Interview with Fursuit Maker Sharpe19 by Bornes (critique requested)

Interview with Fursuit Maker Sharpe19
Bornes:  In your opinion, what makes a better head? In terms of the base being
resin or balaclava/foam. What are the pros and cons of each? What are
the differences in articulated jaw for each? Is a resin head's jaw
always more responsive than a foam one's? What seems to be more
comfortable to wear, in terms of how it feels, fits, and ventilation?

Also, which do you prefer to make-- Resin or foam based heads? And
why? Outwardly, do you think a certain base head looks better to the
casual viewer?

I was wondering because my first fursuit head was resin-based, and it
was really nice, very responsive jaw, vision okay. But some things
just felt "hard" about it. Didn't like how it sat on my head. But
ultimately it was good quality so I (perhaps falsely) assumed resin
heads were "better". So I kept telling myself-- only order resin
heads. But as a maker, I'm sure you have some insight to it?


Sharpe: They both really do have their pro's and cons. While I enjoy the overall effect achieved of a resin head, I own more foam heads than I do resin mostly on the fact of how forgiving they are. Out of the 5 personal suits that I have, 3 of them are foam/balaclava based.

Both are great styles of heads, I almost want to say it depends upon the use and activities. I've had one customer enjoy his resin mask so much he slept in it while I have been guilty of sleeping upon one of my foam heads (looong bus ride).

A foam jaws articulation can be very finicky. It takes a while for the sweet spot to be found and it can not always be forgiving if not adjusted right. Just a half an inch off and it might just sit on your face saying 'nope' or it may be fully responding and articulate every syllable of nope said by the wearer. Resin are a bit more mechanical and thus a bit more predictable... repeatable... It's a hinge and spring system that is easily controlled and is relatively a bit less demanding. If done right though, a foam mask jaw can be just as responsive as a resin mask, if not more so.

Ventilation.... I've had some foam heads be amazing and some resin heads literally suck. Then again I've also had the reverse. It varies on the maker/design. I try to focus upon the comfort and function then work upon looks as I've worn heavy (50 lb) costumes that had poor ventilation and poor vision. You start to get claustrophobic after a while. I'm also a glasses wearer and try to include that feature as well as I never know whom my heads may end up with and if they are a glasses wearer like I am. I want to say usually resin are more ventilated due to how hollow they are, but I want to say my masks are about equal in that dept.

Which preferred base do I like to make... To be honest it depends upon the day. I enjoy being able to make both as if one gets a little old, I will swap to the other for a little, making a pre-made head to test some new methods so I can give my commissioners the best that I can give. Foam can be messy, but its definitely cheaper. Now visual appearance to the casual viewer, I haven't found many that know the difference when told let alone upon a visual presentation. Hyper-realistic heads are almost always resin heads as the ability to put detail peaks with resin while foam is a bit more focused towards gentle curves and softer expressions. Can resin be toony and foam be serious? You bet. Do many folks do it that way? Not often. It seem though more and more people are turning to resin do to its ability to make exact replicas of the same base over and over. I like foam bases as they add variety to the community and not so much walking mirror images.

I never worked with resin until almost 2 years after working with foam before the huge resin craze kicked off. Now that it's more popular it's a bit entertaining to find folks that assume some of my heads are resin upon seeing them but having me go "haha nope! *squishes mask* FOAM!" and watch their surprise.

Bornes:  What do you think (as a maker and a suiter yourself) of the technology
going into suits? LEDs, moving ears, animatronics?
Do you think there is a demand out there for suit makers to start getting involved in that, sort of adept at everything?
Is it easy to understand how to make some of the more basic things (LEDs) or do you get other people to do it?
Are there any unique challenges to working with electronics, or how
did you get into it? Is it fun? Do you see any of them as very practical, from a wearer's point of view?

Sharpe:
To me, LED's are like squeakers. Originally they were some new thing that exploded into this huge rave monster that got out of hand. LED eyes look great, thy can add a bit of something that ordinary eyes cannot. Then you head down the line to LED claws, also can be pretty cool. LED whiskers have their own place, as do glowing marks. But when you start making things like the teeth, random glow spots on the tail, and etc., it just starts to look like LED vomit. There is such a thing as too much, you don't have to have every inch of you glowing! EL wire on the other hand when done properly can look pretty darn wicked.

