Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Since it's Halloween time, a little trip down Big Daddy memory lane. Part 1

halloween parade_071031_05.JPGThought I would post a few links and relate the story from last year when we made that sweet-ass Bioshock Big Daddy costume. Bioshock, for those who may not know, is a first-person video game that was originally released for the Xbox360, but has been rereleased on the PS3. Set in an underwater utopian city gone horribly wrong called Rapture. The environments are beautiful art-deco inspired vistas, and the story with its themes on personal responsibility and morality is one of the best I've experienced in interactive entertainment.

One of the main icons of the game are the characters of Big Daddy and Little sister. Mona and I loved playing that game. Mona had been known to create a sweet costume or two , so come Halloween costume time, Mona thought, wouldn't it be sweet if we could go as Big Daddy and Little Sister? Oh yes. It would. And it would also be a tremendous undertaking.

We had no idea where to start. We looked online for costumes, but found that no one at that point had really made anything beyond the cardboard and aluminum foil mockups. I wasn't going to settle for a half-assed costume. If I was going to do it, then I was going all out, and make one better than anything out there. In my early years (cause I'm oh so old now), I was very interested in special effects and horror makeup, and mildly obsessed with classic ILM and considered making a career out of it. I had experience sculpting little stop-motion puppets and the like (I majored in stop-motion in my short Pratt Institute career), and with both Mona and me as artists and designers, I knew we could do this. I took it as a personal challenge to make the best damn Big Daddy I possibly could.

So during those three months, I documented the construction process on my Flickr site.

bigdaddymakingof_071103_25.JPGbig-daddy_071027_19.JPGMe working on the domebigdaddy_071023_09.JPGbig-daddy_071028_33.JPGbigdaddymakingof_071103_09 (1).JPG

We made the suit for the annual 2007 NYC Greenwich Village Halloween Parade, and let me tell you, I was working down to the wire.

We had started in August, with no idea of how or from what to construct this thing. Three months of trial and error and about $500 later, I was painting on patina as I called a cab to take me to the parade lineup. Getting there wasn't fun either. Mona was working (being a weekday) and so it was just me transporting the huge suit. I was going to have to cab drop me off near Mona's office, which was 21st street and 5th Ave, a block from the parade route on 6th Ave (but, about 12 blocks or so from the actual parade start).

I barely fit the thing into a Lincoln Continental, traffic was crazy, and once on 5th Ave, we couldn't get back to Mona's office because of police barricades. Which would have been fine, but Mona had come down to meet me to help me move the suit, and had left half her Little Sister costume upstairs. Eventually  she convinced the cop to let her go back (she had just walked out from the barricade past the guy a few minutes earlier.

Eventually, with much effort fighting through crowds we made it to the lineup. At this point, I had purchased some bulk industrial red glow sticks, and we proceeded to spend a good 20 minutes cracking, cutting open, and pouring the glowing goo into Mona's Little Sister ADAM syringe. It looked sweet, though I'm surprised I didn't lose a finger. You're not exactly supposed to cut open glowsticks, and they certainly don't make it easy to do so.

So, the parade was starting, I suited up and realized I couldn't see a thing. The portholes I was using for visibility were practically useless. In the cool night air, with the heat from the dome lights and me all breathing and stuff, condensation built up to the point that I had zero visibility. Not even like, some; a little; a tiny bit: none. Yay design flaw. Live and learn. Thanks to rob5408 for taking the below pic at the lineup.

This was my prototype suit. I ended up replacing the black paper painter's suit with a sweet, stretchy, XXLarge old man grampa jumpsuit . Jumpsuits rule.

After another couple hours of shuffling along completely blind in the huge mass of smushed people that is the parade lineup with only Mona and our friend Daniel to guide me we finally got to the actual parade. I drilled many people. Unintentionally, of course. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. I'm told the parade was fun, with lots of neat costumes. At one point Mona and I were walking by a float playing Prince, so we started dancing.

But all I could think about was, dear god, kill me now. End it. Big old lightning bolt. Bzt. Kthxbai.

