Thursday, 12 November 2015

Armoured Brownies - Costumes, Props and Prosthetics

At the London MCM Expo in October there was a stall selling various items made by Armoured Brownies .

She had some great items on show and everyone was stopping to look at the awesome Groot plant pot which she had made

I got talking to Vicki and it was obvious how much of a passion she had for making props and costumes just from her enthusiasm on the subject and I certainly wanted to learn more and I hope you do to

So I thought I would send her some questions

And we always love a good Q&A here at Geek Mash

First off I'd like to say thanks for asking these questions, I like to think of myself as a passionate communicator of my craft, and relish the opportunity to share what I do.

How did you get into costume and prop making?

Gee, I don't know how much detail you want me to go into with any of that.

I remember growing up using tape and cardboard boxes to make robot costumes for myself and my sister, does that count? 

So, used to make costumes for LARPing (Live Action Role Play, and if anyone tells you there's not an A in that they're lying), as a cheap-ass-not-even-student I made my own kit.  I did some Anime conventions when I was younger and did a bunch of cosplay, hosted some panels but didn’t hang around the community, as there were dragons to slay … and by slay I mean build.

My biggest watershed moment for crafting, as I had wanted to start doing prosthetics and sculpting, was when a housemate of mine bought a mask from another friend.  She brought it home, and stated it was supposed to be a fox.  Looking at it with shock I stated that I could do something better than that in a day.
So I did.

That was Friday night, Saturday morning I started sculpting, was done sculpting by the afternoon and just poured plaster over it until I had something that looked a little like a mould.  Then Sunday I demoulded it and produced my first Latex mask, and I'm still using that stupid fox mould to this day, it's one of my most popular masks and really wants re-sculpting.

How do you start the process? Do you think of the concept and tools you might need to use?

When I'm planning something I want to make, or someone is petitioning me with a commission, I make sure I have all the information I can about the subject or prop as early as I can.  Because, basically, I think it's really important to simply dwell of something, get excited about it, obsess over it, visualise the minutia and plot in your head.  Adding to, this sketching pieces out in a notepad seems to be a more organised version of the above.

Then when I'm a bit closer to actually starting the costume I will scale it out every little piece of it, whilst breaking it down into parts.  This is actually pretty important.

I will make sure I have a good picture of the character, an idea how tall the person who will be holding prop, wearing the costume or whatever and literally crunch the numbers to make sure I know how large any of the parts I am making need to be to keep them in scale with the subject and the other parts of the character.

Any pointers for people thinking of cosplaying but are too scared to?

I have a trite little saying I claim to live by:

"People do that, I'm a people, therefore I can do that."

Basically anything you see people making, creating, talking about are all things that other people have made themselves, and therefore if you really wanted to, you honestly could it as well.  The biggest difference is likely just time, time put into a project, you're just a little behind them, and there's only one way to catch up, and that's by doing it.

I mean, also money, but there are lots of ways to find nice budgets work arounds that can give the same effects as professionals.

Do you have any future cosplays in the works right now?

HAH!  How much time do you have?

Things I am physically working on:
  • Thor (2014, yes the female one), I am most of the way through this, just need lots more leatherworking.
  • Groot, I have a sculpted head, have the stilts and have started building the undersuit to base it all on.
  • Madame Vastra, this a prosthetic piece for a friend that I've started sculpting today.
  • Jasper, I should sort out a proper costume for her rather than just wearing a top and trousers from Tesco and some props that I've made.

I’ve got small commissions, one of which I’m not even allowed to talk about.

Things that are happening soon enough, but haven’t started yet:

  • Kindred for League of Legends, as a duo costume between myself and a friend since it's a pretty simple costume but I adore her character design.
  • Nova, I want to do Nova mostly for the excuse to light up the entire thing with computer controlled LEDs in the entire bodysuit and armour.
  • Overwatch, I want to do a character from overwatch, and it's either going to be Mercy, Winston or Bastion, and I can think of awesome reasons to do any of them.

