Project Showcase – Loki’s Scepter from The Avengers

This has been a long time coming, but I am pleased to finally show the results of months of work.

LokiScepter-01

This piece measures 39 inches assembled. It disassembles into two pieces for ease of transport. The scepter is rotocast in urethane resin and weighs about 4 pounds.

LokiScepter-02

The gem is cast in clear resin with blue tint and micropearl inclusions. It contains an embedded LED. Battery access is located under the top plate of the head assembly.

LokiScepter-03

The silver toned pieces are created in cold cast aluminum resin. The gold tone is created using gold enamel. The piece was weathered using acrylic and enamel paints.

I’ll be posting part one of the step-by-step log of this piece’s creation, and will be completing the full length spear over the next few weeks.

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!

 

Tutorial – Armor with Eva Foam and Strech Vinyl

Today I want to show off a little technique I’ve been using for one of my commissions. The client has asked me to create a set of Megaman Starforce armor that is lightweight and flexible. I racked my brain a great deal on this, and had a lot of trial and error in developing this technique, but I feel I now have it to the point I can share the method.

Lots of folks in the costuming community make use of EVA foam (foamies, craft foam, yoga mats, ect. Proper name Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate foam) to make armor, props, jewelry and all sorts of bits for their costumes. I’ve seen everything from angel wings to N7 armor to LOTR armor made from the stuff. It’s economical, easy to cut, heat formable and very lightweight. However, I’ve found that it’s a real pain to paint, and the finish will never really be smooth enough to pass for high gloss plastic or metal (though careful weathering can help trick the eye in the case of metal).

The solution? Build the structures you need in EVA foam, and cover the foam in stretch pvc fabric!

Vinyl fabric is very durable, resists just about anything you throw at it (only second to wig fiber in chemical resistance in the costuming world) and comes in a decent variety of colors nowadays. I get mine from primarily spandex vendors, so the fabric itself is 2 or 4 way stretch spandex with a thin, flexible layer of pvc. There are even passable gold and silver pvc spandex fabrics available; I have used both, silver in Ed’s Automail, and Gold for a few recent comic commissions, both work fine for non-weathered metallics. I personally get my fabrics from Spandex World (free swatches!) but friends also swear by Spandex House. I should also note that this method will work with any stretch fabric coating on the foam, so don’t be afraid to try it with other types of spandex and knits.

So, without further ado, on to how this is done.

You’ll Need:

  • Foam! I prefer to use 3mm thickness craft foam in complimentary colors to the finished piece, but under an opaque covering it doesn’t matter what color foam you use.
  • Stretch Fabric. Stretch PVC, spandex, ect.
  • Contact Cement. I use Super Glue Brand Contact cement, it comes in a yellow and purple tube, but any contact cement that lists vinyl or rubber as an acceptable surface will work.
  • Cotton Swabs, lots of cotton swabs.
  • Fabric scissors.
  • Hobby blade or scissors for the EVA foam. I prefer using a hobby blade as it doesn’t crush the cut edge like scissors, which gives a better bonding edge to work with.

First, you’ll need to cut your EVA foam into the shapes you’ll need. In this tutorial, I am constructing the backpack for my client’s Megaman  costume. Once you have your foam pieces cut out, take the time to make sure they fit properly, as this is  the last time you’ll want to cut the base forms at all. They need to be exactly what you need before applying the fabric. Once you have your foam pieces, lay them out onto the back side of your fabric, with the foam piece’s back side facing you. Now, cut out your fabric with some extra to work with on the outside. I usually leave anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 an inch extra when I work with 3mm foam, for thicker foam, leave more fabric.

