A Quick Round Up

By Martha Michaela Hutchman Brown
aka Marf

Over the next few days, I will endeavor to give you a true view of what it’s like to be a vendor at a convention. It can be fabulous, physically demanding, boring, grueling, delightful and profoundly satisfying by turns.

But first, let me give you a quick photo roundup of MarfDaze highlights in the last 6 months.

At Shore Leave in Maryland, Easter Cat hopped on Irving’s back.


While Easter Cat and Irving were communing, his human companion John Barrowman and I had a nice chat about the importance of plushie photographic stand-ins and husbands. Human husbands. Not plush husbands.

11825154_10153548981184860_3397577936095908350_n (1)

And then he dropped by my booth. Why, yes, he is holding a MarfDaze bag.

Continue reading

That Time Mark Sheppard Made Me Do Cardio: A Blurry Photo Essay

It seems like only last week that I was writing a piece about what it’s like to be an introverted convention goer.

Wait, it was last week.

This weekend, Irving and I are in Washington, D.C. for the Salute to Supernatural convention. I thought it might be fun to check out the Mark Sheppard panel.

He plays Crowley, the current king of hell, on the show. Even if you don’t follow Supernatural, you know him from something.

As a vendor, I don’t get a seat, but I’m allowed to watch if I hang out quietly on the side against the wall. No problem for me. I prefer to be off to the side, out of the way.

No sooner than Mark —

Can I call you Mark, Mr. Sheppard? I’m going to call you Mark.

— took the stage, he left it and began walking up and down the aisles, so that folks throughout the room could see him up close and snap photos.

He’s very urbane and droll. Plus smoky throated British accent. Delightful.

Trust me, Mark's the blurry standing up blurry person in the middle of all the sitting blurry people.

Trust me, Mark’s the blurry standing up person in the middle of all the sitting blurry people taking pictures.

He’s clearly a seasoned pro at handling large audience Q and A sessions. Walk, walk, walk. Acerbic, but lovable bon mot. Walk, walk, walk. Quip, thoughtful answer, quip. Walk, walk, walk.

I was willing him to come down the aisle near my wallflower perch, so I could get my usual shot of a celebrity with Irving sneaking in the frame.

Come on, Mark, turn right. 

Careful what you wish for.


Great! I’ll just get a few pictures of Mark with a floating Irving.


Closer, but still a little blurry.


Almost perfect.


Wow, that’s pretty close.




At first, I thought he’d give him back. But no, he just kept on going.

What was I to do? I started to walk behind him. The audience roared.

He didn’t even turn around. He just broke into a run.

I started to half-heartedly pretend jog, in an attempt to maintain a semblance of dignity.

Surely, you’re going to return Irving before you make a 40-year-old chick in a dress start to chase you for realsies.


“Cardio is important,” he tossed over his shoulder.

Was he seriously playing keep-away with me? Was I back on the 4th grade playground? I thought about giving up and appealing to the audience.

But, then again, despite Mark’s trash talking, I didn’t feel picked on. Mark’s got a layer of snarky, but he doesn’t seem like a bully…

A lightbulb went on over my head as my latent inner theater major kicked in.  I realized I was being invited to join in “a bit”.

You wanna play, Mark? I’ll play.

Good thing I’ve been working out recently, because I ended up flat-out running in front of several hundred people (and now that I’m thinking about it, holy shit, soon to be thousands of youtube people — please be kind).

I got up to the front of the room, but then he sidestepped me and headed for the middle of the audience.

Oh, it’s so on.

I pretended to go this way, and then went that way. Despite my lack of animal grace and sports bra, the audience cheered and I knew they were on my side.

He returned and we ended up having a stand-off, in front of stage. Mark tossed Irving back.


Before surrendering the hostage, Mark holds Irving at microphone-point. If anyone has better pictures of these shenanigans, please send them.

As I headed back to my spot on the wall, I passed lots of hands extended for high fives.

I spent the rest of the panel in a bit of shock, heart racing, with Irving clutched to my chest.

