San Jose hosts Further Confusion 2012, California's largest annual furry convention, starting today (Thursday). Further Confusion 2011's attendance hit 2,801, and more than 3,000 attendees are expected this year. (Glossary Tip: The overall furry scene, fans, fursuiters, and those elsewhere on the spectrum, are collectively referred to as "the fandom.")
Lee Strom co-founded the first Further Confusion in 1999, and he has been actively involved with the fandom since before then as a fursuit maker -- including as the head of Frolic's NeonBunny -- as well as a party organizer and general raccoon-about-town. We spoke with Strom -- whose fandom name is Chairo (\chi'-ro\) -- about the history, art, and business of fursuits.
What is the origin of fursuiting?
Fan costuming has been around far longer than the fandom. It became "fursuiting" only when the first convention, ConFurence, began in the late 1980s. Furry costuming is an extension of anthropomorphic art.
And "anthropomorphic art" means...?
"Anthropomorphism" is the assignment of human qualities to otherwise nonhuman entities, while animals and fantasy creatures are specific to the fandom. Furries who wear costumes do it for a variety of reasons. Some because they enjoy portraying a character, some because they love performing, others simply for the love of fur, and even others just be part of a rapidly growing expressive artistic subculture.
Who makes the suits? I'm guessing it's not an Amazon 1-Click kinda thing.
The fandom consists of professional as well as amateur costumers, the latter being predominant. Most people wearing costumes at a convention purchase their fursuits from makers in the fandom. The majority of fursuits are custom-made. Many get model sheets made from 2D artists who then supply them to the makers for transformation into costumes.