Both cosplay as a whole, and the blog part of my website.
But things often don’t go as planned, and moving from one full-time job to another, to trying to survive during a global pandemic, when your mental health is so-so at best means…plans are just plans.
Sometimes though, you find a moment, and you find some words, and things just happen again. And even if it’s not what you planned on doing, at least you’re doing something.
So, life update!
The last time I actually posted an actual life update was right before I moved into this apartment, and now I’ve been here for three years. My partner, whom I started dating a few months after that, moved in a few months ago, when the back and forth was making less and less sense with us going back and forth into lockdown. They’re great, and if you follow me on twitter (@birdnotchess), you’ll know that already. I mean, if you follow me on twitter, you don’t really need this.
I’ve rebranded! My partner and I are selling things under the moniker Honeycomb Crafts, though we’re mostly focused on masks right now (see: the ongoing pandemic). I’ve been working on stepping away from Olivia’s Atelier as a brand or whatever, since Olivia is no longer my name. It’s weird still having the website around, but I think of it as something of an archive. This is who I used to be, even if I haven’t been that person for a long time.
Cosplay has given me an outlet to create, to travel, and to make new
friends. It has given me opportunities I still can’t believe were real. Cosplay
has taught me things about life and friendship, about community, about myself.
Cosplay has caused me pain. There were small burns, eye injuries, and respiratory
issues from improper ventilation. Cosplay has caused me stress and panic. It
has brought me many sleepless nights and lost friendships. It has been a major
part of my life for half of it. For nearly 15 years I’ve toiled away at this
hobby, for better or worse.
And it feels like I’m done. I haven’t created anything new or substantial
in two years. I have attended only a handful of conventions. I’ve neglected the
blog. There have been no recent updates to the galleries. And I haven’t missed
it in the way I thought I would.
I’m not quitting completely; it is still a part of my life in some way. It
just no longer runs my life the way it used to. It’s so far removed from my day
to day that I barely think about it. I have other creative outlets: knitting,
cross-stitch, some painting. I miss getting excited about events and
construction, but that drive just isn’t there. My step back has been a step
away. I’m still around, just not taking part.
I still want to write up my neglected blog posts from past events and get the
site updated and revived, but…we’ll see.
With another impending move, I should probably actually update my blog. I’ve got a long list of notes written up from my time at PAX South (which was nothing less than incredible), but I feel I should actually post something of a life update since there hasn’t been ANY content in about 5 months, despite having been to…four cons? I did finish the new graphics and galleries for the costume pages, so you should definitely check those out, but I haven’t put up any new photos.
I haven’t posted a solid life update in more than a year, so I suppose we’re well overdue for one, especially given how many changes have happened. I am still playing DnD with my group as mentioned in the last blog post, and that’s still great, even if we’re all very busy and don’t meet as often as I’m sure we’d like. If you don’t follow my twitter, that’s the only thing you’d know I’d been doing.
I am moving again. I mentioned in my Anime North post that I’d just finished moving again (back in July), but life comes at you fast, and here I am packing my things again. I’m really hoping this is the last time, since moving is expensive and I am tired. I found out I was moving back in January, and had some trouble finding a place but everything is finally settled and I’ll be moving my things later this week. I’ll be on my own again, which is exciting and a little scary, since I’d gotten so used to having roommates. I suspect Luna will be thrilled, however, since she will back to be the only cat.
I got a job? And that’s probably the biggest change, since it has drastically affecting my free time and schedule. It’s nothing big (as in, not in the field I went to school for), but it pays the bills, it’s full time, and it’ll soon include benefits. Working full time while struggling with mental health things is…well, a struggle. I use up all of my upbeat energy dealing with people (customers and co-workers) and then crash when I get home. This has put most of my creative projects on hold, short of cross-stitch which I’ve been doing on my breaks and while listening to podcasts*.
Speaking of cross-stitch, I did put some of my patterns up for free, hiding under the Costumes and Portfolios tab. I’ve been itching to do more for the LGBT+ community, and made these Pride Bees, which I then turned into buttons. I sell the buttons, but I have no problem with people making their own bees for themselves, and actually would love to see more people rocking with the LGB(ee)T. It’s small, but it fills my heart with joy when people come to my table and see that I have things with their flag on it. I’ve remembered them, they exist, they are valid. I see you, and I’m here too. <3
I think that’s most of the major changes? I’m sorry I don’t really have any new content as far as costumes go. I miss making things and taking pictures and there just hasn’t been a lot of that in my life over the past year. I’m more disappointed than anyone, really.
