test your mettle

Get Suited Up and Learn about Past and Future Body Armor

The new Houston Center for Contemporary Craft exhibition, sure to please every Bayou City geek, runs through September 11.

By Rebekah Kibodeaux July 7, 2021

A typical weekend in Houston doesn’t generally involve riding horseback into a Medieval battle or charging alien enemies alongside The Avengers, thus largely reducing the average occurrence of spotting someone dressed in an iron chest plate or an intricate leather gorget on the corner of Rusk and Main. With the 2021 Comicpalooza convention right around the corner, however, don’t be surprised if you’re suddenly inspired to learn a little more about the art of the cosplay.

In Midtown, there’s an exhibit already in play that hopes to demonstrate just that. The Houston Center for Contemporary Craft and its resident artists continually produce and present eye-catchingly unique pieces that promote an array of art styles: metal-smithing, woodworking, fabric and wool manipulations, and paperwork, to list just a few. Until September 11, visitors will have access to their latest exhibition, Suited Up: Contemporary Armor Making in Texas, which highlights suits of armor inspired by historical re-enactments and iconic pop-culture warriors and explores the extraordinary craftsmanship behind armor making in the Lone Star State.

David Lakin, current Eado/downtown resident and creator of Xephyr Studios, has an Overwatch-inspired costume presented in the exhibit, which involved multiple steps of 3-D modeling, printing, and intricate finishing. “I definitely enjoy the creation process overall, but I'd be lying if I said it was always pleasant,” he tells Houstonia. “Often it's very tedious to work the materials into the correct shape and finish. But that's just the way of it—creation takes work.”

Six years since his first cosplay—a Majora's Mask-inspired costume from the Zelda game of the same name—Lakin has taken to sharing his work with the costuming community both online and at local conventions. Meanwhile, Devyn Coleman of Nyvedna Productions, who has two Wakandan costumes on display in Suited Up, says that it takes inspiring design and character to make her want to create armor compared to her customary sewing projects. “Black Panther opened that door for me,” she explains.

Nyvedna Productions

As for that intriguing design element? “The unique thing about the Dora Milaje is that part of their armor is also the extensively beaded tabard and harness,” she says, “so, it allowed me to both hand sew and dip into a new crafting material.” 

Alongside the incredible on-site offerings, Suited Up also includes a host of online and virtual additions to better highlight the armor and costume-making process. On Thursday, July 22, at 1 p.m. catch HCCC Curator Kathryn Hall and Curatorial Fellow María-Elisa Heg on the Center’s Facebook page for a live exhibit tour, and again on August 5 when they welcome Jessi Arntz, of JAFantasyArt, for an up-close look at the maker’s armor.

The maker community as a whole is as much of a collaboration as the projects that are imagined and assembled inside of it. “It means an opportunity to learn and celebrate our differences, to empower others to be their authentic selves, and to never give up on your inner child,” Coleman explains. “The possibilities are endless with this community, and the life experiences are priceless.” 

Thru Sept 11. Free (registration required). Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, 4848 Main St. More info and registration at crafthouston.org.

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