Monthly Archives: November 2014

Bohemian Meets Steampunk Headwear For All Ages



One of the best things about the steampunk genre is the impressive workmanship of their costumes and props. For beginners, some of these over-the-top movie prop-worthy accessories can be quite overwhelming, expensive, and time consuming, as well as hard to manage for younger kids.

For first-time and family steampunk cosplayers, as well as those who just want to add a little blend of Bohemian and steampunk styles to their regular garb, these simple coordinating steampunk hair pieces can give mother/daughter teams a united look, while keeping things age appropriate.

Toddlers and young girl don’t always want to keep heavy things on their head for very long, so a simple hair clip is all they need. Tweens are ready to look a little more adventurous, but still want to remain active. 13-year-olds don’t have to look like 18-year-olds to be cool. This is where the more athletic ponytail bands work well.

Older teens and adults can make a deceptively elaborate steampunk headpiece using a pair of cheap costume goggles. These don’t have to be steampunk-style goggles; flight goggles or costume aviator or police gear from dress-up sets will also work. You can also start from scratch and use GeekMom Marziah’s popular steampunk goggle tutorial to create your own. Who says parents can’t show off a little?hairpiece-materials-300x300

What you need:

  • Alligator or bendy hair clip (for toddler/kid version)
  • Two plain pony tail bands (for tween version)
  • Costume goggles (For teen/adult version)
  • Two or three packages of deco tubing ribbon
  • Craft foam, ribbons, yarn, rope, and twine
  • Steampunk charms, trinkets, keys, watch parts, beads, feather, or other accessories or found items

Step 1: Create the tubing ribbon base. This first step is where the different age versions of the hair pieces will best coordinate with each other, as long as similar color patterns are used. The difference is the way they are attached to the hairpieces. Deco tubing ribbon is often found in seasonal decorating areas of craft stores, and can be lightly colored with spray paint to change the colors, if necessary.

For toddler version: Wrap two or three colors of tubing around your hand three times, as if working on a gift wrap bow. Secure them in the middle with beading wire. Cut the loops at the ends, so it looks like a flower for fireworks. Don’t attach to the barrette yet.

For the tween version: Knot strand of tubing around the pony tail bands by folding them in half, and wrapping the ends around the band, and through the “loop” created by folding the strand. Make the length of each strand as long as you like; 18’ inches (before folding) works well. This is identical to the method used to make ribbon tutus or hairpieces; it’s just that simple.

For the adult version: Cut a piece of elastic long enough to reach the entire length of the goggles, but don’t actually attach them to the goggles yet. Knot long strands of tubing along the elastic, the same way as the tween version. Leave about two inches of elastic on each end.hairpiece-step-1-660x205

Step 2: Add some “Industrial’ ribbon. Steampunk has to have a at least a little of Industrial Revolution to it, and lightweight materials like craft foam and ribbons are good stand-ins for metal or rubber.

For the toddler version: Cut a piece of black, grey, or brown craft foam in circle about two inches in diameter. Fold it in half, and then fold that half again, so it resembles a cone. Clip the tip off to create a small hole in the middle of the circle. Cut the outer edges of the circle to look like flower pedals, the open up the circle. Use a hole punch around the edges to give it that “industrial” look. Thread the wire that holds the tubing ribbon together through the center hole, as you would a flower boutonniere in a doily. Attach the arrangement to the barrette.

For the tween and adults versions: Cut lengths of ribbon or craft foam in long strands and fold the end over the band, randomly between the tubing pieces. Fold over and the band or elastic and lightly tack together with a needle and thread. Use the hole punch to make holes all along the length of the strip.

Once this is done on the adult version, tie the ends of the elastic around the goggles’ band on both sides of the lenses. Using a glue gun, secure the elastic strip to the back of the goggles, to hold it in place. Cover with an additional ribbon or piece of craft foam, to keep it in place.