Coming soon: The PAX South post(s), including card game reviews, more love for the Diversity Lounge, and some good ol’ fashioned selfies
This is something akin to a life post, since it’s neither review nor convention/cosplay update, but also not since I’m not really going to go into any life details.
I’ve been playing DnD 5E with a group of local friends since early Spring and it’s been pretty wonderful to get back into it. The last time I’d been playing, 5th Edition had JUST started coming out, and if I recall, we started when the DM Guide wasn’t even available yet. I was playing a Trickster Domain Cleric that I absolutely loved, and I’ve got this wonderful backstory built out for her. But real life happens, and eventually the campaign came to a halt and didn’t get picked back up. I still want to write more of her story, and maybe bring her to another campaign, but this time I wanted to try something completely new.
In nearly all role playing games, I tend to play as roguish characters. I like to strike fast and use ~subterfuge~ and pick locks and all that jazz. I didn’t go entirely out of my comfort zone, which would have me playing something closer to a warrior (so slow!), but instead went for something a little more on the magical side. I’ve been playing a Druid, and it’s been a challenge, but one I’ve been enjoying.
All of this is just an extremely roundabout way to say that I’d been having trouble remembering to use my Wild Shape, and then found that the available resources for what beasts I can turn into, what my restrictions are, and anything else I might need are all over the place. There are a handful of beasts in the Player Handbook, but the more comprehensive list is in the Monster Manual. I hate having to lug books around (which is why I got an app for my spells), so I decided to put everything together myself.
In conclusion, I’ve made a Wild Shape guide for Druids in 5E DND. It has the basic limitations and when certain abilities unlock, the size categories, beasts organized by size and then name (up to CR 1), and then the Circle of the Moon-specific guidelines at the end with the beasts over CR 1 (so if you chose Circle of the Land, you can just not print those pages). It’s a little hefty, at 21 pages total, but unless I’ve totally missed something, it’s everything you might need. If I have missed something, or there’s a glaring error (I am only human and typed most of this up by hand), please let me know and I’ll update it promptly!
I feel like a goof, taking so long to write these entries when I had such a great time, but the past few months have been ridiculously busy, both as far as con prep goes, and real life. I think I explained this in passing in the very belated Anime North post. I’ll try to go into it in further detail later, but first, I’ve got three conventions to write about here.
I feel like most of the summer’s con plans can be summed up with, “a last minute decision.” As mentioned in the Anime North post, I spent the Saturday of Anime North making plans for Colossalcon. We established rides, hotels, and costume plans. All I had to do was bring shoes, shorts, and a shirt for Team Skull, and the rest was taken care of. Everything was good to go!
And then in the two days after AN and before Colossal, we found out that we were to be joined in our adventure by Jackie! And so more planning happened. I spent the Wednesday before Colossal (also known as “the day I was leaving” oops) shopping for cosplay supplies, and then very hastily prepping my Team Skull shirt and packing while waiting for Toast to come pick me up to spend the night at her place. (And then, still packing while she watched, since I thought I had more time that I did.)
We began our road trip Thursday morning, after I’d stayed up making sure our Team Skull hats and scarves were good to go. You could say I did the…grunt work…
Fortunately, I’m not a driver, so my level of exhaustion was irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. The trip itself was mostly uneventful, aside from a stop at Burger King where I purchased the Red Lion (a la Voltron), and a Froot Loops milkshake. In theory, this was not so terrible an idea, until we remember that Froot Loops get soggy.
As we approached the hotel, we pulled on our Team Skull hats and turned up the theme song, rolling into the parking lot like a bunch of hooligans. Worth it. We stayed in grunt mode for check-in, while we shopped at the Wal-Mart, and while getting dinner at Sonic. Everywhere we went, shouts of “TEAM SKULLLLLL!” followed. Amazing.
On Friday, Jackie and I did our Adventure Zone twins, Lup and Taako. We had a minor crisis when the elf ears I wanted to wear were just inexplicably missing, despite everyone seeing me put them in my bag. Fortunately, I had my backup ears just in case. And then, while walking from the car to the convention centre, crisis struck again and my shoe literally broke. I was the walking epitome of a hot mess, and I ended up buying some leather sandals from the gift shop.
We had a blast being these perfect trash twins, and took selfies with so many other Adventure Zone cosplayers. This fandom is so good, and everyone was just so positive. It’s so interesting to me that Adventure Zone cosplayers are so recognizable despite it being an audio medium with very few canon appearance details. We stopped by the Voltron shoot to watch that, and I lamented not bringing Pidge.
