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MFF 2012 GoH interview: Nambroth, Miss Monster, FirestormSix

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Wildlife/fantasy artist Nambroth (Jennifer Miller), artist, costumer and sculptress Miss Monster (Melita Curphy), and fursuit builder and artist FirestormSix (Den Barrett) were interviewed last weekend at Midwest FurFest's "Meet the Guests of Honor" panel, hosted by Takaza and Perro.
Nambroth, Miss Monster and FirestormSix
First, they were asked to identify themselves, and the name of their microphones . . .

FirestormSix: I'm FirestormSix. My microphone is Spike.

Miss Monster: I make stuff in my basement, and it's awesome. My microphone is Applejack.

Nambroth: Nambroth, Jennifer Miller, I'm cool with either. I draw fantasy and wildlife professionally full time. I have Rainbow Dash.

Takaza: What brought you into the fandom?

FirestormSix: Basically the artwork, I started seeing the costumes a few years later; my first commission was six years ago, then I started getting a interest in building things, 4/1 2 years ago did a Dakota Wolf.

Nambroth: I got the Internet when I was 14 and was really into Gargoyles. I didn't know it was furries. I got into Yerf without realizing what I was doing, it was just "the animal people" to me.

Miss Monster: Were they the gateway drug?

Nambroth: I guess, for me. I was part of the mini-clan for them, it was really great, very exiting, and then I was like "oh, there are people [who like this]".

FirestormSix: I think what did it for me was The Lion King.

Takaza: For you folks out here, if you have questions . . .

Perro: What do you hope to get out of MFF? What does it mean to you; what do you expect and like to do?

FirestormSix: Basically, get to meet more people, more friends, share what I've learned over the years with people who want to know . . . Stormfire Studios, Canada, it's a business for me, started three year ago, been really good since.

Miss Monster: I enjoy putting faces to the names, instead of handles I get to meet them as people, I like that

Nambroth: I'm much the same, I like to see people in person, we all have things that we're kinda [...] if people like birds and gryphons and dragons, I go "Aaahah". It's really neat to meet people met on the Internet and link the them with a real name.

Q: When did you start drawing?

Miss Monster: Standard artist answer, ever since I could draw with a pencil, I started creating monsters and birds. I'm 35 now, so it's been a while.

Nambroth: Since I remember, when I was little, other kids [wanted to be] a fire-fighter, and I was like Robert Bateman, the most famous wildlife artist to date; when I was six or seven that was what I wanted to do, and it progressed from there.

Takaza: Some of you may not know, but FirestormSix draws, he has things in the conbook.

FirestormSix: I do still do artwork, but not much, because of the fursuit thing. I have the sponsor button and the art on the bag, and the Spiky character holding the microphone on the pocket guide - in the art show.

Q: What keeps you going when you have customers that are way off the deep and and angry about you or the product?

Miss Monster: Have you been reading my Twitter? No, I'm kidding . . .

Q: Is it good customers that bring you back, is it the love?

FirestormSix: In my case, it's a business. The biggest one goal is customer satisfaction, though it's still a passion. Before we build a fursuit, there's hours of pre-deciding until something that is what he wants, so we make sure they are happy before the get the suit, knock on wood, most of our 98 customers have been very good.

Miss Monster: The good or the bad? There's a small percentage, [you think] "how do you get through life thinking this way?" Then there are people who freak out and loving it that makes the tiny 2% horrible disappear. Sometimes they come out from under a rock, but on Friday night you get an email and they say "I got my bandana, it's awesome" . . . plus I love what I do it's not even funny. I've worked loads of jobs, I know this is what I love, this is what I want to do, so it's going to take a lot to scare me away.

Nambroth: I'll piggyback on that; anyone who does this professionally for a good deal of time, you're going to have a few bad apples. Why do it, when I could literally make more money working retail? But I'm passionate and I love, love my stuff. The small percentage are overshadowed by the people with love in what I'm doing, and that is a positive for me.

