People of Interest: Armorer of Earthlings

This month I will be doing interviews with astounding people who are out forging their own paths.  As this is a blog about The Summoner Sisters (Feeding Frenzy is now on sale here!) what topic would be better to start with than armor?

 Armor is a hot topic in the banisher world, and our first featured artist makes some drool-worthy duds. Today I have the great pleasure of interviewing Andy Fyfe, creator and crafter behind the brand SavagePunk Studio, perhaps best known for the cat armor that broke the internet.
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And Selani wept, for she knew there were no more red dots to conquer.

Yeah. Him. I know, I was pretty freakin’ stoked when he agreed to do this!  This is why you should be nice to people on the internet.  You might just get to pick the brains of someone who makes things like this or this or this. And cat battle armor.
Now, if you’re like me, you’re probably thinking “Why is that cat better dressed than I am? What hobbies does this cat have that merit such protective gear? And do they allow humans?”  Again, assuming you’re like me, you probably also try to get away with wearing pajamas or “yoga” clothes* at every possible opportunity. So, I think the first and most pressing question I have for Andy is:
When can we expect a line of leather lounge wear?  You know, for when you expect the brigands at any moment, but want to be comfortable until they show up.
Absolutely- I mean, speaking personally, the most sophisticated armor in the world is useless if it prevents me from continuing my grueling daily physical regimen of looking at cats on the internet.  Having a free range of movement for everyday activities is essential.  I think it was Leonidas of Sparta who said, “As leggings are pants, so must my armor be pajamas.”  We don’t want to rush to release a product line of this importance until we know it’s the best it can possibly be, although as you can imagine, the demand has been overwhelming.  I couldn’t commit to a date until we’ve finished our exhaustive series of field tests and ergonomic analysis.  My data is all in the next room and I don’t want to get up from the couch yet.
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Did you go look at the links I posted for you to go look at?  I feel like you didn’t.  Ogle this beautiful ensemble as penance.

Haha! Well, while we’re waiting, let’s talk about the real stars behind SavagePunk: Selani and Jenga. 
Well, Selani was our original SavageCat, the adopted kitty-daughter of my wife, Barb, and for a long time I was really the third wheel in their relationship.  Eventually, however, Selani and I developed a mutual grudging respect for one another, which was great, because she really was an extraordinary beast.  She was a Savannah Cat, a hybrid of a domestic housecat and a Serval, which is a species of sub-saharan African wildcat.  In addition to being very clever and social, she was capable of impressive physical feats.  Selani could jump seven feet straight up in the air from a sitting position, played fetch, tried to follow us into the shower, and was amazingly tolerant of the ridiculous outfits we’d sometimes put on her.  She loved human attention and admiration, so she’d willingly play along with wearing a fake dreadlock wig if it meant everyone in the room was looking at her.  She took right to wearing armor- almost eerily so, like she knew she was made for martial glory.  We’d take her to a convention or social event in her battle regalia, and she’d thrive on the adulation of the humans who came to pay her tribute.
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Tribute, pls.

When she was diagnosed with cancer, we threw everything we had into trying to help her fight it.  After several months of chemotherapy, IV fluids, supplements, and feeding her from a syringe, she was finally just too sick to go on.  We were crushed.  She had become such an essential part of our lives, and she was such a totally unique and wonderful creature.

There was no replacing Selani, ever.  But eventually, my wife decided it was time to try again, and we adopted another Savannah Kitten who she named Jenga.  Jenga had some big shoes to fill, but fortunately for us she was also 100% her own cat.  She’s turned out to be a real chatterbox, following us around and yowling in what I think she believes is fluent Hoo-Man Talk, getting up in our faces to really make sure we know what her opinion is on any given subject.  She is armor-trained, enjoys playing fetch, and is generally a snuggly little love-slut.  She has her very own Steampunk-themed cat jetpack, and we’re working on a special surprise outfit for her to coincide with the new season of “Game of Thrones.”

