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

            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

            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

            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!