Thursday, November 10, 2011

Yoshimitsu- The human squid

Yoki has always had some sort of weird habit to sympathize and pick characters who don’t look, act or anyhow resemble normal, so I wasn’t that surprised when we ended up brainstorming a human squid. What I really like about Yoshi and Ivy is that as a project it took place after we had become familiar with different kind of techniques. It didn’t take long before we had chosen the methods to use and how everything would be constructed.

With Yoshimitsu’s mask it was quite clear that we would vacuum form it. The only thing that caused some unnecessary work was preparing the mold. We had started to carve it from insulation foam with Yoshimitsu’s shoulder armor. Then we realized that we couldn’t fit it before it was vacuum formed from plastic, so it was very possible that it would not fit or that the proportions would be off. Excess work didn’t sound too appealing. Carving a block of material while visualizing a form inside of it, is lot harder than actually building the shape little by little.

We took a shortcut from making a cast from Yoki’s face, we bought a plastic mask from Punanaamio. Actually we bought two different models. After trying those on we would see which one fitted Yoki better. Having options is never bad, especially when you work with objects that don’t apparently go through quality control. The other masks had eye holes with one centimeter height difference.

After choosing the mask and making some sketches I sat down and started sculpting. I used DAS modeling clay and four days to get the mold done. It took some swearing, confrontations and almost two packages of clay to finish, but it was all good. The mold looked nice and after Yoki finished it with putty, it was ready to be vacuum formed. And that, if something was stressful! We really wanted the mold to work, but with different levels and details we were really worried that we would get wrinkles or holes. To add to the stress, I finished the mask mold just a week before our costume debut, so there weren’t too much time to redo it.

The first take… it was perfect! I might have yelled one well-known Finnish curse word pretty loud when the plastic got sucked into the mold. Later Yoki told me that she first misunderstood my expression of joy. She thought that we had failed based on the volume. Last thing for me to do was to get the mold out of its plastic pocket. I think I used about thirty minutes to an hour to that alone. Then I happily realized that my work with the mask was done and handed it to Yoki to paint.

Yoki painted the mask with the same color as the mechanical arm, but probably because of different base material the tone wasn’t quite the same. The mask turned out lot darker than we would have wanted, but because of the limited time we decided to roll with it.

We had to get the mask done before I could finish the headpart with the decorative panels. Earlier Yoki had printed the pieces for me. The five days I had left to work with the costumes, while Yoki was back at school I struggled to get the whole thing together! I say that it’s pretty hard to make fitting alterations by yourself. With pieces of clothing it still works somehow as long as you have flexible arms, but with a huge blob covering your head and face… It’s a different story.

With the head it was pretty much trial and error method both in patterning and construction. I had to seam rip a lot and many pieces, but in the end Yoshimitsu had a head.

The mask is attached with Velcro to the pouch thing. Inside the pouch there is a foam crest on top of the head to give it more height. To the foam crest I sewed a piece of rubber band that goes below the ears and behind the neck. The tightness is the only thing that keeps the head in place. The pouch itself has two layers. The first one is the inside, which is sheet cotton with plastic boning. The outer crest is made from craftfoam and metal studs.

If you are sharp-sighted you might have noticed that we left out the ear-parts. We made them, but because they were done in a hurry and they didn’t quite fit on the first try, we decided to skip them.

We chose foam to be the main material on Yoshimitsu’s tentacles. It looks solid, but is soft and flexible to allow movement. I started by making a sketch of the tentacles opened based on references. Then I purchased a piece of foam from Etola, where you can get any shaped or sized piece you like. And if you are lucky, you might find a suitable piece with many cut outs and get discount, because they are just happy to get rid of it!

After I had determined which tentacle overlaps the other, I drew the shapes on the foam and cut them out. I rounded the edges and carved the curls on the tentacles. Then I assembled the pieces and glued few seams together. The red fabric is interlock tricot I found from my fabric storage. I stitched it on the foam by hand, because it would have never fit under the presser foot. The first layer of fabric pulls the foam down and smoothes down irregularities.

The second layer… or actually three, gave me a nice rollercoaster ride of madness. I first started covering the tentacles with the same material as the head pouch. Then I realized that it didn’t stretch enough. I seam ripped. I decided that I need tricot. So I purchased some in light beige and dyed it. I knew it was little off, but decided to stitch it on. This was two or three weeks before the debut. After we had finished all the other pieces of Yoshimitsu’s costume, we laid them on the floor to see how they matched. The tentacles didn’t.

I still had to do the mask and the head pouch, so I kind of pushed the tentacle issue aside. Even Yoki settled with it, because she also realized that it was more important to get the costumes to presentable condition. I had gone through the local fabric stores few times already and hadn’t found anything that would be suitable, but then our mother made a discovery in form of pale colored interlock! Somewhere in between I dyed the fabric orange and finally finished the tentacles in the car on the way to Tampere.

The tentacles attaches to the vest with Velcro, hiding the support structures of the sashimono as well as Yoki’s waist line. The studs on the swirls are fabric covered buttons. The opening under the right arm is closed with small hooks and rubber bands, which I rolled in orange yarn. In the future we have planned using silicone or latex to give the tentacles more squid-like surface. Also airbrushing them to resemble the references more has crossed our minds.

Huge post! And I even left some things out. If you’d like to know more about a certain part of the construction, feel free to ask. Next I’m going to write a post about all the miscellaneous stuff from shoes to Ivy’s pretty hat.


  1. Were did you get the fabrics for the pants and upper body piece, and the blue shirt thing?

  2. They were plain fabrics before we printed them with different flower and leaf patterns. We wrote a post about the process