Okay, you're groaning and wondering why I'm making such a big freakin' deal about the costuming. It's probably not something that most people can relate to, but most people probably don't start projects just for the sake of starting a project. Most people probably aren't crazy enough to have done this as many times as I have either. After a hundred, you've made all the major stuff that you'd ever wanted to make, so inspiration is a lot harder to come by. But golly gee whiz... because I'm wrestling with it, what better time to show you how I deal with the creative process? (ohhhhh nooooo...)
First of all, I'm not a very creative person. I don't get inspirational flashes from out of nowhere and create original stuff. But that's okay, because you don't need to be creative in order to make stuff. When I need ideas, I look at a lot of different things, pick and choose the parts and concepts I like and try to fuse them into one. I figure that makes me a synthesist rather than an artist, but who cares? That's just what they'd put on my taxidermy plaque. My contribution is in figuring out how to make it happen, based on my knowledge and experience with different materials and techniques. That's just good old-fashioned integration and problem solving. After that, I execute the plan-- That's just eye-hand coordination and experience with the tools.
The pool of inspiration is nearly boundless. There are all the obvious broad genres like militaria, sci-fi, fantasy, media property, etc., and all the subcategories within. As boundless as the pool may be, the scope of the project is limited by some mundane concerns: What are my strengths? Can I do a good job of it? Where would I put it? Does it fit in with anything else? Have I done something like it before and do I want another one? Would it be fun to make? Would it let me try a new technique or a new material? Is it something that's already available or likely to be produced? These are some of the questions I consider when I'm trying to decide what to make.
For this project, the possibilities have been narrowed by deciding that it's going to be a black female. I've also targeted the genre-- not surprisingly, Swords & Sandals Fantasy. Obviously, I like the genre and I've already invested (wasted?) a lot of effort in making dolls of that genre. It's a broad genre, stretching from primeval to the age of steel, and includes fun stuff like ape men, armour, magic and the mythological beastiary. The only things that don't fit in are complex technology and things like ray guns. (That's not to say that they couldn't be made to fit in with a storyline adjustment and a change of perspective to a larger Sci-Fi Fantasy world, like in "Flash Gordon", or "Stargate". However, I don't really want to bring in any robots or brightly colored spandex at this time.) The main requirement is that the costuming fit the style of the other stuff I've made. That shouldn't be difficult since I have lots of raw materials to work with from all the other projects. On the other hand, it's harder to make something that looks different, using the same materials and the same inspirations as all the other projects. There's a fine line somewhere in that mess 'o logic.
What sort of role might a black female play in this genre? There are a few "usual suspects" that come to mind, like warrior, queen, princess, maiden, supplicant, slave girl, goddess, witch, priestess, creature... I dismiss generic townsperson roles like "wife of a fishmonger" because they seem like furniture. An artist might find them to be worthy subject matter, but my tastes aren't very refined or subtle.
I came up with two other criteria: The costuming should show skin and be interesting for me to make. The skin thing isn't rocket surgery: You don't spend two weeks rebuilding a figure just to hide it under the outfit. Also, if you're doing an ambitious project, you don't want to spend 5 minutes on a loincloth and call it "done". That ruled out respectable clothing like flowing robes and dresses but it also ruled out near-naked primitives with large, pendulous breasts. This kinda pointed in the direction of fantasy female warrior costuming. They have lots of neat doo-dads to make, and their outfits are almost always skimpy. That's probably why I've made so many in the past.
This jived pretty well with some secondary inspirations: I'd recently found a tiny lizard skull while cleaning my toolshed and wanted to use it as a costuming detail. I'd also recently been watching the Alien/Predator shows (because of the Hot Toys stuff I've purchased). Although the Predator creatures are aliens with high-tech gadgets, their characterization gives them some very primitive cultural aspects. They're basically outfitted like a fantasy warrior-- lots of exposed skin, with some core pieces of armour. Take away their high-tech gadgets, and they're just primitive monster warriors with skull trophies and beaded dreadlocks.
I occasionally design costuming by sketching, but if I've got the figure waiting, it's much easier for me to design costuming by experimenting with materials, directly on the figure. As I was trying to narrow the concept, I decided to play with materials and see what looked promising. This doesn't require much brainpower; as the mind wanders, random thoughts bubble up. One of those random thoughts gave me the direction I'd been seeking: FAKK2.
What is FAKK2? It's mainly Julie Strain in a skimpy warrior outfit, as visualized by Simon Bisley in paintings. I'd done a doll version before (FAK-Q), which was an "interpretation"-- The costuming is too skimpy for articulated dolls, so I didn't even try. It's mainly the attitude conveyed by Julie Strain and the costume: The paintings evoke the raw, grungy, violent, & cobbled-together look that I was interested in. Then, as now, the Aliens/Predator movies played a part in setting the mood.
Once that was in my mind, the female warrior role was set, as well as the doll's general attitude. I wasn't going to do a black version of Julie Strain as FAKK2, but use it as a inspirational template, along with some features of my previous interpretation, like the big leggings and arm coverings, the shoulderpads and some of the spikey stuff. I hate to admit it, but I was mainly seduced by a cheap semantic gag. I'd been trying to think of an article title, and now I had it: BLAKK2. (Groan...)