Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?

In 2011, Justin and i embarked on our most ambitious (and expensive – re: all the leather goods) Halloween costumes yet: Steampunk Star Wars. This year, we actually went to a steampunk festival for the first time – the Gilded Gear Festival, in Rochester Hills, MI – and improved upon our costumes slightly. Plus, over […]

Epic Silly Love Song Typographic Valentine.

Epic Silly Love Song Typographic Valentine | by Sarah Zagacki of RustyFeathers Design

Here’s a Throw-back V-Day (patent pending) special for you.

2 years ago, i made this Typographic Valentine for my then-beloved boyfriend and now fiancé, Justin.

The idea was inspired by the movie Amelie. Specifically by the scene when she cuts up some old love letters to her landlady from the woman’s husband, who was lost at war long ago. She puts them back together in a new composition. She then gives it to her landlady, claiming that it is her husband’s last letter to her, and was just lost in the mail for decades.


(It was also inspired by the fact that i was flat broke at the time, and needed something that made up for in meaning what it lacked in expense.)

Since we never had any real love letters (unless you count the flirty tongue-in-cheek facebook and livejournal posts we made for years before we got together), i had the idea to use love song lyrics. One of Justin’s first and most meaningful gifts to me was a mix CD called Silly Love Songs. We were both dating other people at the time, but he claimed it was simply an assemblage of love songs for intellectual comparison, from one music-aficianado to another.

He was lying, obviously, and just trying to get with me.

i came up with this idea in January, and was excited about it for weeks, working on it every chance i got.

i listed some of our favorite and most meaningful songs, (including the quintessential Wings song that started it all), and chose my favorite lines from each of them. Then i put them back together in a way that created a poem, and sort of told a story.

After that, inspired by the typographic quotes and poetry i was finding on my then newly-discovered Pinterest, i designed up the lyrics in a variety of fonts and affixed them with little illustrations befitting the subject of each one.

i don’t think i’ve ever poured so much thought and love into a gift, or been so proud of it. It’s so mushy and yet so very *us.* Even the punky girl at the counter that printed it off for me, who seemed totally morose and bothered to be ringing up another customer when i dropped it off, was much more interested and talked to me about it when i picked it up. (She totes wanted to be my Valentine…)

Since then i think my type skillz have improved a bit, but i still treasure it as a snapshot of our relationship. It hangs in our house now, and i plan on displaying it at our reception next year when i marry my best friend (best friend with benefits). i hope i can pull it together and create a wedding for us that is just as mushy and meaningful and *us* all at the same time.

See if you can recognize any of the lyrics i picked!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

A Game of Thrones Engagement

Jon Snow and Daenerys costumes

Heroes of Cosplay

Halloween is so awesome. Isn’t it just?

i have always loved Halloween. i love inhabiting a form that is an extension of myself but not really my reality. i love find creative ways to costume. And ever since Nightmare Before Christmas came out in 1994, i have loved things that are endearingly creepy.

At some point, my childlike enthusiasm for dressing up as my favorite character and stuffing my face with chocolate while roaming the neighborhood in the dark was surpassed by something deeper.

This was realized when, after being some sort of dark coffeehouse goth angel for 5 years straight (i claimed she was my alter ego, Jane… with a little counseling and i turned out fine), i realized Halloween meant more to me than dressing up. It meant becoming a facet, an extension of myself.

2002 - Sally and Sally.

2002 – Sally the dog, and my first attempt at a homemade Sally costume.

i’ve always been in love with Sally, from Nightmare Before Christmas. In fact, i named my most beloved childhood pet after her.

i was inspired actually by the store-bought Sally costumes i started to see online around that time. The costume cost about $50 and included a set of fingerless gloves, a bright red wig and a dress. Seeing that some people had complained of the dress only being patterned on the front, i decided that i could recreate this dress my way, with my own unique style, for much cheaper.

2003 - My half-finished Sally dress hanging in my dorm room.

2003 – My half-finished Sally dress hanging in my dorm room.

i stitched the costume together by hand on slow nights in the dorms, mostly while my theater major roommate was yelling at American Idol, or while i waited for my Sims 2: College Edition game to load.

Sally costume

2003 – A very stitched together Sally.

