New Descendants of the Dragon Armor Ring: A Promise to Build Bridges Together November 22, 2021 16:53

Lumecluster Descendants of the Dragon Armor Ring with Melissa and Cord


2020-2021 has been very painful for me in many ways.

"I want to think of myself as a human being...because under the sky, under the heavens there is but one family. It just so happens we look different." Bruce Lee

Aside from the difficult work of making this creation a reality, there were family tragedies, concerted efforts in parts of social / mainstream media to pit Black and Asian Americans against each other in order to erase our history of Black-Asian solidarity, fear for myself and my friends of color with the endless news about the ongoing violence against BIPOC, the pandemic being blamed on people of Chinese descent (and anyone assumed to be Chinese), and a lot that I suppressed and ignored within myself for too long for the comfort of others at the cost of my mental and physical health.

@lumecluster I make what I want. And I want all the fashionable armor. #silverjewelry #knightcore #womeninarmor #ladyknight #altfashion #femaleknight #queertok ♬ Enemy - TAYLOR MALONE
In this update about my work, I'm not just sharing with you the research inspiration behind my piece like I did in the past. I created the Descendants of the Dragon Armor Ring as a nod to my Chinese heritage, to honor my best friends who are the biggest heroes and fighters in my life, and to call on people to find their inner dragon (and the good dragon within others) to build stronger bridges together.

Aidan, Cord, Melissa, Inez wearing the Descendants of the Dragon Armor Rings
Aidan, Cord, Melissa (Lumecluster), and Inez wearing the Descendants of the Dragon Armor Ring. More photos coming soon on my social media accounts.

As an American born Chinese, I call this jewelry piece the “Descendants of the Dragon” Armor Ring for two reasons. The first is a nod to my Chinese heritage.

"We need to discern who we are and expand on our humanness and sacredness. That's how we change the world, which happens because WE will be the change."—Grace Lee Boggs, Chinese American activist and revolutionary

From ancient to modern Chinese and diaspora today, the “Descendants of the Dragon (龍的傳人)” phrase has been a self-identifier and a deep part of culture. In Chinese legend, Yīnglóng (應龍) was a major mythical dragon who assisted two distinguished emperors in battle:  Huángdì (皇帝 “Yellow Emperor”) and Yándì (炎帝 “Flame Emperor”) during the Neolithic Age (about 6000 BC - 2000 BC), who were considered very influential figures and contributors to the development of Chinese culture. This is a super condensed version of the tale, so I encourage you to research more on the subject if you’re interested in learning more.

Lumecluster Descendants of the Dragon
Melissa Ng (Lumecluster) self portrait wearing modular Descendants of the Dragon Armor Ring
Chinese Dragon (right) and Chinese dragon sculpture (right)

But unlike western culture mythology where the dragon is usually seen as a malevolent creature that needs to be slain, Chinese dragons (more accurately known as “Lóng” 龍 in traditional Chinese / 龙 in simplified Chinese) are not evil or malicious. Instead, they are very auspicious creatures that help humankind and are symbols of prosperity, harmony, power, strength, good luck, and much more.



Descendants of the Dragon armor ring story link in bio ##finejewelry ##genderneutral ##knightcore ##chineseamerican ##asianamerican ##queertok##greenscreen

♬ TO THE MOON - Jnr Choi

I do think it’s important to note that many other Asian cultures also hold the dragon in high esteem and have various depictions, so it’s important not to generalize or conflate our richly diverse cultures. Again, I encourage you to do your research to appreciate the unique takes on dragons that are more often powers for good rather than evil.

And as benevolent creatures, it’s no surprise people aspired to be like the dragon, or exceptional people would often be compared to the dragon. And it’s this belief that brings me to my second purpose.

The second reason is to honor some of my dearest friends who I believe must be Descendants of the Dragon because of the way they have profoundly inspired and changed my life.

“The only way to survive is by taking care of one another.” —Grace Lee Boggs, Chinese American activist and revolutionary

Sure, there are lots of public figures out there in the world that inspire me too, but those people are not going to be in my life when shit goes down. My family and my closest friends have been there for me.

Even so, I realize that not everyone has the privilege of having family members they can turn to. Which is why I feel like it’s important to shine more light on the amazing platonic relationships or chosen family with friends who love to see more of who you are, where you can go, and who you can become.

Friends you can feel safe crying to as you share with them your deepest doubts and fears. Friends that love your existence rather than your usefulness in their life. Friends that always see your worth even when you’re feeling worthless.

These friends, knowingly or not, helped me unbury myself in ways I never thought possible. And I say “unbury” because a lot of who I am was scared and locked deep down inside. Parts of me that I didn’t even know were buried...but not lost.

I feel so incredibly fortunate and often look back wondering how they entered my life when we all came from such different places, experiences, and perspectives.

"Life is not what you alone make it. Life is the input of everyone who touched your life and every experience that entered it. We are all part of one another."—Yuri Kochiyama, Japanese American civil rights activist

Cord (he/him) is a gay Black American man with deep roots in Alabama, but is not really from anywhere since he has been mobile all his life as a child of a parent that served in the United States Armed Forces. He has called New York home for the last ten years.

Cord wearing the modular Descendants of the Dragon Armor Ring
Cord wearing the modular Descendants of the Dragon Armor Ring

Aidan (he/him) is a gay South Korean man who grew up mostly in South Korea but uprooted himself to build his life here in New York.

Aidan wearing the modular Descendants of the Dragon Armor Ring
Aidan wearing the modular Descendants of the Dragon Armor Ring

Inez (she/they) is a Surinamese Dutch woman from the Netherlands. You may also recognize Inez from my past Phoenix Gauntlet photoshoots.

 Inez wearing the modular Descendants of the Dragon Armor Ring
Inez wearing the modular Descendants of the Dragon Armor Ring

And I (she/they) am a bi Chinese American demiwoman from New York.

Melissa Ng Descendants of the Dragon Armor RingMelissa Ng (Lumecluster) self portrait wearing the modular Descendants of the Dragon Armor Ring

"Unless we know ourselves and our history, and other people and their history, there is really no way that we can really have a positive kind of interaction where there is real understanding." —Yuri Kochiyama, Japanese American civil rights activist

And I mention all these identity details because we recognize the complicated, painful, intertwining, and intersecting histories that are attached to them and how it impacts our existence today. But we are also so much more than this. Our unique viewpoints opened doors for each other to more ways of thinking, seeing, imagining, and protecting one another.

These friends made me feel seen and safe to exist in a way that I wanted to. And I feel more whole because they offered space for me to just be.

"We never know how our small activities will affect others through the invisible fabric of our connectedness. In this exquisitely connected world, it's never a question of 'critical mass.' It's always about critical connections." —Grace Lee Boggs, Chinese American activist and revolutionary

Our conversations are filled with jokes and laughter just as much as they are filled with difficult questions and nuanced debates where we constantly challenge ourselves to see beyond what we think we know. And sometimes we might fall short, but we continue to work hard to fill in our gaps as we climb higher together.

And my hope is that you not only cultivate that dragon within yourself that helps others, but also find the dragons in your life who inspire you to fly to new heights. Dragons who help you see new realities and points of view that you might not have seen before. Dragons that show up in your life to uplift you without being asked to.

"There's magic in being seen by people who understandit gives you permission to keep going. Self-expression sometimes requires other people. Becoming ourselves is a collective journey."
—Alok Vaid-Menon, an internationally renowned gender non-conforming writer and performance artist

There were also three other notable inspirations aside from the Chinese dragon focus for this jewelry piece.

    1.) The first inspiration came from a fusion of the finger joint pieces I love so much from the 15th century German Gothic gauntlet with Chinese nail guards. However, unlike the nail guards back in the day, my design is not about indicating status nor is it aimed at making hands look long and delicate. You could say it's a combination of East and West, which holds significance for me as an American born Chinese. My goal was to use these two influences to make my fingers look like the dragon's claw.

      Curse of the Golden Flower and historical TV drama Ruyi's Royal Love in the Palace
      Actress Gong Li in Curse of the Golden Flower (left) and historical TV drama Ruyi's Royal Love in the Palace

      My Lumecluster Dreamer Armor, mask, and Phoenix Gauntlets design.

        2.) Another inspiration is the massive 47.8 cm x 1496.5 cm long Nine Dragons (九龍圖卷) handscroll painting by the Chinese Southern Song dynasty painter Chén Róng (陈容) from 1244. Apparently, Chén Róng was both a politician and painter who was most well-known for his depictions of dragons. Click here for a closeup and details on how to read the handscroll.


          But the significance behind why I chose this piece as inspiration is because of the state of mind in which he painted them. The Nine Dragons handscroll was painted (possibly while intoxicated) with ink that was splattered, flung, blown, or smeared across the painting. We see the ferocity and emotional turmoil evoked in the nine dragons flying across skies, mountains, and seas.

          As you can see in the image below, I took inspiration from some of the dragons for the detailing on my ring to mimic its scales.

          Melissa Ng wearing Descendants of the Dragon Armor
          Melissa Ng (Lumecluster) self portrait wearing Descendants of the Dragon Armor Ring

          3.) The third piece of inspiration is the “chai” (钗) hairpin, which goes way back in Chinese traditions and customs. In historical Chinese culture, hair was considered a very important part of the body since it was “given” by the parents. So, cutting it was no small matter and wasn’t something you should casually cut.

          Chinese Hairpin ChaiYuan Dynasty chai (left) and peony gold chai (right)

          I also love that it was considered a love token and keepsake. If lovers had to separate for a long period of time, a chai would be broken into two pieces with each person keeping one part until they finally reunited in the future. It was proof of their connection and reunion.

          Aidan_Cord_Descendants of the Dragon
          Cord (left) and Aidan (right) wearing Descendants of the Dragon Armor Ring

            But in today’s modern age where people cut their hair at various lengths, I wanted to take my own spin on it, especially since not all of us even have long hair anymore (like me!). I also wanted it to focus on both romantic and platonic love, which I emphasized since the beginning of this article.

            Overall, I wanted the modular ring pieces to bring to mind the dragon’s powerful scaled claws that you could share with your romantic and platonic loves. Or you could just keep it for yourself too, of course!

            Now, onto the more technical details.

            So, what went into creating the modular and articulated Descendants of the Dragon Armor Ring?

            The design is available in argentium metal, which is a tarnish-resistant silver alloy that is brighter & stronger than sterling silver. But it is also available in a brass blend that mimics the looks of 14k gold. However, other precious metals are available upon request.

            Brass Descendants of the Dragon Armor Ring LumeclusterBrass modular Descendants of the Dragon Armor Ring

            So, whenever I searched for armor rings in the past, there were a number of things that bothered me. Lots were mass produced cheap plastic and often looked too chunky. Some couldn't actually articulate and looked good only if the fingers were constantly extended.

            Others had huge gaps in between each plate, which ruined the armor look for me. Many had only a single size or limited sizes (none that fit my spider fingers). Some pieces just had way too much going on. And most of all, I just couldn't find any designs that had the futuristic, modern, and sleek style that I personally like.

            You know what they say. If you can't find what you want, you do it yourself. But it hasn’t been easy because it took about a year and a half of redesigns, prototypes and searching for the perfect New York-based manufacturers to make these a reality amidst a lot of confusion, tragedy and self-discovery.

            Despite the difficulties and frustrations, I’m proud that I managed to design adjustable US sizes 3, 5, 7, 9, 11. But I also wanted to create something that could become an heirloom. Something that I'd be proud to pass onto my loved ones and over to future generations. Something that I'd hopefully be remembered for. I hope I got a little bit of that in this piece.

            The argentium metal Descendants of the Dragon Armor Ring is actually a modular three part armor ring, which allows you to customize your look.

            Descendants of the Dragon Armor ring parts
            Modular and articulated argentium silver Descendants of the Dragon Armor ring parts

            @lumecluster Learn more about the armor ring backstory in my earlier video @lumecluster #finejewelry #knightcore #scifi #cyberpunk #fantasycore #fantasy #queertok ♬ Blade Runner 2049 - Synthwave Goose

            You can wear them all together or separate the pieces. So, you'll have the option to choose from the following:

            1.) Descendants of the Dragon Armor Ring (3-part)

            • The three parts include one (1) knuckle armor ring, one (1) middle articulated armor ring, and one (1) fingertip articulated ring
            • Modular design allows you to customize your look. See image below for some style ideas.
              Modular Descendants of the Dragon Armor Ring (3-part)

            2.) Descendants of the Dragon Armor Ring (2-part)

            • The two parts include one (1) knuckle armor ring and one (1) middle articulated armor ring
            • Modular design allows you to customize your look. See image below for some style ideas.
              Modular Descendants of the Dragon Armor Ring (2-part)

            3.) Descendants of the Dragon Armor Ring (1-part)

            • This is only the knuckle armor ring part
            • See image below for some style ideas.
              Descendants of the Dragon Armor Knuckle Ring (1-part)

            This means, a single fully armored finger is made up of three parts, which are a total of seven armor plates. A fully armored thumb is made up of two parts, which are a total of four plates. So, if all five fingers were armored, it'd be a total of 32 plates on one hand.


            Love my dragon armor rings🐉 ##unboxing ##unboxingjewellery ##unboxingjewelry ##jewelrytiktok ##ringtok ##sterlingsilverjewelry ##jewelryring ##ringtiktok

            ♬ оригинальный звук - ✨🖤Multiverse🖤✨


            Someone also asked a very interesting question regarding bowed fingers. I'm not sure how severe theirs is but the other posted image shows how my fingers tend to bend inwards towards each other. My fingers are also very flexible, so the 3-part design allows it to more easily conform to my bowed fingers. My hope is that people feel as powerful as I do when I wear them.

            I want to remind people that Lumecluster was created to inspire our inner hero, armor those who fight the good fight, and promise to keep building bridges together.

            "Our ultimate objective in learning about anything is to try to create and develop a more just society." —Yuri Kochiyama, Japanese American civil rights activist

            A sometimes overlooked detail about Lumecluster is that it is a combination of the words, “Lume,” which is a special type of glow pigment (often found in watches) and “cluster.”

            And I combined these words together when I officially created Lumecluster in 2013 with a desire to create an “illuminated cluster” of many people, ideas, and identities who fight for a more equitable and inclusive world. While my artform has greatly shifted and allowed me the privilege of traveling and meeting many more amazing people, my belief in this has only deepened.

            @lumecluster Reply to @cheesypotatoflakes Stop limiting & gendering creativity. Let people enjoy what they love #finejewelry #knightcore #genderneutral #queertok ♬ Enemy - from the series Arcane League of Legends - Imagine Dragons & JID & Arcane & League Of Legends

            The ring is for anyone who has ever felt othered, ostracized, and cut down, but still keeps finding the reasons to do the work of bringing people together and fighting the good fight. If any of this resonated with you even just a little bit, then I’m happy.

            Descendants of the Dragon are not here to be slain. So, never let anyone take your claws.

            Melissa <3


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            Giving back with armor collections for justice.
            Visit the Lumecluster Shop.

            We all deserve to fight for our dreams, but not all of us have the equal freedoms, resources or privileges to do so. With each purchase from the
            Sculptural, Fashion or Jewelry Armor Collections, you are contributing to the ongoing fight for liberation for all by uplifting our most marginalized communities, through our support of the Transgender Law Center. I will be adding more organizations in the future as the design collections grow.

            “The Trans Agenda centers the lives and voices of trans people of color, who have too often had to advance our collective liberation from the margins. Trans justice is migrant justice, disability justice, racial justice, environmental justice, reproductive justice, economic justice, and gender justice. An agenda for trans liberation is a blueprint for liberation for all.” –Transgender Law Center

            New Reflective Phoenix Face Masks, Gauntlet Fingerless Gloves & Pins June 17, 2020 16:00

            Lumecluster Reflective Face Mask

            Subscribers are first to hear about new designs, specials and limited pre-orders. Sign up for the free newsletter.

            New *reflective* phoenix face mask & gauntlet fingerless gloves are available in the Lumecluster Shop.

            No matter what the activity, task, event, or weather is, you can always be prepared with some light armor. These designs are made of eco-friendly recycled fabric, contributes to a good cause, helps you protect those around you by masking up, and also make you look badass. Check them out here.

            Lumecluster Phoenix Facemask and gloves

            I also wanted to share some important changes at Lumecluster. I felt the need to remind people that my designs have always been built on the idea that we should ALL have the freedom to fight for our dreams. And I love creating art that can make you feel like knights or heroes of change.


            Because that’s what heroes do, isn’t it? Make change & uplift others to make the world a better place for all people. Not just for some. But the reality is that not all of us have the equal freedoms, resources or privileges to do so.

            “We shouldn’t have to have the exact same identities to be concerned about others.” -Raquel Willis


            From here on out, all existing and future Lumecluster designs will contribute to change and fighting for justice.

            With each purchase, you can look badass & also know you are contributing to the ongoing fight for liberation for all by uplifting our most marginalized communities, through our support of the Transgender Law Center. I will be adding more organizations in the future as the design collections grow.

            “The Trans Agenda centers the lives and voices of trans people of color, who have too often had to advance our collective liberation from the margins. Trans justice is migrant justice, disability justice, racial justice, environmental justice, reproductive justice, economic justice, and gender justice. An agenda for trans liberation is a blueprint for liberation for all.” –Transgender Law Center

            Reflective pattern was created by Fiona Ng Designs and is inspired by my Modular Phoenix Gauntlet & Diadem designs. Face mask & gloves are in collaboration with Wing & Weft Gloves, the last glove factory in New York City’s Garment Center. They’ve produced gloves for half a century  and made gloves for First Ladies and celebrities like Lady Gaga and Prince. I love them and their mission to preserve & nurture craftsmanship in NYC!

            Lumecluster Phoenix Facemask and gloves
            [LEFT} Phoenix face mask and gauntlet fingerless gloves. [RIGHT] Modular Phoenix Gauntlet and Diadem used as inspiration for the armor apparel items.

            And in case you missed it:

            <3 Melissa

            P.S. missed the past Phoenix Gauntlet (Tiers 1-3) pre-orders. Will it ever happen again?

            Short answer is "maybe." We underestimated the intensive labor the last time we did pre-orders, and it was emotionally and physically brutal for a two person team. Even if we were to hire extra help, we were seriously undercharging for the amount of work that was required and will need to make necessary adjustments to stay functional. I'll do another update about this in the future when I gather myself, but there are a lot of changes happening right now.

            Overall, we care about keeping everything Lumecluster-made right here in New York and we thank you for your understanding and patience as we make the important changes that will help us make more beautiful armor while retaining our health and sanity :/

            Get special DesignerCon creations and pricing on Cyber Monday only December 2, 2019 00:00

            Lumecluster at Designercon

            Several new figures and jewelry designs were revealed at DesignerCon last month. Some asked if I was going to sell them online and I decided to offer DesignerCon pricing today (12/2/19 12:00AM EST) on Cyber Monday ONLY (shipping not included).

            Special DesignerCon Item pricing ranges from $15 -$100.

            After Cyber Monday, the special DesignerCon pricing will no longer be available and the price will increase.

            In a recent blog post, I announced that I partnered with Fiona Ng Designs to help me produce and ship small hand sculpted and resin cast sculptures since that’s her specialty. She is helping me translate many of my large designs into a unique variety of smaller creations.

            The hand sculpted and resin cast sculptures and jewelry can be found on Fiona Ng Designs while the metal jewelry pieces are found on the Lumecluster Shop.

            <3 Melissa

            Lumecluster Sovereign Armor Mini
            Lumecluster Sovereign Armor Mini

            Lumecluster Dreamer Mask Breakthrough mini
            Lumecluster Dreamer Mask Breakthrough Mini

            Lumecluster Dreamer Pendant
            Lumecluster Dreamer Pendant

            Lumecluster Resilience Pendant
            Lumecluster Resilience Pendant

            Lumecluster Phoenix Claw Rings
            Lumecluster Phoenix Claw Rings

            Modular Phoenix Arm Harness prototype closeup, stress testing & DesignerCon sneak peek! October 28, 2019 15:00

            Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets arm harness

            Subscribers are first to hear about new designs, specials and limited pre-order slots. Armor designs are limited and special order only. Sign up for the free newsletter.

            What’s covered in this blog post:

            • Arm harness demonstration video with Adam Savage on Tested at NYCC
            • Armor research and crediting your sources
            • 2018 versus 2019 arm harness comparisons
            • Modular styling options (still a WIP)
            • 3D printing the prototype (and mishaps)
            • NYCC stress testing
            • What else is new? DesignerCon sneak peek! (November 22-24)
            • ICYMI: Oculus and Tested VR App featuring eight makers including me!

            I know some of you may remember when I unveiled my first attempt at making an arm harness at NYCC 2018, but I couldn’t just stop there! So, this year, I went in with my first modular Phoenix arm harness prototype.

            Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets arm harness
            The outfit was supposed to have a mini smoke machine too but NYCC didn’t allow it… My latest modular Phoenix Arm Harness prototype with my Dreamer Mask: Breakthrough.

            Lumecluster Dreamer Mask Breakthrough
            You may or may not have noticed but the mask I’m wearing is a favorite mask design of mine called Dreamer Mask: Breakthrough. It’s also the mask you see on my Lumecluster social media profiles.

            NYCC is also a good chance to stress test my early prototypes and to work out all the major issues. You learn a lot about your design’s durability when you put them through massive and tightly packed crowds that have no mercy haha…

            While this year’s latest prototype still needs a lot of work, I’m proud to see my improvements. Last year, I was focused on trying to incorporate some of my favorite 15th and 16th century elements and just making it look good enough…but I didn’t get to put much thought into anything beyond how it looked since I did it last minute.

            Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets arm harness
            Photos by Norman Chan of Tested. I am wearing my latest modular Phoenix Arm Harness prototype with my Dreamer Mask: Breakthrough.

            This year, I wanted to actually experiment with some modularity or see if I could add some fashionable interpretations to it like I did with my modular Phoenix Gauntlets. So, we did just that by showing a little demonstration at NYCC with Adam Savage on Tested!

            I’m still reeling from the first silent pre-order (only email subscribers are notified) and it was thrilling to know so many people were just as interested as me in the possibilities for modular armor. Still hard at work on all those orders.

            You’ll get to see a clearer style breakdown (it’s still a work-in-progress) later on in the article!

            So, what makes this modular Phoenix Arm Harness prototype different from last year? Let’s start with some thoughts on research and references first.

            Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets arm harness

            While I’m flattered to know so many people think I’m some kind of armor genius, I want to remind everyone that I use a TON of references and worked with educators who opened my eyes to the world of armor. I’ve learned so much and still have a very long way to go! I’m a big fan of crediting and sharing my research and inspirations, which I encourage others to do as well.

            I also get countless emails and messages everyday asking about how I designed or assembled my armor. I always list my research and resources in my FAQ and the ones below will be added as well. I have to say this pretty often but I am not a DIY site and I am not a cosplayer. All my time and energy is spent designing and producing my own artwork for clients, but I do my best to share who I have learned from when it comes to armor design, especially when they can explain it better than me.

            So, I’d like to start by talking about how amazing armorer Robert MacPherson is and specifically highlight his St. Florian project. Since probably before 2014, he has been documenting AND sharing every little detail behind a 15th century gothic armor reproduction on a massive thread on the Armour Archive. You really have to see this thread to understand this huge undertaking.

            When I was getting serious about understanding armor in 2016, arms and armor educator Ian LaSpina (aka Knyght Errant) introduced me to this thread and it was thanks to this that I was even able to start wrapping my head around the inner workings of armor functionality. Ian LaSpina also continues to by one of my favorite people to turn to when learning about armor (and you’ll almost always see one of his videos in my armor posts). Check out the educational medieval armor playlist below:

            If you do learn and study from these resources, PLEASE properly credit and thank these amazing fellows. They are both gems for painstakingly sharing their knowledge online!

            Museums are always a great way to study armor. Even if you can’t visit them, you can see tons of high resolution photographs online or even see armor in 3D viewers!

            Like last year, I drew heavily from my favorite parts in 15th and 16th century arm harnesses.

            I also drew inspiration from images of extant 15th Century German Gothic Armour, which you can see in more detail on

            Armor references
            [LEFT TWO IMAGES] 1484 – Vienna, Austria, Kunsthistorisches Museum, A 62, armour for Archduke Sigismund von Tirol, by Lorenz Helmschmid, AugsburgFront image courtesy of Blaz Berlec, AAF ID, back image from Flickr gallery of Roel Renmans, roelipilami. [RIGHT TWO IMAGES] Philadelphia, USA, Philadelphia Museum of Art, composite armour, parts are from fortress of Chalcis on the island of Euboea, Greece, known as the “Chalcis Hoard” Images courtesy of Todd Hoogerland, AAF ID

            I had to completely scrap last year’s design and start all over again to make it consistent with my modular Phoenix Gauntlets. New pauldrons, fluted detail, and multiple looks (of course).

            After my first rough prototype in 2018, I was very unhappy with my articulation. Granted, it was a last minute thing, but the design needed a lot of changes.

            As I mentioned in the Tested video, real armor offers more space to fit a gambeson and/or maille under the plate armor. But since I’m trying to make armor that is also fashionable with modern day clothing, I wanted to make it much more close fitting, comfortable (don’t want any pinching, right?), and still offer a lot of arm mobility.

            Getting fluting detail that I was satisfied with was also more challenging than I thought. I wanted to create fluting that had my own flair but still make sure it made sense. The last thing I wanted was to look like I just took some pretty part I liked and butcher it without understanding its purpose or function…and I hope I achieved that to some degree. I’m still learning! XD I guess you could say my fantasy armor designs are kind of an ode to gothic armor, so it always makes me happy knowing that someone might look at it and go, “Hey, I can see the gothic inspiration in there!”

            Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets arm harness
            Closeup of the vambrace, couter (elbow defence), and rerebrace detailing and fluting. I used small rhinestone rivets on the couter

            Just like my modular Phoenix Gauntlets, I wanted an arm harness design that could swing between feeling very fantasy and somewhat historical while offering the freedom to pair with different fashion styles.

            Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets arm harness
            I took a picture next to a pair of gauntlets of Maximillian I South German (Augsburg), ca. 1490 at The Last Knight exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. OF COURSE I had to wear my modular Phoenix Gauntlet too! I scaled back on a lot of engraving and punchwork because I was concerned it could be too overwhelming and prevent people from being able to pair it with a wider range of fashion styles and costumes.

            I still have to test it with a variety of outfit styles like I did with the Phoenix Gauntlet photoshoots…but one thing at a time, haha. For now, you can see various ways the Phoenix Arm Harness can be worn. Again, this is still a work-in-progress and may change in the next prototype!

            Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets arm harness

            In the image above, you can see the various ways the full arm harness can be divided to create multiple looks. The Phoenix Diadem is also used on the pauldron and upper cannon (bicep defense) to add some fantasy embellishment.

            Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets arm harness

            You can remove even more of the arm harness for a more simplified look with just the pauldrons and spaulders. Above, you can also see Phoenix Gauntlets tiers 2 and 3 being worn. Tier 2 Phoenix Gauntlets offer a somewhat toned down look.

            Unfortunately, when it came to finally 3D printing the arm harness prototypes, one of my 3D printers suddenly had to break down.

            I didn’t leave myself much time either. Thankfully, Sean Charlesworth of Tested was able to help me stay on schedule and managed to 3D print half of the arm harness components on his Form 2 in durable resin.

            And then I 3D printed the remaining pieces on my Taz 6 in PCTPE. Shortly after that, I had to do some repairs on my Taz 6 too…haha. I was really pushing my luck and kicked myself for not working on everything earlier.

            Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets arm harness
            Raw 3D prints on the left and dyed 3D prints on the right.

            I chose durable resin and PCTPE because it was close enough to the shore hardness of the material I might cast in IF I decide to make this available for pre-order in the future.

            Once they were all printed and dyed, my sister (Fiona Ng aka Darthasterisk) and I spent a good amount of time sanding, filling, and sanding some more. After that, I primed it, airbrushed it gunmetal using Turbodork’s metallic colors and clear coated it with a highly abrasion resistant and flexible coating.

            Then there was the stress testing at NYCC and mentally preparing myself for all the pushing, pulling, and shoving. So, how did everything hold up?

            The image below is the version of the modular Phoenix Arm Harness that I wore on the first day of stress testing.

            Bags snagged on my arm, people walked straight into me, and there was the endless shuffling/squeezing through the crowd. Fortunately, the arm harnesses held up really well and experienced no major scuffs or damage.

            And I’m lucky everything was relatively unscathed because I also got to share my latest design explorations with Adam Savage in another video with Tested.

            Looking back, it was nerve wracking because it was the first time my friend, Dellario Designs, and I actually tried out the demonstration together. She flew in from the west coast and we didn’t have any time to try it all out until the day of the interview.

            Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets arm harness
            [LEFT] My outfit at the start of the Tested interview. [RIGHT] My outfit after I removed several armor elements and added them onto Megan Dellario’s (Dellario Designs / Breakers Cosplay) custom Alita-inspired jacket design.

            Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets arm harness
            [LEFT] Megan Dellario (Dellario Designs aka Breakers Cosplay) is wearing her custom made Alita-inspired jacket. [RIGHT] We alter her jacket but adding the pauldrons and spaulders from my arm harness. Click on the image to see more of her work.

            Good thing it was pretty smooth sailing! And while it all worked out like how I imagined and I survived all the stress testing, I came up with a number of ways on how I could improve the modularity and design. Let’s just say I want to redo most of it again hahaha.

            Time to go back to the drawing board! But with all the Phoenix Gauntlet pre-orders I’m still working on it’ll probably be a while so, until then…

            What else is new? I’ll be at DesignerCon in Anaheim, California from November 22-24! Booth #2713

            This will be my very first DesignerCon and my first time with a booth, which I’ll be sharing with artist Bryan Lie of IMCMPLX. It’s a huge honor for me especially since I’ve admired his work for years!

            My sister, Fiona Ng (aka Darthasterisk), will also be taking on a larger role in helping me create new artwork and products, mostly in the world of handmade art toys / figurines since that’s her specialty. Check out her artwork and the sneak peek below! I’m so lucky to have a sister and a business partner like her in my life. She helps me keep Lumecluster together and she’s the reason I’m still sane.

            Lumecluster DesignerCon
            Sneak peek of some of the little creations I’ll be bringing to DesignerCon.

            If you can’t make it to Designercon, don’t worry! I’ll be writing up a full blog post about my creations. Some designs will remain convention exclusives but many will also move into the Lumecluster shop (minus the DesignerCon special though). As always, newsletter subscribers are the first to know about new designs! Subscribe to the free newsletter here.

            <3 Melissa

            P.S. In case you missed it, Tested and Adam Savage partnered with Oculus to launch the Tested VR App.

            It features the VR stories of eight creators including me! You get to see my little office space in VR and learn about my creative process. Check it out here!

            <3 Melissa

            Phoenix Gauntlet pre-order, what it took to create them & FAQ July 24, 2019 08:30

            Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets

            On hiatus. Pre-orders closed.

            Subscribers hear about new armor releases and get first dibs on specials and limited slots. Armor designs are also limited and special order only. Sign up for the free newsletter so you don’t miss the next pre-order date.

            What’s covered in this blog post:

            • About designing limited art pieces
            • The features
            • Phoenix Gauntlet Tiers (1-4) options
            • Phoenix gorget, diadem & gauntlet cuffs options
            • The journey to create the Phoenix Gauntlet Tiers
            • How to pre-order and other important things to know
            • Frequently asked questions

            Current readers may remember the Modular Phoenix Gauntlet I tentatively announced back in December 2018. Now, I’m back with this new blog post that will give the full overview of all FOUR Phoenix gauntlet tiers (along with gorget and diadem options). There is a lot of info (since you had so many questions), so I made anchor links above and throughout the article to make it easier to return to different blog sections.

            Before I dive into that, new visitors should know that the Modular Phoenix Gauntlet (a Tier 3 gauntlet) has multiple looks in one and is here to feed your diverse costuming and fashion styling needs. And while it looks like rigid armor, it is as wearable as a leather glove, which you can see in the re-posted video demo below. You’ll get more details on features and tiers (1-4) later in this post.

              Some of you might be wondering why I only revealed the Tier 3 version of the Modular Phoenix Gauntlet instead of revealing all the tiers back in December 2018 in my first blog post. My honest answer is that I was just making something I personally wanted and figured only a handful of people would enjoy my take on armor. I never had thoughts about designing other tiers… But boy, it really blew up way more than I expected.

              If you’re new, chances are you found your way here because of Imgur, Reddit, 9GAG, Unilad, BoredPanda or perhaps you saw the videos / podcasts I was in with Adam Savage.

              As you may have guessed, the response was overwhelming…and while this was a good problem to have, there were waves of newcomers who unwittingly made the assumption that my art pieces were the same as mass produced, fast fashion products. While I get that some don’t know any better, this reminded me that people either forget or don’t understand what kind of labor can go into designing and producing your own creations. Why?

              Because we live in an age where we have the convenience of one-day (or even same-day) Amazon shipping and marketplaces overflowing with mass produced items. What’s troubling is that we’ve been conditioned to believe we can keep demanding more for less while also forgetting the people and processes that bring them to life.

              I’m not saying it’s wrong to want to save where you can or find good deals. What I am saying is that mass market mentality cannot be applied to everything. At the same time, not every product is meant for the masses.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Photography by Studio Sheridan’s Art. Hand models Luce del Sole (black backdrop) and My Fragility (white backdrop).

              In the case of my Modular Phoenix Gauntlets, I am creating art pieces that cater to very specific interests and aesthetics. These are also limited and special order only.

              I’ve always loved armor, but I couldn’t find anything that fit my tastes or my long and slim hands. On top of that, I wanted decorative armor that could be as wearable and packable as our clothes. I quickly learned that I wasn’t the only one that felt this way.

              The Modular Phoenix Gauntlets became my first major step to fulfill that desire while still allowing me to keep making new art.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlet
              Tiers 1-3 Phoenix Gauntlets in various colors. Tier 4: Legendary is not pictured here because they are extremely unique colorways and designs.



              THE FEATURES:

              I incorporated the following features in the modular Phoenix Gauntlets (also seen in the video above).

              • Modular design (primarily Tier 3)
              • Articulated and pliable
              • Extra flexible (for added comfort)
              • Fashionable (match with a variety of styles)
              • Lightweight
              • Custom colors and colorways
              • S / M / L size options
              • Conforms to the shape of most hands
              • Easy to travel with and pack in small spaces
              • Easily install or remove LEDs (LEDs not included)
              • High abrasion resistant glossy clear coat (optional)
              • A wearable piece of art that also looks great on display

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlet
              Phoenix Gauntlets Tier 1 (left two), Tier 2 (right two), and Tier three (middle).



              The Phoenix Gauntlet Tiers (1-4) with S / M / L sizes

              Images of the Phoenix Gauntlet tiers and other armor components will also be viewable in the pre-order forms for your convenience.

              Components of the magical Phoenix Armor are forged from the ash remains of the Phoenix itself. Each piece is quite rare since it is only possible to obtain a small quantity of ashes every 500 years.

              In order to craft these ashes, they sense the will of the future wearer and are capable of being reborn into various shapes and colors that provides the wearer with the power to inspire people with awe and wonder. But in order for them to retain their shape, they must be magically sealed lest they also combust into Phoenix flames!

              These can be worn by nearly every class, but are favored by creative craftspeople and artists of all levels.

              Tier 1: Basic
              The Phoenix scoop glove and fingerless version offer both elegance and simplicity.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlet

              Tier 2: Masterwork
              The Phoenix glove and fingerless versions offer the most options for those who lean towards fantasy, traditional, or something right in the middle. Pick the version that works best for you! These are NOT interchangeable plates.

              • Version 1: Fantasy details on the metacarpel (back of the hand) and wrist
              • Version 2: Fantasy details on the metacarpel (back of the hand) only
              • Version 3: Fantasy details on the wrist only
              • Version 4: Traditional gothic style (no fantasy details)
              • Comes with a pair of cuff links but does not come with gauntlet cuffs

              Gauntlet cuffs can be pre-ordered separately if you wish to make a completed gauntlet pair in the future. Version 4 will easily match with current and future gauntlet cuff designs.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlet

              Tier 3: Rare
              The Phoenix gauntlet is the most versatile and comes in a fantasy style or a more traditional 15th century gothic style. You can even get a gauntlet with both gauntlet cuff pairs so you can switch them out whenever you want. Tier 3 is also the gauntlet seen on Adam Savage’s Tested. Check out the images below to see the many ways you can wear it.

              • Fantasy gauntlet version: Fantasy details on the gauntlet cuff.
              • Gothic gauntlet version: Traditional style gauntlet cuff
              • Comes with a pair of cuff links

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlet
              You can wear the Phoenix Gauntlet up to seven different ways if you have BOTH the fantasy and traditional gothic gauntlet cuffs.

              Tier 4: Legendary (not available on pre-order form)
              This is the most limited tier. These are unique gauntlet / armor designs or colorways that will only be made once or twice. Only subscribers find out about and can purchase legendary designs first.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlet


              The Phoenix Gorget, Diadem or Gauntlet Cuffs:

              Gorget (neck armor)
              An elegant design that can look like neck armor or a collar necklace. This design can be worn above or under your shirt collar. Like the gauntlets, they’re also easy to pack and flexible.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gorget
              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlet photoshoot
              Photography by Greg De Stefano. Actors Manny Shih and Aria Song wearing Tier 2 Phoenix Gauntlets, diadem and gorget. Stylist Sarah Kim and MUA Bailey Delong. Manny is wearing the diadem as a face mask while Aria is wearing it on as a diadem on her forehead.

              This versatile, flexible, and easily packable design can be worn multiple ways using a headband (provided) or bobby pins:

              • On the forehead (either direction)
              • On the side of your head
              • On the face
              • And more (be creative!)

              Lumecluster Phoenix Diadem
              Lumecluster Phoenix Diadem
              Photography by Yiaz Yang. Olivia Chiu wearing Dark Garden Corsetry, Fancy Fairy Wings & Things, and Lumecluster gauntlets (Tier 1-3), gorget, and diadem. She is wearing the diadem on the side of her hair and forehead.

              Gauntlet cuffs only
              This option is for those who want the Phoenix gauntlet cuffs only and nothing else. At this time, you can pick:

              • Fantasy gauntlet cuffs (with color panel inserts)
              • Fantasy gauntlet cuffs (WITHOUT color panel inserts)
              • Traditional gothic cuffs
              • New gauntlet cuff designs will be added in the future so you can switch out the design on your gauntlet
              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlet

              You can also check out available mask or jewelry designs in my Lumecluster shop.

              Now, let’s go a little deeper and take a look at what it took to develop and work these features into the polished finished pieces…



              THE JOURNEY:

              I wanted to create a pair of articulated gauntlets that looked rigid, felt almost as comfortable as a leather glove, and had versatility like our clothes. What did it take to get there?

              “Fantasy armor need not sacrifice its aesthetic to be functional and grounded in a fundamental understanding of historical armor.” — Ian LaSpina aka Knyght Errant

              • Armor research:
              Back then, my main armor “knowledge” came from video games, film, and television…and it was only when I tried to create my first fantasy armor design in 2016 that I realized I didn’t actually understand anything about armor. I was just making something pretty, which is fine…but it wasn’t enough for me.

              So, I decided to reach out to arms and armor educator Ian LaSpina (aka Knyght Errant) to help me unlearn what I thought I knew and see armor with fresh eyes, which inspired me to create the modular Sovereign Armor. In my experience designing that armor, I fell in love with the 15th century gothic style gauntlet.

              Since 2016, I’ve continued learning from Ian LaSpina’s content, made countless visits to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, studied the amazing forums in The Armour Archive, and devoured numerous armor books and resources in order to get a sense of 15th century gauntlet design, how it worked, and how it was assembled. There is still plenty to learn!

              And like the Sovereign Armor, Dreamer Regalia, Dreamer Masks, my modular Phoenix Gauntlets also have detailing that is heavily inspired by various kinds of Chinese carved artwork that I grew up seeing throughout my life:

              Chinese carved artwork

              Chinese carved lacquer, stone, wood, ceramic artwork that I grew up seeing in the Ng family household.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlet
              Photography by Studio Sheridan’s Art. Luce del sole wearing Royal Black Couture and Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets. MUA Eline Deblauwe.

              • Designing and prototyping the early versions of the Phoenix Gauntlet (made up of at least 62 individual pieces):
              I started by making simple physical patterns to gain a better understanding of how the articulation worked. Afterwards, I took what I learned and continued designing in Blender. This step and the next step were repeated numerous times.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlet 3D printing
              3D printing prototypes on the Form 2.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlet prototypes
              A curated selection of the early stages of Phoenix Gauntlet prototyping from 2016-2018.

              • Prototyping my own standard gauntlet sizing (S / M / L):
              I spent months working on improving my articulated Phoenix Gauntlet design (which would eventually become “Tier 3”) and creating the gauntlet sizes that would fit a range of hand shapes and sizes. This step and the previous step was repeated numerous times.

              Eventually, I developed a new construction and assembly process that adapted to semi-rigid and flexible material properties. This involved many tests with assembling the gauntlet using traditional methods (ex: with finger leathers, rivets, hand stitching etc.) in order to figure out how I could make the assembly more efficient. No messy gluing allowed!

              Overall, a significant amount of time and resources were invested in materials research and prototyping on my Form 2 and Taz 6. Also, since there is no universal standard sizing for gloves, I needed to develop my own standard small, medium, and large size gauntlets. And let’s not forget the many hands I had to test the sizes on too!

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlet
              Photography by Yiaz Yang. Adam Savage is wearing a LARGE SIZE Tier 3 Phoenix Gauntlet and a one size fits most gorget (neck armor).

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlet
              Photography by Yiaz Yang. Actors Peter Sadrian and Yoshi Sudarso are both wearing MEDIUM SIZE Tier 3 and Tier 3 Phoenix Gauntlets.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlet
              Photography by Greg de Stefano. Actors Aria Song and Manny Shih are both wearing SMALL SIZE Tier 1 and Tier 2 Phoenix Gauntlets. Stylist Sarah Kim and MUA Bailey Delong.

              • Mold making:
              For those who are unfamiliar with mold making, it can get very expensive very fast if it’s not planned out well…no one likes wasted resources. It was important for me to create efficient and long lasting molds that would produce clean casts.

              I designed and 3D printed master copies on my Form 2 and mold support jackets on my Taz 6 to hopefully help my sister, Fiona Ng, get through the mold making process efficiently and neatly.

              With multiple gauntlet tiers, part consolidation was extremely important. These molds also needed to fit into our pressure chambers. Here’s an example of one of the masters, molds, and mold support jacket:

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlet
              Designing the three part mold support jacket for the gauntlet fantasy cuff style in Blender.

              • Gauntlet cuff is 1.5mm thick with risers designed right into it and printed on the Form 2 printer (standard clear resin). Sprayed with Tamiya, sanded, and clear coated.
              • Cuff is put right side up because there was a downward angled flap / pegs and I needed the rubber to get in there. The model was designed to float inside the support jackets to allow silicone to flow all around it. I also wanted to minimize any seam lines.
              • Cored mold support jacket was 3D printed on the Taz 6 (PLA filament) with a 2.5mm wall thickness (except for the upper portions) and was 3D modeled to be 8mm-10mm away from the cuff.
              • The 3D printed gauntlet cuff was placed inside the 3-part 3D printed mold support jacket (so it was floating inside), silicone was poured into the mold support jacket, and the entire thing was pressure cast.

              • Casting materials research:
              When I was first starting this journey, many were quick to suggest silicone as the perfect way to make a gauntlet for all hand sizes. I believed this too…until I tried it. In my opinion, it looked terrible and did not hold its shape well when not being worn. The sliding rivets and fitted articulation are what really give the gauntlets their beauty, but the silicone version just looked deflated (and kinda heavy and gross)…

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlet
              The silicone version (left) looks deflated, doesn’t hold its shape, and doesn’t have any articulation compared to the Tier 3 modular Phoenix Gauntlet (right).

              I needed the gauntlet material to be:

              1. rigid enough to properly articulate
              2. retain its shape when not being worn
              3. but also soft enough to accommodate different hand shapes / sizes
              4. and easy to pack into small spaces

              I tried a bunch of materials and methods…I even tried stiffening fabric. At one point, I thought semi-rigid resins were the answer up until I noticed they sank under their own weight and were not durable enough as 1.5mm thick castings. I also tested a number of urethane rubbers until I finally found what I needed.

              Every single test cast that came out of those molds were trimmed, assembled, riveted, and stitched onto a glove so that I could examine the articulation, design, flexibility, and comfort.

              • Abrasion resistant & flexible glossy clear coating (optional):
              Some think that scuffing can add character, but others may want to add an extra abrasion resistant glossy coating. This process takes time and needs the right setup, working conditions, and curing time. Please note that while you can choose to add an abrasion resistant coating, it is not indestructible. It should not be intentionally abused or roughed up since it is still an art piece.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlet
              Photography by Greg de Stefano with actor Aria Song wearing Tier 3 Phoenix Gauntlets. Stylist Sarah Kim and MUA Bailey Delong.

              • Designing additional gauntlet tier styles:
              After the huge response to the Tier 3 Modular Phoenix Gauntlet in December 2018, I decided it was worthwhile to explore other tiers and options that would cater to a wider range of fashion styles, interests, and colors.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlet
              Top row are Tier 3 modular Phoenix Gauntlets. Bottom row (from left to right) is Tier 2, Tier 2 (fingerless), Tier 1, and Ttier 1 (fingerless). Below this image, you will see more images and details about Tiers 1-4.

              • Designing my own standard glove sizing (S / M / L):
              Fiona and I have studied and torn apart hundreds of gloves…only to realize that we could not find any gloves that consistently fit our gauntlet sizing or fabric preferences.

              Sample gloves
              One of my tables covered in sample gloves that we were studying.

              So, we needed to figure out how we wanted to approach our own Lumecluster glove that would pair well with the fitted gauntlet design. Again, there is no universal standard for glove sizes (*rips hair out*) so, Fiona went and figured out most of the glove patterning while I searched for a glove manufacturer. Luckily, I was able to find one right in my home state of New York that was devoted to ethically made-to-order gloves (which is beneficial in lowering waste).

              Like gauntlets, well made gloves are no walk in the park. And no, I’m not talking about simply tracing your hand and slapping the back and front side together (although that’s fine for personal use). I wanted gloves specifically designed to incorporate my gauntlet plates. The process to create these gloves involved:

              1. designing glove pattern, finger leathers, palm grip
              2. sourcing fabrics
              3. making our own sample (to the best of our ability)
              4. studying tech packs
              5. finding the right manufacturer that would ethically produce the designs and do made-to-order
              6. create more samples with the manufacturer
              7. making changes / approvals
              8. repeat step 6 and 7

              • Stress testing:
              When I finally settled on a casting material, they went through stress tests that involved something as simple as me pounding them into the floor and dragging them across the room to more extensive tests like asking actors to do handstands with them.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlet

              Actor Manny Shih doing a hand stand wearing Tier 2 and Tier 2 fingerless Phoenix Gauntlets.

              I figured that if the gauntlet could endure and be comfortable enough even in scenarios that required more extreme cases of flexibility, then it would be more than fine in less intense daily scenarios as well. Still, please keep in mind that these are still art pieces and should be treated with care.

              Testing the gauntlet tiers in fashion and costume:
              How fashionable are they really? It’s easier to see in order to believe, right? So, that’s what I did along with getting direct feedback to further improve my design. You can check out some images above and below or you can see even more photos and inspiration in my blog post about the Modern and Fantasy Fashion Photoshoots with the Modular Phoenix Gauntlet.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlet
              Photography by Studio Sheridan’s art. Inez wearing Church of Sanctus dress, Fire Bird Fusion shawl, Ivy Design headdress, and Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets. MUA Eline Deblauwe.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlet
              Photography by Yiaz Yang. Alexa wearing Tier 2 Phoenix Gauntlets and diadem.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlet
              Photography by Studio Sheridan’s art. Lady Louiza wearing Church of Sanctus and Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets. MUA Eline Deblauwe.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlet
              Photography by Yiaz Yang. Cellist Tina Guo wearing Askasu Blue and Tier 1 Phoenix Gauntlet, Tier 1 Phoenix Gauntlet (fingerless), gorget, and diadem.

              • Implementing changes and re-designs:
              This part is always both excruciating and exhilarating because the perfectionist in me wants to keep going one step further. The hardest part was finally telling myself to stop and decide on what was finally “good enough.”

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlet prototypes
              A curated selection of Phoenix Gauntlets on the prototyping evolution. The green ones on the left are closest to what the gauntlets are now.

              • Assembly & overall labor to bring the finished artwork to life:
              As I already mentioned above, people forget about this part the most. There are those who value some types of craftsmanship over another either due to ignorance or in an attempt to undercut another person’s efforts.

              Even worse, there is this widespread assumption that the things we buy are only worth the sum of their materials. But I hope the glimpse I’ve shared above reminds us to look beyond just the finished piece. There are all kinds of artisans and skillsets out there and I ask that we practice seeing (and appreciating) the many layers of dedication they put into their craft just as much as we love seeing the completed artwork.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Tier 3 Phoenix Gauntlets at Adam Savage’s cave.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Top left image by Simon Needham with model Erin Wu wearing Lumecluster gauntlets, gorget, diadem. Bottom left image by Yiaz Yang with models Jessica Dru Johnson wearing Lumecluster armor and Bryan Forrest. Top middle image by Yiaz Yang with Adam Savage wearing Lumecluster gauntlets, gorget. Bottom middle image by Yiaz Yang with Tina Guo wearing Askasu Blue and Lumecluster gauntlets, gorget, diadem. Top right image by Yiaz Yang with models Jessica Dru Johnson and Bryan Forrest wearing Creature Habits, Spaceinvaderk, Lilms Whipstitch, and Lumecluster designs. Bottom right image by Studio Sheridan’s Art with model Luce del Sole wearing Fairytas dress and Lumecluster gauntlets.




              This is not a commission. This is a pre-order form for artwork with customizable options. Currently, these items only ship to U.S. addresses.

              How can you order your own Phoenix Gauntlet or other armor? Please review the steps below. Slots are limited.

              IMPORTANT: If you jumped straight to this section without reading anything else, I ask you to please take the time to review the information above as well as the FAQ below. This is all meant to provide a full overview of what to expect and insight into whether or not this is really right for you.


              Only email subscribers will be the first to know about:

              • Pre-order dates and times (eastern time / ET) and be able to claim the earliest slots
              • Limited specials
              • New jewelry and mask design announcements
              • New Tier 4 “legendary” gauntlets and other armor designs (extremely limited)
              • Click here to sign up for the free Lumecluster newsletter

              1.) Fill out the form during the pre-order period, which lasts one (1) week. Slots are limited.

              • When a pre-order date/time is announced on the Lumecluster newsletter, it will remain open for one (1) week. This will not be announced on social media.
              • The pre-order form will close on the final day and remain closed until the next time I announce open pre-orders.
              • Completing a pre-order form does not guarantee a slot.
              • Slots are limited, which means you will not be guaranteed an emailed invoice response.
              • Please be sure to whitelist since this is the email you would be receiving invoices and any other correspondence related to your preorder form

              2.) Complete payment to claim your slot in line.