Then later, back at my booth, folks were asking after Irving. He became a (very) minor celebrity in these here parts for an hour or so.

Still, we’ve had enough excitement for the weekend.

That was fun, but don’t you even think about kidnapping Irving again, Mark. We’re ready for you now. 

Bring it on, Mark. We're ready for you now.

UPDATE: The youtube video evidence is up!



A Painfully Introverted Bagmaker vs. James Marsters, Fan Whisperer


Irving waits to meet David Tennant in Raleigh, N.C.

I’m an introvert.

Two years ago, I went to my first-ever fan convention. It was loud and boisterous and I was alone and there were thousands of people and I had no idea how everything worked. I wanted to meet people who like the things I like, but to be honest, I was scared they wouldn’t like me.

I lasted only a few hours before becoming completely overwhelmed. I basically ran in, watched a John Barrowman panel, got his autograph and ran out. I had a ticket for a photo op with him, but I skipped it because it was all too much.

In some ways, this is a big change. I used to sing in front of people. On stages. Sometimes lots of people. And I loved it. It was freeing.

In some ways, I’m exactly the same. Lost in a crowd, navigating a big scary world of strangers who all seem to know each other and be confident in their own skins. Of course, I’m not unique in this feeling. But there it is.

Now, because of my handmade bag business, MarfDazeGeek, I go to at least one convention a month. When I’m ensconced in my booth, I have my own little comfort zone behind my trusty Singer sewing machine. I’m surrounded by all my creations and can watch all the convention goodness parade in front of me.

I’m thrilled when people drop by my booth to check out my bags. Often, these folks are in amazing costumes and we can bond over our love of sewing and sci-fi.

So many talented people.

Dalek Queen Elizabeth I at (re)Generation Who in Maryland.

Dalek Queen Elizabeth I at (re)Generation Who in Maryland. Her skirt is covered with rows and rows of the bumpy Dalek thingies.

But once I’m out from behind my table, I often revert to my Nervous Nellie Convention Newbie ways. There are people all around me who would talk to me if I just said something, but I stay quiet. The sad part is that I genuinely like other people and I’m interested in what they are doing, but I trip over my own feet.

Sometimes, I’ll go and get an autograph from a favorite actor. I usually practice what I want to say on the way over, but once I’m there, I’ll squeak out something fairly incoherent about how much I admire their work and then skitter away. It usually goes something like this:

Me: Hi! I enjoyed watching a character you play because blah blah blerg blop, blah blah.

Them: Thanks!

Oh no, did I say blah blah blerg? That’s grammatically incorrect. I meant to say blah blerg blah. Also, wow your eyes are really blue/ sparkly/ big/ deep/ mesmerizing/ penetrating/ distracting in some way. Holy crap, am I blushing wicked bad or am I just having a hot flash? 

Now you’re going to give me a picture of yourself portraying that character and sign it as tangible proof that we had this conversation. Then I’m just going to scurry over there and mentally repeat everything that just happened about 100 times and wallow in how awkward I am.

Me: Ok. Bye!

Them: See you later!

Colin Baker and Irving at (re)Generation Who).

An adorable Colin Baker and Irving at (re)Generation Who. He has a really beautiful speaking voice.

Sometimes, I just send in my much more socially skilled family members and friends and then grill them on what happened.

Cary Elwes, Irving and my sister.

Cary Elwes, Irving and my sister. He wanted to know “what’s with the moose?” Everything, Cary. Everything.

My husband’s an actor. I used to work in the theater professionally (not as an actor). I went to school with people who now show up in TV and movies all the time and I know these famous people are just human beings, too.

But that’s the problem in a nutshell. I’ve never met them before and there are fidgety convention-attendees in line behind me and why is everyone looking at me and what should I be doing with my hands and why am I still acting like a seventh grader?

It’s like that mega uncomfortable moment when you’re at a store and you’ve already paid and you’re hurriedly putting your change away because you feel like the person behind you and the cashier can’t get rid of you fast enough. Times a hundred.

