how we die: Traffic Bears
I’m still here!
I’m just preparing to make a tutorial and some free patterns for Teen Titans Go eyemasks.
Today brings me to sewing I don’t really want to do but need to do.
I have two jobs. One as a mild-mannered English teacher (for Japanese children) and the other as a belly dance teacher/performer (for Japanese adults, Turkish restaurants, etc.).
My English teaching is within set hours that don’t fluctuate from week to week except during vacations. I teach six dance lessons a week and that only fluctuates if I do any substitute teaching or have a workshop to teach.
Then there’s gig life. That can be super dry or super busy, rarely anything reasonable in-between.
It’s been dry. Maybe a studio show, restaurant gig, or dance show here and there. When it’s like that I can get away rotating the same few costumes i’m feeling and fitting well into and not altering much.
My costumes I often make from scratch . Some I fix up after buying them used. years of that can be found on my FB costuming page.
And now, suddenly, I find myself doing two restaurants shows (two different nights) a week in Shinjuku…every week.
It’s time to open the costume closet (yes, I have a closet of just costumes) and figuring out what needs altering. NEVER FUN. Sure, I see things I haven’t worn in a while but I also have to confront the why of it.
Bellydance costumes are tricky to fit as you want everything tight enough that you don’t worry about anything sloshing out or slipping down but not SO tight as to give you excess muffins tops or injury.
I’ve gained some weight at my waist, but my belts and skirts are fine! The thing I’m finding my costumes need is wider ribcages. For some this means just moving hooks but other costumes actually need longer ribcage straps…which is what I’m doing tonight. Luckily this was a used costume in bad shape I fixed up…so I still have extra fabric from my past changes. These alterations don’t help me in cleaning my stash “but what if i neeeeeed it”
An album of ALL this costume has been through can be found here.
I even used this as part of one of the tutorials I made for a Japanese book on how to DIY when you’re a bellydancer in Japan.
That girl in the corner? That’s me. I was the sequin and bead master and hand model. These medallions are my creation and my tutorial.
So, again, I’m changing another part of this costume.
Tonight I extend the rib cage.In the future I’ll probably change the neck straps so they cross over and connect to the back instead of attaching like a halter. The chest uplift of a halter is no longer worth the risk of pinching nerves in my neck. Criss-cross straps are a bit harder to get into but they provide the same lift with less neck strain.
I won’t wear it for tomorrow night’s gig, I’m already packed, but it might be worn this Friday or Saturday.
And, I’ll be packing some train sewing for the train into and out of Shinjuku. I’ve wrote a few of my blog posts on the ride last week.
Back to the machine!
Because the base doll I’m using, Clawdeen from Monster High, is a werewolf character she has fur accents above her wrists and ankles.
I told myself that Starfire shoots fire so I’d just try and make those ridges look like fire.
Nope. I started but it didn’t look right.
I then used a new x-acto blade to slice off the ridges, tried a few dremel bits to smooth down the surface (if anyone has a recommendation on what sort of bits to use, I’d looooove advice) and then started to sand down the surface with 600/800/1000/4000 and 6000 grit paper.
The legs got the same treatment:
I sent a LINE message to a friend about the repetitive sanding being somewhat medatative. This is how I learned my friend has a sandpaper phobia…and that such a thing exists. Sandpaper, chalk, nailfiles.I’m not going to understand that phobia (that’s the irrational nature of phobias) but I assume those textures and the dryness probably bother a LOT of folks.
I’ll be working with the legs for a while more. Plenty of little divots and cuts I’ll need to avoid making in the future.
I’m happy that Starfire wears boots.
Last we saw Clawdeen ->Starfire her hair was overly fluffy. Each bundle of strands sticking straight out of her hair plugs.
So, it was time for a boil perm. Of course, before a boil perm make SURE all the craft glue you’ve squirted into her neck-hole to the inside of her skull (to secure the hairloops) has completely dried…or you’ll be making a mess with your hot boiling water.
