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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

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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

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            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 :/

            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:

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            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


            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 — josephchilin.com

            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


            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 Tested.com 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


            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


            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 www.pinterest.com/kohlstruck/gothic-gauntlets


            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 www.knyghterrant.com

            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


            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, 3DPrint.com, 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


            How to love the challenge + making masks for JiHAE’s music video starring Norman Reedus May 19, 2015 10:00

            Jihae It Just Feels Lumecluster

            “Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

            Let’s be honest here. When you were faced with something you were really interested in but found challenging, have you ever said stuff like:

            “I need to learn more first. I could never do that. I’m not as good as X. It’s too difficult for someone like me. I’m not the type of person for that.”

            “I’m just not good enough yet. It’s impossible for me.”

            Chances are you’ve said some of the above at least once, right? Maybe even hundreds of times? Maybe you’ve even thought of this as being humble and maybe it is.

            But what’s the underlying message when you think something you really want is “impossible” to achieve? What are you really saying?

            Unless you’ve actually tried everything there is to try and have evidence that something is indeed 100% impossible for you to overcome, what you’re more likely saying is:

            “This is a lot more difficult than I anticipated. I thought this would be easier. Do I really want to move forward with this? I’m not so sure… ” followed by a lot of worrying about future pains that don’t yet exist.

            We’re all guilty of unwittingly falling into this self-defeating trap, myself included. But the difference between being someone who moves forward and one who doesn’t is the ability to catch yourself when you utter these unproductive thoughts.

            When I do catch myself, here’s what I ask instead:

            1. Where exactly do you feel lacking to make you feel like your ambition is currently “impossible”?
            2. Is this really something you want?
            3. If so, what is one thing you could do now to start overcoming these areas where you feel lacking?
            4. Are you willing to be uncomfortable for a long time?

            And I say uncomfortable because most people are not willing to give up the safe haven of their comfort zones. Instead, they’re more likely to rationalize their fears with convincing arguments about why they’re “not good enough” rather than own up to the fact that they’re probably just terrified of screwing up.

            But what’s worse? The possibility of screwing up or never knowing what you might possibly achieve? This was something I had to ask myself in a recent experience where I clearly did not yet have all the “right” skills…

            3D printing beautifully disturbing masks for JiHAE’s It Just Feels music video starring The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus…on a three day deadline.

            NOTE: This fiery song is pretty much an ode to orgasm. Video is fairly safe for work though. Here’s what NPR shared in their interview with JiHAE:

            It might be surprising that JiHAE (pronounced “Gee-HAY”), a Seoul-born artist now based in NYC artist, chose this under-appreciated ’90s collaboration between The Eurythmics Dave Stewart and the passionate Leonard Cohen for her new album Illusion of You. In fact, Dave Stewart helped make this record with electronic producer Jean-Luc Sinclair. JiHAE told us via email how she took the song and ran with her own interpretation, an interpretation that plays out in this video of intertwining and identity changing lovers.

            “I connected how creativity and sexual energy are not only derived from the same place but also produced a very similar experience of escape. The song explores the illusions of self identity and how they play out in love. I went for a Morricone like vibe using 3 chords with a call and answer outro chorus that builds into bit of a musical explosion in the end.”

            Around November 2014, film director Agnieszka Vosloo contacted me about needing some very special, life-like 3D printed masks (one mask for JiHAE and four masks for Norman).

            As she started describing the masks she was envisioning, I soon realized she wasn’t really looking for my white, intricate Lumecluster Dreamer mask style. She wanted FULL COLOR masks. She also added that they’d need the masks within 3 weeks or so. This time frame wasn’t impossible but you’ll see how the deadline changed later
            Lumecluster Dreamer Masks vs It Just Feels

            (From left to right). Lumecluster style Dreamer Mask: Breakthrough in white, strong, flexible plastic. It Just Feels Demonic man mask in full color sandstone (not at all my usual style).

            My first response was, “No, I’m not the right person to do this. I don’t do color. I can find you someone who can do this though.”

            But then I asked myself…what’s really making me say “No, I can’t do this”? It wasn’t the 3-4 week deadline and it wasn’t that she wanted something a little dark. Deep down, I always wanted to create something eerie and this was clearly my chance!

            So, what was my real fear? Well…I had never designed/printed a full color mask, never made a life-like mask, never painted a texture for a model, never UV mapped, and never experimented with any materials beyond plastics and metals.

            Note to my non-3D printing artist readers: My Lumecluster masks are printed in white, strong, flexible plastic, which is much stronger and also has very different printing requirements than full color sandstone. Full color sandstone was currently the only “safe” option I had for full color printing…but I had never experimented with the material yet. Thankfully my Shapeways buddies Andrew Thomas gave me a thorough runthrough on how to best handle the sandstone material while Malcolm Davis gave me a crash course on good clearcoating finishes.

            This was a new challenge I wasn’t sure I was ready for. I also still felt like a newbie since I only spent a few months learning how to 3D model in Blender and was active in the 3D printing world for a little over 10 months. All I kept thinking was, “This is impossible for me. I can’t do this.”

            Thankfully, my friend Savannah Peterson (formerly at Shapeways, but now the Director of Innovation Strategy at Speck Design) snapped me out of my typical insecure idiocy. So, I did my research to find out where the holes in my knowledge were and learned on-the-go as I took the leap into the mask project.

            The moment of truth: challenging myself to create JiHAE’s 3D printed full color sandstone mask.

            Over the course of a week, Savannah helped me get the photos I needed plus a 3D scan of JiHAE at the Shapeways offices while I painted JiHAE’s skin texture and modeled her face mask. While the 3D scan wasn’t clean enough for me to use, it was a great help in providing JiHAE’s accurate face measurements for my own sculpt.

            Thankfully, JiHAE’s 3D printed full color mask turned out well enough as you can see here.


            Jihae It Just Feels face scan
            (From left to right). Reference photos and my JiHAE mask sculpt over her 3D scan.
            Jihae It Just Feels face mask
            3D printed full color sandstone JiHAE mask.

            After a mini celebration over a late night coffee with Agnieszka, we felt pretty good about planning the remaining masks. It felt like a great way to close the week as we entered the Thanksgiving festivities.

            One mask down, four more to go. We’ve got time, right? Wrong.

            A few days after Thanksgiving, Agnieszka told me the bad news. It turned out we only had THREE DAYS to complete the four masks for Norman Reedus (not counting the days required for 3D printing).