Q: I got a question for all three, what's been the most interesting and exciting piece of artwork?

Nambroth: At the time it's whatever I'm working on. Sometimes you think "oh man, this is great". I got a gig doing a book cover, a professional book about gryphons - when I was little I would stare at the books in the library and think someday I will do that. And it's so exciting. But if I didn't enjoy it at the given time, I wouldn't do it. There are certainly things I get excited about, but I love [all that] I do.

Miss Monster: Every [new one] I do is my new favorite one; the coolest thing is the demon costume I made, people interact with it and this character, and the different disciplines that go into it; leather-making, mould-making - a costume that's really alive is the coolest thing to do.

FirestormSix: Watching the customers be happy, the look in their face when they're wearing the costumes you made for them, and making other people happy . . . keeps you going . . . Each one of them has an interesting part, always something interesting . . . but I think the first was the wolf character, it was [very much a] prototype, determining whether I could do it or not.

Perro: One thing I think is really awesome about these guys - the premise of furry is kinda silly; we like weird animals and anthro animals and cartoons and whatnot, but the really cool thing is as a community we've been able to form a business culture around this interest, and there's people making money and paying mortgages around this interest, and it's incredibly unique with furry. We're home-grown, we started from absolutely nothing. And now people who have a successful life, and I think that's a successful life . . .

Miss Monster: Yeah, if not for online stuff, we'd be dealing with galleries, taking 40%.

Nambroth: Sometimes 60%.

Miss Monster: Yeah, and I go on and someone wants armor and I'm so excited about it.

Nambroth: It blows my mind every time someone looks at a gryphon and dragon, and people buy that, it's an incredibly feeling, every time I go "oh my gosh, this is fantastic".

Takaza: Fantastic.

Q: I know your love for animals extends beyond the art; can you name all your avians?

Nambroth: I have five parrots, [one other pionus], one is a Bronze Wing Pionus, three cockatiels, two are rescues from my friend who died recently - consider being an organ donor, saves people's lives - I also have a flock of eight finches.

Miss Monster: Yeah, I have cockatiels, a Red Tail boa, [something else], ball python, cat, [pitbull?] and a kelpie.

FirestormSix: I got one, an Ultra hyper German Shepherd . . . he's a handfull . . .

Perro: As a con, it's great to have these guys here, not only are they providing art for conbooks and stuff, but they are providing the expertise; if you guys wants a more intimate setting to learn the trade, they're doing panels here - that's information normally you would have to go out and pay and travel somewhere else [to get] - there's three really talented artists here who are sharing it with you for free.

Foo Dog bandanaTakaza: What's your favorite critter to draw?

Miss Monster: Aww, you're killing me, I should have studied me . . . foo dogs. Curly fangs on them. Things with big teeth. Yeah, that sounds good.

Nambroth: [Yeah]. I like some birds, slap some wings on something. I tell my husband, I love every bird - I'm really into chickens right now, if any of you watch my LJ.

Perro: Chickens are really hot right now.

Nambroth: I don't know that I have a favorite, I like them all. I grew up liking birds of prey . . . when I was like four and everyone was telling me you can grow up to be anything you want to be, I wanted to grow up to be a roller, which is a species of bird. When I realized the reality it was kind of a [let-down]. There's one on the cover [of the con-book], the guy at the top left of the cover. When they're catching bugs they kinda roll in the air; this one lives in the Pittsburgh aviary.

Miss Monster: Where's your bird fursuit?

Nambroth: I don't have one of that guy

FirestormSix: We have a gryphon costume.

Miss Monster: I've made a gryphon costume . . . it's a secret though.

FirestormSix: [ Not anymore . . ]

FirestormSix: The Timber Wolf is sacred to the Dakotas; I have a small bit of Native American blood in me, but as for creating species, they're all fun.

Q: Favorite food?

