Prop Making: Team Nice Dynamite

Sometimes you just need to work on a project that's easy, but you don't want to do something that's already been done a thousand times. Lucky for me, I wasn't able to find a single person on the internet who's made something similar to this. I didn't actually plan any steps in advance for this project, I just went for it and hoped I wouldn't screw up (spoiler: I didn't).




- 1.25" dowels, cut to size (7)
- Black hockey tape
- 3" DIY button
- Black wire/string
- Spray paint: primer, red, yellow, clear coat
- Black acrylic paint pen
- Hot glue

     I eyeballed the length of my first dynamite stick and used that as my measuring guide to copy/paste. This is the part where someone who knows what they're doing would sand the dowels completely smooth, then spray on the primer - and they would only do this process once.

I am not that person.

     For no reason whatsoever, I did a crap sanding job, figured the paint would hide it, realized the paint wouldn't hide it, and had to re-sand once the primer was dry. Then I had to re-apply the primer. Like an idiot.

     Rule #2: Always make sure your sanding is adequate before moving on the the next step.


     Once the primer was finally dry, I used a lot of hot glue to hold everything together. In the photo below, you can kind of see where the glue is globbed on in the centre of the dowels. I didn't put the glue far beyond that middle section because I knew that part would be hidden by the tape, unlike the rest of it, and any glue visible in the final product would make the whole thing look messy.

     Rule #1: Never let anyone see your gluey bits. Unless your project is supposed to look like an 11 year old made it unsupervised, I don't want to see any hot glue strings or glue seeping out from the edges.

     I used hockey tape to wrap the dynamite, again eyeballing how wide to make that section. And then I moved on to my favourite part of this whole project: The Smiley Face.

     I legit had zero idea how I was going to make a smiley face to fit my requirements. My head was filled with random ideas like making some kind of mold and tinting resin and completely over-complicating the process by 100%. Good thing I stumbled upon some 3" DIY buttons at my local craft store.

     They were the perfect size and shape. I pulled off the backing and on the inside of the button, sprayed a base of clear coat, drew face with an acrylic paint pen, finished with a couple coats of yellow spray paint, and popped the backing back on (sans metal pokey-bit).

     To attach the smiley was a bit more of a process than it could have been. I used contact cement, which is great for keeping things together long-term but does require some patience.

     The fuse was just some paper-wrapped wire I found in the gardening section my local craft store, spray painted black, which was shoved into tiny holes I drilled into one end of the dowels. That whole section is held together with hot glue.

     And now it sits on a shelf, collecting dust. As much as I enjoy making things, I rarely know what to do with them once they're finished.


- R

Post-Op: The Healthy Living Plan

Monday, March 13th, 2017, I underwent surgery to alleviate the pain in my back and shoulders. After talking to various doctors, I'm 90% certain that in the long run, this is also going to help with the ongoing pains I get in my wrists/arms from the repetitive strain injuries I've had for years. If you can't tell, I'm pretty excited about this.

Granted, I'm only 1 week into recovery, but I can't even take a lap around the house without needing to lay down for a bit and lifting my cat for the two seconds it takes to get her on my lap is kind of pushing it. Luckily, I was smart enough to not book any jobs, so I don't actually have any responsibilities right now.

This long recovery time has mucked up the plans I had for saving money and moving to the mainland. With a trip to Austin in July and applying to join the Canada C3 Expedition this summer, moving so soon with no open work schedule is a terrible exercise in tempting the fates.

I've concluded that this is the time to kick my ass into gear and start developing healthier habits.

The Plan

Starting immediately, I'm going to slowly build up my exercise routines and establish some habits that will become so ingrained into my schedule that they'll stick once I can start working again.

I'm going to cut out daily sugary drinks (I'll save the sodas for the few times I eat out) and get back to making my own iced teas. Instead of making huge productions out of making a meal with 3 different kinds of food and a dozen dishes to wash, I'm going to focus on preparing smaller, less complicated meals.


I'm essentially starting at zero, this is the weakest I will ever be: I cannot exercise right now. That's fine, I've been doing a daily-ish walk across the street to the store for bandages or just up the drive to check the mail box. All I'm doing is walking and maybe carrying a few light objects and it takes 5-10 minutes.