Onto the ears and animatronics. Not many suits do have this. Most of them have that tail that moves in accordance to your own body. Moving pieces and parts such as ears and even a snarl has been attempted multiple times and failed many more times, I believe its just a general lack of knowledge as you not only need the know how to make/work servo's, but you need to know how to program them and do the wiring. Unless they are hard set on it, most give up and move on without the feature.  If an easier method was made available then I could see it being very popular. I remember one fox mask I had only seen once. Yeah there was Crazy Joe in his blue fox fursuit, but the one I saw was realistic, the ears twitched and moved gently in accordance to the sound around it. I don't know who the owner or the maker was, but it looked incredible.

Do I think there would be a demand? If someone out there figured out how and could have all of the parts readily available, then perhaps yes.

My folks had owned a computer shop when I was young so [they] taught me how to solder a good few years ago so once I found a diagram on series and parallel circuits, it came pretty easy. I try not to outsource the best I can as if I need something, and I have to wait upon the mail or another person, it gets very bothersome and I could potentially miss a deadline.

I cannot quite say LED's can be 'practical' as they are more for show, more of an eye grabber, but if you can't find the right key at night and you have the head in your hands, they make for some great flashlights :P


Bornes: Regarding fursuit construction, do you think there is a competition in
the community regarding quality and/or inventiveness? For example, I
know [a fursuit maker] has come up with some really cool/interesting tail designs in the past few years, that move realistically while walking. Do you think there is an inner drive among makers to say "I can do better than that" or "I will make X happen first!"?
Slightly personally, I have seen a few heads with animatronic
workings [...] Are you worried if that will increase a sort of demand [for animatronics]?

Sharpe: 
I personally think everyone wants to stand out in their own unique way instead of having people say 'oh hey, that look like (insert name here)'.  We want to stand out and have our customers stand out. As for an inner drive, I would say yes, at least in the beginning/moderate experienced makers. We strive to do our best and if someone is better, it proves to us that we have much to learn and that we will never stop improving. If someone comes out with something new, it's very fun to study and figure out the workings. If you do enough research it wouldn't be terribly difficult to recreate something similar.

Bornes:  What has changed now that you are popular? Do you treat people on your FA page any differently? Do you make suits differently because of frequency of some requests?

Sharpe:
As for 'popularity'. Meh. I tend to wrinkle my nose at that word. It has always been tainted by flippy little cheerleaders in highschool with an image problem. Yes I have an influx of young makers wanting me to spoon feed. My personal motto is this: If it was taught to me, pass it on. If I had to work and figure it out myself, pass along some research for them to study and learn.

While sharing makes for a smarter community, 100% spoon feeding makes for a lazy one, so I will ignore their 'plz plz plz tell meeeee *sob*' and give them study material. I had many makers do that to me and I am grateful for it. It made me ask myself how serious I was with the item I was wanting answered and it made me do the research and learn, helping me grown far stronger than just " oh yeah, do this and this and all will be good!" I don't see myself as better than others. Better at making, perhaps, but not the best. I know I have much to learn and much farther to go. Even if you are the 'best' you can still improve and learn.

I will actually ignore requests and go with something that will push my skills. I like challenges as it makes me think and stay on my toes. Most requests are very simple, very easy to fill. I could just float along on the easy thing and may do so time to time taking a break, but my goal isn't to lay back and take it easy, it's to grow and improve, I won't get better otherwise.

Bornes: I'm someone who got into "furrydom" because I liked costumes. So I see
fursuits as simply costumes. They are fun to wear to me, and to the
normal public are pretty rare to see, so it's exciting to be out there
with them. However, I get the feeling that most furries don't see a
fursuit as a costume. They see it as something else. If you ignore
your involvement in the furry community, can you tell me how it
appears, to a fursuit maker specifically, furries see their fursuits?
And how does that seem to affect how people treat you and the
commission process?

