The Dublin Maker Podcast first episode is here. 🎉 🎉 🎉
We (Vicky and Jeffrey) chat with Nathan Wheeler of Crafty Nathan’s Creations from how he got started in making costumes, things he learnt along the way, and and catch some tips on making and tools used by Nathan.
Crafty Nathan’s Creation on Instagram for updates on his projects and keep an eye out on his upcoming Youtube channel focussed on tutorials.
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Music Credit: https://freemusicarchive.org/music/Chad_Crouch/Motion
Motion by Chad Crouch is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 International License.
Vicky Twomey-Lee 0:05
Welcome to our first episode of the Dublin maker Podcast. I am your host Vicky Twomey-Lee. your friendly neighbourhood maker advocate from the Dublin Maker team. Dublin maker is an annual maker festival funded by Science Foundation Ireland. This year’s Dublin Maker was postponed to next summer due to COVID-19. So we are bringing Dublin Maker to you with our podcast series this summer. This is the first episode in the series of six. Today I have Nathan Wheeler of Crafty Nathan’s Creations as our special guest. And my co host for this episode is Jeffrey Roe from Dublin Maker team. So Nathan, welcome to our podcast. And thank you for joining us for chat and not having
No worries, thanks for having me on
Vicky Twomey-Lee 0:44
Not having a Dublin Maker Festival this year is kind of weird. But here’s our solution bring the world of our Dublin Maker community to listeners themselves. So think of it as a virtual drop into your maker tent. So tell about yourself and what you do. I guess
I would have been a maker I’d say for the past three years, I kind of I like to think of myself as a mixed media maker, I don’t really stick to any one kind of format. I tend to kind of go with the ebbing of the tide. So one day I’m working on leather work and I’m building a leather bag. Another day I’m making posters, or I’m making miniature dioramas some other times I’m making giant suits of armour, and Ray guns. I really, I wouldn’t say you could pin me down and say that I’m this kind of maker on like, you come to my, if you were coming to my, let’s say, my imaginary booth at Dublin maker, you’d be like, this is a lot of weird stuff. And I don’t know how it’s connected, but it works. And that’s kind of that’s kind of how I’ve always been, I’ve kind of looked to people like Adam Savage and that and I’m like, they’re not just they classify themselves as a maker first, not as a leather worker or not as a tailor or seamstress. But as someone who gets great joy from the act of making And I like to think of that as very much. There’s so many different ways I can do something if I have a problem, I just have to figure out how the hell I’m supposed to get there. And if that means I have to learn how to stitch pieces of leather, or if it means I have to learn how to weld, I’m gonna have to figure it out. It might not be beautiful, it might be pretty, but I’ll get there in the end and that’s the joy I get out of this. So I guess when Crafty Nathan’s Creations came out, it was just kind of a kind of a visual appearance of the things that I want to make. And how I come up with my ideas is you can write a book on that that’s just more kind of trying to figure things out as I go along. But it’s it’s pretty straightforward process I’ll see something and I’ll be like, that’s cool. I’m gonna go try and do that. And then it’s me falling towards off until I get something that looks somewhat decent.
Vicky Twomey-Lee 2:47
Oh, amazing. Well, you mentioned Adam Savage I’m big fan as well especially the the recent his recent kind of videos on all this like favourite equipment and stuff is just general stuff and it’s all Like it’s not just focusing on one thing. So I understand you know, when you say a maker could be, it’s not just switch specialise on one particular thing is like a maker now can be very general. How did you actually get started in, in, in making.
