Picture it: Christmas 2011. Cardboard boxes were piled high in How-Lun Chen’s San Diego house — the shipping waste from all the presents he had ordered online. Rather than recycling it, he decided to create something. “I made a really simple helmet and shield and sword out of cardboard for my son, and he had a lot of fun!” How-Lun remembers.
He kept iterating on that design until he came up with the current pattern, complete with nose protection, metallic paint, and a light-up LED gem. “I tried putting together more and more sophisticated helmets, and it got to this point. And when he [my son] saw this the first time, it floored me, because the look on his face was so magical. It was something I wanted to capture.”
When How-Lun realized what a fun father-son activity it was putting the helmet together with his son, turning his idea into a kit was a natural next step. He began selling the patterns and kits under the moniker Crafteeo, and just like that, from some stacks of waste cardboard blossomed a startup business.
How-Lun is a man of many talents. In addition to manipulating cardboard into magical costumes, he is a storyteller. He has imagined characters who wear the differently styled and colored helmets — Pathfinder, Crimson Lion, Hammer Fist, and Wave Rider — and on the Crafteeo site he has posted an imaginative tale of bravery, pirates, and the sea around them, complete with intricate illustrations of the characters and their world by Art Edel.
“When kids put this on, their persona completely changes. You see their former self just kind of melt away, and they become this heroic self.”
Crafteeo sells patterns or kits so you can build your own sword, shield, and helmet. I got the chance to meet How-Lun at Maker Faire Bay Area 2014 this year, and had an on-camera chat with him. Check out his sweet sword skills and hear a bit more about how he came up with the idea in the video above.