Fire In the Soul

Fire In the Soul
"Fire In the Soul" From the Merka series in The Elves of the Woodland Realm

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Underwater Fantasy Photo Shoot: Astrological Signs- The Last Six

Post number two about this shoot. Fortunately, I worked on both of these posts at the same time so you didn't have to wait too long to read them.

I'll just jump right in. If you want to read the first post, it can be found here.


Cancer was the first costume I completed. I had always wanted to create a halo style headdress and this was the perfect opportunity to do so. I used galvanized steel as the base as I needed it to not rust since the pool we were using was a saline pool. Saltwater and steel just don't do well together. I also sealed the entire piece with polyurethane AND wax. I was concerned that the wood spikes would absorb too much water and the silver leafing would peel or they would warp. Fortunately the poly/wax combo worked! No peeling, no warping.  Unfortunately, I didn't take any in progress shots. I just didn't think about it until after the fact in this one.

Model Bryttany Hyde

 I did forget the necklace on the mannequin when I photographed the costume. Sorry about that. By the time I got to photographing the costumes on the mannequins, I was ready to not look at the costumes ever again. 


I had a strong vision for Leo. I wanted kind of a Celtic warrior/ Viking feel for the sign. Especially being a masculine sing and that our model looked like he was right out of the Viking myths and legends. Maegan, and I did a fitting of Leo video you can view on YouTube here

I did have to get a bit creative in the construction of Leo's head piece. I ended up using a latex Lion head mask, cutting it apart and then refinishing it. I again used a wax finish because of the underwater durability need. 

Model David Coleman


The hardest part of Virgo was her wings. Maegan had a dress that we just added fabric too, but those wings. Her head piece was pretty straight forward. I had been out shopping at Target and found these place mats that I thought would be perfect for a head piece, and I was right. I wired the place mat so it wouldn't flop over and it would stand up from the model's head. I then painted it and wired glass pearls to it and vualá! The perfect Virgo head piece. 

The wings on the other hand. We had a foam feather cutting party to cut all of those feathers. Then it took me 2 days to arrange them and attach them. I used Barge cement to permanently attach them and hot glue to hold them in place while the Barge cured, as I was worried about hot glue coming apart under water. 

Model Chelsea Patricia


Libra is dear to me for two reasons. 1. My sign is Libra, and 2. The model is my husband. I knew I wanted him as a model because he modeled years ago when we were dating AND he is athletic and I knew he would do well underwater. Maegan agreed. He did not disappoint, even being blind folded!

I used galvanized steel again with the chain. I also weighted the chargers with fishing weights to keep them flat in the water and it totally worked.

His image became the face of the project because the image was so straight forward in the interpretation of the sign.


In planning and designing all of the costumes, my main concern was whether or not the costume and it's parts would float too much, not enough or be too heavy and be a safety concern for the models. Scorpio was one of those I really had to work to engineer to work underwater as the main material is foam. And, as well all know foam floats, like really floats.

I made her tail in various segments, just like a real scorpion, but it was hallow. I needed to have control in weighting it so it wasn't too heavy and it needed to be flexible. I used galvanized steel wire as a tail frame and sewed it to a heavy duty, nylon mesh belt I made to fit under the corset belt. The back spine was a separate piece that attached to the dress itself. I sculpted the point or stinger of the tail from Apoxie Sculpt, it's weighty for a clay, which worked and it allowed me to permanently attach the end piece to the end of the galvanized wire.

Model Nikki Larson


We had a model switch last minute. Like the other last minute changes and everything else, it worked!

Model Adam Hamilton
 And that is what I have been doing these last 6 months. We had a gala that Copper Coin in downtown Woodstock so graciously hosted. I also designed and published books with all of the images as well as behind the scenes images and other information. They were signed and numbered but we have since sold out of the first edition, numbered books. I believe we are going to do a second run but I will let you know about that when that decision is made. We also had art card sets made. You can find those here.

Underwater Fantasy Shoot: Astrological Signs Highlight from Boutwell Productions on Vimeo.

For the gala, I hand painted my dress. I'll do another post about that and more about the art cards, books and canvases that are available for purchase to support the project and the next one we are planning! Until next time...

