Costumery Week - Fursuit Special

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By MyntKat
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As part of the Costumery Week to highlight this amazing Artisan Crafts gallery, I am posting themed interview specials every day during this week. I am also posting features and specials as part of this week, check them all out here.

Today's Special is all about Fursuits.


What is a Fursuit?
A fur suit is usually a full body costume of an animal or anthropomorphized animal. Partial costumes (fawn legs for example) also fall under this genre but are not quite as abundant as the full body suits.
Fursuits originate from the furry fandom, which encompasses all people who appreciate and enjoy anthropomorphized animal characters: animal with human characteristics or sometimes humans with animal characteristics. Most common are fursonas (furry personas, individual characters) that walk on two legs, have comic-style faces and are based on one or more animals. There are also four legged fursonas, so called quads or quad suits, but they are not as common as the bipeds.
Fursonas, and with them fursuits, can range from semi-realistic to completely fictional. They can be based on one animal, on several thrown together or on fictional animals. There is a lot of room for creativity and imagination.
While there is some controversy about fursuits, they are just another type of costume and can be worn for conventions, entertaining purposes (for example on parties, parades, as sports mascots, for events or even in theme parks), for movies or theater, purely for fun or for role playing. There are many reasons to own and wear a fursuit, but today we will focus not on wearing, but on creating fursuits!

I would like to introduce four of the many costumery artists here on dA who create stunning fursuits. If you check out the costumery gallery, you will find an many amazing works by fantastic artists.


Hello! Could you please introduce yourself?
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:iconqarrezel:
Qarrezel : I am a 23 year-old costumer currently living on Towson, MD.
I've had a strong love for costumes (especially animal costumes) my whole life, and started making Halloween costumes for myself at a fairly young age. I enjoyed it so much, I decided to pursue it first as a hobby, and now as a career.
I am self-taught for the most part, though I've taken some classes in skills that I've applied to costuming, and I had some guidance from family friends in learning to sew.

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:iconmangoisland:
MangoIsland : Well, hi! I typically go by Shannon, but I'm usually known on the internet as Sapphire or Moofli. I'm currently 24, and I decided to start making costumes after I graduated college since I was having trouble finding a job in my major, animation. I can't complain, since working for yourself is pretty great. I love to sculpt and sew, and have been doing both since my childhood when my mom taught me. I've also loved costumes, and halloween is hands down my favourite holiday! I think my mom is glad that I'm doing this now too, since she doesn't need to make me halloween costumes anymore, hahaha. A friend of mine just started to work with me, so its only gotten even more fun! Any reason we can find to make or wear costumes is a good one, we love to brighten people's days as big critters.

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:iconjakejynx:
JakeJynx : My name is Jacob, and my online alias is Jakejynx. I'm 26 years old, and I'm currently a full-time college student, majoring in Biology. I have plans to attend graduate school, and I hope to eventually earn a Ph.D. in the subject. I am currently living in Savannah, Georgia with my wife, who goes by the name of Quaylak. Together we own and operate Savage Turtle Studios, a company which makes fursuits/mascots and 2-D artwork. I have been making fursuits for about 3 years now, and originally began it as a source of income when I unexpectedly lost my job. Being in school, my schedule is often either very busy or somewhat erratic, so having a way to make money on my own time was important. Being able to work when I have the time for it has been very convenient. So while Quaylak has a full-time, traditional job, my occupation has been making commissioned costumes for about a year now.

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:iconblonde-foxy:
Blonde-Foxy : Hello, my name is Cherie' or "Lucky Coyote". I am 23 years old and I was born in Dallas Texas. I found out about fursuiting from a documentary on MTV back in 2001 when I was 14. I started making the costumes on my own in 2004, experimenting with whatever supplies I had around me. I really learned and developed my techniques on my own. I have my own special, unique way of costume building that seems to work for me. Costuming started as a hobby for me, but in 2007 I turned professional and started the company "Dont Hug Cacti" with my Fiance. I use the costumes for Conventions of all kinds, random outings, and charity events!

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Corinne Cougar by JakeJynx Oddishness Hoodie by MangoIsland Grey Witch and Iron Beast by Qarrezel Roby Black Leopard by Blonde-Foxy
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When you create a costume, how do you go about it?
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:iconblonde-foxy:
Blonde-Foxy : At our company it starts with a concept art of how the costume should look. We usually work off of a Duct tape Dummy so it will fit the customer perfectly. We usually jump right into each project working on each piece all at once. We order all the materials and such in the months leading up to the project.
Most of our products are hand sewn here. The body suit is mainly machine sewn. Areas of high stress require stitching over them a couple of times. The advantage of hand sewing most projects is the attention to detail.

