Monday, July 13, 2015

Who Designs This Stuff, Anyway? - Making Giant Fluffy Feathers

Weird things that float around your body, gravity-defying hair, materials and textures that don't exist... designers of games and anime keep us busy with ridiculous crap, don't they? It's almost as though they don't realize/care that someone is going to try to make these things in real life. Jerks.

Anyway, one example of this fun little quirk of cosplay that I ran into was giant effing feathers:


Like.. what?



So, I did a lot of research and concluded that there did not exist appropriate feathers that I could buy that were on the correct scale and with the correct shape. Feathers in real life aren't symmetrical like that, and they're generally a lot smaller. Even if I cut them to shape like I did with Gwendolyn, real feathers have curves in several directions that would make them unsuitable. Big feathers like ostrich are very fluffy, which wouldn't work, either.

And sure, maybe they're not "feathers", per se, but then what the heck are they? Who knows. I think they're feathers. These are the things we have to decide and then carry on with life.

Regardless of what they're supposed to be, how the heck to make this thing? I found what I think is a winning technique that could be applied to other giant or weird feathers and similar things for other costumes, so I thought I'd share my steps with you! This is an easy technique that uses materials you should be able to easily get, or already have.

Materials

  • White glue, like Elmers or Alene's
  • Water
  • Cups, and popcicle or similar sticks or spoons for stirring
  • Fine-tooth comb
    • The spacing of the teeth will determine how fine the texture of your "feathers" are. If you want them chunkier, the teeth being further apart is fine.
    • I used a cheap-o men's pocket comb like you can get anywhere.
  • Paintbrush to apply glue
  • Long-haired craft fur. 
    • You probably won't be able to find your exact colours if they're anything but white or black or some browns, so get white if you need weird colours.
    • For this project, I used the craft fur they sell in the leather crafting department of a place like Joanns or Michaels. Any long craft fur will work.
    • Make sure you get a piece big enough for the size of your feather plus a little extra for trimming
  • Optional: Very thin wooden dowels

Instructions

1. In a cup, add some water and white glue to make a very thin mixture. Stir with the spoon/stick to make a smooth mixture. You'll have to use your judgement on this; thin and watery is better, in my opinion, because it's less gloopy on the thin hairs. Once you start the technique, you'll be able to judge better.

2. Lay the fur in front of you so that the fur lays pointing to you or away from you.

3. Figure out how wide you need your feather to be and mark it somehow: piece of tape, pencil mark, or some other thing.

4. Find the half way point of the thickness and figure out how to mark it.

5. Starting on one half of the feather, use the paintbrush to brush the glue mixture onto the fur, starting from the center mark and brushing toward the outer edge.

6. Once a good section is saturated in the glue mix, use the comb to shape the fur from the center of the feather out to the edge. The "fluff" of most feathers goes out from the spine at an upward angle, but do whatever makes sense for your design.

7. Repeat this process with the remaining sections, and with the other side of the feather.

8. Once you're happy with the look of the feather, allow the glue to dry completely (I suggest overnight).

9. Once dry, cut the feather into your desired shape. If you cut straight through your top layer of glued fur, you will have a very blunt edge. If you just cut through the fabric layer, you can achieve a more feathered edge. Do what makes sense for your design.

10. If desired for your design, use the wooden dowel as the "spine" of your feather by cutting to the desired size and gluing down the center of the feather. You can paint the spine to match or contrast.



Once everything was complete, I painted my feathers with acrylics and/or my favourite DesignMaster spray paints. The glue mix creates a good barrier, so paint should show up quite vividly.

I hope you enjoyed learning about this technique. Let me know if you use it!

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