Add some metallic-colored or earth-tone ribbon and yarn to fill it out, if you want.hairpiece-step-2-660x228

Step 3: Accessorize! This final step is the most fun, and is where the personality of the hairpieces start to really show. Steampunk-looking accessories can be found in the most unlikely places. Dig around through junk drawers for keys and watch pieces, raid the toy chest for old pirate, space, fairy tale, or safari party favors, search tool boxes for washers and nuts, hit the bargain bin at the craft store for beads and steampunk/industrial charms, upcycle some old long-forgotten or broken jewelry, or head outside to the backyard, forest, or beach for small feathers, twigs, shells, or other odds and ends.

Beads can be placed on the ends of the tubing, or accessories can be tied on. Some items can be glued on the barrettes or goggles. Once finished, secrure the knots with a small drop of superglue if you are afraid of losing anything. More items can be added over time.

The rule with this step is, go light on the toddler/kid version (maybe just couple of little dangly items and two or three glued-on charms), add enough to the tween version to make the pieces fun, but not too heavy, and go as crazy as you want for the teen/adult version—within reason. You want to get noticed for an impressive piece, not for falling over from a too-weighted-down head.accessories-660x450

That’s all there is to making eye-catching pieces of any age. These even look great for those not ready to commit to the full-on steampunk costume. Wear them with a t-shirt and jeans, skirt, or leggings and they will still draw attention, especially if you remember to wear them as a family.



Bouncin’ With the Billion Jelly Bloom!


Billion Jelly Bloom takes over the dance floor during the Chalk The Block Street Festival in El Paso, Texas. Image by Rick Tate

(Original article in

FamilyOne Halloween night in San Francisco in the mid 1990s, Rob Lord was impressed with the simple innovation of one woman’s costume—a jellyfish made from a clear plastic umbrella with bubble wrap strips for tentacles.

A few years later, he crafted six similar jellyfish, adding broomsticks and internal flashlights, allowing him and five friends to carry these jellies throughout Downtown Santa Cruz, California as performance art. Since then, this concept of taking large glowing jellyfish to the streets, beaches, deserts, parade grounds, or stage has blossomed—or “bloomed,” rather—into the Billion Jelly Bloom, a dance theater and large-scale puppet participatory art event the Lords call the “original crowd-surfing, dance partner-sized, Burning Man-ifested, luminous jellyfish bloom.”

Rob and Patricia Lord officially founded the Billion Jelly Bloom in 2010, a name created for a 2010 trip to the Burning Man Festival in Black Rock Desert, Arizona.

The term “bloom,” refers to the state where jellyfish congregate together in large swarms, sometimes consisting of thousands of jellyfish. These blooms have been attributed to everything from population density among the animals to climate change, but whatever the reason the sight of countless jellies together is impressive to see.

The Billion Jelly Bloom consists of several 600+ lumens bright, performer-articulated jellyfish available to be part of any occasion.

Patricia Lord, who serves as lead jellyfish designer, said the blooms have been a part of events throughout the United States, including one of the most eccentric art and free expression-centered events, Burning Man Festival.

“So far we’ve choreographed participatory civic blooms at Burning Man, over the Brooklyn Bridge, and across The High Line in New York City, and during the holiday shopping frenzy in Union Square in San Francisco,” Lord said. “We’d love to take these blooms to every major city in the world, and I have preliminary route maps for Paris and San Paulo currently on my desktop.”

The Jellyfish blooms have been so popular at events, a successful crowd-funding campaign, the OMG Jellyfish Kickstarter project, was recently created to produce “home versions” of these giant invertebrate sea denizens.

The design of these jellyfish vary slightly from the ones used in the Lords’ own events, as they are created to be more easy-to-handle and portable for private use.


Jellyfish handlers of all ages enjoy these jellies. Image by Rick Tate

“Since we launched our OMG Jellyfish Kickstarter project a year ago we have distributed nearly 500 OMG Jellyfish to 30 states in the Union and six countries beyond,” Lord said.