Em this is, I guess I come from somewhat of an artistic family. My grandfather was an art teacher and both my parents went to art college, and I wasn’t. So we did art in secondary school, and I was always somewhat arty, but I would never have considered myself the moniker of a maker. You know, that kind of came later on. So I always kind of had that background of kind of building things. When I was quite young, I kind of built a couple of costumes and stuff. But during university I kind of I was very focused on my studies. And it was only kind of after that a couple of years after that. I was a friend of mine said, just a convention coming up and I’d never been to a convention. I was like, oh, okay, well, we should go and it was it was Dublin ComicCon was the My first my first convention, I was like, Dublin ComicCon, it’s incredible. And you’re, you’re walking around, there’s incredible costumes everywhere. And you’re thinking, this is really, really cool. And I was thinking, you know, we’re looking at the costume contest. And we were sitting there, the pair of us knowing nothing about how to make anything. Even EVA foam was a foreign thing that we didn’t understand the magic of, and we sat there, and we were looking at the costumes anyway. And we’re like, these are really, really good friends. And they’re they’re cracker. Like, I’m really, they’re really, really good. And he said, think you could do one of them. I was like, I could definitely do one of them knowing full well that I’ve no idea how to do one of them. But I said, You know what, I’m gonna give it a bash. And I’ll try and make something. So I kind of went home and over the last couple of the next couple of weeks, I was like, Jesus are actually gonna have to figure out how to make something. So I got the idea of making a plague doctor, which very topical now but at the time, it was, I just it seemed like a good idea. So I kind of I think kinda have to figure out how to pull all these things together. So I wanted like a plague mask and I was I was bit intimidated at that point to start with leather. So I did EVA foam and I got some patterns for us. And then I needed to like make kind of leather apron and stuff. So I got some faux leather and I on a badly stitched it. I mean, you’ve never seen worse stitch lines than Oh,
Vicky Twomey-Lee 5:21
you haven’t seen my stitches.
Oh, it was this thing was like it worked because it was like plague doctor, unlike you could get away with it. But it was really looking back. It was really thrown together. But it was incredible act of making, I have to figure out how to do so many different things. And by the end of it, I turned my spare bedroom into this massive em into this massive area where I was filled with equipment. And I had like tools that I’d had to pick up and I had foam and I had glue and I had all these things and I was like this is great. And then I went to the convention, I don’t know what convention It was a couple of months after Dublin ComicCon. And I went around anyway, I was kind of walking around and my plague doctor outfit, people must have thought I was mad because it was awesome, it wasn’t very relatable. And it was just like, that’s a bit creepy. Because it was it was the whole it was all black. And it was, I had like, this is kind of, like vials of like, putrid fluid on me and everything. And I was kind of just wandering around and people were probably like, Don’t get too close to that man. Okay, but I some people weren’t really into it. And they’re like, I was really, really cool. And it was a great sense of kind of build up to the confidence, which is, you know, that’s great. Like, I put a lot of effort into it. And then I’m thinking, you know, I’ll make another one and I’ll make it bigger. And I’ll try something completely different. And then one thing led to another led to another and then I started making the costumes. And then I made my I made the first document the fallout one big red outfit that most people know and people really were into that and then I made the metro, which was heavy Russian, and it was it was massive Railgun and everything and people were really into that. And then as Jeffrey knows all too well there’s a massive tech priest sitting in the middle of TOG, that’s definitely not taking up any space and it’s totally fine. Em and then I just started branching off into other things. So in lockdown, I can’t make a costume, but I can work on different projects. So I started making some dioramas, I’ve been working on some yoga bags and wallets. I’m just kind of, I’ve take I learned all these skills, and then I can go, I’ve got all these skills now. I can actually build some of the things that I’ve always wanted. Why I don’t need to buy these things? I could build something. Something as silly as I got pencil case here that I built the other day, and I was like, I need a pencil gates for going back to uni. And I was like, Oh, I could build that now. And it’s not perfect. It’s not most fancy thing in the world. But I made this and it’s, it’s cool. It is a great sense of accomplishment for that. Jeffrey sitting there wondering where his sewing machine is, but it’s sitting here beside me in my workshop. And because I borrowed it two or three days before the lockdown happened that has been sitting here ever since. And I was like, oh,brilliant, I’ve got so machine I may learn how to sew. So I did that. And it’s been really really rewarding and kind of learning that new skill sewing in particular, I’ve been doing an awful lot of since I’ve been in lockdown because I don’t have the space to do anything. I found that when I started sewing, I really struggled. And I think I’d really botched two sewing machines. Jeffrey’s freaking out thinking I botched this one, it was great. It was great to chat to I don’t know if you know, Jeff, but Meg, who’s joined target easily enough. She was really, really great. She kind of knew that I was coming at this as a complete learner, but I needed to make these big draping robes for my costume. And she was really, really good. And like two or three days, she sat me down, and she helped me work through the project. And it was so good to have someone who could just explain something to you in a really simple way because as you said, there’s you’re going to too fast and all that sometimes you want it to take you an hour to realise, well, what am I doing wrong? It’s like when you have a 3d printer, and you don’t know what the hell is going on when it could be super, super simple. If you don’t have that knowledge, it’s exponentially more complicated. So, I always found there’s a great sense of, if you have someone who’s somewhat okay to add that skill, and gives you even a day to just explain something to you, you can jump so many hurdles that would take if you’re just trying to figure it out yourself, you can actually leapfrog an awful lot of stuff because the basic mistakes you’d make, that you eventually need to learn from, you could just be immediately don’t do that because this will happen. You’re like, Oh, I understand that now. And I won’t make that mistake. And it’s made. I’ve always found if I’m gonna start a new skill, I try and find someone Tog has being a great one for that has been a great, em, kind of resource for that because there’s so many people there that have really off the wall skills. If it’s 3d printing or laser cutting, you can just grab someone, have a conversation with them. And you can kind of learn something, really what seems really complicated, but you learn it. And then you can actually apply that knowledge to your next project pretty seamlessly. And excuse the pun. for them. That’s kind of been the way I’ve kind of found things. Yeah,
I think it’s a great way to I find that’s a great way to learn myself is a lot by just jumping straight in. Personally, I’ve never been one for classes or tutorials, I just find I, I learned by just trying out and incorporating failure into this whole process.