The plan is to keep doing that until I can take over my morning paper route again. Then I'll be walking 60 minutes in the morning. I used to do it in 45 minutes, but I'll be giving myself plenty of time for breaks. The last thing I want to do is pass out at 5AM on some strangers doorstep.

Once I get my energy back, I'll go to the gym for some low-impact, below the waist exercising, until I can do upper-body exercises and just keep building up until I can do whatever and start picking and choosing which ones I want to do.


Considering I spent all of February eating mostly frozen pizzas, this one isn't super hard to start. Mom is on board: she made spaghetti and the leftovers lasted a couple of days. Tonight she's making some kind of scalloped potato/pea/meatball casserole thing that probably looks disgusting, but sounds kind of good.

For myself, I've already found a couple of recipes for veggie-dishes that I'm looking forward to trying out. Hopefully in a couple of months, I'll have a decent rotation of meals.

I'm currently failing on the whole "no sugar drinks" because before surgery, I asked my mom to stock up on Powerade so I'd have something in an easy-to-drink bottle, but I already regret that (this much Powerade makes my teeth feel weird), so I don't think it's going to be hard to kick this one.

I did install a couple "calorie trackers" on my phone, as suggested by Nerd Fitness, but after about 3 minutes with them each, I don't think I'll be using them very long. Especially when I'm making my own dishes - I don't even know what a calorie is, how am I supposed to know how to calculate how many is in my meal? Don't tell me, I don't actually want to know.

Wrap Up

I'm confident in my choices and - considering I don't have an excuse anymore since it went away with the surgery - I'm looking forward to being on the outside, the person I am on the inside.

Leaving College with some Money in my Pocket

As I've previously mentioned: in September, I'm moving back home across the country to start the adult portion of my life. This requires money. Especially since there's no guarantee that I'm going to find a job the second I set foot on the island.

I need to make sure I save as much money as possible. Because my mom might be letting me crash at her place for the first month that I'm back home, but I'll still have expenses. And I would very much like to have my own apartment someday soon.

Keeping track of how much money I spend is not easy. Every month or so, I'll sit down and go over my bank statements and calculate my "budget" until the end of the summer. I take my estimated income, subtract my estimated expenses, and see what's left over.

Due to a miracle bursary from my school in April, the left over bit is no longer a negative number, but it is still less than I would like it to be. So today I decided to redo my budget and see if there was anything I could cut or change.

Turns out I don't spend a lot of money on things that aren't necessary to my survival. The only thing I'm really cutting back on is how much money I spend on food. No more buying food for my breaks at work. No more going to Tim's for snacks when I'm at the studio. No more big grocery trips until I've eaten all the food in the pantry/freezer.

As long as I hold myself to this, I might actually save a couple hundred dollars.

If there's a cheaper alternative to the cellphone plan I'm currently on, I might be able to save an additional 5-10$ a month. Although I'm not overly optimistic because my need for data is ridiculous.

Other areas I'll be cutting costs: I'll be delaying my NatureBox subscription for the month of August (saving: 30$), no letting friends talk me into ordering pizza or going out to restaurants for lunch/dinner (this isn't going to be too hard, we don't actually go out that often), no going to the movie theatres for the next couple of months (this one is going to be the hardest).

It's funny, I never realize how poor I am until I go through all my expenses and realize there's not a lot of places where I can cut back on spending.

At the very least, I know I won't starve.


Decluttering Internet Baggage

There's a lot of things Past-Me did in preparation for the Youtube fame I so eagerly dreamed of having.

"Establish Your Brand" is one of the big catchphrases you hear slung about Vidcon, so that's what I did. I'll be damned if every year I didn't set up a new email/channel, or register for new sites, or delete old videos with the idea that if I just started fresh, then everything would fall into place.

"This is the year I'll finally do the things I've been dreaming about" is the biggest lie I've ever told myself.

So now I have 4 youtube channels, 6 emails, 3 google+ accounts, 2 twitter handles, 5 domain names, and no doubt a handful of other social media site accounts that I don't even remember signing up for.

