Zenaide takes us through the intricacies of fursuits, with Matt & Gin from Jackal Costuming.

It’s raining cats and dogs this year in many ways, and in our sphere of the world, we have Magic: the Gathering’s Core Set 2021 theme of cats and dogs. If you’ve been following the column since its inception, we’ve looked at a wide array of topics and seen many faces. Now it’s time to turn our attention to our furry friends—not just Rin and Seri, Inseprable—but to our planeswalking friends like Ajani.

Photography by @Robby_Foxfur

Meet Jackal Costuming

Find them on Twitter: https://twitter.com/jackalcostuming

Jackal Costuming is made up of two talented individuals; Matt (left, @ScrapperFerret) and Gin (right, @ScratchKitty). They are self-proclaimed “filthy casuals” who enjoy playing Commander with friends as their format of choice when it comes to Magic.

Matt’s history with Magic is relatable to say the least. His friends tried getting him into the game around 1997, but they failed miserably! This was largely owing to a merciless mono Red player, explaining the game rules poorly; a couple of blow out losses later, and Matt passed on Magic altogether. In later years, he would occasionally play some of the console Magic games. It wasn’t until Return to Ravnica block that he decided to give paper Magic a second try. Using the knowledge he’d gained in the intervening years, he went in with full force.

Gin originally began playing Magic in school at lunchtime or during free periods. Shortly after, the school banned all card playing games. She tried playing at a local game store, but got pushed out by the larger boys club as the only girl there. Once Matt restarted playing and they started their cosplay work, Gin enjoyed playing again.

Together, they combine their craft skills to make brilliant cosplays, sewing with fabrics as well as fur, producing a wide range of large foam props and accessories with LED and 3D-printed details. Matt & Gin’s first convention, AmineNext 2008 in Secaucus, New Jersey, had them deciding on a Final Fantasy theme. Gin went as Tifa, and Matt went as Sephiroth. Convention attendees had a positive response to Gin’s outfit and, even before the days of Worbla and EVA foam that made armor crafting easier, compliments poured in for Matt’s pauldrons. One cosplay music video later, they’d found their home in the cosplay community.

Their Spark Ignites

Who was your first MTG cosplay?

Matt: My first MTG cosplay was the original Ravnica Jace Beleren. Since blue is my main color, I really took a liking to Jace. There’s kind of a personal connection there for me. Honestly, that really came together on a complete whim and in many ways it was a borderline miracle we pulled it off. We took a complete gamble on a fabric we’d never seen or used, and it was perfect. Gin cranked out all the sewing work and sculpted the medallions, I got all the painting done, and we completed it in something like ten days. Literally a day before taking it to DragonCon!

Photography by Nude Carbon Studios

Gin: My first MTG cosplay was pre-spark Nissa, Vastwood Seer. Originally I wanted to do Freyalise, Llanowar’s Fury, but there wasn’t enough time to get that done for GP Vegas. So, I ended up doing Freyalise for the pool party shoot at the same event.

Who was your most recent MTG cosplay?

Gin: My most recent MTG cosplay I suppose technically would be the Fblthp kigurumi (animal onesie), but in terms of a full-blown cosplay, it was Danitha Capashen, Paragon.

Matt: My most recent was an update to Ajani for the Secret Lair launch a couple months back. We got to recreate Dave Rapoza’s artwork for the card, and that was a wild ride. The paint was still drying on the axe as we took it over to the park for the photoshoot. But I’m really thrilled with how it came out.

Ajani Steadfast by David Rapoza

The Cat’s Meow

Their talents combined make up Jackal Costuming, but the fur fashions in particular can be credited to Gin. She’s currently finished nine full fursuits and tons of tails and feet. Her work includes characters from Magic and Pokemon, both of which have won awards. We’ve already seen Matt as Ajani, but here is a look at Gin as the unmistakable cat-warrior Mirri:

A fursuit creates an amazing cosplay transformation—the natural human form is hidden by paws, claws, tails, and of course, the animal head covering. Like making any other cosplay, it’s easiest to focus on one aspect at a time, and I was most curious about how the fabulous fursuit heads are formed.

What materials/tools do you use to construct a fursuit head?

Gin: There’s quite a list of materials: new upholstery form, faux fur, hot glue, plastic, acrylic, resin, buckram (a stiff cotton weaved cloth), silicon, latex, paint; a lot of sewing. As for tools, sewing machine, glue gun, carving knife, paint brushes, an airbrush, sculpting tools, a 3D printer and pretty much anything I can get my hands on that will do the job.

How long does it take you to make a fur head?

Gin: A fursuit head can take anywhere from 2-3 days to a week depending on workload and complexity.

How about the entire cosplay?

Gin: A full suit just by itself can be anywhere from a week to a month. That’s if there’s nothing else going on and the complexity. A suit like my Umbreon suit is less complicated and is closer to the week timeline. Ajani was very complex with padding, musculature and the mane and would be closer to the month timeline.

Photography by Nude Carbon Studios.

Any advice for making fur costumes?

