Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Art Update - Dragon Horns and Fantasy Ears

I had a few custom orders recently for fun costume type things, so I'm going to share those today. :)

First are two pairs of shiny glitter dragon horns in silver and red. I have a custom listing available here in my Etsy shop for lots of colors, but I'm also able to make horns in other shapes and sizes, too.

Silver Spiral Dragon Horns

Silver Spiral Dragon Horns

Red Dragon or Devil Costume Horns

Red Dragon or Devil Costume Horns


These horns are hand sculpted from polymer clay and coated in glitter and varnish. They're attached to shoelaces that serve as a kind of headband.

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I also made a pair of custom hobbit, elf, or vulcan ears. Unfortunately I had a lot of trouble photographing these- they kept blending into my mannequin's hair. I really need to get better at taking photos.





And this set of faun (satyr) ears were another custom thing:


All my costume ears are crocheted from acrylic yarn and the headband knots behind the back of the head. There's wire crocheted into the ears themselves so you can actually bend them gently and they'll hold a slightly different shape.

I have custom listings available in my Etsy shop for ears, but I'm hoping to get a few more ready-made ones listed by October. Halloween is fast approaching! Somehow every year September rolls around and I haven't started any Halloween things. I keep telling myself I'll start in the early summer, but that never happens. ;)

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Book Review - A Touch of Poison

Time for another book review! I received A Touch of Poison by Aaron Kite from the LibraryThing Early Reviewer's program.



Here's the summary from Amazon:
Gwenwyn is the most miserable princess ever, and for good reason. Merely brushing up against her or touching her exposed skin is enough to cause painful burns, or worse. And if that wasn't enough, she's just discovered the singular reason for her existence - to act as the king's secret assassin, murdering neighboring princes with nothing more than a simple kiss.

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I'm finding myself sort of on the fence about what I thought about this book. On the one hand there wasn't anything I truly disliked about it. On the other it wasn't something that was able to really catch my interest. I'm sitting somewhere in the middle, I guess, thinking that it was okay. It's not something I'll likely read a second time, but it wasn't a bad book, either.

I think the problem is that the book never really found its plot. There was so much potential for this to be interesting- I found the idea of a poisonous protagonist to be novel and intriguing, but the book never really panned out and reached what it could have been. If this becomes a series with later books, then the framework that the author built for the main character and her love interest could be enough to expand upon. Here, though, it just felt too simplistic.

The story became repetitive rather quickly, which was my biggest problem with this book. The two antagonists continuously foiled the protagonist's plans, which works in theory and can create good conflict, but... it just didn't work here. It felt like the same thing over and over and I'll admit to skimming paragraphs to get past this. This was kind of a shame because the author's writing style and descriptions are good and the story itself is pretty well written. (Well, I wrinkled my nose a little at the instances of the word "anyways" in the narrative, but other than that the writing style was fine.) Unfortunately I found myself repeatedly losing interest whenever the protagonist was interacting with her father and his lackey.

That was another thing that left me wanting more: the lack of characterization. The antagonists were very flat. The main character had a little more personality, but I don't think she was enough to carry the rest of the characters who didn't. There was potential for the love interest, but by the time he entered the story it was too late to really help. There was also potential to have more characterization with the protagonist's best friend, but she didn't really get enough page time to grow as a character, either.

I did enjoy the last quarter or so of the story. Once the love interest arrived and the plot involving the protagonist's best friend kicked in, the story started moving along at a much better pace. It was unfortunate that this was as the story was resolving because it meant the more interesting part was rather rushed. I'm thinking this book could have been improved if some of the repetitiveness of the beginning had been trimmed down and this action moved earlier into the book and expanded upon, but the end did resolve itself nicely.

I'm going to give this book three stars. It's not bad by any means, but it doesn't stand out, either. I did like the author's style of writing and the general ideas behind the story, so I'll likely read more by Kite in the future.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Art Update - Chainmaille Jewelry

I'm trying to work my way into making more chainmaille jewelry, so I was really happy this month when I had the opportunity to make several different colorful things from maille. Hooray!

I know summer is almost over, but I'm still finding myself drawn to blues and purples- aquatic, ocean-y colors. In this case it turned into a mermaid costume circlet when I realized I had cute glass fish-shaped beads in exactly the same color as my light blue jump rings. This circlet crown clasps with a lobster clasp and has beads all around the chainmaille.



You can find this one in my shop here, but I'm open to custom orders, too! :)

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Speaking of circlets, this month I also made a purple and black gothic set that included a circlet and a matching hand flower as a birthday gift for a friend.