It’s hard to tell in the photo, but my favorite part of the costume was my Sally gloves. The former opera gloves were spray painted just the right shade of blue, had cut-off fingers, and sported carefully drawn stitches done in Sharpie. The tights got the same treatment. The dress is a thrifted black base, with all sorts of fun fabrics sewn onto it (and appropriately Sharpied for continuity’s sake).

The Sally costume was a little chilly, and frankly, somewhat form-fitting for someone so self-conscious at the time. The next year, i celebrated The Two Towers by dressing as a Ringwraith.

2005 - Sexy Ringwraith Sarah poses in a dorm room.

2004-2006 – Sexy Ringwraith Sarah poses in a dorm room.

This costume promised to be easy, since i already had several black cloaks lying around. But i went the extra mile after i found the specifically Ringwraithy sword and ARE THOSE GLOVES THE MOST BAD ASS THING YOUVE EVER SEEN. i even bought a black hood to completely cloak my face.

2005 - Adam in my Darth Maul makeup, Rebecca in handcrafted (and stapled) mummy costume, and me.

2005 – Adam donning my Darth Maul makeup, Rebecca in handcrafted (and stapled) mummy costume, and me.

i felt so cool.

i recycled the Ringwraith costume for a while, and then got serious.

Wanting to expand my Lord of the Rings geek cred, and inspired by the adorable wedding scene between Samwise Gamgee and Rosie Cotton, i knew what i wanted to tackle next.

It was seldom done, and difficult to find references online. Which made my success even sweeter.

2007 - Rocking the most excellent Rosie costume on a night of most excellent apartment parties.

2007 – Rocking the most excellent Rosie costume on a night of most excellent apartment parties.

i thought i had hit a high note with my Rosie costume, but in 2008, i started dating my “Platonic Soul Mate,” Justin, who was just as obsessed with Halloween and costuming as i was. From then on, we really raised the bar.

Out of convenience, we immediately started donning couples’ costumes. Our first pairing was Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett, in honor of the Tim Burton adaptation which had been released in theaters the year before.

The costume was a challenge, but i was determined to impress my new partner in crime.

Justin as Sweeney Todd.

2008 – Justin as Sweeney Todd. His vest was bought on eBay, but the rest was pieced together by us. He’s wearing my belt and my stretchy pinstriped pants (he looked better in them anyway).

My costume was even more complicated. Luckily there was lots of visual reference for the various layers of Lovett.

Sarah as Mrs. Lovett

Killing it as Mrs. Lovett. The skirt was the hardest part – luckily i found fabric at JoAnn’s that was close, and my Busia helped me with the sewing. i aspire to be that good with a sewing machine someday!

All the trim for the costume was bought at JoAnn’s. The base for the top was one of the luckiest finds of my life: an olive brown top with black polka dots that i found at Meijer on the cheap. i added the sheer sleeves and trim. The corset came from Noir in Royal Oak for 50 bucks.

This was before we lived together, and i remember Justin asking me, “How are you going to get your hair to do that?”

i laughed and assured him it wouldn’t be a problem. The morning of Theater Bizarre, (a huge Detroit carnival-burlesque Halloween party, which we’d be attending together for the first time), i showered and let my hair air dry. i teased the curls and then walked around downtown Royal Oak in the wind.

Justin was impressed. Having lived with me for almost 5 years now, he now knows what my hair is like in its natural state.

Needless to say, we were a huge hit.

The year after, it was an unspoken agreement that it was Justin’s turn to choose. And choose Justin did: we were Zoidberg and Leela from Futurama.


2009 – Justin raised the bar with his Zoidberg costume by gluing a rubber glove to his face and covering his head in red latex.

Justin also creatively cut two mini footballs in half for Zoidberg’s claws. My wrist communicator is fashioned from two child size shin guards.

In 2010, i have to give credit for our costumes to my sister. Doing Beetlejuice was an amazing idea, but doing Beetlejuice and Lydia from the wedding scene where Lydia is wearing a huge red tulle gown was genius.

Lydia red dress costume

2010 – Unfortunately we don’t have great pics for this year – we were having too much fun!

Justin’s Beetlejuice was mostly thrifted (and a lot of hair spray), but my dress was, again, much more complicated. Not being a seamstress, i had to thrift the dress. But i correctly assumed that i would not be able to find a perfect poofy, tulle-y early 90’s red dress. i did however find a few big, poofy white wedding dresses. Obviously i would have to dye them, something i had never attempted before, but how hard could it be?

