When I started cosplaying just over a year ago, one of the first cosplayers I met was Tabitha Lyons who, with her father run a fantastic prop making business specialising in foam and latex weapons and armour. I was immediately inspired and began seeking out as much knowledge as I could as to how I could create my own armour based on my favourite computer games.
In the beginning of my cosplay journey this involved sending quite a few emails (sorry!) to Tabitha and her father asking how they do what they do and how could I also become a prop maker. Dun dun duuuuun a year and a bit later they announce that they are running a prop making course! Ahhh! Now this kind of news to me was incredibly exciting, as finding prop making courses is not very easy, especially for post graduates who like me who want to veer off in a different career direction. So I signed up for the very first weekend as soon as the booking form became available.
The weekend could not come soon enough! I was incredibly excited to finally be learning from people who are very skilled and have inspired me. Despite getting lost and possibly alarming a woman in a kitchen staring out at me sitting in her driveway in the darkness (thanks Sat Nav, you suck), I did arrive to be warmly welcomed at Artyfakes central in Norfolk and met the other two course attendees. We were very well looked after all weekend from that moment on by Tabby’s mum, who is a wonderful host! After a long day travelling though we all definitely needed the rest, especially as we had two fun filled long days to look forward to.
The first day began nice and early at 8am after a delicious breakfast and a tour of their workshop we set straight to work. To start us off we began with something nice and small; a wooden stake, which quickly made me realise, I can’t cut straight! We explored how you can add detail for effect by carving and also with the use of a soldering iron. I definitely learnt something very important here, that having a fresh blade makes all the difference as foam blunts a knife so quickly. No wonder I’d been struggling with my EVA foam project at home! We would be changing our blades very often, whereas at home I would plough on with the knives for as long as I could (*cough* days, maybe a week).
Moving swiftly on after some tea and cake (Tabby’s mum was very good at ensuring we had regular breaks) we looked into creating our own helm. The speed at which we did this was amazing, Tabby’s dad works so quickly and I here I am at home spending weeks making paper and card patterns before I go anywhere near my material. It definitely gave me a good boost of confidence in understanding how steps can be skipped after much practise as its clear time is such an important factor in the prop making business.
We each made a different style of helm, we had an elven, orc and dwarf inspired piece which allowed us to see how to create different effects through each other’s work. I liked that we each did something unique as this didn’t make us feel limited in what we made and we then learnt from each other too. In addition to a helm, we also began making an axe each that would go in the style of the helm we had just made. Looking back on it all, I’m amazed at how much we had made in one weekend!
After a first busy day of crafting our stakes, axe and helm we finished at about 7pm ready for some food! So we headed down to the local pub to relax, eat and chat. You could definitely tell everyone was quite wiped after that first day but we were all still buzzing because it was a lot of fun! I was definitely happy to sleep though, I haven’t crafted standing up in a long time (I’m a lazy bum at home and sit in my wheelie desk chair hee hee).
Day two began nice and early and we had lots to do! We had a few details to finish off on our projects so that we could begin the application process of latex and painting. This was a fascinating process as I don’t know much about latex at all, I’d only experimented it with a bit to create some lumpy bits for my Bioshock Splicer cosplay and those weren’t worth raving about as I ended up not using them! The process for covering the prop pieces involves many careful layers and a lot of patience as you have to watch the props when they are drying to make sure you don’t get any ugly drip marks!
Tabitha helped us with painting and she is a very skilled painter! She showed us different skills and techniques and gave us lots of tips. It gave me lots of ideas of how to paint my voodoo headdress, this whole course infact helped me out a lot in the process of making the horns for that headdress.
By the end of painting and using latex the overall look and final effect is well worth the effort. I am amazed at how light each piece is and how durable it is as a result of being covered in latex. If I could have my own foam and latex workshop I definitely would as I really enjoyed creating these props.
The weekend was incredibly motivating and inspiring. I was full of ideas and what I had learnt solved many pickles and hiccups I’d been having in my other projects. Including embarrassingly that I now know how to use contact glue properly *facepalm* and I need to learn how to cut straight through foam haha. Artyfakes are a fantastic team and work so well together, they all work to their strengths and are fantastic and patient teachers, which has now left me with only one question… when is the next follow up course? 😉