By the time we got to the actual parade, I'd already spend two hours or so in the suit, sweating profusely (attractive eh?) thanks to the cotton batting I used to bulk up the non-breathable painter's suit. Thankfully, my parents own a campground and at one point had a big beaver (get your mind out of the gutter, perv) as a mascot for going on hayrides with kids and the like, and had an ice vest that is made for cooling down people in stuffy suits. I had them dig it out of storage and mail it to me in advance. Thank god for that. I'm sure I would have passed out otherwise.

In tests during construction, I hadn't worn the suit longer than a few minutes at a time, and it was perfectly comfortable. After three hours of getting knocked around by careless or drunk paraders and an intense dehydration headache, it was less so. All the weight was placed on shoulder straps, but the weight of the suit ended up making the vinyl settle a bit, so my head and neck also took a lot of the weight. Next time, a waist strap belt to take the bulk of the suit weight.

After 20 blocks or so, I had to bail out. Walking to the train and riding the subway home was also fun.
halloween parade_071031_41.JPG
halloween parade_071031_45.JPG

A shopkeeper in Astoria really like my astronaut costume. After a couple days, things started happening in the internets.

Here's the post that started it all.

Spectacular Bioshock Big Daddy/Little Sister Halloween Costume! [Pics] 
My friend and her boyfriend, known for great game-themed costumes, created Big Daddy/Little Sister costumes that easily trump any others I've seen. The hand-made Big Daddy lights up from inside its dome, and Little Sister even has ADAM! Click to go back to the gallery page for a lot more photos.
Incidentally, this was posted on digg by our friend Rob Sheridan . He works for a band you might have heard of. This ended up on the front page of digg.

Which led to someone submitting our pic to's Halloween costume contest claiming to be us. CH found us on Flickr and contacted us to see if we were the ones who entered or not. They corrected the submission info and we ended up getting second place (behind bender no less).


The CH staffer who contacted me was Jeff Rubin, who also does interviews and videos for the site. He asked if he could interview me about the costume, so he and some other CH staffers trekked to Astoria and there you go :

From there, things got quiet. For a while. Until I got this email:

Hey there,
I’m Community Manager at 2K Games, and I’m tracking you down because of your amazing Big Daddy costume. Two questions: First, do you still have the costume, and second, are you available around the dates of December 6th through 8th?
 Next time, I'll write about the insanity that was Las Vegas and the Video Game Awards. Until then, here's a little sneak peak :

Me as Big Daddy with Ken Levine and Greg Gobi at the Spike VGAs

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Finished viral infection. Red, Blue and Yellow style.

Finished carving 3 Dr. Mario virus stamps and listed in the Sunshine Cupcake! Etsy store. Red, Blue, Yellow or a set of all three.

As a side note, you can subscribe to our Sunshine Cupcake! Flickr set.


I even went so far as to (attempt to) record a video tutorial on carving 8-bit rubber stamps. Here's a little taste of the awesome that goes on over here in Cupcakeland.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Nathan and I are splitting up.

Now that I've seen this guy, no one could possibly compare.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A little hanky panky...on amazon!

I blogged a while ago about my packaging design for Hanky Panky (lingerie company) being featured on Swedish Elle's website. Out of curiosity, I looked up "hanky panky" on to see if the item (a trio of thongs inside a vintage-style hat box) was for sale there. And I found it! :-) For some reason, only the purple hat box is available. There is also a lime green version somewhere out there. I have yet to see the product in a real-life store yet, but they should be out in time for holiday shopping.
Buy it through this link if you're interested, it's hooked in to our Amazon Associates ID (Amazon pays us. Yay!).
Hanky Panky Thong Trio with Vintage Hat Box Panty

The above photo doesn't show that the packaging has silver hot stamping (foil) on it.
Not much of a thong girl myself, I had never heard of Hanky Panky before our first meeting. Normally, the company I work for makes mostly handmade greeting cards, coordinating gift bags and other paper items such as magnet list pads, journals, tissue paper (the gift-wrapping kind, not the rump-wiping kind). But a friend of my bosses (I work for a small family-owned company) was hired by Hanky Panky, and he recommended us for packaging their upcoming seasonal items.
At our first meeting, Hanky Panky brought in some reference photos of bombshells like Rita Hayworth, Veronica Lake and some classic Varga girl pin-ups. I was secretly delighted, because for a long time, all I drew was pin-ups. I've always had a love of vintage stuff: vintage cars, vintage design, vintage clothes, so I had a good idea of what they were looking for style-wise: a mix between art deco and classic Hollywood. Hanky Panky was quite insistent about using the colors purple and green, purple for their original style thong, and green for the low-rise version.

