Breaking the 4th Wall: An interview with 4th Wall Design
Husband and wife team, Laban and Jaz Boldero, have been prop makers and commissioners for a good few years now, catering for many a cosplayer within the community. Their skills include prop weapons, costume pieces body casting. Renegade Revolution has had a chance to catch up with them during their hectic lives and find out!
(Just a note of warning: The answer to question 16 may not be suitable for younger readers and could be considered NSFW)
How long had you been making props before you decided to set up 4th Wall Design as a business?
We started making costumes for an event we decided to run called HeroPubcrawl – www.heropubcrawl.com – back in 2006, but we’d dabbled in helping friends with Halloween zombie costumes for years before that.
What inspired you to start making prop commissions?
A combination of necessity and friendship. We had some friends in costuming who needed some items making, we were making them for free for them, and some wanted to pay for our materials, we did a handful of favours, and several other people asked if they could pay me to make them something and it kinda grew organically from there.
We also made a lot of items / costumes to use with the volunteer group Laban founded called the Heroes Alliance UK, so would make masks / props to give away at events etc.
When we first started I’d just stopped working in finance, and money was tight so the extra funds really helped, though we never dreamed it would grow so quickly.
Do you each have a particular favourite replica that you have made?
Honestly, no. There are so many things that were both challenging and fun to make. It’s always better to make something that someone we personally know wanted / needed, but anything that makes someone else happy is a pleasure to make for us.
Who are your favourite superheros / heroines?
There are too many to mention, Laban grew up on comics, Mainly Spiderman , and through costuming has become associated with Batman a lot, but we both love the genre so much we could never really pick one favourite. I do find I’m more a DC man nowadays though.
If each of you could be any superhero (male or female), who would you be?
Laban: Ha, I’ve become so boringly focussed on work I answered this questions the other day. – Multiple Man – imagine how many sculpts / props I could make if I could generate multiple copies of myself?
What are your favourite materials to work with?
Obvious though it may be – Clay. There are some materials that it’s more pleasing / easier to work with, but the act of taking a lump of clay and using it to bring a character mask etc to life is endlessly rewarding.
And your least favourite materials to work with?
Clay, hahahahah – the monotony of smoothing / symmetry, it can be as frustrating as it is rewarding.
What are the pros and cons to running your own business?
It’s hard not to sound like some cheesy movie mentor figure, but it’s all about balance, every pro, becomes a con if you don’t manage it well. You can set your own schedule, and work when you want. The reality of that is that it’s VERY easy to slack on work if you don’t manage your own time (Laban’s guilty of that). You can wear PJ’s to the office, and have meetings together in the bathtub, To some extent you can choose which projects you want to make (if you have the luxury of choice given how much income you need to generate). You have a very open route to taking your business where you want it to go.
Definite cons are you WILL have to work long hours, often sacrifice personal projects and time, and learn self-management. There’s a HUGE workload that goes on behind the scenes managing websites, E-mails, orders etc., and when the poop hits the fan, it’s always going to be your neck on the line.
Does working in your home-based studio make it difficult juggling family life with work? How do you both manage it?
We’re very lucky that we have the garage converted into a home studio, so now we can keep work away from family (to a certain degree). However the nature of being self-employed means you will sacrifice time with your kids etc. We are blessed however that we work in a creative business, so the kids can be with us often when we work, and love the things we make, so there’s no issue having them in and around the studio – in fact I see a lot of budding potential in both kids, as they’re both artistic and creative, so will often sculpt from my clay leftover box and play in the studio with us.
If you each had a dream prop or costume that you could make for yourselves, what would that be?
Jaz: I’m actually considering costuming in the future (not something I ever really liked the idea of before as I prefer to make the items and avoid the attention). I’d like to make a Winifred Sanderson from Hocus Pocus, I’m just waiting for Laban to finish my replica of the book (Looks across at Laban – hint hint Honey).
Laban: There are loads I’d like to make, most are dedications to my early fandoms – I’d love to make the entire Sinister Six costume set, and a Mechanoid from red Dwarf.
How does it make you feel when you see your work on cosplayers at conventions and in photos / videos?
It’s awesome! It both validates your work and makes you feel proud / honour that you’ve helped someone else bring a character to life.
It’s one of the best things about doing this for a living.
What is the longest amount of time that you have spend on any one given commission? And are we allowed to ask what that specific item is?
We’ve never really timed many commissions, as we have a fluid work schedule, and juggle multiple jobs at once. We’re prouder of some of the suits we completed under strict timescales, such as the complete Ben Grim – THING costume in a few weeks, and the DCUO batman costume – sculpted from scratch, moulded, cast, finished and shipped in a week.
Laban, you’re also a cosplayer – when will we next see you and Jaz at a convention?