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:iconjakejynx:
JakeJynx : Typically, when we create a costume, we follow the reference art given to us by the commissioner. However, when we're not doing commissioned work, Quaylak is most often the one to plan out what it will look like. She is a graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design, and thus she knows a lot more about color theory and design than I do. After we have some initial reference art, the building process begins. Because we've been doing this for so long, we have a collection of patterns for pretty much everything, including all of the parts that go into making the mask. The masks are definitely the most difficult and time-consuming part of the fursuit-making process. For someone who has never done it, they may not realize how difficult it is to transfer a two-dimensional image into a three-dimensional, wearable object. Even three years in, it's still a constant learning process, and we're always trying out new 'tweaks' to try to improve. My own personal suit is about as old as our business, and wearing the mask is actually fairly uncomfortable. Back then, we did not focus enough on proper ventilation, which is incredibly important when you're covered head to toe in fur. Wearing the masks we produce now is a breath of fresh air, quite literally!

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:iconqarrezel:
Qarrezel : My husband and I make the costumes together. depending on the order, we either receive concept art or come up with a general design. After that, we make a muslin pattern over a duct tape dummy of the customer, do any sculpting required, make molds, cast parts in resin, and build the costume. I work on the masks primarily, he works on moldmaking and casting, gloves, bodysuits, and tails. We trade off on feet. I will also do all of the airbrushing at the end.

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:iconmangoisland:
MangoIsland : I start from the head and work my way down. Even though my customers send me concept art, I usually do some quick thumbnail sketches to visualize how I want to tackle the sculpt, and put my spin on the character. I work directly in the foam, though I like to cast parts like the nose, teeth and nails in resin plastic, so I don't have to sculpt new ones for every costume. The plastic is much stronger than stuff like, sculpy clay anyhow! Once the head is sculpted, I make a pattern by covering it in duct tape. Yes. Duct tape. This is actually a really common practice in fursuit building. The tape can be drawn on in the shape of the costumes patterns and then easily cut off and traced onto the fur fabric. It makes it very easy to get the "skin" to fit perfect. I like to machine sew what ever I can, since its much quicker and easier on my hands. In general, the head is the only part with handsewn pieces, since there's no way to get a huge foam head under a sewing machine!

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Monty Coyote by Blonde-Foxy Ghost by Qarrezel Vert Hoodie by MangoIsland
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Where do you get your materials?
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:iconmangoisland:
MangoIsland : I mostly shop online, from a ton of different stores. I really like distinctivefabric.com and imstuffedfur.com. Both are run by awesome folks who are very helpful in getting you what you need! I buy most of my other materials such as foam and thread locally at Joanns. Resin is supplied by reynoldsam.com and if you're lucky enough to be near one of their retail locations, they are super super helpful! If you're really serious about getting into suiting, you might want to look at sewing machines, you're best off finding a small family run shop where they let you test the machines before buying them. I'm a huge advocate for older machines, such as the Singer 301. I inherited mine from my grandmother, and it is hands down the best sewing machine I have ever used. You can actually find them pretty cheap on ebay, if you're okay with taking them in for a service checkup right away, if they have not been cleaned or refurbished.

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:iconblonde-foxy:
Blonde-Foxy : My company buys alot of its supplies online.
My favorite actual places to shop are Jo-anns, hobby lobby, micheals and hancock fabrics! Honestly, price should not be an issue for supplies if they are exactly was is needed for a project. You never want to skimp on quality in materials when it comes to working on these costumes.

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:iconqarrezel:
Qarrezel : We get our furs by the bolt from Monterey Mills, and we get our polymers from Smooth On.
By now, we have figured out our preferred suppliers and do very little shopping around. If we do have to look for a new supplier or material, though, we are always after the best quality, so we shop around - online or in physical stores - until we have something we like.

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:iconjakejynx:
JakeJynx : We have a few quality places we go to as our regular fur suppliers. Distinctivefabric.com and crscrafts.com are the two most commonly visited websites. The foam which we use as the base for construction is bought locally from a Joann's Fabric store--they're always running 50% off discounts as well, so you can actually get it pretty cheap if you time it right! And you'd be surprised what sort of 'everyday' items you can use in construction. We use plastic milk bottles for the eyes in our suits and rubber, interlocking 'exercise mats' for our foot bottoms. 'Foamies' or foam sheets, sculpy, and even shower curtain rings have also been used for various things. The biggest thing to keep in mind, though, is quality. It is always the most important, because you need to make sure that what you are making is going to last for years. If you use cheap materials, they will wear out, and then you'll be stuck having to make everything all over again. Spend more money the first time and save yourself the trouble.

