Fans answer call for fursuit-maker reviews, but room for improvement remains
Image from Jillcostumes
A new resource for fursuit commissioners has been shared on Reddit's r/furry subreddit: a Google spreadsheet of makers maintained by open collaboration, to the surprise of the original sharer (who created it for personal use). The r/furry moderators have been asked to add it as a key resource on their sidebar.
Several fan-maintained lists exist to help find and review fursuit makers and commissioned artists. Earlier this year, an important Fur Affinity review account, fursuitmakerreviews, closed unexpectedly to the disappointment of many. As one Redditor explained:
… [it's] a bit of a long story (so I'm told). But basically involved a fursuit maker getting less than good marks and complaining to the admins, who promptly removed the "offending" account. They're trying to rebuild themselves on Tumblr.
Their new Tumblr account and a new, separate Fur Affinity account seem to be starting over from scratch, after losing much important data. It calls attention to the challenges they face. A list is a great resource, but a list isn't a system. Let's consider organizing a better system.
Why is sharing reviews important? Finding a fursuit maker can be a time-consuming, random process. A hopeful commissioner may spend days combing through forums, examining galleries, and asking other fursuiters about their experiences. When a maker is found, it takes a lot of trust; you might wait over a year after paying a deposit, before seeing the result. That's if you can get in their queue! Few businesses work that way.
The way that furry fans enthusiastically queue up and navigate this process says a lot about the power of DIY fandom. Of course, fandom is personal, and fursuits are often made with love. It may be tough to organize formal relationships between makers and commissioners. But with the relatively high amounts of money changing hands in this growing cottage industry comes a need for accessible, independent assistance.
Image from Nicodemus
E-commerce platforms have found wild success by providing verification and less friction between buyers and sellers. On a small fan level, commission facilitation websites have been attempted. Perhaps these needs could also be served by an association for professionals who cater to furry fans, as I suggested in a comment about the proposed American Furry Association. (I re-iterated this idea in Thoughts on Measuring the Furry Economy, the single bottom-line prescription suggested there.)
In time, perhaps fan-maintained resources can contribute to even better systems. Until then, commissioning will remain complicated by questions of trust, and a fragile word-of-mouth network that doesn't always connect the pieces.