How did you get into prop building, was it something you’d begun in school and progressed through college with, or are you naturally a creative person who has picked up the skills along the way?
Jennifer: Prop building is just something I sort of fell into. As a kid, I was always tearing things apart to see how they worked. My mum was into all sorts of kinds of crafting, so I'd steal various bits of things she had to make stuff. Usually it was every dowel rod we could get our hands on to make bows and arrows for me and the boy two houses down. We made our own Halloween costumes every year, so my first actual props were things I made for those outfits. I play a lot of miniatures games, so I did a lot of kit bashing to personalize my models and to create variants that there were no actual model for. And creating actual prop replicas of things from tv or movies grew out of that. Later on when I attended college, I double majored in Art and Education.
Jennifer: The first thing I can remember making was a prop sword and shield for a school project. We had to dress up to present out report and mine was about knights. So I made myself a cardboard shield and used one of the legs from my mom's standing embroidery hoop for the sword (she wasn't happy about that!).
How long can a prop take to make?
Jennifer: It depends on the prop and how complex it. Also, it depends on how much free time I have available to work on it. For small items that I have already made a mould of, it takes less than an hour. The perception filter keys only take me about an hour to make. But I
worked on my Dark Archer costume for about three months. For me, the longest amount of time is usually spent researching all of the details of the prop and then sourcing out the correct pieces that I need to work on a project.
The figures you gave to John Barrowman, the Jack and the Gwen, were these figures you’d created from scratch, had you had a template to work from?
Jennifer: The Jack figure is actually made by Crooked Dice, so I just had to paint it up and add the little details. But Gwen was made from scratch. I took an existing miniature to use as a base body and then used green stuff to sculpt the hair, clothing changes, extra guns, etc.
Have you created props for other people and do you have an actual business at prop building, or is it more for your own pleasure?
Jennifer: I don't have a prop business because this is just something I do for fun in my spare time, but I have made items for a few different people as commissions. The Soulless mask was a request for a friend to wear to an upcoming convention. And several of my Doctor Who cosplaying friends have asked me for perception filter keys and Torchwood ID cards. My big upcoming project is a commission from a friend that cosplays Martha Jones. She wants me to make Project Indigo for her to wear at Gallifrey One 2015.
The white gun is a River Song gun is it not? How long did it take to put together and what was the process, how was it created
Jennifer: Correct! The gun itself is actually a Nerf Scout IX-3. You can get them in a 2 pack at Walmart really cheap. It only took about a week to make because the base gun just needed to have holes and things filled in. Then it was just a matter of creating the extra bits and assembling all of the pieces. Sometimes I'll sculpt the bits out of clay, create my mould, then cast them up in resin. But for other things, plasticard and card stock are easier.
Do you have a website where people can see your finished products, have you ever aired them for public viewing before?
Jennifer: I don't have a website specifically for my props (at the moment). So most of the time I just stick the pictures up on my Facebook, or I'll post them over on the RPF.
Your TARDIS keys, I love those. Is it easy picking up those pieces you need for the backs of them? I have a TARDIS key but wouldn’t know where to start in putting the fancy computer chip pieces on the back. But would be cool to create one. Have a ton of old Yale keys knocking about the house.
Jennifer: It's super easy to find those bits. Any store that carries electronic parts has them, or you can order them online. You just need the resistors, timer chip, bits of wire, and a cell phone's sim card to cut up. Because I love all of the little details when making things, I took a
ton of screen caps of the Doctor's key until I had a good enough picture that I could file my key blank so the teeth were as close to screen accurate as possible. That one is now my master key so I can just get them professionally cut when I need more.
|Credit to SJ Fleck for photograph|
Jennifer: It was! When I got married in 2012, I had decided that I wanted to do something fun for our cake and the table decorations. My husband is huge into Battletech and I love Doctor Who, so we decided to try and incorporate both of those things. I created the first
TARDIS, made a mould, then casted up a bunch of them in resin to use as centrepieces on half of the tables. The other half had centrepieces with a Battlemech.
I also made chocolate mechs and TARDIS' for the guests. For our cake, I made his gaming logo on rice paper, along with various Whovian symbols. Plus as a little added geeky touch, I wrote our names in circular Gallifreyan. The TARDIS on the top of the cake was solid chocolate and so were the ones around the base. As the final little touch, I took a pair of sonic screwdrivers and converted them into our cake knife set. They could still extend, light up, and make the sounds. So I had a lot of fun playing with that.
The Captain’s Vortex Manipulator – how long did it take you to source the material and does it look anything like the original inside, beneath the leather cover?
Jennifer: I cosplay as Jack Harkness and always hated the look of the toy one, so I ripped it apart and used it as the basis for my leather one. The VM only took me 2 days after I gathered the materials. I ordered the lambskin and veg leather from Ebay, then found a seller on Etsy who had the exact same snaps for sale that were used for the real one.
It was my first project working with leather, so I learned a lot while making it. I'm planning on making a better one when I have the time. I already have all of the electronics and leather, the pieces for the faceplate, etc.
Your orange and black mask was this for Arrow? The hardest part for me would be to make absolutely sure I was dead centre for the line, or was this less of an issue for you?