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Nero the Husky by MangoIsland Toby Tigerwolf by JakeJynx Skrink and Skrod by Qarrezel King Shepherd by Blonde-Foxy
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Do you have any tips for beginners?
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:iconjakejynx:
JakeJynx : The first place I direct people who ask about fursuit creation is the 'fursuit' community on livejournal! It is a veritable cavalcade of information on fursuit construction and the various methods that people use. Just browsing through the 'memories' can probably answer any question you may have. The only thing I would remind beginners is to keep safety in mind. A lot of the chemicals that you may use for fursuit creation can be toxic, so proper ventilation and using a respirator are always recommended. Also, keep in mind the safety of the wearer, as well. Never use anything that has dangerous fumes in the construction of the head (I've seen floral foam used as the 'muzzle' in costumes before, which can crumble and be inhaled--big no no!), and make sure to check on any allergies they may have.

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:iconblonde-foxy:
Blonde-Foxy : There are many many great tutorials out there on the web on fursuit construction. The best way to really get good at building costumes is to experiment with all kinds of supplies and methods until something works for you!

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:iconmangoisland:
MangoIsland : First off, I'd say to join the 'fursuit' community on LiveJournal. I've learned so much from the community over the years and everyone is very friendly! Don't be afraid to just go for it! You can always rip out stitches to redo things, add more foam if you've clipped too much, or just work on a cheap muslin before going to your good fur! Also, never be afraid to try new materials, but make sure you research them first! One of the biggest problems I see is new fursuit builders using materials that could be dangerous to themselves or their wearers, not taking their health into account when making things. I always wear safety gear such as a respirator and goggles when I need to (even when I don't absolutely need to sometimes!) Your body will thank you for it! Don't let that intimidate you though, just have fun, and be safe!

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:iconqarrezel:
Qarrezel : Research and Practice. I know, everyone wants the magic words or secret spell, but it's all blood, sweat and tears.
As for research, there is no one source for good information - look up everything. Search the internet, and get good at it. Watch the making-of specials after monster movies. Find your weak points, and look up information on those specific subjects - need to know how to sew? Look up tutorials, books, and videos on sewing.
After you've stuffed your brain, apply yourself. Buy cheap materials, and practice. Buy good materials and practice. Fail a lot. Learn from your failures rather than getting upset about them. Do EXPERIMENTS - lots of them. Practice more. Ask for critiques, and learn to accept criticism (that's probably the hardest part).
You will put lots of time, energy and money into it, but there is no fast, easy way to learn a new craft.

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Jake Bluepaw Partial by JakeJynx Cassandra Vixen by Blonde-Foxy Dae the Inverse Raccoon by MangoIsland Gilrandree by Qarrezel
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What is the most important thing when creating a fursuit?
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:iconqarrezel:
Qarrezel : Comfort and durability are possibly the most important - a costume can look like it descended from heaven, but it's no good if it hurts to wear or falls apart. Safety is, of course, also big - vision needs to be at least decent (and the wearer should have an escort), materials should be safe to wear, electronics should be properly installed, etc.

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:iconblonde-foxy:
Blonde-Foxy : The most important thing to a fursuit is wearer's comfort and the outward appearance. Being comfortable in your costume gives you the room you need to focus on being a great performer. The outward appearance is also equally important as it speaks a great deal about what it is you are trying to portray!

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:iconjakejynx:
JakeJynx : Personally, I feel that the most important things to keep in mind for fursuit construction are safety (mentioned above), durability, and comfort. Seams should always be stitched with great care, whether it's machine-sewn or hand-sewn, and everything should be stress-tested before you even consider giving it to a customer. The heads should be tested through every stage of the building process to make sure that the ventilation and vision is the best it can possibly be. Building on a full-sized mannequin head helps, but if you have trouble getting fresh air, or your vision is obscured by the nose or muzzle that you've made, it's time to take a step back and try again. Even with all of the precautions, mistakes still happen, though. So probably the most important thing to remember if you ever plan to give your product to a customer is to have excellent customer service! If the customer has a problem with the suit, do whatever you can to make it right. Going that extra friendly mile for the customer really makes a difference. The community of people who purchase these luxury items is not gigantic by any means, so having a good reputation goes a long way.

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:iconmangoisland:
MangoIsland : I think this is a very subjective question, to me, I think durability and comfort is most important. I personally make suits with a very tight fit to the head, since when I wear a head, it keeps me cooler since my nose and mouth always line up with the mouth of the costume for ventilation. I know some folks prefer the looser fitting mascot style heads though!

