Blog

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

These will become regular items in my shop BUT only email subscribers will get the special code for limited early bird pricing. They will be initially launched on my Pre-Orders section of my website.

  • The argentium early bird special code was delivered to subscribers on December 4th at 8:00AM EST
  • The brass early bird special code date is coming up next and still TBD, so subscribe to my free Insider VIPs newsletter if you don't want to miss it

    Lumecluster Instagram Lumecluster Facebook Lumecluster Twitter

___________________________________________________


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.

In this blog 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.

Lumecluster Descendants of the Dragon Armor Ring TikTok
Click here to watch the movement demo video.


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 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.

          ChenRong_NineDragonsPainting

          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

            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.

            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.

            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.

            Love,
            Melissa <3

             ___________________________________________________

            These will become regular items in my shop BUT only email subscribers will get the special code for limited early bird pricing. They will be initially launched on my Pre-Orders section of my website.

              • Coming soon on December 5th, 2021 at 8:00AM EST
              • The argentium early bird special code was delivered to subscribers on December 4th at 8:00AM EST
              • The brass early bird special code date is coming up next and still TBD, so subscribe to my free Insider VIPs newsletter if you don't want to miss it
            Lumecluster Instagram Lumecluster Facebook Lumecluster Twitter

            Sign up for my free newsletter
            to be the first to know about new designs, limited specials, and early bird pricing.

             ___________________________________________________


            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

            CLICK HERE TO GO THE LUMECLUSTER SHOP.



            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. So...you 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 :/

            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


            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