“I’ve heard a great deal about you, Fa Mulan. You stole your father’s armor, ran away from home, impersonated a soldier, deceived your commanding officer, dishonored the Chinese Army, destroyed my palace, and… you have saved us all.” ~ The Emperor of China, Mulan
For making very human mistakes, acting outside her prescribed gender role to do the right thing, and saving China, Mulan is given two prizes as proclamation of her deeds:
- The Crest of the Emperor, so that her family will know what Mulan did to save the Emperor’s life, and
- The Sword of Shan Yu, so that everyone will know what Mulan has done for China.
Mulan’s end-of-movie Victory Dress was my favorite of her 4+ outfit changes and I wanted my cosplay to include the symbols of her victory – Shan Yu’s sword and the Emperor’s medallion.
This is only my second costume to feature handmade props. As a newbie propmaker I don’t have a wealth of information, but I hope the following templates and tutorials will be useful to anyone planning to make props, not just Mulan cosplayers. Certainly, if you want to learn from some of the masters I look up, check out Punished Props, Volpin Props, Fev Studios, Coregeek Cosplay & Creations, and Steven K. Smith.
Sizing Tip – Use your own body as a measuring device. Mulan holds the medallion in her hand, so I cupped my palm, measured the diameter (3 inches), and then enlarged the reference image in photo editing software until the medallion was 3 inches wide.
Material Choices – I wanted this to be hard and lightweight around my neck, so I used worbla over craft foam. This template could also be used with wood, or you could sculpt the medallion in clay then cast it in resin. It all depends on your personal preference, skill-level and how much time you have to work.
- Cut out 3 layers of 2mm craft foam (any color!) – 2 full circles and one of the detail (dragon and outer edge are not connected so technically you end up with 4 pieces).
- Glue layers together with rubber cement.
- Cut out two pieces of worbla slightly bigger than the medallion diameter. You will end up trimming excess worbla around the sides, but better to have too much excess than not enough. Tip – if you heat up worbla just a little bit, it is easier to cut.
- Heat worbla circles with heat gun, place over top and bottom of medallion. (I recommend practicing heating and wrapping – every heat gun is different and will heat your worbla at different rates). Tip – lay cardboard under your worbla – don’t heat over plastic table cloths or your plastic cutting mat (it can melt).
- Fold the excess over the sides of the medallion. You may need to cut notches or angled slits on the curved edge to help it fold over smoothly. (Sorry I forgot to photograph this step.)
- Cut a slit in the top of the back worbla to slide the pendant bail in. When the worbla cools, it will hold the bail in place.
- Where the front and back worbla comes together on the side, use sharp scissors to trim excess as close to the form as possible. This will “seal” the two pieces of worbla together.
- Continue to heat and using a tool (screwdriver, chopstick, sculpting tool, or burnishing tool) to tuck the worbla into the edges of the dragon embossing and smooth the sides.
- If you paint it now, it will have a bumpy texture. Prime the surfaces with gesso, let dry, sand until smooth; repeat process. Each time layering more gesso and sanding with a finer grain of sandpaper.
- Spray paint entire medallion gold, then paint recessed surface.
Final Thoughts: Recessed surfaces are challenging to sand, prime, and paint. The right rotary tool or Dremmel attachment might help sand down those small details and hard to reach surfaces.
I was shocked at how quickly this came together. This small worbla prop was an easy Netflix marathon project. It was such a joy to work on that when I was stressed by the fabric costume, I would try to find more to do on the props.
Stay tuned for Shan Yu’s Sword tutorial!