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Jenga and her minions

We’re sorry for your loss but glad to meet Jenga!  But since the crafting seemed to precede girding  your felines, how did you get into leather crafting?
One of my best friends inherited a plastic tote full of leather and leatherworking tools from a mutual friend of ours who had died unexpectedly.  I was at a pretty low point emotionally around that time, feeling like I was at loose ends and not knowing what the hell I was doing with my life, and this buddy of mine thought that because I was an artsy-crafty type, maybe I could occupy myself productively with the tote’s contents.  It was a simple act of generosity that literally changed my entire life.  I threw myself into it, finding the versatility and properties of softer, chrome-tanned leather to be totally fascinating.  I started experimenting with it, making clothes and bags and simpler utilitarian objects, learning through my mistakes and putting time into it whenever I could, gradually becoming more ambitious with my projects.  Around 3 years ago, I made my first piece from vegetable-tanned leather: that’s the stiffer, harder type of leather commonly used for tooling and making armor.  It was a tricorn hat for the pirate-themed wedding my wife and I had in Vegas.  I fell in love with the properties of veg-tan, and it’s been my main creative medium ever since.
Was this [being in business for yourself] always the goal, or was it like an “OMG people will pay me for this!” kind of moment?
Oh, wow, it was really always just sort of a dim, flickering hope I had that other more responsible people around me would gently try to direct me away from.  I was the kind of kid who obsessively drew D&D characters in the margins of my textbooks.  I knew I wanted to make armor since I was nine years old- I just didn’t know it was actually a non-delusional option for employment until my thirties.  The difference between what I do being an obsessive hobby vs being a functioning business is in my case entirely due to my wife, Barb.  She is the force for Order and monetizing my own personal swirling whirlpool of Chaos.  Without her I’d be just a nutjob, as opposed to An Artist.  She knows everything I don’t about how to run a business, which is especially impressive when you consider how very little I know about running a business.
 
What’s your favorite thing about your job?
Everything!  I have literally the greatest job in the world!  Every day I wake up, I can’t wait to get to my workbench and start makin’ stuff.  If I had to describe one of the dozens of Favorite Things, I’d say that I get a special kind of fulfillment from custom armor, and working with someone one-on-one to make something specifically tailored for them and their interests.  The human element of really trying to ascertain and interpret what they like, what they don’t like, anticipating their needs, incorporating their desires… it’s like mixing a little bit of my soul with a little bit of theirs.  Every day I have the opportunity to look at someone else and find an internal strength or quality to them, and use that as fuel to make something they’ll wear on the outside, amplifying their most worthy traits.  It sounds silly, I’m sure, but I take it extremely seriously.  I know I’m just making armor, but to me, it’s a sacred and symbolic responsibility: recognizing the value and worth of every individual person, and using that to make them more beautiful and powerful, in something that is literally made to protect them from the cruelties of the world while making them blaze like a bonfire in the darkness.  I’m naturally a pretty irreverent guy, but that’s my church, right there.
 
That’s awesome. So, besides cats, who’s buying armor and Cthulhu respirators etc.?
We have an incredibly eclectic and diverse clientele including historical re-enactors, live-action roleplayers, stage performers, indie movie producers, costume enthusiasts, club kids… we get the cream of the Freak Crop.  These are my tribe.  They’re distinguished by the unifying features of all being extremely creative and assertively unique.
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Distinguished: (adj) When one’s goggles and one’s tentacled respirator match flawlessly.

 
What’s the process like?  Say I want to buy my lounge pants, or that Summer and Lia are in the market for some pieces that can take a beating and have runes and spells against monsters carved in.  What do I do?
Well, you’ve got your first steps, right there: a general awareness of your needs.  We have a preliminary form on our website where potential customers can answer some basic questions about the type of creation they want, as well as the scope, and describe in as much or as little detail as they know what they want.  A lot of the time we’ll encourage people to make themselves a Pinterest board of inspirational images they like, as often the language we have to communicate in is non-verbal.  We’ll usually go back and forth a few times, nailing down specifics, getting measurements, providing concept sketches, and generally giving me an opportunity to try to climb into your head and walk in your shoes before we come up with a final approved concept and a price quote.
 
What’s your process for design and creation?
You could call it “obsessive dorkery,” I guess.  I spend an average of at least eight hours just doing research on something like a set of armor- looking at historical works, selecting a color palette, trying to anticipate the unique physical needs of whoever’s wearing it.  The way an archer moves and the type of mobility and protection they require is very different from that of, say, a front-line warrior.  Everyone’s physical body, and their abilities and limitations, are unique and must be considered.  And I try to incorporate some kind of Wow Factor in whatever I’m making, something to really set it apart from anything else.  Sometimes I’ll make miniature armor mock-ups from heavy cardstock, to see how everything will fit and articulate.  I’ll usually make several reference sketches: some for the client, and some for my own benefit.  And then I just kind of throw myself at it.  My wife will know when I’m really in the zone when she sees me do stuff like forget to sleep or eat for a couple days, and she’s great at making sure I don’t die of dehydration while getting really absorbed in things.
Ha! Oh man, please don’t die! You truly make amazing things. I can’t tell you how much fun it is to see your WIP posts and then compare them to finished product.  
You are extremely kind to say so, thank you!  This has been great!
 

Thank you so much for your time, we look forward to seeing more of your stuff take over the web!

*Yoga is in quotes here, because remember we’re assuming you’re like me, and I would never do yoga, so there can be no clothes that are meant for yoga.

One thought on “People of Interest: Armorer of Earthlings

  1. Pingback: A Noob’s Guide to Marketing Books | The Summoner Sisters

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