Concerts, Nerds, Sub-Culture, and Shirts

Warning: This post may contain tangents, rambling, and streams of consciousness. Maybe unconsciousness. It also has puppy sized elephants.

Yesterday I went to Chicago. I traveled in a car with 2 other people to see Driftless Pony Club and Hank Green in concert (Andrew Huang, Rob Scallon, and Harry and the Potters were also on the ticket, and were great). Previous post about Hank Green: Here. I also brought Morrígan and Mitsuko (I would put links to other posts about them, but, just read the last handful of posts I’ve written. Because it’s been a thing.) Yes, I brought my dolls with me to a concert. Because I’m a grown woman and that’s how I roll.

Look! Here they are riding a puppy sized elephant on the way to the show! (Puppy sized elephant belongs to my friend Sierra’s cousin Logan who rode in the back seat. Thank you, Wolverine, for graciously letting me hijack your puppy sized elephant.):

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Driving through Chicago was a nightmare. Parking was a nightmare. And it didn’t help that the venue was more or less across the street from Wrigley Field. On a game day. I really wish I had taken a picture of all us nerds standing in line for the concert while legions of cubbie fans walked the sidewalk opposite us, as we all looked at each other from across the road and thought, “Ha! Losers!”   No? Ok.

Two super cool ladies we met while standing in line. Note the clothing with the DFTBA slogans and Nerdfighter insignias.

Two super cool ladies we met while standing in line. Note the clothing with the DFTBA slogans and Nerdfighter insignias.

But… it really got me to thinking about our different little sub-cultures and niches and uniforms. I mean, while my friends and I were driving around trying to just locate the venue in the first place, it was the people wearing Pizza John tshirts that tipped us off that we were in the right place. Something as simple as a tshirt let us know that we had found our people.  Our People. That is such an interesting concept. I mean, we never really belong exclusively to one subset of people – we are also students, parents, punk rockers, hip-hoppers, nature lovers, and introverts. And even within our subset of nerds, we are varied and overlapped with different subsets -Whovians, Trekkies, Gamers, Book-lovers, etc. But in this space, we unify together as people who identify as nerdfighters. And it’s a beautiful thing.

Sierra, myself, and Logan.

Sierra, myself, and Logan.

The concert itself was absolutely amazing. I tried to take some photos, but, they just didn’t come out very well. And the zoom function decided to stop working on my camera. I did get a little frustrated, though, when the venue staff made me put my purse in coat check (which charges $3 with an additional $2 to recheck it -cash- when I needed to get something out of it mid show). Other purses were allowed through. But, because my little black backpack purse is shaped like a mini-backpack, it doesn’t constitute a purse in their eyes. (Urge to rant and go on about prototype theory – I won’t)

Arguably the most awesome event of the evening was getting to have an actual conversation with Craig Benzine – Frontman for Driftless Pony Club and Youtuber, Wheezy Waiter. It was the coolest thing. I was standing at the bar getting a soda, and just happened to see Craig standing at the back of the crowd of people watching the show. Just blending in amongst the mortals, chilling, watching the show. I decided to say hi – trying very hard to not be all fan-girl squee. He stood and talked to my friends and I for a few minutes and let us take a photo. He is one very cool, very laid back individual. He told us he was nervous about his band’s upcoming set, because they were starting with a song no one had heard. Craig, I don’t know if you’ll ever read this, but, you and the rest of Driftless Pony Club were just brilliant. And you guys need to come back to Champaign-Urbana. :)

Myself, Craig Benzine, Sierra.

Some other concert photos that didn’t come out as well as I’d hoped:

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After the show, out large crowd of people swarmed the merch area to buy stuff and meet the artists. The security staff, because of the sheer number of fans, rushed us along – which makes the earlier encounter with Craig even more amazing. Sierra was able to get her photo with Andrew Huang (who she had come to see, specifically), and then we all lined up outside to meet and have our pictures taken with Hank Green.