Purple and Black Chainmaille Circlet Crown

Purple and Black Chainmaille Hand Flower
Purple always gives me so much trouble in photos! In person the beads do match the color of the chainmaille.

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Another gift was a late birthday present for my sister who asked for a chainmaille anklet. She has a bunch of these in different colors and this time wanted a blue one. I used two shades of blue along with silver and added matching glass beads.

Silver and Blue Chainmaille Anklet

Blue and Silver Chainmaille Anklet


Can I say how hard it is to photograph your own ankle? I have tons of anklets made and ready to go up in my shops, but I haven't been able to list them because I'm not a contortionist. ;)

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The last chainmaille thing I made was a green and black bracelet. This chainmaille bracelet stretches rather than clasps because the black rings are stretchy rubber.

Green and Black Chainmaille Rubber Stretch Bracelet


I can make these in any color as the aluminum jump rings- you can find a listing for that here with some more color examples.

I have a few other chainmaille things that I made recently, but haven't yet photographed, so hopefully I'll be sharing those soon. :)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Book Review - Hidden Power

Today I'm reviewing the book Hidden Power by Tracy Lane. I received this from the Early Reviewers program on LibraryThing.



Here's the summary from Amazon:
Aurora Turnleaf has lived her whole life hearing fairy tales of mysterious lands, magical beings, and crystal towers. She thought nothing of them until the day she stumbled upon a magnificent city, deep within the woods, built entirely of see-through crystal. It appeared out of nowhere, in a part of the forest she’s never ventured into before, and suddenly all those stories she heard growing up become much less imaginary. Her guide is Iragos, a light mage, who introduces her to Kayne, a mage in training for a dark wizard named Kronos. Unbeknownst to Aurora, Kayne had just stolen the Ythra Orb form the Hallowed Hall on behalf of his master and hidden it in her pack. Suddenly Aurora is thrust into a life or death journey to help Kayne find the mystical land of Morgis, home to the Oracles who first created the Orb, in hopes that they can secure its safety against Kronos. The path to Morgis will be treacherous enough, but it is what follows the two teens that is more life threatening. For the dark mage’s fierce legion of vicious minions is on their path, with Kronos himself not far behind, and all of them are intent on intercepting Kayne and Aurora at every turn. Meanwhile Aurora and Kayne must battle both the elements and Kronos’ dark magic to complete their quest. And along the way, the two teens from very different worlds must learn to work together to overcome obstacles, one of them being their mutual attraction.

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I want to start out by saying just how much I loved this book! I finished it in record time; granted it's a short YA book, but I usually end up finding something to do that gets in the way of reading time if it's something I'm not into it all that much. I didn't want to put this one down because I enjoyed the writing style and characters so much. The story itself was well-written, which is always a plus. The plot was cohesive and fit together with the characters working towards a clear end goal. I almost want to say that there wasn't a whole lot of world building because I think I would have liked it even more if there had been room for more detail and adventure, but even though the book wasn't overly long, it did have world-building, particularly if this is going to be the start of a series. I thought it was neat how the mages have their own hidden location kept secret from the rest of humanity and I thought the way the two main characters' magics worked was an interesting spin on a magic system. I always enjoy it when an author includes animals in a story and I liked how these were different from earth creatures because they existed on a fantasy world, but still were similar enough that the reader easily knew what they were- that is, until the evil mage did his thing, of course! I thought both of the main characters had depth and their interactions and relationship were written well. The supporting characters were a little more flat, but since they weren't the main ones, this wasn't much of a problem.

The book may not have been too utterly deep, but that was completely fine with me! I'm actually so tired of the current trend in fantasy and fiction being dark, edgy, and epic that I truly appreciate a book that's pleasant and has a happy ending. (I'm not a young reader wanting this, either; I'm a thirty-something who enjoys lighthearted stories with happy endings.) When I reached the end I actually smiled a huge smile and went "I loved this!" because finally I was able to read something that was generally happy. Thank you, thank you, Tracy Lane, for writing something that was different from the redundant and overdone trend currently saturating the market!

I'm usually very nitpicky about books; my friend and I theorize that it's because I studied literature in college and that left me constantly critiquing and editing the written word. When I got to the end of this book, however, I just couldn't think of any real faults with it and nothing I could dislike. There were a few typos and some excessive punctuation in the Early Reviewers copy that I received that I would have edited slightly, but other than those extremely minor things that most people probably wouldn't even notice, this was a great book.

