Admiral Ackbar – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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Admiral Ackbar & Resistance Pilot! (Costumers: Amanda Fineran and Kris Heding)

Admiral Ackbar is one of my all-time favorite Star Wars characters, and I always wanted to figure out a way to make a costume, but I figured it was impossible, so I just didn’t bother pursuing it. Curiosity got the best of me, and I wondered if there was someone out there who actually made Admiral Ackbar masks and hands, and when I realized there was…I decided to go for it.

Mask & Hands: The extremely talented artist that made this costume possible is Chris Stephens. He does incredibly amazing work, and I can’t recommend him enough. If you’re looking for beautifully made masks for practically any Star Wars alien species (and some other creatures from other fandoms), please check out his page. Inside the mask, I installed two helmet fans from Henry’s Helmet Fans to help with the airflow.

Tunic: I bought some natural linen-like fabric and used my Poe Dameron shirt as a pattern base, but then I heavily altered it because Ackbar’s neck and arm circumferences are wacky. So, really, I just kind of winged it. The shirt has Velcro on the back since Ackbar’s head is massive and wouldn’t really fit through the neck hole.

Vest: I used some mustard yellow duck cloth/canvas-like fabric and some linen-like mustard yellow fabric as a lining, and completely made up the pattern on my own. With as few reference photos as I could find, my Admiral Ackbar action figure sure came in handy.

Belt: For now, I’m using the same belt I use for my Poe Dameron costume.

Pants: For now, I’m using the same pants I wear for my Poe Dameron costume, but I plan on making new pants soon.

Boots: I bought a pair of brown Teva ‘Capistrano’ boots off of eBay since they’re no longer being manufactured.

Rank Badge: I bought an Admiral rank badge from Interstait.

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Ashley Eckstein Book Signing

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Photo Credit: heruniverse

On May 12th, we attended Ashley Eckstein‘s book signing at Barnes & Noble! I adore her, not just because she’s the voice of Ahsoka Tano, and not just because she started a clothing line for nerdy women, but because she really is a wonderfully kind and awesome woman. She spent quite a bit of time talking to all of us, and she signed our books and memorabilia and took photos with us.

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Photo Credit: gogogrrrl Costumers: Amanda Fineran, Pari Elizabeth, Eve Zabronsky, Molly Fineran, Jennifer Schubert, Jennifer McNitt, Lynn Sessions, Anna Sawyer, Jordan West, Kris Heding, and Nicole Webinger.

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Photo Credit: jen17662 Costumers: Alex Hall, Pari Elizabeth, Eve Zabronsky, Paul Haga, Kris Heding, James Douthitt, and Trevor Bailey.

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Photo by gogogrrrl Costumer: Kris Heding

Shenanigans with Chewbacca. (Costumer: Paul Haga)

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Photo Credit: bnharmar Costumers: Robert Schubert, Kris Heding, and Paul Haga.

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Photo Credit: gogogrrrl Costumers: Paul Haga and Kris Heding.

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Me with Ashley!

Zara Fenn (Original Twi’lek Character) – Star Wars

Zara Fenn is the result of wanting to make a Twi’lek character and wanting to make an original character that fell into the Star Wars sequel trilogy timeframe. First, Zara’s backstory:

Zara Fenn was born in 2 ABY on Ryloth. Her parents were Liana Fenn and Koro Fenn. Koro was a trader and traveled a lot, so he wasn’t around much, but he was a good father when he was home. Liana worked as an artisan, but developed a horrible illness when Zara was 15 and could no longer work. She started smuggling when she discovered certain hard-to-find (and sometimes illegal) substances alleviated Liana’s pain, and the only way to acquire these were through underground smuggling and trading. She was her mother’s primary caregiver until she passed away in 26 ABY when Zara was 24.

After her mother passed away, Zara immersed herself into smuggling full-time, picking up odd jobs here and there. She spent a lot of time at Maz Kanata’s castle on Takodana, which is where she picked up most of her smuggling jobs. She befriended a lot of other smugglers, rogues, and pirates there.

In 34 ABY, Zara’s father Koro was killed on Cardota when the First Order destroyed the Hosnian system. He was only there for a short time for a trading job.

When the First Order nearly eradicated the entirety of the Resistance, the remaining members established a temporary base on Rakata Prime. They continued to send communication to other planets and systems to find allies who could potentially be recruited. As allies began to respond and agree to join the Resistance, General Organa needed to transport the new recruits to the Resistance base undetected.