SOON!, well hopefully…..we’ve been so busy with work, sadly, playtime has to come second, although I’m trying my best to attend LFCC, and an Expo (Maybe October) in the UK, and will be at DragonCon in Atlanta this year.
Jaz, you also run another business called Vintage Lane – tell us a little more about this
Much like 4th Wall it developed organically. I made some decoupage items for Laban, and friends asked if i could make them some too. I’ve been busy working for 4thWall, but this year will start attending conventions / trade shows and pushing some larger projects out there. I’ve already provided items for some shows and stores, and will hopefully be expanding a lot this year. I come from a family of interior design and antiques so have always loved refurbishing old / damaged items and up-scaling retro pieces too. If anyone wants to check out my work they can visit www.vintagelane.co.uk , there are links to my Facebook page there too.
Have you – or would you like to – make any props for celebrities? Are we allowed to know who?
We’ve custom made items for various well known cosplayers, and have had our masks featured in films, and various fetish shoots too. We’re currently working on a themed shoot which might be appearing in Playboy. We’d honestly rather make an item for a die hard fan of a character though, than for the sake of name dropping. our business brain does like being able to use the marketing potential of big names though, so we’ll always play the game when it comes to getting our work out there and promoting.
On top of prop making, we know that you also do face and body casts – both for the purposes of custom made masks and props, and also from an artistic aspect. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever had to cast?
Hahahahaha, well it was…
Not just a bottom, specifically the anus, and it was apparently as a gift to a friend of theirs who was, and I quote ‘an arsehole’. It’s colourful people like that that make the world go round our book.
Any message(s) for your loyal customers out there?
In all seriousness, a business like this cannot survive without its customers, so to have a loyal fan base, who’ll even stick with you when things get delayed or times are rough, means everything.
Anything you would like to say to any potential customers reading this right now?
Try and remember that nearly ALL custom commissioners are small scale businesses – not just us, any of the cosplay creators out there offering commissions, often charge FAR TOO LITTLE and put a lot of time into making items that make you look good….always remember the person behind the company logo, and try and appreciate the time / work they do for others. It means a lot to makers to know they’re treated with respect.
Finally, is there anything you would like to ask any or all members of staff here at Renegade Revolution?
Do you have zombie survival plan in place yet, and if not, why not?
Jojo (Editor): You mean apart from finding a way to your fortress? Haha! Hmm… Well, I’m on the third floor of a secure block of flats. I’d run to the corner shop, stock up and then have myself on lockdown in my apartment with my family and friends and wait for all of it to blow over. Cosplayers are usually pretty well armed with props for beating zombies too ^^; Oh, and if I could, I’d try and get my hands on some firepower. Scott and I are actually pretty good with rifles and guns. 😀
Scott (Editor): Grab as much food and water I can, and hop on a bicycle. Why not a car? Well, bikes can fit between cars and pathways, but most of all, are quick and silent. Trust me, they’re your best friends. Staying away from all major towns and cities as by now they will already be infested with undead, head to the coast and set up in a boat that can be anchored just off the shoreline. I’ll have my own floating fortress. And with a small dingy, I can get back for supplies. 🙂
Heather (Contributor): Of course I have a zombie plan! 😀 I’d hole up in Fort Nelson / the Royal Armouries up on Portsdown Hill. Lots of weapons, and a defensible position. 😀
Christopher (Contributor): I don’t have one plan… I have about three. And I’m reluctant to tell you in case you follow me and jeopardise my survival! LOL! The main plan is on the event of outbreak, I move as much food, clothing and “warming” items into the loft (no need for water as there is a water tank up there). I keep stocking until zombies are imminent and then I move me and my loved ones upstairs. There, we hide and wait for the initial outbreak to subside. Once the outbreak dies down and the horde moves, I would break a hole in the roof so I could see outside. Once it seems safe, we would move with as many supplies as we could; preferably in a 4×4, as far North as we could. Ideally, ending up on one of the islands of Scotland, where we would wait the apocalypse out.
Amy (contributor): I don’t really have a plan – a lot less worried about the zombie threat in all its mythological goodness than burglars. 😛 But if I had a plan, it would definitely be to set up supplies and a den in the attic and keep an axe around for self-defence. I’m no soldier after all. XD
I’d like to thank Laban and Jaz of 4th Wall Design for taking time out of their busy schedule in order to allow us to interview them for this article / interview. All of us at Renegade Revolution wish them the very best in their future careers and hope to see more of their props soon.
If you are interested in buying or commissioning props or cosplay pieces from them, do check out their website at www.4thwalldesign.webs.com and their Facebook page www.Facebook.com/Pages/4th-Wall-Design for more information, pictures of their works, updates and ways to contact them for enquiries.
All images © and used with permission from Laban and Jaz of 4th Wall Design