. While a lot of people think my badges are cool, spending $12 on a little piece of decorative fabric is just not something a lot of people want to do. Considering the amount of work I put into my badges, I should be selling them for 3-4 times that amount anyway, so making money off of them is not very viable, no matter how aesthetically interesting people may find them. I like making them, but I can’t make a living off of them (or even begin to attempt to).

As for my future as far as conventions go, I’m undecided. I’d still like to sell my artwork, but I don’t think the things I’m currently making are very marketable. Also, I realized that I really want to be able to enjoy the convention more – being a merchant isn’t my idea of fun, I suppose. I have a friend that was also selling there this year, that I may potentially team up with next year so we can both have more free time to go out and explore; also, hanging out at the table all day with a friend beats sitting there alone! I haven’t made up my mind yet though. I have to re-organize and put together a new game plan.

I feel guilty about admitting that I didn’t have a very good time, considering the outpouring of support my friends and family have shown for this endeavor. However, I will say that I do not regret doing the convention, because it’s something I have wanted to do for years and I’m proud of myself for accomplishing a goal that I set for myself – something I don’t do enough of. If I didn’t try to get accepted into the convention, if I did not go there and participate, I would have been down on myself for years to come for not trying. So I tried it, and I have that experience!

Illumine Artisan Works is probably going to be shifting focus from here on out. It’s not going away by any means, but I’m probably going to be focus on making new things from now on. I want to get back to fiber works, and I have many new cosplay ideas I want to try. Keep your eyes open!

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Animazement 2015, Here I Come!

Animazement is tomorrow! Holy cow! I could not be more nervous and excited. 8 months of work has been leading up until this point – and yet it’s still just the beginning of my crafty selling adventures. :)

If you will be attending the convention this year, here is a map of where I will be:

map-artistsalley-legend

 

I hope to see you there! I’ve finally built up my stock to a level I’m comfortable with, so the rest of today has me running around making sure everything is packed and all the other little details are in place. (I still wish I had more to sell, but I’ll be busy making badges during the convention too!)

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