Standing in line, waiting to meet one of my heroes, was a nerve-racking experience. I mean, there is already that uncertainty – what do I say? do I look ok? am I going to come off awkwardly? – but the time you spend in line waiting just builds that anticipation. I could feel my heart beating in my throat and I could have sworn it was beating so loud that everyone else could hear it. And then, because I still had my dolls in my backpack, and because I don’t know how to leave well enough alone, I pulled my Lammily doll out and spent my time in line debating whether or not to include the doll in my photo with Hank. One person near us had a stuffed hanklerfish, and Logan had her puppy sized elephant – but those things tie into the nerdfighter and vlogbrothers universe. My doll doesn’t really mesh…  and I felt very self-conscious and weird and out of place. But the nerdfighters in line around me encouraged me and told me to go for it. And Logan, this 14 year old girl that I had only met that afternoon on the ride over, reminded me of something important. She reminded me that being overly excited about something, even when others around us aren’t, is ok. We are Doctor Who nerds, comic book nerds, gamer nerds, and book nerds. I just happen to be a doll nerd.

So, I went for it. I did it. I was still self conscious, and none of my words came out right, and I looked like a creepy fangirl zombie, but I did it. And he rolled with it. I wanted to tell him about her, about how she helps to decrease world suck, because she has realistic human proportions, because she can give kids a healthy representation and help girls with body image issues. But all I managed to get out was “Have you seen these dolls? She has actual human proportions!”  And no, he has not seen her or heard of her before. And now he has.

Sierra doesn't know how to work my camera, totally snapped this before we were ready. He *did* smile, and laugh, I assure you, lol!

Sierra doesn’t know how to work my camera, totally snapped this before we were ready. He *did* smile, and laugh, I assure you, lol!

And now other photos that I didn’t know where else to put:

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And, as a parting gift, a prolific Wheezy Waiter video:

Re-Rooting a Doll Head: Trial and Error

Last month I mentioned that I had picked up a couple of cheap-o thrift store Barbies with the intention to do some OOAK work on them. I have since removed their heads, removed their hair, ordered new hair, and have started the re-rooting process on one of the dolls.

If anyone is curious, this is the tutorial I am using:

How I will secure the final hair plug is yet to be determined.

Things I have learned so far:

  • Be super careful pulling out the original hair plugs. I accidentally blew out this woman’s forehead. I *did* find a way to fix this (Behold: Magic!), but I think I’m going to wait until after this first doll’s head is done before I mess with it.GE
  • “Carrot Cake” looks much more like strawberry blonde in person. Next time I will get a different shade.

    Even my camera is deceptive!

    Even my camera is deceptive!

  • I really have no idea how thick or thin these hair plugs need to be. Never having done this before and being worried about making her hair too sparse and thin, I think I may have made her hair *too* thick. Her head is only maybe half done and is already as thick as my Lammily’s.
    GE GE

Random bits of amusement I’ve gotten from this process so far:

  • Over in my Handmade Lammily Fashions group, one lady likened my progress photos to “brain surgery” and got (mock?) squeamish. I thought it was cute.
  • I’ve taken my in-progress doll head to work and have shown both my co-workers and the teenagers at the shelter. The reactions and looks on the faces of these kids has been priceless (they’re already used to me being “weird”, lol!)

Here are the rest of the photos of my progress thus far:

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I Like Fashion…

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My friend, Brieanne, who has never been afraid to be herself.

…I say, though I feel insecure.
I like fashion, I think, though you’re just not so sure.
You look so presentable, with glamour and flair.
I’m wearing a tshirt and do I know I have hair?

“I like fashion,” you say, citing trends, naming names.
“Who are they?” I wonder, “Why does anyone care?”
“You need the right top, with that skirt, not too tight.
You know what I mean. Keep it classy, alright?”

“You don’t want to dress like you’re old or too young.
This color goes with that. Are you having fun?”
What I wear is expressive, it tells the story of me.
Can you tell I spent time? Picked out the right tee?

This one says “Free Palestine” another says “Dream”.
I look at the labels to learn where they’re seamed.
“Who made your jacket?” I’ll ask, you’ll reply.
“Oh this? It’s from [insert some designer]’s line.”

Yes, but who made it, and what were they paid?
Would you pay what it’d cost, if they made a living wage?
How ’bout your blue jeans? Would you wear them if
you knew their dyes were toxic? Go on, give us a spin!

Rana Plaza. April 24, 2013. 1,129 dead. 2,515 injured. Photo by Ismail Ferdous

Triangle is old, Rana Plaza is new.
One brought about change, the other should too.
Our clothing defines us, it’s a cultural thing.
Ideology, religion, and more do they sing.

The boy with his collar popped, the girl who’s gone goth.
This group or that group? Is it really just cloth?
Break down the boxes! No labels! We’re Done!
At the end of the day, we all want to belong.