Gin: Don’t! (Just kidding!) Truthfully—be sure this is what you want to do. There are so many tutorials out there on how to get started on them. Don’t be discouraged by how your first few attempts come out. Don’t compare yourself to other well-known makers out there. They started experimenting and refining their techniques. And if you look at some of them and see how their work changed over time, you’ll see that we all keep improving.

Paint the Town WUBRG

The amount of work that goes into the head alone shows an amazing level of talent and deserves a high level of respect; these fursuits bring non-human characters we adore like Mirri and Ajani to life. The finishing touch isn’t just a top coat of paint, though, so let’s check in with the other half of Jackal Costuming, Matt.

Matt’s specialities are focused in painting, color theory, and airbrushing. He got his creative start in painting Warhammer miniatures, and has built up his strengths over the years through prop making. I was surprised to learn he never thought he could have tackled Ajani’s axe.

Matt: Truthfully, I have a couple of slight learning disabilities, one being spatial relationships. So the axe was a gigantic (figuratively and literally) undertaking for me. I’ve been trying to expand my sculpting abilities as well.

Photography by Ant Tree Studio.

Wow, I love knowing you have learning disabilities and still excel at cosplay! It’s inspiring to know even with differences everyone can cosplay. How did you help build your prop-building and painting skills?

Matt: The list is endless, but I’ll put out a few that I think really helped me grow personally. If you don’t know how to do something, either look up a video or ask someone that you know that has that knowledge and then give it a try! And you will most likely fail, and that’s okay, it’s how we learn. Do not let perfect be the enemy of the good. Unless you are going for high-level competition quality, the fact you messed up a rivet or two on armor isn’t going to be noticed. A cosplay is pretty much never perfect.

As they say, we are our own worst critics!

Matt: About that phrase… sometimes you need to learn when to let go of a great idea in theory, but it is terrible in practice. This one is probably my biggest challenges. I did a cosplay with 3D-printed arm guards and greaves, and they look fantastic. But they practically took away any freedom of movement I had. I couldn’t scratch my face, I had to walk slowly, and it was generally miserable. That being said, don’t be afraid to try and innovate. You never know what the next breakthrough is. You eventually find your own style and path to be happy with your creations!

Story Spotlight

Share with us your favorite cosplay moment!

Matt: My favorite MTG cosplay memory was at the first DragonCon with Jace. I got off a shuttle bus with my friend, and we were walking across the street. There was a group of people on the corner behind us, and as I’m walking away, one woman yells, “Hey, Jace!”. So I turn around, and she just shouts “**** YOU!!!” I couldn’t stop laughing for a good five minutes.

(Apparently this is a familiar reaction if you cosplay Jace, recalling some of the stories told in a previous article featuring Male cosplayers.)

Gin: DragonCon 2009. This is a story that not a lot of people know. I entered the anime costume contest, and even then that was still a very large pool of competition. There were over 200 people that entered, so there weren’t many expectations. So I went through the pre-judging and the full judging and inspection of the Umbreon suit I made. Which was the first full production suit I put out there. It had EL wire lighting on the rings, foot pads and a movable jaw. When we got to the actual contest, they took everyone across the stage to display their costume. I was one of the early ones, and the celebrity emcee read my information and as I passed by, he lowered the microphone and muttered, “****in’ furries” as I passed by. Which utterly crushed me.

So I sat in the waiting area with Matt and actually fell asleep in my suit waiting for the panel to finish and to announce the winners. As they got to the winners, they got to Best In Show, I figured that was that. But when they started describing the winning cosplay, I realized they were talking about my suit! So I ended up winning Best In Show and felt that even with some of the comments, my work was worth it!

Matt: On that note I have one other memory which really stays with me. At the local convention in Pittsburgh, Tekkoshocon, I was in my Lucario suit. We came across a really young fan who was trying to get the attention of some cosplayers and had no luck. He was looking to give high fives and such, and he saw my suit. He whispered something to his parents, who asked me if it was alright for him to hug me. So I crouched down, opened my arms, and he just pretty much sprinted into me. And he was just the happiest kid. And that was really the moment where I knew that I could bring happiness to some people doing this.

In Closing

Gin and Matt, the dynamic duo behind Jackal Costuming, have created many memorable Magic: the Gathering characters and will have more to showcase in the future. During 2020, like many of us, the team haven’t had events to travel to. They’ve filled their time as many of us have: playing videogames and studying. Gin has found time to improve with knitting and learning to play with both resin and 3D printers, while Matt has been spending time with his teenage son and preparing for his Master’s Degree in Data Analytics starting at the end of the month. They’re both raring to get back on the road.

The Jackal Costuming team are open for commissions. If you’d like to learn more, get in touch with them via email, or on the usual platforms.

I always enjoy getting to spotlight friends in the MTG cosplay community and share their talents with you. Who would you like to see featured next?

Zenaide “ZBexx” Beckham is an Oregon-based cosplayer, gamer, and MTG judge. Her favorite format is Legacy, because just like performing in dance or cosplay she gets to Show and Tell.

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