Lately I've been thinking about my future and what path I want to take. Should I still market myself as a visual artist if I mainly want to work in sfx? Should I give up entirely on my youtube video ideas? What if I market myself just for sfx and in a couple of years end up doing something completely different? This is the problem with turning a human being into a brand.

If I'm reneemarieart for visual arts, and reneemarietv for youtube, it would stand to reason that I should be reneemariesfx for special effects. Suddenly I have 3 different things burning a hole in the back of my brain and I'm trying to plan for every possible future: what if I decide to do something else? Should I also be reneemariecooks? What about reneemariewrites? Or maybe reneemariegoescompletelyinsane?

At some point I had to sit down and realize that I am not a brand, I am not a company with subdivisions. I am a complex human being with my whole life ahead of me and I don't need to categorize everything I do for easy mass-consumption.

So I deleted one of my google accounts and with it disappeared the youtube channel that I never used for gaming, a google+ account I never used, and an email that I was holding on to for the simple reason that I might do something with it someday. I also deleted 3 of my parked domain names, because I really wasn't ever going to use them for anything and it's just a waste of money.

I turn 25 in two months and I'm just starting to figure out what I want my life to be like. Letting go of old dreams and getting rid of unnecesary things I accumulated along the way is a solid step in the right direction.



Taking Chances

The big scary thing about taking chances is that you don't know how it's going to turn out. You can't prepare for the consequences, because you don't know what they'll be. I personally tend to imagine a lot of yelling and insults and the inability to pay my rent and a giant black mark on my name so everyone will know that I made a bad decision.

This kind of thinking is toxic. It robs you of some truly wonderful life experiences. In the last couple of years, I've started making a conscious effort to take the chances that old me would have never even considered. Thanks to that, I snuck into an advanced screening of Earth to Echo at Vidcon, I did some prosthetic fabrication for the upcoming webseries Riftworld Chronicles, and I got a personal tour of an awesome prop shop in Toronto called The Rabbit's Choice.

For all these things to happen, I had to make a scary choice. Walk past the long line up of fans and sneak into the crew members only area, cut down my hours at work so that I have the time to be in the studio when my teachers need help on random projects, find the hidden door of a studio and walk in and introduce myself like I have a clue what I'm doing.

There are still so many opportunities that I miss because I think about it too much and lose my nerve. But the great news is that for every situation where I don't, where I just take a deep breath and dive in headfirst, nothing bad has ever happened.

No one yelled or told me off, I haven't been carted away by the police and I still make enough money to pay my rent. Of all the chances I've taken so far, the ratio of things I regret versus things I will remember fondly is completely skewed towards the positive.

Sure, I'm still going to miss a lot of opportunities because I've been living with bad anxiety for my whole life and that's not something you just get over, but I'm definitely doing a better job of controlling that part of my brain and I think with the good experiences piling up, by the time I'm 35, my anxiety might be a thing of the past.

Dont forget: the worst thing they can do, is tell you "no". You don't want to miss any amazing opportunities because you psyched yourself out of the running before the game even started.

First Week, Second Term

The first week of school is done and I'm one sleep away from starting the next round of classes. Some pretty awesome things have happened in the last week - I'm just going to do a quick recap:

Despite the fact that we're going to be learning how to design objects for 3D printing, it's easy to say that Mondays are going to be my slow, boring days. Our teacher isn't the most dynamic person to learn from and we have two classes with him that day. Our second class is about the ins and outs of working in the industry. I'm hoping since that's a topic I'm heavily interested in, it won't be too hard to sit through.

Tuesday and Wednesday I helped out in the studio for a couple hours, just cleaning and organizing and stuffing puppet kits. I foresee a lot of hanging out in the studio this term. It's one of my happy places.

On Thursday afternoons we have Advanced Prosthetics. We're learning the little things we didn't do last term (teeth and eyes), plus a term-project where we get into groups and do a full-face prothetic based on our own designs.

