Starting my journey into cosplay craftsmanship
I've always been interested in creating things since I was little. I used to sit out on the porch with my mom and we would invite our neighbors and friends over to do crafts year round. It was great! Always something new and interesting. As I got older, I started getting more hands on with things like carpentry with my father; helping him re-furnishing the house, helping on side jobs, and even just regular creations like toy boxes or wooden trucks. In Middle school and High school I started having classes that exposed me to more opportunities to fuel my desire to create. Classes such as "Intro to tech", Drafting, Woodshop, and of course the after-school Lego Robotics!
My interest in video games also began in my younger years back when we still had dial-up internet. My mom was quite reluctant to get me into games at first, but as a kid in the early 2000's it was pretty much inevitable as the years went by. The very first game I experienced at the house was Doom 98. Yes, Doom 98. I had to have been only 5 or 6 and my uncle had just given my dad our first desktop computer. I saw my dad playing it and wanted to play with him, so I sat on his lap while he played. Granted my mom was not very happy about that, and needless to say I was given something else to play.
Enter Richard Scarry's Busytown. I used to spend HOURS on this game. Honestly, I'd still play it for nostalgia if I could. This game really scratched my need to learn new things, and how things worked. Absolutely one of the best examples of game design I've ever encountered.
There's certainly more examples of my video game interests, but that's not really why we're here. The next important step towards the beginning of this journey starts my experiences in college and thereafter.
In 2013 I started college at NEIT for Video game design and development. Unlike a lot of people who initially enroll in those programs, I was already aware of the amount of hard work required to pull off a successful game. The processes, programs, methodologies, ideologies, and essentially every other aspect of creating a video game were extremely interesting to me and I wanted to absorb as much as I could. Near the end of my associates degree, I had already started dabbling in some business ideas. I ended up pitching a big idea to a few colleagues on one of our last days and it was then and there that we decided we were going to start a company. We got a good bit of work done for some fresh-out students. Unfortunately we hit more than a few snags, miscommunications, as well as some other issues. Members slowly left, and eventually the company burned out earlier this year.
Throughout the last year of the company, there were many times where I would find myself really itching to create again. I felt the need to go back to my roots, but at the same time incorporate my other skills and interests that I've gained over the years. Occasionally at my full-time day job, I would do side-projects for the corporate office that would sustain that itch. But it just wasn't consistent enough, nor was I really getting anything out of it.
I moved out into my own apartment with some long time friends a couple years ago, and after a while decided I needed to pick up a new hobby. One of my roomates entertained the idea of creating chainmaille or starting leatherworking inspired by this exact image.
I thought "Huh... that seems interesting, I'll have to check it out." In Boy Scouts, I had done a little bit of both leatherworking and metal work, but nothing at all extensive, so I spent the better half of that following week watching tutorial videos and looking at patterns, tools and material costs. I eventually came to the conclusion that the best place to start at would be the chainmaille since its a single resource, only requires a couple tools, and time. Lots and lots of time.
After some test runs with simple tin and copper wire, we agreed and went out to Tractor Supply and bought a 1/2 mile spool of steel electrical fence wire. I created a jig with my father that allowed us to easily coil up the wire onto a rod, which we could then slide off and cut the links. For the next month and a half, I worked on my first basic chainmaille vest. easily halfway through the project I realised that this was not going to be what I wanted to work on, and it would easily lose my interest very quickly. So I spent my time and finished that vest. I thought to myself that in order for me to be truly satisfied, I would need to somehow scratch all of my interests and not completely devote to one specific skill.
Following this realisation, I took a ride out with my mom and a friend to stop at our local Hobby Lobby. I found the perfect leatherworking starter kit, and a great coupon to match. We came back to the apartment and I immediately opened the box and started dabbling in it. At this point I had already started watching many leatherworking videos on Youtube and gaining a lot of useful knowledge. I decided I wanted to start with something small. So I made a key fob for my car with the make emblem tooled into it. For my first tooling job, I think it came out ok. I took some time, and practiced my tooling on some scrap leather, testing different shapes, symbols, tools. While I did get better at it, tooling didn't really do it for me. The creation of physical, practical items was really what I was interested in. My next project was creating a charm bracelet for my girlfriend. I decided to make my own pattern for it using an already-made version as a template. Took a couple tries, but I ended up getting a cut out that I was happy with. I dyed it, did some minor tooling, got the rivets, buckle and loops attached and gave it to her as a gift. She liked it, and I certainly enjoyed making it.
Following this, I decided "Alright, I'm ready for something a little more challenging." I had recently been watching a lot of videos of an excellent maker from Romania: DieselpunkRo. He's funny, has great editing, excellent at teaching through his videos, and he makes absolutely the best patterns I've found. I decided to purchase one of his simplest patterns to get my feet wet creating items. I chose his pincushion pattern seeing as Mothers Day happened to be coming around the corner at the time.
I printed it out, cut it out on some of my scrap leather, and I enjoyed it so much, that I ended up creating all of the ones I could from the leather I had. It was excellent practice and I certainly enjoyed doing it. My mom enjoys her pincushion and uses it whenever she sews. I often use one as well everytime I sit at my bench, working in the living room, or anywhere else I happen to find the time to work on something.
After completing these... I got a little bit ahead of myself and thought "That was easy, I want a challenge!" (I often find myself saying this, and occasionally it bites me). I ended up thinking alright, well I made my mom something for Mother's Day, why not make something for my dad now for Father's Day? I pondered for a while thinking of what I could possibly make him that he doesn't either already have, and that he would likely want to use. Unexpectedly one day while at my parents house he decided to give me a satchel that he had been keeping and using in his antique car. I remember how he came home from a swap-meet and was ecstatic that he found it. Boom, the idea fell right in my lap and all I had to ask was "Do you prefer Black or Brown Leather?" and with no further context given to him, I had my idea, color, and all that was left was to find the pattern and follow through.
I ended up going back to DieselpunkRo's pattern selection and finding the absolutely perfect option. I printed out the 24 pages for the pattern, cut, taped,and cut it out. For the next couple weeks in my spare time, and waiting for supplies to arrive I finally got it finished. There were some minor hiccups, but nothing truly detrimental to its final outcome. I gave it to my dad, and he was very much enthused.
I've been getting more and more practice with other items, both creating my own patterns, and then making the items themselves. I've gotten to the point where I feel confident in my skill and confident in the products I'm turning over. Throughout this time I've been getting continued support from my friends and family with this skill that I'm truly just beginning to learn and they have been encouraging me to start selling items since I both enjoy creating them, and because they believe that I am creating something worth selling.
Even reaching the decision of yes I did want to sell my work; I couldn't really decide to press that button and simply just make items. I needed to still scratch those other interests! For the past few months during this pandemic, I've had plenty of time to think, discuss ideas with roomates, and friends. Many ideas were tossed aside, but after talking about things with my girlfriend, I've reached the very exciting decision that has basically been staring me straight in the face.
I want to make
TBC on the next post...