If you ever see a giant, googly-eye mustache running down the street, a fire-breathing unicorn frolicking at the club, or a LEGO scientist come to life, chances are you're not dreaming, just witnessing an epic costuming creation by Klay Jones, otherwise known as partybot! Recently, I was able to pick his brain to find out how he got his start, where he gets his ideas and how he learned how to build his unbelievable costumes. I can't wait to see what he does for Halloween this year!
When did you first start making things? What was your first project?
Halloween was a huge event at my workplace in 2010. I didn't want to spend a fortune, so I went the homemade costume route. I wanted to take a simple concept that would entertain the crowd. And Partybot was born! He had a Bluetooth stereo so I could start impromptu dance parties. It was the beginning of an addiction to fame, glory, and trophies. The costumes grew larger in cost and size every year.
How did you find Instructables and what made you start posting projects?
I was searching for online Halloween costume contests for my Lego Scientist costume when Instructables appeared on Google. I loved sharing all of the lessons I learned with an amazing supportive positive community.
Of the projects that you have posted on Instructables, what has been your favorite project and why?
The Minions from Despicable Me. I reluctantly agreed to build them for my wife and her friends for Halloween, but I could never have imagined the positive impact they've had on so many people. We've taken them to Children's Hospital holiday parties, visited sick kids, stolen attention from Santa, and surprised a bride at her wedding who was a fan. Seeing the Minions shared by the movie studio with 12 million followers or the 70,000+ Instructables views blows my mind.
Where do you draw your inspiration from? How do you choose which costume or prop to build next?
I've been very lucky to have translated a Halloween costume obsession into a side business.
When I was building for just myself, the brain storming would start November 1st on the way home from the costume contests. The costume had to be large, funny, and incorporate x-factors like steam, music and lights.
Now that I'm working for clients, they often have their own twisted crazy inspirations that I translate into the real world. Ideas like giant alien flowers 10 feet across with illuminated eyeballs in the center, pirate thrones, marathon mascots in fat suits with fairy wings, and a 12 foot venus fly trap mounted on a confetti cannon robot. It takes a village to come up with that many bizarre concepts.
How long do your projects usually take to make and come together?
In the early years, the costumes creation process would take 8 months of sporadic weekend work with MANY dead ends. Things are a lot faster after lots of trial and error, trips to the hardware stores, and evenings reading Instructables. I've found the right tools to make quick work of foam such as hot wire cutters, rasps and hot knives. Now I can fabricate a full music festival stage in a month or a prop in a week.
You use such a variety of materials and fabrication techniques to build your projects! How did you pick up such a vast array of skills?
The number one question I see in the Maker community is “What can I use to make ______?” The key is to know what’s available. Look at items not just for their intended use, but according to their shapes/sizes/colors/textures. Spend afternoons walking up and down every aisle of hardware stores, foam shops, electronic stores, hobby shops, and plastic suppliers. I've made 30 inch eyeballs from playground equipment, minion hair from flower planter coconut husk sheets, smoking cannons from air dusters, countless mounts from plumbing supplies, light shades from plastic pitchers, and molds from yoga balls.
Each year I’ve built a costume, I tried to take on another fabrication technique. Online resources like YouTube, Instructables and The Replica Prop Forum (RPF) are great ways to learn. I would also recommend Adam Savage's podcast "Still Untitled" or the Stan Winston School for Special Effects. Both are targeted at the beginning Maker.
Also, search for Maker spaces in your local area. They are collectives of technical pros and expensive equipment you can rent for a small fee.
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