Thursday evenings, we have Puppets. You have no idea how excited I am about Puppets. Our teacher is amazing and fun and I already know I'm going to learn so many useful things that are going to serve me well in the future. And since our program is super hands-on, we're already working on concepts for our first puppets, so next week I'll make sure to show some of my sketches.

Friday I did something I've been wanting to do since I was a baby in high school: dye my hair blue. My friend Sam did it and she added a streak of neon green at the front which kind of looks peacock-y and I'm totally okay with that. I look fabulous.

Saturday was Animatronics day with the funniest teacher I've ever had. He has a story for everything and he's incredibly dynamic, so even though we're doing engineering-type stuff, I think I'm going to be able to keep up with and enjoy this class. Seriously, yesterday I actually learned a little bit of physics and completely understood. I'm stoked.

Then today was a homework day and Danielle came over and we baked ginger molasses cookies. They are slowly becoming my signature cookie. So yummy.

This was also the first week of my new Meal Plan. Nothing too special, I decided over break that I am going to prepare most of my food from scratch instead of buying pre-cooked packaged things and I'm only going to make enough for one serving + the next days lunch. This keeps me from buying food from school everyday.

It's working really well so far and I can only attribute it to two things: I'm writing everything down (even changes in real time) and I'm organizing everything. And I do mean everything. I spent 100$ on tupperware and glassware. The yogurt gets split into small cups as soon as I get home so I don't have to spent 2 minutes dishing it out in the morning. All my fruits are pre-cut into little fruit cups so I can just throw one in with my lunch before heading to school.

It's glorious and it's working and I'm so proud of myself.

And that's my update. I'm going to stop making promises that I've already broken many times in the past and just tell you that I'm optimistic about posting more regularly in the future.

Renée Marie


Turns out grad programs are a lot more time and energy consuming than undergrad programs. Who knew?

I did my best to continue working 24hrs/week, but I was barely staying on top of all my assignments and I wasn't getting any sleep. So I got a leave of absence from work.

Theoretically, the plan is to catch up on my assignments, relax over the winter break, then come back to school and have some kind of plan to balance school and work.

Realistically, I'm going to try my hardest to produce things that I can sell on my Etsy so that I don't have to go back to work.

My last day of work was Sunday and in those 3 days since, I've already been asked to help on a project outside of school and completed what I was asked to do so far. Had I been working, I wouldn't have been able to do any of that. You can bet your ass I'm going to do everything in my power to keep myself open to these kinds of opportunities.

Speaking of opportunities, I'm still behind on an assignment which is due on Friday, and my teacher is so wonderful to let me come in on one of his days off to use equipment I can't possibly use at home.

(Also: now that I'm actually going to have time to work on projects, I'm also going to have time to actually update my blog and make videos. You can't imagine how excited I am about all of this.)

RM <3

Special Effects

I've been on the waiting list for Advanced Special Effects since they started accepting people in April. On Monday, I got a call from the school: some one had just dropped the course and I was next on the list, was I still interested in joining the program?

The answer was a resounding, "OMG YES PLEASE!!"

Yesterday was orientation and let me tell you, I love my friends and I'm so glad that there's a few of them in the program with me. I can already tell that we're going to be the loud and energetic group. Good thing we're super friendly or we might get annoying fast.

Classes start next week and I'm really nervous. I feel like this could be it, I've found what I want to do with my life, but I'm worried I'm not going to be good enough and fail miserably. The one thing keeping me from truly panicking about it is that we had a small tour of one of the studios and there was a previous student glue gunning feathers to a mask and I am totally capable of doing that.

So I'm doing my best to not freak myself out before school has even started.


Between Conventions

Vidcon is over and RTX is fast approaching. I spent the last couple of days either walking around aimlessly or lazing about watching Netflix in bed. Because US Netflix is a thing that I have temporary access to and it's so wonderful.

Next time I travel, I'm going to have to get a hotel with a less comfy bed because while I should be writing my Vidcon Industry blog posts, I've actually been sleeping in until 3PM. It's such a nice bed though. And have I mention how wonderful the US Netflix is?

You can tell by the lack of anything worthwhile that this post is just filler until I actually do my job and write up my Industry notes. Which will happen. But not during the next 4-5 days, because RTX.

