As I write this, we’re well into lockdown number three here in the UK, and there’s every possibility that there could be more after this one. It’s been teb months since all of the larger LARP events (and many smaller ones too) were put into suspended animation.
For many larpers that also means that it’s been almost a whole year since they really worked on anything to do with their character. There hasn’t been the usual, frenetic, week-before activity that you’d usually see as players put their ideas into motion, and frantically crafted costume and props well into the night.
And while it might have seemed like endless hours stuck at home was a great opportunity to get crafting done and costume made, the reality is that many larpers have faced financial difficulties of some kind over the course of this global pandemic.
Being creative every day
Over the course of the pandemic, I’ve found that being a bit creative on a regular basis has really helped me stay in a good mood while stuck at home. A small project that I can do at my desk while on conference calls, or in front of the TV is a really great thing to have on the go.
It’s a good distraction from the world outside to be able to spend a few minutes a day focused on crafting something with your hands. And surely it’s even better if you can produce something that you’ll use as your larp character, which in turn makes the game you are playing better for yourself and other people.
What is junk journaling?
Something that I’ve been doing more and more of over the last few months is junk journaling and bookbinding. Anyone who knows me will tell you that my solution to “my character needs more stuff” is to get my character another book. And that goes for almost every character I play.
While you might be familiar with basic bookbinding for making props, junk journaling and scrapbooking is a slightly different beast. The idea behind junk journaling is to create books as a way to collect memories or tell stories. Junk journalers often use found or recycled materials and the whole thing becomes a kind of fantasy prop. Many junk journals are made with vintage themes in mind, but I think that they can just as easily fit into fantasy settings such as medieval or sci-fi.
Of course, while you can collect materials over time or create everything from scratch, sometimes I like a quick (and cheap) project for my character. That’s where it comes in helpful to buy scrapbook designs from graphic designers that I can print and assemble.
I simply print the pages and bind them into a simple pamphlet style book. For the pages I print them on regular copy paper, and the cover on the heaviest card my printer can manage. It’s easy to sew the pages and cover together with some waxed cord, as I do in the tutorial I just linked.
And then the fun bit starts. You get to add loads of embellishments. This particular journal in the pictures was made for my Empire LRP character who has taken apothecary skills. I wanted to try and create something that felt used and lived in, but that didn’t take hours and hours to create.
By printing the pages that came with the kit and then embellishing with pockets, envelopes, seed packets, and mailing tags I created something that doesn’t feel brand new, but does still have plenty of space for me to add my own notes both now and during the game.
My top tip for this style of junk journal is to buy a little mink ink pad made by the brand Tim Holtz called “distress ink” and a small foam applicator. By brushing it around the edges of all the embellishments and the cover everything looks a bit grungy which ties everything together. Here I used a green ink called Forest Moss.
Anyway, there’s so much you can do with junk journaling when it comes to creating books that tell stories, and books as props for your characters. I suggest checking out Pinterest and getting lost down a rabbit hole for a bit – there are loads of possibilities.
It doesn’t even have to be an expensive hobby. All of the digital kits for this journal cost me less than £10 to purchase and I can use them over and over and over again for characters and games in the future. I’m not promising what’ll happen when we’re out of lockdown and you head out to the craft store though!
It doesn’t matter what you do, just do something
I’m not saying you have to make cute books and journals for your character. There are all kinds of things you can do. I’ve also been working on embellishing my current larp costumes in spare moments that I have. Some have had embroidery added to hems, others have had new trims.
Several of my friends have been completing leatherworking projects, both big and small. I’ve seen new armour sets appear, as well as smaller projects like personalised coin pouches. Some friends have been spending their time drawing scenes from games, others have been writing books completely from scratch for the universe that they enjoy playing in!
One thing is for sure though, I see the benefits of being creative every day throughout my friendship group. Just small things, even as little as fifteen minutes can really make a difference to your health and wellbeing at the moment. Having a project on the go can give you something to look forward to after work or on the weekends, and keeps your character in your mind even if you cannot play them right now because there are no games.
All of this crafting for our characters and our wellbeing means that our worlds will be a little more vibrant and alive when we do go back to playing games again. And that is perhaps the most exciting thing to look forward to.
Have you been working on improving your characters costume or props during the past year? Drop a picture in the comments and tell us what you’ve been up to!