            Originally, we assumed we’d have two or so weeks left but Norman’s acting schedule changed, which forced Agnieszka to move up the music video shoot date much earlier than planned.

            When Agnieszka broke the news to me, we had done nothing for Norman’s masks yet. So, over the three sleepless days and nights, Agnieszka and I were practically glued to Skype.

            The first day, she poured over hundreds of images of Polish poster inspiration until we figured out exactly what we were aiming for. And then my tablet decided to break…so I had to paint with my mouse.


            Polish poster inspiration Agnieszka Vosloo It Just Feels
            Polish poster inspiration for the 3D printed masks. Reference images were provided by Agnieszka Vosloo.

            The second day, after endless Skype conversations and iterations with Agnieszka, I finally pulled together some skin texture mockups for the four masks. While we were making good progress, there was one big problem…we still didn’t have Norman’s measurements.

            On the third day, the four masks were only 50% complete and we needed Shapeways to start 3D printing them the next morning. We only had one shot.

            There was no time to waste. Agnieszka knew what she needed and she was trusting me to help bring this vision to life.

            JiHAE also miraculously managed to bring Norman into the Shapeways office (despite his crazy schedule). Soon enough, Savannah got me the 3D scans and photos I needed to ensure these masks would fit and match his skin tone. Again, the scan wasn’t super clean but it helped me correct my measurements on Norman’s masks.


            Norman Reedus It Just Feels Lumecluster(From left to right). My Mask sculpt over Norman Reedus' 3D scan and Savannah Peterson getting reference photos at Shapeways headquarters.
            Norman Reedus It Just Feels JiHAE Lumecluster
            3D printed full color sandstone Norman Reedus mask

            After one more sleepless night and lots of back and forth with Agnieszka, I finally got the OK for all the masks and I sent them to Shapeways as a rush order. Two nerve-wracking days passed as I waited for the 3D printed masks. It was the day before the music video shoot and Andrew from Shapeways called me in to see how they turned out…

            As you already guessed, they were a success. I was so relieved…I just wanted to cry and fall asleep on the Shapeways factory table. My part was complete…all that was left was the music video shoot itself.


            Norman Reedus JiHAE It Just Feels Lumecluster Masks
            (Clockwise starting from the top left). Norman Reedus mask, Jihae mask, Angry Man mask, Demonic Man mask, and Arrogant Man mask.

            There was pressure, uncertainty, doubt, confusion, anxiety… Looking back, I loved every minute of it because it was a challenge (and risk) I was willing to take.

            “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” ― Sir Ken Robinson

            Within about two weeks, I had grown immensely and learned more than I could have imagined when it came to building skill, trusting myself, and trusting others. Shapeways also really came through for me and I can’t thank them enough.

            Learning to love (and overcome) the challenge comes down to whether or not you are willing to identify and strengthen your weak foundations. In the end, dreams thrive or crumble depending on how far you choose to venture out of your comfort zone.

            But what if you don’t feel like you have any challenges or opportunities in your field? Here’s what you can do:

            • Create your own challenging personal project.
              Not just any kind of project. Make it a bold one that really touches upon your interests and can stretch your ability. When you create things that are immensely interesting to you, others will tend to take notice. But more importantly, even if people don’t notice (yet), the best thing is that your heart will be in it.
              When I first started learning how to 3D model back in October 2013, my personal project was to make my first 3D print a mask of my own design (Dreamer Masks). It was a challenge that I desperately wanted to fulfill. Little did I know that it would become part of the Lumecluster brand.
            • Pick up a new skill you’ve been curious about learning.
              Stop thinking about learning it and actually start learning it. Maybe start by spending 1 hour a week on it and then gradually increase how much you spend your time on it (baby steps!). That’s the only way you’ll learn anything about yourself, what you’re capable of, and where you care to spend your time.
              Recently, I’ve been meeting more and more people asking me questions to figure out if it’s worth their time to learn 3D modeling/printing…without even bothering to try it themselves. No one is going to give you a checklist of what skills you “should” learn or what’s “best” or what they’ll do for you because how we choose to apply ourselves will depend on our own unique needs and interests.
              People often forget that, in order to keep making remarkable things, you have to be unafraid to pick up new skills all the time. We have so many easily searchable resources online now we really don’t have much excuse. For example, there are online course sites like Code Academy, Skillshare, Udemy or 3D modeling training sites that I’ve used like BlenderGuru, BlenderNation, and CG Cookie.
            • Participate in competitions or contests.
              Whether you’re a 3D artist, blogger, photographer, designer, or creative of any type, competitions are a great way to test and focus your energy. It’s low obligation but has the potential to offer great rewards and experiences.
              In fact, my first entry into the 3D printing world was through a Shapeways / Adobe competition. I shared that story here.

            Life is too precious to waste it on feeling insecure or fearing you’re not “good enough.”

            “At the beginning, when you first start something, it’s fun…Over the next few days and weeks, the rapid learning experience keeps you going…And then the Dip happens.
            The Dip is the long slog between starting and mastery. A long slog that’s actually a shortcut, because it gets you where you want to go faster than any other path.”― Seth Godin

            Most people fear major changes and tough decisions, which is usually what’s required for doing remarkable work. As a result, most people end up trading in the chance for adventure for feeling safe and secure. Is that a cost you are willing to pay?

            Our self-talk has much more power than we care to admit and managing it is especially important if we’re just starting out. Other people may have influence over your choices but, in the end, each of us makes the final call that can make or break our own will.

            Adventures don’t come to those who always look for the easy road or throw up their hands once things get difficult. They also don’t come to those who sell themselves short. As a beginner in anything new, everything starts out as something “impossible”…until you discover it’s not. The question is, are you interested in taking the leap to find out?

            So, embrace life’s challenges. Or just make your own 

            <3 Melissa


            Silence your inner critic...by listening to it (+ The Dreamer Creed) April 9, 2015 16:00

            Lumeclusteer Dreamer Creed
            “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” ― George Bernard Shaw

            Ever have that moment when an amazing idea or realization hits you with such a force, it feels like an intense power is just rushing through your body?

            You feel unstoppable. Like you can tackle just about anything. So, you dive right in and put all your energy into it.

            But as you start going deeper with the idea, the mood transforms. Maybe issues you didn't see before start cropping up. Questions you didn't think to ask start making their way in. Things aren't turning out the way you imagined. Concern and worry start replacing your enthusiasm with your good ol' friend, your inner critic.