Vicky Twomey-Lee 10:36
What are your tips if things go wrong during a project? You know, I know like Jeffrey was saying, like you just go into it and just learn from the failures. So, you know, from your experience, you know,
what’s happens when you cut a piece of fabric too short or you just adjust your design or what have you sort of deal with that sort of thing?
And that’s that’s a really good question. I have Guess the greatest sample there is with the fabric is you put your fibre too short, you either have two options in that situation, you just your design, you start again. Em, I tend to be, you know, waste not want not, so I try and adjust my design for things, to try and make it work. Because even if it doesn’t work out most perfect way possible. As Jeffrey said, you’re going to learn from that failure and you’re going to learn generally don’t cut cut a little bit too short again, I had the same thing with I think Jeffrey’s probably an awful lot better at this than I am, but more familiar with electronics. And my understanding of electronics is very, very basic. I make the lights go on, and I can also make them flash. Half the time that’s good enough for most people. People are like, I’ve got flashing lights. That’s pretty good. I don’t need to do any more fancy than that. But when you’ve got like 20 LED lights on the costume or something and you’re like, Ah, no, I shall push the button and nothing happens. You’re like, Ah, there’s nothing more frustrating than just things don’t come together and you have to figure it out, go back. But as Jeffrey said, you do learn from these things and you learn from your failures and you’re able to kind of make a bit more progress. I still don’t know what a resistor does, for sure.
So you’ve had plenty of great projects I’ve seen on various social media platforms. I just want to ask you about your process of or if you have of documentation, you have a particular platform you like, have you got a notebook where you keep all your sketches? Or how do you document or record your process?
I don’t if that’s on it, so what I would tend to do is is I tend to get an idea of something, so I don’t know if you saw this but the diorama I did of the Dublin Georgian streets with all the intricate lights and all that, the idea for that came because I wanted the book nook and then I thought well I’m stuck in Dublin, so I may as well do something Dublin themed. So I thought book nook, Dublin themed and then I kind of thought I’ll bodge this together. So I’ve written down the rough idea that I wanted on a scrap piece of paper, I tend not to keep a running Journal of what my plan is. And then I just kind of ran at it and I kind of figured that out as I went along, took a couple of pictures, had a couple of ideas of what I wanted to do, and then just kind of kind of rolled with it. And I’d like to think I have a better process for that. But it’s actually definitely something I need to work on. Because I’ve had that issue in the past where an example big tech priest I built, an awful lot of those ideas were how to crazy idea. I built it, but does it really tie in with the rest of it? Not necessarily. So that’s something I’ve always really struggled with having an idea, but then actually planning to the end of that idea and not getting, you know, going off on a bit of a tangent halfway through and then arriving back to Oh, this is what I was doing.
Yeah, I find documenting my projects, at best I can do a few photos and at the end I might write something. Retrorespectful thinking, Oh, this is what I had in mind, but, pre-planning. Yeah, just not me.