Next, cover your workspace with something you don’t care too much about. If you are working on a wooden table with varnish, cover it up! The contact cement’s fumes will melt varnish (trust me, I now have a bit on our dining table to resurface). Now, you’ll want a bit of scrap card or paper to put under your tube of contact cement (this stuff is messy coming out) and your cotton swabs to apply it with.I also recommend keeping a very clean workspace here, this stuff has the potential to get messy

Now, keeping your EVA foam from moving around on the fabric, start applying the contact cement, via cotton swab, to the cut edge of the EVA foam and on the fabric next to it. With a little practice, you can do the two at the same time. You’ll want to make sure the cement doesn’t get under the EVA foam and onto what will be the “face” of the piece, as the cement can make the vinyl warp and you’ll end up with ripples and wrinkles. I usually use one hand to hold the foam in place and one to apply the cement.

Now, the piece needs to have 3-5 minutes to set up. Contact cement will stick if you just put the two surfaces together immediately, but not very well. You leave the cement exposed to air until it becomes just tacky, then you can press the surfaces together and get a very tough bond. If you have a tight curve or sharp angle, now is the time to cut some slits in the fabric to allow proper give. I find you really only need them on inner curves and angles, but here are a few for demonstration purposes. Cut to within a hair of the foam edge.

Now, once notches are in where necessary, and the cement is tacky, you can fold the edge of the fabric up to touch the cut edge of the foam. The bond will be instant, so be careful as you go. I find the best way to do this is hold the foam down with one hand, and slide your finger underneath the fabric edge, pressing against the foam through the fabric. Try to not stretch the fabric as you do this as well, or the final piece may end up with wrinkles.

After you bond the edges, give them a few more minutes to fully set up before dealing with the excess fabric. Use a nice, sharp set of scissors for the best results. You’ll want to angle your scissors so that one blade is resting on top of the back of the foam, parallel. Trim off the excess fabric, getting as close to the foam as possible without shearing bits of it off.

Continue all around the piece, and nip off any folds of fabric from corners. You should end up with a very neat back edge:

Now flip over your piece, and check that the front is nice and smooth.

Shiny! And it can do this:

Bendy! This stuff can be bent, twisted and crushed to a reasonable degree and will return to its form easily while still staying shiny and smooth. Now, repeat this process for all of your pieces and assemble as you see fit. I personally like building an inner structure out of more foam to attach the pieces to. You -can- bond the surface of the vinyl to the eva foam backing of your pieces, but it is not as strong as bonding foam to backing fabric or foam to foam. To bond the foam to foam, you can use contact cement again, or, since it won’t show anyways, hot glue. I don’t prefer hot glue in places where it might seep out or warp materials, but in places no one will see anyways, well, it’s certainly quicker than the cement.

Here you can see the support structure I made for the backpack and all of the associated pieces I have skinned in vinyl. Admittedly, black EVA foam may not have been the best for a photo tutorial.

And here we have all of the pieces assembled together. Weighs about 3 ounces!

Hopefully this will be helpful to folks wanting an inexpensive and flexible option for high gloss armors. Please feel free to post any question in the comments section!

 

Miaka’s Tiara – Done!

After much refining of elements and a harrowing battle with indoor humidity while cold casting, the Tiara is complete!

 

This piece was created in Smooth-On 321 resin with brown so-strong pigment and goldfinger casting powder. This was done for a fabulous costumer who won best journeyman in one of the cosplay contests at Anime USA for her Priestess Miaka costume from Fushigi Yuugi!

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.

Product Review: Apoxie Sculpt

Got another product review! This week I’d like to talk about Apoxie Sculpt from Aves.

This is a two part sculpting epoxy putty. It has the consistency somewhere between sculpey and plastalina when mixed. The kit comes with two parts, in two colors to make it easier to see when they are mixed fully. To prep the putty for work, you simply knead together equal pieces of the two parts until it is one color. The work time on this particular variety is 2-3 hours, which is plenty of time to do most sculpting work, if you need longer, simply work in sections. The putty hardens in 24 hour and will have a smooth, satin like finish.