Red & White Wood-Grain Beer Cozy just posted

Just finished posting a newly made fancy-pants foam cozy. That now brings the total to two hand-appliqued cozies listed. Now, some may not like the idea of foam in the political-correctness area. I say pft. Show me a crocheted cozy that can actually keep my can cold, and I'll get some needles. 

Started by drawing some wood grain:

Got a blank red cozy:

And applique away:

As an aside, this project was made on top of my sadly neglected Vox AC-30. Which is now pretty much a table with 4" casters. Le sigh.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Dr. Mario, I presume?


Just finished carving a couple Red Virus stamps. They were much less a pain in the butt than I was expecting. I thought the square-edged pixels were going to be a nightmare. The trick is using an Xacto knife and not lino cutters. Tomorrow I'll work on Blue and Yellow.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Some packaging supply links

I've been scouring the internets to find good places to get packaging supplies and materials. I've tried Pearl Paint and Michael's locally, but they really didn't have what we were looking for. Michael's had a few jewelry boxes that we picked up to use meantime, but they end up having barcodes on them: Bottom of the candy-corn packaging
Which isn't all that aesthetically pleasing.

So here is a list of what I've found so far that seems useful, I'll update this post as I find more, and if you've had any experience (good or bad) with any of these companies, please comment: - pretty much a paper site, but they seem to have a nice variety of coated, photo, and specialty papers and envelopes. There's also a section to order samples, which might be all you need for a backer, header or insert. - I just found this one and it seems like there's a ton of useful items here. All sorts of gift boxes and specialty boxes, including non-square shapes, tins(!), shred, and cello bags. Pretty much anything you can think of in the packaging department, they have. Including mops. For cleaning up, um, packaging disasters. SPLODE! - The old standard for bulk cheap boxes, though they seem to cater more toward larger boxes for moving and the like. There are some smaller boxes though. And they have a nice amount of poly bag supplies, including sealers for custom-size bags. - standard bubble and flat rigid mailers (good for photos or prints, which I'll probably pick up for shipping my prints), seems more catered to flat and document mailing, though they have boxes as well. - I've heard people had good luck searching for etsy sellers who sell packaging supplies

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Questionable Parade Costumes

I was browsing through flickr trying to find old Epcot pictures (specifically of Figment and the Imagination Pavilion) and came across the photostream of a fellow Disney nerd. I couldn't stop giggling at this photo..

Thursday, October 9, 2008

AARGH. Stupid [fake] Leica!

Okay. So I thought I was all super clever when I purchased my first digital camera. 

I had used pro digital SLRs, but they were always owned by the company I was working for. Borrowing the camera for personal projects was never a problem, so I had no need to buy one myself. Now that I'm not working as a commercial photographer, last year I thought it about time to get myself a little something something. SLRs are great, but bulky, so I decided on a point-and-shoot which I could take with me on outings and trips and the like. But of course, I couldn't get just any P&S, I had to get a super-fancy one.

Here's the clever part. Leica create—in my opinion and many others—the greatest cameras. Period. I've wanted one for, ever. So when I was looking into Leica P&S cameras, I learned that Panasonic makes their digital cameras, using Leica components. So looking at the Leica D-LUX 3, you find the Lumix DMC-LX2
The Lumix DMC-LX2 to the left (the pic is silver, but my camera is black), the Leica D-LUX 3 to the right. They're the same camera. Except the Lumix is about $300 cheaper. And has a little grippy thing. Otherwise it has the exact same components. Same high-end Leica lens, same CCD, same image processing. Did I mention they're the same? And the Lumix is way cheaper? Not even like, similar. MADE BY THE SAME COMPANY(s).

So yeah. Love my LX2. Takes awesome photos

MoMA_Olafur Eliasson - Take Your TimeMona sitting on bench under neat Hobbit tree.Gnarly tree with the sun peaking through.Dude. Batman is Awesome®.Sprinkles cupcakes
That's enough of that. For a P&S, it's amazing. Awesome lens. Optical image stabilization (meaning the lens floats a bit and corrects for camera shake to an extent). Manual focus. RAW files. Widescreen CCD (not just a cropped square CCD). 10MP. The list goes on and on.

