Morgan McCutcheon has been making complicated costumes for about a decade, but not many people know it.
McCutcheon’s work over the years includes detailed takes on armor from “The Lord of the Rings” series and video games in the “Halo” and “Fallout” series, and with a few has only shown them to a fairly small group.
“I don’t really expose my artwork very much,” he said. “When I build it, I just kind of set it in the corner and gather dust.”
In the past, McCutcheon has entered his work in the annual Juneau fashion extravaganza Wearable Art, but his entry this year, “T-60,” sparked an unprecedented amount of attention.
The piece was an an impressive take on power armor from “Fallout 4.” “T-60” took about two years to make and consisted of about 70 pounds of fiberglass plus another 10 or so pounds of equipment that made parts of the costume appear electrified.
It nabbed McCutcheon, 23, the People’s Choice Award at Wearable Art 2019: Tailwind.
“Most people don’t see my work except the people I went to high school with and my friends and family,” McCutcheon said. “Maybe like 40 people.”
“I think this is the biggest exposure I’ve ever had for my work,” he added.
McCutcheon took time to talk to the Capital City Weekly about the work that went into making his award-winning creation and how the recognition feels.
How did it feel to win the People’s Choice Award? Were you surprised?
Yes, I was. I’m not really a showman or anything. I didn’t really do anything fancy on stage. Everyone seemed really supportive of my outfit — just seeing everyone smiling and laughing and having a great time with my armor. People kept saying, ‘I voted for you.’ It was really sweet.
Many of the people who cast votes probably aren’t familiar with the “Fallout” franchise, is that part of the surprise at all?
A little. I can tell definitely that most people didn’t know what the hell “Fallout” was. I think about four people actually said the name “Fallout.” I think just the complexity of the piece — the height, the size, the flashing lights — they just really enjoyed it.
You’ve done past Wearable Arts, what were those like? Were they similar efforts?
Well, one I did when I was only 14 years old, and I did something from “Halo.” Then I did one in 2015, which was also “Fallout,” but not nearly as complex.
What about the “Fallout” series in particular made you want to dip back into the well?
I really like “Fallout.” It’s one of my favorite games, and I also had a few friends that were inspiration for me, and I just thought it would be cool.
How’d the friends inspire you?
They were just “Fallout” friends, too, and they were always supportive of my costumes, so I decided to make something that’s, well, the biggest thing I’ve ever made. The most complicated anyway.
What was the actual process (of making “T-60”) like?
The actual armor at the Wearable Art show is like a Mach 2 almost. It was built on top of an old design. The original one I started just about after “Fallout 4” came out (November 2015). It wasn’t nearly as good as the new one.
Where did the fiberglass come from and what’s working with fiberglass like?
Fiberglass is an odd choice for costumes. It’s really hard to work with. You have to do it in a garage or outside — it has dangerous fumes and all that — and a lot of sanding. I do all my sanding by hand. My workshop is just a really tiny garage and a partial basement. There is nothing professional about that.
Like with a gripping block, or do you at least have a palm sander?
Just a little palm sander for all those armor plates. It took me hours. I start with poster board. I don’t write anything down or anything, I just make something, and since I can add a lot of detail with poster board, I don’t really know what to do after that, so I sort of used fiberglass.
Do you do a lot of craft stuff in your spare time? How’d you get drawn into making video game-inspired costumes?
I’ve been making costumes since I could hold a pair of scissors. I’ve been doing it a long time. The old ones get thrown out. They get better each time.
What’s the motivating factor for keeping at such elaborate undertakings?
I’m not entirely sure. I suppose it is just a hobby. I kind of enjoy doing it. I do like the challenge. It’s why I try new things every time. The engineering mostly. How complicated can I make it? So complicated I end up making a 7-foot exoskeleton.
• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BenHohenstatt.