What a Bust!

A week or so ago, you may of seen our tweet (and Stego’s post located here: http://www.furaffinity.net/journal/3678499/) regarding the demise of our signature JG1 mold. The timing of this event has come at quite a detrimental time, as some long term problems of ours have not been solved before this inevitable day had come.

Busts….. WE NEEED BUSTS!!!!!!!!!!!

Yes! That’s right! We need work surfaces. With some key steps requiring the use of busts, this has been detrimental to the maintanance of our current line as well as stunted the growth of our product line. Simply put, without these busts, we have nothing to stand on (literally!)

Hoods are not formed by taking pieces of latex sheets and gluing them together. We make them as big, thick solid pieces of rubber. That is done by choosing from our arsenal of busts, finding the one closest in measurements to the commissioner’s head and then doing a number of things upon that head for a good fit. Hoods take at least 8 days to produce (5 days to pour and cure a hood + 3 day for using that bust as a work surface for fusing/attaching). It can even be longer than that 8 days because we are juggling this with FT jobs (both Shop Pony and Stego), family obligations, additional work obligations and other life things that are beyond our control.   Our lab, done out of our SoCal home, is also a factor as we could not do the work we do in it if we lost our house and moved into a rental.  So FT jobs are always going to be #1.

As for custom molds, the amount of “head time” required to complete that task is far longer— months…and even up to a year (give or take). Currently we have such a custom commission and the current “head time” that has engaged one of our larger headed busts has been going on 5 months! Just like with the hood creation process, this also means we lose a bust head during this time. Any hooded orders of the same head size are stuck behind until we free up that bust head.

As you might imagine, this can be very detrimental and has already shown up in cases where someone’s order was unexpectedly delayed because of this. It was even worse when we had a bust head shatter and found ourselves unable to replace it due to the vendor (Monster Makers) discontinuing that particular bust head.  So, time (which basically equates to money given that we are stretched with regular  jobs) had to be taken to glue our current one back together.  In fact, there is a severe shortage of armature/mask-making heads available that have full shoulders. The full shoulders are important for marking proportion as well as letting us fill orders that want a long or extra long hood. To give you an idea of what we consider a shortage, here is an inventory of our current line of bust heads:

  • 1 casting of Stego’s head — This is great for people with forehead circumferences of around 24 inches.  This is the one currently engaged for 10 months and counting
  • 1 casting of Kat’s head  — Made in a makeshift fashion, this can only be used for a work surface to perch a head on while painting or other minute things.  It has no shoulders nor is it of the right foam to create hoods upon
  • 1 Monster Makers bust with shoulders – This is a great bust for hoods and new  designs to be created upon. It has shoulders.  However, this is the one that shattered and had to be glued back together.  It is debatable if we could ever use this one again if it should break but this is the model that Monster Maker’s discontinued when thier mold broke.  Currently, they only offer one model for sale, which is inadequate: http://www.monstermakers.com/category/sculpting-armatures/
  • 2-3 hard busts – These are only a work surface, as they are too small (21 inch forehead, while it exists, is not common for our customer base)
  • 1 Mostly Fantasy foam bust – This is a great bust for hoods and new  designs to be created upon as it has shoulders and is very durable.

Heck, we are even using double-sized wine bottles for painting/detail work surfaces because so much chaos buildup has occurred.  I wish I was kidding about this! :/  Kat has been searching for a comporable shouldered bust made of flexible foam (for placing pins) for over a year now.  Yes, that means that she was looking in advance with the idea that, by the time the JG1 mold was done for, we’d have more bust heads.   She has looked high and low and for now, only 2 solutions exist if we dont lose more money/time making it ourselves.  As of last night, this also puts Kat’s vision off the backburner and into an indefinite delay — the VG1 (Vixen Gasmask).  While Kat hides it well…. she is a very unhappy artist seeing her vision of 4 years ago still unable to be placed into tangible form.  Its to a point, she is prepared to throw in the towel as this isnt the first time a vision of hers has been dashed by lack of supply resources and capital/sales to fund it.

Between the 2 solutions, working with Mostly Fantasy is by far cheaper than a local mannequin supplier who seems more designed for big companies (vs small companies like ours).  Mostly Fantasy produces bust heads out of foam that is carved from a machine.  3 days ago we sent them a detailed shot of our Monster Maker’s bust and exact measurements we needed for re-creating the one from Monster Makers.  Mostly Fantasy’s estimate was approximately $250 per bust head, not counting shipping (but they are a USA based company).  Its significantly cheaper than the local vendor who wanted $490 for each size type we needed plus $148 for producing one bust head from that mold. Still…. that rough figure of $250 is juuuustttt out of our range anyway since we are working on such tight budgets here in California.

At this point, we see a third solution but its going to take alot of our time (which again, equals money) , and that is in short supply as you can probably tell.  Stego has enough drive towards this business that he will come up with a solution, but until then….we are going to be having alot more delays and no ETA on our JG3 (the replacement for our JG1).  There is basically nothing we can do about it and, if you look at some popular fursuit creation studios, we are no more special in getting our monetary  shortcomings solved.  Its a fight but we just cant see ourselves cutting corners and creating low-quality cookie cutters that are a shadow of what we currently produce.

Wish I had better news for you guys.  So, I just hope you will be patient with our shortcomings.  There is no telling what is going to happen down the road, but all we can do is hang in there. Hopefully, it is not unreasonable to hope that at least *some* of our customer base will grasp the above information and understand.

What Goes Down Must Come Up

I cant tell you how nice it is to have an update for you guys…let alone one that is the polar opposite of our last one. Over the past few months, having to lament the loss of productivity, we are happy to report that we’re back in full force (and then some!). This is thanks to our secret weapon — a third set of hands in the form of our shop pony. With pony’s help, we have been able to get back up to a consistent production speed and have begun taking care of people who have been waiting in the wings.

For those following our Twitter, you may have noticed more updates happening more often and more opportunities to look in our lab and see how we are doing. Our production still has its limits, mainly in the area of hooded orders. Sadly, its a matter of replacing certain pertinent tools to this process, and our search has resulted in a lot of dead ends. When we do find this specific tool (and at a price that our small shop can afford in these tough times), we can go full throttle and start taking on more orders for our encasement-happy friends.  This hurdle has also affected the potential of long-overdue-but-planned projects. In fact, a number of people have recently asked us about the brand new species designs. Much to our dismay (especially Kat’s), the aforementioned dearth of these specific building tools results in us having to put our bright ideas on the back burner.

With shop pony putting his ass to the grindstone and us optimizing our processes in what small ways we can, its only a matter of time before we will announce an opening of our queue. Soon, we will happily begin taking hooded orders, even if it is on a case-by-case basis. If this kind of mask style is your fancy, I thank you in advance for remaining patient and dropping us a line to let us know that you haven’t given up on us yet.