“I like fashion,” you say, in your elegant heels.
Wrapped in your rayon scarf – you love how it feels!
You look at me, in my worn out gym shoes.
You’d never guess, I care about fashion too.

Doll Fever

Since my last posting, I’ve managed to acquire 6 more dolls and have made a few more outfits – aside from what I’ve sold on Etsy – Thanks to those who have purchased from me. In all the years I’ve had an Etsy shop, it has only been since Lammily became a thing that I’ve had such activity. It certainly seems like I’ve found a niche.

The first of my new dolls is this Ken doll my grandparents got me for my birthday. I lovingly refer to him as Nerd Ken. The only downside to him is that he can’t move very much. He has no real working joints. Barbie is the same way. So, I ended up purchasing another Ken doll from eBay with the intention to do a head swap. I haven’t gotten around to doing this yet, but I did make an outfit for him.

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Eventually I want to make a tie and a trench coat. I would like to OOAK (One Of A Kind) a John Constantine. I actually picked up yet another doll, the Divergent character 4, because I figured he might be my best bet at becoming Constantine. Though, in reality, it’ll most likely just be a Constantine cosplay because I don’t have much faith in my abilities to actually make a doll’s head look like Constantine’s. Not to mention, I now have concerns that the acetone that I would need to take the paint off his back would end up melting his back in the process.

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Work by Alexandre Pedreira

I’ve never really done any OOAK work before, but, like anything else, I’ve never let that stop me from trying. Although, I see so many really amazing OOAK dolls that I’m a bit intimidated. I actually really love Alexandre Pedreira’s work. (Fair Warning: Some of his dolls are anatomically correct and NSFW.) I don’t know how he does it, but he manages to get chest hair on his male dolls. He doesn’t just paint it on, but somehow affixes hair to dolls’ chests. I would LOVE to have a male doll with chest hair! When he does sell these dolls, they generally run around $200. For realistic chest hair, I would willingly pay that.

GEJust today I managed to snag 2 articulated naked Barbies from Salavation Army for a combined $2 and change. Their hair is a mangled mess and the brunette’s feet appear to have been chewed. However, these girls should serve good practice for learning how to re-root doll hair. I actually remember seeing a tutorial several years ago on how to re-root Blythe with human hair (Thanks, Anticraft! You guys have introduced me to so many neat things over the years. I can’t find the exact forum thread, but I remember I first saw this within your forums sometime in 2009). I think I may make the darker doll into a sister for Morrígan. I’m pretty sure I want to make the other doll a redhead (maybe a cousin of Morrígan‘s?) although I’m also debating putting Barbie’s head (I can only really have one Barbie actually called Barbie, all others will be given new identities) on this new doll’s body so she can move around. I’ve not entirely decided yet.

Mitsuko and Morrígan getting to know each other after Mitsuko moved in.

Mitsuko and Morrígan getting to know each other after Mitsuko moved in.

Perhaps my favorite of my new dolls is the Mixis doll. There are actually multiple Mixis dolls and this one is the Limited Edition Emerald Okada doll. The interesting thing about the Mixis dolls is that they are all supposed to be a mix of two or more races or ethnicities. The Emerald doll, which I have decided to rename Mitsuko Jones, is a blend of Black American, Native American, and Japanese. I think that’s pretty cool, and, while I only have the one Mixis doll right now, I intend to buy the rest as I have the means to do so. Mitsuko and Morrígan have actually become fast friends and have been spending a lot of time together.

Morrígan braiding Mitsuko's hair. This took *hours*

Morrígan braiding Mitsuko’s hair. This took *hours*

Morrígan introducing Mitsuko to Tarkan, her favorite singer.

Morrígan introducing Mitsuko to Tarkan, her favorite singer.

While I don’t intend to let my dolls completely take over every post on this blog, I have to say that right now I am having a lot of fun with it, and I’ve gotten compliments on my doll stories. So, there will be more doll stories in the future. I debated, briefly, about creating a secondary blog just to focus on dolls. However, I think the dolls can have a valid place within a blog that focuses on textiles, fashion, culture, communication, and art. Also, setting up an entirely new blog would just be a pain, so, I’m going to just roll with it. ::singing::: It’s my blog and I can do what I want to, do what I want to, do what I want to…

A Tale of Two Dolls: Part II

It’s been quite a busy week and a half since my last posting. I’ve been helping Barbie rehabilitate after speGEnding several years in a box. I’ve given her a good scrub down, washed her hair, found her better clothes, and have been bringing her up to speed with technology – she remembers the internet, but last time she was on a computer, Windows 95 was the standard. She spent an entire night last week just on Youtube watching cat videos! She’s been on my computer almost every day. It had become a routine that I would get home from work and have to kick her off so that I could use it. So, you can imagine my surprise when I came home yesterday evening and found Barbie asleep on the couch and Morrígan sitting at my laptop instead!