For more precise boil perms, like ones where I want to make curls, I’d pour the slightly cooled boiled water into a bowl and dip the hair in. Here, I just wanted the hair to relax onto the head so I poured the water OVER the head (propped on a knitting needle) over my sink.
After I did this the first time I noticed some spots that could use more hair, because Starfire has a different part that Clawdeew and needed bangs…so I repeated the reroot, glue, dry, and boil process again.
Sure, some hair came out in brushing after these steps, but not an amount that mattered. I also took the time to trim the length slightly.
I tied the hair back, protected it with a single, orphaned, sock, and primed the face with Mr. Super Clear and started to work.
I’m still not sure about when to use Acrylic paints as an eye-ball base and when to build up watercolor pencils instead. I used acrylic here. You’ll note that Starfire’s eyeballs are a light green, not white.
I continued working on the face.
And then the EYE BROW STRUGGLE began. The above Starfire is saucy AF and a little severe. But is she capturing the playful silly alien vibe of Starfire in Teen Titans Go?
I didn’t think so.
I removed her eyebrows and gave her higher, softer, pinker eyebrows.
And, because I share process photos online…I got feedback.
Some people familiar with the character thought the new eyebrows worked for the character but I also got feedback from a Black women who rightly read the doll as black…she said “ Imo, it’s just fine for a Black doll to have a long forehead and a serious expression. You made her look unnatural.”
By making the choice to make Starfire with a black doll I knew I’d have to start to grapple with whatever whitey white biases might show up being a white girl working on a not-white doll face. So I listened.
My pink skinned Raven doll reads as a lovely human face, while also being goth/otherworldly. I want my Starfire to read as human and alien. I don’t want the alien to come at the expense of her human face. Grappling with that sure as hell beats just making white dolls when it comes to exploring the art and myself.
So…off with her eyebrows and on with my eyebrow battle.
Finally I settled on this pair…the gloss for the lips and eyes was still wet and milky in this shot:
What’s going on with her hair? Time for a less intense boil perm to give her curled bangs!
And…the detail of the eyes bothers me. This is a test doll but it feels below what I’m capable of so I bought this for future adventures.
Magnifier with a built-in light!
Doll head now?….
I’m pretty sure this won’t be my last eye and eyebrow battle. If I do go with hair that’s hot pink for my larger version that might change how the eyebrows read as well. I also think I might go with a slightly more oval iris/pupil shape instead of round.
But that’s where I end for now.
Next time…dealing with Clawdeen’s fur.
Part two of Clawdeen Wolf to Starfire
When my “Liquid Fusion” clear non-toxic urethane glue arrived it was time to remove ears and patch holes on my Clawdeen doll.
I regret that I didn’t take photos of these steps but here’s someone who did and whose internet guidance helped me. When I transform a larger doll into Starfire I’ll document this part of the process.
The short story: with a new x-acto blade I sliced off the ears close to the skull. I put the ears in a ziplock baggie as not to lose them before I tended to the ear-less holes.
The hole fixing takes days, a lot of “futz with this and then go to sleep”…continue when you find time.
First, get some wax paper. Squeeze two shallow puddles of Liquid Nails larger than the holes onto the wax paper. Allow to fully dry (a day) until you have patches.
Attach the patches over the holes with more Liquid Fusion….dry.
Thicken the patches from inside and outside the head with Liquid Fusion applied in layers with q-tips and other tools. Dry often until you think you have a thick enough strong surface.
After this came reattaching the ears in new positions, which I do have photos of…I couldn’t find a guide online.
I tried to slice the ears to be generally the same size. One and a time I attached the ears with Liquid Fusion/tape/pins/swearing to the sides of the head. There was no way to avoid a slight seam where they joined but I figured Starfire’s hairstyle would hide the worse of it.
You can seen the patched areas slightly in this photo.
I then started to study up on hair reroots. I’m not quite sure where to stock up on doll hair in Japan. It seems like a few places that sold Saran hair have had problems getting a steady supply up to their standards and have discontinued carrying it.
