Costume Commissions – How to Not Get Burned

Lately, social media has been swamped with the story of folks who were burned by a creator for hire. I won’t be weighing in on that case, or even mentioning the name, as I don’t like to use this blog for negativity and the information is already out there on dozens of sites. I am not writing this solely because of this particular Maker, but because I have seen an unsettling number of incidents, including friends being burned by less than honest Makers.

What I would like to do is address what you can do to protect yourself in costuming commissions and understand how the process works and what red flags to watch out for.  Many of the victims of scammers and bad businesspeople are first time commissioners, but even those well experienced in the process can get scammed. Thus, this guide is gonna go over everything, from the most basic tips to tips for the experienced, and even then you may get burned. The fact of the matter is that not every bad deal comes from a career scammer, sometimes well-respected and well-meaning makers can fail to deliver an item on time and/or to the client’s satisfaction. Hopefully this information will also help to figure out if someone was out to scam you from the beginning or just had something go wrong despite good intentions.

Vetting your Maker(s)

So, you wanna have something made, that’s great! Since materials and equipment is getting cheaper and more and more information is available about how to make stuff, there are literally thousands of costume, armor and prop makers out there now. How the heck do you choose? Whether you find them via their personal website, a facebook page, an RPF or coscom thread or elsewhere on the net, you mustn’t just throw your money at the first one you see. You must vet them!
Continue reading

The post-Dragon Con breakdown

Dragon Con has now come and gone, and as is custom, most of the hotels are already full again. There was a myriad of issues that sprung up over the course of the con, between construction, hotels overbooking and some con-goers behaving incredibly badly, but I still vastly enjoyed it. I’ll probably create a more complete rundown this weekend, but for now I wanted to talk about the work I do for the Superhero Costuming Forum.

Years ago, I was invited to the SCF by its founder, Allen Hansard while dressed in my X-Factor Siryn costume. It was a blissfully low-drama community genuinely focused on improving the craft and encouraging new members. I love the SCF. I have made more lasting friends from the community than any other that I have been a part of, whether for costuming, creation or academic.

Of the many things the SCF does, one of the most well known is the organization of the giant Marvel and DC costuming photoshoots. They are the largest of their kind anywhere, and we draw literally hundreds of costumers to each shoot. They’re massive, fun and the most visible of all of the photoshoots at Dragon Con. We also draw the attention of convention guests…like this guy whose movies you maaaay know:


Thanks to the work by our friends at Beat Down Boogie, Contagious Media, Acksonl and our myriad of incredibly talented photographers, folks around the world have seen the incredible work and love of the craft from superhero costumers (amongst many others). It’s a labor of love, costuming, and I love that we can gather so many people full of talent and passion together to get these great photos and videos.

The behind the scenes of organizing these shoots is a lot more massive than most people imagine. Finding locations, working with other groups to make sure scheduling works, finding reliable photographers and videographers, getting the word out to various costuming groups, arranging special guest visits, establishing rules and safety procedures, and working directly with the con takes quite a bit of time, and for really big shoots, the work starts as much as a year out from the event. For the last several years, the giant Marvel and DC shoots were arranged by this guy:

10603508_10154623070145226_6653986850162564337_n1©AngryDogStudios

Allen Hansard, the a**hole who has been at the forefront of making these shoots happen (and what a perfect costume, right?). I’ve seen first hand how much work goes into these things, as I’ve been assisting with subgroups and eventually becoming co-director over the last several years. Its stressful, deceptively difficult and affects how much con he actually gets to experience. Between setup, the shoot itself and breakdown, Saturday and Sunday from about 2:30 until 6:00pm are spent outside in Atlanta heat making sure the shoot runs. It’s pretty rough, and often he doesn’t even wear a costume for it nowadays. He’s taken time out of his own costuming to make sure others can have these giant photo opportunities and network with other costumers and just have a fun time.

Well, as of this year, Allen has retired from the big shoots. He’ll still be directing smaller shoots, but this will give him more freedom to costume and focus on other things, like running our forum. He’s passed the megaphone and reins to me, and beginning next year, I’ll be in charge of the giant shoots. What will this mean for my propmaking? Probably not much, I’ll just have less work in the studio as Dragon Con looms, but I wanted to share this other aspect of costuming that I do. I have some big shoes to fill, and I’m not sure I can top what we achieved this year, but I know I’ll do my damnedest.