Miss Monster: This is why I make so much work, I drink one of these today [holds up a bottle with Japanese labelling and an orange liquid inside]; green tea and sushi, everyone likes sushi; deep dish pizza is always, ahh . . . Mitsuwa, the Japanese mall here.

Takaza: It's in the restaurant guide, if you want to go to their place.

FirestormSix: Does Rum count? But seriously, it has to be pizza, there's so many variations.

Miss Monster: Have you had deep dish pizza?

FirestormSix: Yeah, it's great.

Nambroth: Lebanese is my comfort food, my family is from there. I really like sushi, and really like pho, hadn't tried it until a couple of years ago. I live in the boondocks, but pho is an awesome comfort food.

Miss Monster: When it's cold out, it's delicious.

Q: How did you end up up there?

Nambroth: It's where I was born and raised; I was running around in the woods when other people were maybe not so much. I lived in a few different places in my adult life, then went back home - unfortunately my mum went through a bout of breast cancer and it drove home how important family is - but with the Internet it works for me, I can do my business online and still live where I want.

Miss Monster: I live in the suburbs; I'm kinda lame, went to Chicago, I'm from South Texas, I went back there, I went "oops" then I came back to Chicago. There's certain spots I can deal with, but yeah . . . Austin was OK. I came right back, lived in the city for about two years, and then I went "uh huh" - I lived in Downer's Grove, next to a bar; people were always coming out. In the suburbs it's nice and quiet, nobody bothers me.

Perro: You know, there's furry bowling once a month, LAFF (Lake Area Furries), it's right where the metro station, old-timey theatre; right next to it there is a bowing that is underground. You can get specials, and watch fursuiters bowling, it's pretty amazing.

Takaza: And you are in Canada.

FirestormSix: Way up. Living in a small town called Tottenham, the only place that has a steam train running on coal; my heritage is from Ireland and Scotland, born in Ireland, and migrated from there to Newfoundland and Canada, and been in that small town every year.

Q: What kind of education [do you have]?

FirestormSix: Yeah, I did graphics design for a while, became a machinist and fabricator, I design and build metal stuff for a few days a month.

Q: Anything after the Art Institute of Chicago?

Miss Monster: I got pretty fed up with school. Most of the stuff I use is self-taught; all the sculpting, I learnt from the Internet. God bless the Internet . . . sometimes. About 50/50.

Nambroth: I didn't go to any schooling after high school, I did AP, I promptly moved to Texas and got buried in retail and terrible things, didn't actually go to school, I intended to. [It's] happy and sad; I'm glad I don't have the debt, but there's a few things I would have loved - figure drawing - one thing I've learned, it depends on what kind of things you want to do. There's a lot you can self teach; if you want to get into something specific. If you want to go into something like computer animation, work for Pixar, they really want [a degree] - for freelance, it's up to you, a lot of it comes out of you. It's a hard decision. If you can get into a little drawing class, for figure drawing anatomy, I never turned that down.

Q: What's your favorite media to work with?

Nambroth: They all have merits, and drawbacks. I started as a traditional painter - when I started drawing, there was no computer painting. My first was on a Windows 3.11 machine and there were 12 colors on MS Paint and I thought that was great. I do digital, watercolor, acrylic . . . I learned how to paint first, so when I did digital, it was more natural, and I learn stuff from digital that I apply to painting. I love them all for different reasons.

Miss Monster: I think sculpting; I do best at it, not that I'm the best at it, but it's the most enjoyable thing and I think I've enjoyed and improved leaps and bounds. I like to hold it in hand and touch and throwing it, brawwh.

Q: For you [FirestormSix], it's a dupe question . . .

FirestormSix: My artwork is goes directly into the fursuiting, they usually end up as design, pencil sketches. I do it in acrylics, and right now Photoshop, Illustrator, work with the customers, and transfer hat to making the costume, so there's a whole bunch of variables there.

Q: What's your favorite way for making fursuit heads:

FirestormSix: The most popular ones seem to be balaclava over head [...] and then foam structure around, there's other ways, plastic mesh . . mostly foam and balaclava, though.

