Interview with ~Qarrezel

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An interview with Qarrezel -  Turning fantasy creatures into costumes.  Thank you for doing this for the club and all it's members!

Make sure to visit :iconqarrezel:'s fabulous gallery and leave some comments and faves!

How did you get started doing your craft?

It's hard for me to pinpoint exactly when I started.  I think I've more or less always been interested in costumes (I know that's corny to say, but it's true).  My mom always encouraged me to make or at least help make my own halloween costumes, so I have to say I've been doing this for a while.  I didn't really start making masks until one halloween when I set out to make a werewolf costume.  The mask was certainly not very good.  I enjoyed making it, though, and wanted to make it again, better.  I think after the second try, I found that I really, really enjoyed mask-making, and decided to do it regularly.

I learned to sew both through intuition and a few lessons from some friends of the family.  Sculpting I've learned mostly from intuition, although I have taken a couple classes.  I took a class in mold-making and casting a couple years ago, which got me started making my masks in cast polyurethane resin.  Other than that, I've pretty much developed all of my current techniques from experimenting and practicing.

Saffron by Qarrezel

What types of costumes do you make?

I really tend to prefer making costumes (and 2-D artwork as well) with animal and creature themes, and within that theme, I tend mostly toward fantasy and macabre (not too many examples of macabre things in my gallery right now, though).  That, of course, lends itself to maks making very strongly.  I also make full-body animal/creature costumes, besides just the masks, and I've been dabbling in clothing/garment-making as well.

Generally, I find myself selling to buyers who intend to use the costumes for parties, conventions, and other costumed events like Halloween.  However, I also intend to market my work to theatres and indipendent film-makers.  I rented some masks to a dance company once for a local production, which I hope to do again if they decide to put on another show.

Where does your inspiration come from?

Mostly, I find myself inspired by nature.  If I find myself in the middle of an artist's block, a few minutes of sorting through animal and nature photos tends to conjure up more ideas than I can write down.  I'm also inspired by stories and mythology, and especially lately I've been planning some costumes based on my interpretations of various mythological creatures.
I also can't help but be inspired by the works of other artists, some that spring to mind immediately are Brian Froud, Brom, and Keith Thompson.  Also, the artwork of some of my friends (have a look at LaughingScarab's gallery here on DA).  Furthermore, there are some films that get me going, such as Pan's Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal.

What tools and materials do you use?

For the majority of my masks, I start with a base made from cast polyurethane resin.  Generally these are then covered in fake fur, but I have used real fur in the past as well (there isn't as much demand for real fur, and it's expensive).  When a mask calls for especially long fur or hair, I typically use synthetic braiding hair, the same kind hair stylists use, wefted onto the mask.  I occasionally use mohair as well.

The synthetic fur can be dyed using spirit-based leather dyes, and it can also be colored with acrylic paints.  I tend to use the acrylics mostly for drybrushing, to color just the tips of the fur.  Most of my costumes have at least a small amount of dying.

Can you give us a short tutorial on assembling one of your masks?

From scratch, a mask starts out as a plasteline sculpture on a headcast.  I then make a mold of that sculpture in silicone.  Once the mold is finished, I mix a two-part polyurethane resin, with an additive to thicken it enough so that it can be brushed on, and I basically paint resin all over the inside of the mold - the mold gets two coats of resin.

After that, if there are taxidermy eyes in the mask, I insert those and sculpt eyelids on (I use a material called Apoxie Sculpt to sculpt additions like that).  Then, if the mask has a moving jaw, it gets a jaw set (which is also cast resin), and I add a simple hinge mechanism.  

The mask then gets covered in fur; the fur normally needs to be shaved down a little, often a lot.  I use electric dog grooming trimmers for that.

I've made a pattern for a hood - the pattern is adjusted according to customer measurements, and then sewn onto the mask.  Ears go on next - I make earliners from a sculptable wiremesh, and then cover the mesh in fur and trim it as need be, then the ears are sewn to the hood.  After that, I paint/dye it and it's done.

