I got a lot of questions around how I created the wings for my Devil Homura cosplay, especially since- in a shocking turn of events- they are not 3D printed.
Out with the old, in with the new! Left, what I scrapped; Right, the update
My winged journey started in a very different spot from where I landed- in fact, this whole thing was bit of a disaster! Between my props and fabric elements, what walked the NYCC floor was created after scrapping 85% of 4 months of work. Despite pre-planning and considering what I thought were all the elements of this build, the more I progressed on it, the more that fell out of the sky. It was weeks of two steps forward, one step back, and by the end became one step forward, two steps back. Things just weren't working out. I was in way over my head, and my confidence ran dry. Consumed, I considered dropping the whole project and wearing something else.
And I almost did, until Dhemerae convinced me to finish. She pulled me out my hole, and helped me reinvigorate the fun and excitement that I had lost in myself and in the project. After two hours of re-hashing, I had re-charted my course and prepared for take-off once more.
It was now time to...
NOTE: I won't go into the clothing aspects of this build, but I will provide a materials list with links to those I worked with to make them happen.
the original design; as you can see, I got pretty far into these before it fell through
The original plan was aesthetically closer to the Madoka Magica movie's design. It was to be an extravagant mechanical operation with a 3D printed frame that unfurled and closed via linear actuators. Everything down to the feathers were to be 3D printed. Ultimately, I was not able to move out of the iterative process fast enough, and the plan fell through a week and half before the convention.
via anime stack exchange
Adrenaline pumping and Tim Gunn whispering in my ear, I refused to be a flightless bird! A desperate Googling lead me to screenshots from the movie where Homura has a wing-like burst of energy that explodes from her back, as if she was ripping into the universe. I also looked at how makers interpreted this idea to create additions for Homura figurines out of plexiglass. I really liked the abstractness of them, and was excited at being able to interpret something more deeply referential to the Madoka Magica universe. Since my wings would now be motionless, their kinetic look and feel really drew me in as well, and I like the challenge of capturing motion through static objects.
Concept and design, check- So far so good!
My frame consisted of four pieces, two wings and two trapezoid shapes. The trapezoids would sandwich the wing pieces and once screwed down, would secure everything into place and provide me with a comfortable and stabilized backplate. I then would add Velcro straps for my arms and waist for wear. To get me started, I used Cowbutt Crunchies Cosplay's water wings tutorial, which I highly encourage you check out.
The genius behind these wings is PET-G plastic sheets. This was my first introduction this material, and apparently to many others who I chatted with at NYCC. PET-G (Polyethylene terephthalate Glycol-Modified) is a "plastic resin of the polyester family that is used to make beverage, food and other liquid containers, as well as for some other thermoforming applications" (Laird Plastics). If you are looking for a big bang for your buck, this material is a great option, as it is incredibly versatile in the ways you can handle and transform it: It comes in a variety of thicknesses and sizes. It is dangerously transparent, feather-light, and highly flexible. It can be can heat-formed or cut it with scissors, and does not require a fully equipped facility and speciality tools to work with it. Its raw form would work great as an impersonator for glass or crystal, but you can also paint it and dye it. The list goes on...
I purchased two 1/16 in thick sheets of PET-G and used tinsnips to cut out my desired shape. The wing design was drawn in Illustrator, then printed it out on a large format printer. I then traced the design onto the sheets using permanent marker (which was easy to remove afterward with some alcohol).
Using a Dremel, we then drilled the screw holes and the strap slots. I then turned my Dremel into a sander and cleaned up all my edges. This material will melt when exposed to a high enough heat for a period of time, so if you are using an intense sanding tool, work swiftly or on a lower speed.
I made sure to try on the wings after each step, not only to get used to putting them together, but to make sure that as I added materials and elements, that all my cuts still accepted the screws and Velcro smoothly. As I moved into painting I also moved to different lighting settings to make sure my finishing was consistent.
Speaking of paint, a motley crew of materials were used to create the finished starry effect. I glued galaxy chiffon fabric on the front facing side, and the backside was sponge painted with airbrush paints in various purples and black. I then top-coated the painted side with a clear airbrush paint, and brushed fabric glue over the chiffon to finish it. For some extra sparkle, I followed up with glitter craft glue. Both the chiffon and the paints had transparency to them, which still allowed light to pass through the plastic, and reinforced the airy, celestial theme.
The Final Piece and Lessons Learned
We have safely landed at this build's conclusion! It was unexpectedly straight forward, and a refreshing experience after trudging through the mud for months. I was at first a bit reluctant on them, but given the content of Madoka Magica and the references that I used, I grew to really like my interpretation, and my cosplay as a whole.
If Homura's curse is love, mine is my wavering confidence. This process has really revealed where I stand as a maker and where my true strengths and weaknesses lie. As someone who tends to focus on bettering their weaknesses, I have really grown to learn through creating these wings that I need to celebrate my strengths far more frequently than I do, and how I can spin and innovate on those strengths to change up my practice. I made it work because I did just that, and now I can happily fly off into the sunset!
Also, sharing what you do with others is important. It is really interesting to see how others use their various skills and resources to get to the same end, so let others inspire you, and return the love by sharing your work!
PET-G Plastic (48 in X 24 in X 1/16 in)
Screws with caps