Q: How long does it take to make a fursuit?

FirestormSix: To build, varies depending on complexity and detail. A simple one-colour, with regular options, for two of us building, probably a week; I have an assistant, does the sewing, I do the details and designs. More complex ones could be a few weeks. We build on a few at a time, we do [a number of] hands and feet [at once], and put them all together. Anywhere between 120 to 200 hours all together with design.

Perro: I think my last one took me a year, I'm also terrible and really busy.

Q: How long does a piece take you?

Miss Monster: Depends on what it is - say a sculpture, I'm so bad at estimating hours; I usually work on twenty things at once. I know it sounds ridiculous, if things are drying, I'll work on that. [It's a] business, time is money, it's really hard to estimate. If I'm really into it, a couple of hours, hard to estimate. [...] a bad answer, I'm sorry.

Q: Part of that art is a creating process, you can get into a bad head-space and not be creating, and it's not easy . . .

Miss Monster: Yeah, when you're not into it, art block, it's . . .

FirestormSix: It's the same with 2D art as fursuit sculpture. I had to walk away and bike ride, to clear [my] mind.

Miss Monster: Yeah, and then look at it with fresh eyes; even if it's just a couple of days, if you overwork it, you'll ruin it. Then I get really mad, don't like that.

Takaza: If you're a demanding customer and you want your piece by Monday, and you push the artist, [in] every case you're going to get nbbppp, but if you give them the time, they can give you something truly amazing . . . Nambroth, how long?

Nambroth: That's difficult, like these two . . . some things don't take long, depending on what I'm doing, sometimes it'll take me a few hours. I have spent over 400 hours; the conbook [cover] has about 180 to 200 hours. I'm kinda slow, I'm really kinda slow because I'm one of the people who likes to research and plan things out. I know everyone likes to make things good, but I do something wildlife that people can pick apart - people get really picky about things, so like I don't paint horses because the people who do horse art, God bless them - I love them, but they're so crazy; if you put a tiny muscle out of place, you're done. But pieces that I do put wildlife in I put a lot of effort in, and I think when non-artists, when people commission, they don't get this. If there's a very specific thing, I don't want to cheat them; I don't want to pull it out of my butt.

FirestormSix: Yeah, a fursuit might take $2500-3000 when they could do it themselves for a day, but a third of that time is going into research and development, communication, so much preliminary design time they don't realize . . . When you think about it, we basically make $12 an hour with taxes; it's something you have to really enjoy to do. A lot of it is about your customer being happy.

Miss Monster: It's hard to put [a proper estimate] because it's hard until . . . you don't know until you've done it, how much silicone, the mould, always we always say there's these little lost hours that goes into it; they think everything works like Amazon - I ordered two hours ago . . . dude, I'm not going to come to our house, if you want something cool, chill out.

FirestormSix: They ask, when can you start on my fursuit - we're booked up until July - when will it be finished; we have a three month, 90 days with a buffer for fur orders, it gives us a bit of time to work on the suit. We work on several suits at a time; we will deliver within a time frame. It's not going to happen before this weekend . . . [we get people asking] can you replace my head?

Miss Monster: [Guess what, no!] Some people don't consider, you have to sleep, eat and socialize, it's understandable. [Firestorm], has anyone told you, you look like Bill Murray?

FirestormSix: Ghostbusters? OK? . . . That's the first time . . . I'm gonna look in my mirror now and compare the TV . . .

Q: What advice you do you give for drawing for a living, and drawing for fun?

Nambroth: For professional? A lot of people are interested; you have to expect not to live well, it's tough. Depends on what you are doing, like freelance, we sell [work] and do commissions sometimes. If you want to do that, my first recommendation: get some money saved first, have it to fall back on. You have months when nothing is selling, and sometimes there will be great months. If you're not passionate then it's not worth it; the money's not great, and two months down the road you won't have made it. I worked retail and part-time art for a while, and [after] a few years . . . I don't want to say popular, there were a few people who knew me well enough that I could quit my job and do it full time. You have to be invested and do it full time, you can't let yourself be distracted by Twitter or looking on FA; the only time you get paid is when you get stuff done.