A member of the Resistance traveled to Takodana to ask Maz for her recommendations for a smuggler who could safely transport recruits from their home planets to the new base on Rakata Prime. Maz recommended Zara Fenn, and Zara accepted the offer. Zara initially agreed because it was “just another job,” but after working with the Resistance for a short while, she realized she agreed with their goal to end the First Order and restore peace in the galaxy. She officially joined the Resistance, and continued to use her smuggling skills to help them rebuild and recruit.

Random Facts:

  • “Fenn” is Twi’leki for “Hardworking.”
  • Zara adopted one of the Porgs that nested on the Millennium Falcon. She named him Poy (Twi’leki for “wings”), and he accompanied her on her travels.
  • She liked knitting and embroidery, both skills she learned from her mother.
  • Zara was ambidextrous.
  • Her favorite planet to visit was Kashyyyk. She’s learned a bit of Shyriiwook, so she could communicate fairly well with Wookiees.

Now, onto the build of the costume!

Lekku: Pre-colored silicone Lekku from TwilekPam in “Endura Pink.”

Face/Body Paint: European Body Art’s Endura alcohol-based paint in Pink. (More info about the paint application process and the makeup I used can be found here).

Jacket: Black Rivet moto mock collar faux-leather jacket from Wilson’s Leather. I sewed on a Rebel Alliance patch onto the left upper arm.

Shirt: Just a plain grey scoop-neck tee from Target.

Jeans: Black skinny jeans from Torrid.

Boots: The same Teva Capistrano boots I use for my Poe Dameron costume.

Belt: I used the same belt buckle that I used for my Poe Dameron costume, but bought a black leather belt strap to use with it instead.

Goggles: I bought a pair of costume aviator goggles from Amazon.

Head Wrap: I made the head wrap using black faux leather upholstery fabric. (More information can be found here.)

Holster: I bought an amazing Poe Dameron/Resistance Pilot holster from DarmansProps.

Blaster: I repainted a Glie-44 Nerf blaster. (More information and photos can be found here.)

Pouch: I used the same leather pouch I used for my Kaiya Liin costume.

Gloves: I used the same black leather gloves I used for my General Hux and Kylo Ren costumes.

Poy: Poy the Porg is one of the Underground Toys Action Porg plushes. But don’t tell him that…he thinks he’s real.

Twi’lek Head Wrap

I ventured into new costume territory by putting together a Star Wars Twi’lek costume! One of the pieces I made was a head wrap. The wrap has multiple purposes: it hides the edge of the lekku, it holds the ear cones, and also helps secure the lekku to the head.

I started out by sketching out several designs on scrap paper, and then made a rough pattern from that. Then, I cut out a piece of scrap fabric from my pattern to see how well it would fit, and made adjustments until I had everything pretty close to how I wanted it.

I used two types of fabric for the wrap: the outside was made using black heavyweight faux leather, and the inside was made with a similar faux leather, but a bit more lightweight. I don’t know the exact fabric I used since I ended up buying it on clearance at Joann Fabrics.

I cut out the pattern from both fabrics, and then placed them right sides together and sewed along the top and bottom seams (leaving the ends open). I turned the wrap inside-out and sewed over the edges of the fabric along the top and bottom edges. From there, I figured out where I wanted the ear cones to stick through and cut out circles from just the front side of the wrap. I hand-sewed 2mm stainless steel ball chain around the edge of the openings to give the wrap a little flair, and then slid the ear cones inside the wrap and poked them through the openings. I used a little bit of duct tape to hold them in place. Once everything was secured, I sewed up the ends and sewed on black Velcro.

The nice thing about making a head wrap for an original character is that I had a lot of leeway as to what I could do design-wise. I opted for keeping it pretty simple (minus the ball chain detail) because I paired the head wrap with goggles, so there wasn’t much room for me to go crazy with embellishments or anything.

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Head wrap in action!

 

Glie-44 Nerf Blaster Repaint

When a bunch of new toys for Star Wars: The Last Jedi were released on Force Friday last year, one of the items I picked up was Poe Dameron’s Glie-44 Nerf blaster. I knew I’d likely use it for making a “Last Jedi” Poe costume or some other use.