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Daisuke Husky by Blonde-Foxy Dottie Kigurumi by MangoIsland
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How does the wearer keep cool in a fursuit?
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:iconmangoisland:
MangoIsland : This really depends on the person wearing it as well! I find it only gets really hot once you pop your head on! I could probably walk around in a body all day in the heat no problem, haha. As long as you keep hydrated, and aware of yourself and what you can take, theres really no set time! Some people can suit for 10 minutes, others can suit for 10 hours! One thing I like to do is wear a bandana on my head to keep my hair back and absorb sweat, as well as a lycra body suit to keep me cooler and dryer. Some people like to wear cold packs, but I have never tried them personally.

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:iconjakejynx:
JakeJynx : Yes, it really is just as hot as it looks inside of those suits. Some makers choose to install fans into the heads of their suits to help with ventilation, but unfortunately it does tend to make the mask rather large. So some people will pass up the fan, but will instead try other methods to keep cool. Not wearing a suit in the middle of a hot summer is the smartest option of course, but things like cooling vests can also help. In suit, drink plenty of water and take a break often by getting to a cool place and removing the mask so that you can cool down. Conventions always have a place called a 'headless lounge,' which makes finding a resting place much easier than in a public setting.

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:iconqarrezel:
Qarrezel : Indeed, these costumes are quite hot. People often refer to them as "walking saunas", which may be an exaggeration, but I can't speak for all costumes.
Mine anyway, are about as warm as a full-body sweater - not enough clothing for winter, and definitely uncomfortable in summer. For warm-weather, many will opt for a "partial" - usually the head, gloves, and tail - and wear it with lighter clothing. Also, for hot summer months, indoor wear is much safer.
Some have started selling various cooling systems to make extended wear in higher temperatures safer and more comfortable, and I intend to look into this as well.

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:iconblonde-foxy:
Blonde-Foxy : It can get warm in your fursuit yes, but it has alot to do with how well its built. My costumes are built for the wearer's comfort in mind so they ventilate well. It also helps out a lot to build up an endurance to being in the costume and dealing with the heat.

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Connor Wolfram by Qarrezel Jakejynx Suit Updated by JakeJynx Snuggles Puppy by Blonde-Foxy Wolfdog Kigurumi by MangoIsland
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Which fursuit are you most proud of and why?
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:iconmangoisland:
MangoIsland : I am definitely most proud of this guy:
Tribal Wolf by MangoIsland
He was just a lot of fun to make and he came out awesome! My commissioner gave me so much freedom with the project, it was very refreshing. I think he fits my "island theme" pretty well too!

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:iconblonde-foxy:
Blonde-Foxy :
Skuff and Lucky Coyote by Blonde-Foxy
These are me and my partner's latest versions of our personal
characters as costumes. They are special to us as they are re-makes of the original characters that we started costuming in. We fell in love so to speak with fursuits and fursuit construction with the originals of these costumes. The old versions of these costumes were not as good when we started out! haha

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:iconjakejynx:
JakeJynx : I actually have quite a few favorites, each of them for various reasons, so it's very hard to choose.
Max the Mutt by JakeJynx Buy a Lion, Save a Lion by JakeJynx
Max the Mutt and Louis the Lion are two of my favorites because part of their profit was donated to the charity for the conventions they were sold at.
Sammie Spaniel by JakeJynx
Sammie Spaniel is also one of my favorites because of how adorable she is. And then there's Quaylak's suit:
Quaylak Fursuit Updated by JakeJynx
which was not only my first full suit, but it represented a large step forward in the quality of what we were making. It's where all of our fumbling and attempting to understand construction methods began to come to fruition. She's a real testament to perseverance, and something for aspiring makers to keep in mind--every step you take leads to improvement, so long as you strive for it.

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Amp Ringtail by MangoIsland Katalina Snow Leopard by Blonde-Foxy Sammie Skunk Partial by JakeJynx
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Thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this special feature! I hope you go on creating amazing fursuits for all of us to enjoy. :)

Cheers,
MyntKat
Published:
© 2010 - 2021 MyntKat
Comments7
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prefur's avatar
This is so fantastic! I loved reading through all of it, learned so much about other makers 8D! Thanks again!
JakeJynx's avatar
Thanks so much again for the interview. This article turned out awesome, it's great to read about the other makers. :)
MyntKat's avatar
Thanks again for participating. :)
DrIgnacious's avatar
I think you should definitley check out :iconsharpe19:'s gallery
annajordanart's avatar
Impressively furry stuff!

I should have entered my mum she used to make all my birthday party outfits...

[link]
MyntKat's avatar
:giggle: Cute costume.
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