Introduction: Skeksil, Dark Crystal Chamberlain (How-to Version) PART #1, the Structure and Basic Shape.
Before I start, it's worth noting that this project was neither quick or cheap. It took several months of gruelling work to reach a stage which I felt the project was complete.
That being said, completing a project of this scale is an incredible feeling. Learning so many techniques and applying them successfully is immensely rewarding.
Because of the complex nature of this project, I'll be breaking it up into a number of parts, hopefully posting one every few days, these being:
1) Structure and shape (the basic framework and foam shaping of the costume)
2) The fabric and coverings (the robes, cape, shoulders, ruff and other "soft" parts)
3) Sculpture, moulding and animatronics (the head, hands, carapace and details)
4) Finishing touches (embellishments, distressing, jewellery and fine details)
What you need for this step:
Square Aluminium tubing
very sturdy plastic backed foam
a reliable back pack (don't worry, it will survive the project!)
webbing (the stuff bag straps are made from)
VERY strong thread (parachute thread is the best!)
PLEASE NOTE! This is my first ever instructable, if something doesn't make sense, feel free to ask me, and I'll try my best to explain myself better!
Step 1: The Mock Up.
I find the best way to start any project is with a mock up. The great thing about mock ups is they are generally cheap, if not free to do.
When you're making a costume, it's always best to start with a dummy of some sort. A duct tape dummy is the best option, as it is a fairly accurate clone of your own body.
Once your dummy is in place, just start placing card cut outs over the dummy, taping them in place. If something doesn't fit, just add or subtract card until you get the right size.
Keep all the pieces of mock up, as some will come in hand later as templates or sizing guides.
Step 2: Frame and Foam.
Next we need to make a frame for the whole thing to sit on. Since this costume obviously doesn't fit a human form, the frame needs to be larger than your body, and form a sort of tent.
This stage is quite time consuming, and shouldn't be rushed. getting the frame and base perfect is what will make the costume work.
To attach the framework to your body, a good sturdy backpack does the trick. Don't be tempted by a cheap option, as the final weight of the costume is likely to split stitches and cause a cheap backpack to disintegrate. The back pack MUST have a belt strap to it.
You will also need to make some small pockets for the rods to sit in. I used regular webbing for this, and hand stitched it into a pouch with a belt loop. Make two of these and slip them onto the backpack's belt. the frame's rods them slip into these and everything should be supported happily
For the upper solid part, simply make a structure from firm foam. I found some plastic backed foam at my supplier which was perfect for the job. Make sure you glue this solidly with something like impact adhesive (you really don't want this to give in on you mid-wear), then add a front to the whole structure, also in foam. Finally, add a nice chunky foam "peg" that will sit in the backpack, and keep the upper structure in place.
Step 3: Front Frame and Arms.
The front frame was mostly recycled metal and plastic, recovered from an old gazebo a neighbour was throwing out.
If you have nothing to hand, hollow aluminium rods are perfect. make sure you add triangles into the design of the frame to add structure and support. The upper part of the frame should follow the inner shape of the front of the foam upper made in the previous step. Make the long rods longer than you expect to need them, and cut them down when you start putting the structure on your dummy, as explained in the next step.
The arms are simply fibreglass tent poles that have been wrapped in wadding, and covered with cheap satin. Satin's a great material for this sort of project because it has low friction, and will happily slide over other materials.
Only one of the arms will be used in the final costume, but having both allows you to size things correctly during the build.
Step 4: More Foamwork, and Building Up the Shape.
Now attach your dummy to a solid, well weighted object (I used the dining room table, but bear in mind, you'll put whatever you use out of action for a good long time!). Next, add everything to the dummy, and make sure everything fits. You may need to cut down the support rods so they fit at the correct height.
It's worth making mock up parts like the carapace in the photo. These can fill in for major parts you make later, and also serve as guides when making those parts. The mock up carapace in this shot was made freehand from Plastazote, and painted.
To further add to the shape of the costume, make a "belly" out of foam, and cover it with cheap Satin. (you may have guessed, you'll use a lot of this stuff!) This is then attached by making a simple reverse backpack strapping, but only make a shoulder strap for your offhand. This is to keep your main hand free to control the head.
Step 5: Structure Complete!
And that's the structure part complete. These methods could be used to make many different costumes, so don't feel they are only good for recreating this sort of costume.
In the next part, we will look at making the fabric parts of the costume. Until then, happy building!
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