Masks without fur are the same up until the furring stage, of course.  On those, the mask surace gets refined, and I paint them with acrylic paints.  I may sculpt additions onto the mask in Apoxie Sculpt, or another sculpting medium called ClayShay.

Are costumes custom made for a particular person?  

In most cases, the faces of the masks can be one size, but I have occasionally had to make larger or smaller mask forms.  The hoods are all custom-sized, as are gloves, bodysuits, and feet.

Now how about another tutorial on completing a full costume?

Garbonzo - full costume by Qarrezel

Well, follow the same steps for making a mask.

After that, I basically work with patterns for the remainder of a full-body costume.  Generally, each pattern us custom-made for the customer.  The customer sends me a duct-tape body double, and I pattern the bodysuit to fit them.  Using specific measurements, I pattern gloves and feet.  Any padding required is carved out of upholstrey foam (for now, although I'm probably going to switch to casting my own foam pieces).  The pattern pieces are cut out, sewn together, adjusted, and dyed just like the masks.  Pieces like the rubber pawpads are glued on using a high-strenght adhesive.

How difficult was it to make The White Stag compared to White Tiger?  

Well, the White Stag is obviously a more involved costume, since it is a full-body costume, rather than the White Tiger which was a three-piece set, so already it was that much more work.  The head was also sort of a new idea for me - the stag head was actually mounted on top of my own head, which was somewhat more difficult to engineer, mainly because I hadn't worked that way before.  The mechanism for the moving jaw on the White Stag was definitely more complicated, although the mechanism failure was due to improper materials rather than over-complexity.

I'd also say that the White Stag ended up being considerably more difficult that the White Tiger simply because it was an endurance test - the White Tiger had no deadline, and I had very few other obligations to worry about while I was making that costume, so it was finished smoothly and quickly on my own time.  The White Stag had a very tight deadline, and I had a ton of other projects to worry about as well, so I had to come up with new ideas left and right to finish an impossible amount of work in a very short time without totally breaking down.

What about the pieces that go into a costume like Jade Tiger?  

The Jade Tiger mask was one of the first few resin mask castings, and I still pretty much do that the same way.  I don't use latex for pawpads anymore, since I feel that polyurethane rubber is superior.
The resin and rubber castings are quite simple for me by now, although they may not be terribly easy for someone just starting out.  All in all, I'd say the mold is the difficult part, and the casting itself is pretty easy (if quite messy).

Do you take your own photos?  

I do take my own, and rather haphazardly, I might add.  My fairly cheapo backdrop helps me sneak away with some illusion of professionalism.  Other than that I'm using a pretty awful point-and-shoot camera and a $10 utility lamp from Home Depot, haha.  I've found that the camera shoots significantly better photos in natural light, so when I get the chance, I do like to find a simple location outdoors and shoot there.
Because of my simple equipment, there are frequently some problems with detail loss, highlights that are too bright, and blurriness.  As I save up funds, I hope to invest in some better lighting and cameras.

Do you participate in any shows or exhibitions?  

I have in the past, but the area in which I have been living over the past couple years hasn't been very full of opportunity.  Very soon, actually, I'll be moving back to an area with a much more active theatre-type scene where I even have a few connections, so I may find myself more involved in that sort of thing in the (hopefully not-too-distant) future.

Do you market your costumes?

I market them quite a lot, actually.  I have an account on DA, obviously, which has been an incredible way to get my work seen.  I also post on a couple Livejournal communities, and a couple small forums.  I have an Etsy account, although there isn't much there at the moment.  I maintain a personal website (, and I hand out business cards whenever I'm wearing a costume at a festival or convention.  Also, I'd like to be a vendor at various conventions and festivals in the future.

I accept commissions; in fact, at the moment, about 90% of the work I sell is on commission.


Status: Member
Fantasy Artist
Female/United States
Deviant since Jun 30, 2005, 10:16 PM
:thumb68487084: The Kreeker by Qarrezel

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AMAZING. A unique artisan with a stunning craft!