2016 Year in Review: Growing pains + 2017 Phoenix armor sneak peek

2016 Year in Review: Growing pains + 2017 Phoenix armor sneak peek

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

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