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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

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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 story link in bio ##finejewelry ##genderneutral ##knightcore ##chineseamerican ##asianamerican ##queertok##greenscreen

♬ TO THE MOON - Jnr Choi

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          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.

            @lumecluster

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

            ♬ оригинальный звук - ✨🖤Multiverse🖤✨

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

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

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

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

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

            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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            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


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

            Lumecluster Sovereign Armor

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

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

            See more photography on Yiaz Yang's website.

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

            <3 Melissa

            Lumecluster Sovereign Armor


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

            Lumecluster Sovereign Armor


            What this blog post covers:

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

            _____________________________________________________

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

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

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

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


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

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

            Because I felt guilty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            Lumecluster Sovereign Armor

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

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

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

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

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

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

            <3 Melissa

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

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

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

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

            Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets


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

            Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets

            What this blog post covers:

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

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

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

            The amazing talents featured in this blog post:

            Fantasy (select images)

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

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

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

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

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

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

            Modern (select images) – outfit set #1

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

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

            Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
            Actor Yoshi Sudarso. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

            Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
            Actor Yoshi Sudarso. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

            Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
            Actor Manny Shih. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

            Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
            Actor Manny Shih. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

            Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
            Actor Osric Chau. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

            Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
            Actor Osric Chau. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

            Outfit set #2

            Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
            Actor Yoshi Sudarso. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

            Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
            Actor Yoshi Sudarso. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

            Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
            Actor Osric Chau. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

            Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
            Actor Osric Chau. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

            Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
            Actor Manny Shih. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

            Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
            Actor Manny Shih. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

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

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

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


            Outfit set #3

            Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
            Actor Osric Chau. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

            Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
            Actor Osric Chau. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

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

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

            Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
            Actor Yoshi Sudarso. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

            Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
            Actor Yoshi Sudarso. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

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

            Outfit set #4

            Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
            Actor Manny Shih. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

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

            Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
            Actor Osric Chau. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

            Lumecluster Phoenix Gauntlets
            Actor Yoshi Sudarso. Gauntlets by Lumecluster.

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

            Mermen

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

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

            CLICK HERE to see the entire fantasy fashion photoshoot

            CLICK HERE to see the entire modern fashion photoshoot.

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

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

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

            CLICK HERE TO FILL OUT THE PRE-ORDER QUESTIONNAIRE (CLOSED)

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

            <3 Melissa


            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


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

            Lumecluster Sovereign Armor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

            Lumecluster Sovereign Mask pendant

            Lumecluster Resilience Mask pendant

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

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

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

            So, what’s next? Another armor?

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

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

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

            <3 Melissa


            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