            Sure, on the decent days, maybe you can easily brush the critic aside. But when the road gets particularly difficult, sometimes your negativity completely steals the driver's seat.

            What have I gotten myself into? Why the hell did I think I could handle this? There's so much work to do. I don't have enough time. I'll never keep up...

            This is what I worried over even before I started learning how to do 3D printed art (read about my first adventure into 3D printing here). Yes, I was excited by the thought of 3D printing and all the amazing things I could make, but once I started doing the research my excitement got shaky...because there was a lot I didn't know.

            The more I realized how much of a novice I was, the more I feared. Before I even gave myself a shot to learn how to 3D model, I started to tell myself that I'd be an idiot for even considering the medium. Soon enough, my thoughts took an even more self-defeating turn...

            I'm just not qualified because I don't have any art or design degrees. Oh no! What if the real 3D modelers think I'm a joke?! What if other artists laugh at me for being in the artist space despite never having done any art professionally in my life? What if people think I'm a big flake for jumping around to different mediums so suddenly?

            My friends and family will think I'm delusional for pursuing something like 3D printing. It's too hard for someone like me...and the learning curve is way too high. There's simply too much I don't know!

            Maybe I shouldn't even bother...

            I was so afraid of what other people might think that I nearly stopped myself before I even bothered starting...and it would have come at a great cost.

            I had already thrown away two months just worrying and thinking about 3D printing...not actually trying it. But my sister (love her so much!) got pretty fed up with my irrational anxieties and imagined fears. With a lot of effort, she eventually made me realize that I'd get a lot more answers if I took a stab at it instead of wasting more months worrying about "what might happen."

            Looking back, I realize now how much I would have missed out on... The most interesting thing is that I went into 3D printing only wanting to make a Dreamer Mask just for myself. But it quickly opened up more paths and opportunities I would never have imagined. I mean, here are just some of the things that happened within less than a year:

              • I won my first competition within the first month of being in the world of 3D printing, which led to a licensing agreement with Adobe
              • I've gotten coverage on most major 3D printing industry sites and even got a mention in Forbes
              • I've been asked to do interviews and speak on workshops/panels (still always surprises me)
              • I helped with the aesthetic design for Natasha Hope Simpson's prosthetic leg
              • I had the opportunity to work with the talented musician, Jihae, and director, Agnieszka Vosloo, on a music video starring actor Norman Reedus from AMC's The Walking Dead (not yet released)
              • I've even had an overseas company try to rip off my 3D printed artwork
              • And there are still more projects underway...

              Sure, there was also the possibility that nothing interesting would have happened if I started 3D printing. Or maybe something else would have opened up if I just stuck with my black & white ink drawings. I'll never know.

              But the point is that I took a chance. And it shook up my world in ways I never expected.

              What this also showed me was that I needed to do some serious work on reframing my doubts and fears. And If I wanted to keep climbing higher, I realized that I can't always depend on someone like my sister to help me snap out of it (after all, she has her own things to worry about).

              I need my mind to always be my #1 ally and help me stay true and focused on my dreams instead of my fears.

              And being a rather emotional and sensitive person, I knew it wasn't enough to try and force myself to "be more positive"...so I decided to write a Dreamer Creed that I could look to whenever I feel useless or powerless.

              The Dreamer Creed is for those who have big dreams and even bigger (internal/external) critics. I hope this can get your courage and confidence back on track when fear and doubt get in your way.

              “What you're supposed to do when you don't like a thing is change it. If you can't change it, change the way you think about it. Don't complain.” ― Maya Angelou, Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now

              If you're fighting for your dreams, you always need to have your mind on your side. Of course, we're all human and no one is completely immune to fear, self-doubt, and criticism. Every now and then we're all bound to get a little too caught up in our negative self-talk when we're facing new challenges.

              But constantly worrying about "what might happen" and getting caught up in imagined fears can be a major time suck and a dangerous distraction. That's why I decided to write the Dreamer Creed to help you stay focused on what matters most―taking action on your dreams (and it's a little inspired by the song, Imagine, by John Lennon).

              So, whenever the critics throw some variation of the same old fears in your face and try to paralyze you with worry, just remember that they're only telling one side of an argument. So, listen to what the critic has to say and ask yourself, "why is it saying that?" Then turn its words on its head by pointing out why its concerns are irrational. Offer it an alternate view...and maybe even a bit of peace of mind.

              I did that here with my Dreamer Creed. And I hope it can also remind you that there's a whole other side of the discussion that the critics are missing out on.

              Here is the full Dreamer Creed text seen in the header image above, which you can save and use for your desktop:

              YOU MAY SAY I'M A DREAMER, BUT I'M NOT THE ONLY ONE.

              You may say I can't change the world, but I will start by helping causes I believe in.

              You may say I need to stop dreaming, but dreams are previews into life's possibilities.

              You may say everything's already been done, but anything can be seen in a new light.

              You may say we've heard it all before, but learning to listen reveals what isn't being said.

              You may say my ideas are risky, but nothing remarkable comes from always playing it safe.

              You may say I should be realistic, but innovation always needs a bit of fantasy.

              You may say I need to find the right tools first, but tools are useless without a clear mission.

              You may say my endeavors could be a mistake, but mistakes are often building blocks in disguise.

              You may say I should wait until I know enough, but expertise is built through trial and error.

              You may say my work won't appeal to everyone, but creations designed for everyone will touch no one.

              You may say I'll never be as good as my competitors, but I am here to be better than myself yesterday.

              You may say this might not work out, but every experience brings me closer to what will work.

              You may say I'll never make it big, but big wins are built on a foundation of small successes.

              You may say I'll never find the right path, but wrong turns can lead to unexpected adventures.

              You may say I'll be in over my head, but focusing on present priorities will keep me on higher ground.

              You may say I'll end up embarrassing myself, but what others think cannot overpower how I choose to feel.

              You may say my efforts might be a waste of time, but the only waste is to live a life filled with regret.

              You may say I might fail, but the greatest failure would be the unwillingness to try.

              You may say dreams are pointless, but dreams inspire humanity to keep leaping forward.

              You may say no one can really build their dreams, but I say, "just watch me."

              Dreams inspire. Dreams empower. Dreams matter.

              Because dreams can make a difference.