              • If your order is confirmed, you will be sent an invoice within at least one (1) week (after the pre-order forms have closed).
              • If you receive an emailed invoice, it will remain active for 72 hours.
              • If your order is confirmed and you requested customized colors, you will first be emailed a color mock-up that will require your approval within 24 hours. Afterwards, you will be sent an invoice that will remain active for 72 hours.
              • If payment is not completed within 72 hours, the invoice will be voided and your chance to claim a slot will move to the next in line. This also means you will need to fill out the pre-order form again in the future.
              • Within at least 2-3 weeks after the pre-order period, I will announce when all limited slots are filled on social media. If you did not get a slot, this means you will need to fill out the form again during the next pre-order announcement.
              • There are no refunds on pre-orders. Please do not fill out the form or pay the emailed invoice if this is an issue, if you are not comfortable with waiting, or if you are not sure what you want.

              3.) Editing your pre-order request

              • All changes need to be made before paying your invoice.
              • If your order is confirmed, you can reply to the emailed invoice with your requested changes. If you requested custom colors, you will receive an email mock-up and you can reply with your changes there.
              • Once payment is made, you can no longer make changes to your pre-order.
              • There are no refunds on pre-orders. Please do not fill out the form or pay the emailed invoice if this is an issue, if you are not comfortable with waiting, or if you are not sure what you want.

              4.) Wait times on pre-orders and shipping

              • Currently, these items only ship to U.S. addresses
              • If you choose to participate in a pre-order, please be prepared to wait
              • If you are not prepared to wait, please do not fill out the pre-order form
              • Orders ship in 3-4 months
              • You can click here for more information about shipping

              5.) Limited free add-ons or specials available for pre-order early birds

              • Only email subscribers can see the limited specials or free add-ons. Click here to subscribe and be the first to know.
              • Limited specials or free add-ons (not available in the shop) are only for Tier 2 and Tier 3 Phoenix Gauntlet pre-orders:
                  • Tier 3 freebie: The first three (3) people to submit their form and complete payment will get a free add-on item
                  • Tier 2 freebie: The first five (5) people to submit their form and complete payment will get a different free add-on item

              6.) Have you reviewed all the information & FAQ (below)? Great! Fill out the form(s) below during open pre-order dates. CLOSED.

              Again, completing a pre-order form does not guarantee a slot.

              Slots will be limited! Shipping to U.S. addresses only (for now).

              The pre-order forms will open on:
              CURRENTLY CLOSED

              The pre-order forms will close on:
              CURRENTLY CLOSED

              Lumecluster Phoenix GauntletsLumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets

              Frequently Asked Questions

              IMPORTANT: If you jumped straight to this section without reading anything else, I ask you to please take the time to review all of the information above. This is meant to provide a full overview of what to expect and insight into whether or not this is really right for you.


              Wait, all the limited slots are filled? Did I get a slot? Will you notify me?

              Within at least 2-3 weeks after the pre-order period, I will announce when all limited slots are filled on social media. If you did not get a slot, this means you will need to fill out the form again during the next pre-order announcement.

              Everyone who filled out a form is not guaranteed a slot or a response. Again, please review the important information to know about how to pre-order above. I highly recommend reviewing all the information provided in this article before filling out the pre-order form because people frequently ask me questions that are already covered here in this article and FAQ.

              I thought I had a slot since I received the invoice?

              If payment is not completed within 72 hours, the invoice will be voided and your chance to claim a slot will move to the next in line. This also means you will need to fill out the pre-order form again in the future.

              Receiving an invoice does not mean you have claimed a slot. A slot is only guaranteed after payment of the invoice has been made. Again, please review the important information to know about how to pre-order above.

              Do you ship the Phoenix Gauntlets and other armor outside of the U.S.?

              Maybe someday but not at this time. If I do, you’ll hear about it on my free newsletter and social media.

              Can I contact you if I want to make changes in my pre-order form even though I’ve already made payment?

              Please only participate in the pre-order if you’re sure you know what you want. All changes need to be made before paying your invoice. If your order is confirmed, you can reply to the emailed invoice with your requested changes. If you requested custom colors, you will receive an email beforehand and you can also reply to it to make any changes there. Again, please review the important information to know about how to pre-order above.

              Is there a type of payment plan?

              Sorry, not at this time, but maybe in the future.

              Can I make my payment later?

              Invoice must be paid in full within 72 hours in order to claim a slot. Otherwise, your invoice will be voided.

              What are the wait times on pre-orders and shipping? How will they be shipped?

              Orders ship in 3-4 months.

              You will receive an email notification when it is shipped. If you choose to participate in a pre-order, please be prepared to wait. If you are not prepared to wait, please do not fill out the pre-order form.

              You will be notified if there are delays due to unforeseen events, such as illness, emergencies, etc.

              You can click here for more information about shipping.

              My hands are [insert specific hand size details]. Will this fit me? Or can you make them fit my measurements?

              The small, medium, and large gauntlet sizes will fit most hand sizes. Unfortunately, it is impossible for my gauntlet sizes to fit every single hand perfectly. There is a size chart and printouts (used as a visual reference in proportion to your body) to help you decide whether or not this is right for you.

              Note that for aesthetic reasons and to accommodate a large range of finger lengths, the fingers have been intentionally designed to be longer.

              The only way a gauntlet can fit your hand perfectly is to get it custom made to fit your exact measurements. On the very rare occasion, I may consider doing this. However, the cost would be higher than the current gauntlet size offerings because of the work required in creating a more customized piece.

              Why are the gauntlets and other armor designs limited?

              I like to keep some designs and/or colorways limited because I love the freedom to explore and stay excited about making art. I also care about maintaining artistry and collectibility of Lumecluster designs.

              However, there will occasionally be variations of some designs, which subscribers get to hear about first on my free newsletter.

              Will there ever be armor designs directly available in the Lumecluster shop?

              Yes, there will be much simpler, armor-inspired art pieces and jewelry that will be readily available in the shop. Sign up for the free newsletter to find out when it’s released.

              If certain colorways are limited or no longer available, does that mean I won’t be able to get the same color again if I want one of your future gauntlet cuff designs?

              I will make the future gauntlet cuff designs match the colorway that you’ve purchased in the past. Your colorway may just not be available to new customers.

              Can I commission a completely custom gauntlet or collaborate on a design with you?

              Unless it’s right up my alley, I usually will not accept gauntlet commissions. I like to focus on making my own art and prefer not to make other people’s concepts. You’re still welcome to submit a custom commission form, but filling out this form does not guarantee a response or that I will accept the commission.

              Can I get custom iridescent colors?

              Yes, but custom iridescent colors and the complexity of your request will be an additional cost.

              Can I get a custom color for the glove?

              The standard glove is black, but a custom color can be requested at an additional cost.

              Can I get a custom glove using another fabric / pattern?

              It depends. If you have your own sourced fabric, we can look it over with our glove maker first. Or, if you have a concept in mind, we can look into helping you find the right fabric.

              Can I customize the fantasy cuff panel colors?

              Yes, you can request specific colors in the Phoenix Gauntlet pre-order form at an extra cost.

              Will you make different gauntlet cuff styles in the future?

              Yes. Any new gauntlet cuff designs would match best with this Tier 2 Masterwork (Version 4) gauntlet style (image below). However, you’re welcome to choose a different Tier 2 version to pair with other gauntlet cuff styles.

              Can I buy a pair of gauntlets but make each one a different color? Or have multiple colors in each hand?

              Yes, but this would be an additional cost depending on your request.

              Can I buy a design only for one hand?

              Yes. Asymmetry is fun:

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Photography by Yiaz Yang, Actor Peter Sadrian wearing Tier 3 Phoenix Gauntlet.

              Will you be making other armor pieces? Will they match?

              Yes. I have already made some matching Phoenix armor pieces. See the Phoenix diadem and gorget, which can also be pre-ordered here. You can also check back to my Lumecluster shop’s fashion armor section for new additions or subscribe to my free newsletter and be the first to hear about them (and get first dibs on specials).

              Will you be making add-ons to the gauntlets? (ex: claws)

              I’ll think about it :)

              Any tips on care and maintenance? What about scuffing?

              If the art piece has gotten dirty or scuffed, wipe with a slightly moist cloth (water only). Some do not mind some scuffing over time since it can give off a “battle damaged” look. But if you do want to avoid scuffing, then you might want to consider requesting the high abrasion resistant glossy clear coating in your pre-order request (at an extra cost).

              While the abrasion resistant glossy clear coat is extremely durable, it is advised that you still treat your art piece with care since it is not indestructible. But with proper care and storage or display, these art pieces will last you a very long time.

              Do not store them in areas with extreme hot or cold temperatures and do not display them in areas where they will constantly be exposed to UV rays. Like any rubbers and plastics (and your own skin), it’s best not to leave them out in direct sunlight (because of harmful UV rays) or extreme hot or cold temperatures for prolonged periods of time.

              I would also ask you to consider how well you take care of any other kind of art you purchase. If you do not think you are able to treat them with care, then this is likely not for you.

              Can you do repairs?

              These are also still primarily art pieces, so they should be treated with love and care. I cannot take responsibility for damaged artwork after purchase. It is the buyer’s duty to take care of their art piece.

              However, if there is somehow major damage during shipping transit, I may be able to do repairs (at my discretion) assuming that the artwork has not been deliberately damaged or tampered with by the buyer.

              As already stated in the above question, I would also ask you to consider how well you take care of any other kind of art you purchase. If you do not think you are able to treat them with care, then this is likely not for you.

              Will you ever do videos on how to make your gauntlets? Can I get them unassembled?

              No, Lumecluster is also not a DIY or tutorial site. I only create finished designs and I like to focus my energy on making new artwork.

              There is still so much to learn but I share some of the resources I’ve used below. I hope it’s a good starting point and I encourage people to explore these resources because there are a lot of wonderful things to learn there. If you have other suggestions and think I should add them, please feel free to contact me so I can add them to the list:

              Are the LEDs included? Do I need to buy my own? Can you provide a link? How are they installed?

              No, the LEDs are not included, but you can easily find tons of them on Amazon by searching, “fairy light LEDs” and picking your preferred color.

              Many people also responded with how they have their own preferences when installing their LEDs (like soldering or installing LED strips) onto the panel. But if you want to do something simpler, you can use my method:

              • Apply a piece of clear or white velcro tape on the inner panel and
              • Wrap the other side of the velcro around the LED
              • Or put the LED in a tiny white pouch and then glue the velcro onto it
              • Stick them together!

              Can you make your armor more rigid? I want to use it for HEMA, ACL, etc.

              No. The point of these flexible designs is to accommodate a wide range of hand shapes / sizes, offer modularity and versatility, and give the wearer a very fitted look (and for fashionable purposes).

              If you really need rigid armor for combat, please go to an armorsmith. I have not used their services, but I really love and enjoy seeing the work produced by Wasson Artistry, Greenleaf Workshop, and Old World Armoury. If you know of any highly recommended armorsmiths, please feel free to contact me so I can add them here.

              If you are asking this because you were hoping to use it for HEMA, then this is not for you. I am aware that a lot of people involved in the HEMA scene like how my gauntlets look, but I am designing with very different purposes in mind as I have outlined in my article above.

              Is your armor as strong as metal armor? Can it handle a blow from a sword or axe? What’s the point if it can’t?

              Then this is not for you. Please also read the article again because I explain what I make (and for what purposes) in great detail. The clients that reach out to me are interested in flexible and durable wearable art where metal would largely be an inconvenience.

              If you are wondering what the point of having armor is if it can’t be used for combat, please understand that there are many types of armor enthusiasts and many have little to no interest in full contact sport where weapons are involved.

              These people have been creatives of all types (models, dancers, actors, musicians, photographers, illustrators etc.) or people who simply want to collect a piece of wearable art or enjoy armor in different ways.

              Go back to the beginning of the blog

              The Guardian Photoshoot Series (continued) January 21, 2019 11:30

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor

              So in love with these shots from The Guardian photoshoot series with photographer Yiaz Yang.

              Photography: Yiaz Yang
              Muse: Jessica Dru (Jesdru) and Bryan Forrest
              Dress: Michelle Hebert
              Wings: Firefly Path
              Sword/leather armor: Bryan Forrest
              Sovereign Armor: Lumecluster
              Location: The Forrest Manor
              Creative partners: Hands to the Wheel and Creature Habits

              See more photography on Yiaz Yang's website.

              Or you can see more photos from my previous blog post here.

              <3 Melissa

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor

              2018 Year in Review: On almost giving up, finding community & owning my path (+ a Phoenix Gauntlet update) December 30, 2018 10:00

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor

              What this blog post covers:

              If you’re new here, catch up by checking out these important armor design announcements:


              2018 has been a pretty wild ride. Here are some of my memorable moments:

              But throughout 2018, I felt like I wanted to give up on Lumecluster. Sounds crazy, right?

              Long time readers know that, even though I’m always able to get my work done, I also have some pretty severe anxiety and perfectionism. I’ve written a lot about my fears and self doubts and it’s also a message that is deeply tied to the meaning behind all of my artwork.

              I thought tackling it in my masks and armor would help me feel braver and stronger (and sometimes I did find solace in my work). But in 2018, I felt more fragile than ever despite the empowering armor I was striving to create…because I was utterly burnt out.

              Photography by Yiazyang — Model, costume, sword by Bryan Forrest — Location at The Forrest Manor — Creative partners Lilly B. Haven and Creature of Habit —– We all jokingly called this the “dirt prince” mainly because he was actually covered in a lot of dirt, haha. He was playing a worn and ragged warrior, which I guess fit a lot of how I felt throughout 2018.

              Since 2014 (along with another company my sisters and I have been running since 2010), I have been working seven days a week without taking vacations. My “breaks” included meals and sleeping. I even deprived myself of fun activities because I thought I didn’t deserve them if I didn’t feel like I accomplished enough. And if I did take time off to do something else, it needed to be productive and useful in some way. I know…this is an unhealthy lifestyle that can really destroy creativity. So, why did I do it?

              Because I felt guilty.

              Guilty for creating “carefree” art when other people were doing “real work.”
              Guilty for finding some joy in creating things that the people around me thought was “useless.”
              Guilty for pursuing something I loved when other people “didn’t have that luxury.”

              Yes, that’s what some of the people in my real life in New York were telling me. And yes, it hurts so much more than some nasty online comment because they are coming from people I personally knew.

              The worst part was that I knew these assumptions about my work were bullshit. But because I lacked a community of creatives that understood me and the type of work I do, I became more susceptible to other people’s opinions about my work.

              So, I pushed myself by becoming more of a workaholic than I already was in order to justify that my work was not a waste of time. In fact, it didn’t occur to me that I lacked a supportive community until Melita Curphy (aka Miss Monster) pointed it out.

              She encouraged me to build a better support system before I really harmed my mental and physical health…and before I started hating the very work I loved. I heard her, but I guess I didn’t fully understand her meaning. I figured I could just rely on whatever support I could find online (looking back now, it really isn’t the same thing though).

              So, in the middle of 2018, I was really plowing through my research and prototyping for the Modular Phoenix Gauntlets, which I had already been working on since 2016. I was happy with the progress but also felt incredibly empty. I struggled to see the point in my work and I was just carrying on just to complete it…but then what?

              No amount of good work I had done in the past could help me see past my own flaws.

              Clients and fans kindly praised my work and successes online and on social media, which made me feel like a fraud. The more I told myself, “I should be happy,” the more I also thought, “Maybe all of this is really a huge mistake.”

              Being able to create in solitude can be a wonderful thing…but with my increasingly warped perception of myself, that creative solitude I once cherished was becoming a self-destructive loneliness. I truly was my own worst enemy and I knew something needed to change.

              And then, one night in October, my friend Jackie Cole asked me to think about going to California to meet up with similarly creative people that I’ve either been working with or have been in touch with. And then another friend, Mark Dubeau, emphasized the importance of meeting people who “get” me.

              I deeply valued the opinions from Melita, Jackie, and Mark because I knew they were so devoted to their work as well (and they were all in California). And hearing from all three of them felt like a sign, so I decided I’d take a trip to California. And yes, I told myself that it was for work to stave off the guilt, haha.

              On a whim, I booked flights for Los Angeles and San Francisco at the end of October. Was I searching for a way to reconnect with my work again? Was it to find a community that I could relate to? I wasn’t even sure if I would find either.

              My entire adult life, I have taken pride in my high level of discipline, ability to execute a project from beginning to end, and knack for predicting outcomes. Any choice I made had a clearly defined purpose, and I was never much for spontaneity.

              But the idea of taking a trip to California felt like a huge question mark…and yet, it was a place where I felt like I could find some new questions and answers. I suppose I wanted to meet face-to-face with people who had a fiery passion for their ambitions in the hopes that it may rekindle my own. Needless to say, it was more than I could have ever anticipated.

              It was surprisingly cathartic being in the company of so many people who could relate to my kind of work and vice versa. Some of the most fascinating moments was when we would geek out about design process / materials or exchange tips / stories on handling our business(es). Sometimes, it was even just enough to hear, “Hey, I get you,” and to feel like they really did.

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor
              Photography by Yiazyang — Models Jessica Dru and Bryan Forrest — Gauntlet by lumecluster — Dress by Michelle Hebert — Location The Forrest Manor — Creative partners Lilly B. Haven and Creature of Habit —– When I started seeking out a community I could connect with and relate to, it felt both validating and liberating. It was like realizing I wasn’t so crazy after all… I finally felt like I could give myself permission to accept myself and reconnect with my work in a new way.

              For the first time in my adult life, I didn’t feel crazy or wrong for doing what I do. They were rooting for me and I was rooting for them. The loneliness I didn’t even know was weighing down on me suddenly felt a little lighter and the stressful pain wrapped around my head and my chest loosened.

              When I shared a little about this experience during a Tested podcast with Adam Savage and Mark Dubeau, they said, “welcome to the family,” and I smiled so hard. They probably didn’t know that it took everything in me to hold back my tears.

              And it feels so appropriate that photographer Yiaz Yang titled the Sovereign Armor photoshoot series, “The Guardian,” especially when comparing it to the original message behind the Sovereign Armor. And follow her Instagram to see the gradual reveal of the entire series!

              It’s not that I disagree with the original meaning when I first wrote it up in 2016, but the photoshoot definitely transformed it. Contextually, the meaning behind the Sovereign armor came from a much more isolated and lonely place, which focused on the painful and often unseen suffering that the creative endures when building and fighting for their dreams.

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor

              I am still the sovereign of my own dreams, but now I do not feel so alone anymore. Seeing this imagery of the guardian and finding the beginnings of a community I can relate to made me realize and appreciate the people who are guarding my dreams by believing in me.

              Yes, we are all in the arena actively fighting for our own paths in life, claiming victories where we can, and recovering from our failures along the way. But it’s a wonderful feeling knowing that there’s the chance to cross paths with others who are looking to build and find even greater adventures together…and maybe help patch up each other’s wounds every now and then.

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor
              Photography by Yiazyang — Models Jessica Dru Johnson and Bryan Forrest — Wings by Firefly Path — Sword by Bryan Forrest — Sovereign Armor components by lumecluster — Dress by Michelle Hebert — Location The Forrest Manor — Creative partners Lilly B. Haven and Creature of Habit —– Jessica is the most badass guardian, haha. But honestly, everyone on this team was full of such inspiring creativity. I’m so lucky we could all cross paths and make something new together.

              So, here’s to all the amazing people who lifted me up and continue to believe in me! You know who you are! I look forward to doing the same for you and can’t wait to keep adventuring with you!

              I hope you all keep building your supportive community of friends and family that continues to lift you up higher. And if you haven’t started or are just starting, don’t worry. It takes time.

              Wishing you a happy new year! I can’t wait for 2019!

              <3 Melissa

              P.S. Mini update about the Modular Phoenix Gauntlets!

              For now, I’ll be accepting only a limited number of custom orders for the Modular Phoenix Gauntlets at various times throughout the year (and perhaps years to come, but this could change). Yes, this means there will be limited slots available. If people are not able to get a slot, they will have the chance to submit another request the next time I announce available slots.

              Email subscribers will be notified first about when custom order slots become available. You can sign up below or click on this link to join my free newsletter for updates. There will also be a new video update, FAQ, etc. (yep, you only saw the first half of the preview in my first blog post about the gauntlets 

              There will also be an update in my Lumecluster shop, where there will be a new selection of made-to-order wearable art, jewelry, etc.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets

              Modular Phoenix Gauntlets: Fantasy & Modern Fashion Photoshoots (Part 2 of 2) December 9, 2018 09:30

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets

              What this blog post covers:

              If you’re new here, I highly recommend checking out this overview of the Phoenix Gauntlet (tiers 1-4), which gives you a preview of the many features along with a demo video and FAQ. In summary, you can get multiple looks and styles in just a pair of gauntlets and cater to a wide range of costume and modern fashion / styling needs.

              This blog post demonstrates the modular Phoenix Gauntlets’ versatility in fantasy AND modern fashion styles. You can also see how natural and unrestricted the subject’s hand poses are while wearing the gauntlets.

              I collaborated with a photographer and several models/actors, explained how the gauntlets worked, and let them all decide how they wanted to use them and just sat back. I personally love what they came up with <3

              The amazing talents featured in this blog post:

              Fantasy (select images)

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Model Jessica Dru Johnson. Corset by Kristen “Space Invader” Carr. Lace dress by Creature of Habit. Skirts by Jessica Dru Johnson. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Model Jessica Dru Johnson. Corset by Kristen “Space Invader” Carr. Lace dress by Creature of Habit. Skirts by Jessica Dru Johnson. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Model Jessica Dru Johnson. Corset by Kristen “Space Invader” Carr. Lace dress by Creature of Habit. Gauntlets by Lumecluster. Mask by Lumecluster.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Model Jessica Dru Johnson and Bryan Forrest. Corset by Kristen “Space Invader” Carr. Skirts by Jessica Dru Johnson. Fabric costume by Christy Haupton. Lace dress by Creature of Habit. Gauntlets by Lumecluster. Helmet/mask by Lumecluster. Sword by Tony Swatton. Other blades by Bryan Forrest.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Model Jessica Dru Johnson and Bryan Forrest. Corset by Kristen “Space Invader” Carr. Fabric costume by Christy Haupton. Lace dress by Creature of Habit. Skirts by Jessica Dru Johnson. Axe by Bryan Forrest. Gauntlets by Lumecluster. Helmet/Mask by Lumecluster.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Model Bryan Forrest. Sword by Tony Swatton. Fabric costume by Christy Hauptman. Gauntlets by Lumecluster. Helmet/Mask by Lumecluster.

              Modern (select images) – outfit set #1

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Actor Peter Adrian Sudarso. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Actor Peter Adrian Sudarso. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Actor Yoshi Sudarso. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Actor Yoshi Sudarso. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Actor Manny Shih. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Actor Manny Shih. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Actor Osric Chau. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Actor Osric Chau. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

              Outfit set #2

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Actor Yoshi Sudarso. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Actor Yoshi Sudarso. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Actor Osric Chau. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Actor Osric Chau. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Actor Manny Shih. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Actor Manny Shih. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Actor Peter Adrian Sudarso. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Actor Peter Adrian Sudarso. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Actors Yoshi Sudarso, Osric Chau, Peter Adrian Sudarso, Manny Shih. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

              Outfit set #3

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Actor Osric Chau. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Actor Osric Chau. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Actor Peter Adrian Sudarso. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Actor Peter Adrian Sudarso. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Actor Yoshi Sudarso. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Actor Yoshi Sudarso. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Actor Yoshi Sudarso, Osric Chau, Peter Adrian Sudarso. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

              Outfit set #4

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Actor Manny Shih. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Actor Peter Adrian Sudarso. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Actor Osric Chau. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Actor Yoshi Sudarso. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Actors Yoshi Sudarso, Manny Shih, Peter Adrian Sudarso, Osric Chau. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.


              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Actors Manny Shih, Peter Adrian Sudarso, Yoshi Sudarso, Osric Chau. Mermaid fins by Finfolk productions. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

              I hope all of these offered some styling inspiration. There is SO MUCH MORE from these photoshoots so I encourage you to see the rest on photographer Yia Yang’s website. They’re all gorgeous!

              CLICK HERE to see the entire fantasy fashion photoshoot

              CLICK HERE to see the entire modern fashion photoshoot.

              If you liked this, then it would be great if you could fill out this pre-order questionnaire. Here, you’ll get to express your color interests, see pricing options, submit questions, etc (CLOSED)

              NOTE: This is NOT the actual pre-order. This is only a questionnaire.

              The more responses I get, the faster I’ll be able to open this up for pre-order (beginning of 2019). So, please share this article with friends if you think they’ll like this too! This does not guarantee a spot or lock you into the actual pre-order in 2019.


              And if you haven’t already done so, check out the overview of the Phoenix Gauntlets (tiers 1-4) that shows a preview demo and highlights most of the features. You’ll also be able to see some of the images on my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

              <3 Melissa

              NEW Modular Phoenix Gauntlets Lets You Customize Your Look (Part 1 of 2) December 2, 2018 08:00

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets


              Please click here instead to learn about the Phoenix Gauntlets (tiers 1-4) and FAQ.

              What this blog post covers:

              It’s hard to stand out and grab people’s attention. To be unforgettable.

              You want your work to be captivating and awe inspiring. Or you hope that what you do will make people stop in their tracks in stunned admiration and wonder. It would even be enough to simply hear people say, “Wow.”

              Anyone who says otherwise is either lying to you or they haven’t felt the pressure and frustrations that come along with trying to make your mark. And those same people are also the ones who easily remind you to “work smarter, not harder.” But as annoying as that is…they’re not wrong.

              Over the past two years, I’ve been all about finding a way to work smarter when it comes to designing wearable art that will make people’s jaws drop when they look at you or see it on display. The great news is I think I’ve finally captured a piece of that.

              And if you’re a creative that’s looking for something awesome to add to your wardrobe or collection, I hope that what I’ve created can make your job a little bit easier too.

              With multiple looks in one, the modular Phoenix Gauntlet is here to feed your costume or modern fashion / styling needs (not for combat use).

