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Tell us about your first cosplay experience. Who, what, when, where, and how did it go?

I first encountered cosplay in the summer of 2001. I remember looking at Japanese cosplayers’ sites and admiring their craftsmanship and photography. However, I did not give cosplay a try until my friend, Afuji, suggested we should dress up from Naruto during Akakon 2001, a small local convention. Without much sewing skill, I decided to make Hinata. The costume was very inaccurate but, luckily, Naruto was basically unheard of back then so I was saved from glares. *laughs* I was fortunate enough to cosplay with a Naruto group which enhanced the experience more. After that, I was excited about anything related conventions or cosplay.

Did you realize right away that you’d found a new hobby, or was it a more gradual process finding that cosplay would be more than a one-off thing for you?

After my first convention, I did not cosplay again until the following summer when I had more free time from school. At that time, I was still learning to sew in sewing classes. I was not brave enough to make costumes on my own but was embarrassed to do so in class too. Fortunately, my sewing teacher is also a costume seamstress for a local musical theater so I was able to explain my obsession to her…more easily. However, that did not stop her from teasing me when I brought clashing colors of fabrics to sew for a costume in class.  For me, it was more of a gradual process since I was still majoring in fine arts with most of my spare time going toward building my art portfolio. After that year, I switched my main career choices to fashion design, but that did not grant me any more free time than before. I had to juggle both art classes (I was in AP art.) and sewing projects so cosplay became a “break” from the school work. I did have a year of making cosplay-fad, but I have calmed down since then.

photo by afuji


Do you enjoy going all out with personality and mannerisms of the characters you portray, or do you simply like wearing the clothes?

photo by uzuki

When I cosplay, I enjoy wearing the clothing because I get the opportunity to be a character I admire. Not to mention taking photos with other characters in the series – those are the most enjoyable times. However, I would not categorize it as “simply” wearing the clothing. I am very fond of creating an atmosphere of the series or character through photography. I believe that location photo shoots, along with proper expression and pose, are essential to truly convey a character’s personality. I also try very hard to hold different expression for each and every character so I don’t look all the same. Some of you might notice how I look different in every photo. At times, even I feel weird looking at my photos.*laughs* For that reason, I tend to have more photos that captures the “feel” of the character rather than proper costume shots. (I came to realize this fact when I scrambled to find photos for this interview. *laughs* That was tough!) Therefore, I would only go as far as acting the personality of the character in photos. On contrary, I actually enjoy going out of character for some gag photos. It brings much more enjoyment, and laughs, than normal photos.

You have multiple iterations of certain characters in your collection. What are some advantages of doing more than one version? Any disadvantages?

The advantage of cosplaying the same character with different costume is that I get to cosplay the character again. It is more refreshing than to re-wear the same costume multiple times. Its disadvantage is, when you see other cosplayers from same series but in different costume, I sometimes miss the chance to reenact a scene with the “right” costumes.

Are there any costumes that you’ve regretted doing whether the outfit itself was a pain, or it wasn’t received well, or any other reasons?

Most of the costumes I have done are a pain in one aspect or another, but I have never regretted making them as a whole, only little parts, like fabric or trim usage, which I wish to improve. I gain new experience and knowledge with every costume I make that helps me in my future projects so I do not linger long on what I should or should not have done. It is a fair trade, I believe. 

Fortunately, I haven’t had a costume that was badly received; it is most likely because the series or character I cosplay from is fairly obscure. When people actually recognize my character, either they or I will be too excited about being recognized and forget about the actual costume. *laughs* I guess it is also the fact that I make costumes to entertain myself and not others so I feel no obligation to impress others.  

photo by wings

Walk us through a typical costume construction process.

I start with sketching the costumes, in line art with seams and such, and then calculate the fabric I would need. After I purchase the fabrics and notions, I make the patterns for the costume and sew it. That is basically what I do since it would be too long and boring to list the full steps. I have done a lot of impulse sewing before, and it never meets my satisfaction. Therefore, I learned to spend a good chunk of time on planning and pattern drafting since it gives me a solid base.

Any extra pointers for one of your specialties, military-style uniforms?

One of the most important skills in transferring a 2-D design into a 3-D masterpiece is getting the proportion correct, especially true with military uniforms because of the symmetrical lines. For my FMA uniform, I measured how long I wanted the top to be and used that measurement to calculate all the other parts of my costume. I divide the costume into sections by grids so everything would be proportional. It was my first time trying that method, and it worked well so it might work well for others too.