              I HOPE SOMEDAY YOU'LL JOIN US, AND THE WORLD WILL BE AS ONE.


              Lumecluster Dreamer Mask Breakthrough
              In the end, the internal & external critics may have their opinions and judgments about you and what you do, but their words do not define you or your work...unless you let them.

              “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” ― Thomas A. Edison

              What you have to offer matters. It may not look "perfect" or "right" the first time (or even the first 10 or 20 times). But that's okay.

              If you've been following Lumecluster since the beginning, you might remember that this site used to look like shit. In fact, it used to be just me whining and complaining about random stuff (under a different name) because that's what I thought blogging was all about. My earlier Lumecluster versions didn't have any ink drawings or any kind of art either.

              It was good enough for the stage I was in and it's awful when I look back at it now. But I needed those to happen before I could realize how much better I could make it...and to realize that things can be different if I actively seek out the possibilities.

              There will always be unexpected bumps and road blocks along your journey. Just remember that you can also find a way around them. And guess what? Your inner critic will always be riding with you, but you don't have to be worried about it.

              Your inner critic is just scared of the road ahead. What it doesn't realize is that it needs you to comfort it...and maybe it'll just start getting excited with you :) And when you look back at how far you've come, you'll wonder why you ever worried about anything in the first place.

              <3 Melissa

              YOUR TURN: What's your inner critic saying to you that's holding you back? Now stop, think, and ask yourself why are you saying this to yourself in the first place?

              Then dig deeper... What's the simplest thing you can you say or do right now to ease its fear or change its tone?


              Are you brave enough to be a Dreamer? November 10, 2014 09:00

              Lumecluster Dreamer Mask Breakthrough
              “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” –Harriet Tubman
              Dreams.

              We all have them, but so many of us are pressured to scoff at them. Shame them. Abandon them. Why?

              Because today's world has masterfully likened the dream and the Dreamer to a lazy, delusional, unrealistic, unproductive, head-up-in-the-clouds, fame-obsessed member of society. A pitiable being who wants all the glory without putting in the work. You know what they say: "Be a Doer, not a Dreamer" and "Dreaming is a waste of time."

              And that's the real shame.

              I get it. We need someone (the Dreamer) to be the bad guy to teach people the value of getting shit done and taking ownership of their lives. And trust me, I'm all about getting things done.

              But it's a confusing shame that we start by encouraging our youth to "never stop dreaming," "make a difference," and believe that they "can be and do anything." And then suddenly, upon entering young adulthood, the dialogue takes a "practical" turn where we spew variations of how important it is to "wake up and face reality" and "be realistic" in order to survive the "real world."

              It's like a euphemism for "Who the hell do you think you are to believe you can do anything great? Sit the fuck down."

              So, what does this "real world" need anyway?
              "The only way we really create change is to enter any situation with the humility to listen and to recognize the world as it is, and then the audacity to dream what it could be, to have the patience to start and let the work teach you, to be willing to lead when you need to lead, and to listen."–Jacqueline Novogratz
              Yes, the world needs people to show up and take action every day. But it also needs people who aren't afraid to dream up what's never been done, to be bold enough to challenge the status quo, and to be brave enough to believe that their ideas can make a difference. All of this contributes to our collective survival, don't you think?

              In the end, dreams are a vital seed that leads to breakthroughs and innovations.

              Lumecluster Dreamer Mask Breakthrough
              Dreamer Mask: Breakthrough

              But how can we keep taking action on bringing our world to unknown heights if we increasingly smother the human desire to dream in favor of "being practical"? Heck, we were born with the gift of curiosity, creativity, and imagination. If we push down the practice of dreaming, then we are throwing away these gifts.

              Every great innovation that has led to our modern day society came from minds that were largely condemned for having dreams once considered "unimaginable" and even "absurd." Think back to visionaries like Harriet Tubman, Ludwig van Beethoven,The Wright Brothers, Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lennon, Gloria Steinem...

              Or in our present day, look at Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, Malala Yousafzai, Chris Hadfield, Jacqueline Novogratz...

              If they all took the advice to "be realistic," where do you think they'd be today? Where would we be today? It's only human to want to believe in dreams because dreams are what gives us hope. And hope is what gives us reason to believe we could create a better future. And if we want to keep building brighter futures, we need Dreamers who are daring enough to dream up what could be possible.

              "Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning." –Gloria Steinem

              The point is that it's time to change how we talk about Dreamers and stop using the Dreamer as a putdown and scapegoat definition for the unproductive and the lazy. It's time to reclaim the Dreamer within each of us, break free from living monotonously, and free ourselves from being afraid to fight for our dreams.

              And no one should be afraid to dream about what's possible. Deep down, dreams are just goals instilled with optimism and hope. And right now, more than ever, the world needs Dreamers to believe they can make real what's still unreal.

              We need Dreamers to believe they can make a difference.

              In a constantly evolving world, we need ideas that can make change. If we open our minds, Dreamers can change the world. It all begins when we start believing in our dreams. And there's nothing lazy about that.

              Are you brave enough to be a Dreamer?

              What do you think? Did any of this resonate with you? If so, can you do me a small favor? Send this post to someone you think would benefit from this and ask them to read it. We need to find the Dreamers among us. So, please spread the word. Thank you.

              <3 Melissa

              How to keep hope alive when your dreams are falling apart April 22, 2014 14:00

               Natasha Hope Simpson prosthetic leg Lumecluster

              “Be of good cheer. Do not think of today's failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles. Remember, no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost.” ― Helen Keller

              I’d like you to think back…to that first time (or the many times) when you (re)discovered what you’re meant to do with your life or to that moment when you thought you finally “figured it out.”

              It felt amazing, didn’t it? Your mind was racing with thoughts and ideas. That huge rush of anticipation and purpose flooded your entire being because your life felt like it was finally heading in some clearer direction. In those moments, your life felt perfect.

              But in one fell swoop, that hopeful optimism can be fractured. Maybe by a bad business decision, perfection paralysis, failing to turn an idea into reality, realizing something isn’t your passion after all, or struggling to make ends meet…

              Overwhelmed with anger, fear, or frustration, you might attempt to convince yourself that the once crystal clear path has become a sloppy mess of “wasted” energy and “silly” aspirations. Your mind cycles through variations of, “Why is this happening to me?” or “Why can’t this be easier?” But I bet your favorite one of all is…

              “Will I ever really make it?”