I really wish I'd written this review as soon as I had finished reading because I feel like I'm missing so much here that I wanted to rave about in better detail! (Darn life got in the way this week and book reviewing got put on the back burner.) I'm going to assume that this is the start of a series judging from how the epilogue played out and I'm looking forward to reading more in the series if that's the case. Even if it's not, I'm going to look for more books by this author. I'm giving this five stars because I can't think of any reasons that would drop it from five to something lower.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Art Update - Yarn Dyeing Adventures!

Today I had some yarn dyeing adventures! It had been probably close to five years since I last did anything with handmade yarn, so I decided this week that I was going to get back into spinning and dyeing it. I still need to break out the spindles later tonight, but I had a bit of wool yarn left on one of them that I thought would be good for practice. I wanted to test that the Wilson's cake icing dyes I had were still good after being opened for probably seven years.

Judging from how well they dyed my hand when I was adding them to the water/vinegar mix, the answer to that was a resounding "yes". They were very thick after this much time (hence why I needed to use my fingers to pry the colors off of the spoon), but the dye was still good.


I dunked the small skein into a mix of two greens and two browns:


But when I drained the water, I immediately realized my mistake when I saw that it was mostly an icky light brown color. Greens and blues absorb slower than reds, so the brown cleared out the water leaving most of the green behind rather than on the yarn:



I drained the pot and tried a different approach to make it darker by dipping the one end into just the two greens. (The other end is just sitting in an empty pot to keep it from dripping on the stove or, ya know, catching on fire.)


I left it in for the better part of an hour. Bingo! Now the green was nice and dark:


The brown still looked awful, though, so I switched around the yarn and dunked the other end into the two shades of brown. About an hour later with that, I ended up with much nicer looking yarn than I had in the beginning:


The colors in the photo aren't exactly right since it's a rainy day and the lighting is bad, but I'm really happy with how this came out! I'm looking forward to using this yarn on a pair of dreadfalls later. :)

The only snag I ran across is that the darker brown didn't seem quite up to snuff after this amount of time. I'm going to have to replace that particular bottle, but my greens and the lighter brown still worked fine even after several years. (In hindsight, I seem to remember having problems with my reds before where they'd lose potency faster than the other colors. No wonder brown did the same!) Of course I probably wouldn't want to eat it after seven years, but for dyeing yarn it was okay. Then again, I know I was using more than I did last time for the same amount of darkness as a result, so I probably should at some point replace all of the colors. I do love using this dye, though; since it's food dye mixed with just vinegar and water, I can use my regular pots and cooking utensils.

Now the next trick is relearning how to use my spindles. Eep! I'll blog later about how that adventure goes.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Art Update - Custom Multiple Piercing and Gauged Cartilage Chain Earrings

I've had a few orders this past week or so for fun custom cartilage chain earrings, so I'm going to share pictures of them today. :)

First are two pairs of earrings made from thin silver-plated chains. Both earrings in the pair have double lobe piercings while the one earring also connects up to a piercing at the middle of the ear and two cartilage piercings. The one pair has silver-colored metal feather charms and the other pair has dagger (or sword) charms.

Silver and Black Feather Five Piercing and Double Lobe Pierced Cartilage Chain Earrings

Silver and Black Dagger Sword Multiple Piercing Cartilage Chain Earrings


The feather earrings are a custom version of these in my shop while the dagger earrings are a similar version based on this ear cuff.

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These next two earrings were for someone who has a gauged cartilage piercing, so instead of using the regular earring stud at the cartilage, I used a 16 gauge barbell. The first pair with the leaves and the handmade gold, green, brown and silver chain is a variation of this earring. The second black and silver wing pair is a variation on this pair of earrings.

Green, Gold, Silver, and Brown Leaf Cartilage Chain Earring with Barbell Cartilage Piercing

Black and Silver Wing Cartilage Chain Earring with Barbell Cartilage Piercing


On both pairs I made a wire loop at the top of the chain; this slides onto the barbell, so that isn't physically attached to the chains. Here's a closeup of the black and silver wing pair so you can get a better idea of what I mean about the barbell.

Black and Silver Wing Cartilage Chain Earring with Barbell Cartilage Piercing


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This last one looks a little funny because my mannequin's ear is a little smaller than life-sized, but it's made with three chains for triple earlobe piercings connecting up to a clip on ear cuff at the upper cartilage. This was based off of this double pierced earring.

Silver and Black Triple Pierced Earring With Cuff


Lots of black and silver in this art update post! The next one will probably be more colorful. ;)

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