              The first time I tried to make something modular was my Sovereign Armor. Yep, people forget that this can be worn in multiple ways :P. After my Sovereign gauntlets went viral (they were the first gauntlets I ever made), it inspired me to take a deeper dive.

              The modular Phoenix Gauntlet is the first step in Lumecluster’s rebirth I suppose. I still do plenty of 3D printing (mostly for prototyping) and will always make masks, but I’m just focusing in on the picture more clearly now.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Preview of how the Phoenix Gauntlet can be taken apart and offer more styling options. More on this below.

              Like how we want to get the most use out of our clothes, I want people to be able to get more out of a single armor component (and more sizes!!!) and broaden the horizons for its use. I want to help spur more creativity, which is why the Phoenix Gauntlet can transform into several styles to help you customize your overall look.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlet
              Early prototyping stages of the Phoenix Gauntlet S/M/L size options. 3D printed on the Form 2 using durable resin.

              Plus, the Phoenix Gauntlet design actually draws from 15th century gothic gauntlet research and assembly. So, why does the research matter?

              “Fantasy armor need not sacrifice its aesthetic to be functional and grounded in a fundamental understanding of historical armor.” — Ian LaSpina aka Knyght Errant

              As Ian LaSpina (aka Knyght Errant) once said to me (and I’m paraphrasing), the reason why my fantasy Sovereign Armor looks good in our eyes and makes sense is because it’s grounded in history. And more informed design offers better suspension of disbelief and immersive experience, which is what we want, isn’t it? I’m a big fan of learning how something works before figuring out how to change it for my own applications…no point (or time) in trying to reinvent the wheel when all the research is out there.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlet
              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlet plates ready for assembly.

              Since 2016, a lot has gone into bringing the Phoenix Gauntlets to life and developing my angle on fashionable and modular gauntlets that still respect the historical research it draws from:

              • The most time was spent on researching 15th century gauntlets (with the help of arms and armor educator Ian LaSpina (aka Knyght Errant)
              • Hundreds of hours have gone into prototyping on my Form 2 and Taz 6 3D printers
              • Had to go through multiple redesigns of my gauntlet 3D models countless times
              • Hoarded way too many potential gauntlet glove styles
              • Made more molds than I would have ever liked. Even 3D printed support jackets on my Taz 6 to speed up the mold making process since there were so many gauntlet parts)
                •  And if you’re curious about the 3D printed mold support jackets, I talk a tiny bit about it in Adam Savage’s Still Untitled podcast. In summary, the support jackets had a wall thickness of 2.5mm and were modeled in a way to help me save time and money on mold making and silicone usage.
              • So many color tests!!!
              • Experimented with lots of casting materials
              • The enormous amount of trial and error that went into determining the small / medium / large gauntlet size options and proportions
              • Assembled many pairs of gauntlets and put them through stress tests


              Here is the list of gauntlet features (this is only a preview and not a complete list):

              1.) Extra flexible for added comfort (and it retains its shape)

              Looks like metal plates, but behaves more like a leather glove. And if you wanted to wear the gauntlets all the time (like to dinner and to bed) you could absolutely get away with it :P. You’ll look great and still feel comfortable.

              2.) Fully articulated and pliable design

              The extra flexibility that it offers does not sacrifice the beauty of articulated design. Whether or not you have above average hand and finger flexibility, you will have a comfortable range of motion and easy movement

              3.) Easily install or remove LEDs

              Simple fairy LEDs are all you need to light them up. No need for gluing or soldering.

              4.) Extremely lightweight

              They won’t weigh you down when you’re wearing them or carrying them in your bag or luggage.

              5.) Conforms to the shape of most hands

              Hands are incredibly diverse in size / shape and are one of the most complicated parts of our body with its many articulation points. Since these gauntlets are made of a flexible material, they will conform to the unique shape of most hands and create a fitted look. But if you want a perfect fit, custom made is the way to go.

              6.) Small / medium / large sizes fit most hands and finger lengths

              If you have slimmer or smaller hands, you finally have more choices. You no longer have to settle for the often huge and clunky “one size fits all” option. The fingers are also well proportioned and flexible, allowing you to make a fist or extend your fingers with ease. Again, if you want a perfect fit, you would need it to be custom made.

              7.) Easy to travel with and pack in small spaces

              Don’t have much space in your bag or luggage? Since these are flexible and have detachable parts, they can flatten and squeeze into tight spaces so you can have room to pack more.

              8.) Modular design lets you customize your look

              Whether it’s for costume or modern day fashion, you’ll have multiple looks available all in one gauntlet. Have the freedom to be more creative when styling different looks. Here are some examples:

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlet
              Get fantasy, cyborg, chic or dapper vibes. Be creative.

              9.) Colorways and custom colors

              From metallics to iridescent colors, you’ll have the freedom to match your unique style.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlet

              10.) They’re pretty sturdy

              The gauntlets retain their shape, rivets, and articulation even after many squashing tests

              11.) A wearable piece of art that also looks great on display

              With its aesthetically pleasing proportions, they are eye catchingly beautiful even when they are not being worn and bound to receive a lot of compliments. Plus, they’ll never rust!

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Photo by Mark Dubeau

              So, what are the options (tentative)? Well, you can either get the full gauntlet sets (with swappable gauntlet cuffs) or pick just the parts of the gauntlet you want. EDIT: the offerings have slightly altered based on the high volume of pre-order questionnaire requests and responses. Please read the latest blog post for the Phoenix Gauntlet (tiers 1-4) overview.

              You can see the versatility of these gauntlets with fantasy or modern fashion in my part 2 blog post

              You will have the option to choose full gauntlet sets:

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              A full pair of gauntlets with BOTH the gothic-inspired and fantasy style cuffs. These are swappable cuffs so you can switch up your look.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              A full pair of gauntlets with the GOTHIC-INSPIRED cuff style only. Gauntlet cuff is detachable.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              A full pair of gauntlets with the FANTASY cuff style only. Gauntlet cuff is detachable.


              Or choose PARTS of the gauntlet (if you do not want the full set):

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Gothic-inspired gauntlet cuff style only

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              Fantasy gauntlet cuff style only

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
              A pair of gauntlets WITHOUT any cuff styles (comes with cuff links)

              If you liked this, then it would be great if you could fill out this pre-order questionnaire. Here, you’ll get to express your color interests, see pricing options, submit questions, etc.


              The more responses I get, the faster I’ll be able to open this up for pre-order (beginning of 2019). So, please share this article with friends if you think they’ll like this too! This does not guarantee a spot or lock you into the actual pre-order in 2019.


              Next, check out the PART 2 blog post, which highlights fantasy / modern fashion photoshoots PLUS you get to see other colors! You’ll also be able to see some of the images on my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

              <3 Melissa

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets photoshoot
              Some behind-the-scenes teaser images for my Part 2 blog post. In these images are Osric Chau, Manny Shih, Yoshi Sudarso, Peter Sudarso, Jessica Dru Johnson.

              My interpretation of Edward Elric’s Automail arm from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood November 30, 2018 09:30

              Lumecluster Fullmetal Alchemist Edward Elric automail interpretation

              QUICK UPDATE: Video demo of the long awaited Phoenix Gauntlet design is coming early next week, so keep an eye out or be the first to get updates on my free newsletter. I can’t wait to show you what makes it so special

              I cosplayed for the first time at New York Comic Con back in October 2018…and I was honestly terrified.

              Now, some of you may remember that I’ve only worn my Sovereign Armor in previous NYCCs. In 2016, I wanted to have a chance to wear my design after other people were done doing their photoshoots with the Sovereign Armor. And in 2017, I wore it in my interview with Marvel where I talked about the work I had done for the Hela and Ironheart Marvel Becoming episodes.

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor
              PHOTOGRAPHER Anshul Mathur (afleetingimage) — MODEL / MAKEUP ARTIST Brianna Ashley Chin — DRESS by Megan Dellario (Breakers Cosplay) — SOVEREIGN ARMOR by Melissa Ng (Lumecluster)

              And while I was nervous wearing my Sovereign Armor in public, my design wasn’t part of any fandom. I didn’t have to worry about people’s preconceived idea of what my armor “should” look like because it was entirely my own design.

              Lumecluster Fullmetal Alchemist FMA automail with Megan Dellario
              Melissa Ng cosplaying as Edward Elric and Megan Dellario cosplaying as Winry Rockbell from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. Photo by Joseph Chi Lin —

              But I didn’t know what to expect with cosplay and how people would react to my own interpretation…especially since I decided to cosplay Edward Elric from the well known anime, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. I also didn’t know what I should DO or how I should respond if people recognized the character I was cosplaying.

              Thankfully, my friend, Megan Dellario (aka Dellario Design / Breakers Cosplay) was there to teach me the cosplay ways AND design Edward Elric’s coat (also detailed in this blog post). My sister, Fiona Ng was (and is always) there to work late into the night with me and to be my never ending moral support. You can hear more about my first time cosplaying experience and see more of my automail arm in my interview with Tested:

              Aside from my anxiety about cosplaying, I had yet another challenge. I needed to create a fully articulated interpretation of Edward Elric’s automail arm in five days.

              Not because I wanted to finish it in five days and make myself suffer, but because it was a last minute cosplay decision. I also thought I had more time and mistakenly thought NYCC was on October 11th when it actually started on October 4th… Unfortunately, five days was all the time I could devote to the automail arm because of other deadlines.

              A sensible person would have probably skipped the cosplay…but I don’t like backing out once I’ve decided to do something. I’m stubborn like that. So, suffer I did! For art!

              Oh, and I had never created a full arm harness before. So, there was that too, haha…

              Unlike my previous work, my automail arm drew inspiration from a few different armor styles.

              Lumecluster Fullmetal Alchemist FMA Edward Elric automail interpretationFullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood Edward Elric

              I wanted to make the automail arm look more realistic, so I picked the following images because each of their arm harnesses had some element that made me think of Edward’s arm (or what I’d like to see in it).

              Gothic gauntlet references

              These authentic custom made recreations of a pair of gothic gauntlets were great references for my own gothic-inspired gauntlets. Click here to see and learn more about gauntlet design.

              Armor references

                1. (Top left) Foot-Combat Armor of Prince-Elector Christian I of Saxony (reigned 1586–91)
                2. (Bottom left) Elements of a Light-Cavalry Armor
                3. (Right) Armor Garniture, Probably of King Henry VIII of England (reigned 1509–47)

              I encourage you to click the links above to The Met if you’re interested in learning more about armor. The videos by Ian LaSpina (aka Knyght Errant) are also a great place to start getting a closer look at some armor components.

              With these references, I got straight to work because I didn’t have much time. Here’s a brief breakdown of my process:

              I spent a day modeling the automail arm in Blender. I do not recommend this because there are things that will be overlooked in a rushed process.

              I didn’t apply my usual aesthetic because it didn’t make sense. I also needed to make it extremely fitted since Edward’s automail arm is actually his arm and not armor. Please keep in mind that I tend to recycle some of my 3D models since I’ve modeled many armor components already.

              Lumecluster Fullmetal Alchemist FMA Edward Elric automail interpretation

              3D printing the parts on my Taz 6 and Form 2. 

              I 3D printed the automail arm entirely in flexible, impact resistant materials. The gauntlet was 3D printed on the Form 2 in durable resin while the rest of it was 3D printed on the Taz 6 using PCTPE filament.

              Like my Hela headdress, the thing that helped me efficiently sand the surface of PCTPE and durable resin were large diamond coated rotary burrs.

              Lumecluster Fullmetal Alchemist FMA Edward Elric automail interpretation
              You can see the untrimmed gauntlet pieces from the Form 2. The rest of the pieces were printed on the Taz 6.

              Next was lots of sanding and finishing…=_=

              Sanding, sanding, sanding. Heavy build primer and more sanding…and finally airbrushing and clear coating.

              Lumecluster Fullmetal Alchemist FMA Edward Elric automail interpretation

              Finally, I needed to rivet all the plates together.

              This is probably my new favorite part of the process. Before this, it used to be airbrushing.

              Click the video below to watch the articulation test.

              While I was busy making Edward’s automail arm, my friend, Megan Dellario (Dellario Design / Breakers Cosplay), made Edward Elric’s red coat in 17 hours from concept to completion.

              What’s amazing is that Edward Elric was also Megan’s first cosplay…14 years ago when she was a teenager! It was inspiring to learn that it had taken her DAYS to figure out how to make his coat in the past. And now she re-made the coat in under a day? That’s hard earned skill and dedication to her craft right there and I’m so honored that she wanted to make this for my very first cosplay experience.

              Megan Dellario Fullmetal Alchemist FMA Edward Elric jacket

              It’s important to note that she was under a tight schedule too. On top of making my coat, Megan also put together her Winry Rockbell cosplay. I’m sure both of us would have preferred to spread out the work time :P. Anyway, here’s a brief overview of her process:

              • (6 hours) – Pattern drafting (altered from a pattern block) and muslin test / research time
              • (1 hour) – Stencil drafting in illustrator , sizing, cutting out stencil
              • (6 hours) – Had a failed red dye attempt (and shopping/ driving to multiple stores) on polyester poplin. Needed to find a wool replacement and eventually found the perfect rayon / wool twill at a small local store
              • (4 hours) – Cutting and final construction and painting (not including jacquard paint dry time)
              Megan Dellario Fullmetal Alchemist FMA Edward Elric jacket

              When we finally went to NYCC, I was amazed by how excited and happy some people were when they spotted my cosplay.

              People called out my character’s name, they poked my automail arm in wonder, some dude whisper yelled, “SHE’S LIKE A REAL LIFE CARTOON CHARACTER!” But the best part was seeing the way people smiled. It made me feel like those sleepless nights were worth it.

              Needless to say, it was truly an experience that challenged all my expectations. I think I might give this cosplaying thing another shot

              Lumecluster Fullmetal Alchemist FMA Edward Elric automail interpretation & Megan Dallrio Winry Rockbell
              Melissa Ng cosplaying as Edward Elric and Megan Dellario cosplaying as Winry Rockbell from Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.

              WHAT’S NEXT?

              Keep an eye out for a major update COMING VERY VERY SOON about my long awaited Phoenix Gauntlet reveal. I can’t wait to show you the demo.

              <3 Melissa

              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlet preview
              Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlet preview

              My interpretation of the Infinity Gauntlet from Avengers: Infinity War April 24, 2018 11:30

              Lumecluster Infinity Gauntlet interpretation

              This is my interpretation of the Infinity Gauntlet from “Avengers: Infinity War.” I’m a fan of 15th century gothic gauntlet design, so I wanted to blend the styles together and see what I would get.

              I tried to stay true to some of the prominent design patterns but added some of my own flair. Can you spot the differences?

              This ornate gauntlet design is just a hint of one of the directions Lumecluster is going.

              <3 Melissa

              Lumecluster Infinity Gauntlet interpretation

              Lumecluster Infinity Gauntlet interpretation

              Lumecluster Infinity Gauntlet interpretation

              Lumecluster Infinity Gauntlet interpretation

              Lumecluster Infinity Gauntlet interpretation



              Making my interpretation of Hela’s headdress from Thor: Ragnarok March 30, 2018 09:00

              Lumecluster Marvel Hela headdress

              This was commissioned by Marvel and it is also my own interpretation of the character’s headdress so please do not ask me to give you my 3D files. This is also a look into my process and NOT a how-to.

              When Marvel first asked me if I could re-create Hela’s headdress for another Marvel Becoming episode, I was skeptical. Not because I couldn’t do it but because Hela was already turning out to be a huge fan favorite right after the first Thor: Ragnarok trailer was released.

              Cate Blanchett Hela
              Cate Blanchett as Hela in Thor: Ragnarok. Original Hela headdress was created by Ironhead Studio.

              As you know, I’m not a cosplayer nor do I make prop replicas. If I take on any kind of commission that is based on pre-existing IP, it’s because I’ve been given permission to offer my own spin on it while still honoring as much of the original design as possible. And while the thought of sharing my own take on Hela was exciting, I was also feeling a bit nervous.

              Just like my Ironheart interpretation for a previous episode of Marvel Becoming, I was also concerned about how well viewers would receive my take on Hela’s headdress.

              Producer: Judy Stephens
              Director and Director of Photography: Jason Latorre
              Cosplay by: Dial C Costumes
              Headdress: Melissa Ng / Lumecluser
              Cosplayer: Jessica Dru Johnson
              Makeup: Miya Tamlyn
              Hair: Chrissy Lynn Kyle
              Editor: Michael Arginsky
              Opening Title Animation: Nick Proto
              Photo Editor: Paolo de Leon
              PA: Armen Aghaeiana and Eric Bakktanian
              Stage Manager: Ryan Carbrey

              If you’ve been following Lumecluster for a while, you’ll know that I mostly make my own original creations, as you can see in some examples below. It’s very rare that I make anything based on a pre-existing IP.

              Lumecluster Dreamer Masks

              Lumecluster Dreamer Masks

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor
              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor

              Why? Because building things from my own imagination is easier than building off of someone else’s.  There’s still pressure when coming up with original designs that both viewers and I will enjoy, but when it’s based off of a pre-existing IP, there seems to be a lot less room for you to make mistakes or alterations that fans will be happy with. That’s fandom for you I guess, haha.

              I also didn’t want to disrespect Ironhead Studio’s original Hela headdress (this link is a interview with Ironhead Studio founder Jose Fernandez where he shares how they made Hela’s headdress), which was already beyond gorgeous. Mind you, Hela’s headdress in the trailers looked mostly CG and didn’t appear nearly as beautifully detailed (and the color!) as the original, real life headdress.

              Hela’s headdress was also a rather sudden request, which was a challenge to fit in between my other work. It was moments like this that I was really glad I do a lot of 3D printing.

              On top of the limited time frame, there were a few challenges. The headdress needed to be:

              • Custom fitted to model, Jessica Dru Johnson
              • Slightly reduced scale
              • Lightweight and well-balanced
              • Able to be easily transported in a carry-on suitcase
              • Detachable antlers
              • Semi-rigid and impact resistant

              Lumecluster Hela Headdress
              Hela headdress front view and matcap 3D model preview

              Lumecluster Hela headdress back
              Hela headdress back view

              I also
              really wanted to make her antlers glow but, unfortunately, I could not stray too far from the original design like I could with Ironheart. Someday, I will fill the antlers with an eerie glow! Someday!

              When it came to crafting Hela’s headdress, I didn’t have to do much research other than to refer to the references Marvel provided from Ironhead Studio, which made it a bit easier to decide what I would want to alter.

              First, before I could get to modeling the actual headdress, I had to first scan Jessica’s head bust to ensure my model would fit properly once it was 3D printed.

              I used a process called photogrammetry to get the scan you see below. All this requires is your trusty camera, a tripod, and enough space for you to circle around the object. I then uploaded my photos into a program called 3DF Zephyr (I used the free version), which quickly reconstructs 3D models from photos.

              Jesdru 3D scan
              Head bust of Jesdru (LEFT) and 3D scan (RIGHT) via photogrammetry

              After cleaning up the 3D scan, I went straight to 3D modeling my concept and used Hela’s suit in the film trailer as inspiration for the added details.

              Ironhead Studio’s original Hela headdress design had antlers that had a smooth surface, but I wanted the antlers to have patterns that matched the ones detailed on her suit. I wanted the patterns to be visible without being overwhelming.

              Ironhead Studios Hela Headdress and Lumecluster interpretation
              Hela headdress added detail closeup

              The headdress as a whole needed to be broken into detachable smaller pieces to be able to fit in an overhead carry-on suitcase (and be made within the limited timeframe).

              Lumecluster Hela model
              Hela headdress detachable antlers preview

              If you look carefully, you’ll see I added subtle inset details, which are actually the removable antlers. I wanted to blend the insets and embossed details into the overall design and not make any drastic changes to the headdress design…but just enough.

              And can you believe my interpretation of Hela’s headdress was actually REDUCED in size??

              Lumecluster Hela headdress interpretation
              The Hela headdress had to be scaled down due to timeframe

              What you sadly don’t get to see is just how beautifully angled and complex the antlers actually are, which are not as cylindrical as I thought they were.

              What I loved most was the top view, which made the headdress look like a spider. It’s too bad you don’t get to see that in the Marvel Becoming video. It’s amazing how the antlers look like they’re reaching out towards you but you wouldn’t know that if all you could see was a front/back view.

              I also made the antlers much sharper and blade-like, which I should have been more careful about since Marvel’s Judith Stevens had to go through TSA with it… Thankfully, they made it through without a hitch!

              Lumecluster Hela headdress interpretation
              Various preview angles of Hela’s headdress before 3D printing

              Once I got Marvel’s OK on my version of Hela’s headdress, it was off to 3D printing!

              Unlike Ironheart, which was 3D printed using my Taz 6 and Form 2 printers, Hela’s headdress was printed entirely on the Taz 6 because of its scale and the limited time I had.

              For the material, I printed on my Taz 6 using Taulman 3D’s PCTPE, which is a ‘plasticized copolyamide TPE” or a chemical co-polymer of highly flexible, semi-rigid nylon and thermoplastic elastomer (TPE). Whew, what a mouthful.

              While PCTPE is flexible, it doesn’t lose its rigidity, which was perfect for keeping the headdress safe from breakage or losing its shape.

              Lumecluster Hela headdress interpretation
              3D printing half of the Hela headdress base on the Taz 6 using PCTPE filament

              Lumecluster Hela headdress interpretation
              Testing the flexibility and strength of one of the hollow 3D printed PCTPE antlers. In other words, I squished it and smacked it on the floor a bunch of times

              And because PCTPE is flexible and strong, I was able to 3D print all the antlers hollow, which made it very durable and lightweight. For example, if someone were to slam into the antlers, they wouldn’t snap or break. I even dropped it (totally by accident) and the entire headdress was fine. The only thing that might be scratched is the paint finish.

              Tip about PCTPE if you decide to use it. Instead of using an Elmer’s glue stick, I prefer pouring on the actual Elmer’s glue and using a spreader to put down a nice, thicker layer (no thicker than a business card though!). Nylon doesn’t really like to stick to the build plate so the thicker spread of Elmer’s glue really helped it adhere nicely. It also peeled off beautifully without leaving much residue on the build plate.

              Lumecluster Hela headdress interpretation
              Removing half of the Hela headdress base from the build plate

              Lumecluster Hela headdress interpretation
              Antlers had to be printed in segments

              As I described in my Ironheart article, PCTPE is a bit tougher and normal Dremel sanding bands and grinders couldn’t really cut neatly through the material.

              The only thing that worked really well (and efficiently…time is everything!) for me were large diamond coated rotary burrs, which could cut through PCTPE like butter. This saved me a ton of time when it came to cleaning up the details since PCTPE doesn’t print as sharp or clean as other filaments like nGen.

              Even though diamond coated rotary burrs sped things up, it was still time consuming since there were so many antlers…

              Lumecluster Hela headdress interpretation
              Cleaning up some of the details using diamond coated rotary burrs

              Lumecluster Hela headdress interpretation
              Smoothing out some of the more prominent print lines before priming

              It’s so satisfying when all the pieces start coming together, especially when the cap slipped perfectly onto Jessica’s head bust.

              Again, since PCTPE is semi-rigid, it made fitting the cap a lot easier and probably more comfortable for the wearer.

              I also spent some time cleaning up the pieces to ensure a smooth and tight fit between the headdress and the removable antlers.

              Lumecluster Hela headdress interpretation
              The Hela headdress cap was also 3D printed in flexible PCTPE

              Lumecluster Hela headdress interpretation
              Test fitting the detachable antlers

              After a lot more dremeling, I filled problem spots with some flexible filler, sanded, and primed the entire headdress with a high build flexible primer.

              And then it was sanding time.

              Lumecluster Hela headdress interpretation
              Priming the Hela headdress base halves

              And more sanding.

              Lumecluster Hela headdress interpretation

              Aaand more sanding.

              Lumecluster Hela headdress interpretation

              There was a lot of sanding.

              Lumecluster Hela headdress interpretation
              Taking a break

              Finally, it was assembly time!

              I had to combine the two antler base halves together before I could plant the antler base on the back of the headdress cap.

              Lumecluster Hela headdress interpretation

              Of course, the detachable antlers were set aside before securing the antler base to the headdress cap

              Lumecluster Hela headdress interpretation
              Attaching the antler base to the cap

              Lumecluster Hela headdress interpretation
              Attaching the antlers to the cap

              Lumecluster Hela headdress interpretation
              WRONG. DO NOT DO THIS :P

              Finally, it was time to airbrush the pearlescent colors.

              I was really surprised when I saw Ironhead Studio’s photos of their Hela headdress. In the trailers, you get the impression that her CG antlers are simply black when the real headdress actually had a swirly / shifting mix of pearlescent malachite and black color throughout the antlers. 

              But since I added all these line details, it didn’t seem like a good idea to try and recreate the swirls since it looked like they’d clash or look too busy.

              Lumecluster Hela headdress interpretation

              The final and most satisfying step was sealing the entire piece!

              I honestly had a lot of fun sharing my own spin on Hela’s headdress. It was also a great challenge to see how I could re-imagine an already gorgeous piece.

              Overall, I hope viewers enjoy this as much as I enjoyed creating it.

              I still want to put some LEDs in there though… Enjoy some more pictures below!

              <3 Melissa

              P.S. Stay tuned! I swear I’ve had other designs in the works. I prefer quality over quantity and I’m sure you’ll love what I have coming up later this year. 