              Sure, life will throw you curveballs and the downers will always make you question your choices by pressuring you to “face the facts” and “be realistic.” But in the end, it all comes down to one thing:

              Perspective.

              You can either choose the empowering perspective or the disempowering one. Because no matter what you experience or what other people say about you (or what you do), YOU have the final word on what you choose to tell yourself and how you perceive your experiences.

              Sound hard? It doesn’t have to be. To prove it to you, I’d like to share a story.

              Natasha Hope-Simpson & 3D printed prosthetics: a story about turning tragedy into creative hope…

              As you may know, I began my journey in 3D printing back in October 2013. Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to collaborate with people who constantly push the limits of their expectations and imagination.

              In March 2014, one of those amazing people I met was Kendall Joudrie, founder of Truro-based Thinking Robot Studios. From Kendall, I learned about Natasha Hope-Simpson, a 24-year-old artist/musician who lost her leg in a hit-and-run car collision in her hometown of Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

              Despite going through eight surgeries, Natasha’s leg was too mangled and she was told that she would never be able to walk properly again. So, she made the tough decision to amputate her leg.

              Natasha Hope Simpson
              Photo by Eliot Wright

              While Natasha was a victim, she did not remain a victim of her circumstance.

              “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” ― Haruki Murakami

              Although the driver(s) that crushed her leg has still not been found, Natasha told CBC News, “There’s a big part of me that’s forgiven them…holding on to angry feelings prevents you from moving on and I need to move on.”

              She chose to discover new possibilities instead of despairing. She chose to see her loss as an opportunity for artistic potential in prosthetics instead of thinking her future is lost. And although her old way of life had been ripped away from her, she chose to believe that she could build a new way of life.

              One of her early efforts was when she spoke to a class at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design University’s Institute for Applied Creativity (NSCAD), the university she had graduated from. She spoke to the class about wanting to design a better prosthetic limb that was both functional and aesthetically pleasing.

              That day, NSCAD director, Gregor Ash, happened to hear her speak. Inspired by her speech, Gregor connected Natasha with Kendall Joudrie and Jourdan Dakov of Thinking Robot Studios, who offered to help her engineer a prototype prosthetic in time for NSCAD Halifax’s first-ever Maker Symposium. And so began Natasha’s beautiful journey down a new road…

              Natasha Hope Simpson leg scanLaser scan and white light scan of Natasha's leg

              Hopes and dreams begin when you choose to plant the seed of possibility.

              In order for that seed to grow, it must be tended to with patience, perseverance, and ambition. And when that seed first sprouts, people notice and may even aid in its growth. For Natasha, people definitely noticed her sprouts.

              While it began with NSCAD and Thinking Robot Studios, Mike Fanning of NovaCad (3D Systems reseller) offered to print the prototype using the 3D Systems Boston service. Ian Weir, Department of National Defense, along with Paul Ragot performed a laser scan of her good leg to capture her symmetry. Bob Garrish of Spring Loaded Technology performed a white light scan to aid in design. Finally, Kendall Joudrie and Jourdan Dakov of Thinking Robot Studios consulted with Natasha and engineered a stable prototype. The only thing that was left was aesthetics and there was very little time left before the Halifax Maker Symposium.

              Natasha Hope Simpson prosthetic leg
              Photo on the right by Eliot Wright

              Natasha had lots of ideas, but no time. However, she noticed my Dreamer/Nightmare masks and instantly fell in love with them. And so, Kendall Joudrie contacted me immediately. Needless to say, I was deeply moved by her story and was happy to donate my design to the project. I will continue collaborating with Thinking Robot over the next year as they develop a final prosthetic for Natasha.

              Designing and engineering prototypes normally takes many months. But for Natasha’s prosthetic from concept to product? 15 days.

              It’s amazing what a single person or a group of people can do when they make something their mission. You know what they say: where there’s a will, there’s a way.

              As cliché as this is, it’s true. Yes, your path will always be littered with obstacles, uncertainties, and failures. But it doesn’t mean they have to be feared or disliked every time they enter the picture.

              What can make all the difference is how you consciously decide to respond and react to your experiences. Because when you learn to love the challenge, nothing can stop you from moving forward.

              Here are some key thoughts and perspectives to keep up the hope:

              • If you’re always watching the ground to avoid stumbling, you might just miss something beautiful.
              • Your future success depends on what you can do today, not yesterday or tomorrow.
              • What you’re afraid of is only a construct of your imagined reality, not your real life.
              • Dreams thrive when they have the freedom to roam.
              • The future is built by those who can draw from their wildest dreams.
              • Occasionally, you can discover a better path when you take a wrong turn.
              • Mistakes and failures are often building blocks in disguise.
              • The greater the challenge, the greater the victory.
              • Sometimes dreams need to fall apart in order to take on new forms.

              “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” ― Maya Angelou

              Some of life’s most troubling moments often produce the most meaningful experiences, don’t you think? In the end, hardships don’t exist to tear down your hopes and dreams. They serve to make you wiser, stronger, and smarter if you can see the lessons in them.

              The only thing that could truly destroy your dreams is if you wait and refuse to make a choice. To take a chance.

              So, don’t wait for hope. Make your hope.

              And show the world what your dreams are made of.

              <3 Melissa
              P.S. If you want to follow what I’m designing next, join me on my Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. What to expect next: finely detailed 3D printed jewelry

              Also check out the video here:

              Photo by Eliot Wright
              Photo by Eliot Wright


              Believing in yourself when you feel like a fraud. . .plus a special event announcement February 10, 2014 08:00

              Lumecluster 3D Printshow

              Ever feel like you don't belong or wonder if you're worthy of attention?

              Have you questioned whether you deserved or have the right to do what you're doing?

              Perhaps you've doubted the reality of when good things actually happen to you?

              Or do you ever simply feel like a fraud?

              It's no secret that feeling like a fraud, fake, loser, etc. has always been a problem of mine. In some ways, I've overcome these anxieties but they always strike in new forms.

              A while ago, I wrote about my struggle with believing in myself as an artist and as an entrepreneur. I always wonder why I can't just believe.

              I mean, I survived building a business, built this pretty decent blog along the way, brought art back into my life, and even got to experience my work in a gallery. I always carry out my ambitions and seek new levels even if I'm not entirely certain about my path.

