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Tell us about your first cosplay experience. When, where, what, etc.

Hmm... well, the first time I ever made a costume of an anime character and wore it anywhere actually predated going to cons...and the first time I did that was at an outdoor Halloween event at a fair. Sadly, no one other than one or two friends even knew who I was, though I got some interesting interpretations. The first time I actually cosplayed at a con, however, was a few years after that in either 1998 or 1999, as Kunzite from Sailormoon. And it was then I knew I liked this fun new thing. On the way home, I already had ideas for the next con, and the next con, even a skit planned... and a group of new friends and email addresses. Amazing, considering before that con, I had a vague idea that other cons existed, but not their names, where, or when.

How did you come up with the name Vartan and what does it mean?

Well, it's a name I've used online for quite a long time now, in various forms. It is an Armenian name which means 'giver of roses.' The origin is a character named Vartan in a comic book series I used to read called Forgotten Realms. Thought it was unique, distinctive, and the character was kinda cool. It is also a surname of some European origin, although I am not sure where.

Where do you get inspiration during the costume planning stage and how do you work through the hard parts?

Usually, I will first find as many references for the character and try to determine the materials I will use... not only based on appearance (how it catches light), but also practicality. It's good to not have a costume that causes you pain and suffering until you feel you've worn it long enough. Although I think we have all had a costume or two like that.

Also, I will admit that, while I do like to work through things on my own, sometimes finding out how other people did something similar is really, really helpful because sometimes some of your ideas they may have tried first, and they will know why the idea won't work. A lot of times I find myself just strolling through random aisles of Home Depot with a vague concept in mind, asking some questions that I am sure confuse the salespeople. "Excuse me, do you have any... um... hinges, I guess... that move like (makes hand motions) this?" (gets blank stare)

Between cosplay and cross-play, which do you prefer and why?

Ah, this is an interesting question. Several of my (non-crossplay) costumes have bordered on crossplay, given the character. It all depends, really. I like costumes which are eye-catching without being ridiculously ornate, but I also have to like the character I'm portraying. I suppose crossplay has its merit - when there is a character that you just like so much you want to cosplay as them, but on the whole, I will usually pick characters of my own gender although a lot of them do end up being the 'majorly bishonen' type since I usually like their character designs the most.

When things in life take a turn for the worse, how do you deal with it?

Well, I try to stay optimistic about as much as I can, and be positive... even if I do have a nagging 'doom and gloom' voice sometimes. In general, I do like to distract myself by burying myself in projects and stuff. Cosplay or other hobbies are a good distraction. Or I take a mini-vacation, but I suppose that doesn't have anything to do with cosplay, heh.

 

You've won several awards for your costumes, but what's the real reason you cosplay?

Wealth AND GLORY! hahaha. Um... fun? Well, I do enjoy the feeling of accomplishment from conceiving a costume, planning out the construction, and then carrying it through completion and then wearing it and (hopefully) people thinking it's cool. But really, it's always been about having fun for me... and I also have a group of friends that, for the most part, I only see a few times a year at cons.

 

What are some tips you can offer to those who might experience cosplay burnout?

Whenever I have started to get burnt out, I would take a small break, be it from cons, or just cosplaying... sometimes I just tried to do too many things at once and got overwhelmed. Sometimes you just have to realize that no matter how cool those characters are and how much you love them, you're not going to be able to do all of them at once, and when you start stressing out, feeling frustrated, hating the costume, feeling the con looming down on you... yeah, that's no good. Plus don't wait until the last minute. Definitely avoid thinking you can bring your sewing machine to a con to 'finish a few last things.'

You know, the computer [spellcheck] keeps suggesting 'costly' for cosplay. Funny. But made me think, you know, I should also mention that people shouldn't feel like they have to make multi-hundred dollar costumes in order for them to be good. I mean, obviously there are some awesome costumes that cost a bundle, but I have also seen ones that were made using skillfully crafted found objects and household materials. Trying to pour all your free money into a costume is a quick route to burnout as well. While sometimes you find the 'just perfect' part, sometimes you can also shop around and find an alternative you wouldn't have thought of initially. I remember finding the perfect fabric for one of my costumes on a clearance table for $1-2/yard; the actual fabric was really ugly, but the 'wrong side' of the fabric was the perfect color and texture when all the other fabrics I looked at were $10+.

What's your career plan right now and where do you see yourself in ten years?

 

Gahh. I wish I could answer that myself. I know I want to do something creative; I am decent with computers. Right now, I am thinking graphic design, but hey, I've changed my mind a couple times because I definitely have whims. I've thought of, and had friends and family suggest other options, some of which I suppose I can keep on the back burner... who knows?

 

What's right and wrong with the cosplay scene?

Hmm. Well, right now the cosplay scene is bigger than it ever was -- so many more people go to cons and cosplay, and even more are familiar with anime and manga. There are definitely great opportunities for people to meet other people with similar interests and become friends that they may not have otherwise known. There's even more creative, ah, influence as well... it's becoming more and more common to see some really awesome things being made, using techniques many people are unaware of, and usually many of these people are happy to share their info. What's wrong? Well, I know everyone has their own opinion, but I think the heart of it is attitude. Be it people who do a costume solely for the attention they want to get (and getting mad if they don't get enough), people in cliques who act hostile to everyone who "isn't cool enough," or people who let too many things go to their head. Also, being constantly on guard that someone else will do the costume you want before you, or do it better after you, and the same goes for a skit... some competition is good, but I think people will get a little too competitive. ("Look at her, she makes that character look so ugly. I'm way better. In fact, I will do it for the next con and show her")... I do enjoy attention I get from costumes I've made, and I do want to do costumes that there haven't been a zillion of, or at least, won't constantly be compared to 'that other person who did it really awesome,' but you just shouldn't get too worked up over it because it's not worth it.

 

Hah, I will admit that back when I saw your Yue costume with the extending wings I was horribly jealous for a little while because I had wanted to do Yue for quite some time (I may actually finally have it done for a con in the near future, with luck), and I was even a little annoyed because it was all anyone could talk about, and I felt like now I couldn't do it, at least for awhile. But then I thought, "You know what? I'm being silly about all of this."

If you could bring one anime or video game character to life, who would it be, what would they do, and why?

Oh, geez. How to think of an answer to this without it sounding like a bad fanfic... hmm. You know, this is actually a difficult question. Maybe Haruko from FLCL, but she might be really horrible as a real person in real life. Or....ah... Zoro from One Piece...although, even though he rocks, I don't know what having him in real life would accomplish. *sigh* Ok, let's just say Kakashi from Naruto in the hopes he would teach me l33t ninja skills.

If you have any rumors to dispel or anything else you'd like to add, now's your chance.

Hmm, don't know of any rumors about me, unless they've all been kept secret really well. Which is funny, considering almost everyone I have known during this time has had at least one rumor about them. Um, I don't have webbed toes. That's a good one to dispel just in case. Sadly, the story where I ate several pounds of Swedish fish all at once is true. Sad for the fish that is... Well, and Christy...since they were hers.

see more of Vartan's costume collection here

Vartan, you've certainly struck a chord regarding the future of cosplay. It's all about your perspective and keeping a positive attitude. Cosplay means having fun and making new friends. That's what keeps us going. I agree jealousy can be a hard thing to deal with if you let it get the best of you. I'm excited that the costumes cosplayers are making today continue to raise the bar for creativity, craftsmanship, and detail. Good luck in your career choice. So long as you plan to have fun with it, may you never have to work a day in your life.

Garry aka Prof.

 

 
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