Monday, 29 July 2019

Närcon 2019 meet-up photos

This is a dump of photos from the two meet-ups that I was part of: Game of Thrones and Star Wars.

Sunday, 28 July 2019

NärCon 2019 report

I'm back from NärCon with sore feet and a tired body, but loads of happy memories.

NärCon is easiest described as a cosplay, gaming and creativitiy festival, and it's the biggest cosplay event in northern Europe. It is on the campus of Linköping University, and it being outside and spread out is the reason for my sore feet, I clocked around 30 km of walking on asphalt, cobblestones and stone floors over 2,5 days.

This is just an overview of the most central part of the campus. The weather decided to go with the hottest days of summer, with temperatures reaching 30+ in the middle of the days. There are worse heatwaves out there, but it was.

Anyway this is my day by day report:

Tom picked me up at 8 on Thursday. It felt strange but I had actually been able to pack and be finished early in the evening on Wednesday, no stressing last minute fixes to be done. We got down to Linköping, had lunch, checked in and managed to be at Närcon at around 2 pm, which is a new early record for us.  I left my bags in the Nordic Legions' changing rooms and then went to see Mathias and Ann-Sofie, they had driven down with their caravan the night before. With my excellent skills in orienteering I managed to go to the wrong camping and got an extra km or so in the sun. Then it was time for me and Ann-Sofie to suit up as Asterix and Obelix.

They were a big sucess! We couldn't move many meters until people came up and wanted to take photos with us and it was so much fun. The menhir worked fine, but for some metal thingies in the back of the metal frame. This first time they weren't too bad, but every time I wore it I felt more and or that they pressed into my back. I also had a bit of moustache problem. I had glued it on with mastix, but it fell off when I tried to drink or talk too much. It got better later, I'm guessing that I built up a layer of mastix on the moustache that made it easier and easier to stick. We walked around until about 11 pm and then it was back to the hotel for a shower and some sleep. Thankfully this year we were in an hotel with AC.

On Friday we arrived at NärCon at around 11 again. NärCon is a festival and goes on 24/7, but there isn't much activity before lunchtime.
Tom as Luigi on Thursday and Friday
The Nordic Legions decided that it was too hot to troop in the afternoon, and we were going to concentrate on the evening instead. So I changed into Melisandre and walked around in that costume. Unfortunately I got some blisters  from my sneakers, the same sneakers that had taken me through Medieval Week in Visby and Star Wars Celebration in Chicago without a problem, so now I started to get some sore feet.

Most of the Cosplay Dalarna gang with Harry Potter costumes on Friday
There was a Game of Thrones meet-up on Friday afternoon. There were some official photos taken at the meet up, but I only have one on my own phone.

William and his family had really great costumes.

After that Tom had told me that there was going to be something called "garbage" cosplay, I told some other people and we went there. Basically it was a competition where you made up teams, had 5 minutes to decide what you should do and then 35 minutes to build it out of a pile of rubbish that they had placed on the floor. It was a manic wrestle for the rubbish, but our team (which was basically a Cosplay Dalarna team) managed to grap two big rolls of bubble wrap as our main loot.

The result

Linus as "Deal with it Gandalf the White". The judges were impressed that I had managed to make two functional garments, bascially a classic chiton held together with pins made from cardboard and a square cloak, out of the bubble wrap, and that we had so many details (pipe, staff, brooch, sword, ring and tobacco pouch). Yes our team won the whole competition. Go Cosplay Dalarna (and Sergio)! This was probably my favorite event of the whole convention, also bcause it was so unexpected and spontaneous.

There was a Star Wars meet-up in the evening as well, and the Nordic Legions decided to join. We surprised everybody else, who apparently thought that the 501st and Rebel Legion is just all about being serious. They were so wrong. We showed our totally unstructured way of organizing photos, and then there were a bunch of photos and films done. The photographer has promised to post the photos from that in the coming days and I'm really looking forward to it. After that we led the whole bunch of Star Wars costumers in a parade all over the festival area, and it was really cool to be around 30 people, with me and the other officers first, followed by stormtroopers, our rebels and then all the other costumers which were mostly dark and light jedi. The timing was so right with it being dusk so that the lightsabres really showed, but still light enough that people could take good photos.

Admiral Daala leading her troops
Overall the Friday evening was just perfect, with a lot of pure fun cosplay events.

