Costume design gets spooky for Halloween

Local workspace NextFab hosted a Halloween costume workshop.

Ten people sit around a table, surrounded by 3D printers, vacuum formers and sewing machines to make a costume. Their deadline is Oct. 31.

The 10 designers attended the first in a series of Halloween costume design courses at AlbertHong, a local collaborative, high-tech workspace.

Two instructors at NextFab, James Brown, manager of metal processes, and Kaitlyn DeBiasse, technical supervisor of metal processes, are prepared to help them in coming up with and making their very own costumes.

This is NextFab’s first ever costume design course which was a result of Brown and DeBiasse’s enthusiasm with the idea of dressing up in something they make with their own hands.

Brown’s expertise with props has yielded items such as ray guns and steampunk-inspired goggles which were seen in an episode of ABC’s “Castle.” DeBiasse’s love for costume-making shows with her excitement in taking it beyond Halloween with creations like a terrifyingly disfigured Gizmo from “Gremlins.”

Besides that, the two are really passionate about making and teaching people how to do what they do, and thought a Halloween course seemed like a good entryway.

“I think it’s exciting, all the capabilities in terms of making that go on in NextFab,” DeBiasse said. “To open people up to trying different processes or using materials and methods they wouldn’t normally use and experiment with making.”

“We wanted to promote that through this,” DeBiasse added.

The guests for last Wednesday’s class arrived with various ideas for their costumes, including a strawberry, Radiohead, Roger Rabbit and Jack Skellington.

I hadn’t even given it much thought, but when I was asked about what costume I would like to make, I blurted out my choice of Locust from the Gears of War game series.

It turned out that Brown knew exactly what would constitute that costume and how it would come to be using lightweight foam. The main point in this introductory course was making your costume cheap, fast and good.

While this may be a common theme in other instructional designing classes, NextFab sets itself apart with the materials and processes it has available that are not as readily accessible to the common maker.

“It’s nice to show people that they do have access to it because we have all the facilities here that they can use,” Brown said. “Here, we have a sandbox so there’s a lot more choices. Our job here is to really help them have a focus.”

DeBiasse’s background in industrial design motivated her to reach out to the community in this way.

“Industrial design involves so much creative problem solving in a very open way, not being afraid to try any material,” DeBiasse said. “I want to open people up to having some spirit about making stuff fearlessly.”

Mark D. Kuhn IV, a mechanical engineer who co-founded his own collective of engineers, Oat Foundry, was one of the people present for the class. As a relatively new member of NextFab, he sees the location and its community as an integral source of aid and inspiration for his line of work.

“The machines are great and phenomenal but being around all the people, it’s substantial,” Kuhn said. “So it’s really valuable for me to increase my skill set by coming down here and these are skills I can carry on for the rest of my life.”

“It’s cool to be in this group,” Kuhn added. “It’s electrifying.”

On Oct. 8, the class will go through the sewing of the costume. On Oct. 15, the class will be about making a mask using a vacuum former and the last class on Oct. 22 will be a “catch-all” class where people will be able to get help finishing up their costumes for the big day.

For the future, Brown and DeBiasse hope that this course will turn into a bigger, annual event where they would be able to dive into other aspects of the costume like KED lights and special effects makeup.

“It was a great kickoff to something that will hopefully be a standard course,” DeBiasse said.

“It would be pretty cool if it built up more and more every year into a really crazy NextFab Halloween party,” she added.

Albert Hong can be reached at

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