She said she has been extremely pleased with the creative uses people have found for their own jellyfish. This includes OMG Jellyfish being used in stage productions in Latvia, at museum gala events in Houston, and at morning dance raves in London, New York, and San Francisco.

“In our backer survey folks told us they were planning to use them as a light in their children’s bedroom, at Coachella music festival, and as costumes,” she said. “One backer planned to surprise his retirement community by blooming the neighborhood sidewalk at night.”

Lord admitted she expected no less than “amazing creative” uses for the big performance art jellyfish, but has been especially thrilled to find the joy she has experienced “blooming” is consistent with the experience of other proud new jellyfish owners.

Lord, herself a mother of two, hopes the blooms inspire young and emerging artists to try something new themselves. Her advice to those wondering where to start is to throw themselves into new participatory art projects, such as an existing art project, dance troupe, flashmob, or other opportunities to become part of this interactive, communal blend of visual and performance art.

“Pay attention to those moments that you can’t stop smiling and do more of that. Then find a way to share this experience with others,” Lord said. “If you stumble onto something that is super fun for you and others then start thinking of ways to expand, either by open sourcing the idea, product, or project, or working internally to expand your events, production, et cetera.”

Lord said for her, every new bloom includes a moment of surreality, whether it’s at the playa at Burning Man or heading up an urban side street.

“I think these moments emphasize the beauty of the jellyfish swarm more than the epic fun in a dense festival environment,” she explained. “Our High Line bloom had a magical intersection with another participatory group called Decentralized Dance Party. They had a troupe of (more than) 200 participants all carrying boomboxes and dancing their asses off.”

“We had 25 jellyfish who know a thing or two about shaking their tentacles,” she said. “It was off-the-hook fun for two hours!”

Labyrinth’s Supporting Creatures


It took some hard work on a lot of people’s parts to make Labyrinth the cult classic it is today.

Last month, a report in Variety magazine made a very brief mention of a possible sequel in development for the 1986 Jim Henson fantasy, Labyrinth. This was quickly followed up by an addendum a few days later saying that this was not actually something on the Jim Henson Co.’s primary agenda—at least not for now.

This news, of course, set the movie’s fandom, including myself, on a quick high of anticipation, followed by a sudden pit of disappointment. I was a 16-year-old dreamer of dreams, not ready to grow up, when David Bowie’s Goblin King Jareth first led us down that fantasy-filled maze of beasties with his horrible, oh-so-horrible, 80s hair-band mullet and no-imagination-needed tight pants. Some of the green screen (or blue screen) effects were obvious, the dialogue cheesy at times, and some of the music recording quality was a little off, but I thought Labyrinth—and Jareth—were beautiful creations nonetheless.

The critical response was, at best, mixed and the box office profit was pretty dismal. However, the movie has since become a cult classic, with a multi-generational fan base.

The original trailer for the film boasted the creative triumvirate of director Jim Henson, for which Labyrinth would be his final feature film as director, Executive Producer George Lucas, and star David Bowie, along with a 14-year-old pre-Rocketeer and A Beautiful Mind Jennifer Connelly, and “numerous goblins and creatures.”

Actually, it was those numerous creatures, both on- and off-screen, that helped make the movie visually appealing and fun to watch. Let’s take a look back at some of the individuals who may not have gotten top billing for their work on Labyrinth, but still hold their own geek and fantasy-world cred:

Terry Jones. This Monty Python member wrote much of the script, based on a storyline by Henson and Dennis Lee. Much of Jones’ Python-style can be recognized in the script, particularly in the scene with the very British rock wall harbingers of doom. Jones has worked as an actor, writer, producer, and director in several films, including as voice talent for a number of animated and CGI characters. He also served as host for the history documentary series Ancient Inventions, Barbarians, Medieval Lives and Terry Jones’ Great Mystery Map.

Warwick Davis and Kenny Baker. Both of these Star Wars alums worked as members of the Goblin Corps.