But, then there’s James Marsters.

During a slow moment at Wizard World Raleigh, his normally super busy booth only had a few people, so I headed over, thinking I might be able to manage to talk to him without a cringeworthy incident. He was taking time to talk to each fan in depth. He asked follow-up questions and appeared to be genuinely interested in each person he spoke to, including the earnest student actor in front of me who was full of questions.

I asked him if I could take his picture with Irving, but he tried to convince me to be in the picture with him instead. I explained that I’m shy and Irving is my stand-in but he said I should be in the picture because I have a beautiful smile. (Ok, whatever, I thought. But still, it’s a nice thing to say. Thanks.) We talked about stage fright and singing and the power of eye contact until I didn’t feel nervous anymore.

And then he leaned in and said, “No really, I’m sure the camera loves you.”

I raised an incredulous eyebrow. And he raised an incredulous eyebrow right back. I felt like he was calling my bluff on my “shy schtick.” And for a second, looking into his eyes, I was over it.

I was calling my own bluff.

I could almost see myself getting into that picture.

And then maybe heading out on to the main convention floor and introducing myself to some friendly looking people and making new friends. And feeling like I could fit in.

Because this isn’t about feeling comfortable around famous people, which is not actually a necessary life skill. It’s about being comfortable around everybody.

An unconvinced James Marsters and Irving.

A very nice James Marsters poses with Irving instead of me. 

Maybe I could do it.


Meanwhile, back in the relative safety of my booth and prescribed role as lady who makes and sells stuff, I’m happy to chat with whomever comes on by. And all sorts of people do drop in.

Baby steps.

When I meet people this way, I’m much more comfortable because they are coming to my house and we can talk one on one. Even when they are a bit intimidating, like Nichelle Nichols, who saw me smiling at her, walked over, regally extended her hand and introduced herself.

Irving and Nichelle Nichols at Great Philadelphia Comic Con in Oaks, Pa.

Irving and Nichelle Nichols at Great Philadelphia Comic Con in Oaks, Pa. This picture does not begin to capture how stunning she is.

So, if you are a Nervous Nellie Convention Newbie, feel free to drop by and we’ll commiserate until you feel at home, too. I admire you so much for just showing up and being yourself.

Next month, I’ll come full circle and I’ll be a vendor at Shore Leave in Maryland, with the one and only John Barrowman. Maybe, I’ll even get a picture… Perhaps I’ll even be in it.


Me and Irving right now.

Me and Irving right now. Hi! Ok, I’m running away now. Bye!




A Moose Loose at Two Conventions

Dear Readers, I’m busy sewing bags and preparing for a series of upcoming scifi conventions, so I’ve asked guest plushy blogger Irving to fill you in on our recent adventures. 

Love, love, love, Martha

The Walking Moose

Irving here, ready to tell you about life on the road as the Official MarfDaze Spokesmoose.

Martha thought she’d try to sell her fandom bags at fan convention. To get her feet wet, she applied for the December 2014 Walker Stalker Convention in NJ/NY, which celebrated The Walking Dead.

Why start small when you can do a convention featuring the most famous actors from the most popular TV show in America, right outside of the most populous city?

It was quite a change from the local craft fairs we’re used to.

Before the show, Martha, David and I toured the venue and snapped some pictures to burn off some nervous energy.

Here I am at the December 2014 Walker Stalker Convention in NJ/NY. Behind me is the infamous train car A from The Walking Dead.

Behind me is the infamous train car A at Terminus during a soundcheck.

I pretended to be Mr. Wilson, but I don't think I fooled anyone.

Scott Wilson, aka Hershel, is my personal favorite because he’s a veterinarian. I avoided Norman Reedus’ booth because his character has that crossbow.

But once the booth was set up and customers arrived, it was a whirlwind. We had very little time for moose glamour shots.

I try to stay out of the way during super busy times.

I try to stay out of the way during super busy times.

Suddenly, there seemed to be people everywhere. Martha and David had their hands full.