Well, if you’ve never dyed fabric, you have to wash the garment in very hot water in order for the dye to cure. And if your garment wasn’t meant to be washed in very hot water, it will most likely shrink. Several sizes.

And that’s how i found myself with one very red, very small dress.

With only days left before Halloween, i had to find another poofy white dress. Only this time, instead of dying it, i did something much worse – i bought several cans of fabric floral spray paint. i spent the next two days spray painting the entire dress.

i try not to think about how toxic and flammable i was. But after hand-sewing on a few tulle-y details, i sure looked awesome.

Beetlejuice and Lydia costumes

Justin and i reusing our Beetlejuice and Lydia costumes 2 years later at Theatre Bizarre. Unfortunately i didn’t have time to perma-dye my hair black this time and had to rely on hair spray.

2011 was the year of overdoing it.

Justin was the mad scientist behind this scheme. We began to gain interest in steampunk, and realized that we could put together some killer Star Wars steampunk costumes. We elected to be Han and Leia. Justin spent weeks on end buying the pieces and painstakingly painting them and gluing them together. It turns out that steampunk actually is tricky unless you are a bit of a fabricator (or a zeppelin mechanic).

Still, they turned out great.

Star Wars steampunk

2011 – It turns out that making a costume almost entirely out of metal and leather is very, very expensive.

The goggles and guns were all handmade by Justin. Our leather pieces, however – Justin’s doublet and my corset – were purchased. When all was said and done, these costumes cost us over $500.


Even Calvin got in on the action as Luke Dogwalker!

Yikes, you say, couldn’t that money have been better spent elsewhere? Yes.

We are not professionals and, harboring an avoidance to competition (and also to people in general), we should never be. That’s why the following year, we decided that we were costumed out. We played it safe, and used pieces we both already owned; we wore our work clothes and went as television’s most beloved couple: Jim and Pam from the Office.

Jim and Pam costumes

2012 – After steampunk Star Wars, we were costumed out. In fact, we inhabited our characters perfectly by putting in just enough effort to get by.

{However, this was the year we also launched our Zombie White Stripes costumes for Zombie Walk! Check back for a post on our zombie costumes over the years when Walking Dead returns from its mid-season break next month!}

2013 was a long, rollercoaster year for us. Justin and i grew closer together through many ups and downs. On the bright side, we spent many hours watching Face-Off and Heroes of Cosplay, comparing ideas and discussing the methods of the costuming pros.

i was also introduced to Game of Thrones – which i hated until Khaleesi’s story really got rolling. (Everyone told me oh, i would love Game of Thrones! It’s like Lord of the Rings but better! No. It’s horrible. Especially in the first few episodes. But it’s grown on me.)

As Halloween was coming up, Entertainment Weekly released an issue with Daenerys and Jon Snow featured in a photo shoot on the cover. Justin and i instantly knew what we must do.

i was stoked. i bought a blonde wig in August. Then when i decided it wasn’t quite right, i bought another one.

i knew i wanted to do the blue dress, but i needed professional help again. i enlisted my seamstress extraordinaire friend in Chicago, Christine, who helped me find a pattern and took me to the JoAnn’s she works at. There we found a comparable blue fabric with a vertical rouching. We then worked until very early in the morning putting together the dress, which was difficult with one tired drunk girl who doesn’t know how to sew (even with one tired drunk girl who does).

Daenerys, Jon Snow, and Drogon costumes

2013 – Justin was a shoo-in for Jon Snow, and i somehow pulled off a long blonde wig. Even Calvin got into the action with his Drogon harness!

The night before our annual Halloween party, i was driving home from a needless dentist appointment, and hit a pickup truck that was spinning out in front of me on I-75.

On Halloween night, Justin was stuck in traffic and almost completely missed passing out candy with me. Then, on the way back from a Halloween party at a bar, we decided to stop for some T-Bell. Driving a giant Expedition XL rental car that i was uncomfortable with, i dented the side of the car on a concrete barrier.

When we got home, i was so upset that i just cried myself to sleep. Justin tried to comfort me, saying, “Don’t worry. I promise tomorrow will be better.” He was worried i was going to cancel our party. He even went so far as to call off work that day in order to clean the house and get everything ready. i was impressed, and so very grateful for finding a guy who was so thoughtful.

