Interview with “The Sith Crafter” Nicholas Vella Magri Demajo
The Star Wars saga is resplendent with iconic characters and themes that have inspired generations of actors, writers and everyday folk like you and me.
People all over the world have shown their love for the franchise in many different ways – such as by writing phenomenal fan fiction, collecting Star Wars memorabilia; or even dressing up in their dad’s best beige dressing gown and duelling the cat with John William’s Duel Of The Fatesin the background.
However, one of the most creative tributes to Star Wars that we’ve ever seen has come from Maltese artist Nicholas Vella Magri Demajo, otherwise known as The Sith Crafter, who has become well-known for his recreations of Star Wars helmets.
Whether belonging to the distinctly nasally and mechanical sounding stormtroopers or the iconic villain Darth Vader, the helmets of George Lucas’s Sith army helped forge Star War’s legacy as one of the best film series of all time.
Originally inspired by characters from Star Wars, Nicholas is turning his 3D animating hobby into a profession. We caught up with Nicholas to ask him about the origins of his hobby, the process of mask-making and his plans for the future.
- If you were to name your favourite project to date, which one would you pick?
It’s difficult to say because I am fond of each and every one of them. They were all extremely fun to take on and demanded a lot of work.
However, my favourite one was the Darth Vader’s helmet which I completed recently. I think it was the most challenging helmet to work on, as well as the most rewarding.
- How long did that mask take you to complete?
It took me approximately two months to complete. It took me a week and a half to create a 3D model, followed by another week and a half for the 3D printer to create it.
I then had to apply many layers of primer and hard metal, as well as sanding each layer. A lot of work was put into refining the helmet.
Then, I had another week and a half of painting because I had to wait for each layer of paint to dry and cure.
- Where and how did you learn all the necessary skills to take on such projects?
It was a mixture of following Youtube tutorials and talking to other sculptors. I even met Brian Muir, who originally sculpted the actual Darth Vader helmet and armour, at a talk he gave recently. He taught me some of his secrets of sculpting.
Youtube is a big archive of information and tutorials. I believe it has essentially all you need to learn, on whatever project you wish.
It’s all a matter of finding the best information you can. I get inspiration from other online artists who share my passion, some hailing from America. It’s all about talking to people, as well as being curious and researching.
It’s also about the experience; you have to make mistakes and fail in order to learn, because failure is your best teacher.
I’ve had many failures throughout each and every project. But I never stopped at a failure; I persevered and always reached a satisfying conclusion.
- Why do you have such a passion for Star Wars?
Ever since my father introduced me to it, I have always loved Star Wars. It was his childhood and it became mine. I think that the character design in Star Wars is phenomenal, especially when it comes to Darth Vader. After all, he is a notorious fictional villain. Even people who haven’t watched Star Wars can immediately recognize him.
Star Wars is a great story told through a rich variety of film production techniques. So it became the main base for my work. I personally love the franchise, so I will always have new ideas to work on.
- Which Star Wars era is your favourite in terms of design?
That is a difficult question to answer because I believe that all the films have excellent character design.
I think that Darth Vader being launched in A New Hope was a big hit. The prequel trilogy had some interesting spaceships such as the Imperial Star Destroyer being converted to the Republic Cruiser. I look at ships as well; I don’t focus simply on masks and helmets.
With regards to the new instalments I think that Kylo Ren’s helmet is very intriguing. It was adapted from a samurai helmet which is what makes it stand out, as the samurai helmet is wide with a large back, and it’s put together with rope and string. So Kylo Ren’s helmet is an adaptation of Darth Vader’s helmet and an actual samurai’s, which to me is very fascinating.
BB-8 is also an interesting character, a good addition to the new trio between R2-D2, C3PO and BB-8 and I am eager to see what is to come as the story continues.
- What is it about Star Wars that expresses your own character?
Star Wars has explained to me the pipeline of a 3D animator. The pipeline is the process the film industry undertakes in order to create 3D animation and films.
For example, the early trilogy started with puppets and scale models and that is a technique not many industries use, since nowadays they are shifting towards 3D animation.
Star Wars captures a spectrum of techniques, such as using puppets, 3D animation, very good acting, very good props, and amazing effects and this is what I will be utilising in the process of building up my portfolio.
Like the Darth Vader helmet started, it started out as sketches, which became a sculpture, then a mould, to a cast, which was finished off with other materials and then tried on the actor.
I would like to work with that process in mind, while applying my skills in 3D animation and 3D printing.
Knowing the history of how this process worked helps me build my own adaptation to it and create my own work flow which is what is being adapted into today’s practices.
- You have already made a name for yourself. What made you so successful in such a short span of time?
I think that I still have a lot to learn. Every single work I do is getting me closer to what I love doing.
With regards to success, I don’t think one can achieve complete success. It’s all about being passionate about working and having the drive to become the best.
The competition that is out there is challenging, however, it doesn’t stop me from persevering. I really love my work, so I’ll never stop working on it.
So far, I am very happy with my most recent works, and I believe that I am consistently improving.
I still remember creating my first helmet. I tried to recreate the Master Chief helmet [from the Xbox game Halo] but it ended up as a complete flop because the paper I used ended up getting warped when I applied resin.
I ended up smashing it because I was so angry that I’d failed despite putting in all that time and effort, not to mention the money.
I then had another attempt on this mask, and there was some improvement. However, I left it outside to dry and it actually got stolen, leaving me very upset.
My third helmet was a copy of Boba Fett’s, which was much better than my previous projects. And so, as I kept on working, the helmets improved in quality. And then, two months ago I decided to create the Darth Vader helmet and it turned out very well.
I was very satisfied because I didn’t think I could create a helmet that well until I was experienced enough. So, when I managed to pull off such a difficult project, I felt more confident to take on more challenges.
I feel as if I am always achieving better results and higher standards. And keeping those high standards is all what being passionate is about.
- If you were to venture away from what you are known for, what would you go on doing?
What I am targeting right now is becoming a 3D animator, working within high- end industries. I am currently doing an internship with a company called Blaze Animation.
I’m also prepared to go abroad to study, which I am actually doing next year for my Erasmus.
I am more than ready to go abroad to meet new people, make new contacts and come across new ideas.
It’s all about opening your eyes to opportunities. That is my primary target for the future.
- What is the value or idea that you possess that you give most?
The plan right now is to build a portfolio which documents all of my creations.
This portfolio will include all of my projects and sketches and will help me to be better known.
I study the designs and incorporate them in my own sculpting style. Every single piece of work brings me closer to learning and understanding the principles of character design, principles I will apply as a 3D artist.
- Anything you want to leave the readers with?
We are loaded with technology and information. For me, it all started when I was 14 and wanted to create a Master Chief helmet and the only way to achieve that was by making it myself. So, I took a leap and tried to make it, and it all started from there using any online resource I could find.
It’s all about being curious and observing what is out there. No one came and told me what to do. It was all my own work and effort that started it. It’s all about experimenting with what you have available.
People should be curious enough to show true admiration at how something came to be. This involves going beyond simply appreciating its aesthetic components and examining things at a deeper level.
The most important teacher in every project is failure. You will inevitably fail at some point, as nothing will run perfectly and smoothly for you.
You’re always going to have problems. You will be angry with yourself, even get upset at times. There will even be people who will try to destroy you and give you a bad name. Challenges will come your way, but strength, passion and the desire to learn are what you need to keep on going.
Timothy Borg is a 19 year old University student who is studying dentistry. He has also taken up a passion for creative writing and music. His current instrument is the electric bass
© 2019 TIMOTHY BORG ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Background photo portrait of Nicholas Vella Magri Demajo