Now, for the not so happy things. It doesn't do well in low light (the next model up, released after I bought mine, is supposed to fix this and everything else I have quips with). It tends to add noise and look "processed." So effectively I only use it at ISO100. This is mostly due to 10MP CCD on a P&S. More pixels is not necessarily better. In fact, smushing more pixels into a small CCD means less quality per pixel, overall. So, zooming in to 100% of an image can often reveal limitations. At typical viewing and printing size, none of this is an issue, because the image is resized down and you don't see the imperfections. BUT: when shooting product shots, like I do for Sunshine Cupcake, I get issues.

P&S macro is hit and miss. They tend to have a longer minimum focal distance. Meaning, the camera and lens need to be further away from the subject before it can focus clearly than an SLR with a larger lens needs to be. So getting up close and personal with little clay dudes or buttons 1" tall means I have to set up my tripod (no problem), zoom in to the maximum optical zoom of 4x, and then still be over a foot away from the product. So I end up getting a little bitty button in the middle of a huge frame. Case in point:

Which when cropped, becomes this:

This does not a happy Nathan make. It's okay, and shows the product, and is better than nothing. But I will enjoy the day when we sell enough to warrant the purchase of a good ol' SLR, and keep my LX2 on my hip, where it belongs.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

MST3K and an Owl Theremin

Tuesday was a good day for this sunshine cupcake. I received my first Etsy purchase in the mail: these fine polymer clay earrings of Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo from the show Mystery Science Theater 3000, thanks to Lauren at the Clay Collection!

Also, last night we drove over to Athens (about an hour and half drive from here) to see our friends Lauren's and Craig's band The Buddy System. Not only does the band dress in CMYK, but they also have an owl-theremin hybrid.

Craig and Lauren are also the 2-person animation studio Kangaroo Alliance and do all of the accompanying visuals for each Buddy System song..You may have seen their video for Of Montreal's "Wraith Pinned to the Mist and Other Games".

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

C'mon, Lobstee!

This weekend, at Sunshine Cupcake, Nathan made a very special figurine for my good friend Sam, whom I've known for about 20 years. At least 15 of those years have been spent quoting the Simpsons ad nauseum. In honor of Sam's birthday, Nathan made me a very special lobster harmonica from the "Team Homer" episode (in a very short amount of time!)

We might try making another with a real harmonica in it.

Monday, October 6, 2008


I thought I'd post some prototypes that didn't make it to the Etsy shop for one reason or another.

This guy was my first attempt at making a little monster dude out of polymer clay. At this point I hadn't unpacked my rubber-tipped clay-shaping tools yet, so I had to make due with some crappy metal ones meant for kiln clay. I much prefer shapers like these:
The rubber-tipped scuptling tools I heart
The rubber smooths the polymer clay so much better than metal tools, which tend to tear the clay. So the detail in this guy wasn't as smooth as I would have liked. I like his design though.

Apology Cake is one of my favorites, I'm definitely going to make this guy again. I love Mona's Emoticake® designs. This guy took many hours and there are little things that aren't as smooth or neat as I'd like. The icing piping was made with liquid Sculpey I like the dimensionality it has but it didn't go on as cleanly as I wanted. Next time I'll paint it on or something. I'll have to do some tests to see what works best. I also didn't finish the bottom, so it's kind of sloppy down there. That's just ugly. Even though you wouldn't see it unless you picked it up, I still want the whole thing to be as finished and professional-looking as I can make it.

This dude's psyched. I was playing with flexible Sculpeyand he was more of a proof-of-concept test. His arms bend, but not all that easily, maybe they're too thick. I also didn't clean all the red off my fingers before making the white eyes, so he looks a bit stoned. Anyone want a stoned octopus?

I wanted to make a Fizgig tribute of basically a Mouth with teeth. Maybe some eyes. I still like the idea, but i need to work on the execution more. I tried slicing the teeth out and recessing the mouth, but it didn't quite line up the way I planned. In my mind. Where I plan.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

I wish these were *my* little ponies!

Our friend Emilie sent me this great link of nerdy My Little Ponies by Spippo on Why didn't I think of this first? Sigh...