I decided to repaint it in April, and the first thing I did was take it completely apart. There were a few reasons for this: 1) I wanted to spray paint the different parts separately to give them a cleaner look and 2) I wanted to remove the mechanism that fires Nerf darts so that the prop would be allowed into conventions, since many conventions don’t permit weapons that fire any projectiles (even Nerf darts). But, I also didn’t want to remove any of the parts that would allow the blaster to make “PEW PEW” noises or light up.

The part I removed was the part outlined in blue:

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Basically, it’s the piece with the giant spring in it. When the blaster is unaltered, there’s a mechanism you pull backwards to prepare the blaster to fire a dart when the trigger is pulled. By removing the part with the giant spring in it, the mechanism still triggers the barrel to light up, but no longer fires a dart. The mechanism needs to be manually pushed back into the blaster, but that’s fine by me. And, the trigger still makes “PEW PEW” noises, and that was the most important part for me.

Once everything was disassembled, I sanded off the logos and warning messages embossed on both sides of the blaster. I used painter’s tape to tape off the small areas where the light shines through when the blaster fires. Then, I took all pieces that would be external-facing and sprayed them with several coats of primer. I didn’t use Filler Primer this time, because unlike 3D printed props, I didn’t need to fill in any small ridges.

Once the primer was dried, I re-assembled the blaster (minus the part I wanted to remove) and filled in the holes where the screws went in with wood filler – except for the one screw that attached the battery plate to the blaster (that needed to be left alone so I could change the battery when needed). I used wood filler and a little Bondo to fill in the seams where the two sides of the blaster met, and once everything was dry I sanded it down. Then, I took the blaster outside for a couple more coats of primer.

Once the primer was dry, I painted the entire blaster in a coat of DecoArt Dazzling Metallics acrylic paint in Shimmering Silver. Then, I painted everything but the barrel in a coat of DecoArt Americana Gloss Enamels in Rich Espresso. I then painted the handle of the blaster in a mix of DecoArt Americana Gloss Enamel in Zinc and Plaid Folk Art Metallics in Black. I used a mix of the Rich Espresso and Black to add the darker areas of weathering in the areas where more dirt and grime would typically settle.

Once all the paint was dry, I sealed everything with a couple of coats of Mod Podge Hard Coat. Then, I took off the blue painter’s tape, and called it done!

Zara Fenn (Twi’lek) Makeup

Putting together my Zara Fenn costume was my first foray into body paint and wearing silicone noodles on top of my head. If you’re going to try something new, might as well go all out, right?

The incredibly talented TwilekPam ran a sale on her pre-colored silicone Lekku, and I jumped at the chance to buy a set (Is that the term? Set? Pair??) in my second favorite color, pink! (Favorite color is pumpkin orange, but I digress.) When they arrived, I was so smitten! Putting them on the first time was…weird. It’s a weird feeling having wobbly noodles coming off the top of your head. I scared the bajeezus out of my cats. My boyfriend said they looked like a weird sex toy. That aside, the construction was absolutely perfect, and the color was vivid and consistent.

My only concern was the fit. I have a small head (21″ circumference, if that) and the Lekku just started slipping off my head. I have very short, thin hair so there’s just nothing for the Lekku to grip onto. I put on a wig cap, and that didn’t make much of a difference. I took out some of the expanding foam, and that didn’t do the trick, either.

I made a headband out of two layers of thick muslin fabric and some elastic to give the Lekku something to grip onto (and, it also helps with sweating – gross, I know, but what do you expect when your head is encased in silicone?) as well as adding another layer under the Lekku. That helped, but not quite enough. Then, one of the other Twi’leks in the Minnesota Force suggested using Nexcare Absolute Waterproof Tape to help grip the Lekku. I gave it a try and it works really, really well. I just stuck a 3″ (or so) length of tape on my forehead and the Lekku gripped onto the tape. Because the tape is waterproof, it didn’t budge at all while I was wearing it for several hours. Adding the head wrap and goggles over the Lekku helped fully secure the Lekku to my head.

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When I finally got the Lekku sorted out, it was time to tackle the body paint.

