Monday, August 29, 2011

Why nothing rhymes with pyramid.

First of all, my last post was featured on the blog Adult Beginner, which is super exciting, so y'all should go over there and read her blog, because it's really clever and funny.

This is going to be a long, rambly, "I miss my friends" kind of blog post, because they've all gone back to college, and I'm still here, waiting for another month until I go back, because my school starts late.

So let's talk about why nothing rhymes with pyramid. This is a story that started roughly

So, in the middle of last summer, I got some pretty bad news. My school that I was attending me at the time informed me that "Due to the California Budget Crisis," they were not getting the funding they needed (Read: wasted all of their money on that stupid statue of a 40-foot piece of bacon) so my tuition had increased, and I hadn't paid the increase, and therefore they had dropped me from all of my classes. I got on my school email and asked them if they'd informed me by email of this, and they said, yes, they had, had I checked the new email? And I said, what is this new email of which you speak? Did you inform everyone of that? And the lady on the phone informed me that they sent an email to the new email informing everyone of the new email.
So, since I'd been dropped from all of my classes and they had filled up within seconds of my being dropped, I kept my very polite tone of voice and made some very impolite hand gestures at the phone, and thanked the woman for calling me.
And then I said, "Well, I'm not giving them any more money," and started the search for a new school.

Searching for a new school meant taking a term off from school. During that time, I got to do exciting things, like go to SacHorror and meet Jewel Staite and get her to sign my dress that I made for her to sign. Jewel Staite was in Firefly, and also played a character named Dr. Kellar on Stargate: Atlantis (which I hadn't seen at the time). I went with my friend Melody and Melody brought her ukulele. And while we were waiting for the Zombie Prom to start, the father of one of the girls in line told Melody to play "Tiny Bubbles."
We had never heard to Tiny Bubbles. After the con, we go back home, and Melody looks up Tiny Bubbles. And we see this. The moon. Is singing. To you.
So for a long time, Tiny Bubbles became this inside joke between me and Melody.

Also while I was taking that term off, I got a job as a dogsitter. Dogsitting is seriously one of the best jobs ever. For me, it was a lot of sitting in a very nice apartment on a very nice couch, watching TV on a very nice internet connection, and walking the dogs every few episodes. Unfortunately, I ran out of television to watch pretty fast. I thought back to SacHorror, and Jewel Staite who was in something called Stargate: Atlantis, and low and behold, it was on Netflix! So I watched it, and then got Melody and Beth to watch it. And Stargate: Atlantis led to Stargate: SG-1 (We watched them out of order).
And SG1 is 10 seasons long. We finished it at the beginning of this summer.

Now, during this time, Tiny Bubbles was still a brilliant inside joke, and we frequently rewrote the lyrics to be about whatever we were talking about. Frequently this began with "Daniel Jackson," as he's a character in SG-1 and Mel and Beff both think he's quite attractive, and his name has the same number of syllables as "Tiny Bubbles."

Melody's mom works in a thrift shop, and one day a copy of Stargate the movie was donated, and she got it for Melody. We then had movie night where we watched Stargate.

We ate a lot of sugar, got very little sleep, and made bad jokes that seemed really hilarious to us. So at one point, Daniel Jackson was in a pyramid, and we started singing Tiny Bubbles.
Daniel Jackson
In the pyramid
Daniel Jackson

...Nothing rhymes with 'pyramid'.
So, basically, the whole point of this post was to prove that getting screwed over by my school is the reason why nothing rhymes with pyramid.


Friday, August 12, 2011

Today, I became the internet.

So I wrote this big long comment on Melody's blog post about college and then Blogger deleted it, so here's my advice for making friends in college, in blog post form.

Having been a Freshman in college twice, at two different schools, I would like to think that I'm a bit more qualified than most people to talk about making friends in college*. So, here's my list of things that help you make friends in college.

  1. The first week, unless you're naked or asleep, if you're in your dorm room, keep that door open. People will stop by to talk to you. You'll get to know people in your hall that way. Also, walk down the hall a couple of times and talk to people with their doors open. They're probably keeping their door open in the hopes that someone will come down the hall and talk to them.
  2. Your instinct is going to be to try and hide yourself and fit in. Don't do it. DON'T DO IT! Play your music without headphones. Wear your nerdy shirts. Make sci-fi references in everyday conversation. People can't be your friends unless they know what you like, so be a nerd about the things that you're a nerd about, and you'll find people who are nerds about the same thing. (If you're scared of doing that, go to the cafeteria, face a wall, open your laptop, and start watching Doctor Who without headphones. People will come up behind you and watch it. Talk to them. #Polly'sSecretMethod)
  3. If you get really lonely, go to either the Woman's Resource Center or the LGBT Resource Center and just be honest. Say that you just moved there, you're lonely, and you don't think you can stand another night sitting in your room watching TV shows on Netflix at a record speed.
  4. Sit outside where there are a medium number of people and teach yourself a song on the ukulele. Seriously. If people stop by, put down the ukulele and talk to them. They may not talk for too long, but that's another familiar face that you'll know when you're in the cafeteria.
  5. Remember people's faces. If you're in the cafeteria and you don't think you can stand another night of dinner alone by yourself, walk up to a group of people whose faces you recognize, and be honest. Say, "Hey, guys, is it all right if I sit with you guys so I don't look sad sitting at a table by myself?" Eat dinner with them, if you guys click and they're going to something after dinner, they may invite you along. If not, well, by now you should know a lot of people, like that girl over there who stopped by to talk to you while you were playing ukulele on the lawn that one time. Keep talking to people. Eventually, you'll find some friends.
  6. WHATEVER YOU DO, don't develop an addiction to sewing and start forgetting to eat and spend all day in your room with the door closed. Looks great on your portfolio. Makes you miserable. LEARN FROM MY FAILURE.
Well, I hope some of that made sense in a vague way.
Also, join a club. Seriously. Join a club. I never did, but do it.

