Prince Armory was founded in 2007 in a small home studio by Samuel Lee. His company has now grown into the premier source for unique custom leather armor, elaborate costumes, props, accessories and general leather products, and much more. He creates original works and replicas for anime, sci-fi, and fantasy conventions, renaissance festivals, LARP combatants, and for theater and film. His works have also been featured in major commercial and theatrical productions with clients such as Samsung and ‘Cinderella’ on its Broadway Tour. Prince Armory’s creations have gone viral with great acclaim, and their sensational fantasy superhero spinoff designs are always a hit! (Especially at Ren Fair and Comic Conventions)
We ran into the Prince Armory booth recently at WonderCon 2016, and just HAD to snag an interview with it’s creator. Samuel Lee was very generous with his time and sat down to answers our DorkUp questions. (Click on each picture for a closer view)
Where are you from? Growing up, what did you geek out on? What comics, tv shows, movies, characters were you into?
I’ve always been into video mediums so when I was young I was most excited by the animated shows like X-Men, Batman, Transformers, and so on as well as anime. I was also into anything sword and sorcery themed; characters with magic powers have always been interesting to me.
What are you geeking out on now?
Pretty much the same things really except now that my generation is a primary spending demographic you see all the animated shows from back then being brought to life for older audiences on the big screen and TV shows. It’s such a great time for a geek to be alive. I’m really excited for all of these superhero and fantasy films coming out all the time. Really hoping they crack the code for good live action anime adaptations someday too.
I don’t know about catapulted; I’ve never really advertised so I think it’s just been a slow and steady progression. I try to raise the bar with new techniques, designs, and of course building trust with a solid track record and portfolio helps clients trust me with more and more elaborate projects. I have a natural inclination to want to go above and beyond for each project which I understand is not a common trait as it can be hard on the pocket book.
How has your life changed since the creation of your company?
I see my company as one aspect of my life so I don’t really feel any sort of correlation of ‘I started the company, then X happened as a result’.
What made you start creating these incredible designs?
Well for the armor aspect specifically, the very short of it is that I went to renaissance festivals when I was younger and became really interested in all the armor people were wearing.
How did you learn your craft? Is this something you taught yourself?
I was able to have an early introduction/exposure into the craft(s) a long while back and got to see the potential what could be done. But yes, the vast majority has been self-taught with experimentation. I would attribute a lot of earliest interest into creating things to my dad who was a builder, fixer, and tinkerer. So I would often make a mess in his shop doing my own things.
My clients always decide what I’m going to make, mostly. I do have a lot of input for the designs though. I see it as my job to make sure that if a client is paying me to make an awesome suit of armor that it really is an awesome concept. I don’t like shrugging it off and collecting the paycheck if I don’t feel the concept is something that I can really provide value so I do decline a lot or projects.
I’m sure it varies a great degree, but how long does the average piece take? What all goes into making each piece? Sowing leather pieces? Metal work?
A suit can take a few days or a few months or longer. Depends on so many factors. If it is a leather project there are any number of processes like patterning, cutting, shaping, coloring, finishing, sewing, that can have countless variables themselves.
Yes they did. Like most projects I was contacted through my website which goes straight to my emails. The hard part about these high profile projects is they always need them yesterday.
What was it like seeing your work in the Samsung commercial?
I first publically saw the Samsung commercial featuring my Elven Knight design while eating lunch with a friend at a Chilis. I happened to look up and there was my armor. It was very satisfying I think best describes the feeling. I heard it was shown in the theater during previews and even during the super bowl and seen in countries worldwide.
I’ve done a lot of projects for indie works, event/convention companies, and theatrical departments. But so far I don’t have any really big credits. I would probably have to really advertise myself to the big players to have a chance at a really big film.
What conventions do you attend every year?
I don’t have a regular schedule but I’ve been seen at the Texas events and Dragon Con. I’d like to make more of a presence at some point but at heart I’m also pretty content being a bit of a hermit so unless I have people twisting my arm I often won’t go out.
The Medieval Vader was definitely challenging because it was such an iconic character. I wanted to capture elements of the original design but make it still as original as possible without losing the identity. Finding that balance was a challenge for sure.
What has been your most favorite piece that you’ve ever created?
It changes a lot but my helmets make me feel like I’ve done really well. Recently I’m most happy with the Krypton helmet.
Well all of my works are ordered on a case by case basis and are unique to each client so I don’t currently have things that I sell at events. www.PrinceArmory.com is my site where all of my clients initiate contact to request a quote.
I’m working on an original armor that is for a first age Sauron, which is to say instead of doing the movie armor from LOTR (third age) I’m coming up with a concept of an armor that he might have worn during his first age, when he was a little less one dimensional with a little more going on for the character.
Do you have any upcoming exhibits? Or conventions?
Someone set me up for a panel for an upcoming convention in Dallas later this year. I’m not sure of the details yet though.
You’ve been very generous with your time! Thank you for this interview, and we look forward to seeing your next creations!
Be sure to check out the various Prince Armory websites: