Student Forums
A journal of social practice & professional engagement for the Antioch community

Creating Character: Brunson ’18 at Costume Specialists in Columbus, Ohio

Costume Specialists is a custom mascot manufacturing company, which specializes in both foam and inflatable mascot costume production. Costume Specialists create and perform maintenance on mascot costumes specially designed and crafted for companies, book publishings, restaurants, and so much more. Costume Specialists has developed mascots for companies around the United States and even across the globe. As an aspiring artist and Media Arts major at Antioch College, it has been an eye-opening experience to have the honor of working with such talents at Costume Specialists for my Fall 2016 co-op.

Bunnicula the vampire-bunny mascot costume

My personal favorite mascot made by Costume Specialists, Bunnicula the vampire-bunny. Photography is copyright to Costume Specialists Inc.

For nearly the past three months, I’ve woken up in a small room I’m renting from a Queer woman in Columbus. I get up around six-thirty or seven, groggily get myself breakfast, and say good morning to my house-owner’s dog, Lulu. She’s become my best friend on this co-op, a bright and happy St. Bernard. If I wasn’t staying across a dangerous highway, I’d like to bike to work, as I’ve found Columbus has decent bike lanes for cyclists, however for now I drive my car into the city. I arrive at a dark red brick building, an old factory building in the heart of Columbus. I go in through the back door, climb three flights of stairs, footsteps echoing through the building, and clock in once I’ve reached the third floor. Beyond racks and shelves of mascot body parts, foam slabs, and a power-tool shop are my coworkers, each at their own desk. A chorus of “good morning”s greet me, and I sit down to begin my own work, producing whatever is needed for the mascots being made that day.  Despite being in the gloomy Fall air of Columbus, Costume Specialists is always warm and bright, a pleasant work experience that hardly feels like work at all.

The Cat in the Hat mascot, copyright Random House and Costume Specialists Inc.

The Cat in the Hat mascot, copyright Random House and Costume Specialists Inc.

Working at Costume Specialists is a wonderful privilege and life experience. My coworkers are inviting and open to me and have taught me the art of crafting mascot pieces as an equal employee of Costume Specialists. There are people from various ethnic backgrounds, religions, and ways of life all pleasantly working side-by-side. With an open-floor-plan and constant cooperation between floors, Costume Specialists encourages the mixing of ideas between designers, crafters, stitchers, and every other employee. It’s a powerful way to allow for flow and improvement while fostering a team spirit unlike many others. It has always been one of my dearest feelings to be a part of a group working as one whole in order to produce art and change the world around us. And while some jobs may not produce such tones, this feeling has been fostered and encouraged through my time at Costume Specialists. Knowing that something I, a young college student from Pennsylvania, have made is being used to entertain and bring smiles to people across the U.S. and even in foreign countries is truly astounding! Unfortunately due to contracts, I am unable to post photos of myself in my workspace or any of the mascots that I have worked on for the behalf of the company. However, if you are interested in reading more about Costume Specialists’ history or the mascot production process, you may read our official website, check out our twitter or pintrest, or read one of the many articles published about Costume Specialists by clicking any of these hyperlinks.  

Larry and Bob mascots from Veggie Tales as createsd by Costume Specialist

Veggie Tales mascot costumes made by Costume Specialists. Photography is copyright to Costume Specialists Inc.

I work daily as a craftsman, using the woodshop and powertool knowledge I’ve gained through my VISA 102 (Visual Arts: A Focus on Three-Dimensions) course at Antioch College and previous work experience as a contractor’s assistant and construction laborer for Grasinger Homes. Having these backgrounds has allowed my transition and learning process in crafting for Costume Specialists to go smoothly and encouraged my knowledge of various tools and their uses to expand even more. Wendy Goldstein founded Costume Specialists in 1981 and has cultivated her entrepreneurial creation into the flourishing company it is today. I greatly admire such a hard working woman who has carved this path to her dreams and am proud to be able to work for her. Through this co-op experience, I have gained so much knowledge of the professional costume-manufacturing business and been guided to better myself as a craftsman and employee in general. My hope for the future is to perhaps continue creating costumes after I finish my degree at Antioch College and perhaps someday work my way into the great movie sets of Hollywood or companies such as Disney or Warner Brothers. Through the opportunities given to me and my time working for Costume Specialists, I wish to further my study of theatrics and entertainment and eventually create more content that may inspire other young people to follow their dreams and create art in all available forms. My personal portfolio and resume can be found on my website here

Written by

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA, Connie Brunson works mainly with acrylic paint, found objects, and Adobe Suite software in making their paintings and animations. By combining traditional art practices with animation, they create colorful and unique pieces which delve into the possibilities granted through experimental art and animation. Their animations frequently explore mental health, LGBTQ+ issues, the struggles of grieving for a deceased parent, and the natural world. They have interned with Costume Specialists Inc. in Columbus, OH, producing mascot costumes as a full worker, co-oped under Robert Mulvihil, renowned ornithologist at the National Aviary, and won various placements in contests for their hand-made costumes, including We Love Colors' 2014 Halloween Costume Contest.

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