Local fabricator breaking into the world of set design on his own terms

jobs brak robots EDthumbDespite having no technical training, Shannon Chappell has been using self-taught skills to make robotic set pieces and costumes that push the boundaries of his skills both as a builder and an artist.

In a somewhat claustrophobic workshop, nestled unassumingly in the basement of a hotel along Macleod Trail sits Chappell’s workshop, Infernal Studios. Chappell, originally a photographer, learned the basics of computer aided design and custom fabrication without the aid of a textbook or the guidance of a teacher.

“When I first moved to Calgary I made a costume for a Halloween event and it got me all kinds of attention, and that's when it first occurred to me that maybe I was good at doing this stuff,” Chappel said. 

jobs brak robots ED1Originally a found object fabricator, Chappell now uses specialized equipment to build some of his components from scratch.

Photo by: Jodi Brak

In fact, much of Chappell’s work seems like it would be at home in a Halloween display. He’s embraced an aesthetic that combines equal parts fantasy and horror, resulting in intricate creations that could have arisen from the darkest depths of magic or science.

Chappell uses the skills he has acquired, combined with a strong sense of creativity, to construct elaborate props and set pieces fit for Hollywood productions at Infernal Studios in Calgary.

For example, one of his latest creations, and the one stirring up most of the buzz surrounding Shannon Chappell, is a functional Rock Golem costume. The finished piece, standing 11 feet tall and covered in pulsating orange veins of glass and rusted steel, has space inside for an operator to sit and control the Golem. 

The Golem project has been garnering praise from the robotics community, including a visit from the Discovery Channel and a chance to display his projects to a crowd of 200,000 at Maker Faire in San Mateo, California.

While events like Maker Faire provide a great opportunity to exhibit his work publicly, Chappell eventually hopes to leave his job as a hotel manager and have his work used in films.

“The goal was always to go to Vancouver and work in the prop industry, it still kind of is,” Chappell said. “But, for me at least, I have almost no competition here in Calgary, I can’t think of anyone else who is doing exactly what I am.” 

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