Design and Development

Creative inspiration

I collect as well as create my own versions of dragons in various media. One of the first dragons I ever made was a small serpentine (a jade-like material) carving in one of my high school art classes. I wanted to create a dragon costume for some time, but could not settle on a design or style that would not look like a man in a dragon costume. I realize that this is unavoidable, since after all, my final result will be "a man in a dragon costume".

Final inspiration for the costume came from book cover artwork on one of the "Live Ship Traders" series by Robin Hobb. The Dragon appears as a stylized lamppost in this illustration. What appealed to me were the proportions and stylized body of the dragon, which could be translated to a costume without much difficulty. The exaggerated belly scales also had appeal, from the standpoint of reproducing with fabric-covered foam.

Other design concepts came from a variety of dragons in my collection of sculptures and sketches, especially those by M. Peña. This costume is not a reproduction of any one design, but a composite of several. Most of the time I approach costuming by starting to work on a section, and see what looks "right", adjusting the design during the work to keep it functional.

A dragon sculpture and a pen-and-ink drawing by Peña.


A dragon I carved from serpentine using a Dremel tool.

Dragon detail from "Mad Ship" cover art. Book 2 in the Live Ship Trader series.

Another pen and ink dragon by Peña.

Detailed designs and plans.

I work on several parts of the costume simultaneously. Sometimes I will put one section aside while I try to work out how to approach a certain obstacle. Solutions often occur to me at time when I am not working on the costume, so I need a way to remind myself of the possible solution. Usually I will make a quick sketch and perhaps add some notes to the page to describe the details. I may never refer to this sketch again because I find that the process of recording the idea usually reinforces it in my mind.

The cable guide and support for the jaw cable is an example of this process. It occurred to me that a support could be added to the shoulder frame and a guide tube placed on the cable. The cable guide for the jaw runs down the detachable neck section, while the CO2 extinguisher is held in the back frame with its own cable. I wanted to combine these two cables into a single control inside the costume. The frame support and jaw guide had to be detachable, and a way to merge it with a bicycle hand grip and brake handle for the extinguisher was necessary.

The combination brake and cable pull assembly. The stirrup detaches from the grip, and is connected to the jaw cable at the base of the neck. The other cable attaches to the extinguisher handle.

The original sketch for a combined cable control for the jaw combined with a hand brake lever for the extinguisher.

The completed frame support.

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