Davis, who portrayed the title roles in the fantasy film Willow and the B-horror Leprechaun series, has a pretty heavy sci-fi fantasy resume. He was Wicket the Ewok in Star Wars: Episode VI – The Return of the Jedi (and several other roles in the Star Wars saga) and Professor Flitwick and a goblin banker in the Harry Potter film series. He has also appeared in the BBC’s Doctor Who and Merlin.

Baker, who is best known as the man in the R2-D2 can, will be returning alongside Davis for Star Wars: Episode VII in 2015.

Kevin Clash and Danny John-Jules. These two are the best-known voice talents behind the detachable-limbed Fireys in Labyrinth’s reggae-influenced “Chlly Down” dance and mischief sequence in the film.

Clash, who also did puppetry and back-up work in other areas of the film, has become a household name for many parents, for his little red and furry alter-ego, Elmo. He was also the voice and puppeteer for one of my favorite Muppets, the hipster host of the short-lived Muppets Tonight, Clifford. Clash’s signature voice is a standout in the Fireys’ song; listen for a sassy Elmo voice saying, “Where you goin’ with a head like that?”


Brian Froud and Terry Jones.

John-Jules gained comic con-style fame as part of The Cat in the kitschy-yet-popular BBC sci-fi, Red Dwarf, and is currently in the BBC crime drama series Death in Paradise. He also worked with Henson in an uncredited part of a street dancer in The Great Muppet Caper, and with Frank Oz as a doo-wop singer in the “Total Eclipse of the Sun” sequence in the movie version of Little Shop of Horrors

The Froud Family. Brian Froud and Wendy Midener worked as a husband-and-wife team in many of Henson’s works, including The Dark Crystal and Jim Henson’s Storyteller.

Froud, along with Terry Jones, is also the creator of weirdly funny fantasy art books, including the best-seller Lady Cottington’s Pressed Fairy Book.

Midener was a Muppet designer for several episodes of the original Muppet Show and the first Muppet Movie. She also worked as a fabricator for Yoda in Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back.

The part of Toby in the film was actually Froud’s son, Toby, who has since gone on to be a multi-talented puppeteer, special effects designer, and stop-motion sculptor for films like The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and ParaNorman. As a long-time puppeteer, he wrote and directed his first short film this year, Lessons Learned, which he funded by a Kickstarter campaign.

Cheryl McFadden. McFadden was a puppeteer with Jim Henson in the 1980s and worked as the choreographer for Labyrinth on scenes like Sarah’s ballroom dream and the Goblin City battle. She is better known in the sci-fi world as Gates McFadden, the portrayer of Dr. Beverly Crusher in Star Trek: The Next Generation. The fact that she worked with Muppets before joining the crew of the Enterprise is something I find exceptionally cool.

Henson’s go-to colleague, Frank Oz, did his bit with the film by serving as puppeteer for the iconic bird-headed Wiseman (voiced by another actor) and heir to the Muppet empire, Brian Henson, not only worked as puppeteer coordinator, but lent his voice to Sarah’s troll-like guide, Hoggle.

What about the dog? Well I’ve never found the real name of the dog who portrayed Sarah’s dog, Merlin, but fans of the movie realize the same dog who plays her real-life pet also plays the non-puppet version of Sir Didymus’s faithful mount, Ambrosius. This is only right, as literary-minded viewers will pick up on the fact that Merlin is known as “Merlin Ambrosius” in The History of Kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth.

Others who were nearly involved in the film included Michael Jackson and Sting, who were both considered for the role of Jareth. Several young actresses auditioned for the role of Sarah, as well, including Helena Bonham Carter, Sarah Jessica Parker, Laura Dern, Marisa Tomei, and Laura San Giacomo. Two who were highly considered were Jane Krakowski and Ally Sheedy. Changes in either of these roles may have made the movie an entirely different experience.

A little something to think about before heading into that wonderful and weird maze…