Jon Snow and Daenerys costumes

Westeros Gothic. Being silly in our fantastic Game of Thrones costumes. i LOVED being the Mother of Dragons!

At the party, we were drinking and having a good time. Then, i saw Justin lean over and whisper something to our friend Kaile. Kaile looked at me with a confused look and asked me where my dragon eggs were.

When i turned around, Justin was standing there with a wooden box full of handmade dragon eggs.

He started off his speech saying something about how we both love Halloween so much, but once i realized what was going on, i was too nervous to remember the rest of it.

Daenerys and Jon Snow costumes

The red dragon egg was hollowed out with a little metal hinge, and held a ring. Khaleesi was so surprised she forgot to put down her beer before she accepted.

i am one very happy Khaleesi. ❤

i’m so thankful that i’ve found someone to share my love of Halloween with. We seem to relate to each other through our love of characters and their quirks, their personalities, their cultures, and their relationships with each other. And we are looking forward to many more years of being a couple of geeks in so much love.

Khaleesi and Jon Snow costumes

One very happy Khaleesi.

Click here to see a complete gallery of our Game of Thrones costume images.

Hipster Owl is Not a Vegan

So apparently this post never… posted. Here it is now!

Greetings all! Rustyfeathers has been a popular name lately, and i’ve been up to my eyeballs in freelance brochures and logo design, custom wedding invitations, and – i just made the commitment to join Hawkfest for another year of selling my art and t-shirts at Lake Erie Metropark.

So, big things on the horizon, guys. i will post some updates and let you know what i’ve been up to and what i’ve learned about design in these past few months.

Hipster Bird is not a Vegan - my first sale on Etsy!

Hipster Bird is not a Vegan – my first sale on Etsy!

But first, perhaps my biggest news of all: this month i uploaded my first Etsy listing and last week, made my first sale. Today i shipped it and it is out the door! Hopefully everything goes to according to plan, and Luke in New South Wales Australia will be my first happy customer.

The biggest thing i’ve learned about shipping prints: don’t try to ship it FedEx.

Yesterday at Kinko’s the gentleman at the counter priced shipping a 2″x25″ kraft mailing tube to Australia at about $88.

You heard me.

What were they going to do, slip it under the guy’s pillow? Cover it in chocolate buttons? Dip it in yoghurt?

So, my first line of advice for selling on Etsy: i know it’s confusing, but do your shipping research. Going to the post office is a lot less comfortable than breezing through your local  FedEx office on a Sunday afternoon, but in the end, they were able to ship the tube for a total of $12.75.

Stay tuned for hopefully many more Etsy listings this summer!


Al in the D.


Put together this tattoo design for my cousin while watching the Puppy Bowl, during the Super Bowl. You can tell where my true interests lie…

But you didn’t have to cut me off…

Go-tie_zagackiwebWhat was your favorite song of 2012? Was it Some Nights? We Are Young? Gangnam Style?

Or was it Somebody That I Used to Know?

{Doodled during work one day last year, when i had the song stuck playing on loop in my head for the 27th time… probably after seeing the SNL skit. That’s how you know you’ve made it big…}

Detroit Dog Park meets its Kickstarter goal of $15,000

Detroit Dog Park meets its Kickstarter goal of $15,000

Folks, i just received word that Detroit Dog Park has surpassed our Kickstarter goal. A great big hannon le (thank you) to everyone who made this possible. Read below for more info on this great group of people!

Guys, guys! Guess what tomorrow is…

elf, will ferrell, lord of the rings, hobbit, tolkien, christmas, funny, geek

i wanted my two favorite Christmas elves to come together. I passed through the seven levels of the Candy Cane forest, through the sea of swirly twirly gum drops, and then I walked through Mirkwood Forest…

Detroit Dog Park

Something awesome is happening in Detroit.

This sort of goes without saying, though it might surprise some outsiders to hear. In the past few years, Detroit has been fighting ups and downs as usual. But this time i’ve seen a number of non-profit granting creative community hub information exchange organizations popping up. These young entrepreneurs are scary educated, as well as determined, and pledge to transform Detroit into the next Portland. This arguably recession-inspired economic development has been gaining media attention nationally. From Detroit SOUP to D:hive, we’re seeing the city becoming a humming welcome to innovators and green future global growth connector engagers. Of course, this comes at the same time that the city is wrestling over bankruptcy, faced with no funding for basic public services such as street lighting, garbage pickup, and even police and firefighters. The Detroit dichotomy. But that’s for a more qualified writer to discuss.