              Lumecluster Hela headdress interpretation

              Lumecluster Hela headdress interpretation

              Lumecluster Hela headdress interpretation

              Lumecluster Hela headdress interpretation

              Lumecluster Hela headdress interpretation

              Lumecluster Hela headdress interpretation

              2017 Year in review in photos: a special Sovereign Armor photoshoot December 30, 2017 11:30

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor Anshul Mathur Photoshoot

              2017 was a very emotional and challenging year full of high highs and very low lows. Sure, it was a wonderful year filled with amazing memories and achievements like:

              • finally earning enough to upgrade my workshop with 3D printers, vacuum form machine, and other equipment
              • making time to redesign my fantasy armor and mask shop offerings
              • diving deeper into bridging fantasy and functional costume armor design
              • creating multiple lightweight gauntlet prototypes with improved articulation
              • Adam Savage praising my armor and making my work go viral (which broke my site for nearly a week…)
              • having the freedom to select clients I want to work with
              • creating my interpretation of Ironheart’s armor for a Marvel commission
              • finally having a stronger sense of self and meeting more like minded collaborators

              But I’ve struggled with settling into my new skin as a fantasy armor designer after I shifted my focus to armor back in 2016. As I steadily climb higher, so much of me keeps fearing I’m going to betray who I am, what I believe in, or the people who have continued to believe in me.

              In some instances, there really were people who thought I changed for the worse and that I abandoned what originally made Lumecluster. That was a brutal blow that really tore me apart for a while. Worst of all, I hate it that I let other people’s opinions make me question everything I was pursuing. It made me wonder whether my newly evolved self was the “correct” choice.

              Is this really the best direction? Is this truly what I want to be? Am I making a huge mistake? I have no clue, but I do what I hope is my very best at the time and so far it seems to be working out.

              With all the ups and downs, 2017 was the year I really needed to don my Sovereign Armor.

              I clung to its message because it was one of the few things that helped me get back on track whenever the trolls would derail me or help snap me out of my perfectionist “never good enough” thoughts. But it also helped remind me of the people who have always stood by me and lifted me up during my lowest moments.

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor
              The meaning behind the Sovereign Armor

              And so, I wanted this year in review to be a bit different. Instead of writing out what happened in 2017 in detail, I thought it would be more interesting to have a visual gallery of the Sovereign Armor. And what I loved about this photoshoot is that I felt like it really portrayed a lot of how I felt throughout the year. I’ll leave it up to your interpretation 

              I’m looking forward to 2018 and focusing more on refining Lumecluster’s message and new wearable art offerings.

              Many thanks to the amazingly talented people behind the photoshoot:

              Click the video below to see the Sovereign Armor movement.

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor
              PHOTOGRAPHER Anshul Mathur (afleetingimage) — MODEL / MAKEUP ARTIST Brianna Ashley Chin — DRESS by Megan Dellario (Breakers Cosplay) — SOVEREIGN ARMOR by Melissa Ng (Lumecluster)

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor
              PHOTOGRAPHER Anshul Mathur (afleetingimage) — MODEL / MAKEUP ARTIST Brianna Ashley Chin — DRESS by Megan Dellario (Breakers Cosplay) — SOVEREIGN ARMOR by Melissa Ng (Lumecluster)

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor
              PHOTOGRAPHER Anshul Mathur (afleetingimage) — MODEL / MAKEUP ARTIST Brianna Ashley Chin — DRESS by Megan Dellario (Breakers Cosplay) — SOVEREIGN ARMOR by Melissa Ng (Lumecluster)

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor
              PHOTOGRAPHER Anshul Mathur (afleetingimage) — MODEL / MAKEUP ARTIST Brianna Ashley Chin — DRESS by Megan Dellario (Breakers Cosplay) — SOVEREIGN ARMOR by Melissa Ng (Lumecluster)

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor
              PHOTOGRAPHER Anshul Mathur (afleetingimage) — MODEL / MAKEUP ARTIST Brianna Ashley Chin — DRESS by Megan Dellario (Breakers Cosplay) — SOVEREIGN ARMOR by Melissa Ng (Lumecluster)

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor
              PHOTOGRAPHER Anshul Mathur (afleetingimage) — MODEL / MAKEUP ARTIST Brianna Ashley Chin — DRESS by Megan Dellario (Breakers Cosplay) — SOVEREIGN ARMOR by Melissa Ng (Lumecluster)

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor
              PHOTOGRAPHER Anshul Mathur (afleetingimage) — MODEL / MAKEUP ARTIST Brianna Ashley Chin — DRESS by Megan Dellario (Breakers Cosplay) — SOVEREIGN ARMOR by Melissa Ng (Lumecluster)

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor
              PHOTOGRAPHER Anshul Mathur (afleetingimage) — MODEL / MAKEUP ARTIST Brianna Ashley Chin — DRESS by Megan Dellario (Breakers Cosplay) — SOVEREIGN ARMOR by Melissa Ng (Lumecluster)

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor
              PHOTOGRAPHER Anshul Mathur (afleetingimage) — MODEL / MAKEUP ARTIST Brianna Ashley Chin — DRESS by Megan Dellario (Breakers Cosplay) — SOVEREIGN ARMOR by Melissa Ng (Lumecluster)

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor
              PHOTOGRAPHER Anshul Mathur (afleetingimage) — MODEL / MAKEUP ARTIST Brianna Ashley Chin — DRESS by Megan Dellario (Breakers Cosplay) — SOVEREIGN ARMOR by Melissa Ng (Lumecluster)

              Go to the gallery section if you want to see more images from the photoshoot. Happy new year!

              <3 Melissa

              Making my interpretation of Marvel’s Ironheart armor for cosplayer Lexi Momo December 3, 2017 16:00

              Lumecluster Marvel Lexi Momo Ironheart

              This was commissioned by Marvel and it is also my own interpretation of parts of Ironheart’s armor so please do not ask me to give you my 3D files. This is also a look into my process and NOT a how-to.


              Some people avoid it while others are hungry for it.

              Change can either open doors or shut them. It means being uncomfortable or facing the unknown. Change is risky…but so is not changing.

              Whether you love or hate change, there’s no doubt that it brings new experiences.

              We’ve seen fans love or hate artists for changing their style or trying new things. We’ve also seen fans remain supportive or complain when an artist has a lack of new creations.

              I feel lucky that my fans have been really supportive throughout Lumecluster’s evolution. Even though change is always in my future (just not so drastic anymore), I’m still scared every time I branch out and explore. But my bigger fear as an artist is being pigeonholed and not enjoying my work anymore.

              So, when Marvel asked me for my interpretation of Ironheart aka Riri Williams (custom designed for cosplayer Lexi Momo) for one of their Marvel Becoming episodes, I was pretty intrigued. 

              In the Marvel comics, Ironheart’s armor is really sleek. It’s also more sci-fi, which is completely different than my intricately detailed fantasy-focused designs. Even so, I was excited to try something new.

              Marvel Ironheart
              Since we weren’t making the entire Ironheart suit, I used these two images as the main sources of inspiration.

              The team behind Ironheart’s Marvel Becoming episode:

              • Director: Jason Latorre
              • Producer: Judy Stephens
              • Cosplayer: Lexi Momo
              • Outfit: Lexi Momo
              • Armor components: Melissa Ng (Lumecluster)
              • Makeup: Lynn Leary
              • PA: Chad Kofahl
              • PA: Julia Zitzmann
              • Studio Manager: Tara Latorre

              I was curious to see how well I could apply a Lumecluster aesthetic while still honoring Marvel’s overall Ironheart design. I was itching to see what parts I could tweak or redesign…but I was also really scared.

              Scared that viewers would tell me that I’m “not allowed” to make certain changes because of what they’ve seen in the Iron Man movies. Scared that people would tell me that I’m not good at the sci-fi kind of armor and to “just stick with what you’re good at.” Scared that some Marvel fans would tear me apart over why I didn’t do the whole entire suit (ummm…ever heard of budget?).

              I was scared that I’d totally fuck it all up.

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor
              Comparing Lumecluster’s usual style versus the Marvel’s Ironheart armor style. (LEFT) Photo by A Fleeting Image aka Anshul Mathur . (RIGHT) Marvel’s The Invincible IronMan cover

              Even though I was terrified, my curiosity was stronger. So, I started listing the challenges I might encounter.

              The first thing I thought was, “How can I make it so the select armor components won’t look like they can kill her? How can they be more functional?” While the armor in the comics look nice, they didn’t look like they’d properly protect Riri like the armor we’ve seen in the Iron Man movies.

              For example, Riri’s gauntlet armor looked like it could cut into her wrist if she flexed it. The spread out plates also gave me the impression that her armor was revealing a lot of vulnerable weak points…

              The second challenge was figuring out whether or not we could pull off making a complete enough look while only using a few armor components:

              • Helmet
              • Gauntlets
              • Arc reactor

              Lumecluster Ironheart
              (TOP LEFT) Ironheart helmet, (TOP RIGHT) arc reactor, (BOTTOM) one of the gauntlets

              Lexi Momo
              Some behind-the-scenes random fun shots with Lexi Momo. THE TEAM: Judy Stephens (producer), Jason Latorre (director), Lexi Momo (cosplayer), Melissa Ng (armor components), Lynn Leary (makeup), Chad Kofahl (PA), Julia Zitzmann (PA), Tara Latorre (studio manager).

              After considering the challenges, next up was finding the right inspiration.

              I decided to go with the idea that Riri Williams was just in the beginning phases of building her Ironheart suit, which would explain why she doesn’t have her entire armor yet.

              Marvel Ironheart

              For the gauntlets, I noticed Iron Man’s suit seemed inspired by historical armor design but it looked too bulky for my taste. I poked around in search of something slimmer and similarly designed to use as inspiration.

              Ironman Ironheart armor reference
              (TOP) Images of one of Marvel’s Ironman suits used as a reference. (BOTTOM) Reference images grabbed from The Met Museum website. Bottom left and middle images are from the black and silver Nuremberg steel infantry armor dated around the 1600s and bottom right image is a gold and silver gauntlet from field armor dated around the 1500s.

              Ironman references
              Collage of images and screenshots I collected from Marvel’s Ironman movies and concept artwork to use as inspiration.

              After searching The Met Museum website, I decided to go with the black and silver Nuremberg steel infantry armor dated around the 1600s and a gold and silver gauntlet from field armor dated around the 1500s, which you can see below. I loved the smooth, simple, and bold design, which I felt matched really well with my Iron Man gauntlet collage.

              But I wanted more than just a sleek gauntlet design. I wanted details but I couldn’t go with my usual intricate patterning. So, I decided to try out circuit-inspired patterning instead.

              Lumecluster Ironheart helmet detail
              Circuit inspired plate on the back of Ironheart’s helmet. Also visible on Ironheart’s vambrace and helmet comb

              he circuit-inspired design, the asymmetrical gauntlets, and the wiring connecting the gauntlets to the arc reactor were meant to imply that Ironheart’s suit is clearly incomplete. But why not also make it look aesthetically pleasing? I mean, just because she’s in her building phase doesn’t mean she has to look like a mess, right?

              It also occurred to me that Riri clearly wouldn’t have an arc reactor embedded in her chest like Tony Stark, which meant she needed some kind of harness.

              Lumecluster Ironheart preview
              (TOP) Very rough preview of Ironheart’s helmet, arc reactor, and WIP gauntlets. (BOTTOM) Iron Man inspiration from the film.

              Making the harness was honestly the least fun part for me, haha. My hope was that the harness and throwing in some wires to connect the gauntlets and arc reactor would be a nice call back to the time when Tony Stark was in his early building / testing phases.

              For the helmet, I didn’t want to stray too far from the original design but I added detail on the back of the head plate and extended the comb so I could add glowing details The arc reactor got some simple detailing as well.

              Lumecluster Ironheart components preview
              MatCap preview of the Ironheart pieces. Designs were created within a very limited timeframe.

              Here is a quick video that gives you a look into some of my process. Or you can also read on and get more detail about what went into Ironheart’s helmet, gauntlet, arc reactor design:

              Once all the 3D modeling was done, I could finally start 3D printing my pieces! Yay!

              I 3D printed detailed parts like the helmet comb, arc reactor, and vambrace on my Form 2 printer in their standard clear resin. I later molded and cast them in a semi-rigid resin.

              Lumecluster Ironheart 3D printing
              Ironheart arc reactor 3D print on the Form 2.

              Lumecluster Ironheart 3D printing
              Vambrace design 3D printed on the Form 2.

              On my Taz 6, I 3D printed larger or simpler parts like the helmet, arc reactor base, and gauntlet pieces. The helmet was printed in nGen, molded and then cast in a semi-rigid resin.

              Lumecluster Ironheart 3D printing
              Part of Ironheart’s helmet being 3D printed on the Taz 6.

              Lumecluster Ironheart 3D printing
              Part of Ironheart’s helmet being printed on the Taz 6.

              The gauntlets were printed in Taulman 3D’s PCTPE, which is not as neat or sharp as nGen when it comes to printing detail but super tough and semi-rigid (like, I could beat this stuff with a hammer and it would be fine). PCTPE is also a little fickle and prone to a bit of warping, so I decided to avoid printing the helmet in this material since I was working with a very limited time frame and didn’t have time to deal with too many issues.

              Pieces printed on my Form 2 were pretty much ready to mold and cast right out of the printer (after some extra UV curing and priming) while prints from my Taz 6 needed some cleanup. 

              For example, I needed to sand and prime the nGen prints to get rid of print lines. Pretty straightforward.

              PCTPE, on the other hand, required a different cleanup approach. Most sandpaper couldn’t really scuff the surface much without a lot of effort. Dremel sanding bands and grinders also couldn’t really cut through the material (not very neatly, at least).

              Lumecluster smoothing 3D printing Ironheart
              Smoothing out print lines. PCTPE is a bit tough so I had to use diamond dust coated burrs to work faster.

              The only thing that worked really well (and efficiently) for me was diamond coated rotary burrs, which could bite through PCTPE beautifully. After some dremeling, I filled problem spots with some flexible filler, sanded, and primed them with a high build flexible primer.

              Lumecluster sanding 3D printing Ironheart
              Sanding and filling problem spots on the gauntlets with flexible filler.

              Painting and airbrushing is always my favorite part because you can finally start seeing it all really come to life.

              Lumecluster airbrushing 3D printing Ironheart
              Airbrushing Ironheart’s helmet.

              First, the glowing circuit patterns had to be masked off with masking fluid. Next, I jumped right into airbrushing with pearlescent paints and sealing it with a flexible finish.

              And then came the LED installation.

              The LED work here wasn’t anything fancy. I used simple fairy LEDs.

              If you want to diffuse fairy LEDs so they don’t look like ugly bright spots, I like to squeeze 2-3 drops of hot glue on some silicone, let it cool a tiny bit, place the LED on top of the glue and then press another piece of silicone on top to make a neat little disk as seen below (this is the same technique I used on my Sovereign Armor LED work).

              After the hot glue is completely cooled, I rub or spray on a little white paint so it’s slightly opaque, which improves the diffusion even more. Add 1-2 layers of foam and that’s it.

              Ironheart LED
              Simple LED installation.

              Lumecluster Ironheart Arc Reactor
              Ironheart’s arc reactor and harness.

              Lumecluster Ironheart gauntlet gloves
              One of Ironheart’s articulated gauntlet gloves.

              Lumecluster Ironheart Helmet Comb
              Ironheart’s comb on the top of the helmet with circuit-inspired patterning.

              Lumecluster Ironheart Vambrace
              Ironheart’s vambrace with circuit-inspired patterning.

              Assembling the parts!

              There was a lot more sewing than I would have liked, especially in the gauntlets. Bleah sewing. Since the gauntlet material was pretty flexible, I decided sewing in the parts instead of using rivets.

              Lumecluster Ironheart assembling gauntlets
              Assembling Ironheart’s gauntlet.

              Lumecluster Ironheart gauntlet
              Ironheart’s right hand gauntlet. The vambrace is not worn here.

              Looking back, there are definitely things I would do differently but, overall, I feel pretty happy about the final result within the limited time frame.

              Lumecluster Ironheart helmet
              Front of Ironheart’s helmet. LEDs in eyes and forehead are off.

              I’m thankful for this opportunity to create something different than what I’m accustomed to because it pushes me to expand my horizons and hone my skills in new ways.

              I’ll end this with some more closeup shots of the armor, some behind-the-scenes from the Ironheart shoot below and a final question:

              Are you facing any changes or challenges right now that you’re afraid to take on and what’s keeping you from taking the leap? 

              <3 Melissa

              P.S. I had to delay the release of my new armor designs and I can’t say when they’ll be ready. While I hate the delay, I’m happy with the extra prototyping results. I always believe in quality over quantity. Thanks for your understanding and patience. For now, here’s a clip of my most recent prototype

              Lexi Momo Ironheart
              Cosplayer Lexi Momo

              Lexi Momo
              Cosplayer Lexi Momo

              2016 Year in Review: Growing pains + 2017 Phoenix armor sneak peek December 29, 2016 15:00

              Lumecluster year in review phoenix armor gauntlets

              It seems appropriate that 2016 is the year I started designing armor because I really needed it.

              For those of you who may be new here or don’t know me very well, I like to take on challenges of all sorts. But this year, the challenges were different in that they were very public and often required me to be in front of a lot more people (something I usually like to avoid…).

              If you want to learn more about me and how I got to where I am, listen to The Guardian podcast where I chat about how I became a successful 3D printing artist within less than a year.

              If 2015 was the year that was all about guarding my solitude and making time to soul search, then 2016 has been all about forcing myself way beyond my comfort zone. Here are my most memorable 2016 moments and what I learned along the way…

              Saying “yes” to a new challenge before you’re ready. 

              Before I started making armor, the biggest thing I made was a mask. So, after I reassured Shapeways (the company I was working with) that I could design the intricate Dreamer Regalia Armor AND document the process all the way to completion, it’s no surprise that I immediately wanted to vomit the moment I left their offices.

              For a few days, I was in a panic and tried to come up with reasons to cancel the project (obviously, I didn’t). So, why would I agree to do a project I didn’t feel ready for?

              Because growth doesn’t come from waiting around until you know everything.

              In the end, that “right moment” doesn’t exist and it will never come. What matters is whether or not you’re willing to take that scary leap into the unknown armed mainly with the determination to fill in those gaping holes of knowledge. And that moment is always going to be uncomfortable.

              Lumecluster Dreamer Regalia and Sovereign Armor
              Dreamer Regalia armor (LEFT) and Sovereign armor (RIGHT) from the Geek & Sundry photoshoots. Photo credit: Eric Anderson

              Once I calmed down, I realized that designing the armor was going to be no more difficult than the time I designed my very first mask. Sure, the armor was much larger and more detailed, but I knew I had the ability. Even if I was lacking somewhere, I had no doubt I could find the right resources to help expand my skill set.

              After designing the Dreamer Regalia armor, the Sovereign Armor didn’t seem so terrifying. Sure, it was challenging in it’s own way, but my approach was no longer gripped with fear and anxiety.

              The beauty of overcoming one major hurdle is that each future hurdle looks less and less intimidating. Before you know it, taking on new challenges becomes addicting.

              Knowing the difference between “hating” something vs. avoiding something out of fear.

              I used to think I absolutely hated public speaking or anything that involved me being in front of people. I’ve also rarely wore costumes and NEVER wore my own creations. On top of that, I avoided being in photos like the plague. Looking back, I only behaved this way because of my negative experiences while growing up.

              The truth is it wasn’t accurate to say that I “hated” things like public speaking. What I actually hated was being mocked and ridiculed.

              I honestly didn’t realize it until the beginning of this year, so of course I wanted to give myself a shot. Granted, I had done some smaller speaking engagements beforehand, but the audience was typically small. What better way to test myself and overwrite my past experiences than to accept a speaking engagement at the Animefest convention in Texas? Oh, and how about I wear the Sovereign Armor on the New York Comic Con floor too? Yeah, let’s try that.

              It was all terrifying, stressful…but thrilling. I actually enjoyed it.

              Aside from meeting amazing people, I learned a lot about where and how I needed to improve myself. But I wouldn’t have discovered this about myself if I didn’t reflect and question the so-called certainties in my life.

              Constantly seeking and experimenting with new methods and possibilities.

              When I started officially 3D printing art in 2014 and received a strong response to my work, I used to think, “This is it. 3D printing is where it’s gonna be for me.” I didn’t think I’d need to pursue anything else.

              While I had a blast breaking into the 3D printing scene and got a surprising amount of recognition and opportunities, I eventually saw 3D printing’s limitations that would prevent me from growing as an artist.

              Experimenting with materials
              Experimenting with materials and processes.

              3D printing is great but it’s not perfect for every scenario. So, I started experimenting with all kinds of other materials like resin, neoprene, silicone, etc. Don’t worry, 3D printing is not out of the picture. It’s just become part of my process. Also, I have my own 3D printer now…so YAY.

              Lumecluster Dreamer Mask Breakthrough mini
              Miniature Breakthrough mask printed on the Formlabs Form 2 printer. LOOK AT THOSE THIN DETAILS! D:

              In the end, change doesn’t happen by always doing the same thing year after year. Anyway, where’s the excitement in that? Speaking of change…

              A peek into 2017: The Phoenix armor and other goodies

              I have been expanding and mixing mediums with 3D printing and I’m excited to share where I’ll be going with my new creations. What you’ll see more of:

              • Less humanoid masks
              • Gauntlets (slightly adjustable and offered in S / M / L)…assuming I get through the tests without a hitch
              • Resin jewelry
              • Other goodies made via 3D printing + mold making and casting techniques

              One of those new mask designs is the “Phoenix” mask/visor, which I first shared in September this year), will showcase the results of my medium experimentation throughout the end 2016.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Helmet and gauntlets
              This is only a quick render of the Phoenix mask and gauntlets.

              Lumecluster Phoenix Helmet
              Phoenix mask WIP. This is not the final product.

              Seeing as how Lumecluster became known through 3D printing, I admit I was reluctant to pursue other mediums and mask styles at first. But I realize now that I shouldn’t restrict myself out of fear of what other people think. And honestly, one of the things I hate most is feeling pigeonholed. 

              So, here’s to a new beginning and rebirth of Lumecluster? I hope you find the change and growth you seek as well! Happy holidays and happy new year!

              <3 Melissa

              New mana potion pendant: fundraising for my friend with stage three cancer November 29, 2016 09:00

              Lumecluster health and mana potion pendants

              UPDATE: this article was written in 2016 and the pendants are no longer needed as fundraising for my friend.

              First, welcome to the newcomers to my site. Some of you may be dropping by because you heard about this through the other company I co-own or maybe you found your way here through social media.

              So, who am I? My name is Melissa Ng and I'm a 3D printing artist and I make intricate dreamer masks, armor, and fantasy wearable art. I've worked on projects like making masks for a JiHAE music video starring The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus to creating the Dreamer Regalia armor for actor Felicia Day. I’ve also been featured on sites like Business Insider, Tech Insider, 3D Printing Industry, Geek & Sundry, Forbes, TED Blog etc.

              Last time, I shared the health potion pendant that I created to help raise funds for my friend's father who had stage four cancer. An enormous thank you to everyone who bought the health potion pendant or helped spread the word. But now, I'm sad to say that cancer has struck another friend of mine.

              This time, I created the mana potion pendant to help raise funds for my friend and talented jazz pianist, Elaine Hyojin Kim.

              I will NOT be making a profit.

              Unlike the health potion, which restores an in-game character's health, the mana potion restores an in-game character's energy and power.

              Elaine's power and love happens to be her music. It's what gives her life, joy, and happiness...

              Lumecluster mana potion pendant

              But on May 2016, Elaine was diagnosed with stage three cancer...a rare cancer called multiple myeloma.

              Pianist Elaine Kim

              Jazz pianist Elaine Hyojin Kim

              The American Cancer Society explains that "multiple myeloma is a cancer formed by malignant plasma cells. Normal plasma cells are found in the bone marrow and are an important part of the immune system."

              Since the diagnosis, Elaine has been undergoing intensive chemotherapy, stem cell harvesting and stem cell transplants, which have left her feeling weak, tired, and debilitated.

              As a result, Elaine has also been unable to play the piano, which is heartbreaking because music is the love of her life.

              As some of you may know, Elaine is both a beloved friend and a cherished member in my life and the community. For me and countless others, Elaine was like a bard who was always uplifting everyone around her with her music.

              It's wonderful that she's getting the medical attention she needs here in NY, but medical costs and surviving in NYC is ridiculously difficult and expensive. With this kind of heavy weight on her shoulders, reclaiming her music and her life is only becoming an increasingly strenuous challenge.

              So, I made this mana potion pendant to ask for your help in raising funds for Elaine. Again, I will not be making a profit.

              Like the heart in the health potion pendant, the mana potion pendant has a star floating in the center. The slightly embossed pattern was designed to look like waves of magical energy.

              Lumecluster mana potion pendant

              Mana potion pendants will be printed and shipped directly from 3D printing service company, Shapeways. Pendant does not come with a necklace or cord.

              Lumecluster mana potion pendant

              It'll also be Elaine's birthday on December 22....

              So, whether you purchase a pendant, share this post to help spread the word or if you want to share some of your own music, any good vibes to send her way would be a wonderful birthday gift!

              Let's help her restore some of the hope and energy she needs to reclaim her musical power. Thank you for helping us spread some music, magic, and love.

              Happy Holidays!

              <3 Melissa

              P.S. Been working hard to perfect my new mask/gauntlet designs. Stay tuned :)

              Lumecluster gauntlet and mana potion pendant

              The 3D Printed Sovereign Armor / Marisha Ray photoshoot, shop update & what’s next? (Part 2 of 2) August 7, 2016 08:30

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor

              I’ll keep this blog post short since I’d love for you to go check out the gorgeous Geek & Sundry photoshoot with actor Marisha Ray. But before that, I only have two quick things to share.

              First, this experience has inspired me to keep digging deeper in finding a balance between fantasy and functional armor design. 

              I encourage aspiring artists of all types to do the same or at least take the time to explore the possibilities that history can teach you. Ian LaSpina’s (Knyght Errant) recent video makes a great argument on the value of fantasy armor design grounded in history.

              I admit I had many doubts on whether or not I could create a historically grounded design without sacrificing the fantasy element. And with the huge success of Felicia Day’s Dreamer Regalia, there were also times I felt unbearable pressure and fear that I would not be able to make the Sovereign armor equally good in its own way.