Vicky Twomey-Lee 14:07
So for me, like I do mini.. mini kind of projects. I’ve only just started for the lockdown because I want to find some, some something to do a bit of content as well to show that you know, I’m doing something. So like what Jeffrey said, you know, take take pictures. But I also take some videos as well, because I’m also like whenever it gets something work, especially electronics, because I’m not great at electronics either. So when something works, oh my god, it works. It works. It works. And they take videos, they look as a proof that it does work. It’s not just a picture of a light come on. It’s a picture of an actual thing that’s doing something that I said it would do, even as work in progress. And then I found that then I write kind of a blog post about it and I realised that I actually go through even though I thought like, oh, it doesn’t didn’t take that long. There wasn’t that much work and after all, but when I actually log it all down and write it in the post is actually quite a number of steps before I find the right way of doing things and things that went really wrong and how the thought process going to be around it. And it’s quite satisfactory because then you have a whole blog post of a completed project of a mini project, you know, so I found that yes, yes, I can do something so I’m on to doing the next thing which I’m really stuck on at the moment. So but it is that’s more of a rambling blog so I have to summarise when it when it when I get the project working, I’ll probably summarise that into within a blog post so yeah, so from so it is quite hard to try and document something because it’s just an idea and you’re not quite sure if it will work or not. Especially if you’re just wandering all around and trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. And some of them could be just really, or just hitting the dead end. You wondering like would you like to tell people about that?
It always reminds me of what Jeffrey said there and it always reminds me of the quote from Napoleon said it. Or maybe misattributed to quote, Napoleon said, “No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy”. And I always think that’s very similar when you start a project is you have a great idea and you’re like this is gonna go perfectly right? And then you actually realise this is not going to go well at all. And then what you what you have at the end is often very different from what you started with. And you’re like, how did I get all the way over here when I wanted to start something over there. I find the bigger the project, the more you’re getting away from what you originally thought, you know, if you have a very simple project, so like, em, probably an example here, I made a lightsaber the other day, and it’s just print lightsaber, paint lightsaber, make lightsaber go, be pretty, give lightsaber to someone else, that’s a project is very hard to get away from. But if you’re thinking of like, massive moving parts or you know, electronics and lots of different media, it’s so easy to go, I actually have a better idea than my original idea. And then you go off on a tangent and things kind of go completely. But other times I built things, and as you said, they can be dead ends, things just don’t work. And you have to kind of go, No, that didn’t work, chuck it in the bin, and then start the next thing.
Yeah, I guess a good segue to that is and they’re kind of complimentary topic is, how do you know a project is finished? Is it after the event you built it for? Is it when a new idea takes over your minds? How do you know something is
finished? For me, personally, no project is ever finished. Because no project is ever perfect. You know what I mean? And I think if you have the capacity to think, yeah, no one has the capacity to make something perfect, that would be arrogance. But if you have the capacity to improve on something, you could put endless amounts of effort into improving that. But at the same time, there is an awful lot of truth to you can overwork something and you can put more energy into something than it’s actually worth. So an off the wall example, I could make a suit of armour made completely out of leather, you know, and it would be a perfect, that’s a perfect replica of something that’s going to cost me hundreds of hundreds of hundreds of euros, and I will look cool. But is that a practical thing, and then you could polish it up and you could do this and then you get the next different bit. And you could go down a hole of just, is this worth it? And is through a net benefit back to me. But at the same time, it’s also why are you doing a project? So for me, I like to kind of try new things. I like to kind of show other people what I’m working on. I like to kind of I like to just mess around. But if your goal is to make this thing, a perfect replica, you could spend years perfecting it like people are the five-oh-first they spend you know, I mean, you know, those guys look over screen footage of you know, frame by frame to see if that pauldron fits right there and like that’s a level of dedication that I just don’t have but you could work on a project endlessly and at the same time, that project could be useless, which is difficult it is difficult especially it’s something you’ve you know poured your heart sweat and tears into and you’re really worked on that can be a very difficult thing to do. And I can understand why so many people are reluctant to do it. Me included.
Vicky Twomey-Lee 18:38
For people who are getting into this, do you have any kind of recommendations or resources that are handy to know? Like say we’re getting into cosplay, making costumes and cosplay is a very big part of what you do. Like if people are getting into it, like where would you go and buy stuff they say online or what kind of online communities or communities that you know, people can start off with and chat to and because if they have an idea that I want to make that you know, whatever whatever video game characters are into, or anime or cartoon characters in this, oh, I want to I can I can wear that costume. You know, maybe coming up to Halloween may or may not be a convention. It could be a Halloween costume, you know, and so do you have any kind of advice?
