Photo Credit: Gail Kilker Photography

Photo Credit: Gail Kilker Photography

Organic Armor creates handmade costumes, props & accessories for performers & creative folk all over the world. Sculpted costumes and accessories by Paul Hersey and associates. Made from a unique amalgam of rubber, fiber and acrylic that looks like metal, leather or bone but it’s comfortable. Perfect for performance and festival wear. Available in our online shop or by custom order. 

Jack Nickelz: So what got you started in prop and costume making?

Organic Armor: I got my start with costuming and props in the mid 90s as a part of a group of pranksters/drummers in the Los Angeles rave scene. They brought me to my first Burning Man Festival which just blew my mind.  I felt I had found my tribe in that desert. I was a mainframe computer programmer at the time but began to spend all my weekends and vacations making costumes and planning elaborate spectacles for the next Burning Man. After a few years people began to ask me to make costumes for them too.

photo by Cerebral Aperture, model: Luna Vatra

photo by Cerebral Aperture, model: Luna Vatra

Jack Nickelz: Do you remember what your first prop and outfit was?

Organic Armor: One of the first was a devil costume – it was a horned half mask/helmet made of paper mache and furry faun pants with hooves. Something amazing happened when I wore that. I felt I was tapping into something archetypal, so different from my mild mannered corporate role. It was powerful and I wanted to explore it more.

The first latex piece I made was an Egyptian collar. I was tired of the rigid heavy paper mache pieces that I had been creating. They made my neck ache after wearing them all night.  I started experimenting with latex, using it with fabric in a similar way to paper mache. The early pieces were very crude compared to now. I used tin foil and hot glue, dryer lint. It was exciting because there was so much possibility. They were light, flexible and comfortable.

Jack Nickelz: How long does it normally take you to work on a piece?

Organic Armor: It really varies and it’s hard to predict. It drives my wife crazy because she makes the production schedule and talks to the customers about their deadlines and our progress. The most time consuming part is building the underlying structures and making them able to fit and move with a human body. We rarely do the same thing twice so it’s always a new invention.  The Cleopatra headdress took over 100 hours.

Jack Nickelz: What has been your hardest piece to work on?

Organic Armor: Probably one of the WOW sets – I think the Queen Soridormi we made 2 years ago for a Cosplayer going to Blizzcon.

Jack Nickelz: What has been, in your mind, your most impressive piece of work?

Organic Armor: I would say either the Merman vest or the Cleopatra headdress. The towering top hat is pretty impressive too.

Jack Nickelz: Outside of requests, what inspires you to do the pieces that you do?

Organic Armor: I spend most of my time on commissions. When I am able to follow my own ideas I am very inspired by the painters Boris Vallejo, Frank Frazetta, of course HR Giger. I also love ancient mythological imagery, from Celtic and Norse sources and especially Hindu.

Queen Soridormi cosplay at BlizzCon 2013 commissioned and modeled by Sara Lewis

Queen Soridormi cosplay at BlizzCon 2013
commissioned and modeled by Sara Lewis

Jack Nickelz: For people interested in getting some of your work, where do they go?

Organic Armor: The best place to start is an email or message through Facebook. My wife handles all the communication and she is great at helping people clarify what they want, pricing and scheduling the orders. Once we start making the piece she sends progress pictures. She stays in close contact until the customer has it in their hands and is in love with it.

Jack Nickelz: Now has this always been your passion?

Organic Armor: I’ve always been an artist but it wasn’t until I found a community that felt like home and discovered this unique medium that my work really blossomed. Now I feel so lucky to be able to do it every day.

Jack Nickelz: For those who don’t know what goes into the making of costumes and props, what are some of the headaches you faces while working?

Towering top hat worn by Paul Hersey

Towering top hat
worn by Paul Hersey

Organic Armor: Predicting how long things will take to make is the biggest headache. Scheduling, pricing, ordering materials are all affected by that. When I get behind it is stressful. I’m getting a little too old for all-nighters.

Jack Nickelz: What are some things that we can expect from you in the future?

Organic Armor: A big thing we are launching this year is an instructional video. People ask me all the time how we do what we do. We are finally going to show how. I hope that it will be ready by early September. We might do some in person workshops after that. We live in a beautiful place – Asheville, NC. I think people would love to come here to learn how to make amazing costumes.

Besides that I have wanted to make a set of four crowns based on the Queen of the Damned fan shape, but with an elemental theme. I hope I can squeeze that in this year.

Jack Nickelz: Thank you for taking time out to do this. Is there anything else you would like to say to the fans?

Organic Armor: Just that we are super grateful for the love and support of our fans. We are on, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and of course Facebook, so come find us there.

For more on Organic Armor, check out:

Biomech Eve photo by Nic Adams, model Incendra Soul

Biomech Eve
photo by Nic Adams, model Incendra Soul

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