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Volpin Props (Atlanta,GA)

In 2013 as part of the second book, I flew to Atlanta to visit cosplayers including Harrison Krix of Volpin Props. He had gain some attention for the Big Sister costume and the Daft Punk helmet. He was still working out of his garage at this time.

It began in October of 2007 – my wife (girlfriend at the time) and I had just finished playing Twilight Princess and really wanted to go as Link and Midna for Halloween. I started doing some research online about costuming and prop construction, and that’s where I found out about Cosplay as a hobby in general.

She decided to tackle the sewing bits while I attempted to make our props in about a week. Looking back, those first ones were done super cheap, but they got me introduced to a lot of new materials and techniques. A lot of our friends told us we should try out DragonCon in ‘08, and after visiting that once, we were hooked. A little while after, I started work on the Portal gun, which was a lightning strike. It got a ton of press pretty much overnight and suddenly people wanted me to make stuff for them! I’ve been taking commissions for prop work and expanding my skills ever since.

I think my commissions are a bit different than most people. Since I do this in my free time, and not really as a source of primary income, I tend to pick commissions that I’m personally interested in making. I think that the greater my affinity for a build is, the better the eventual product will be. The idea of challenging myself is also something I look for when I take on a project, which is why I rarely build the same thing twice. I like learning new materials, techniques, and skills. I prefer to push myself to try new things and constantly expand my skillset, so I can continue to make more complex and intricate pieces with each new project I attempt.

[On the Daft Punk helmet] I started research for it back in February of 2009 and started the actual build in March. It took a very long time, but during the process I taught myself complex moldmaking, slush casting, PCB design and layout programs, a ton of electronics wizardry, the ins and outs of chroming and vacuumforming… I have learned more from Guy than perhaps all my other projects to date. In the end, 17 months passed between the start and finish of that project – during which I also worked on about a dozen other props. I can see now why the “real” replica helmets are listed at $64,000.1 wouldn’t charge that much to make a second, but I would definitely hike the price a bit form my initial estimates.

I also learned a lot about dealing with vendors – since I can’t do the chroming myself, I had to outsource it. There are some companies out there that just care about the money, and some that really care about customers. Figuring out which ones were which cost that project about 6 months and ended up destroying 8 helmets. I also paired with other fantastic craftsmen for the vac-forming and programming side of things, and it was really cool to bring other DIY-ers into the project. In the end, I learned a ton from Guy, but it would be a hard sell to get me to do it again.

Well, for right now I just want to keep making cool things the community enjoys, and learning from the process. As ridiculous as it sounds, my current “goal” is to have a Wikipedia page about me that I didn’t write! That’s kind of a strange goal, but eventually if I keep making things that people like, it might happen. In the long, long, long term I’d eventually like to work for a production studio and make custom projects like this full time. I have this equally insane idea of working in cinema and winning an academy award someday… but man is that a pipe dream! For now, I’m just a dude in his garage and the only real thing I’m trying to do is continue to build neat stuff. As long as I can keep learning and expanding my skills, I’ll be happy.

Interview : Cristain Botea

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