Morrígan’s eyes were so transfixed on the screen she barely noticed as I sat next to her on the bed. “What’cha reading?” I asked.

GEShe didn’t respond, but looked down at her feet. I leaned over, curious as to what the matter was. On the screen were several open tabs – blog posts and youtube videos – all making the same general statement: Lammily dolls are fat, boring, and ugly. A pain seared through me. I looked down at Morrígan, who was trying hard to hold back tears. “Don’t listen to them,” I said, bringing her into my arms, “these are only a handful of people. Do you know how many people love and support you?”

She nuzzled into my shirt. “Why are they so mean to me? I didn’t do anything to them! Why do they hate me so?”

I didn’t know how to answer her. How could I explain something I didn’t fully understand myself? “Well, I’m not entirely sure. Sometimes people just really like what they already know. Maybe they see how you’re not exactly like the other dolls and they don’t like the change.”

Hearing the commotion, Barbie awoke from her slumber and came upstairs. “What are you guys talking about? Is there a new cat video?”

Morrígan pointed toward the laptop, “They’re saying how ugly I am and how pretty you are and that you inspire imagination and fantasy and that I am boring!”

“Oh. That. Well, you’re just going to have to deal with it,” Barbie said with an air of authority, flipping her hair with her hand, “Take it from someone who has been in this business for a very long time: You’re going to have people who criticize and hate you no matter what. So you might as well get used to it.”

I did not appreciate Barbie’s tone. I could sense that maybe this was some false bravado. “Morrígan,” I asked, “can you give us a moment?”

After Morrígan left the room, I gave Barbie a chance to explain herself. “Why are you acting this way, Barbie? Is there something you’re not telling me?”

There was a silence for several minutes. And then Barbie sat at the computer and pulled up another list of blogs and videos that ridiculed and poked fun at her for being unrealistic and damaging to girls. She looked at me sheepishly. “Let me see if I’m understanding you correctly,” I said, “you felt bad about yourself, so, you decided to act tough and try to bring Morrígan down?”

She nodded. I pulled her close and held her the same way I had Morrígan earlier. “Barbie, you have done so much for little girls by going forward and holding so many jobs that, at one time, girls never aspired to – you’ve been a doctor, an astronaut, a pilot, a business executive, and since you’ve been in that tote, you have even run for President of the United States! You’re not perfect and there are some legitimate concerns around body image issues and racial diversity, but these are issues that can be addressed. But, no one is perfect and your faults should not detract from your strengths. But,” I told her, “You really do owe Morrígan an apology.”

Barbie hopped off the bed and went to find Morrígan, who was laying on a pile of fabric in the sewing room. Barbie sat down next to her and put her hand on her shoulder. “I’m sorry I was a jerk downstairs. Thing is, the internet has been really mean to me, too. I’ve been reading all of these posts saying I’m horrible, that I’m unrealistic, and worst of all, they say that I’m hurting the children I’ve always been trying to help. I can’t help the way that I look, this is how I was made,” she slumped over, “Now I feel awful. I hate the way I look now.”

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I took a deep breath and walked into the sewing room and addressed both the dolls. “I don’t know why society has such a hang up on women’s bodies and looks. Or why people love to sensationalize or focus on the negative. It is true that the Lammily dolls were created in response to a need for a more body positive doll. But that doesn’t mean you should hate your body, Barbie. Your proportions won’t work for a human, but that’s ok because you’re not a human – you’re a doll. No one should feel bad about the body they’re in. People come in all shapes and sizes. Now dollies are starting to come in different shapes and sizes.”

“So, there isn’t any one standard of beauty?” asked Morrígan.

“No,” answered Barbie, “and there shouldn’t be.”