              In fact, four months ago (October 2013), I got tired of selling my illustrations in the form of posters, pillows, and the occasional iphone/ipad decal. So, I decided to learn 3D modeling and printing.
              Lumecluster Dreamer Mask IlluminationI immediately fell deeply in love with 3D modeling and printing. The learning curve was steep, I crashed my computer more times than I can remember, I occasionally forgot to go to sleep, and I mostly stumbled around blindly.
              And I loved every second of it. I knew this was my art's next evolutionary step, which brings me to...

              THE AWESOME NEWS: I've been selected to showcase alongside some amazing 3D artists in the prestigious Adobe & Shapeways artist exhibition in the 3D Printshow in NYC from February 12-15 (more details below).

              And you know what my first thought was when I was emailed about this news?

              They must have made a mistake. Maybe this email was supposed to go to someone else. Maybe they're pitying me.

              So, what did I do? Instead of joyfully replying back, I actually waited for this imaginary email that would inform me of their careless error. I waited for nearly three hours...but no amendment email came.

              Talk about a serious case of impostor syndrome...

              Even worse, I looked up all the other exhibition artists and found architects, designers, sculptors, senior modeler...10 years experience, 20 years experience...fine arts and architecture degrees here and there... My insecurity increasingly chiseled away my confidence.

              They're the real artists. They're the pros. I don't belong there. They'll see me as a joke. A wannabe.

              Maybe you think I'm ridiculous. Or perhaps you've felt this way too—the constant inadequacy and feeling like you're entering territory you don't belong in. As if at any moment, someone's going to discover you in all your shameful ineptitude.

              I've never done anything remotely related to 3D modeling until four months ago and I don't have a fine arts degree (or MBA), and I don't have years or decades of experience in any industry.
              Lumecluster Nightmare Mask
              All I had/have is the desire to pursue something because I want to. Because I'm hungry to explore something amazing and new.

              And that's when it hit me. I'm not drawing and 3D modeling to seek fame and accolades or whatever. I draw and 3D model because I think it's fucking awesome and I can't get enough of it. My work electrifies me when I'm truly focused on myself (and not comparing myself to others).

              A good friend and mentor once told me (and I'm paraphrasing):

              "Everyone lives in their own movie. Some people spend their whole lives trying to star in someone else's film or role. It's up to you to wake up and decide if you want to star in your own."

              I'm choosing to play my part in my own movie. I have every right to call myself an artist, blogger, entrepreneur. This is my journey.

              I have every right to be here, to pursue what I want in my own way.

              What do you think? I know it's always easier said than done but perhaps these thoughts can help:

              Pay attention to when you're feeling like a fraud or coming under your own fire and acknowledge it.

              Recognize your own successes (journaling about it seriously helps me lots).

              Occasionally reflect on what you've already achieved instead of constantly focusing on what you haven't accomplished.

              When your negative self-talk becomes unmanageable, talk to someone you trust and who can offer more than just showerings of empty praise.

              Your fears and insecurities are your feelings, not necessarily your reality.

              Feeling insecure doesn't make you weak, it makes you human.

              You're not the only one who feels this way.

              You are who you choose to be.

              And if none of the above helps even a little, try this one out:

              "Accept that everyone everywhere—no matter how successful—experiences the self-doubt that underlies impostor syndrome. It is part and parcel of becoming accomplished and successful. There is nothing unusual or wrong about feeling these things. Leave no cognitive space for them to grow, and regain control of your life and your future." — Denise Cummins, Ph.D.

               

              AND if you're in NYC and love 3D printing, art, tech and fashion, come check out the NYC 3D Printshow, February 12-15.
              Lumecluster 3D Printshow

              Maybe we'll bump into each other :) Here are the details:

              WHERE: Metropolitan Pavilion
              125 West 18th Street New York, NY 10011
              WHEN: February 12-15, 2014. See timetable.
              TICKETSClick here.
              DESCRIPTION: 3D Printshow New York will be our most exciting show to date; a combined business, arts, design, education and consumer event with cutting-edge technology, world exclusive features and some of the sharpest minds in the world of future-tech.

              Our NYC show will include some of the most incredible new content that we’ve found around the globe, combined with incredible new exclusives created specifically for our US audience.

              Your turn. Have you ever suffered from impostor syndrome? What do you think of the new Lumecluster 3D printed art?

              <3 Melissa


              Are you courageous? September 1, 2013 08:00

              Lumecluster finding courage

                   "Heroics is important and we certainly need more heroes, but I think we've lost touch with the idea that speaking honestly and openly about who we are, about what we're feeling, and about our experiences (good and bad) is the definition of courage. Heroics is often about putting our life on the line. Ordinary courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line. In today's world, that's pretty extraordinary." -—Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
              Do you think you're courageous? Brave?

              Yes? No? Sometimes? However you feel about it, one thing is for sure:

              We all wish we could be braver and have more courage to fearlessly pursue our dreams.

              But too often, we fear we "don't have what it takes" to make it all happen.

              We fret, we whine, we have meltdowns. We get all tangled up by the inspiring stories about the amazing geniuses who swoop in to restore floundering companies, the overnight successes who seemingly went from being nobodies to millionaires changing the world, the serial entrepreneurs who gave up their six-figure jobs to pursue their passion and wholehearted living, the rebellious spirits who boldly ruffle a lot of feathers and constantly turn industries on their heads...

              How could we ever compare? How could we ever match that?

              First, courage comes in all shapes and sizes. Second, it's important to remember that you're usually seeing only a part of the story (the happy/exciting parts).

              Lately, I've been really getting into writing reminder lists (I really like lists...). Creating one for courage was really important to me since my confidence has a tendency to plummet whenever the going gets tough. Chances are yours does too. So, I'll start by sharing my list.

              Courage is...

              tackling one problem at a time,

              breaking away from the familiar,

              persevering in the face of uncertainty,

              sharing your fears with the ones you love,

              defining your own freedom and happiness,

              asking questions about what you don't know,

              reaching out for help when you really need it,

              being honest and authentic with yourself and others,

              fearing for the safety of a dream, but pursuing it anyway,

              sharing your creations with the world (or in a blog post ;)

              doing what needs to be done NOW and not setting it aside for later,

              putting in the endless hours of work without expecting immediate rewards,

              accepting that failures happen but never accepting defeat,

              saying "no" to the customers that aren't right for you,

              telling yourself that you've done all that you can today,

              not worrying about making a fool of yourself,

              owning up to your mistakes and taking chances,

              moving forward even when you're completely lost,

              consistently taking action despite the fear.

              taking the unpopular route,

              embracing your quirks,

              thinking differently,

              holding onto hope.