The best part of buying pre-colored Lekku from Pam is that she lists the exact paint she used to dye the silicone. In my case, the corresponding paint was European Body Art’s Endura alcohol-based paint in Pink. Applying it with an airbrush is best, but I don’t have an airbrush and I didn’t really want to invest in one just yet. Someone told me about the Preval Spray System, which is essentially a glass jar that you attach a spray can to, and it turns any paint into spray paint. It’s inexpensive, so I thought I could at least try it and see how it worked. The results were really, really good. I was able to apply an even coat of paint to my face, neck, and a little around my lower neck and shoulders without any major issues. The only difficult part was trying to get the paint around my eyes, certain parts of my nose, and around my mouth. I ended up ordering European Body Art’s Vibe water-based paint in Pink and I’m hoping that is a close enough match. I’m going to try using a cosmetic sponge to apply that in the hard-to-paint areas since it won’t dry as quickly as the alcohol-based paint. (Check back in a couple weeks when I give this a go and I’ll let you know how it worked.) I used NYX SFX Setting Powder to seal everything (although I probably didn’t need to).

I added some contouring by using the pinks from the NYX Ultimate Shadow Palette in Brights. I used the glittery red color on my eyelids. I also used some of the shimmery white eyeshadow from the NYX Avant Pop! Eyeshadow Palette to highlight my brow bones. I used a black felt-tip eyeliner and black mascara as well.

For my lips, I used NYX Suede Matte Lip Liner in Stone Fox, and NYX Wicked Lippies in Cold Hearted.

For my eyebrows, I used NYX Micro Brow Pencil in Black and NYX Build ‘Em Up Brow Powder in Black.

I didn’t realize until I started putting this post together that I used so many NYX products! What can I say? They’re affordable and good quality, and most of their products come in a wide range of colors.

I’m (Finally) a 501st Legion Member!

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When I first started my foray into Star Wars costumes a couple of years ago, the thought of joining the 501st Legion or Rebel Legion was just unfathomable. I know my limits as a costumer, and I have a LOT to learn and a lot of room to grow. That said, I really wanted to do more with my costumes than just attend conventions…but I knew none of my costumes would fit the strict standards of the Legions.

I was then told about the Minnesota Force, which is a Minnesota-based Star Wars fan club that has multiple facets: gaming, a book club, a collector’s club, a makers group, and an art and illustration group. The makers group (which consists of people who make Star Wars costumes) does a lot of charity events in costume in conjunction with the 501st Legion and the Rebel Legion. There’s a lot of crossover with the Star Wars costuming groups in Minnesota: the 501st Legion and Rebel Legion get along and do events together, and the majority of the events those groups are invited to are also extended to the Minnesota Force. I joined the Minnesota Force at the end of 2016, and I started volunteering in costume. Things picked up momentum pretty fast. I was doing at least two events per month (usually more), I started working on more Star Wars costumes, and I became friends with so many of the members of the group. A lot of the members are also members of the 501st Legion and Rebel Legion. As I got to know everyone better, I started thinking that maybe I could make joining the Legions one of my goals.

I decided that my first Legion costume goal would be to get General Hux approved in the 501st Legion. I had my temporary costume (Version 1 that I wore for almost a year) and ended up commissioning a proper costume because I knew my skill level was not at the caliber I needed to make a screen-accurate costume myself. I received my costume a couple of weeks ago and submitted my application last week. Last night, I received a response that said I was accepted to the 501st Legion as the Central Garrison‘s very first General Hux. I’m incredibly happy to be part of a great volunteer organization, and I’m so excited to continue trooping with them, the Rebel Legion, and the Minnesota Force.

When you join the 501st Legion, you choose a member number that stays with you forever. When I chose mine, I decided to honor my mum by choosing 40138 – her birthdate was April 1, 1938. My mum was always so supportive of my creative endeavors and put up with my silliness as a child when I would wear my Halloween costumes months after Halloween was over, or when I would take old clothes and come up with some ridiculous “monster” costume and try to scare everyone, or when I’d make her wear whatever Halloween costume I wanted to put her in (like the Statue of Liberty, or a punk rocker). And, in recent years, she would ask to see photos from my volunteering events, and of my progress photos, and hear about whatever project I was working on. Last summer when she was in her last few weeks of life, she told me to keep volunteering at events (even though I told her I would cancel and spend time with her, if she wanted me to). She thought what I did was “so cool” (her words) and so I promised I’d keep volunteering and I’d keep making costumes. She knew how much I wanted to be part of the Legions, and so I wanted to honor her by choosing a number that would always make me think of her.

My next goal is to join the Rebel Legion (hopefully with Admiral Ackbar, or maybe Poe Dameron if I finish up a few things in my costume), and eventually make a costume to submit for 501st approval. But, for now, I’m just going to bounce around my house with excitement for achieving one of my goals.