Monday, December 3, 2018

Underwater Fantasy Photo Shoot: Astrological Signs - The First Six

It has been a long while since I have posted and I am about to show you why.

Not only did we travel to Scotland for 2 weeks in June this year, and all of my kids had large birthday parties, but I was also apart of a collaboration with local artists.

My friend, Maegan Hall of Maegan Hall Photography, approached me and asked me what I thought about designing costumes fro this idea she had. She had a vision of doing an underwater photo shoot with the theme of the 12 astrological signs. She asked if I would design and create the costumes for the shoot. of course I jumped on that. Not only do I just adore Maegan but the opportunity to be involved with such a creative collaboration was right up my alley.

I waited until after our Scotland trip, more about that later, I started designing and sewing. When Maegan first approached me about it my wheels started turning, so when it came time to actually sit down and sketch, it didn't take long. I spent most of my effort on researching the different Zodiac signs, their glyphs, colors associated with them, and personality traits.

I hadn't sketched all of my ideas before I started on the costumes themselves. At this point, the pool had been found, generously donated time by my brother-in-law, and booked for August 25th and 26th, and most of the models found. I had 2 months to get all 12 costumes finished. And I made it, barely.

I didn't create the costumes in order. But I will list them in order by sign.


I had this idea of channeling Grace Jones for Capricorn. Fierce and empowered. I think the model and I both nailed it.

Model Crystal R. China


Aquarius is a masculine sign, which, before this shoot I had no idea that the signs were masculine or feminine, but I digress...
Though he ended up with hardly any clothing, Aquarius was a difficult sign to interpret, along with Gemini. I knew I wanted to use blue and give a vibe of fun and independent, some of the signs traits typically. So, a loin cloth it was. The model, Ryan, was easy going and a trouper. He had no ide until he showed up what he was wearing, or not wearing. We has to weight the fabric down to keep it from floating too much underwater. I used fishing weights to accomplish this and later Maegan took them out post process.

Model Ryan Pugh


Well, this costume was a serious labor of love. Over 1000 beads. All hand stitched. The idea was inspired by a 2013 gown by The Blonds. I started with an aqua color gown. I wanted an ombre look to the beading so I used fabric dye to dye a portion of the bodice the coral color accent and then fabric paint for the white. I then began to bead. For days. And days. 5 days total and many of those days were 8 hours of beading. I love how it turned out though. I learned so much through this gown. I want to do another one now that I know what I need to do and not do. I was ver inspired despite all of the hours and beads involved.

Model Atiya Rahman


Aries wasn't hard, it was just time consuming. I knew what I wanted to do I just had to find time to mold and shape all of the armor pieces. Fortunately, one of the team members has a business doing 3D printing. 8Bit Cosplay to the rescue. They 3D printed the spikes I had sculpted out of clay. It was amazing and fast. All I had to do was paint them and attach them to the EVA foam armor.

Originally I wanted gold and a deep, almost maroon red. Like an ox blood red, but my budget was running thin so I had to go with a red I had. It worked. Especially adding black pants and shirt as a base.

Model Ross Muhlenberg


Taurus was probably the easiest one for me to come up with and make. I used techniques I use all the time in my designs so it was kind of a no brainer. I have made real tree bark belts and waist cinchers in the past. And I have made numerous head pieces over the years. So again, easy.

Model Laura Muhlenberg


Gemini, Gemini was the other sign that was difficult. Initially we had twin models, unfortunately, that fell through, which changed what I was envisioning. Which workout, so it wasn't a big deal. Being flexible is a good thing. Gemini was also the last sign I designed. Which again, worked since the model situation changed. I decided to go with the theater masks to represent the Gemini's glyph, twins and the duality that tends to be a thing with Gemini's. One was cool tones and one warm. I used vintage silks and ribbons. I also used a metalic wax to color the masks and to help seal them. Remember these need to withstand being underwater for a few hours.

As I was writing this post I realized it was super long. So, I'm breaking it up into two separate posts. You can find the second half here.
And you can read about the photography side of the project here (link coming soon). I will have these costumes for sale in my Etsy shop in 2019.  Follow my blog to keep up with all the new things coming in 2019!!!

Underwater Fantasy Shoot: Astrological Signs Highlight from Boutwell Productions on Vimeo.