              Your turn. What does courage mean to you?
              "One isn't necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest." -—Maya Angelou
              If you've done any of the above, you already have more courage than you think. No matter how new or experienced you are, as a creator, you're looking at fear in the face whenever you deliver on your product, create new content, or build anything of value.

              I don't know about you but I think that takes a lot of guts. Dontcha think?

              <3 Melissa

              Give yourself the freedom to... August 25, 2013 09:00

              Lumecluster_give yourself freedom

              Give yourself the freedom to...

              be a beginner,
               
              ask for assistance,
               
              screw up and make mistakes,
               
              create many shitty first drafts,
               
              stand up for what you believe in,
               
              celebrate the big and small successes,
               
              revisit old ideas with new perspectives,
               
              embrace the lessons learned from failures,
               
              cry it out once in a while (no, you're not weak),
               
              try something new without expecting perfection,
               
              believe you have the power to make a difference,
               
              build on your collection of curiosities, interests, and ideas,
               
              accept that you don't have the answers to everything,
               
              scrap an idea without feeling ashamed to start over,
               
              share your work because it has a right to be seen,
               
              reserve your you time because you deserve it,
               
              take a day off or book a vacation,
               
              define your own expectations,
               
              be yourself without apology,
               
              challenge conventions,
               
              dream big.
               
              When work, business, and life start to feel like it's too much to handle, I like to recall Col. Chris Hadfield's inspiring words:
               
              “Decide in your heart what really excites and challenges you, and start moving your life in that direction. Every decision you make, from what you eat to what you do with your time tonight, turns you into who you are tomorrow and the day after that.
               
              Look at who you want to be, and start sculpting yourself into that person. You may not get exactly where you thought you’d be, but you will be doing things that suit you in a profession you believe in.
               
              Don’t let life randomly kick you into the adult you don’t want to become.”
               
              What do you want to give yourself the freedom to do? Share your thoughts and add to the list of reminders.
               
              <3 Melissa


              Disempowering the dream crushers in your life. August 18, 2013 08:00

              Lumecluster Dream Crushers

              It's safer not to take any risks.

              You'll only succeed if you have a lot of investors.

              You should wait until you have a better idea that can go viral.

              You don't have enough experience to launch or build a business.

              Wait until you're really ready to share your ideas or else someone will steal it.

              Leave it to the "real professionals" to change the world.

              Try to be more realistic about your dreams.

              Stop dreaming and wake up to reality.

              I just don't think you'll ever get the business off the ground.

              Dream crushers. I bet we all have at least one in our life (not including your own nasty inner critic).

              Maybe it's a family member, loved one or a good friend. Hearing these kinds of comments can be shocking and even crippling to the work you do. But let's be honest...their words say more about their own fears and insecurities than they do about you and your abilities.

              Perhaps it's their own lack of self-confidence or an underlying fear of looking at where they are in their own life. Or maybe they experienced their own failed business(es). Or they may truly believe they're protecting you and just don't know a better way to express their concerns.

              It's not like they want you to fail or mean to intentionally tear you down (unless they're spiteful like that...). Believe it or not, they probably think they're being supportive.

              But most of the time, it's just that they have no idea how it's possible to succeed in what you're doing. And all they can do is offer whatever might be some relevant knowledge or stories/lessons, view you through that lens, and offer their "advice" in the best way that they can.

              But you know what? In the end, you're not really looking for their advice.

              What you're looking for is support, empathy, and understanding, right?

              Chances are you probably need to look elsewhere and seek out those who have been through what you're going through or are pursuing similar goals. Finding appropriate mentors, checking out conferences, and joining online communities can be an amazing remedy against dream crushers.

              So keep dreaming bigger dreams, take action through daily baby steps, meet new and inspiring people, ask questions, research, experiment, and make mistakes. Most importantly, keep launching your ideas out to those who care about the work you (must) do. Because they're the ones that really matter, aren't they?

              Now, get down to business. <3

              What have the dream crushers in your life said to you? What did you do about it?

              P.S. I've been experimenting with some fun, new, creative projects. Can't wait to share the progress! And in case you missed last week's post about rising above the fear of rejection, you can check it out here.


              A life beyond a fear of rejection August 11, 2013 08:00

              Lumecluster beyond rejection
              “We reject ourselves before other people can. Stop.” —Jia Jiang, 100 Days of Rejection

              Fake. Poser. Wannabe. Fraud.

              I bet these are just some of the words you're afraid everyone around you is secretly labeling about you. Words you may even mutter to yourself, leaving you feeling weak, vulnerable, and paralyzed.

              As an entrepreneur, author, blogger, artist, small business owner, etc., you put your self-esteem and self-concept on the line every time you hit "publish" on your next blog post, unveil your first/next product, ask for the sale or try to do anything to reach out to the world.

              When someone rejects you, it hurts emotionally and physically. Rejection inspires all kinds of conflicting and painful emotions, but above all, it totally disconnects your brain from logic and reason.

              You don't just take rejection personally, you take it as a reflection of your unworthiness.

              We've all felt this at some point in our life. Sure, some of us might be able to brush it off. But many of us end up hiding ourselves away and allowing the rejection to drag on our minds for hours, days or years. Even worse, we may steer clear of opportunities to avoid the possibility of experiencing future rejection.

              Yes, it sucks to feel like you're somehow the only one missing the point. Like you're the sole loser who is left behind because you can't seem to figure it all out.

              Deep down inside, we all want approval from friends, family and/or peers. We want to belong to some special group, community, tribe—whatever you want to call it. We want people to love our work, to appreciate everything we do, and to embrace us for who we are.

              But let's be real here. Who are we? Who are you? ...if you're constantly rejecting yourself?

              I grew up living most of my life rejecting myself.

              Because my (then small) world had rejected me.

              Throughout my childhood and teenage years, I was constantly bullied or simply ignored, I didn't know how to deal with racism in school, I hated being born a girl (one of three) because some simple-minded relatives made my mother's life a living hell for not bearing any sons, I had few to no friends, and I became so quiet that people even joked about me being a mute.

              I felt so ashamed to be me.