Jennifer: The Mirakuru soldier helmet. Easiest project ever because it's a paintball mask that they painted half orange! Most of the time, I hate trying to get the lines dead center and end up measuring it a million times. But thankfully for this particular helmet, it's formed so it
has a slight ridge down the centre of the mask. I just used some blue painters tape to line it up, covered up the one eye hole, and spray painted it.
I love the set of arrows you have, they do look pretty lethal, how long did they take to build and what did you use for the tips?
Jennifer: Those things were a nightmare to make! I wanted to make some convention safe broad heads that wouldn't cause security to have a heart attack. The arrows themselves were simple and I just had to fletch them. But the broad heads were a big problem! I made a bunch of different moulds to try and find a way that would work the best. The originals are serrated and the blades themselves are very thin, so getting any air bubbles when casting the blade meant it was ruined and had to be redone.
In the end, I had one mould for the blades themselves and one of the broad head part they inserted into. At first, I tried to make them out of resin, but they were too fragile and the blades kept snapping. So I switched over to a flexible plastic that would give me the strength I needed, but allowed the blades to bend a little without snapping off. To make a dozen of those things took me a couple of weeks. They drove me crazy, but ended up looking amazing by the time I finished them.
When you’re not prop building what do you do to relax, or are you like all creative people, you don’t really properly switch off, even if you are sat watching tv or out socialising, you’re always thinking of the next build...?
Jennifer: I love to read, play video games, and I still draw and paint when time permits. I'm also into RPGs and tabletop games Battletech, Warhammer 40K, Super Dungeon Explorer, etc). I also train Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, and archery. I don't ever really switch off because I always have something I'm doing or working on.
When I was a kid, people thought I had ADHD just because of how busy I always was and how my mind would jump from one project to the next. I'm pretty much always multitasking. When I go shopping, I'll see something and it'll remind me of a piece from some prop or another. My mum is the same way though, so I'll recruit her to join the insanity and we geek out on how to make things, or how to sew a particular project. She's renovating her craft area in her basement at the moment and I've volunteered to help her paint the exploding
TARDIS Van Gogh on her wall as a mural.
The Soulless masks were extremely haunting in Miracle Day, and you’ve captured it well in your mask. What did you use for this and how many of these have you made?
Jennifer: I love the look of those masks! It's such a simple design, but very haunting when you see a bunch of them on screen. I've only made one of them and it's for a friend to wear to Wizard World Chicago. She was trying to find one of the ones they gave away at SDCC
a few years back, but they're not popping up for sale like they were a few years back. I'm lucky enough to have one of the screens used ones in my collection, and an SDCC promo one. To make her replica, I used half of a giant plastic Easter egg, my dremmel, some black plastic mesh, and the paint. From start to finish, it took about 2 hours to complete. I sent her a picture of it on Facebook and she can't wait to wear it.
As a cosplayer, how many costumes have you made for yourself over the years and have you made any for other people?
Jennifer: For actual cosplay costumes, I've made: Jack Harkness, Gotham City SWAT, Colonel Hogan (from Hogan's Heroes), PC Gwen Cooper (her Heddlu uniform), Sgt. Andy Davidson, an Ood, and a Silence. And I just finished my Dark Archer costume.
I'm going to be making the "Stolen Earth/Journey's End" Martha Jones costume for a friend, along with the Project Indigo backpack. It's the first complete costume I've made for someone else, unless you count helping my mum to assemble her Heddlu costume.
The Hand in the Jar – That looks absolutely fantastic, it’s a wonder John didn’t want to take it home for his collection. How long did that take to put together and how many times have you used that in Cosplay? And I’d imagine you must have tremendous biceps (muscles) lugging that around an arena, with or without water in it. And now signed by Captain Jack Harkness, I bet you still smile when you see that?
Jennifer: Thanks! I half expected him to steal it, especially with the way he kept playing with it and running around in his signing area!
I've used it twice for cosplay. It debuted at Gallifrey One 2014. Just getting it there was an adventure because the protective storage case is one inch too large to fit inside of the overhead bins. So on the first flight, they strapped it into its own seat. Then on our connecting flight, it rode up front in the pilot's closet. The security guys at the airport had a blast watching it go through the scanner and I had a detailed print out explaining what it was, what it was made out of, etc.
It took about two weeks to build. But yes, it weighs a ton when filled with water! When empty, Handy weighs 9 lbs. But once I fill it up with water, it weighs 17lbs.
Since Motor City Comic Con (where John signed it), I've finally finished it by swapping out the handle for the correct one. Nick Robatto put me in contact with one of the gentlemen who provided bits and things for Doctor Who and Torchwood. He didn't have any left, but did share that they were off "some military thing". A few months later, Bob found two spares while they were packing up set dressing items for the new Star Wars films and sent them to me.
What other props are you currently working on that you can tell us anything about?
Jennifer: I just finished working on my Dark Archer costume last night, so I'll be wearing it for the first time to Wizard World Chicago this weekend. I'll be working on my friend's Martha costume starting next month. Other things I'm planning on are the updated VM, a new version of my Captain Jack earpiece, some custom Torchwood miniatures, and a slightly smaller version of Handy that'll fit properly on airplanes.