              Lumecluster Dreamer Regalia and Sovereign Armor
              Felicia Day wearing the fantastical Dreamer Regalia and Marisha Ray wearing the functional, medieval-inspired Sovereign Armor. Photographer: Eric Anderson

              In the end, both the Dreamer Regalia and Sovereign Armor are creations I’m truly proud of because they’ve opened up a new world for me. Needless to say, my creative spirit is itching to dive back in.

              For those of you who are new here, I share a lot more about this in The Making of the Sovereign Armor blog/video post.

              Second, I’ve added a new Sovereign Mask and Resilience Mask pendants in my shop.

              It may not be life-size armor, but look how tiny and cute it is!!

              QUICK RECAP! What is the Sovereign Armor? I made this in honor of the creatives out there who know that, even though it’s empowering to be the ruler of your dreams and creations, you also know how incredibly lonely the journey can often be…Because it’s yours. All the frustrations, failures, revelations, and successes. Only you truly know the struggle you put into it. Everyone else can only imagine. It’s easy to critique, judge, and assume. It’s not easy to keep creating the things that can only come from you.

              Lumecluster Sovereign Mask pendant

              Lumecluster Resilience Mask pendant

              Now, please go check out Geek & Sundry’s awesome photoshoot with Marisha Ray.

              You can also read the little interview I did with Geek & Sundry’s Jackie Cole on the Sovereign Armor.

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor
              3D Printed Sovereign Armor design: Melissa Ng (Lumecluster) | Historical Armor Consultant: Ian LaSpina (Knyght Errant) | Photographer: Eric Anderson | MUA: Misti Dawn | Model: Marisha Ray | PA: Joey Haeck | PA: Andrea Liu | Coordinator: Jackie Cole

              So, what’s next? Another armor?

              Maybe. Maybe not. You’ll just have to wait and see ?

              Whether or not I am, you’ll see hints of a new challenge and direction for Lumecluster on my Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. I’m currently developing new techniques to improve my design efficiency and most of what I’m creating will likely be in-house from now on…you’ll see what I mean soon enough.

              But for now, I’d like to take a brief breather and jump back to making jewelry, masks, and probably more gauntlets. Because gauntlets…:D

              <3 Melissa

              The Making of the Medieval-inspired 3D printed women’s Sovereign Armor (Part 1 of 2) July 19, 2016 09:00

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor

              As much as I love the fantasy Dreamer Regalia armor/dress I created for actor Felicia Day (click here to see the Geek & Sundry photoshoot), I admit I didn’t know much about armor history or functionality at the time, which raised a lot of interesting discussions.

              A lot of people also still think that 3D printing does all the work for you…it doesn’t. Even so, there were debates on whether I actually had to do “real work” since I use 3D printing as part of my process to create intricate and complex pieces. Overall, the Dreamer Regalia received an overwhelmingly positive response and I gained a wonderful experience that taught me a lot.

              So, after completing the Dreamer Regalia, my mind was already set on what I could do next. What did I learn? What else can I do to continue to help people understand the possibilities of 3D printing and break through ignorance (and even fear)? How can my work grow and improve? What can I do that’s exciting and meaningful?

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor & Dreamer Regalia
              (LEFT) Felicia Day’s Dreamer Regalia was my first attempt at making armor. (RIGHT) The Sovereign Armor is my second attempt.

              Coming from a background in media studies and marketing, the researcher in me collected and studied thousands of comments and discussions on the Dreamer Regalia armor. I noticed a few interesting trends.

              There were many disputes on armor practicality and countless people passive aggressively defining “cosplay” and “fantasy” to each other as an “art where you’re allowed to make up and create whatever you want.” And while I agree that that’s the beauty of fantasy, I’d hate for it to be used as an excuse to shut ourselves away from listening to other ideas and opportunities to learn something new (assuming that it’s a mature and non-hostile discussion…).

              There were also many men AND women debating whether the Dreamer Regalia’s chest looked feminine or sexy enough or simply referred to it as an “ugly uni-boob.” So yeah, it was also very breast-focused.

              There were also a number of armor enthusiasts who were quick to remind people that breast shaped breastplate armor would kill you in reality. And while I agree, it made me sad to see some use it as an opportunity to reduce anyone who has created impractical fantasy armor to “idiots” instead of finding a way to open up discussion to learn more about medieval armor design and history.

              It looked to me like a lot of fantasy armor and historical armor enthusiasts were pretty heated and quick to try to shut the other one up about what female armor “should” look like.

              And despite the fact that there are more and more examples where we see women looking awesome in practical armor, there still seems to be an overwhelming belief that fantasy armor that doesn’t have actual breasts just “isn’t sexy,” “isn’t showing off those feminine curves enough” or “doesn’t help people easily identify that she’s a woman.” I know this is just my opinion but how are the below images not badass??

              Fantasy game armor inspiration
              Cate Blanchett as Queen Elizabeth in Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Jamie Chung as Mulan in Once Upon a Time, Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth in Game of Thrones, Cassandra Pentaghast concept art from Dragon Age: Inquisition (video game)

              I admit I’m guilty of drawing breast-shaped breastplates on my female character’s armor since I didn’t know any better. Back then, I didn’t do the research and was mostly influenced by what I saw in film, games, and other fantasy concept artwork. But I was definitely never fond of the bikini armor…I mean, come on…

              Girls and videogames trope
              “Girls and Videogames” artwork by Irene Martini

              As someone who started pursuing fantasy art seriously only a few years ago
              , all these discussions got me wondering how I wanted to grow as an artist. Did I want to throw my interpretation into the mix to help show that a woman can look just as beautiful and sexy in practical looking fantasy armor (that actually covered her body)? Of course.

              It became obvious that my next challenge would be to create a practical and versatile Medieval-inspired fantasy armor for a woman.

              I didn’t want to simply make an armor that would look nice worn all together. I also wanted the armor to have the versatility for someone to wear certain components independently to create a greater variety of costume/outfit combinations.

              For example, the gorget (neck armor) looks completely different and has a lot of unseen detail when it is combined with the breastplate. When worn independently, it looks more like a large collar necklace.

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor gorget

              And since the armor is made of a flexible elasto plastic, it will be able to fit a decent range of body shapes and sizes.

              So, why is this called the “Sovereign Armor”?

              While the Sovereign Armor was originally designed with women in mind, the armor’s message is for everyone.

              I made this in honor of the creatives out there who know that, even though it’s empowering to be the ruler of your dreams and creations, you also know how incredibly lonely the journey can often be.

              The intricate patterns are meant to look like rolling waves while the fluting is meant to look like ripples. I wanted the glowing LEDs to give the impression of magical and ethereal energy and symbolize the light of the creative.

              And the light of the creative is a beautiful and painful thing. Beautiful because it’s what inspires you to create. Painful because it’s always at risk of being snuffed out. When an idea is forming, that creative fire feels unstoppable. But, as we all know, nothing worthwhile ever comes without pain and effort.

              Maybe you’ve encountered people who try to douse your flames or complications start getting in your way. Or perhaps the people you once admired are now on a mission to tear you down, dismiss your hard work or make you feel “less than.” It hurts, but if you care about what you create, you’ll keep standing up to fight and constantly re-fuel that fire.

              Because it’s yours. All the frustrations, failures, revelations, and successes. Only you truly know the struggle and sacrifices you put into it. Everyone else can only imagine.

              It’s easy to critique, judge, and assume. It’s not easy to keep creating the things that can only come from you.

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor

              Now, let’s break down the 518 hours that went into completing the 8 pound 3D printed Sovereign Armor (this does not include 3D printing hours)

              IMPORTANT: Please do not email, comment or PM me asking for 3D printing material costs, request to have all my mask and armor 3D files, or ask me to teach you how to re-create the 3D model of each of my pieces of artwork. If you have more questions, please refer to my FAQ.

              88 HOURS — Researching Medieval armor, experimenting with flexible 3D printing materials, exploring my connection with intricately carved Chinese artwork, and developing new finishing methods

              The Sovereign Armor’s extremely flexible (and porous) elasto plastic material  is completely different than the Dreamer Regalia (nylon), which meant I had a ton of new things to think about. For instance, I spent a lot of time testing new materials, paints, glow powders, and finishes that would work with the elasto plastic surface. I also felt 10x more obsessive over the little details since this was, once again, a one shot 3D print.

              Since my goal was to also make a more practical female armor, I started out with good ol’ Google, but eventually purchased some textbooks, like Techniques Of Medieval Armour Reproduction: The 14th Century by Brian Price and a few other texts to brush up on some medieval history. Since I live in New York, I was also grateful to be able to visit the armor collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

              I used the images below (and a lot more) as references while designing the Sovereign Armor.

              Armor references
              LEFT: Gothic Armor, late 15th century; extensively restored | TOP THREE: Barbute (ca. 1460), barbute (ca. 1470–80), sallet (ca. 1470–80) | BOTTOM THREE: Sallet (ca. 1510–20), burgonet (ca. 1540), burgonet (1575–1600)

              Gauntlet references
              These authentic custom made recreations of a pair of gothic gauntlets were great references for my own gothic-inspired gauntlets. Click through to see more gorgeous images at

              I eventually decided I was most drawn to the 15th century German Gothic armor style and all of its beautiful fluting. I was also in love with the burgonet, sallet, and barbute helmet styles. And even though I had tons of reference images to work with, I still felt like I needed a bit more guidance.

              Like my Dreamer Masks and Dreamer Regalia, I once again wanted to blend this with my long love for Chinese carvings. I grew up seeing a lot of Chinese artwork all the time, so I naturally wanted to infuse some more of my Chinese aesthetics to it. While I was more comfortable with my Chinese art sensibilities, I was less knowledgeable when it came to 15th century German Gothic armor.

              Chinese carving artwork in the Ng family
              Chinese carved lacquer, stone, wood, ceramic artwork that I grew up seeing in the Ng family household.

              So, I asked medieval armor educator, reenactor, and Youtuber, Ian LaSpina (aka Knyght Errant), if he would be willing to be my armor consultant (after I watched and re-watched every single one of his videos…o_o)

              As an avid fan of both fantasy and historical armor, he could see the best of both worlds. You can get a glimpse of his content in the playlist below:

              Knyght Errant’s Youtube channel
               and website offers easily digestible content that explores medieval history, armor, armor maintenance, and various types of armor attire and undergarments. His channel and website are an amazing source of inspiration and knowledge that’s perfect for the complete medieval armor beginner, cosplayer, costume maker, and anyone interested in getting an intro to historical armor design and expanding their visual library.

              Ian was kind enough to review my design progress every step of the way through Sketchfab’s 3D viewer to ensure I didn’t make any impractical armor components that might inhibit the wearer’s movement or…y’know…end up harming the wearer instead, haha (I’m looking at you, dangerously spiky pauldrons!! :P)

              After cramming a ton of new information in my head, I spent some time applying what I learned by trying to identify armor and its components at the MET. I also looked back at my old fantasy books/novels and armor Pinterest boards and wow… I mean, I knew there were clearly problems with the really ridiculous sets of female fantasy armor, but even the less impractical-looking ones looked seriously problematic (in both men and women’s fantasy armor). I felt ready to finally put myself to the test…

              20 HOURS — Sketching and getting body measurements (no 3D scans were used)

              Armor assembly research
              I got all the necessary measurements by following these diagrams from Techniques Of Medieval Armour Reproduction: The 14th Century by Brian Price.

              I was like, “Hm. I could get a 3D scan…but do I want to try and 3D model and print some armor without using a 3D scan instead? ….SURE, WHY NOT.” So, using the diagram above as a guide, I used a tape measure and homemade calipers to take my own body measurements.

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor Sketch

              I won’t lie. It was a challenge to keep myself from accidentally letting a reference influence my design too much. Eventually, I was able to pull together a very simple sketch that looked good enough.

              5 HOURS — Creating a 3D model based on my body measurements (no 3D scans were used)

              Instead of modeling my figure from scratch, I wanted to save time by using this program I already had called Design Doll, which allows you to easily customize a figure to any specifications. So, I adjusted the Design Doll figure to match the reference photos of the front, back, and side of my body.

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor measurements
              The left model was imported from Design Doll and into Blender. Model was adjusted to match my body measurements..

              Then I imported the model into Blender and fine tuned it with my body measurements. I’m a pretty average size and weight (5’4″, 128 lbs), so this armor would have no trouble fitting someone similar to my size or slimmer than me since the armor would be able to flex and bend around the body.

              43 HOURS — Modeling the base armor design (91 total pieces)

              The biggest challenge was modeling the gauntlets and figuring out how the pieces would articulate and fit together. The second toughest was modeling the helmet. I had to go through many iterations before I was satisfied with a design that made sense with the rest of the armor. The third toughest was probably the fauld (the armor pieces below the waist) and pauldrons since they were also articulated.

              By the time I finished modeling all the base armor components, I realized it was made up of 91 individual pieces that would need to be assembled into a total of 15 armor components. The Dreamer Regalia, on the other hand, was made up of a total of 6 pieces that required absolutely no assembly.

              9 HOURS — Drawing the intricate armor patterns

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor sketch details

              I took screenshots of each armor component in Blender’s orthographic view and printed them out on sheets of paper that I could draw on. No matter what, I still always find joy in drawing by hand with a nice, even flowing pen.

              I decided where I wanted to place my intricate patterns based on where I wanted LEDs to shine through. I wanted the armor design to give off the feeling that the wearer was filled with magical energy without overdoing it.

              Although you probably can’t see it, the pattern also outlines the embossed details.

              23 HOURS — Modeling the intricate details into the armor

              This is the easy part and the step I find most therapeutic. Turns out the Sovereign Armor is also my first symmetrical piece, so that made it a little breezier. All I had to do was load up my pattern drawings as background images into Blender and then modeled out all the intricate details along the base armor design I had previously created. I also made a Sovereign Staff to go along with the armor.

              As I’ve shared many times, I rely pretty heavily on Blender’s shrinkwrap modifier, followed with the solidify and subdivision surface modifiers, plus jumping into sculpting mode every now and then (but not very often). If you want to get a sense of how I model, you can see timelapses below that I recorded for Felicia Day’s Dreamer Regalia.

              My final and favorite part was when I brought out the extra little details like the embossing and other small sculptural elements.

              17 HOURS — Getting the design 3D print-ready with thickness checks and other troubleshooting

              I didn’t want to rush through this part. Other than dividing up the armor into smaller groups (that would fit the print bed), checking for non-manifolds and thin structures, this step is largely comprised of me asking myself over and over again, “Do I really like this design? Am I truly satisfied with it? Is there anything I half-assed or muddled through that I could do better?”

              If I can’t come up with a response to any those questions, then I’m good to send it off to the printers.

              20 HOURS — Rendering a simple preview of the armor as a painting reference

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor render

              I rendered the color and LEDs to give myself an idea of what the final piece would look like while I was waiting for them to finish printing 

              My goal was to hopefully make the 3D print look better than this quick render.

              While Blender was rendering the image, I actually spent all these hours researching color schemes (thanks The Replica Prop Forum folks for your input!), fabric, foam, and basically figuring out every other task that I would have to take care of once my armor was finished printing.

              For armor color, I decided I wanted to go with an icy silver/blue with splashes of gold to go with the warm white LEDs.

              15 HOURS — Cleaning and gluing

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor parts
              Elasto plastic 3D prints being taken out and cleaned.

              I had to wear a mask when handling the fresh elasto plastic 3D prints. Although the prints were pretty clean, I could still feel a lot of dusty, rubbery particles everywhere. I did not want to risk breathing it all into my lungs.  Before I could do anything, I cleaned up all the armor pieces with a surface cleaner, which removed most of the particles.

              Once the cleaner dried, it was time to glue. The backplate, plackart, helmet, and largest lame (the pieces that make up the fauld) on the front fauld piece had to be split in two while the breastplate had to be split into four pieces in order for it to be printed.

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor parts

              So, putting them together was not fun since elasto plastic is pretty floppy when it’s unfinished. With a lot of carefully placed E6000 glue, it all came together without too much trouble.

              12 HOURS — Sealing the armor components (multiple layers)

              Elasto plastic is extremely porous and does not have a smooth surface. Let’s just say, if you went straight to painting without prepping and sanding properly, you’d probably have armor that would look more like fuzzy felt rather than metal. NOT PRETTY.

              So, to deal with that, I sealed every single component with matte varnish, which is very flexible, levels well, and also sands easily and smoothly. While a varnish spray could’ve sped things up, it was too thin, which is why I opted to apply it by hand. What I like about doing this is that it gave the elasto plastic pieces a little more rigidity without eliminating its flexibility.

              81 HOURS — Sanding, more cleaning, and making the surface paint-ready

              From my experience, directly sanding elasto plastic isn’t all that great since it’s kind of rubbery. It was also a pain because my armor was designed to the thinnest (and safest) possible thickness of 1.1 mm, so I couldn’t risk sanding it too heavily.

              Some prints came out with little to no print steps/lines. A few other prints, on the other hand, had severe lines that popped out very visibly…like on the mask. I’d say the ugly print line was about 1 cm wide and popped up on the mask maybe 1.2 mm, which effectively made the mask look like it had giant stripes across its face.

              To fix this problem, I applied a few layers of matte varnish on all components and several more layers on major problem areas. I could get away with cleaning up intricate details with my Dremel, but the large surfaces needed to be hand sanded. Keep in mind that elasto plastic is quite a soft material (and mine was already very thin), which meant I had to be careful not to overdue the sanding or accidentally sand out some of the crease details and fluting.

              Once the sanding was out of the way, I used a surface cleaner again and re-applied another few layers of varnish. Afterwards, I sprayed a bit of Bulldog adhesion promoter on all the surfaces just in case.

              24 HOURS — Painting the basecoat (hand painted)

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor helmet

              I had a good experience with leather paints on elasto plastic because it didn’t crack even after a lot of bending and flexing in cold/hot temperatures. If there was cracking, it was usually because the surface wasn’t prepped well, which could be remedied with some adhesion promoter.

              I needed to paint on 2-3 thick layers, which is why I decided to hand paint the black leather paint. The great thing about leather paint is that it also levels really nicely, so you don’t really see any brush strokes.

              25 HOURS — Airbrushing

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor gorget airbrushing

              I first airbrushed a decent amount of bronze leather paint, followed by a layer of pewter mixed with a few drops of light blue. The final color was a mixture of silver and a very tiny amount of blue turquoise leather paint, which brightened it up nicely.

              15 HOURS — Hand painting gold embossed details

              I probably went over the embossed details 3-4 times with gold leather paint on the breastplate, vambraces, helmet, mask/visor, and gorget.

              6 HOURS — Sealing the armor

              I sprayed several layers of gloss varnish on the inside of the armor with enough time to dry between coats, of course.  I then hand painted several layers of gloss varnish on the outside of the armor.

              115 HOURS — Creating multiple layered lining, LED placement, and connecting armor components

              Lumeluster Sovereign Armor lighting

              The armor had a busy traveling schedule ahead of it and I was running out of time. So, I had to enlist my sister’s help (Fiona Ng aka DarthAsterisk) for a lot of this portion. As an art toy designer (she also makes armored beauties!), she already knew how to handle a lot of the tools (and pressure) and probably kept me from losing my sanity as we watched many sunrises and sunsets together. There are five layers that make up the glowing parts of the armor:

              • Thin sheet of plastic
              • Gold satin cloth
              • 2-5 layers of foam (1/16 inch thick)
              • Fairy light LEDs
              • Canvas

              The plastic made the satin gold cloth have a nice matching shine similar to the gloss varnished armor. I wanted the armor to also look good when the LEDs are off and the plastic over the gold satin looked pretty decent. The thin layers of foam helped diffuse the LEDs and the canvas made it a little more comfortable for the wearer.

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor lighting

              I chose thin fairy light LEDs mainly because of time, it was simple, and it wouldn’t add too much extra bulk since the armor is well-fitted.

              When it came to connecting all the armor components, I decided it would be safer not to rivet the soft plastic and went with E6000 glue instead.

              Ian Laspina Armor reference
              Ian LaSpina (aka Knyght Errant) provided reference images from his own custom made armor to help me understand how to articulate parts of the armor like the fauld. Learn more at

              Most of the articulated parts (like the pauldrons, rerebraces, and faulds) were attached with pieces of thick canvas. After all, I wanted the wearer to be able sit properly and move their arms and shoulders.

              And if you’re reading this because you want to find out how I made the articulated gauntlets, I wish I could share some shortcut, but I do not know a faster way other than studying armor.

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor gauntlets

              I suggest studying actual historical armor references (do not simply Google armor because you’ll find many inaccurate replicas) or visit places like The Metropolitan Museum of Art if possible. The MET website has a vast resource of great images and sites like Knyght Errant’s Youtube and website are also an amazing place to start understanding the history, design, purpose, and function of medieval armor.

              Even if you don’t make masks or armor, there’s always something to learn that could take your work to the next level.  No matter what it is you do or create, I truly believe that the moment we believe we “know enough” is when we fail and stop growing.

              Lumecluster Sovereign Armor

              I mean, I know there’s still so much I can learn about armor. But after taking even just a little time to study and understand how medieval armor has evolved and how it’s made, coming up with another design was 10x easier (than when I was creating the Dreamer Regalia) when I understood each armor component’s purpose and function. And when I was just starting out with my masks, I learned so much in communities I never expected to dive into, like The Replica Prop Forum, cosplay sites, and LARP groups.

              I also know I’ve only recently started familiarizing myself with the cosplay community. But after studying up a bit on armor, it got me wondering how awesome it could be to see more cosplayers transform some of their favorite female character’s (impractical) armor designs into something more functional. It could add a whole lot more fun varieties to the cosplay mix. Sort of like when people started envisioning more historically accurate Disney princesses or like artist Claire Hummel’s (aka shoomlah) inspiring princess interpretations.

              I believe it’s important to always stay hungry to learn and expand your mind. It’s always a plus to do extra research and develop a better perspective and a more informed design. You’ll be surprised by what you are capable of when you open yourself up to learn beyond your comfort zone.

              As always, thanks for reading. I can’t wait to show you what Geek & Sundry has in store for this armor, so stay tuned!

              <3 Melissa

              New health potion pendant (+ how it could help heal a real human life) March 28, 2016 09:00

              Lumecluster Health Potion

              UPDATE: this article was written in 2016 and the pendants are no longer needed as fundraising for my friend.

              For those of you who play games, you know what health / mana potions are all about.

              For those of you who aren't familiar, a health potion is an item an in-game character would drink if their hit points (or "health") falls too low after taking too much damage from an attack. Drinking a health potion would instantly restore a character's health.

              But wish as we might, instantly healing magical health potions don't exist (yet)...and we heal quite a lot slower in real life. Which brings me to why I'm writing this post.

              My dear friend, Rishi Gandhi, needs help to save his father's life from stage four lung cancer.

              I've known Rishi ever since my college days. He was the goofy/tough guy (but really a big softy) who would geek out about games, shows, and making zombie movies with his members as the president of Fordham University's Contemporary Science Fiction (CSF) club.

              Even after university, he would always make people laugh with his spot-on impressions or crazy stories. And whenever a friend was bullied, threatened, or hurt, he never hesitated to let them know he was there to support them.

              So, it broke my heart when he shared the news about his father's (Jay Gandhi) stage four lung cancer. As you probably already guessed, the medical expenses are EXPENSIVE. But there's more to the story. Here it is in Rishi's words:

              "My father grew up dreaming of moving to the United States, but was unable to see himself through the citizenship process. He was able to work hard, and send me to school in the United States from the age of 13. He worked hard to support me thousands of miles away.

              While I was in school, he worked hard to also keep my ailing mother who suffers to this day from various illnesses. 

Today, I want to work hard for my father.

              My father was recently diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, and I need all the help I can get to help deal with the medical expenses...

              My father is the linchpin that held my family together during the tough times of my youth. I want to come through for him in his toughest time of need."

              So, I made a health potion pendant to help raise funds for Rishi's father's medical expenses.  I will not be making a profit.

              I designed the health potion pendant in the intricate Lumecluster style. Of course, what health potion would be complete without its little heart or "+" symbol?

              The health potion pendant is available in colorful nylon colors ($15-$20), steel finishes ($38-$48) or final metal options like bronze, brass or silver ($68-$108).

              Health potion pendants will be printed and shipped directly from 3D printing service giant, Shapeways. NOTE: pendant does not come with a necklace or cord.

              Every health potion pendant sold could help provide support for the services that Rishi's father needs.

              Lumecluster Health Potion

              Sure, we may live in a world without magic or miraculous health potions. But that's okay because every bit of love and support has the potential to truly work wonders.

              Whether or not you buy a pendant, I'd be so grateful if you could take a second to share this post and help spread the word to help my good friend.

              As always, thank you for reading.

              <3 Melissa

              Felicia Day / 3D printed Dreamer Regalia armor photoshoot + battling impostor syndrome (Part 3 of 3) February 15, 2016 08:30

              Lumecluster Dreamer Regalia

              QUICK RECAP. What is the 3D printed Dreamer Regalia armor? The Shapeways-sponsored Dreamer Regalia armor (with 3D scanning provided by Cokreeate) was created to inspire people to fight for their creative ambitions and to believe we have what it takes to make something amazing.

              It symbolizes the protection for our dreams and is being created in honor of the Dreamer within each of us. The Dreamer that wants to give life to the imagination, make a difference, change things, push boundaries, and not conform to the status quo. Actor and Geek & Sundry founder Felicia Day had all of these qualities and more, which made her the perfect match for the armor.

              Before I share my final thoughts on the amazing response we got on the Dreamer Regalia armor photoshoot, I thought I’d put together a little archive of the most vital links covering the Dreamer Regalia journey for anyone who wants the full details:

              1. On lacking “proper artistic credentials” & 3D printing the Dreamer Regalia armor for actor Felicia Day (provides a project overview, armor design timelapses, and evolution of my art)
              2. 228 hours later, the 3D printed Dreamer Regalia Armor for actor Felicia Day is finished! (covers painting, finishing, and finished armor preview)
              3. Shapeways interview series where I share my process in greater detail
              4. Geek & Sundry photoshoot / video + my interview with them (click here to see the entire gallery)

              Lumecluster Dreamer Regalia

              My final thoughts on the Dreamer Regalia journey…. Holy shit.

              The response to the Dreamer Regalia armor reveal was beyond anything I would have ever imagined. I’m still having a hard time believing the amazing reaction after I’d spent so many days mentally preparing myself for the worst…

              In fact, right before the photoshoot reveal on Geek & Sundry, I was staring up at the ceiling thinking to myself, “No one’s gonna like it. Everyone’s gonna hate it. Well…maybe a few people will like it. That would be nice.”

              *Looks at the clock and realizes it’s almost time for the reveal.*

              “No wait…OMG are you crazy? DAMMIT, THEY NEED TO TAKE IT DOWN. NO ONE SHOULD SEE IT. IT’S GONNA BE AWFUL. NOOOOOO. AAAAH.” My impostor syndrome was strong that night and I very nearly had a breakdown.

              And then my social media notifications and email started going haywire. I didn’t look for a good half hour or so because I didn’t want to see how ugly it must have gotten. I thought, “They must be telling me to go to hell and to never make art again. Yeah.”

              My breathing was strained with anxiety, my chest felt painfully tight, my face was burning hot, my hands were shaking…and then I finally looked.

              Sure, there were expected criticisms here and there. But overall, there was an overwhelming amount of kindness, love, and support for my work…which I have never really experienced before.

              “At no point am I ever threatened by people who question who I am, or why I like the things I do, or my legitimacy. Because I know who I am very strongly, and I think that’s what geek culture can reinforce.” —Felicia Day

              For the longest time, the “authorities” in my life told me I could never be an artist. That art was a waste of time. That I could never create art that moved others. That I would be a laughing stock. And yet here I was receiving an enormous amount of appreciation for my art for the first time in my life.

              I burst into tears. I watched the Geek & Sundry video and heard Felicia’s uplifting words and then I cried some more. I can’t help it that I’m sensitive…

              As I write this, there’s a part of me that’s wondering if I’m still dreaming. Everyday, I used to fear that moment someone would call me out and tell me I have no right to be doing any of this. But then I realized…those people don’t matter because they didn’t really give a shit about my kind of art. My art wasn’t for them.

              What matters is knowing what art I truly wanted to create and understanding who cared about my kind of creations…and then putting it out there.

              Heck, I know my art isn’t for everyone and I don’t want it to be for everyone. Because if I tried to create for everyone, then my work would touch no one. My work is meant to appeal to some people and that’s more than enough. And I’m thankful I’m finally understanding who those people are.

              So, know who it is you want to create for. But above all, know what it is you dream and geek out and obsess about creating. Chances are someone out there cares about it just as much as you.

              <3 Melissa

              228 hours later, the 3D printed Dreamer Regalia Armor for actor Felicia Day is finished! (Part 2 of 3) January 21, 2016 08:30

              Lumecluster Dreamer Regalia

              Read part 1: 
              Project overview, designing the armor, and evolution of my art

              Read part 3: Geek & Sundry photoshoot and video of armor

              QUICK RECAP. What is the 3D printed Dreamer Regalia armor? The Shapeways-sponsored Dreamer Regalia armor (with 3D scanning provided by Cokreeate) was created to inspire people to fight for their creative ambitions and to believe we have what it takes to make something amazing. It symbolizes the protection for our dreams and is being created in honor of the Dreamer within each of us. The Dreamer that wants to give life to the imagination, make a difference, change things, push boundaries, and not conform to the status quo. Actor and Geek & Sundry founder Felicia Day had all of these qualities and more, which made her the perfect match for the armor.


              “Every single job is a challenge. You are walking into a new set, a new character, creating a world and trying to get comfortable to do your best work.”—Felicia Day

              Ever have one of those projects where you look back and think, “I can’t believe I finished that…” Yeah, well this was one of those projects.

              Looking back, it was an emotional rollercoaster that swung between believing I could take on anything to feeling like I was the most incompetent moron on the planet. I was constantly battling the thought that I was crazy to have proposed this project because…y’ know…I had never created a custom fitted suit of armor before. And even though Chinese carvings were a big inspiration for my Dreamer Masks, a design of this size and scale was something else and I was really afraid of disappointing people with my interpretation. Or anything this big for that matter. But hey, there’s a first for everything and somehow I made it out alive!

              Chinese carvings
              Chinese carved lacquer, stone, wood, ceramic artwork that I grew up seeing in the Ng family household. One area of inspiration for the Dreamer Regalia.

              Lumecluster Dreamer Regalia

              Lumecluster Dreamer Regalia

              Lumecluster Dreamer Regalia

              Lumecluster Dreamer Regalia

              It was also exciting to see Felicia unboxing the Dreamer Regalia on Periscope (and also kinda stressful since there was a live chat going on as well). Geek & Sundry photoshoot of Felicia wearing the Dreamer Regalia coming soonSubscribe to find out when it’s released.

              Of course, it wasn’t without bumps along the way. There were scheduling complications, 3D printing delays, communication issues, missing supplies, losing lots of sleep, working through holidays, and giving myself several crash courses to develop skills I didn’t have yet. Even so, the experience was exhilarating and I wouldn’t change any of it.

              I didn’t know how to do everything I needed in order to accomplish the project. But I knew I could at least start with one little challenge at a time to get there.

              “…don’t chase perfection for perfection’s sake, or for anyone else’s sake at all. If you strive for something, make sure it’s for the right reasons. And if you fail, that will be a better lesson for you than any success you’ll ever have. Because you learn a lot from screwing up. Being perfect . . . not so much.”—Felicia Day, You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)

              As I immersed myself in the project, I found countless questions I didn’t know the answer to and encountered many holes in my skills and knowledge. The fear in me was growing and I had to fight the scared voice in the back of my head that screamed, “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THIS! YOU DON’T KNOW ENOUGH! YOU’RE GONNA MAKE A FOOL OF YOURSELF.”

              But I realized if I wanted to keep making bigger and more challenging projects, I needed to learn how to keep my anxieties in check. I needed to break my fears down into smaller manageable tasks.

              So, within the 228 hours devoted to creating the Dreamer Regalia armor, I had to patiently work through the following:

              • What I DID know how to do
                  • 3D modeling
                  • Pattern drawing
                  • Basic video editing skills
                  • Sanding, painting & finishing (video below)

              • What I DIDN’T know how to do (or have)
                • Costume/figure sketching (it’s been years since I drew figures)
                • Creating an armor design that would be easy to put on and take off
                • 3D scanning Felicia Day (LA-based company, Cokreeate, saved me!)
                • Recording my creative process
                • Model rendering, materials, shaders, lighting (to create 3D previews before 3D printing)
                • Resin casting
                • Finding LEDs that could be easily hidden in the armor design
                • A bigger spray paint booth (I had to make a new one)

              “I have some ideas on how to fix that. They’re not very good ideas, but at least they’re ideas!”—Adam Savage, Mythbusters

              What’s funny is how often we get so worked up about how much we don’t know and forget to visualize how much we could know and grow in the long run if only we give ourselves a shot.

              Sure, the list in what I DIDN’T know may have been longer than what I DID know. But by the time I completed the project, I ended up knowing all of the above (or knew enough to get by). I would have missed out on a lot of knowledge and experience if I didn’t move beyond my fear of “not knowing enough.” All I had to do to get past it was to just take action one small step at a time.

              Below is the full playlist of videos documenting the creation process for the Dreamer Regalia armor.

              Taking chances helped me discover new friends, ideas, and possibilities.

              “Each one of us is finite, and if we can spread ourselves out in a way to inspire and help other people to be all they can be, I think that’s so much more important than one person’s glory.”—Felicia Day

              The Dreamer Regalia armor is truly my dream project. I never imagined I’d be able to collaborate with someone as amazing as Felicia Day—someone I deeply respect and admire. I thought I would have to wait maybe another 2-4 years before even thinking I could have the chance to work with someone like her.

              As I step back and look at the completed armor again, I reminisce about how all this became possible. I think back to the chat I had with 3D printing service Shapeways‘ Andrew Thomas who presented the opportunity to make the initial idea pitch.

              I remember the day I literally cried when I got the email reply from Geek & SundryFelicia Day‘s assistant, Jackie Cole, who responded to my email pitch (I’m sure everyone around me thought I suddenly went insane. Oooh well.). I flip back to the (sometimes hilarious) 100+ email thread and feel grateful to have this amazing new friend despite still never meeting in person.

              I feel lucky and thankful LA-based 3D scanning company, Cokreeate, actually responded to my Instagram comment asking them to join us in making this project a reality. Without them, custom fitting this armor to Felicia’s measurements would have been much tougher.

              No doubt, taking chances often feels scary and we all have that fear of being rejected or failing miserably. At the same time, taking chances can also open the possibility to bring about amazing opportunities. Who knows what could happen? Maybe nothing. Or maybe something. You’d have to try to find out.

              So, start before you’re ready because your dreams depend on you.

              “People don’t appreciate that when you’re on the Internet, it’s a 24/7 job. Even if you’re not releasing episodes, your show is living and breathing on the Internet because there’s a community around it. Ninety percent of the work is after the web series is shot, and you have to constantly maintain your community, because it’s all you have.”—Felicia Day

              I get it. We all want to have the comfort of feeling ready before stepping into the unknown. But what does it feel like to finally be “ready”? Truth is no one knows because it simply doesn’t exist.

              As I’ve just shared, I felt far from ready for this project and I was terrified of screwing everything up. But I also had a lot of enthusiasm, some experience creating larger 3D printed wearable items, and a belief that I could somehow work it all out in the end. That was enough for me to believe this could really be pulled off.

              Lumecluster Making Dreamer Regalia
              (LEFT) Unfinished 3D printed armor in white, strong & flexible nylon. (RIGHT) Finished armor chest piece.

              Dreams don’t come to life by simply wishing for them to grow. They blossom only when we actively nurture them. Like a baby, it depends on you for its survival and needs your guidance for a long while before it can walk on its own. Even after its matured, it’ll always need your love and support.

              So, over to you. What’s your dream project? What steps could you take or have you been taking to make it real?

              <3 Melissa

              P.S. Click here to read the final blog post (Part 3 of 3) and see images/video from the Geek & Sundry photoshoot.

              2015 Year in Review: Finding Innovation in Solitude (+new jewelry designs) December 31, 2015 08:30

              Lumecluster Dreamer Pendant Innovation Solitude

              Slumps. Getting stuck in a rut. Hitting a wall. We've all experienced them.

              Whatever you call it, at some point you've probably wondered, "Is this the best I can do? Where do I go from here? Will I ever be good enough?"

              Oftentimes, our reflex is to keep looking outward for inspiration. While I'm all for expanding your idea and visual library, constantly looking for inspiration may run the risk of becoming too heavily influenced by other people's ideas or result in feeling horribly inadequate in comparison to others.

              Having confidence in the quality of your own work is built on the inside, not on the outside. This may come off as a "duh" statement, but bear with me. This has been a very hard lesson for me to learn, especially this year.

              “Solitude is a catalyst for innovation.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

              I've spent so much of my life constantly seeking outside approval, people pleasing, and conforming to other people's interests and ideas in order to avoid feeling like an outcast. While doing so brought some comfort, it came at the cost of not having my own voice, not trusting my own skills, and not feeling like I had control of my identity.

              For years, my confidence was dependent on external approval and other people's opinions, which meant I crumbled the moment I stopped receiving it. So, 2015 was my year I was determined to change that.

              But to do this, I realized I needed solitude, which I often forgot to give myself. One way I liked to remind myself was to reread portions of Susan Cain's TED speech, The Power of Introverts:

              "...solitude is a crucial ingredient often to creativity...Now, of course, this does not mean that we should all stop collaborating...but it does mean that solitude matters and that for some people it is the air that they breathe...And in fact, we have known for centuries about the transcendent power of solitude. It's only recently that we've strangely begun to forget it. If you look at most of the world's major religions, you will find seekers -- Moses, Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad -- seekers who are going off by themselves alone to the wilderness, where they then have profound epiphanies and revelations that they then bring back to the rest of the community. So, no wilderness, no revelations.

              This is no surprise, though, if you look at the insights of contemporary psychology. It turns out that we can't even be in a group of people without instinctively mirroring, mimicking their opinions."

              Lumecluster Dreamer Pendant Innovation Solitude
              Lumecluster Dreamer Pendant Innovation Solitude

              My second way was to create a pendant and bracelet that helped quickly remind me to reclaim my solitude and to pause, breathe, and think in those moments when my thoughts became panicked, frustrated or stressed. The Solitude & Innovation pendant and cuff are available in the Lumecluster shop.

              Lumecluster Dreamer Bracelet Innovation Solitude

              Lumecluster Dreamer Bracelet Innovation Solitude

              As someone who frequently gets lost in negative thought, creating this helped anchor me back into reality. And seeing how 2015 is coming to a close, I figured it was a good idea to spend some time in solitude and look back at some of my most notable experiences this year, the key takeaways, and how you might be able to apply the lessons from my experiences and mistakes for a better 2016.

              1.) How you label yourself is how you limit yourself

              "I'm not the type of person to do X. I'm just not smart enough to do Y. I'm not wired to do Z. It doesn't come naturally to me." We are all guilty of this.

              Usually we express these kinds of self-limiting insecurities when we're faced with something unexpectedly difficult. My guess is that it may often stem from past negative experience or stories. For me, I had a negative experience with writing.

              For years, I'd say stuff like, "Writing has always been difficult for me" or "Writing just doesn't come as easily to me like it does for other people" or "I've just never been good at writing."

              So, when I was faced with writing the Lumecluster Dreamer Creed (and each blog post), I was overwhelmed with anxiety. Every step of the way, I kept telling myself how much I sucked at writing and how impossibly stupid I was for trying to write at all.

              It wasn't until a friend asked me to tell him what exactly it was that bothered me so much about writing. The truth is I used to be terrified of writing (and speaking) ever since my first grade teacher assumed I didn't know English just because I was quiet (despite being born a native New Yorker). She often yelled at me in front of my classmates, which of course led to a lot of teasing.

              In retrospect, my habit of putting down my own writing was a sad sort of defense to protect myself from feeling hurt again. But in truth, it made the act of writing even more stressful. In short, my ability to write was paralyzed by the pain of my past.

              But once I was able to identify the basis of my fear and set it aside, I was able to start moving forward without let it control me.

              What you can do:

              • The next time you're faced with a difficult task, pay attention to how you describe yourself. If you start saying phrases like, "I'm just not the type" or "It doesn't come naturally," stop and ask yourself what's the real reason behind them? Is it because of a bad experience? Is it because you don't like practicing it or that you actually don't enjoy it? How you talk about yourself has a lot of influence over how you (don't) grow and can make or break your confidence and your ability to climb to new heights.
              • Once you identify your fear or anxiety (and be honest with yourself), set it aside and reframe your thoughts. Tell yourself that this is simply another skill that will take time to learn and can be improved with practice. Sure, it won't be amazing the first time through, but it's possible for you to get better if you are willing to put the work into it.

              2.) Develop style/focus by diversifying your projects and explorations

              This is especially important if you have some decent skill in something but haven't quite figured out how to expand with it yet.

              As I've mentioned before, I experimented with many mediums over the years before I decided to stick with 3D printing intricate Dreamer Masks, jewelry and other designs in 2014.

              Although I saw a lot of potential in 3D printing and became pretty happy with my style, I was worried that I'd be missing out on other cool projects if I stuck with making intricate designs.

              Then in November 2014, I was asked to design masks for a JiHAE music video starring The Walking Dead actor, Norman Reedus. While it was a very interesting and challenging project, they needed masks that were extremely different from my usual style. Even so, I had always wondered whether or not I'd like to make creepier masks and this was the perfect reason to find out.

              The project finally wrapped up and launched in May 2015, which was exciting and a relief. It was exciting because I got to make creepy looking masks and picked up a lot of new skills in a very short period of time. It was a relief because I realized I didn't really like making creepy masks.

              What worried me most was how the project didn't at all match Lumecluster's message and style. It occurred to me that if someone looked at these music video masks, they'd never think, "Hey, Lumecluster did that." I also started getting tons of requests from people who wanted masks of their own face or celebrity faces... No, thank you.

              After realizing I didn't want to have a repeat of this kind of project, it was easier for me to decide what projects to create, accept, and turn down. The best part was that it freed up a lot of mental space, energy, time, and renewed my joy for creating Dreamer Masks.

              What you can do:

              • Experiment/explore something different from what you typically make. Whether you're just starting out or pretty developed, it's still useful to carve out a little time to do this at least once a week.
              • Maybe it's trying a different medium or playing with a different style. Reading and researching literature in fields completely different than your own also open new ways of thinking.
              • Pay attention to what piques your interest and what bores you. Dig deeper into anything that could be connected to what excites you and put whatever doesn't hold your interest on the back burner. Trial and error is your best friend in finding clarity and discovering new paths.

              3.) Learn daunting new skills by breaking them down into friendly bite-sized tasks

              Ever see something awesome and think, "Holy crap, I want to learn how to do that" only to realize you have no idea where to start?

              Well, a lot of people stop there and never go beyond simply wishing. My belief is that this usually happens because they approach learning a new skill as either an enormous undertaking they must perfect in the very first attempt or they've decided it "doesn't come naturally" (please refer to #1).

              I confess I wasted a lot of time complaining how hard it would be to create beautifully spray painted metallic finishes on my plain white plastic masks. Deep down, I didn't like that I was a beginner again and I was afraid I'd end up spending time (and money) learning something that I may end up not liking (please refer to #2).

              A few months went by and my interest still didn't wane and I decided it was time to take action. So, I started by looking up people I could possibly learn from--prop makers. I searched online and found out there were a lot of prop makers who sold e-books covering the basics, advanced skills, and intermediate skills.

              After reviewing the e-book, I didn't immediately go buy tons of materials or try to figure out how to paint a complicated metallic finish I couldn't handle yet. Instead, I simply bought a vapor mask and one spray paint can and played around with it to start getting comfortable.

              My next task was to learn how to sand and smooth out my mask surfaces. Luckily, my sister is a toy designer and had a lot of experience sanding her figures, so she was able to quickly point me in the right direction.

              After several weeks of pacing myself and taking baby step after baby step, I finally worked up the courage and confidence to finally spray one of my masks.

              What you can do:

              • Learning as a beginner is exciting. The only people who feel upset with starting something new for the first time are the ones who want fantastic results without putting in the hard work (and there are lots of these folks). But being a beginner is exciting because you are enhancing and diversifying your arsenal of skills that will set you apart from the many who only do the bare minimum.
              • You don't have to learn everything there is to learn in your very first attempt. It's unreasonable and will only put unnecessary stress on yourself. Anyway, making mistakes is what makes us more knowledgeable and skillful at maneuvering problems and complications down the road. Someone who expects only perfection can never handle the pressure of the unexpected.
              • Start with the basics. What's ONE step you can take to start right now? Can you take an online/offline course somewhere? Is there a book on it? Do you know someone who has the skills? Are there any Youtube tutorials available? Can you ask someone to suggest some resources to start with?
              • Most things are also a simple Google search away nowadays. Remember, start with getting comfortable with the very basics and don't worry about creating a masterful final product yet. Once you're comfortable with the very first baby step, then move onto the next little task.

              4.) You won't know what you're capable of until you try

              I've lost count of how many times I've said, "I wish I had done..." or "maybe I'll finally get to it next year" or "next year I'll be ready" every time another year came to a close. I don't want to hear myself saying that again or regret all the lost time I can't get back. Do you?

              But this year was different. I had the opportunity to collaborate with two of my favorite people that I deeply admire and respect.

              One of those projects was with entrepreneur / speaker / and author Jonathan Fields of the Good Life Project, where I designed a custom Dreamer Mask: Revolutionary and custom made 400 flexible "Make Give Love" cuff bracelets for his beautiful conference.

              Lumecluster Good Life Project

              The other project was with actress / entrepreneur / producer / NYT bestseller Felicia Day. The Dreamer Regalia armor dress is in the final stages and will be launched in January 2016. This was probably one of the most challenging projects I've done so far and learned so much from.

              Lumecluster Dreamer Regalia process

              When people heard about these awesome projects, the first question they always asked was, "Who connected you to them? How did they find out about you?" And the truth is I reached out to them and proposed the projects myself.

              Please keep in mind that I didn't simply email and say "HEY, you wanna do something together? Because it'll be awesome" or write a ridiculously long and unclear essay about "me, me, me, and why you should help me, me, me." That's annoying and inconsiderate of the time they probably don't have to spend on someone they know absolutely nothing about and have no reason to trust. So, please don't jump straight into emailing everyone you wish you could work with.

              The reality is that I had already been a fan of their work for years, spent months honing my skills, understood their interests and values, brainstormed ideas that matched our missions, and spent weeks figuring out a way to reach out to them respectfully and concisely. The last thing I wanted to do was make them feel like I was wasting their time.

              But let's be honest. No matter how big or small the brand or figure, no one should ever feel entitled to someone else's time. After all, building any relationship first comes from developing credibility and trust.

              The point is, several months ago, I never thought I'd get to work with Jonathan or Felicia because I thought I'd be better off reaching out to them in maybe another year or two....or three or four. I even thought, "Hey, maybe they'll notice me in the future when I'm better" (ugh, just no).

              But then I wondered, "Wait...why don't I reach out now?" After all, I had the skills. The worst thing that could happen is that I don't get a response, right? So, why not take the chance? And I'm glad (and still shocked) I did.

              What you can do:

              • Ask yourself, "Why not now?" The next time you hear yourself making an excuse to do something next year or to put off for later, ask yourself, "Why not now?" Are you feeling insecure about publishing an art piece or launching a new project because you think it's not good enough? Or is it really because you're afraid someone will criticize it?
              • If your answer isn't honestly because of a complete lack in skill (please refer to #3) or if it turns out that you don't truly have an interest in it after all, then you don't have much of an excuse not to try.
              • Be willing to put in the work. After all, dreams don't come true unless you're willing to work for it while knowing that there is always a possibility of rejection or failure. Success only comes to those who don't give up trying again and again.

              Ready for 2016?

              I know the Lumecluster you see right now isn't like the Lumecluster that was launched in 2012. If you're no longer interested in what Lumecluster has become, I welcome you to unsubscribe. No hard feelings :)

              With that aside, I'd like to share again the importance of always carving out time for solitude.Take little moments away from the constant hustle and bustle of everyday life and give yourself that moment of quiet to encounter new revelations and innovations so that you can take a breath and find new ways to grow.

              After all, having a little alone time to collect ourselves is probably just what we all need after the holidays...

              Wishing you an amazing new year!

              <3 Melissa

              P.S. The Dreamer Regalia armor dress is coming in January 2016. Stay tuned!

              On lacking “proper artistic credentials” & 3D printing the Dreamer Regalia armor for actor Felicia Day (Part 1 of 3) October 28, 2015 08:30

              Lumecluster Felicia Day Dreamer Regalia

              Read part 2: Painting, finishing, and final armor preview

              Read part 3: Geek & Sundry photoshoot and video of armor


              “People are starting to look less at where you went to school, and more at what you’ve created.” —Chase Jarvis

              Let’s be honest. Have you ever looked at someone else’s art or creations and thought “I wish I could do that but…”

              “I don’t have the right credentials,
              I don’t have the relevant degrees or education,
              I don’t have all the right tools or materials,
              I don’t have a natural talent for it,
              I can’t start learning now because I’ll be too slow,
              I have no idea where to start,
              it’s too hard for someone like me,
              it looks impossible…”

              It’s a shame how many people stop before they even start. I know I’ve thought each of these at least a few times in my life. In fact, as a self-taught artist with no art, architecture or design degrees and no history involved in tech, I used to belittle myself for not having the “proper credentials” and abandoned doing art for nearly 5 years (you’ll hear more about that later). I used to look at all the other artists I admired and despaired over how I’d never be as good as them. And I was being ridiculous. Why?

              Because I was wasting time comparing myself with someone else’s results…someone I knew nothing about. I was looking at where they were going in life and forgetting about paying attention to my own. It wasn’t until October 2013 that I finally stopped comparing my experience with others that I started paying attention to my own expectations and interests that were true to myself—my love for masks.

              3D printed Dreamer Masks Empower, Breakthrough, and Transformation

              While everything didn’t magically get easier, discovering what I had an intense interest in made hours of work feel like nothing. And 3D modeling/printing became a vehicle that could get me closer to creating something I loved.

              But too often, many of us get stuck focusing on where we are lacking rather than on what we can do to overcome existing obstacles. We look at those who are more successful and think they know some secret or some magic that we don’t.

              “Perfection is not interesting. Copying people is not interesting. You will never make a career trying to be like everybody else.” –Felicia Day

              When we focus on someone else’s journey instead of our own, we may encounter three silent killers of creativity. “It’s so much easier for them,” “this shouldn’t be so hard,” and “I’ll never be as good as them.” When the going gets tough, it’s easy for these phrases to slip out. What these three have in common is that they put a focus on someone else’s end result without considering the struggle that came before it.

              Yes, we all love experiencing the magical wonder when we see the finished piece from someone we admire. But it’s even more fun when we get to see and appreciate the work that went behind it. Because when we dispel the magic and see what it takes, it makes it feel more real and gives us hope that we might be able to make something awesome too.

              So, I created the Dreamer Regalia project in collaboration with Shapeways (the world’s leading 3D printing marketplace and community) to create something magical-looking while sharing my entire not-so-very-magical process every step of the way. We hope it can inspire you to fight for your creative ambitions and to believe you have what it takes to make something amazing.