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Morrígan Makes a Friend: A Tale of Two Dolls

After my Lammily doll, Morrígan, became a gateway into the doll world for me, my grandmother decided it was time to give me this old storage tote. She informed me that the tote was full of old Barbie dolls that were leftover from my childhood. Intrigued and hoping to find dolls I could experiment re-roots and re-paints on, as well as potential friends for Morrígan, I lugged the dusty old tote into my apartment. I had no idea what I would find. Morrígan came downstairs to see what all the fuss was about. “What is THAT?” she asked.
“It’s a tote,” I said, “full of trinkets from my childhood.”
“Can I open it?”
“Go ahead. I’ll let you catalog the entire thing.”

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Morrígan stands, gazing at the tote of wonder.

What treasures lay hidden within your walls?

What treasures lay hidden within your walls?

Like finding sarcophagi, all the burial shrouds of the dead toys would needs to be removed to reveal the mummies inside.

Like finding sarcophagi, all the burial shrouds of the dead toys would need to be removed to reveal the mummies inside.

Some old stuffed animals, carefully packaged Beanie Babies that we once swore would be worth millions, and a dozen ceramic keepsakes were what we could see. At the bottom, buried under everything else, was a single Barbie doll: A mid-90’s remake of the original design. Her dress, her hair, and her body were smeared and blotched.

“Who is she?” asked Morrígan.
“Someone I haven’t seen since I was a child. Her name is Barbie,” I answered.
There was a sharp gasp. Barbie was waking up. I helped her to a chair as she tried to orient herself. “Where am I? Who are you? No… wait…” Barbie looked at me closely. She recognized me. “You’re so much older! How long have I been in that tote?”
“I think that answer might depress you. Here,” I motioned for Morrígan to sit in the empty chair, “there’s someone I’d like to introduce you to.”

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Barbie recounts her harrowing experience to Morrígan.

As Barbie rested to regain her strength, the two dolls faced each other. “Is this who everyone tells me I’m trying to replace?”, thought Morrígan. She looked over at me and then back at Barbie. She watched the stranger fall asleep in her chair and her mind began to stir with questions. So many questions.

**************************** To Be Continued ******************************

Creating a Narrative

“Beylerbayan Apek of Orhanli Beylerbeylik” by Gambargin on DeviantArt

Months before Lammily was completed and shipped out, she had a passport that could be customized by the buyer for each individual doll. The idea here is that while each doll is a Lammily doll, she could have her own, unique name and, by extension, her own personality or story variant. Indeed, so many of the Lammily dolls I come across in the Facebook groups have been given wonderful names and a few have developed personalities that are evident in the outfits the dolls are dressed in and the way they’re posed and talked about — yes, adults still have license to engage in imaginative play. It has taken me some time to find an identity for my doll.

The basic Lammily character story is that she is well traveled. This is a nod to the fact that her initial backing came from contributors all over the world. It’s a narrative that I like and that I think fits especially well with some of the themes of this blog – this is A’Cloth the World after all. The little booklet she comes with talks about some of the different countries she has been in – Canada, France, Australia, Italy, England, the United States – all Western countries. So, I’m imagining some of her travels into other parts of the world – Japan, India, Turkey – and some of the friends she might make and clothes she might wear. I’m trying to imagine where she might be from originally – just because I’m American doesn’t necessarily mean she is. I mean, she might be. But maybe she’s British? Or maybe she’s Spanish? Or Turkish? Or Russian? Or a combination of any of these? Because of her brown hair and tan-ish skin tone, there are a half dozen plausibilities – each of which provides an opportunity to learn about different clothing traditions and some history.

I’m actually kind of enjoying constructing a backstory for my doll. It makes me feel very nostalgic – I used to write short stories and fan fiction frequently when I was younger. I just have to be careful I don’t get so sucked into the details that I forget to sew anything, lol!

As of this evening, I have officially named her and we (yes, my doll and I – don’t judge :P ) are on our way to hashing out her story. Her name is Morrígan Çelik. Her mother is Irish and her father is Turkish. She is intelligent and curious, but very headstrong. Her mother would tell her the story of Cuchulain before bed and she would dream of epic battles and facing down snarling dogs with her bare hands. Her father taught her how to play the bağlama as a child and she plays as a way to relieve stress after a long day. (I will now have to figure out how to make a doll sized bağlama, lol.) Morrígan is a huge fangirl – she has posters of David Tennant, Tarkan, Imran Khan, and CM Punk on her wall.