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Fursuits and WIPs

I've been having a little bit of a dilemma lately, and wanted to see about some more input on the subject. As someone that takes limited commissions for fursuits/pieces, I'm trying to find the right balance for offering WIP photos to customers.

In many cases - like tails and ears - I don't offer WIPs because I have sufficient photos of end products so customers/commissioners are aware of what their final product will look like. Even with custom-colors on small pieces, I don't share WIPs, since I have a consistent style with them and it's easy to picture what it will look like. I haven't really had any issues with this.

When it comes to a full suit, particularly heads, I'm not really sure where to stand with how many WIP photos to provide. The problem lies in that many times, when a customer commissions a fursuit, it is because they have not built their own or have not attempted to build their own. Because of this, they may not be familiar with some stages of construction, and will nit-pick things that really aren't going to be an issue. An example being, say, I finish the foam work and they get concerned because it's not entirely smooth, something that won't matter once the head is covered in fur. Or wondering why there are two or more colors of foam on the head when again, covering it in fur means it won't be a problem.

On the other hand, I've provided some customers with extensive WIP photos and I get absolutely no feedback, in one case the customer didn't express their dislike of some features until they received the finished product (despite their seeing several WIPs from the very early stages, they chose not to tell me to correct anything, all the while saying "Looking good!") and in another case, a customer was actually present while I was sculpting, directed me in the shape of the head as he wanted it (despite my expressing reluctance to make the head in that particular shape) and then was frustrated when the final product didn't look like the species he wanted it to be.

I personally am inclined to work from a customer's reference artwork and try to make my costumes reflect the artwork as best as I can, I don't do a generic "style" for my costumes, so everything I do is basically starting over from scratch. I don't have general templates I work from, so when it comes to heads and full costumes, it's hard for a customer to tell what their finished product will look like because I can't really just say, "It'll look like your reference artwork." At the same time, I don't want to be overly nit-picked, have a customer tell me to make changes that might not be appropriate and cause the costume to come out looking poorly in the end.

If you are a fursuit maker, how often do you offer WIPs, and how many of you take active criticism from your customers on WIP photos at various stages of the head sculpt? Obviously I want the products to turn out similar to the reference artwork, but at the same time I think there's too much potential for ambiguity if a customer requests adjustments that might not be in the best interest of their costume design, especially if it's not shown on their reference images that I'm working from.
Additionally, what sort(s) of things can I adjust in my ToS regarding this? (current ToS can be seen here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/adorablefoxie/policy ) I have had customers that say, "You know what you're doing, don't worry about WIPs," but then I have other instances where I feel like I'm just the hands, and they're trying to do the work for me, if that makes any sense. What would you guys do in these sorts of situations?

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( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 23rd, 2011 04:09 am (UTC)
Unfortunately I'm not a fursuit maker myself, but here are my thoughts.

If you haven't had a problem with clients being put-off by not receiving WIPs of small items I think that's fine. This should also be stated in your ToS just to make sure all bases are covered.

As for the full suits or larger pieces, it may be worth composing a 'cover letter' type thing that accompanies your WIP shots explaining things like how the foam doesn't need to be smooth or match in colour because it will be covered, and other common basic things that normally gets picked on. Sort of like giving them a FAQ/disclaimer along with the image, you know?

Your ToS should cover things like if a client approves each step then you will require additional payment if they want something altered later.
Sep. 23rd, 2011 04:46 am (UTC)
I get around WIPs by just livestreaming everything. That way, instead of having a small cross section of unfinished work, they can see what goes on in the entire process, and if they make a dumb remark(WHY IS THE HEAD GREEN) i can answer it in real time and it saves ME time if they want a shape or form changed. Easier to alter it WHILE I'm doing it than going back after its done and mucking the whole business up.

For heads though I used to do: 1 finished foamwork turnaround and 1 'the fur is pinned on and shaved but nothing much else is finished. That way if they want to change something about the colour its not a big deal to unpin it and go back and do it. Once its glued down, its pretty much never coming off again.
Sep. 23rd, 2011 05:17 am (UTC)
I send them 4 "stages" of pictures. After receiving your 30% deposit...

1) I show you your completed foam base and a completed small item (ex: your feetpaws). Because my bird costumes are particularly scary in their early stages I send you a picture of what my own icon looked at the same stage. It was well received by my avian clients so I'm going to keep doing that for everyone, assuming I have a previous example of a similar animal.

2) I tape up your base, draw your markings on it and estimate where I have to make the cuts. I take pictures and show you a Photoshop mockup to make sure I also get the fur lengths right. I also complete another small bit (ex: your tail).

3) I cut out the fur, pin it on and partially shave it. I provide another point of reference to show that yeah, it's normal that it looks so sloppy at this stage. Another small bit!

4) Finished item all sewn up and pretty, plus whatever remaining parts I owe you.

For payments, I break up the balance, including shipping, into 4 chunks and I only request a payment after I have completed a step to your satisfaction.

I don't have much experience with this commission business yet but so far so good. My current clients seem to appreciate my thoroughness and that their WIPs are in line with previous examples of my work that they liked. I realize this is probably going overboard, but I do not want to be the sort of person who doesn't get something right because it will make everyone feel bad and reflect badly on my work. Furthermore, I do not like being paid in advance because I think it might make negotiating partial refunds if I am canceled on by a client; as it stands, I only collect payment for work I have done and I will happily send you whatever completed parts and supplies you need to finish it later.

Hope it helps. I'm also curious how other folks do this and how they collect payments.
Sep. 23rd, 2011 11:35 pm (UTC)
When you get enough examples that you can show the concept next to the finished suit and it's dead-on, I think that's the part where you don't need to show WIPs- your customer should trust you completely. Until then, I would show snapshots of the major milestones in construction and just address people's questions about it as you go. I've never really had that much issue with it.
Sep. 24th, 2011 05:44 am (UTC)
I like zaulankris's idea of showing a WIP along with a sample WIP and finished piece. It'll help the customer see which parts are relevant and which parts aren't. It won't be the same style or animal, but it'll give them a basic idea of what the construction looks like in terms of the final (e.g. foam color and texture doesn't matter).

Another thing you may want to do is overlay your photos over the reference pictures, or putting them side by side. You can then explain any choices you had to make during the process (e.g. Ears are smaller because they were falling over).

I do strongly recommend including WIPs of a major project. You may be an excellent suitmaker (I have no clue honestly), but that doesn't mean that you didn't interpret a few things different, or a few things were unclear, or even that it doesn't look as good in 3D, etc. The way I always handle it is showing WIPs of anything you're unwilling to redo.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )


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