* I'm not, though. Of the schools I've attended, I had friends at one of them.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

How to become rich doing costume design.

As we’re fast approaching a 1-year mark since I became head of costumes on Team Avatar: Adventures of the Appamobile, I felt like it was high time I shared with you my design process, because I’m TOTALLY AN EXPERT NOW AMIRITE GUYS?

Disclaimer: I am not an expert. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve never taken a costume design class or any design class at all. I have no professional training and I’m not really writing this to explain to others how to design, but really as a personal blog so that a year from now I can look back on this and facepalm. Feel free to gain any insight you want from this, but it’s not the industry standard way to do things, and it’s probably not the best way either. It’s what I found out from being thrown in the deep end with a cannon tied to my ankles. It may be useful. It may not. Good luck.

So, for me, the design process has a lot of steps: scribbles, research, sketches, and technicals. Sometimes they happen in different order from what I say here. Research and Scribbles have to happen more or less at the same time.

So here we go

Step 1: Scribbles

So here’s the kind of thing that I do. They usually happen on lined paper in notebooks or on the back of receipts or in my moleskine (If you don’t have a Moleskine, get one. It makes you look like a deep misunderstood artist, which is what you are, right?). These are not the sort of thing that my director would EVER see, or she would fire me and then probably start panicking.

A lot of these scribbles are just free flowing ideas, sometimes something like noticing how a woman’s skirt in a coffee shop lays and then sketching that, and thinking “OOH WOULDN’T IT BE AWESOME IF THE LORD OF THE UNDERWORLD HAD A HAT?!” sort of thing. Your scribbles need no logic. They just happen. Trying to make them good or trying to make them have reason is wrong.

Sidebar: Hang out in coffee shops and shopping malls. Look at people and look at clothes. If you’re trapped in your studio/dorm room all day, you won’t get to see new things, and design is all about seeing new things.

Step 2: Research

So, you’ve got Team Avatar. Team Avatar is Avatar: The Last Airbender set in the modern age but not really but kind of but not really but sort of, and Team Avatar wears superhero costumes because Sokka is silly. So, of course, when you’re coming up with designs, you look up the source material and superheroes.

Sometimes, you end up with much more vague things. I have had a director tell me, “It’s like the 1990’s, if the 30’s was in the 50’s.” In that case, you look up all of the eras, save all of the pictures that inspire you in any way.

Now you need to branch out. You look at the technology of the era. What materials can you use (Aang is a vegetarian. He probably wouldn’t wear leather, maybe not silk)? What materials were available in the era? What materials capture the feel of the era?

Sometimes, I rely on Google image results to do some of the work for me. If I’m really stuck, I try to break the character down into a few keywords and then see if anything weird comes up (For Bumi, I searched for “Crazy modern king,” and got a picture of this guy in a storm trooper helmet with cases of beer stacked from floor to ceiling behind him).

Now, you’ve got a crapload of pictures. Time to take them in photoshop or print them out, cut them out, rearrange them, tape them on your wall, stare at them, get confused, go get coffee, scribble some more, come back home, get really confused, call your friend in New York and talk about how confused you are, feel like the world isn’t making sense, scribble some more, and go to sleep.

The next morning, you look at those scribbles you made, put them into your collage, and repeat the process.


Now you have like 400 little things that you’re thinking about that are floating around in your mind and slowly driving you insane, and you need to think about it. Costumes aren’t enough to just be logical. Everything tells the story. So you’re not creating a fancy costume. You’re just coming up with an everyday outfit for a main character. Costumes are part of the story. Who is this character? Did she pick the outfit? Did her big sister buy it for her? How does it show her personality? Even if someone else picked it out and dressed her, she will add her own personal touches. These are important. The costumes are an extension of the characters. You know you want the Lord of the Underworld in a hat. Why? Why is he in that hat?

Inherently, more scribbles will happen here, and you will probably start talking to yourself and your roommate will program the school’s therapist into her speed dial and wait for you to have your psychotic break.

Step 4: Finalize it

Now you know what you’re looking for. Draw it. I love watercolors for this because they’re vaguer than any other medium, and this sketch is about vagueness. You CANNOT attempt to nail down every detail on this. Details kill creativity. Don’t think about how you’re going to do it. Just get things on paper.

Draw your model. How does your model stand? She reflects the feel of the design. Don’t worry about keeping her neutral at this point.

**Key point!** You need to make at least 3 designs, 4 would be better, of each design you need. This way, when you show them to your director, they will pick their favorite. If you show them, it’s a matter of “I like it,” or “I don’t like it.” Four designs, one almost always gets chosen unless your director was thinking along totally different lines than you were.

in between step: MORE RESEARCH: You probably drew things without thinking about the fabric that you’d use and things like that. Time to look at fabrics and think about how you’ll do things. Nothing drawingwise is needed, just know how you’re going to do this.

Step 5: Technical Sketches

Now you break down every piece, every detail of the costume. What does the jacket look like on the back? Where are the pockets? How do I do that? (These are really only necessary if you’re giving the designs to a costumer or your costume designer demands them. If you’re also costuming the show, you can work off of your sketches usually.)
I like to do my technical sketches with just a pigment liner, very little variance of line weight. You know all of that emotion that you poured into your watercolor? Yeah. This is the opposite of that. Technical sketches are not emotional. They are the transition between the emotion that you put on the page and the emotion that the actor will put into the clothes. They must be emotionless and technically accurate.

Step 6: Make it.

Step 7: Put it on the actor.

Step 8: ?????

Step 9: Profit.