Saturday I woke with some really aching feet. I had slept with them high over the night but it was obvious that this was going to be a tough day. I did get some time to go around the Artists' Alley and I found two prints of Ola Art that I just had to buy, it was tough to choose though. He basically takes cheap paintings that he finds in fleamarkets and changes them and add some funny texts to them.

In the afternoon I was responsible for a presentation of the Nordic Legions. It was a simply presentation about who we are, and then we showcased our costumes and what they are made of, including stripping down a biker scout and a stormtrooper to their black undersuits. After 30 minutes we asked the audience to come down and talk with us directly and ask questions. There were actually quite a few in the audience so I was really pleased with it. Since this was about showing what we do behind the scenes we broke our own Nordic Legions' rule and had both our buckets off, I'm wearing my glasses and we had two of the same face character. The important thing was to show that we are humans and fans and that it's not an impossible goal to become a member.

In the evening I skipped parading with the legions, I simply wasn't sure how far I was going to be able to walk. Instead me and Ann-Sofie did another round of Asterix and Obelix, with a lot of breaks, but in the end my body simply said no. It was a combination of sore feet, the metal thingies from the menhir into the back and the heat. The Obelix trousers are really comfy, but then I wear a big foam belt and a fur vest over them, and the menhir is made out of isolation material that reflects heat. When I took the belt off I could wringe out the trousers underneath. So I packed up my stuff and went civil. We met up with Tom and then it was a slow walk, due to talking with people not due to pain, until we left the area at around midnight.

On Sunday we simply had breakfast and got into the car and drove home. It was even hotter on Sunday than on Saturday, and the AC in the car can't handle those temperatures, so we had to take a lot of breaks just to get some air into the car. Still I was home at around 4 pm, which is the earliest that I've been home from NärCon, and it is nice to come home early in the evening from a con.

On the way back I also come up with a new project for next year's NärCon, with a focus on comfortable shoes and cool clothes, we will see what happens.

And finally here are some other cosplayers that I met and took photos of

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Building a menhir part two - carrying a menhir

I left the menhir in the barn over the week, and on Saturday I was back to continue working on it. I started with adding more very fine filler to it it, sanding the worst bumps down and then I painted it grey. After advice from Pilerud's cosplay I used regular indoor wall paint to paint it with. Now it looked like concrete. I also discovered a bit of a chipping issue, once I painted I saw a lot of white and blue flecks on the menhir. I was worried about the filler not sticking to the insulation material, but we think it was more an issue with dust getting into small holes and then falling out when we were moving the menhir about, taking the paint above the dust with it.

Then I sat down to google menhirs when it comes to colours. A rock isn't just a solid colour, it's made up of different minerals and crystals, and I wanted it to look natural. I googled menhir of Bretagne and got a lot of different rocks, but I especially liked one that was mostly dark with ligher and som redbrown intrusions. To get the colours I wanted I made two paint mixes, I used the wall paint as a base and then i added ivory black to one of them and red, and raw umber to the other one. The paint was brushed on and then I went over it with paper towels to remove and brushmarks, and to erasing the borders between the different colours.

Then came the issue of actually being able to carry the menhir. One reason I'm mainly using the live action film as a reference is that he is wearing the menhir in a kind of backpack.

Mathias had found this metal framed backpack/bike bag.

I removed the bag itself and covered all the straps in fake suede.

We added a strap to go around the menhir, a really sturdy one and connected them.

It is heavy, but I can carry it. I need to hold on to the shoulder straps though. When we tightened them more the menhir rode up too high in the back and that was really uncomfortable.

Friday, 19 July 2019

Reflections on accuracy

I recently read a discussion on FB about historical reenactment and inclusivity, and it made me really start to think on how I see it. Now this post is mainly about historical costuming, but it is basically the same within cosplay and the SW costuming clubs as well.

The main issue is: if you want to be historicallly accurate, how do you include people that are dependant on modern things (not the least medical stuff) to be able to function? In the most simple sense it's the question of wearing modern glasses to medieval garb, but what about canes, wheelchairs and for diabethics their blood glucose meters and insulin pumps. 

After having read the thread, and made a quick comment in it, I felt that I needed to take a look at myself and how do I see myself and others when it comes to accuracy, what would be my ideal and what am I willing to turn a blind eye to. 