The putty is very fine grained, and will take details very well. The directions say to work with gloves, and I tried this on my first test sculpt, and it’s a slight annoyance when working with details and smoothing. I have seen other creators work apoxie bare-handed , but you didn’t hear me personally tell you to do it. Aves also sells a solvent to deal with any apoxie left on your tools and workspace, but I have not given it a try yet. The putty doesn’t stick to tools too badly and comes off easily enough while uncured.

Once cured, the sculpt will be very hard, at least as hard as the resins I work with. It also sticks to nearly anything when it cures, so make sure you have it on something you either want it to stick to or you don’t mind destroying. I used an index card since I have hundreds left over from studying for my Bio degree. The fully cured apoxie can be sanded just like resin and presents a firm but smooth sanding surface.

Here is a piece I whipped up to try the Apoxie out, just a random swirl design, took about five minutes to sculpt and only required a few passes with the jewler’s file to sand a few jagged bits.

 

The verdict: A+  Apoxie will be a staple in the studio. I can see why so many creators work with it, an easy to use and durable product, and will fill the need I have for a sculpting material I can build up onto other materials and not have to bake in order to harden.

Ed’s Automail Arm – Step by Step

 

By request, here’s the step by step process of how I made Ed’s Automail. There will be a few gaps in the photos, as I wasn’t doing the best job of chronicling this build. I’ll try my best to fill in the image gaps with adequate words.

Since there was no way to meet with my client and make a mold of his arm, I got several dozen measurements from my client and stitched a plush replica of his arm in muslin. I also made several paper mockups at this stage of major parts and mailed copies to my client to hold to the appropriate areas on his arm and hands and take photos so I could verify fit and scaling before moving to making the pieces in woderflex.

 

To make the end caps for the fingers, I coated a it of PVC pipe the same diameter as my client’s largest finger with bondo and began shaping the cap.

 

The pipe was cut off and the bottom sanded. You can see here how tiny my hands are compared to my client. I have very small hands, so the plush arm/hand double was vital to making this automail. After I sanded the piece carefully, it got several clearcoats and went under silicone. I then cast five copies using black tinted resin with Smooth On’s cast magic powder in Silver Bullet.

 

For certain areas, I wanted to use silver metallic stretch vinyl in order to minimize how much this automail would restrict my client’s movement. Here is the cold cast resin finger cap next to the vinyl, the finish really is very similar.

 

After getting the confirmation that my paper mockups were the correct size, I started the somewhat tedious process of cutting out all of the pieces. Each piece was numbered to keep them straight, I ultimately had to cut out two dozen pieces in Wonderflex and keep straight probably three dozen resin castings, so numbering was vital. Each Wonderflex piece was double thickness, one layer was just going to be way too flimsy. Once cut, the layered were joined with some mild heat from the heat gun. The folks over at The Engineer Guy are my favorite source for Wonderflex.

 

Once the pieces were layered, it was time to form them. I recruited pretty much every wine bottle, storage jar and tin can I could find to get the right curve forms, and even used my own thigh for the upper arm plates, as it turns out it was the perfect size (Shows how tiny I am that my thigh is the same thickness as an average man’s biceps). I used painters tape to keep the wonderflex in place while it cools. Wonderflex is a very useful material because, once you have applied heat, it remains pliable for about two minutes afterwards, meaning when you handle it, it’s no longer scalding hot. This is a huge advantage for anyone who has had to deal with heat forming styrene, which is only pliable while hot, lots of burned fingers!

 

Here is where I start having gaps in photos, as I got to the point where each piece was at a different stage in the process. Here we see the upper arm plates heat formed and hit with 2-3 coats of primer, which was then sanded. Wonderflex has a slightly pebbled surface on the presentation side, but a few coats of sandable primer usually handles the texture. Another trick for smoothing the surface is to use the back of a spoon  to burnish the surface while the Wonderflex is still pliable from heating.

