Having spent most of my life in New Mexico, I love the show Breaking Bad. While it was still on air I found myself thinking of cool Breaking Bad memorabilia I wanted. When I couldn’t find it, I made it myself.
Anyone who’s watched Attack on Titan, the anime series by Hajime Isayama, has at some point wished they could strap on the 3D manuevering gear of the Scout Regiment and zip around like a katana-wielding Spiderman. Acrobatics aside, I realized that dream when I made one of the most detailed and source-accurate cosplay I’ve ever taken on.
As a huge fan of the Harry Potter series, I’ve naturally made my share of wands. Every wand is unique and every wandsmith has their own techniques. I’ll tell you a few of the ways I’ve made them, and explain my favorite method.
I found out at an early age that I’m allergic to white walls. Everywhere I live or work ends up plastered with T-shirts, posters, flags, toys, projects, tapestries— whatever it takes to make it feel more like home.
When I moved to a new city, I knew I’d be living completely by myself for the first time in my life. I’ve been lucky in the past, in that all my other cohabitants have enjoyed (or at least tolerated) the eclectic nonsense that went up on the walls. Starting fresh though, I wanted a decor that was unique, thematic and at least a little classy. I always wished I could have grown up at Hogwarts, so I settled on trying to make my apartment feel as close to the Ravenclaw Common Room as possible. In this post you’ll find the DIY details I managed to document while taking on one of the biggest customization projects of my life.
I knew setting out that this was going to be a lot more time consuming and expensive than just thumb tacking a few items to the drywall, so I started by taking a look at the space as it was, planning out the major components, and budgeting the supplies.
I spent a lot of lunch breaks at work sketching or making lists.
I even went so far as to make a Gantt chart on smartsheet.com to try and have it finished as soon as possible (This was actually helpful because I tend to get side-tracked easily by other projects in progress).
As you can see, I had a lot of ideas, but it boiled down to a few important components:
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This SKILL post is all about improvising and throwing something together out of whatever you have at your disposal. Many times I find myself in need of a prop for a costume or a part for a project, but don’t have the time or money to spend on making or buying a high quality version. This is one of my favorite kind of challenges. At times like this, hot glue, cheap plastic goods and spray paint will be your best friends.
But just like drawing, Making on the fly is a skill that involves studying a subject, breaking it down to its constituent parts and working from down from basic forms to bring things into greater and greater resolution, until they are recognizable. To show you what I mean, let’s look at a few examples of times I kludged some crap together and ended up with a passable version of what I needed.
During my dorm years in college I organized an annual Harry Potter Trivia Night. It worked just like Jeopardy! At any given point there were four representatives from each house at the front tables. They would choose a topic and difficulty, I would read the question and any house could buzz in to answer.
The game itself was quite a undertaking, but I also spent weeks on decoration and planning so that the experience was much more immersive. I MCed the whole event from beside the screen, navigating the complex powerpoint over a projector to bounce between the hourglass-scoreboard, category boards and the questions. I didn’t want to just sit behind a computer screen like some kind of Muggle, so I crafted myself a symbol of authority, dignity and wisdom to stand before me. I made a replica of Dumbledore’s owl podium.
In October 2017 it was announced that Adam Savage, original co-host of Mythbusters, would be collaborating with Michael Stevens, the host of the Youtube channel, VSauce, on a touring show called Brain Candy Live, which they describe as a “… celebration of curiosity that’s an interactive, hands-on, minds-on theatrical experience like no other.”
I’ve been a huge fan of both Mythbusters and VSauce, since they started, so when I saw that they would be touring through my city, I bought VIP tickets immediately. The tickets came with a chance to ask questions and get photos be part of a Q&A with Michael and Adam. I started to think about what I’d like to ask them and realized that more than anything I wanted a way to thank them for the years of entertainment, education, and inspiration.
Making stuff is part of how I’ve always let people know that I appreciate them. From canning my and my roomate’s laughter, to making a talking “Drinking Out of Cups” action figure, I always find myself making personalized gifts for all my friends; so why not my role models?
For Adam, I made a shirt that says “Savage AF”, because who doesn’t wish they were as cool as Adam? See more about that in my post on Custom T-Shirts.
Michael’s gift was a little bit more complicated. I originally designed a shirt featuring Michael crouching in front of a camera, because it’s obvious he must do this about a dozen times to make a VSauce video.
Ever come up with a quote or a graphic that you thought was just begging to be put on a t-shirt? Or want to make your team or group seem official without spending a few hundred on shirts? Making novelty shirts for your friends or putting a logo on some wearable merch can be really fun and satisfying, but there is a reason shops/services charge so much to make custom shirts: it can be time consuming and it’s easy to make mistakes that will ruin a shirt, bumping up the cost of production that you may have been trying to keep low. So, if you’re in a hurry or need absolute perfection, I might recommend going to professionals for at least part of the process. As with anything though, a little research, practice and the right supplies can get you exactly the results you’re after. Continue reading “Custom T-shirts”
Nothing livens up a party like violence and candy. All the better when it’s impeccably thematic. Paper mâché and cardboard are cheap and easy to work with. Master a few basic skills and you can make any kind of piñata you want.
Let’s examine the Pokémon piñata and the Mustang as an examples here, just because I took a lot of pictures in the process.
When making a piñata you have to consider more than just the way it looks. It has to:
1) have a sturdy anchor to hang/pull it from
2) be able to take just the right amount of punishment, so everyone gets a whack at it.
Over one summer, a lot of my friends started playing Magic: the Gathering. It’s a good way to pass a few hours, make some new friends, or piss off the friends you already have when you make them kill their own creatures or throw their whole deck into the graveyard.
On of my buddies spent hours putting decks together and started buying into the competitive play at the local bookstore on Friday nights. All the coolest nerds had custom play mats or fancy dice. I wasn’t that into MTG, but I was into making custom stuff, so I decided to make my friend a case that he could show off at Friday Night Magic as a birthday gift.
When I was in middle school my parents were friends with a woman who had spent years doing custom leather work for a living. She was really generous with her time and supplies, meaning I still have a huge box in my closet that’s full of hides, hole-punches, stamps, etc.
I wanted the finished product to look clean but also very Medieval and ominous. The first thing I decided after a few quick sketches was that I needed some hardware. I ordered a cool latch and some spikes.