And maybe not the day after that, because sleep. And possibly hangover.

I'm also super behind on getting in touch with everyone I met at Industry, so hopefully I haven't completely screwed up those potential working relationships by emailing them all a week late. I think I have a valid excuse though.

I mean, RTX, bro.

Aaaand, I've just received the call to meet my friend for pre-registration, so I'mma go do that and I'll post something of value in 4-5 days.


Even if it's just a blurry drunk selfie.

Vidcon Industry Reflection

I have the hotel room mostly to myself (I think Jack is sleeping...) and since part two of Industry Day of Vidcon is officially over, I want to share a couple things that really stuck out to me over the last two days.

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The Night Before Vidcon

Registered and got my schedule mostly figured out. Now I'm just hanging out with my friends at the hotel before things start getting hectic in the morning.

Last year, I knew what panels I was going to attend the minute they posted the schedule and I even wrote down questions in advance in case I couldn't think of anything on the fly. I was anxious the whole time because I felt like I wasn't "maximizing my time-usage". Which means I wasn't meeting enough new people and learning enough new things. I was pretty stressed out by the end of it, making a list of all the things I had to do and in what order and on what day, because I thought I needed to do all those things to be successful.

I was wrong. Mainly, I was wrong about how I wanted to be successful. Spending an entire weekend with thousands of people talking about "becoming a successful youtuber" can be very inspiring. Go to a couple panels and suddenly you think you can become a famous vlogger because you know all the steps, you know what happened to make all the others famous, so you can totally make it work for you.

I completely disregarded the fact that I don't have the personality to make regular, high-energy videos about any and all subject matter that crosses my mind.

In the last year, I've learned that while I enjoy making the occasional vlog, it is not something that I can do as a feasible career option. Some people might find this kind of realization saddening, but I find it very relieving. I still love online video and the intricacies of the youtube community, and I'll still make the occasional video, and I would still love to have a job that incorporated that, even in some tiny minuscule way. Everything I learn at conventions like Vidcon and through dialogue with other people in the community will still be very useful to me in my quest to be a professional artist.

Because of this realization, this year I'm going into Vidcon with an open-mind and a laid-back attitude. I'm not going to rush around, mind going a mile a minute, thinking that there's something else I should be doing, somewhere else I should be. I'm going to enjoy myself and absorb all the information I can and meet new friends.

I'm going to take notes and maybe do a series of blog posts about the panels, because they are always super interesting. And maybe I'll do a video or two, because it's a medium I love and people who want to know the information I'll be sharing will respond better to that format.

Maybe I won't do any of that, because I'll be busy in Austin, Texas, attending RTX and making new friends and by the time I can actually spare a minute to set up a video and edit the damn thing, I won't be as excited to do it anymore.

Maybe I'll stop writing now and go to bed because I have to wake up early for Industry Day.

First Page!!

After a couple of months floundering around, I have one page of the website done! This makes me happy because it sets precedent for all the other pages and I like the direction I'm going with this.

If it weren't for my business class and the emphasis on online presence, I have no idea if I would have even touched this site until May. And seeing as I really want to start getting my name out there and selling my work, that would have been disadvantageous.

Look at me, bringing out the big words.

There were 2 reasons I was having a hard time sitting down and working on the website:

1. All my images were scattered across my computer with no easy way of finding the ones I wanted without spending a good chunk of time searching through every single folder. One of the projects had the images separated in 3 different folders, that's how badly organized I was. Well, I fixed that last night (it took about an hour and a half) and I'm pretty sure my new system is going to work wonderfully.

2. I had no idea how I wanted to present my work. There's a lot of options and it was a little overwhelming at first, but I think what I'm working on right now is going to look good and make it easy/enjoyable for people looking at my portfolios. Also: I really like the journals Jon Risinger writes about the process of his shirt designs, so I'm copying him and I'm not even a little bit sorry.

Renée Marie

First Day...

I don't even know what I'm doing right now and I don't have money to buy a domain name, but everyone says this is a good idea, so I'm doing it. 


Renée Marie