Between all of this I have a lot of commission work, which is annoying but you know, pays the bills and funds the rest of the hobby.

Any advise for if your costume goes wrong on the day or handy things to pack in case of such events?

  • Hot Glue.
  • Duct Tape.
  • Evostick Impact Contact Adhesive.

I have not found a problem that can't be solved by liberal application of the above trifecta.
And at the end of the day, if a single part of your overall costume goes wrong, that won't hurt it.  Like, really, overall visual effect is the important thing with cosplay costumes.

Is there anything that you want to make but just looks too overwhelming?

"People made that, I'm a people, therefore I can make that."

Favourite item you've made?

I did a Loki staff as a commission earlier this year that I utterly loved.  Before I sent it off I was literally walking around our house threatening my housemates with, well, nothing really, just being threatening.  Similarly last month I finished 3D printing Mjolnir and sculpting Thors helmet and ... this is very Marvel themed but I guess that's just what's been on my mind.

Oh, actually, my Groot mask sculpt was the best piece of costume, rather than physical prop, just to have two categories represented.

Favourite Material to work with?

WED Clay, sculpting it in feels like cheating, as it's so soft and easy to work with! 

And you can leave it to dry, or apply more water, as you see fit to vary it's resistance to tools or not.

What parts of Geekdom are you into?

Primarily at the moment I'm a LARPer, that's where most of my time goes.  I do a lot of different LARP around the country, from high quality Airsoft LARP at Shadow Wars, to hilariously low quality Lorien Trust and even am one of the people that help run Empire LARP for Profound Decisions.

And I try to fit gaming in there somewhere; it's been pretty hard to do anything the last few that ISN'T playing the overwatch beta.

And out of them what have you made props/costumes for?

Erm, I guess all of them.

Light or Dark side?

Neither, I'm not force sensitive, though I'd likely do anything for Captain Phasma.

Chocolate or Vanilla

I hate it when mum and dad fight.

Iron Man or Captain America?

I've got a large enough bed, why choose?

Alliance or Horde?

Alliance, wait, no, the last few years I've been Hoard, but I grew up as Alliance, but my current guild and partner is Hoard.

If money were no object and you wanted to make your ultimate cosplay, what would it be?

The way I see costumes is that money isn't the object, time is.  As over time, with a job, you'll get money.

But I've been planning out a Toothless costume, though I'm not sure at what point it goes from a 'Rig' or 'Puppet' less than a costume. 

Scaling the thing out on me it'd be 6metres long, rather than full scale Toothless at 8.5metres long so, in theory it's only 0.8scale but that's still bigger or more accurate than any costume of him I've seen before.  I've put a lot of planning work into this project already, from how his Irises would work to the folding mechanism on the wings, even down to the fact that we'll use motorcycle batteries mounted at the end of the tail on a coaster to power it, but it's still likely a few years away.

In the mean time I've got a pet project of building an Animatronic Dragon puppet for use at LARP, and just general events, that's I've been working on for the last year on the back burner when I've had spare time or money (spoilers, that's not often) and I want to take all the lessons I learn from that and apply them to this Toothless costume so I can have it PERFECT!

And finally, anything else to add?

You can keep up to date with the behind the scenes and WIP stuff of costumes and commission work on my Facebook Page (AmouredBrownies) and more tutorially and heavily produced content on my Youtube Channel (also ArmouredBrownies) and would encourage any reader who enjoys or is interested in crating to check them out.

Similarly, I am always willing to answer any questions about things I make, I'm not precious about any of my crafting methods, even if it's something I sell!

Thanks for your time,

Here's one of her videos, check it out and click HERE to see her channel

Be sure to Like her Facebook page and make sure you check out her website, she does some really awesome step by step guides with a breakdown of pictures guiding you through her process

Armoured Brownies

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