So, thank you, Allen and The SCF for trusting me with this beast, and I look forward to seeing everyone again next Dragon Con.

Pat Loika©PatLoika

Moving! Commissions! Stuff to come!

Some of you may have noticed that the site has been pretty barren as of late. Over the last few months I completed my final classes for my Masters program and my Husband and I moved to a new city. We are finally mostly settled in, and the studio is back in working order again! I have also completed the bulk of my 2014 commissions, which means that slots will become available again as the year progresses. I am opening one slot for a custom commission for now, and will open slots for previously completed commissions on a case by case basis in the meantime. I will not be taking on any commissions for Megaman armor, Vanille’s staff or Automail for the time being.

Also, if you are looking for some of my jewelry pieces, swing by my Etsy shop! I’ll be adding new pieces over the next month or so as well, so stay tuned!

Right now it’s mad DragonCon prep time, but once September rolls around, look forward to new tutorials, more projects and more crafting topic posts!

Busy times! Status of commission schedule.

Whew.

Been a while since the last update. I got hit with a slew of commission requests and general inquiries. The last two big projects have been exceedingly popular, which is awesome and humbling. However, I am up to my ears in work now (also awesome) but that means less time to post to the page or answer e-mails for non-clients. So, Just a quick update to where the studio is, work-wise and what it means for commissions right now.

Lokistuff

I am not accepting commissions until early next year. Right now the studio has been completely taken over by Loki (that sly b*stard). I will update the page when this changes, but until the current commissions for scepters, spears and armor are complete, I will not be accepting new commissions or even negotiating future commissions. I simply don’t have the time to do price quotes at the moment (which generally take between 30 and 90 minutes each). I will still give quotes for things I have done before and thus already know the price, but will not be taking actual orders until after new years most likely.

I also have had a massive amount of interest in the Megaman armor I completed earlier this year. I am floored by the response, and I really appreciate that the reaction has been so positive, but I will not take any commissions to replicate it. It was a great design and I learned a great deal from it’s completion, but I also learned that it is incredibly time consuming and that I did not want to undertake another project in that vein on a commission basis. If you have any questions about how I made it that are not covered in my post on creating flexible armor with EVA foam, please feel free to shoot me a line with your specific question and I’ll try to help out. However, I will not accept any commissions to make another one.

Thanks for reading, and look forward for Loki Scepter v 2.0 coming soon!

Status of the Site and Commissions

So, anyone who has tried to access the site in the last couple of weeks probably saw a very nasty warning page from google stating that the site was likely an attack site. This has been fixed! It seems my site was the target of a nasty bit of malicious code insert that tried to install malware whenever anyone visited it. I’ve been working with my hosting provider and the site is now clean again. If you have visited the site in the last 2-3 weeks and ignored the warning page, it wouldn’t hurt to run your favorite malware/virus checker just in case.
On brighter news, I have a few commissions slots open over the summer, but only for things which I already have the molds for. These items include:

I just won’t have time this summer to take on any new, custom commissions with my current workload and preparation for DragonCon. I will have time to prepare things I have already created molds for, however, and may also be able to provide any of the above listed items in kit form. Use the commission inquiry form to inquire.

Thank you Polygon! Holiday Gift ideas!

I want to thank Alexa Ray Corriea at Polygon for featuring my work in their Gift Guide: Crafts article!

I’m booked to the brim until the start of the new year on larger props and armor commissions, but I can still fit in a few jewelry commissions for which I still have the molds and materials on hand. If you’re looking for a gift for that game loving geek on your list, I have several pieces that I could whip up in time for the Holidays!

The list of pieces I can create in time for the holidays are as follows:

  • Serah and Snow’s Engagement Pendant from FFXIII
  • Snow’s NORA Necklace from FFXIII
  • Lightning’s Necklace from FFXIII
  • Serah’s Earrings from FFXIII
  • Rosalina’s Earrings from Super Mario Galaxy
  • Terra’s Necklace from FFXI/Dissidia

Interested? Just shoot me a line via my Commissions page, or directly at joy (at) joysutton.com! I can only guarantee shipping by Dec. 24th on orders placed before Dec. 16th, and there are only a handful of slots, so act early!