Miss Monster: I've trained myself "time is money", but I've over-trained myself to the point where I overwork and get up and end up working all the time.

Nambroth: There are computer programs that will chime and tell you to get a break . . . it's easy to wake up [and go straight to work]; you get no time off, no weekends, IRS, taxes, it's really hard.

Miss Monster: A lot of it is not art; there's email, there's taxes, there's going to the post office, blah blah, grown up stuff.

Nambroth: If I'm gonna be making pennies on the job, I might as well be doing something that I'm passionate about, something other people love.

Miss Monster: I was so glad about it - something I was quite good at was teaching, and i would go in front of a class, and I was the same age and they were like what? [...]

[Both Nambroth and Miss Monster were burger flippers.]

Nambroth: I taught jewelry making once, and everyone was twice my age. I was very nervous, but it worked out all OK.

Miss Monster: There was this old lady and she was going mwpampahanla and I had to go {point} and discipline her, it was weird.

Q: Do you like the old [jobs]?

Miss Monster: No, I would work Motorola for 68 hours and push pixels, and then go home and do art until I fell asleep.

FirestormSix: A lot of your customers become friends.

Nambroth: I make so many friends, coming to me for artwork, and that's an amazing feeling.

Q: How do you deal with people who want to be your friend by commissioning you?

FirestormSix: Yeah, there are fanboys. I'm very open, very friendly; oh, I hate the word popufur, the fact is I enjoy the fandom and community the same way as everyone does, I'll talk to everyone, if you're a fan and great, I'll give you a handshake, hug.

Q: When did you realize your passion was art?

Miss Monster: When I was like two . . .

Nambroth: Like I said, I wanted to be Robert Bateman, I wanted to evolve into a bird . . . I'm not that serious about that.

Miss Monster: When all the other kids, all the other girls were off, I was going to stay home and draw art.

Nambroth's 'Forest Spring'Nambroth: I used to draw dragons on the exam papers.

Miss Monster: I used to draw werewolves on the church pamphlets.

Nambroth: I went through church confirmation, I was kinda forced to; and a few people were concerned about me drawing dragons - "Isn't that Satanic? Their eyes are evil, they look to me . . ." - "No, they have a personality!"

Miss Monster: So what if they are; they look cool, right?

Q: Who is your favorite fandom artist at this point?

FirestormSix: All of them? There's so many . . . [my] first con was AC 1999 - when I went to the art show, I liked this artist, that artist . . . when I see something that I like, this is my favoreite conbook out of all this stack of conbooks. I don't have one style I like, I like loads of variations.

Miss Monster: I just spent a minute [thinking] - I don't know, I don't know - mentally checking my FA account. A girl, her name is Seel Kaiser; every time she posts something on Tumblr or FA, it's wonderful. She's in Japan right now doing a program, she's young, and she's importing . . .

Nambroth: [I'm] really fascinated [with the] things coming out of other people's heads. Really awesome creation process. I can't answer with a single artist, I don't know, I can't. I . . . when I lived in Texas, I met this girl and we became roommates, and kinda funny because . . . her name is Vantid, we are always bouncing stuff out of there. When I was fresh, I really enjoyed Cara Mitten and Ironfeathers, I was really interested - there are so many artists, I could sit here for hours, I love them all. It's really true, everyone has those unique visions.

FirestormSix: Just styles, when you classify artists' work, first time I saw Dark Natasha . . .

Nambroth: I think I was 14 and I was "ahahhhh, fascinating".

FirestormSix: I like her spiritual. realistic style . . . then I look at the cartoony stuff Spunky was doing, I heve a collection of all artist I like in a different way.