Folks come by wearing amazing costumes. At least I think they were costumes.

Folks came by wearing amazing costumes. At least I think they were in costumes.

On the second day, reinforcements arrived in the form of Martha’s sister-in-law and nephew. I got to hoof it and meet my favorite Walking Dead actor.

Scott Wilson was just as nice and cool as his character, Hershel.

Turns out, Scott Wilson is just as nice and cool as his character, Hershel.

It was an amazing and amazingly fast-paced experience. Can’t wait to go back this December.

Farpoint: To Boldly Go Where No Moose Has Gone Before

Next, Martha left David at home and we headed to Farpoint, a Star Trek-oriented convention near Baltimore.

It was much, much smaller than the Walker Stalker convention, so Martha and I actually got to talk to people and take tons of pictures.

Here’s the view from the MarfDaze bridge:

I've been working out. Can you tell?

I’ve been working out. Can you tell?

Our vending neighbor, Cynthia from Wyrd and Wired, was friendly and full of good advice.

Cynthia makes cool jewelry from dice, game pieces, books and comics. You should check her out. 

Cynthia makes cool jewelry from dice, game pieces, books and comics. You should check her out.

There were lots of authors at Farpoint, so Martha brought some books to sign in case some wandered by.

A nice sunny reading nook.

A nice sunny reading nook. With a Dalek.

And some did!


This book features Doctor Bashir, Martha’s favorite. I’m more of a Janeway kind of moose, myself.

Then, the most famous author at the convention — guest of honor Timothy Zahn — came to the table and Martha didn’t have any of his books out! She didn’t bother to pack any because she figured he’d never come by. Oh, the horror!

Plus, he bought a bag!

Mr. Zahn was a good sport. Plus, he bought a bag! Mrs. Zahn is awesome, too.

You know who else came by the table unexpectedly? Tim Russ, aka Tuvok from Voyager.

Martha tried to play it cool, but inside she was a mess. She was relatively non-embarassingly squee-ish asking him to take a picture with me in the autograph line, but then he showed up as a civilian going through her wares and she started to get giddy. He was very nice, though. And what a great voice that man has.

I'm ready for an adventure in the Delta Quadrant, Mr. Russ!

I’m ready for an adventure in the Delta Quadrant, Mr. Russ!

We also met YA mystery-book author TJ Perkins, who has an intriguing-sounding new children’s book coming out in April.


Also at the convention was the dreamy Colin Ferguson. Martha couldn’t get away from the table long enough get picture of us together, but we saw lots of him coming and going.

Here's his IMDB picture. Now just imagine a little moose on his shoulder.

Here’s his IMDB picture. Don’t you think he’d look even more handsome with a plush moose on his shoulder?

Farpoint was a Star Trek convention, so we saw lots and lots of Starfleet admirals and captains and ensigns and red shirts. But you know who else kept showing up? This guy:


We compared stripy scarves.

First he was going solo and looking old school. Later he reappeared with Ace.

Looking natty.

Looking natty.

Then he came back alone in a dapper suit.

I'm the sonic screwdriver! Bzzzzzzzzz!!!!!

I’m pretending to be the sonic screwdriver! Bzzzzzzzzz!!!!!

He had the Brigadier keeping an eye on his ride.

When Martha asks if she can take a picture, she never suggests where to hold me or pose with me. But I keep ending up on the best shoulders in town.

When Martha asks if she can take a picture of me with someone, she never suggests how that person should hold me or pose with me. But I often end up on the best shoulders in town.

But Farpoint wasn’t all Doctor Who and Star Trek.

Kaylee came by from Serenity.



And I met a new dance partner.

IMG_0328It was a great weekend!

Next stop: David, Martha and I are headed to Wizard World Comic Con in Raleigh with James Marsters (Spike from Buffy!), Ian Somerhalder (Lost! Vampire Diaries!) and Sonequa Martin-Green (Sasha on the Walking Dead!). In short it will be a festival of awesome cheekbones.

Your Friend in Plush,