After a long day we headed back to our hotel to change into civvies, and then went to Steak and Shake for dinner, which was wonderful and perfect. I had a chocolate-covered strawberry shake, and I could not describe the bliss.
We had some horribly optimistic plan that at some point on Saturday, we’d all end up in Team Skull grunts, so Toast and I started the day in those. Jackie really wanted to wear her Zelda (which is absolutely gorgeous), and had an evening shoot planned, while Trish had photo shoot plans in her Rikku. I’m not sure when we were all supposed to Skull Grunt, but we had fun anyway.
Unfortunately, we started the day with me and Jackie missing the shuttle, with the next one not coming for half an hour. We tried calling for a cab, but it would be at least 20 minutes before it arrived so…we walked.
Do not recommend.
After arriving at the con, we spent a good long while trying to cool down and also manage our faces so we didn’t look like we just walked for about half an hour in costume, and then met back up with our other roomies to help with photo things.
We headed over to the outdoor pools to hang out until Jackie’s shoot, and I changed into my super-secret bikini costume, which was the same as my Team Skull costume but with my bikini top instead of my Team Skull top. It was a really nice day for lounging pool side, and it was probably one of my highlights of the con.
Once our day ended at the Kalahari, we headed back to our hotel to take advantage of our mostly empty waterpark. We went on the slides many times, despite one part of the stairs smelling distinctly like pee. Other than that, it was super great, and I’m glad we got some slide time in. We had dinner at Applebee’s, which I’d never been to before. The food was really cheap? It was weird.
We spent the night in our hotel room playing card games; a chill ending to the con.
Sunday morning we went to Joanne’s before hitting the road, taking advantage of those sweet sweet deals that we can’t get back in Canada. I bought so much fleece. We went through the Steak and Shake drive-through, taking our delicious mixed milk beverages to go, and made our way back to Canada.
Overall, an excellent weekend, made so by the wonderful people I spent it with. I’m not sure I would go again if I weren’t staying at the Kalahari though. My previous two trips were both there, and I guess I was spoiled by being where it was happening. Maui Sands was good, and quiet, but…the convenience of being on-site is hard to pass up.
Shout outs of course to Jackie, Toast, and Trish for being the most wonderful people.
Between back-to-back conventions, helping the housemates out with Steel Rails, and then moving, it’s been hard to find time to actually just…sit and write.
So I guess I’ll do that now.
Anime North was great this year. I had the most minor panic from personal drama at the end of the weekend, but I was able to chill in the staff lounge for the last hour or so and everything was fine.
A huge shout-out to Chibi Lenne, who before the convention asked if I’d like to help judge the skit contest. It’d been so long since I’d judged competitions, and I was more than happy to help out. It was a really great opportunity, and seeing all the entries up close was…inspiring a little. I haven’t been on stage myself in more than half a decade, and for the first time in forever I’m seriously considering getting back into competing. Best in show went to these three, who absolutely killed it.
With my staff duties mostly out of the way for the weekend, I took my time getting ready Saturday. I spent most of the day wandering around with my sister and nephew, helping them out with their Naruto cosplay things. I wore Stevonnie from Steven Universe, which was a lot of fun, and also super comfortable. I spent the evening having casual hangouts, and making plans for Colossalcon the following weekend.
Sunday was mostly unremarkable, as I spent it in civvies. I bought a pair of Siamurai pants, which are amazing. I made the rounds to make sure I saw some people I’d missed throughout the weekend. And then I attended the Awards Ceremony to do my job and hand out ribbons. It was great being able to see some of the winners of the other contests throughout the weekend. I almost feel inspired to actually get my butt back into gear.
I’ve got to post about Anime North and ColossalCon still, which were both amazing, but I am currently in the middle of moving! (Again, I know.)
Additionally, the website is getting some much-need, long overdue revamps, so uhhh idk watch your step (this is the Internet…) and my apologies if it takes longer to find a thing. I think the search function works.
I wanted to write a more official notice regarding commissions in the future. I addressed this on the social media sites, but didn’t make a notice here, and information has also changed a bit since then.
Are commissions closed forever?
Short answer: No, they’re not, but I’m not sure when they’ll be open again.
Long answer: While what I addressed on tumblr is still valid, there is an additional wrench in the life plans that is delaying commissions even longer. Unfortunately, despite getting nicely settled in my home with my awesome roommates, our landlord decided he’s selling the house. My roommates and I are staying together, but it does mean moving again, which means no big projects until we’re settled in the new place. We’re moving at the end of June, so it’ll be at least a month after that, if not later when commissions open again.