Sharpe:
To give a little background, I've always enjoyed wearing costumes and saw it as a way to help spotlight and give a harness to my every day characteristics. I am a rather active (and short) person, often bouncing around and distracted. To the common onlooker they would think  was just far too high on caffeine. Add a suit though and they look past the outward first glance and see a character lively and looking for fun. Initially that's how I would view other suiters. Folks just wanting to step aside their every day cares and step out of the world and provide some amusement for others. The most memorable moments I have had in suit were making small kids laugh and smile. Helping someone else forget their troubles, even for a moment.

Now how people treat me and the commission process is a whole 'nother ball game. More time than not the more 'furry' the person is, the more... irresponsible they appear. Most often their text is poorly written, grammar out the window, and horrid spelling. A new suiter/furry looking for their first suit is often confused by suit jargon and often need things explained (which is understandable, we were all there once!). A seasoned suiter however often approaches with a rather respectable air to them. They know what to roughly expect and are ready to be down and serious. Now I will get many a times fans of suits that will beg and plead, often offering pennies (and gift cards) for an expensive suit or will be up front and rude, demanding a suit right out. I cannot claim age has a large impact as I have received notes from middle aged folk and I've had pre-teens that have grammar that far exceed the middle aged.

Do I think personally the 'furry fandom' changes how a person approaches me in commission? Not terribly. Does it change my prices? I don't see how anyones choice in fandom, use of grammar, or etc. should change the cost as everyone is on neutral grounds.


Bornes: Although I haven't been involved in the community, I have noticed that
it has grown and changed. I was first introduced to furries in the
90's, through a friend who drew yiff in school and wore a tail. It
really seemed like being a furry was all about the porn and being
socially awkward. As the years go by, it seems like the community at
large is really trying to change this stereotype. Of course some
social awkwardness is inherent, but the porn has gone underground, so
to speak. Do you think the community has really changed, or do you
think the 'no yiff' furries just got a lot louder?

Sharpe:
  In correlation to those getting louder, I am involved with those voices. Although I am not to say what a person should or shouldn't do with their personal time, I have seen and heard of suiters getting beaten and even lit on fire due to those that are involved. I believe it's a little bit of both. Many people are working hard to keep a G rated appearance and often assure people that they do general audience acts ONLY and are trying to drown out the black sheep. New suiters come in and want to follow the example of their favorite suiters/makers and join in the crowd against it.

Bornes: [B]ecause of the negative stereotypes,
I've noticed that many fursuit makers say that they are NOT furries.
That they view fursuits as costume and their trade as costume making,
and that is all. Do you fall into this group, or do you also consider
yourself a furry? What do you think about this disparity of people
working with/for the furry fandom, but actively denying they are a
part of it?

Sharpe:
To me, a furry and fursuiter are two different things. 'Furry' has a range of definition so I often explain mine for those to understand my standing. My definition is this:

A furry is someone who has a particular species/hybrid/etc. that they feel they have a close bond to and will often involve particular mannerisms into their daily lives of such. Things like barking, whining, purring, panting, eating dog treats, hissing, growling, etc.

A fursuiter is someone that has a head/partial/full/quad/etc. that will wear the costume for events, casual fun, conventions, etc.

Although I have characters that I have to portray characteristics, events, and humor, I don't find myself relating to any species but thoroughly enjoy suiting for the joy of myself and viewers, as going back to the first paragraph above. So I don't think they are outright denying it, but perhaps have a different view/definition of what it is than the comon passerby.

Bornes: Lol, sorry... This started out as just a question of your preference, but now it turned into more of an interview. [...] Thank you for your time.

Sharpe:
Naw, it's ok! It's been rather fun and enjoyable to do this. I don't get well though out insightful [...] questions like this, it's nice!

Interview with Fursuit Maker Sharpe19 (critique requested)

Bornes

12 October 2012 at 15:59:01 MDT

Not too long a go, I had contacted Sharpe with a couple of questions regarding fursuits. It quickly turned into what amounted to a pretty interesting interview about fursuits and the furry community, so with her permission I decided to share the Q&A session.

Submission Information

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Comments

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    thanks for sharing c: I'm doing my senior project on fursuitting, and this will be some very valuable information!

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      Glad I could help. =)

  • Link

    Nice to get a perspective from a suit maker. I was once engaged to a theater costume designer, and it was really cool to hear his takes on everything. He never made a fursuit, be he said if he ever did it would be along the lines of the Cats costumes.