              According to my peers at the time, everything about me was "wrong." And whenever I tried to stand up for myself, there always seemed to be someone eager to "put me back in my place." So, I stopped trying...until I left for college.

              While my perception of the world started shifting, accepting myself didn't get any easier. First, I needed to learn to like myself.

              In retrospect, I was filled with a lot of frustration, resentment, and wrath (a terrible sin, I know...give me a break).

              In my anger, I was determined not to let anyone tell me who I was anymore. I wanted to finally start standing up for myself. Thankfully, I met a lot of great mentors and friends who helped me see that I could rise beyond my anger. They saw my bad, but they also saw the good in me.

              Deciding to pursue an entrepreneurial life later on also added a new level of exploration. Surprisingly, someone I looked up to confidently told me that PianoVerse would fail and that I would never be able to do anything with my drawings. Of course, they were wrong.

              In the end, experiencing rejection is not proof of your inadequacy. It's proof that you're bold enough to try to be someone: yourself.

              Perhaps you can even view being rejected by the status quo as a rite of passage toward living a more adventurous life of non-conformity. ;) It's important to realize that discovering who you are doesn't just happen overnight. Knowing, loving, and trusting yourself is an open-ended process and thrives on finding new ways to grow.

              Now, I'm not saying you should screw the world and not care about anyone's opinions anymore. What I am saying is to recognize who these opinions are coming from before you give their words too much weight.

              Are they coming from people who truly want to understand you? Who recognize your values and goals? Aim to offer constructive criticism because they want to see your future success?

              For every person who might reject or condemn you, there is someone out there who also believes in you and what you do. So, do them and yourself the honor by putting yourself forward so that you may find each other.

              And go show them what you've got!

              Have you experienced or frequently fear rejection? How do you deal with it?

              <3 Melissa

              (Un)limited Growth August 4, 2013 09:00

              Lumecluster (Un)limited Growth

              "The failure of an artist is not the inability to draw or create, but the resistance to continually learn and do. Every artist, in their own mind, is a work in progress." — Eugenia Leung
              (Substitute "artist" with whatever word you prefer in the quote above)
               
              Have you ever said some variation of the following?
               
              I don't have the guts. I can't put myself out there. I wish I was more like X. I'm too old/young to start X. I'm just not naturally talented like so-and-so. Maybe they won't like me or what I have to offer.
               
              I could never do that.
               
              I admit I'm guilty of comforting myself with many of these lies. In fact, these thoughts run through my head almost everyday, but I still go on. Not because I'm somehow stronger, but because it's all that I really can and must do, don't you think?
               
              A year ago, I thought I could never pursue my love for illustration and curiosity for writing.
               
              Heck, I hadn't drawn for over 6-7 years and my writing was so terrible, I even blushed about it in private!
               
              I never had any formal art training beyond elementary school, I was bored out of my mind by the art history prerequisite back in my college days, I don't have an MBA, I found writing to be very challenging, I have a questionable grasp on grammar, and I suffered from a pathetically limited vocabulary.
               
              So, according to everyone who was convinced they knew me better than myself, I was totally "unqualified" to pursue illustration and writing. Do I even need to talk about the looks of (loving) concern? It was like they mentally stamped the words "starving artist" on my forehead and I couldn't erase it from their mind.
               
              But according to me, I wasn't going to let their uncertainties or their standards lead my life.
               
              So, what happened? I grabbed a pen and started writing and drawing a lot of shit every day.
               
              Sadly, not the epic kind, but the stinky kind.
               
              I'm not going to lie and pretend that I miraculously got better with each passing day. In reality, I had nuggets of good sandwiched in between massive collections of bad. In fact, drawing and (especially) writing still do not come easily to me.
               
              Even so, I've learned to get comfortable with knowing that nothing worthwhile and meaningful ever comes easily. If it did, everyone would be living their purpose right now. But you and I both know that plenty of folks would much rather spend their days building barriers against risks rather than opening up to uncertain possibilities.
               
              I'm fine with knowing that I'll always have a long journey ahead of me. No doubt, you have a long way to go as well.
               
              But it's better than going no where at all.
               
              Have you ever stopped yourself from doing something before giving yourself a chance? What area in your life are you trying to improve and grow right now?
               
              And do you want to see some of my old shit? ;D Leave a comment and let me know!


              Breathing Room (+ Freedom) July 21, 2013 08:00

               

              I bet you don't give yourself much of it, do you?
               
              Now, I don't just mean giving yourself room to move and breathe comfortably, although that's just as important. When I talk about breathing room, I mean being self-compassionate and being able to forgive yourself so that you can move forward.
               
              Let's be honest now. Giving ourselves room to breathe is just another one of those things we often say we'll do, but flounder with when it comes to actually doing it...like being more patient, practicing gratitude, remembering the daily joys in life, taking real breaks, and not thinking about work every waking moment.
               
              But when you're caught struggling, making mistakes, feeling lost, battling with insecurity or stumbling into failure, your ideas (hopes, dreams) can feel like they're closing in on you. Overwhelming you. And to make matters worse, let me guess...
               
              You punish yourself.
               
              You call yourself out on all your perceived flaws, feel guilty about stepping away from work, worry about what other people think/say about you, and blame yourself for not being stronger. Maybe you've even expressed some variation of the following:
               
              Idiot. What's the point? No one will ever take you seriously. You're a useless nobody!
               
              The chaos of your own self-deprecating thoughts can feel like they're swirling uncontrollably around you. Honestly, sometimes I wish there was just an "off" switch to simply shut them down. Although such an option doesn't exist, there is another way...
               
              Listen and (re)discover the good within yourself...because it's there.
               
              You just need to give yourself the chance to plant the seeds.
               
              Yes, it's always tougher to remember your best self, but you deserve better and so does the work you have to offer to the world. Deep down, the seeds of self-compassion are fighting for the space to grow. Give them the freedom to take root by asking yourself:
               
              What accomplishments have I made in the past or today? What can others always count on me for?
               
              No matter how big or small, take a few minutes to write them down, now. Please? ;) If you're not sure or if your mind is feeling too cluttered by your own thoughts, then ask someone else who knows you well.
               
              And if you catch yourself getting caught up in the tangles of your own negativity and personal takedowns again, pause, take a breath, ask yourself these questions again and repeat.
               
              I know it's not easy. After all, most of us aren't masters at being our own cheerleaders, but in the end we have to be.
               
              What does your inner critic like to say to you and how do you like to handle it?