The prices will also be increasing to take into account how little I pay myself for labour, and also the added cost of getting materials since I no longer have convenient access to them. I’m still tossing around the idea of making fukus when I have time and just selling them on etsy, but that requires…time. So it hasn’t happened yet.
There’s an experience I failed to mention in my post about PAX East, and I felt that I really owed it to the Diversity Lounge to give it its own post. I’ve worked in the Diversity Lounge selling my wares at three PAX conventions now (South 2016, East 2016, and East 2017), and while I have enjoyed my time selling at the previous two, I feel like I actually took the time to be a part of the Lounge this time. My time spent there was unique to that room, and has made me more determined to become a more active voice for representation in the community.
I’ll preface this by talking a little bit about my own identity, which I am super public about on my less professional platforms such as twitter and tumblr, but less so on my website or fanpage. I’ve been identifying and out as bisexual since 2004. It feels a little silly to me to realize you like girls because of a video game, but seeing Morrigan from Darkstalkers when I was 10 was the first time I’d really considered it. It wasn’t until high school that I learned that bisexuality was a thing and it had a word. Even still, while out, I didn’t become largely vocal about my sexuality until my 20s, when my friend group changed again and suddenly almost everyone I knew was not-straight.
My gender is a different issue. A few years ago, if you’d asked me, I would’ve told you I was a woman without hesitation. Questioning my own gender wasn’t something I’d really considered. As my friend circle continued to grow, so did my awareness of gender not as a binary but more of a spectrum. People did not have to fit into “man” or “woman.” Last spring I started coming out as a “demigirl” (partially identifying as a woman/girl/feminine, but not wholly). I felt that word pretty much described how I felt in my body and as a person. Kind-of a girl? But also not a girl. More of…not a binary gender. Girl/agender. And it worked, for a while. More and more I found I was just referring to myself as “nonbinary,” or “nonbinary femme,” and that felt more right. And then for National Coming Out Day, I made an Instagram post about being bisexual and nonbinary, and have been coming out (again) since.
What does this have to do with the Diversity Lounge? If you’ve never been to the Lounge at any of the PAX events, it’s a place for those who don’t quite fit the expected demographic of gaming events (cis straight able-bodied white men) to share their creations, events, and ideas. It’s a safe space for those who might not necessarily feel safe in spaces that are heavily dominated by that demographic. It’s PAX telling marginalized people that they are trying to be more inclusive. My role in the Diversity Lounge is usually to sell my things as a queer creator, and (try to) talk to people about LGBT HQ on behalf of Jay Justice when she’s not there. While that part didn’t change, I did also make an effort to talk to other creators in the room, and also to…sort-of exist as an openly queer individual at this event.
What does that mean? For starters, I actually talked to the folks at the Toronto Gaymers, who I’ve seen at a few events but for some reason, despite being from Toronto, I’ve never really approached them or attended their events. I bought a shirt! It’s pretty great. I spoke to the AbleGamers and learned what they’re about, and signed up to be apart of their fundraising initiatives to purchase special controllers for disabled gamers. And I sat behind the table and talked to the people who came by. If you Google the Diversity Lounge, some of the first results are talking about whether or not there’s actually a need for it. I want to respond with a resounding YES. There is no other place at the convention where I saw people of all genders, of all races, of all ages, of varying levels of ability, more or less OUT and comfortable. Maybe on the showfloor someone might hide part of their identity because, let’s face it, the gaming community can be pretty unwelcoming. But in the Lounge, these were their people. They were welcome, they were home. And I felt that connection with so many of the people that walked in the doors. And it was just so good. And so important.
The Diversity Lounge is a necessary and meaningful space. I’d love to see more spaces like it at other conventions. You can’t guarantee a convention is going to be safe for everyone. You can try, and you absolutely should, but unfortunately, shit happens. Give marginalized people a place they can exist without fear of violence.
Travelling 700 miles by bus is a task. I’ve been told that I must really like the event to spend 17 hours on several different buses to attend, but that’s not entirely true. The weekend prior to PAX East, when many of my friends were attending Emerald City Comicon, I was filled with so much longing. The last time I saw many of them was PAX South at the end of January. ECCC is my favourite convention. I love the people, the location (Seattle!), and the event itself. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it happen. Instead, watching my friends have a blast through their social media feeds, I became determined to make PAX East work. And I did.