Yeah. And that’s a really good question. I guess. I’ve always viewed cosplay as the ultimate in mixed media. Because if you take an average costume, there’s so many different parts on most things that you take, let’s say, the Mandalorian, there’s leather work on that, there’s metal work, there’s polishing. There’s fabric work, there’s 3d printing work. There’s so many different skills that you need to make that work. You’re going to need to learn an awful lot of things and I found with cosplay, there is there is a gradient, everyone should be able to make anything that they want. And I’m a firm believer that I don’t believe in giving people stick for all that’s not perfect or you could have done this better. I tend not to believe that, I’m judgmental of myself enough. I don’t want to be judgmental of other people on what they do. So if you’re starting, the best thing to do is to just start is to just give it a bash and EVA foam is the industry favourite followed by warbler, bit of fabric work and there’s so many different parts of the community that people fit into. So I found that you’re going to have certain cosplayers and probably more myself who kind of fit into armour builds. So they’re their builds tend to be quite armoured, hard plates, you know, very metallic. And that tends to be the way to go, there’s the other side of the spectrum. And you see this at any con that go for the much more fabric side. And so people are into manga and anime, and they’re, I don’t know much about it myself, but they’re very, very strong fabric or fabricate they’re into fabric and they sew and all that kind of stuff, which is completely different to generally what I do. And then you’ve got people who are kind of middle of the road where they can kind of move between those two. And you’ve got the obviously the higher end where people are doing like, really incredible stuff to the international cosplayers. And then you have me two years ago, he’s just starting out who has a pretty weird plague doctor outfit the looks a bit scary. And so when you’re starting out, you just got to kind of go for it. Try the simple stuff. First, start with EVA foam figure that out. And then slowly work your way into it because the reality of it is is although cosplay is somewhat accessible EVA foam is not that expensive. Glue is not that expensive, as you kind of get bigger and bigger and bigger. And you take on more the different parts and you try and do them in a more faithful way. So, you know, if you did all the armoured bits of a, you know, the Mandalorian in EVA foam that’s grand, it’s great if you want it to the next stage, and then do all the leather pieces, you need a huge amount more tools and the amount of information you know, grows exponentially and then if you want to do 3d printed the blaster, you need an awful lot more tools. So it tends to be is stick to one minute At the start, generally EVA foam or fabric. start with one those two and then work from there, because the amount of tools you’ll need grows exponentially. Now I’m quite lucky. I’ve built my own little shop here I’ve got my 3d printers back here, I’ve got my wall of tools up here, I’ve got my paints, and I’ve kind of collected things as I need them. But when you’re starting into it, that can be quite intimidating. So I’ve always found start small, start with EVA foam, make something that looks cool, learn from it, and then go, Oh, that’s deadly. Now what I’ll do next is I’ll do this and I’ll add this little bit into it. And I’ll do more fabric work and your amount of skills and your expertise in it and your knowledge grows, you know, as you build and as you take on more complex projects, and that’s what it’s really all about, like all I want to see in the community is more cool costumes and you know, get talking to people who make cool things. And that’s all that’s all there should be. Is there people out there who are a bit weird about things? Yes. Don’t ignore those people. Those people are not the people you want to be chatting to. The cosplay community in Ireland is quite good, and they’re quite supportive. So it’s pretty open, in my opinion. Well, we’ll kind of wrap this
up. So amazing. One more thing. Sorry. But before we let you go, and you let us know where our listeners can find your stuff.
Yeah, of course, you can catch me on Instagram at Crafty Nathan’s Creations. I kind of post everything I have there on my Instagram channel on I have a Twitter as well. But generally, go to my Instagram, I’m still I have most of my stuff there and I’m going to be kicking off a bigger YouTube channel. Hopefully in the next couple of weeks, a bit of a camera equipment arriving and I’m going to be doing more in depth tutorials to kind of, you know, as he said, like, it sounds an awful lot easier. But when you kind of see the process, these things can make an awful lot more sense. So stay tuned for that, but you can catch me on Instagram. Anytime I post there at least once or twice a week.
Vicky Twomey-Lee 24:56
Oh fantastic. Thanks again Nathan for coming aboard and speaking with us. And yeah, thanks for having me. And check out Crafty Nathan’s Creations on Instagram. And thanks Jeffrey, for co hosting our first episode. Remember to hit subscribe to our podcast. We’re also on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Take care stay safe. And this is Vicky signing off from the Dublin Maker podcast.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai