As with all amazing projects, they only happen when an extraordinary team of passionate individuals come together to make dreams come true. The Lumi Suit (short for Luminescent) is the work of a hard working team of skilled geeks.
The suit itself is made with luminescent fiber-optic fabric, which has tiny fiber optic threads woven through the material and light comes out along its length. It looks very magical in darkness (and is less obvious in normal light). Light packs power the fabric and not only generate a wide range of color spectrums but can be individually controlled over Bluetooth. Packs are then associated in groups and allow us to achieve some stunning color combinations and changes.
The “sparkle fur” effect throughout the suit has been achieved with almost a thousand “fiber optic stars” that were all individually shaped, placed, and hand sewn to the backside of the fur. Bundles of fiber optics then were manually set into groups, powered by a light connection, and are linked over the same Bluetooth connection and application that controls the fabric. By going far beyond “just some LEDs,” the result is purely magical.
Santa True – Visionary and Performer
Robert Seutter (aka Santa True, also founder of Christmas Performer Workshops) has always had a love of lights. He wondered, “Why should Christmas trees and decorated homes have all the fun?” and he conceived the idea for The Illuminated Santa.
True has been building on his career as a professional traditional spoken word storyteller (True Thomas the Storyteller) and brought that expertise into the Santa community almost a decade ago. For over forty years now, he has been entertaining for a wide range of audiences and themes—from Celtic to Norse, Middle-Eastern and Medieval, Pirate and Steampunk, just to name a few.
As a long-time geek, reenactor, former Jarhead, and science fiction/fantasy author, this Lumi suit was inevitable. When he’s not at the North Pole or traveling the country teaching and performing, he can be found in the Thousand Oaks, California area of SoCal.
What True had to say about working on Team Shiny
I honestly had no idea all the twists and turns this project would take. I was very fortunate that I had Gene, Julia, Cat, and others to help along the way. Fiber optic material is truly a tricky beast, and trying to control all the variables was a challenge. I think the sparkle-fur is the only one-of-its-kind at this point, and creating it required a lot of trial and error. We even ran into some surprising “laws of physics” things that we did not expect but just had to roll with. One thing folks may not realize is that the suit itself is being controlled by an operator (Gizmo the Elf, aka Gene.) But just having the suit is not enough. Understanding the abilities and challenges of an interactive prop requires a performance where some things will work and others won’t. Because as cool as the suit is, audiences still want a rocking performing Santa. And this team helps me bring it! Many thanks to ALL the folks who made this project possible.
“Mrs. Santa True” – Hand-stitching and Support
“Mrs. Santa True,” Cat Ellen, is the powerhouse behind Santa True’s paperwork, organization, websites, contracts, printed materials, and now the hand-stitching couture needs of this suit. Every single point of light in the fur was hand-sewn by Cat, as were most of the hand-finishing steps.
When she’s not updating, repairing, or supporting True’s projects, she can be found spinning thread by hand, doing a deep-dive learning indigenous weaving practices from the Quechua-speaking master weavers and communities located in the Cusco region of Peru (from her friend and mentor, Abby Franquemont), or participating in the SCA in the Kingdom of Caid.
What Cat had to say about working on Team Shiny
There’s nothing quite like hearing Santa True say, “You know what we should do?!”
Julia Schroeder-Clayton – Seamstress and Costumer
Julia Schroeder-Clayton (sole proprietor, Nexus Designs) is a professional, award-winning costumer with over 50 years sewing experience and has done costumes for performing groups, high schools, colleges, red carpet events, reenacting, and independent films. And Julie was our team member responsible for cutting and construction of the Lumi Suit coat.
What Julia had to say about working on Team Shiny
This project is the culmination of a 20-year dream of mine to work with fiber-optic fabric and has been an exciting learning experience. While at first the fabric was easy to use for garment construction, if any piece needed to be cut, then it loses light generation from one set of connectors resulting in only half the illumination possible. Construction must also be done cautiously to avoid cutting or bending any light-bearing fiber. The fabric is also more rigid than most, with unusual (and minimal) draping qualities. Such delicate fabric must be lined, adding to the weight of the garment. Raw edges also emit light, and must be taken into account. Light controllers have been tucked into fabric pockets and electronics tucked into lining and hidden with snap tape. Our team worked closely and this project took a lot of innovation and imaginative use of our combined skills. We are very proud of this and hope all who see it gain a little more joy and magic in their lives!
Gene Turnbow – Designer and Technician
Gene Turnbow is President of Krypton Media Group, Inc., and founder and station manager of internet radio station called SCIFI.radio—the world’s only full-time sci-fi and fantasy-themed radio station. Gene is a polymath with decades of experience in the motion picture and entertainment industries, moving easily from visual to technical arts and back again, including illustration, animation, short- and long-form fiction, game design, practical effects, computer programming, and even industrial robotics. His station, SCIFI.radio, currently reaches approximately a million listeners per year in 183 countries.
What Gene had to say about working on Team Shiny
When Santa True asked me if I wanted to work on the project, my response went something like this: “Build a self-illuminating Santa Suit in ten weeks with a budget only a tenth what a studio would need, using untried technology and construction techniques I would have to invent myself, all against a fixed, immovable deadline? Sign me up!” Typically when I work on projects, not only is it the first time I’ve ever done a certain thing, chances are good it’s the first time anybody has. All in a day’s work. And of course, we hit every problem there was to hit, including recalcitrant electronics, uncooperative software, mid-project design changes, and even learning how to reliably and repeatably thermo-form optical fiber. Working with this team of crazies has been the most fun I’ve had building anything since I can remember. We spark off of each other and become more than the sum of our parts.Together we pulled off something nothing short of miraculous.
The beautiful white and silver waistcoat was created by Crystal Smith, Artisan – Stitchery.Online
The fiber optic fabric is produced by Lumisonata
Photography and Videography
Photography by Crystal L. Olguin and Suzanne Stuedle Gonzalez