2013 Commissions Are Now Open!

As 2012 winds down to a close, it’s time to look towards next year’s costumes and props!

I’m opening up commission inquiries for delivery during the first half of 2013. However, I am going to be speaking a bit on the nature of my request schedule, pricing and quality of work.

Firstly, I am in the extraordinarily awesome position of having a higher demand for my work than I can fulfill. Since I now need a way to determine which commissions to take on, I’ll be taking a page from two other creators I greatly respect. Like Volpin and Blind Squirrel have done this year, I’ll be making decisions according to what I personally would like to create. The reasoning for this is that as a propmaker, I do my best work when I am genuinely invested in a project; whether it’s because I am a fan of the franchise it is from, love the object’s design or enjoy the process that goes into its creation. In the interest of matching my time and skills up with projects that match my own loves, I’ve put together a list of things that interest me and that I’d love to create from.

  • Marvel Comics and Movies
  • Skyrim/TES Games
  • Fallout Games
  • Mass Effect Games
  • Terry Pratchett’s Discworld
  • Deus Ex Games
  • Borderlands Games
  • Lord of the Rings / The Hobbit
  • Batman Comics, Nolan-verse and Animated
  • A Game of Thrones
  • The Legend of Zelda
  • Final Fantasy Games, Especially IV, VI, IX, XII, XIII
  • Bubblegum Crisis Hardsuits
  • Breath of Fire Games

Now, if what you need isn’t on that list, does that mean I won’t make it? No way! I’m always open to new things, and if something looks interesting, I will certainly consider it. All this list is for is to show how to ensure that you get my attention.

Another bit I want to mention is on the “How much is this gonna cost?” question. Volpin recently did an excellent writeup on the topic of cost in prop commissions. I will never be able to beat mass production prices or those eBay sellers out of Hong Kong. However, I will give you the fairest price I can and absolute control of the substance and direction of your commission.

Another question I get from time to time, after I have given a quote on price, is “Can you cut some corners/use cheaper materials/have less detail to make it cheaper?” This is a very sticky question for me. Now, I costume myself, so I know all about how expensive the hobby can be, and understand how troubling it can be for just one part of a costume to take a large chunk out of the budget. I can sympathize with having a limited budget, as I always work on my own things on a shoestring budget, which is what lead me to learn how to make things myself in order to save money. However, when I put my name onto a commission, my name and reputation is now tied to that piece. If it breaks, if the paint job is less than perfect, if the details are fudged, it reflects upon my skill. While the client and I may know that the details were fudged to keep the piece within the client’s budget, and that we didn’t go with the better paint job at the request of the client, the casual viewer will see a sub-par paint job and muddy, inaccurate details. That will color their opinion on the prop’s creator and ultimately hurt my reputation. The only way I want to send props out for other costumers is if they are the best quality I could create at the time. Know that when I quote a price, it is the fairest price I can give for the quality my conscience requires and very rarely will I be able to re-quote a price lower than I originally gave. I will be spending dozens if not hundreds of hours on a piece for you, and I want to be able to look back at the end and know it was the finest work I could give.

I want to thank everyone reading this for following my work of the last year, and especially thank those who have trusted me to bring a piece of their costume to life. I hope to continue to create awesome, nerdy things in the coming year! If you’ve got something you need made, please swing on over to my Commissions Page and drop me a line!

 

Technical Difficulties and Things on the Table

Just a quick note to anyone currently waiting on a quote request reply; My motherboard on my main computer died on Saturday morning, so I am going to be running my communications from my netbook until a replacement arrives. Unfortunately, the files I use for calculating quotes and long term scheduling are trapped on that computer, so I will be a few days late getting prop quotes out.

On a more pleasant note, I have some cool new progress to show, and drop the news on a really cool build on the table right now.

First, doing a piece from Fushigi Yuugi, Miaka’s priestess tiara, going for something between the Manga and Anime design, expect a full build on this one in the next two weeks:

 

And next, something I am very excited about, Loki’s spear from The Avengers!