The Azone store in Akihabara had some doll hair. Not a huge range. I fretted between these two colors. I wanted a darker hot pink. I went with the wine red color because I thought it would look best with my doll’s skin tone…but in retrospect the pink might suit the character mood better.
Next time…somehow find a better pink.
Next, I had to figure out a re-root tool. Many online places outside of Japan sell them but shipping wasn’t friendly.
The needle(s) can be made easily enough by using wire cutters on a sewing needle (7-8-9) with a long eye to create what looks like a tiny seam rippers.
Image from dollyhair.com
Places were coy with the name of the things used to hold the needles.
PIN VICE! That’s what it is. I got one!
i painted my scalp and got ready.
I thought I got a good picture of looping the hair with the tool, I didn’t.
You take a few strands at a time, capture them with your needle at the midpoint of their length.
Image from Dolly Care
You thrust that hair into the doll skull and wiggle the needle out. How does the hair stay in? You’ll later anchor those hair loops from the inside of the head with glue.
I caught up on American politics while doing this for a few evenings. Stab. Stab. Stab.
See the ear patches?
At this stage the hair sticks out straight from the head and seems…poofy.
This is when it’s time to grab your craft glue. I used Aleene’s Tacky Glue.
Now, with brushes and Q-tips…and sometimes squirting the glue directly into the head and squishing it around, you glue the hair in place from inside the head….and wait to dry…
Me (watching YouTube videos): wow, but who has the patience for that? That’s too finicky for me.
Me (months later): Well, I guess now I do this too.
And so it was with rerooting doll hair.
I’ve been on the lookout for a “Clawdeen Wolf” 17inch tall Monster High doll to make into a Teen Titans Go Starfire to pair with the Raven I made.
While in America, shopping at Tuesday Morning for random dolls, I bought a regular sized version of Clawdeen as a test doll. I also thought, “Cool! Her hair is kinda the right color!”
Silly me. I didn’t realize the need to make Starfire would lead me to learning how to plunge needles into a doll’s naked head, sowing rows of synthetic hair.
Once back in Japan I realized some obvious issues.
I think this is where normal people decide that 8$USD spent on a doll is no great loss. It is where >I< decided to learn how to fill skull holes, move ears, and reroot a whole head.
Time to Google things!
What did I do before I learned to teach myself from the wisdom of the internet?
Libraries. I know I taught myself interior faux finishes from library books. Just as my mother learned she could check out books on refinishing floors….and rent heavy duty tools.
In my day the neck of a Barbie or similar doll was a simple affair with a simple nodule the head would fit onto. If that nodule broke, or the neck hole in the head suffered structural damage, you had a head that popped off easily and needed to be shoved so far onto the neck as to be absurd.
Now Barbie and similar fashion dolls have a more complex plastic inner head rack that is less likely to be damaged by ill meaning playmates and bad choices.
It reminds me of an IUD.
I cut off Clawdeen’s perfectly crimped hair, warmed her head, and eased her off her skull hooks.
Then I took tweezers and a needle nosed pliers to remove the remaining hair plugs from the inside and outside of her head.
Then, it was time for a setback.
The internet recommends a non-toxic glue called Liquid Fusion for plugging the holes left behind when cutting off the doll’s ears. Liquid Fusion would have been easy to buy in America but I was back in Japan.
I was able, with much google power, to find in available in a Japanese online store dedicated to fly-fishing. They didn’t have an online checkout but I emailed them for an invoice, transferred the money, and would soon be back in business.
We all have a few pop culture references that are so specific that we rarely say them out loud, knowing that they will fall on ears that don’t get them, yet so persistent that they haunt us time after time.
One of mine, and I think it too often, is:
Jerry: I was under the impression that you could win prizes or money. Not orphaned children.
It’s from the Mind Match skit from The State, a sketch comedy show that ran three seasons on MTV. The concept of the bit is that two games show contestants find themselves winning orphans they DO NOT WANT and start attempting, without much luck, to throw the quiz and stick the other person with the lonely souls.
Susan : Um, I have a very small apartment. I don’t know what I would do with four foster children.