When shopping for costume supplies, what’s usually the hardest thing to find in your area?

The place I live at has four major fabric stores, with one concentrating on mostly costume fabrics and supplies (Cosplay heaven is what most of my friends call it.), one button store, and a few more mini-stores run by independent owners so it is not hard to find anything. Two out of the four stores are considered to be discount stores with rare fabrics but limited quantity and selections. I am very lucky to live in a place with an abundant selection of practically everything. It is more about “how much are you willing to pay” than anything else.

Would you share some tips for cosplayers who are considering taking commissions?

There are common tips like advising the commissioner to set the deadline for the costume a month before the convention for special circumstances involving shipping and such. Depending on the seamstress’/tailor’s schedule and productivity, I advise leaving at least 2-3 months for the costume to ensure maximum quality. I do not believe in fast production with low quality costumes. I feel that costumes, similar to casual wear, should be made to endure long wears so leave no unfinished seams or loose threads. Beginner seamstresses/tailors may want to give the first few commissions a lower mark-up since they may be your “practice” runs to get the feel of the process. (Taking commissions from local friends is a great start too!) You can easily justify your raise afterwards with the experience and feedback you receive.

I would also recommend keeping a master book, either on computer or hard copy format, of all the commissioner’s measurements and contact information for easy access. Oh finally, it would be best to iron before shipping to present the finest state of the costume to the customer upon arrival.

Does cosplay mesh well with your career choice?

Even before deciding to attend a fashion school, I really enjoyed designing, especially costumes and characters. I had always thought I would major in fine arts, but taking sewing during my high school years changed my decision. The current school I attend concentrates more on the business, marketing, and technical aspects of the industry so cosplay is a creative relief for me to balance my school studies. It is a great feeling to be able to sew for my own once in a while.

photo by clint

Which is your favorite convention, and what’s your favorite con activity? (besides cosplaying, of course!)

Now you have asked, I realize I do not do much other than work at my artist table during conventions. Since the artist alley takes up most of my time, I never had the chance to attend panels, only main events such as cosplay contest and specific photo shoots. In the recent year, due to a special circumstances dealing with artist alley, I was able to enjoy the whole convention – properly. I gave a few panels a try, but I realized that I would rather wander around the convention area and relax with my friends. I feel that convention is a time to gather with people I do not normally see and meeting new friends. Although we might only see each other once a year, I feel a great connection when with them. So, I would say, my favorite con activities are hanging out with friends and meeting new people.

As for my favorite convention, I have to pick Sakura-Con since I get to visit friends that I do not normally see. The atmosphere of the convention is much lighter and easy to relax in, while Anime Evolution seems to be busier.

Have you ever gotten into a slump? How did you get out of it?

Once in a while but I tend to recover fairly quickly without much effort. I guess it is because I am very optimistic.

With a new year and new con season ahead, have you made any resolutions?

I haven’t thought about it, actually. I do hope to attend more American conventions and meet more people! Although Canada is a great community for gatherings, and I do love it for that, I would love to travel to, at least, one of the main conventions to meet my friends. As for cosplay itself, I am trying to spice up my costumes with more originality with fabric and trim usage. Oh, it would be great if I would be able to juggle commissions, school schedule, and work properly – meaning no more unreasonable sleeping hours and leaving things for the last minute.

photo by koenta

Here’s your space to dispel rumors and to make any additional comments.

Rumors? *laughs*  I doubt I am known enough to create any rumors. Though I might remind people who have added me through MSN or LJ and such that I have a very bad memory so please do not be offended when I ask who you are.

I would like to give thanks to Cosplay Lab for giving me this opportunity to represent a part of the Canadian cosplay community. It is a very rare chance for Canadians so I am honored to be featured. We are rather ignored and unknown up here, and I hope to trigger some interest with this interview. Also, I wish everyone a Happy New Year!

see more of Jing's costumes here

You have a great attitude and are a fine example of how a creative outlet and a potential career can come together. Your fellow Canadians can be proud to have you as a cosplay representative. Keep innovating and thanks for helping us get 2006 off to a super start.

~Mrs. Tomoe

photo by maha
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