Miss Monster: This fandom is great in going towards being diverse lifestyles, which is all thes funky styles, really cool.

Nambroth: And you see people appreciating the different stuff; people were narrow for a while, and now it's more diverse, and it's great.

FirestormSix: Yes, the diversity is really expanding, we fursuit builders don't consider [ourselves] in competition; the demand is so high, we don't stave for fursuits.

Miss Monster: Right, and people want specific builders . . .

FirestormSix: Yeah, some people like [to get] a suit from practically every builder.

Miss Monster: What does he do for a living, win the lottery?

FirestormSix: I dunno, spends his money on fursuits.

Q: How did you learn to do the business aspects?

FirestormSix: My family have always run businesses, so my brother and I have the fabrication and welding contracted business, so passed down information; so much interest.

Nambroth: I had no idea, when I first started out to do it as a career, there weren't lots of people doing it like there are today, and I made a really big mistake - I was too shy to ask my peers, so I lost a lot of money and made a lot of mistakes . . . and [I was] too shy to appreoach Dark Natasha to say "how do you do this?", "who do you go to at cons?" and do things; it was trial and error, and it sucked; but today you have an amazing resource. Almost everyone I asked I expected "I'm not telling you anything" . . . [but] because they're open and really big to share, I haven't found too many artists who are genuinely competitive. Don't be afraid to ask. If they don't answer, no sweat, but there are a bunch that will. You have to understand that we are really busy, but we can give a little snippet of advice.
FirestormSix-built fursuit with a good hair day
Miss Monster: The best thing I have, people who I can talk problems over with; people who have been doing the same thing that you are doing, doing it longer - they can say "try this, be organized".

Nambroth: "Is this a fair price for this?", etc. - you guys, this fandom, there's nothing else like this. As much as we make fun of this, little spats, there's nothing like this fandom.

Miss Monster: All family do [have spats].

Nambroth: I do professional wildlife art, you guys are the most community-supporting group, for real. So for most people, just art, most people are cool, the Internet is there . . .

Miss Monster: Google stuff; please, if there's a question, try the first thing that pops up - doing real research, go to the panels, it's better to be face to face and talk about the problems.

FirestormSix: I just noticed one of my artwork creations walked in and spent a lot of time watching it . . . the spring wireframe, he can suppress that and it always goes back to that, never has a bad hair day. [pictured]

Nambroth: Come to my table, I have wings to give out . . .

Miss Monster: Yeah, I have panels on mould-making and casting it in resin, and sculpting - we'll be exploring different clays, what's suitable for what projects; teeth, claws, horns, two-part glove moulds, where to buy stuff, what to avoid, everything, Come by and I will spill my guts.

FirestormSix: Yeah, construction panel, fursuit round-table, Kiyo and I will be there to answer questions on what we know on construction, care and maintenance, our do's and don'ts on that to make it last longer. Information on how-to maintenance, and all about that.

Want to learn more? Visit Featherdust Studios, MissMonster.com and Stormfire Studios, or follow Nambroth, @MissMonsterMel and @FirestormSix.

Comments

Your rating: None Average: 4 (2 votes)

FirestormSix looks like an easy-going guy, but he still throws hissy-pissy fits on FurAffinity from time to time.

Your rating: None Average: 3.7 (3 votes)

Oh yes. I remember when someone called him out for making murrsuits while the FFFF (Fandom's Favorite Fursuit Fracas) was going on. He went absolutely ballistic on his FA, LJ and twitter.

I mean COME ON, what did he expect to happen after his brand was associated with the murrsuits he created. I don't see how someone could be so brainless, especially when making claims of always being around family business.

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GreenReaper (Laurence Parry)read storiescontact (login required)

a software developer and Norn from London, UK, interested in wikis and computers

Small fuzzy creature who likes cheese & carrots. Founder of WikiFur, lead admin of Inkbunny, and Editor-in-Chief of Flayrah.

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