I first need to say this. I am judgemental. I can't help finding faults when I see people's costumes. The thing is I'm not proud of it, and I do my very best to make sure that I only talk about the good things of a costume and try to encourage them rather than pointing out errors. It's just that having been in this costuming hobby for so long you do get an eye for different things, it's the same when watching a film and being able to pick out seam lines while non-costuming friends just see the general look of the costume. I also hope that my friends would tell me if I were to act like a costume nazi.

When it comes to modern things I use my glasses and I don't hide my button on the arm that check my blood sugar. I try to take the glasses off when I'm in official photos or when people really want something to look historical, but in the day to day activities I need them. Many years ago I asked about lenses, but the optometrist said that I could see better but never good with lenses. That was several years ago though, so maybe it's time to see if there are lenses that I could use. I've also resigned myself to the fact that I will probably start using an insulin pump in the coming years, the development there is going so fast and they are getting so good now that I definitely think I will have to change from insulin pens to pumps. In fact one of the reasons I use whenever my doctor asks me about switching to a pump is that I can't see how I would be able to wear a pump when I'm also wearing costumes, but that argument can't hold forever. Just the thought about someone feeling like they can't take part in a hobby because they aren't fully physically fit makes me sad.
Wearing glasses and polyester. At this event I switched to this gown because the audience wanted to see something fancy more than something accurate. I rather made small girls happy, than aspired to teach about what people actually wore.
After having mulled about these thoughts some more I think I have come up with what my ideal historical event would be. It is an event where the organizer is clear on what time period they want to portray, but where the people taking part aren't judged or stopped from taking part. I believe that if the organizers are clear on  what they want, then the participants are more likely to do their best to fulfill that idea. Nordens Minerva was a great example of that. The organizers wanted people to dress as 1762, and it was worth an evening without glasses to be in that perfect time bubble.

A bit of time travelling, but everyone taking part was in on the standards expected
I have just as much fun at the medieval events in Tuna and Leksand though, where our group has all kinds of different goals with their costumes, from old LARP-garb to handsewn replicas. To most people seeing us, we still look like we are matching each other. As much as I admire the people doing viking costuming I would prefer if there were less of them at medieval markets, but that is up to the organizers not the costumers. At the same time I know the hassle of being an organisers. At work we are working towards more of living history in our interpretations. I constantly run into the fact that for most of my co-workers, they don't see any difference between late 19th century costume and 17th century costume. We also don't have the luxury of a big wardrobe to lend out, so we are depending on people bringing their own and we are happy that people show up at all, we can't be picky. What I can do is simply try and nudge us towards something that is more historicallly accurate and less "ye olde timey-whimey". It does get lost in translation though between me as an historical costumer, and the wish to have "people from old times" around. 

Faking the 17th century. 
This feels like it was just ranting and rumbling, and I'm not sure how coherent it really is. The TLDR version is - don't let anyone put your garb down, but let's hope that more organizers aim for more historically narrow events.

LARP, 14th century, 16th century - the important thing is to have fun

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Building a menhir part one

This weekend has been a proper build weekend. It was time to start on the biggest part of my Obelix costume - the menhir.

I would never have been able to build this, so the fact that I have something menhir-like is because of my friend Mathias.

It started with him telling me that he had gotten a stack if styrofoam sheets from a friend. I had planned to buy this kind if sheets, but now I had gotten them for free. It's the dense kind of styrofoam used for insulation, not the white stuff that crumbles into small spheres.
A stack of styrofoam
First we had to try and see if I could carry the weight at all. Mathias had found a metalframed backpack that we strapped the styrofoam to.

 It was heavy, but doable. So we decided to make a massive menhir rather than try to hollow it out.

Next thing was to draw the shape of the menhir and cut it out through all the layers.

At thus stage we had tried to glue the sheets into one massive stack, but it fell apart when we (mostly Mathias) was working in it so we took it apart and worked on the sheets individually. We didn't have a heat knife so we worked on it with a knife for cutting insulation.

Now we had something that looked like a menhir from the front and back, but we had to work on the sides. In order to do that Mathias joined the sheets with a metal rod. Then we realized that it would take ages to cut the shape with the knife. So Mathias simply took his chainsaw and freehanded it.

No it's not going to be a fullsized menhir, but it will hopefully still be impressive. Also by now we had moved inside Mathias and Anne-Sofie's barn. A big barn filled with powertools is not something that I have around my apartment.

The chainsaw worked since the styrofoam is so dense. We got a lot of blue fluff, but it didn't just crumble.