The weekend started with a hiccup, as they do sometimes. Being unable to connect with anyone to hang out with when my bus arrived, I panicked. I immediately wondered if it was worth it, and my brain started working through backup plans. I finished changing at the bus station, deciding that I would check my bags there and wander the city alone, when I received a message from friends who’d just gotten in. I didn’t have to spend the day before con alone.
At the event itself, I spent a decent amount of time on the show floor, looking at merchandise and the demos available. A few that caught my eye that I wasn’t able to play were Rain World, Dauntless, The American Dream, and A Cat’s Manor. I kept eyeing the Brawlhalla booth, which I’d tried at PAX South and absolutely loved, but it was busy every time I went by. Fortunately, it’s free on Steam, so I definitely recommend checking it out.
I attended two panels that weekend: the highly anticipated Mass Effect: Andromeda panel, which was Bioware’s return to the convention panel rooms, and Foreplay: Romance in Games which is a crowd favourite (though only my first time attending it).
I didn’t take too many notes during the Mass Effect panel, being totally enamoured with the content they were showing. The game looked stunning. Before attending the panel I was pretty excited for ME: A, but I didn’t have it pre-ordered and figured I would pick it up later. After the panel, my need for this game increased exponentially and I made a note to immediately pre-order it when I returned home. We got to see a bunch of Liam’s loyalty mission, and aside from being visually stunning, it brought back one of my favourite things about Bioware games: the banter. The character interactions between Ryder, Cora, and Liam were natural and entertaining. I have an undying love for witty character banter, and these scenes delivered. I’m so excited to play it myself, having made a single tweet during the panel: “So horny for this one.”
On the flip side, I took a page full of notes during the Romance in Games panel, most of which don’t make any cohesive sense. My favourite part of the panel was the very beginning, during the introductions, when fanfiction snuck its way into the conversation. The door swung open and a booming voice called out a greeting. Mike Laidlaw (creative director for Dragon Age at Bioware) had entered the room in the most dramatic fashion possible. He made his way onto the stage, saying he had one question for Arden, and pulled off his top shirt to reveal, “DO YOU EVEN RIFT BRO?” underneath. He posed triumphantly. The crowd went wild. It was the single greatest introduction to a panel I’d ever seen.
A few key concepts from the panel that I’m able to decipher from my scattered notes include data from a study on the three most important factors of video games to the two binary genders. Men prefer games with elements of Destruction, Competition, and Completion. Women prefer their games to have elements of Collection, Completion, and Customization. This data is important for figuring out where the similarities lie in order to market games to a wider audience. Another concept from my notes is the idea of stress reactions. We’re used to the idea of “Fight or Flight,” but there’s another key decision we make in situations, which is “Tend or Befriend.” You see a lot more video games giving you options that lean to that side, with a little more caring and a little more heart, and it’s really nice to see. “Romance in books is massive, why isn’t it in video games?”
The panelists mentioned a few of their favourite romances and relationships in video games such as Delilah of Firewatch, and the mentor/pop idol relationship in Yakuza 5. Much of the panel was currently playing My Horse Prince, which is a free dating game app where you…date a horse with a man’s face. Kind-of. They also had good things to say about the Kitty Powers Matchmaker series, which I’ve made a note to check out.
The aforementioned Arden is also the writer of Date or Die, which was demoing in the Visual Novel Room. I stopped by and picked up We Know the Devil, after having heard overwhelmingly positive reviews from my friends. And really, at $5, how could I not? They also had Ladykiller in a Bind, which I actually own and have started, and A Normal Lost Phone, which I had actually just received from the IndieBox booth (a monthly subscription box for Indie games, which sounds pretty cool).
I stopped by the Firewatch booth twice, despite having not played it yet (listen, my backlog is ridiculous). A friend of mine was working the booth, which was my original reason for stopping by, and they also had a photobooth. Photobooths are by far my favourite PAX activity, and the best way to get me to stop by your booth. The Assassin’s Creed movie booth also had a greenscreen for photos, which was super cool! The staff working it were super friendly, and even let me get into costume over my bulky Nug suit.
There’s always the moments after the convention where regret sets in, from not enough time spent with people you wanted to see, from the people you missed entirely, from the things you wanted to do but didn’t find time for. But when I look back at the weekend, it was perfect. It’s hard to make all the connections work, and we did our best, and it turned out great. For the first time since my first PAX East in 2012, I felt like I actually attended the convention.
I travelled 700 miles by bus because I was lonely. And it was totally worth it.