 

You can also see the elbow piece and some of the cold cast resin pieces. They’ll be used to fill out all of the screws, studs, pivots, knuckle covers and any other little circle bit needed to embellish the finished piece. The elbow piece is also wonderflex, but has had additional buildup with Bondo to create the rounded  form.

 

I also ordered some colored plastic tubing and heat shielding to add in the armpit area to replicate thewiring and tubing. The large screw top there is actually a cast from the mold for my gold circles for my Lightning’s coat, with the notch scored in with the dremel.

 

Here I started assembling the hand plate and started working the finger sections. These are just stretch vinyl cylinders, since if I had cast these in resin or used Wonderflex, my client wouldn’t have been able to fully bend his fingers.

 

A glove will hold all of the pieces in place and hide the client’s skin. It’s sewn in basic black spandex. The paint I used for the silver is Valspar’s metallic silver. It’s not a chrome-like finish, but is far more durable than most of the high quality silver glosses I use, which I felt was very important since this piece would rub on itself and bits of the costume all day. Another advantage is that this paint has a much more forgiving humidity and temperature tolerance, which was an absolute lifesaver in southeast Georgia in June and July!

 

For the large forearm plate, I needed to thicken the wonderflex substantially. So, I cut a lower layer in wonderflex, then cut filler layers with the three dents cut out in EVA foam. This was easy to cut, lightweight and could hold up to the heat-forming of the wonderflex. The blue strips all-over the board are the notches I cut out. I then layers another layer of wonderflex over the base and foam, then pressed in the trenches so that the top layer of wonderflex bonded with the base layer, rounded the edges and flattened the outer form. This is the plate in an early form, after this would come a lot of extra filling and sanding.

 

The piece starting to come together! As you can see, some places required extra puttying and sanding, but on the whole the wonderflex didn’t require too much extra work.

 

Here’s a shot of the plate as I was puttying and sanding it, the pink is bondo, while the grey is Krylon sand-able primer. To get into the trenches I used a combination of sanding sponges, emery boards and standard sandpaper.

 

The hand was finished up with a sewn vinyl half glove. The T-shaped fastener is EVA foam covered in stretch vinyl, and I attached it with heavy duty thread sewing the T to the half glove. The stitches and knots are hidden nicely under the little resin studs. I also attached the finished arm plate to a strip of stretch vinyl for the underside of the forearm. The whole forearm closes with velcro hidden under the plate.

 

Here you can see the full arm underside, and the elbow attachment. The elbow also has a strip of stretch vinyl which will give more comfort when my client bends his elbow. The upper arm was also finished with a sewn vinyl cover.

 

The complete hand, the only hard parts are on the fingertips, back of the hand and the resin disk on the side of the thumb. This will give my client maximum use of his hand. I also took these final photos before realizing I had forgotten to add the studs to the arm plate, Whoops!! I made sure the studs were attached before it went to the client however.

 

For the shoulder area, I connected the major pivot points with a few real studs, then added all of the extra studs using my resin replicas. I also epoxied in the tubing and heat shielding. The spandex glove pulls all the way up over the shoulder and has a strap that wraps across the chest to keep everything in place.

 

This was a really interesting piece to work on. It used several materials I rarely get to use, but have always loved working with. I can’t guarantee it’ll help with your alchemy or survive a disagreement with your teacher, but at least you should look cool with it. Hopefully this rather messy write-up will help others hoping to tackle the project. I gotta say I have even more respect for Winry after making this!

Full Metal Alchemist – Ed’s Automail

Long time no see! The big con of the yea for me has finally wound down. I had several rush commissions leading up to the con, plus I help organize and direct some very large photoshoots at my home con, DragonCon, so I’ve been quite lax in updating here.

Today I have the shots of the completed automail from a commission a couple months ago.

The piece was created in a combination of double layered wonderflex, resin, stretch metallic vinyl, spadex and some random colored hoses and heat shielding.

Look forward to more posts of completed work to start trickling in! Just waiting for photos from my clients!

 

The Commission queue also now has slots again!