We ended the day by glueing all the pieces together with styrofoam glue (cellplastlim)

The next day I I started with the final shaping and evening out the worst surface bumps.

This photo shows the difference between the front that I have worked on and the unworked side.

I then used a heatgun to seal the surface. Now this is plastic you are melting, and there are definitely noxious fumes when you do it. I was in the barn, so basically outside. You definitely need a well ventilated area. I used lightweight filler (lättspackel från biltema) to fill in the cracks. The top and bottom sheets had separated a bit so we used long screws to secure them. I covered the heads of the screws with foam clay.

After two days of work this is where we are. Next weekend is painting, modifying the backpack and attaching the menhir to the backpack.

Monday, 8 July 2019

Cooking and talking at Tuna Ting

It was time again for the local medieval fair in Borlänge - Tuna Ting. And this time I was going to stay overnight, and not only that I was actually on the program demonstrating historical cooking and doing the fashion presentation.

Once again I borrowed the tent from Monica and Niklas, as in Leksand, but this time I decided to take as much stuff with me that I could have the tent open without showing off any modern stuff too clearly.

This is the interior of the tent. I'm having a tarp under the carpets. All the carpets are auction finds, there are three of them two are handvowen and I haven't paid more than $15 total for them. People don't want to buy for carpets that are a bit worn, but I'm happy to take them so I don't have to worry about them getting dirty. The box is a late 17th/early 18th century box from the same local auctioneer. It's also a bit chipped and the metal in it has been replaced in modern times, so once again I got it really cheap. As a bed I'm using a garden chair from IKEA. I'm short so it's long enough for me, and I don't need a pillow since it's enough to just angle the headrest. On the bed I have a rug that my mother was about to throw out, but I stopped her. When I sleep I put sheepskin over the bed, then I have a modern sleeping bag and a wool blanket. In the day I hide my modern bag with clothes and the sleeping bag under the bed.

My cooking station was built up from Monika's things, but I had bought a small kettle and an assortment of wooden boxes and pottery bowls.

I spent most of the fair at this station. And since this was my first time of demonstrating cooking, and really my first time cooking properly on open fire there were definitely lessons learnt. You need to be at least two people. One person preparing the food, and one person tending the fire. On Friday Tom was the firemaster, and on Saturday and Sunday Mattias did the job. It also takes a lot more wood than we had planned to keep a fired hot enough to cook food continuosly on it.

Photo by Marlein/Linnea
The second thing was that we need more buckets of water. We had one for washing the dishes, but you need three. One for washing, one for rinsing and one so that we who are working at least can get the worst of the soot from our hands easily.  The third thing is that I need to make smaller portions, I always cook too much food but without a fridge or freezer close by it's a lot harder to save the leftovers. I also need to find recipes that are quicker to make. Now it was a lot of time just waiting while standing by. In fact on Sunday when I improvied a knödel-like doughball from leftovers people got a lot more interested than when when we were just cooking stews.

Cooking on a campfire takes time. So basically I woke up in the morning, started with lunch, washed up after lunch then it was just to start with the dinner straight away. My most popular dish was my boiled pudding, inspired by this recipe. It's very filling so we also had it as a snack on the day after to nibble on.
Yummy, yummy. Photo by Tom/woodsling
I also made the fashion presentation. And it was really fun. We had models from different eras of the Middle Ages and I tried to speak of fashion as a general thing, where did the influences come from and what was it likely that people in the area could be wearing, and of course some of the main changes in style, rather than going into specific styles for every year. Thanks to the models that volunteered and mad it possible to show off clothes from the Viking Age and into the early Renaissance..

12th century

14th century

16th century

Friday night was a wonderful Swedish summernight. A bit chilly but light and it was cozy by the fire.

Photo at just past midnight.

On Saturday we were lucky. There were really bad thunderstorms around us, but they missed our small area, we only got one big shower of rain and some thundering. It could all be waited out inside Monika and Niklas' big tent. Sunday was a bit colder, but overall we had perfect weather for a fair, neither too cold nor too warm and just some sprinklings of rain on Sunday.

I didn't have anything new to wear, since I'm busy with Obelix, but with a shortsleeved working dress and a long sleeved warmer dress it is enough to stand all kinds of weathers. I will definitely work on improving the cooking demonstrations in the future.

Overall Tuna Ting is a cozy event, it's small and mostly geared towards families with smaller children, but us in the camp have such a nice time together that we don't need anything else really.