Q: How much does a finished piece cost?
A: The eternal question! While a rifle or helmet at a toy store may run $50-75, these are not prices I can compete with nor emulate even remotely. An issue arises in the comparison of the two items however; both seem to be little more than painted pieces of plastic and metal.
When emailing to request a commission quote, please be aware that some of my most intricate work is the result of hundreds of hours of build time combined with an equal investment in material expenses. A few examples: Chroming a Daft Punk helmet runs $250 without shipping costs. The raw aluminum parts for the Fallout Terrible Shotgun cost over $100. One gallon of mold making silicone can run anywhere from $90 to $300. There is nearly $1,000 in electronics alone in one Daft Punk helmet. It costs about $60 just to make a shipping crate for a finished prop, and the shipping cost itself to deliver props to my clients breaks $150 routinely.
On some projects, I have over 200 hours of labor invested in their creation. That represents about a month’s work of time, a pretty standard amount of work for something like a rifle or helmet sculpt and mold. Back when I worked at Best Buy installing car stereos, my hourly wage peaked at around $16/hr. Propmaking is far more complex work (and I charge less to do it) but these numbers might start to give you a vague idea of the time and cost involved in some of these replicas.
When I provide a quote, you can rest assured that it represents the fairest price I can provide for the absolute best work I am capable of. I will continue to make the most accurate replicas I can possibly produce, and there are dozens of examples of my current work for you to look at in my portfolio. I do not ‘kit bash’ or modify existing things into facsimiles; every piece is scratch made and sculpted to be as exact as possible to the source design. If you choose to go forward and commission a piece, you will love it. I have yet to deliver a replica to anyone who hasn’t.
Q: Will you make me ______?
A: Short version: maybe. Long version: Building a prop will depend on several factors including budget, deadline, my current commission schedule, shop capabilities, and what you want created. If you’re interested in getting a quote or inquiring about availability, click here to be taken to the custom commissions form.
Q: Are the finished props I see on your portfolio for sale? If not, can you make _____ again for me?
A: No. Almost everything I build is constructed on a commission basis and has been paid for and claimed months in advance. Most of the items in the gallery have been out of my possession for a long time. Duplicating a past project is unlikely, since repeats are mostly about going through the motions of a previous project. I have made multiples of some pieces in the past, but unless I can significantly improve on my first attempt (as was the case with my AER-9 rifles) I’ll usually close the book on a prop once it’s finished and look for different things to try and learn from.
Q: Will you make something for my charity?
A: I do participate in charity events, and make it a point to block out time in my schedule and finances in order to make at least one thing for a charitable event per year. The unfortunate side of that is during the time I am producing that piece, my income is essentially halted. This isn’t a “no” outright, but at the end of the day I do have to make sure my income is secured and I can pay my bills first!
Q: If I pay extra, will you finish one of the raw resin kits in your store for me and sell it as a completed prop?
A: Sorry, but no. The raw cast parts and kits offered in the store are offered as kits only. The finishing side of things can take weeks or even months (in the case of a Daft Punk style helmet) and there isn’t a way to integrate orders like that into my commission schedule. If you’re interested in a kit, be aware that it will require a fair bit of time and work before it is a finished prop.
Q: If I have an original design, will you make it for me?
A: Possibly. A large amount of my work comes from replicas because these already have large existing fanbases. While I can build one-off or original designed props, that isn’t my typical fare. Ultimately, it will be contingent on the same factors as making anything else – budget, time, and capabilities.
Q: Will you design a helmet/gun/sword/etc for me?
A: I am not a designer, and if I’m being brutally honest, I suck pretty bad when it comes to conceptual design. If you’re after a designer/illustrator, I would suggest going elsewhere first. I can make finished designs a reality no problem, but I’m not the idea guy!
Q: Where did you learn to do all of this?
A: I took some classes in Furniture Design in school, but most of the prop stuff was self taught through my own research.
Before I started doing the builds I do, I signed up with a lot of costuming and propmaking forums. The best of these are the following:
- http://405th.com/forums/ – HALO costuming site
- http://www.therpf.com/ – Replica Props Forum – pretty much anything you can think of
- http://cosplay.com/ – generic, and a younger audience devoted to cosplay.
- http://www.smooth-on.com/ – place where I get all my moldmaking supplies. They have great video tutorials associated with all of the materials they sell.
- http://arduino.cc/en/ – where I learned a lot about programming and how to work with an Arduino
- http://www.sparkfun.com/ – great tutorials and project for anyone looking to get into electronics, simple or complex.
- Additionally, one of the best resources for moldmaking and general prop work is a book called “The Prop Builder’s Molding & Casting Handbook” by Thurston James (or on Kindle here). That will detail the more tricky aspects of molding and vacuumforming.
Q: Will you teach me how to make props? How can I make _______ specifically?
A: While I do provide my write-ups as a way of instruction through example, I don’t write “tutorials” complete with measurements, product numbers, and specific quantities to purchase. The write-ups alone take hours of time to compile, and a tutorial write-up can take days. Unfortunately, that level of documentation is beyond the scope of what I have the time to do.
I can’t really offer instructions or suggestions on items I haven’t personally built. Mostly because I wouldn’t really know for certain if a technique I would recommend would be correct, but also because I get a lot of requests like this and answering them all would take a significant amount of time that, these days, I can’t afford.
Q: Do you take on apprentices/interns?
A: At the moment I have one assistant who works sporadically when I have extra stuff to do in the shop. Since the nature of a freelance artist’s workload is unpredictable at best, I can’t offer any sort of employment positions or job opportunities for in-house artists. Apprentices and interns are a different story, since these positions are typically educational in nature and therefore unpaid. The best answer I can give is “maybe” but no guarantees. If you’re interested feel free to send a resume and portfolio or links to those documents to me and I’ll let you know!
Q: How long have you been making props?
A: Since late 2007 officially, though I’ve been cobbling things together my whole life.
Q: Why haven’t you made a ______?
A: My work is almost entirely commission based. While I do have some say in what props I choose to make or what commissions I choose to accept, the simplest answer is that someone hasn’t asked me to build it yet.
Q: I’d like a full costume or a full set of armor. Can you build that for me?
A: I don’t take commissions for full suits of armor/full costumes. Due to the complexity of the pieces and the necessity to do constant fit checks during construction, that isn’t really a service I can offer online.
The problem with armor crafting is that parts and components need constant test-fitting during the creation process to ensure proper alignment and comfort. Without the intended wearer nearby or available very often in order to do test fittings, the parts I build would not conform to the wearer very well.
Additionally, I can’t sew and I have no time to learn anytime soon, so anything involving cloth is right out!
Q: How many people work at Volpin Props?
A: Currently there is one main artist (me, Harrison Krix), and an assistant artist who works 6-10 hours a week. For the finished props you see in the gallery, these are all made by one person.
Q: Why don’t you make five hundred _______ and sell them? You could be a millionaire!
A: Firstly, licensing – I would need to have permission from license holders in order to produce items at that volume. Secondly, there’s only one artist/builder here, and making any more than five of one thing at a time is an incredibly stressful experience. Lastly, as the only artist building finished replicas, I prefer each project to be a new challenge and learning experience. Making multiples might generate some money (not millions!) but I’d prefer the positive feeling of a new project over straight up cash anyday.
Q: Are your blueprints for sale?
A: Yep! You can check them out in the store.