Thursday, March 3, 2016

View Award Winner Profile- Carol Eddy- Craftsperson

What type of crafts projects did you make this year?

I decided early this year I wanted to upgrade the uniform of a Mayerling soldier, so there was quite a bit of mass-producing of armor and garb that went on.  New poets' shirts, reversible red/black musketeer (under)tabards, ring belts and florentine belt sheathes - that was a long time overdue! - more helmets and bracers, and leg armor.  The two projects I'm most proud of from this year were one-offs, though: my brass lamellar - imitating the mamluk mounted warriors of the Crusades - and the Mayerling dragonscale entry to Queen of Hearts.

Actually, looking back, I'm pretty amazed that all of that happened this year.  Last spring seems like such a long time ago!

Outside of Realms, I joined the Warhammer 40k fandom this year, so I broke a lot of new ground with modeling, painting, and conversation.  More important, and more up my alley, that meant a couple large projects in the form of 40k-inspired cosplay.  I won a GenCon costume award for my Adeptas Sororitas, and I'm hoping this winter gives me time to finish out the Dark Angels space marine.

I suppose in general I like making things I can wear.

What are some things you keep in mind when crafting for Realms that you feel helps to make you successful?

Will it work?

Photo by Jesse Gifford
This is my motto for life in general, but nevermoreso than for Realms crafting. We play a knuckle-down, make-it-happen kind of game.  With each Realms item I craft, I think: what is the exact purpose of this item?  How will it function in the heat of combat?  Will I be able to carry this all day on a quest?  Will this pouch stay closed in a dead-out sprint; will it carry a water bottle (or two); how easy will this be to open and close securely while wearing combat gloves?

Or, I want a sword sheath.  Will my weapon drag?  Will the angle of the handle interfere with my bowstring while I shoot?  Will I be able to draw this weapon to ready stance within 1 second?  ...or: flowing cloaks are lovely, and will get you killed. They'll also hide all the loveliness of everything you're wearing underneath.  (Solution: the over-one-shoulder cloak: leaves your sword arm free, and displays maximum other garb.)

And so on... and so forth.  Dream it.  Build it.  Test it.  Does it work?  If it doesn't work, work on it until it does.  Research what others have done, or ask your friends for inspiration, or take some time out next practice and watch the others fight and imagine them operating with your item(s).

What are some of the challenges you face regarding crafting for Realms?

There will always - ALWAYS - be a point where I wonder, "what the heck did I get myself into?"  Bags of scales to be woven, stacks of lamellar plates to be filed smooth and drilled, a whole pile of leather pieces that all need beveling and painting and riveting.  I sometimes feel as if there is no such thing as a "small" Realms project.  I'm halfway through painting the Dragons on a shield and wonder why I signed myself up for this... and why I'll do it again (because I will!) the next time it comes around.  Crafting just takes so much time!

Then there's money.  Even with membership discounts, flea market bargain hunts, and a wide pool of friends always keeping an eye out, Realms crafting is just plain expensive.

And space.  Crafting makes a giant mess and gets everywhere, and it is impossible to keep the craft space clean to my silent demands.  Frayed fabric, bits of leather, twisted pieces of drilled-out rivets...  I have been unforgivably fortunate in this, that I have access to the Mayerling Armory (aka the "crafting cave") which I regularly leave in a state like a wrecking ball came careening through.  I can't even imagine if I had to *live* in that space, and take my hat off to those of you who craft in your own homes!

Tell us about a memorable project that you are particularly proud of.

I absolutely adore the dragonscale that I made for the QoH armor entry this year. I still sometimes just stand next to it and run my fingers over the scale sleeves and marvel at it. I have nothing against a set of chainmail: it looks authentic, is easy to take care of, is flexible and provides maximum protection as well as adding a lovely medieval layer and flair to the game.  That being said, I have always wished there was just more beautiful armor out there on the field.  I fell in love with full plate when I was very young, and owning my own set of German Gothic plate is still on my bucket list.

I had never made torso armor before, and had only the most rudimentary ability to work with leather.  I was so pleased with that particular piece because it brought together so many of my crafting skills.

I modified a women's vest pattern for the leather front/back, because I wanted armor that was -specifically- designed to compliment the female form without being "boob armor".  I mimicked an overlapping scale pattern motif I've seen in a number of draconic-style pieces to really give that 'scaled' look without all the pain of individually woven leather scales (whose practicality can't be denied, but whose appearance I've never been fond of).  I have woven chain before, but never scale - which presents its own unique challenges - but I absolutely adore the way it molds itself to curves.  And lacing the scale into the edges of the leather... if I hadn't woven lamellar plates earlier in the year I would have had no idea how to begin.

I even got to practice my painting skills on the Mayerling crest (again!)... something I insisted on including, after one time my brother in very nice black leather was asked why he wasn't wearing our heraldry.  (This still bemuses me.)  I always wanted there to be zero doubt as to the allegiance of the wearer.

I'm particularly fond of the functionality of snaps set in the shoulders.  Right now they can be used for a decorative cloak and shoulders (it used to be one or the other; now both can be worn at once), or instead, they snap onto my back quiver, which prevents it from sliding about.  I am working as well on an aventail for my dragon helm, which will similarly be able to snap onto the torso armor and treat it as a single piece.

The armor is functional, comfortable (having worn it through a hard day's questing with less issue than I get from a chain shirt), beautiful, and unmistakable.  But what I love most about it?  Though it was my idea and impetus, the whole nation came together to get it done.

If someone wanted to get involved in crafting in Realms what advice would you have for them?

Be not afraid.

Anyone is eminently capable of crafting.  How do I know this?  Every local member of Mayerling has turned into a crafter.  They have cut and painted leather, riveted their own sword sheathes, fletched arrows and refoamed weapons, cut and pinned and sewed. This is not because I carefully sift among those I know, looking to lure natural crafters into my nation.  On the contrary.  I've had friends protest they have unsteady hands and no eye for detail, who've never used pinking shears or peened a rivet... and then I look at the gorgeous work they've done and wonder where all that insecurity came from!

Do not take criticism to heart, especially at the beginning.  People will tell you that you have done a horrible job.  Believe them - and then ignore them.

I made my first helmet in 2011 out of cereal boxes and paper brads. My first shield was cardboard, my first weapon a brick.  My first arrow wouldn't serve as a dog's fetch stick. So eat the criticism.  Learn how the shape works.  Ask to borrow other peoples' helmets, and look how the plates sit together.  Decide what you like the look of - and what you don't.  Make it again, and again, and again, and ignore the people who say they'd be embarrassed to be caught dead with what you've made.  I've heard my share of that.

I am not natively creative.  I am not naturally crafty.  I am just too darn stubborn to give up.

There will be days (weeks - months) when you are not inspired.  For those times, make friends with other crafters.  I am emboldened beyond belief by my friendship to Sheri, who can work miracles with a sewing machine.  I would never have touched leather if she didn't do it first; I would never have woven chainmail if my sister hadn't lent me her needle nose pliers and my uncle hadn't turned steel for me on a lathe.  Teach them; let them teach you; cross inspire each other and don't take no for an answer.  Also, when it's crunch time and you have one week to do a hundred hours worth of work... be humbled and amazed as all your fellow craftees deliver.

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