Not much yet, but you’ll be seeing much more of this beastie. It’s a very cool build, and as a massive comic nerd myself, I’m glad to be working on something so in tune with my own obsessions. A shop copy will definitely be made later on.

 

 

 

 

Distractotron’s Marvel Comics Epic Cosplay Video

So, one of my other costuming endeavors is being very active on a little forum known as the Superhero Costuming Forum. I assist with photoshoot planning and direction at our biggest con of the year, Dragon*Con, and recently I was made an Admin. This year, we had the fabulous opportunity to work with the guys from Beat Down Boogie and Distractotron, documenting some of our shoots and gatherings, including our two giant comic shoots, the Giant DC Photoshoot and the Giant Marvel Photoshoot. Each one brings literally hundreds of costumers of all skill levels and we get some fantastic group shots. It’s a heck of a gathering, especially when you count all the “regular” con-goers and photographers that come to see, and a ton of work has to go on behind the scenes to make the shoots and some special events at the shoots happen. This year we hosted a proposal (aided by Dean Cain himself!) and a wedding.

 

The guys at Distractotron recently uploaded their video from the Giant Marvel Photoshoot and the Avengers Assemble Photoshoot, which included a cameo by the incomparable Stan Lee! Excelsior!

Send the guys at Distratortron some love! And be sure to subscribe to their channel if you love seeing costume and con-related videos, as they still have a ton more to come. I do appear several time in the video, as I was one of three people helping to wrangle and arrange the hundreds of Marvel costumers into place. You’ll find me walking around in a pleated orange half cape in my Siryn costume.

Commission status and more client photos!

This is a post to explain the status of my commissions in the coming months. I am currently all booked up until August or September for custom commissions. My time will be taken up making gear for Megaman, Edward Elric, Felix Faust, Rosalina and Adam Warlock costumes; quite an eclectic mix, no?

However! I do still have some spare time in my schedule I can devote to filling some additional orders, so long as they require no sculpting, patternmaking and initial fabrication. This means that I can create anything that I already have molds for; jewelry, pauldrons, knives and staves! I have put together a list of what pieces I still have molds in good condition to make, with prices for the simpler things. For the larger pieces, just contact me with all of your particulars and I’ll get you a quote. For certain items, like Lightning’s Pauldron, I would be willing to sell resin kits. You’d get the raw resin casts from me and do the sanding, painting and assembling yourself. This is a good deal for folks with the time and skill to spare to do the finishing work and who’d like to save some money.

Here’s the list!

Quick turnaround pieces (2-3weeks maximum work time):

Final Fantasy 13

Snow’s NORA necklace: $45.00 Image
Snow and Serah’s Engagement Necklace: $45.00 Image
Serah’s Earrings: $15.00 Image
Lightning’s Necklace: $20.00 Image
Lightning’s Coat Hardware: $85.00 Image Image 2(One D buckle, One large slide buckle, four slide buckles, three three point buckles, four square fasteners, four silver “grommets”, six gold disks) I can create just parts of the set as well, contact me for individual prices.
Lightning’s Bullet Holders: $20.00/pair Image

Final Fantasy 6
Terra’s Earrings and Necklace: $50.00 Image

Gems

I can also cast colored, foil backed clear gems, including special effects such as opalescence, pearlescence, embedded items and create custom clay settings. Examples Here and Here

Moderate turnaround pieces (2-3 weeks turnaround):
Contact me for prices, as options affect the price.
Lightning’s Pauldron Image
Lightning’s Survival Knife Image
Snow’s Badge/Amband Image
Light Staff from FFXI Image Image

I already have a large stock of small parts, including many necklaces needing only a few days to assemble and complete, a large stockpile of jacket hardware and several cast resin gems which can be sold as-is or foil backed:

Just shoot me an E-mail at joy (at)joysutton.com or use the commissions form!

 

I also have the pleasure of postinga photo of a really lovely client from France with one of my Survival Knives!

This amazing costumer can be found at her site, HERE, or at her facebook site HERE.

Take care out there, and expect to see a new video documenting a really fantastic process I’ve started using soon!