Enter: Detroit Dog Park. Detroit Dog Park is one of such organizations of ambitious young professionals that saw a need and has made a pledge to meet it. Dog parks are a symbol of a thriving and self-actualized city (Chicago, Portland, San Francisco, New York). i myself ended up leaving the city after living there for 5 years partly because i knew i wanted a large dog, and found the answer to how to exercise such a beast on a daily basis tricky. Fast forward to 2012, when we have been approved to transform a lot adjacent to famous Detroit landmark Michigan Central Station into a doggie playground haven.

This has proven to be the most involved freelance project i’ve taken on, and i’ve made the acquaintances of some brilliant, wonderful people who are taking a real stance on positive change in Detroit.

i happened upon Detroit Dog Park years ago through an accidental friend-of-a-friend notification on facebook. (i have an extremely love-hate relationship with facebook’s inherent oversharing of information. Usually it is more hate than love, but this is an instance where i was glad for it.) Very shortly after i joined, the group was holding a logo contest. Being an opportunistic freelance designer with a lifelong seldom-rivaled passion for canines, i came up with something and submitted. Then got about half of my facebook to vote for my design (thanks guys, you are the best).

My design was pretty simple and based loosely on a few other relevant Detroit business logos that i related with the prosperity and grassroots growth of the city, like Canine to Five and City Bird. i thought people would associate the block color, skyline and simple cutout figures with a modern, thriving Detroit that already carried those connotations with the similar look of other local logos. (A side note – Canine to Five is a huge supporter of what we’re doing!) i thought the clean, apple green and white would indicate a new feeling about Detroit. The logo contest runner-up, DistinkDesigns, applied the term “unleashed,” and Detroit Dog Park incorporated that into the final logo as well.Image

My design was pretty simple and based loosely on a few other relevant Detroit business logos that i related with the prosperity and grassroots growth of the city, like Canine to Five and City Bird.

From there the identity took on a clean dark grey as i was asked to create business cards, flyers and other promotions. More recently, for our Kickstarter campaign (which comes to a head in just 9 days – December 17th!), i added pops of bright cyan, to call the right kind of attention to our usual branding that people had been used to seeing around the city, to say, hey. This is new and awesome.


With our Kickstarter campaign has come an unexpected (and very welcome) amount of media attention, and we have been so far featured on mLive Michigan News, Curbed Detroit, AltDetroit, the Huffington Post, the Detroit News, the Free Press, CBS Local, and even had a morning news TV spot on Click On Detroit (Channel 4 News).

And here i was filled with pride when Justin and i sidled up to the Detroit Dog Park tent at Tour de Troit in September, and saw a table spread with our banner, stickers, and volunteers. i’m sorry, but i was kind of geeked to see my logo on TV.


For our next appearance, look for us at Detroit SOUP presenting our idea for a rain barrel system in the park. Winning the grant for this expense would free up money for us to use the $15,000 from our Kickstarter campaign on other elements of the park, like gates, fencing, benches, and poop bag dispensers. (Yeah, i said it.)

It started with a logo contest that i thought would be a good fit for me, and has culminated with hours of meetings, brainstorming and a branding campaign that have all been surprisingly eye-opening for me. My buddy Calvin, normally an oversharing heart of gold involved-in-everything-we-do super cuddler, is on his way to becoming arguably more socially learned than his owners, and loves the monthly Pop-Up Dog Parks that have been hosted at Old Tiger Stadium in lieu of an upcoming permanent park.

This has proven to be the most involved freelance project i’ve taken on, and i’ve made the acquaintances of some brilliant, wonderful people who are taking a real stance on positive change in Detroit. It’s been an exhilarating experience, and i’m continually amazed by what this group of people has been able to accomplish. i hope to update again in the summer when our little logo is situated firmly on the front gate.

See below to watch our Kickstarter video (Calvin and i make a dorky cameo at 1:15), and go to to back our project. We have some cool Detroit-themed rewards to thank you for your donation!