Host: Well, figure it out because you’re their legal guardian and it’s time for Round 2, where the orphan points double.
What cemented this skit in my mind was the two years I worked in an independent video store in my hometown. A store so amazing that in 2018 it still exists. We had free range over what we showed/watched while working only limited by what others on staff could not stand to see again and decency (at certain hours decency not included) And we had a VHS compilation of The State ( The State and Stickers*…*stickers not included) which we often popped in.
Susan: I didn’t say anything. I mean, I didn’t answer. You must’ve-
Host: A smart move. A wrong answer could have cost you the lead. (Bell) Hey, that bell means it’s time for our Double Dare question! Jerry, how many of your orphans are you willing to wager?
Jerry: All- all of them.
Host: Hey, it looks like Jerry is looking to double his orphans. Susan, how many will you bet?
Susan: Well, uh, all of them.
And as much as The State is a beloved cult classic for for ages it wasn’t released in full only video or DVD because, as an MTV show, it used a lot of modern pop music they then couldn’t get the rights for….and the music/MTV combo meant that clips released to You Tube were cracked down on…and Mind Match never had the pop culture reach of, say, “240$ worth of pudding did.
So I don’t often say “I was under the impression that you could win prizes or money. Not orphaned children. “ but if the topic of orphans or gameshows or even winning comes up…I’m thinking it.
So when I opened up Dolly*Dolly Vol 20 and met Little Miss No Name.
There it was.
An Orphan. That quote.
In 1965 Hasbro asked itself, “What do little girls want?”…and perhaps knowing it wasn’t up for doing battle with Mattel’s fashion warrior Barbie and her additional purchases kingdom…answered “Orphan. Little girls want an Orphan to take care of.”
And they made an orphan. Nothing fancy or aspirational like Little Orphan Annie promisingyou’ll be scoped up and taken to bigger and better things. Not. A Keene-esque sad-eyed orphan among orphans. Fake dirt on her cheeks. No shoes. A patched burlap dress. A TEAR DROP. Her hand outstretched….for something. Anything.
Her box read, “ I need someone to love me. I am so tired and cold. please take me home with you and I will be yours to hold. I want someone to love me, I want to learn to play, please take me home with you and brush my tear away.”
And she was called Little Miss No Name.
From Dolly*Dolly Vol 20, pg23-24
My rough translations of….
Model: Little Miss No Name
Where is love?
Where is that person?
So, this world
We can see photons and phonons, right?
Shouldn’t we be able to hear where we’ll meet this person?
The sounds of wheels on London pavement.
The permeating ether of 1,000,000,000 years connects us.
I’ve spent my time the leader of loneliness and silence.
The wandering Oliver whispered in my ear
Have you found eternity?
The world I can see from my window, is this all there is?
Yes, really. This must be all that’s been created.
To make sure, I’ll slip away tonight.
Don’t get too excited, Closet Freak is the artist who did the doll trunk and fashions for this photoshoot. As is often true, the English name provides a dream the reality doesn’t quite fit into correctly. Part 1 is here.
This is a Japanese Artist’s vision of an doll trunk, wherein the doll’s outfits mirror her owner’s (bygone/upperclass/English or European) life
The dream you see when you close your eyelids.
A recently finished white textured cotton negligee that feel soothing to wear. Torchon lace decorating the chest gives it increased dimensionality. Every night their good friend reads a story to them, almost like a magic spell, in hopes of giving them good dreams. I wonder what they’ll see in their dreams tonight?
Torchon lace is a type of sturdy bobbin lace traditionally made in Europe.
A simple A-line dress with a white stand-up collar detail. A finished matching bolero with embroidered embellishment makes for a tidy outfit for attending mass. The rosary is also handcrafted. On Sunday, at church, we pray and sing hymns.
Easter egg hunt in a spring field
As a playsuit, I made a retro-styled sailor outfit. To look good against the fresh grass, I chose pink. I substituted a belt for the lower waist as added detail. The hat brim is decorated with a flower. I love Easter egg hunts, because I used to find so many!