What do you want to build?
Anyone and everyone can build something. The first step though is to decide what you want to make. It could be as simple or complex as needed to achieve what you want. It could be mechanical, cosplay, baking: anything your mind can make up!
Once you have an idea, start jotting down what you want to do and figure out your process. I’m going to talk through what I do when I decide to build something so hopefully you can get some ideas for yourself.
TIP: if you get stuck at this step or are having problems coming up with original ideas, try to recreate something that someone else has made!
1. Research – Design
When you decide to build something, you will have to do a lot of research upfront. A good example of this is when I am trying to recreate a costume (for instance the Mandalorian). I’ll spend a lot of my time looking at reference images and consolidating them into one place.
Once I have all my thoughts in order, I then go into the design phase and figure out what things will look like. Doodles are your friend here.
And yes this is an iterative process. You will find as you start to design and doodle that you may need to do more research to get something exactly how you want it. Eventually, it will get to where you want it to be, so don’t get frustrated if you end up having to do multiple research sessions.
Once you settle on what this design will go through, look like you move into prototyping.
The main thing I’m going to say about prototyping is to get used to starting over.
When you’re dealing with something brand new and you don’t know if the design you made will work, you will fail often. Maybe the material will not work for the application that you’re working on, or perhaps the design isn’t fitting with your overall costume/project.
This is why the prototyping phase is critical, and the main thing that I’m going to tell you to (from experience) is to use cheaper materials before you move onto the expensive stuff. Remember though that sometimes you can’t do this because of what you’re working on, but if you can, it will save you a lot of headaches and your wallet in the long run.
A perfect example of this is when I work with foam. Typically, I’ll work with a more problematic, denser cheaper foam (like floor foam mats) before moving into the friendlier, more malleable foam that is way more expensive.
Another good example is with electronics. I will start with the cheapest components that I can find before moving to the costly ones that I expect to last for longer periods.
Testing is key in any project. It’s so important that I’m making it separate from the prototyping section (though they happen at the same time and are both iterative).
Take the prototype that you’ve made and start doing some tests with it. If it’s a costume, maybe you need to walk around and see how it fits and moves. The biggest thing I worry about with any costume I work on is making sure I can go to the bathroom. As silly as it may sound, when you’re at a convention and you have to all of a sudden go number 2 that costume coming off becomes very important.
When it comes to electronics, I’ll run tests on the circuit itself to see if anything will “pop” and to see if the design will actually do what I want it to do.
4. Final Things
Once you’ve gone through this iterative process, and finally have a good idea about the thing you’re making and how you’re going to make it, you can finally start building the final piece.
This is where all your hard work pays off, so you don’t hopefully make the same mistakes for your final product with the nicer, more expensive components.
I hope this little blog post helps you realize that you will rarely get things right the first time. It takes time for you to figure out what you want to do whenever you’re doing something, especially when it’s the first time trying a new skill or using a new material. As humans, we are continually learning and evolving and changing our processes on how we do things. Plus it’s always fun to try new things.