              My personal hope is that, as a self-taught artist who is still learning more about myself everyday, people will also stop using the lack of “proper artistic credentials” as a put-down on other people’s (or their own) creativity. Everyone has the freedom to take their imagination to greater heights.

              A Lumecluster & Shapeways Collaboration: Documenting & 3D printing the Dreamer Regalia armor for actor Felicia Day.

              “Tech rewards innovation in a way that Hollywood would never do. Innovation is financially rewarded in tech. If you’re the first and the most inventive, that’s where people will gravitate. Where consumers will gravitate. But in Hollywood, it’s a risk averse business. It’s a business of proven commodity. But tech is different…I want to be surprised in life, I want to see where things can go, I want to see possibilities and things I’ve never seen before, or make things that are unexpected.” —Felicia Day

              When it comes to someone who has taken her imagination to amazing heights, I can think of no better person than Felicia Day. Day is an actor, author of New York Times Bestseller You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), avid gamer, geek advocate, producer (Knights of Good), and entrepreneur (Geek and Sundry). She has appeared in numerous mainstream films and shows like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Supernatural” and “Eureka.”

              However, Day is best known for her work in the web video world. To name a few, she has co-starred in Joss Whedon’s Internet musical “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog,” created and starred in the award winning web series “The Guild,” and wrote and starred in the Dragon Age web series “Dragon Age: Redemption.” Most recently, Day appeared in Alan Tudyk’s record-setting crowdfunded web series “Con Man” and will also be appearing in another record-setting crowdfunded series, “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”

              Day encourages people, “Embrace your weird,” which is also a campaign to stop bullying. She fights for diversity in gaming, empowers women to be more proactive, always seeks new challenges, constantly breaks away from the norm, and empowers people to fight for their dreams. Shapeways and I believed Day was the perfect person for the Dreamer Regalia armor.

              So, what exactly is the Dreamer Regalia armor?

              The Dreamer Regalia symbolizes the protection for our dreams and is being created in honor of the Dreamer within each of us. The Dreamer that wants to give life to the imagination, make a difference, change things, push boundaries, and not conform to the status quo. The culture of creativity is constantly growing and branching out in new ways everyday. And the best part is we are all free to take part.

              To reiterate my earlier point, by sharing my creative process, Shapeways and I hope this can inspire you to discover what dreams or ideas light you up and to give yourself room to appreciate your own personal creative journey.

              If you have a creative dream/idea that you’re willing to lose sleep over, experiment with, make mistakes, obsess about, and constantly push yourself to expand your skills, then you may be already onto something.

              Dispelling the magic: Documenting the Dreamer Regalia creative process with photos, timelapse videos, and blog posts.

              “Now there’s a lot of talk about the sharing economy…we trade knowledge. That is really, really important. There is nothing that makes me angrier when somebody does something beautiful and you ask how it’s done and they say ‘It’s a secret.’ No secrets! What are you protecting? Nobody is gonna take your technique and then steal your idea. Nobody has a monopoly on being you. And if you think that your technique is what makes you interesting, then you’re being ridiculous. So share your techniques, because when you do, someone’s gonna come back to you with a better way of doing it and you’re gonna learn something from them.” —Adam Savage, Mythbusters

              You’ll see how the design begins, how it evolves, and how I finally reach my final iteration. Plus, you’ll get to see it all hand painted and finished to look like intricate golden armor. Overall, you’ll see what it takes me to get to the final result.

              Please note that this is NOT a how-to series and I am NOT saying I know everything there is to know about 3D modeling and 3D printing. This is an observation of my creative process. Keep in mind that I am also designing all of this on the side while managing my other companies with my sisters. Since I started a few weeks ago, here’s what I’ve done so far…

              10 hours — Research, weighing risks, and inspiration gathering

              How long I take to do my research depends on how much I may already know on the subject, the scale of the design, and the overall complexity of the project (and this is pretty complex…). Being a gamer like Felicia Day, I decided to lean toward doing something Guild Wars 2-inspired (a massively multiplayer online role-playing game, which Day had also done some voice acting for), foxes (because Felicia really likes foxes), Alexander McQueen, and Tex Saverio. Like for my Dreamer Masks, I also got inspiration from Chinese carvings. As you may have guessed, this isn’t really functional armor. It’s mostly for looks.

              Chinese carved artwork owned by the Ng family

              Chinese carved lacquer, stone, wood, ceramic artwork that I grew up seeing in the Ng family household.

              Lumecluster Dreamer Regalia inspiration
              From left to right: Guild Wars 2 in-game armor and designs by fashion designers Alexander McQueen and Tex Saverio

              I had to take a lot of time weighing the risks since creating this armor is a completely new (and large) challenge for me. Sure, I’ve printed many pieces already with great success (and without prototype prints), but this is on a totally different scale and I have to be extremely careful about my design choices. Some questions I’ve been asking myself every single moment as I progress:

              What do I already know from my past experience and how can I apply that knowledge to ensure that this one-shot print is a success? Since this will be the first time I’m recording my 3D modeling and making timelapses, how much should I practice so I can be comfortable enough without freezing up when I finally do need to record my work? Have I laid out my design goals well enough so that I can easily pace myself as I’m recording the timelapses?

              If I design it this way, will the armor have enough support or will it be too rigid and lack flexibility? What can I do with the design to avoid making this armor look awkward and clunky? How can I design it in a way that looks both elegant and strong and stays within the budget? How does the design symbolism match Lumecluster, Shapeways, and Felicia Day’s missions and philosophies? Does this design match Felicia’s interests and aesthetic? How can I make this design flow and make it easy for Felicia to move around?

              Will this design make it hard for me to maneuver when I need to paint and finish it? Would the paint job take away too much of the material’s flexibility in this location of the armor? If I want to put LEDs here, how much space would I need and where would the wires or microcontroller(s) go?

              12 hours — Armor sketches

              Like doing my research, how long I take to do my sketches depends on how much I may already know on the subject, the scale of the design, and the overall complexity of the project.

              Lumecluster Dreamer Regalia Sketch

              10 hours — Modeling the armor base shape and design in Blender

              13 hours — Armor pattern doodle in ink pen

              3D scanning company, Cokreeate, provided the 3D scan of Felicia Day

              Cokreeate is an LA-based 3D scanning and 3D printing company that helps people bring their ideas and imagination to life. They have scanned folks like Stan Lee, Larry King, Christina Milian, and Ty Simpkins. You can see more of their work on their Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

              Cokreeate used the Artec Eva scanner and Artec Studio 10 software to create a highly detailed 3D scan. However, in the timelapse video below, I had to decimate and simplify Felicia’s 3D scan mesh since my crap computer can’t handle a mesh with this amount of detail.
              Felicia Day 3D scan

              16 hours — Editing base design, adjusting armor to Felicia Day’s 3D scan, and beginning of pattern application (chest) in Blender

              5 hours —Editing the three timelapse videos

              Most of the time was spent struggling to pick songs.

              42 hours — Writing this blog post

              While I enjoy writing, organizing my thoughts and experiences in a way that’s concise and interesting is still pretty challenging for me. I get mentally exhausted a lot faster than when I’m creating new designs because my mind tends to wander down too many rabbit holes. But after numerous outlines and several scrapped article drafts (5 to be exact), I finally came up with this blog post.

              And there’s still a lot more to come… Heck, the design is only 20% complete, haha.

              • (UPDATE) See all 3D modeling timelapse videos by clicking here or watching the playlist below. You can also see the finished armor here or check out the final photoshoot of the Dreamer Regalia armor.

              • 3D printing in Shapeways material white, strong & flexible plastic
              • Resin casting the red gem(s)
              • Painting and finishing
              • Installing LEDs (possibly)

              Lumecluster Dreamer Regalia progressThe design has changed a few times already. And there is still a long way to go…

              As I continue, most of my posts will be going up on my Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

              At the end, we’ll pull it all together into a more comprehensive article for your convenience.

              I won’t lie. I’ve been feeling both incredibly excited and terrified about this project. Excited because I get to make something for someone I have immense admiration and respect for, and I get to collaborate with a company I love. Terrified because I struggle between fluctuating moods of either extreme confidence or severe inadequacy and I am afraid to be judged, rejected, and torn apart about my technique, style, and overall approach. Hey, I’m still human.

              Despite these fears, more than anything, I hope you remember how important it is to find the creative approach that works best for you and be willing to grow in new ways at the same time.

              So, to wrap things up, let me tell you a little bit about my artistic and 3D design “credentials.”

              “I can’t learn any skills unless I have a project to learn with. I need a goal. I need something. I need to know something. I need the thing I’m trying to attain. I can’t learn to weld just by someone showing me that it should sound like frying eggs and you set the dials like this….Always try to find a project that will get you interested in the thing you want to build.” —Adam Savage, Mythbusters

              Ever since Lumecluster and my 3D printed art became a more serious part of my life, people have been asking me about how I got started. The comments often begin with, “So, what art school did you go to? Do you have a background in fashion or design? Do you have a background in architecture or animation or something?”

              When I tell them that I didn’t go to an art school or have a design background or have a history involved in tech, I usually get four kinds of reactions:

              1. They think I’m lying and are convinced “you can’t learn this stuff on your own.” To be fair, 3D printing is still pretty mysterious and intimidating to a lot of people.
              2. They start looking at me skeptically and feel they have a right to quiz me on how much I don’t know.
              3. They brush me off as someone who is “naturally talented,” which is kind of a backhanded compliment since it implies that this all came to me with little effort. I know plenty of people who are 10 times more skillful than me, and their ability looks effortless only because they commit themselves to relentlessly hone their skills in something they love.
              4. They express surprise/relief that a self-taught artist can pursue 3D printing pretty seriously.

              So, what’s my background? I have a bachelor of arts in communication and media studies and a master of arts in public communication from Fordham University. I also have a professional certificate in public relations from New York University. But ever since I was a child, I always wanted to create art. The problem for me was finding a medium I could stay in love with.

              What’s my art and 3D design education? Well, over a span of 18 years, I would draw whenever I had time. By October 2013, I’d already played around with several mediums…except 3D printing. Turns out 3D printing really captured my attention. But it wasn’t until 2014-2015 that I started developing a style that I might be able to call my own.

              My hope is that, by sharing how my art has changed over the years (and will likely continue to evolve), we’ll remember that growing and becoming better artists takes persistence and enough self awareness to know when to keep going and when to quit and move on. In other words, you’re perfectly normal if you don’t get it “right” the first time.

              1997 – 1999

              I grew up reading a lot of fantasy novels and playing video games. My sister and I used to dress up and pretend to be a wizard or warrior and we always had magical duels (no one ever got hurt). So, it’s no surprise that our childhood playtime influenced my artwork over the years.

              Lumecluster early drawings

              2000 – 2003

              Lumecluster early artwork
              Lumecluster early artwork

              2004 – 2006

              Lumecluster early artwork

              2007 – 2011 

              I was a self-pitying mess and figured I’d never be good enough so I abandoned art. But by giving up on creating art, I became extremely depressed. This was also around the time my sisters and I started our own small business (with storefront and all). It was an extremely stressful time that taught me a lot about myself, my strengths, and my weaknesses.

              2012 – 2013 

              I was super depressed and decided I desperately needed to bring art back into my life again. I created Lumecluster back in 2012 primarily as some scrappy blog where I thought I could share what I’d learned as a small business owner. At the same time, it gave me a good excuse to start drawing again. My early Lumecluster blog posts were accompanied with ink doodles of my early doodled “Dreamers.” Sadly, I was quickly falling out of love with ink drawing.  But instead of giving up again, I decided to experiment with more paints, markers, paper cutting, and laser cutting…but I got bored of them fast. By October 2013, I decided to give 3D printing a shot and quickly became obsessed with the possibilities that the other mediums could not offer me.

              Lumecluster early artwork

              2014 – 2015

              By January of 2014, I decided I’d stick it out a little longer with 3D printing and see where I could go. I talk more about how I got started in 3D printing in this blog post and my Shapeways interview. Within less than a year of being in the 3D printing arena, I’ve worked on projects from helping with designing a 3D printed prosthetic leg for the courageous Natasha Hope-Simpson to designing 3D printed masks for a JiHAE / Leonard Cohen music video starring The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus. I’ve also been featured on sites like 3D Printing Industry,, TED Blog and Forbes.

              Lumecluster early artwork 3D printing

              While my art has shifted, there is one thing that hasn’t changed since I was a child…I’ve always wanted to make or own some kind of armor. And now here I am creating art I love to make.

              Sure, if you want to be a lawyer or doctor or something, I’d probably worry about proper credentials.

              But in the end, if you’re out to make, tinker, design something amazing, fun, weird or beautiful, who’s to stop you from trying except yourself?

              “But the heart of my story is that the world opened up for me once I decided to embrace who I am—unapologetically. My story demonstrates that there’s no better time in history to have a dream and be able to reach an audience with your art. Or just be as weird as you want to be and not have to be ashamed. That lesson’s just as legit.” ―Felicia Day, You’re Never Weird on the Internet

              Whatever it is you want to make, there are more available resources than ever before right at our fingertips. For example, if you want to try 3D modeling, you have nice resources like Shapeways 3D printing tutorial for beginners and an awesome list of free and commercial 3D design software.

              Nowadays, “proper credentials” aren’t even enough anymore. And while having persistence and perseverance is a major plus, that alone won’t be enough either without some idea or vision to build upon. Knowing yourself and what lights you up has more influence than someone who only has the technical chops. To expand on this, I’d like to share the words of concept artist, Noah Bradley:

              “If you go through art school and you do every assignment well, you do every single assignment your teachers give you and you get an A on everything, you will not make it as an artist. You will fail. You will not be good enough, you will not have a good portfolio coming out of art school. You won’t make it. It’s the stuff you do on your own that really makes a difference. It’s the stuff that you learn on your own. It’s all that extra effort that really pushes you to that level where you can actually make it….

              A lot of people get told to do stuff. And the thing about it is that art is immensely personal. It has to come out of you. You have to know what YOU want to do. And that’s a terrifying thing to realize. For the rest of your life, you’re gonna have to come up with what you want to do. And that’s intimidating for a lot of people. People want to be told what to do…it’s comfortable, it’s easy…I encourage people to do their own work because it lets you explore what you really want to do.” ― Noah Bradley (in an interview on The Good Life Project)

              I wish I could say that fighting for your dreams is a simple matter of doing A, B, and C. But there is no magic bullet and I’m not one for sugar coating. The reality is that pursuing your creative ambitions will always require an investment of your time, money, and endless dedication. After all, nothing worthwhile ever comes without sacrifice. Anyone who says it’s easy is either lying or not telling the whole story.

              If you want to 3D print, make, write, paint, design something, waiting your life away for the “right” credentials or the “right” materials or the “right” moment to finally start won’t help you actually make anything. It’s what you choose to make right now that matters. Becoming good at anything will always require you to be a beginner at some point…until you’re not anymore.

              So, I’d like to leave you with a question:

              What do you dream (and geek out) about making and what’s ONE step you can take right now to start fighting for it?

              <3 Melissa

              P.S. Click here to read Part 2 of the blog series where I share the painting/finishing of the armor.

              How to keep creating in the face of overwhelming perfectionism and insecurity September 24, 2015 17:00

              Lumecluster Dreamer Masks

              "...don’t chase perfection for perfection’s sake, or for anyone else’s sake at all. If you strive for something, make sure it’s for the right reasons. And if you fail, that will be a better lesson for you than any success you’ll ever have. Because you learn a lot from screwing up. Being perfect . . . not so much." --Felicia Day, You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)

              Have you ever wondered why you sometimes feel like you're able to effortlessly move forward on your blog, project or painting...? One moment, the flow feels natural and the creativity seems to be pouring out of you. But when it feels like it's really gotta count, that's when you might start floundering.

              This has to be amazing. I've got one chance. I can't screw this one up. This means so much to me. This has to be PERFECT.

              Suddenly, the effortlessness is replaced with a version of you that is frantically failing at "getting into your zone." Anxiety, insecurity and panic is overwhelming and your perfectionism takes over. The pressure steadily becomes more and more unbearable. You're not sure if you can handle it.

              Nothing ever feels good enough. I HATE it when this happens, don't you?

              But there is a way to use your perfectionism and insecurity to your advantage so long as you manage to give your brain a moment to breath and acknowledge these thoughts as only thoughts and not your reality. Let me show you what I mean...

              If you've been sticking with me since the beginning of Lumecluster, you're probably not surprised when I say that I struggle with my perfectionism and insecurity almost everyday. Second guessing myself is a constant game I play in my head. So, how the hell do I get anything done?!

              Well, here's the thing. I'm great in some areas...but pretty awful in some others. And sometimes my awful moments really take over everything else in my life. Not as much as before, but hey, it still happens. 

              My perfectionism and insecurity also have a tendency to spike when I'm doing particularly well. I still do a lot of promoting my artwork, but I don't have to promote as much anymore. People are starting to recognize my work and style and I'm feeling my own increasing pressure to outdo every previous creation of mine. And it appears that I've accidentally let this pressure spill into all the other areas of my life.

              So, for the past FOUR months, I've been floundering with my blog posts. Did you notice? No? Oh...well, now you know. "I HAVE TO WRITE A BLOG POST," I said in a panic practically everyday. And with my mind struggling to get blog posts out, my art also suffered. As my art suffered, my writing suffered. Therefore, no blog post. Crap.

              I take my commitments extremely seriously, so when I wasn't able to write anything satisfactory, I felt ashamed. With each passing week, more panic and dread set in. The more I panicked, the more frequently my brain locked down. Every time I scrapped a blog post, my heart felt heavier.

              Not being able to produce a blog post made me feel like a slacker. And for some reason, my overly critical brain translated this as "Holy crap, why are you so awful at everything?!"

              The point is, in my grappling with "perfection" I published ZERO blog posts and did not produce a lot of new art either. To get a sense of my inner dialogue, this is what I generally sound like in my head whenever I'm writing (or creating anything). Maybe you can relate:

              It starts with excitement: 

              "I'm so excited! This is gonna be great! I can do this! I mean, I've written blog posts before. I can do this again."

              Excitement turns to an inkling of doubt:

              "Wait...okay, well that sounds kind of weird. Maybe if I change this..." *Changes everything*

              Doubt blows up and turns into insecurity:

              "Oh no, this is starting to look like a mess. What am I doing? Crap, I don't like how this is looking. This sounds stupid."

              Insecurity and perfectionism eat away at me:

              "UUUGH, no one will find this interesting. No one. Only you do. That's because you're an idiot. Shit, shit, shit."

              Finally, I start feeling like a terrible failure:

              "I feel like I've been lying to my readers...I have nothing interesting to say. They're gonna see this and realize this is stupid and unsubscribe from this garbage. BECAUSE I AM GARBAGE." *Slams face into table...sometimes repeatedly*

              In a frantic/frustrated state, I look for a "better solution" aka an easy way out aka avoidance:

              "Maybe I should stop blogging. Maybe I'm just no good at this. Maybe I should just do art. Never write again. OR maybe I should do a photo blog! What's a photoblog like? Maybe I should try that. Or not. Why can't this be easier..." 

              While writing doesn't come as easily to me as 3D modeling Dreamer Masks, I actually do enjoy blogging. But during those awful, frantic moments, I forget the joys I get out of blogging. Even worse, I also forget WHY I blog.

              "Why do I even bother" is what we like to say, isn't it?

              What's the point of my blog posts? What should I even be talking about? In my panic, I was desperate to blog about SOMETHING. So I started grabbing at anything, which, of course, gave me nothing but half formed musings and ramblings.

              Looking back, I now know that it was pretty silly getting all worked up about a blog post. Even sillier is that I honestly didn't have anything interesting to say over those four months.

              After all, that period was when I was intensely learning a lot of new skills and battling through a few learning curves. I also had this terrible habit of making sleep and rest optional. Geez, am I seriously beating myself up over not putting up a blog post?

              It's only right now, as I'm writing this blog post, that I'm accepting that it's fine if I don't post on a regular schedule because writing every week or every month isn't a desirable focus of my time.

              It doesn't mean I don't care about my readers. It means I want to respect your time and only share something when I have meaningful stories to share. It also means I still have a lot to learn when it comes to recognizing and knowing myself enough to know how I want to spend my time and whether or not my actions are feeding or draining my other commitments. (By the way, once upon a time in 2011, I thought Lumecluster would be a blog on marketing or something, haha. I'll go into more about that below.)

              Because if I blogged regularly, I know I wouldn't be producing more 3D printed artwork. And if I'm not creating more artwork and taking part in new projects, I have less experiences to draw inspiration from for blog posts. In other words, artwork is priority because it naturally feeds into my writing. Unfortunately, the past few months I was doing the reverse.

              But that's okay because here is my blog post now and this is something I really want to share with you if you're also a fellow perfectionist and insecurity-riddled creative. Sure, this blog post is not as amazing as I'd like but it's the best I have in me at this moment. I'm just putting this out there now before I come up with another excuse to "wait until I can make it better."

              But there was a lot more thinking behind how I got back down to business. Getting into your own head and figuring out what's wrong can sometimes be a tricky thing when all you want to do is beat yourself up...

              So, let me break down how I came to this realization and, more importantly, how you can use your insecurity and perfectionism to work for you so you can get back to creating. Here's what worked for me.

              “Being forced to confront the prospect of failure head-on—to study it, dissect it, tease apart all its components and consequences—really works. After a few years of doing that pretty much daily, you’ve forged the strongest possible armor to defend against fear: hard-won competence...We go from wanting to bolt for the exit to wanting to engage and understand what’s going wrong, then fix it.” 

              Chris Hadfield, An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth

              For me, being able to write again in the midst of a frantic, perfectionist, insecure mind started with first acknowledging what I feared and to not let my anxieties paint over everything else in my life. Because a calm mind thinks better than a frazzled mind.

              This blog post is published now because I finally stopped to look at what my perfectionism was really trying to tell me:

              1.) What's frustrating you? What emotions are you feeling? Write down your fears and worst case scenarios.

              And just let it flow out. Write it down without judgment. I wrote down my list of insecurities, frustrations, and fears, which I've already listed above (although they've been shortened for this post...).

              The biggest one was, "I hate that I can't blog as easily as I 3D model!!! I'm pissed that it's also getting in the way of my 3D modelling!"

              2.) Sit and think for a moment and write down exactly why each of those fears/frustrations exists. Follow up with writing how to ease those fears by actively replacing the irrational with rational baby steps.

              And it dawned on me. My frustration about the quality and quantity of blog posts came out of my early aspirations as a newbie blogger back in 2011. Turns out my expectations surrounding my blog haven't shifted since then. I was trying to put 100% into trying to be a pro blogger and 3D artist at the same time.

              As I mentioned earlier, in 2011 I was working hard to make Lumecluster into what I hoped could be an awesome blog focused on marketing (how broad and vague, I know). I spent hours and days honing my writing skills well enough to get at least a few guest posts published on some great sites [LINK]. But then in 2013 I realized what I really enjoyed was art and finding fun ways to promote it.

              So, it occurred to me this morning that the expectations of the old blogging-focused Melissa from 2011 was in conflict with the expectations of the current 3D printed art-focused Melissa. 

              What's the rational step? Accept that my blog posts are not the same as my Dreamer Mask art and realize that it's okay if I don't publish blog posts all the time. I will only post if I think I have something useful to say (while also sharing my recent 3D printed creations).

              3.) Look at the entire list of fears and insecurities and acknowledge them.  Now let them go. They are your thoughts. They do not completely define you or the quality of your work. 

              Fine. Fret. But don't stay there. Acknowledge the existence of your insecurities, take what you will from them, and carry on. The more you do it, the less difficult it becomes.

              And if you can learn something more about yourself by dissecting your fears, all the better. Picking apart my fears made me take a hard look at why I am afraid and how I can grow from fear instead of being smothered by it.

              But it also made me question where I really wanted to spend my energy and consider whether or not my actions lined up with my current ambitions.

              4.) TAKE A BREAK. SERIOUSLY. After break, move on and get back to creating.

              This sounds ridiculous but my calendar has a section of time that says "GO HAVE FUN NOW." And today I started writing this post (as a chat to myself on my phone), without thinking how perfect it needs to be. Without judgment.

              For four months, I scrapped blog post after blog post. And then I end up writing practically this entire blog post this morning on my phone. Funny how much you can achieve with a clear, calm and well-rested mind.

              And if all else fails, this sounds dark but...the thought that I am going to die someday is still the best way for me to remember how precious my life and dwindling time is. If I don't get moving now, then when?

              Is your life worth letting perfectionism and insecurity stop you from pursuing your dreams? From living out a more fulfilled and creative life?

              The past few years, I have had friends in their twenties and thirties suddenly pass away. Freak accident. Brain tumor. Illness.

              We see and hear about these kinds of tragedies all the time. And yet, we all like to tell and hope to ourselves that it won't happen to us. At least, not yet. Until one day it does.

              If I'm beating myself up too much, this thought is often enough for me to snap out of it. Life is precious. There are so many things to be grateful for.

              Having trouble with a blog post? Psh. Fine if this is what I write today. Maybe I'll switch up the format in the future. Maybe I won't. It's all okay. Just because everything may not always feel or turn out amazing doesn't mean that everything else has to feel like shit. My perfectionism and insecurity will always be hanging around but I am the leading lady of my story. I get to choose how I want to react to them.

              So here I am. Here is what I wrote. And here is what I've made. And I plan on always making bold new things and taking on bigger challenges. 

              Because that's what makes life exciting, don't you think?  

              Over to you. What have you been struggling to complete or get out there? Why and what are you going to do about it?

              <3 Melissa

              P.S. I have an amazing new project coming up. Probably the biggest I've ever done. I am terrified and excited...and I want it to be the most beautiful thing I've ever created at this point in my life. No pressure :P

              P.P.S Even though I won't be blogging as frequently, I am super active on social media. Always fun conversations happening over there if you're up for joining me :D