Tell us about your first cosplay adventure. Who-what-when-where, etc.
Hmm... Well, many previous Halloweens aside, my first convention cosplay experience would have been Anime Expo 2000. I had been going to AX for 3 years already and had noticed these weird people who actually wore their costumes to the convention! "What's up with that?!? I gotta try it!" So I decided to wear my Laguna Loire (FFVIII) costume from that Halloween to AX. Now, I was proud of that costume at the time, even though I made it in about 4 hours. Regardless, I had a wonderful time that year taking a bunch of pictures with a lot of random cosplayers as well as the cosplay group 'Phoenix Seed'... tis a shame my costume was so budget, hehe. I guess the bug kinda bit me, and shortly thereafter, plans began for future costumes. Since then, I have managed to drag many good friends of mine into cosplay with me (BustaJonesGavin, Cyrax (Kevin), Studio JFISH (Jason), and my wonderful girlfriend of 7 years Alaria. Spread the love, I say!
When talking to new friends or family about this hobby, how do you explain what cosplay is all about?
This has always been an interesting discussion whenever it arises. I explain it for what it is: a hobby. Some people enjoy collecting rare baseball cards, while others paint landscapes, or soup up their vehicle. I enjoy making and wearing costumes of characters I appreciate. Cosplay is an art form in many ways. It requires extreme attention to detail, a creative mind with good problem solving skills, a vivid imagination, and the drive to create. While my family and friends have always been supportive, I can't expect everyone to understand why I participate in this 'money-sucking, time-devouring, geeky, needless' hobby of mine. Then again, why do a lot of guys spend so much money and time on their cars??? I can't understand that myself, but I don't criticize them for it. ~_^
Describe what you think makes for an award-winning costume.
Preparation. If you take the time --ahead of time-- to research the sewing techniques, materials, and supplies you will require to complete the costume, and allow yourself the necessary schedule to do it, then you will even surprise yourself with your finished work. Half of my costume creation time is spent just wandering from hardware store to fabric store, comparing and experimenting. Just remember, procrastination is your enemy! (I can't tell you how many times I've pulled 48-hour sessions right before or at a Con to get things done...). Don't be afraid to experiment with solutions to costume problems. My KH Cloud went through about 3 variations as I learned better techniques and found better materials. Also, you'd be surprised how important the minor details of a costume can be. The most insignificant additions and minor touches will subconsciously improve the realism of your costume to the onlooker. Seriously, above all else, have fun with it. You can really see the love someone put into their costume... but nothing can spoil the fun of a costume more completely than having to squeeze 30+ hours worth of costume work at the last minute... which brings me back to my first answer to this question: Preparation.
You do some amazing things with hair. Care to share some anti-gravity tips?
Haha, most definitely. First off, for the more advanced hairstyles, I almost always use a wig. I require control and time to get the hair the best I can, and that's hard to do with your own hair (though I bow most respectfully to those who have). Now, what makes styling spikes and awkward 'floaty' hair styles so difficult? Gravity. Thus, instead of fighting gravity all the way, let it work for you. I pin my wig to a cloth/styrofoam wig-stand and rig an apparatus that allows me to hang the wig and wig-head at any angle I like. From here, I style the wig one spike at a time, hanging the wig so that the spike I am working on is pointing directly downward. When dry, I re-arrange the wig for the next spike, etc. This can take some time (Cloud's wig took me about 2 weeks at about 1-2 spikes a day), but the final product will be most satisfactory. Once again... Preparation! As for styling products, I usually use a combination of 'Hair-Ice Spiker' and 'Aquanet'... I swear, that combination can stop bullets.
How do you avoid letting a bad day get the best of you?
I tend to be a very positive person most of the time, mainly because I see little to gain from dwelling on the darker side of things. A bad day is only as bad as you let it be... go out and do something to finish your day on a better note. Plan for how much better tomorrow is going to be. Life is never all peaches and cream, but you decide how you handle the sour moments that are thrown at you. I prefer to learn from them and move on.
What's your current reason for cosplaying, and how has that changed since you started?
Have a few reasons why I currently cosplay. I enjoy the challenge of creating something with my bare hands, discovering new ways to design and duplicate complicated outfits and accessories, and finally donning the final product. While I enjoy wearing the costumes, I enjoy making them even more. Secondly, I typically cosplay characters that I myself care about. I've grown to love these characters for different reasons, but nevertheless, I care for them like you care for a character in a novel you love, or a movie you enjoy. I want to kind of 'pay homage' to these characters by re-creating them in the best way I can. As an actor, I enjoy the element of occasionally being in character as well, hehe. Finally, I enjoy the people. I've made a lot of friends through this hobby, and very few forms of social gathering can compare with the true Con experience! As it is, I can say that my reasons for cosplaying haven't really changed all that much since I began... and I like it that way. I'm here to have fun, and I hope that never changes.
As with anything, social events like cosplay can spawn drama among its participants. How would you suggest newcomers to this hobby protect themselves from negative vibes?
Ahhh, drama... one of the main reasons I'm a bit of a hermit in the community. My advice? Humility. A lot of people in this community take it far too seriously, and the 'popularity contest' aspect seems to drive many egos into a fiery maelstrom of drama. Try your best to be humble. Don't degrade others because they didn't put as much time into their costume as you did. Don't get caught up in the elitist cosplayer BS that some people foster. While the cosplay community is a microcosm, it is a society nevertheless. There will be friendly people and unfriendly people. Just don't forget that at its core, it's all for fun.
Tell us about your workflow and how you get from concept to costume/props/etc.
Initially, I draw out the entire costume as separate pieces. I study the size and design from all angles, using as much reference artwork as I can muster, and brainstorm on how I will be able to attach the pieces together as well as find a pattern to match the sewing needs of the outfit. If there's a weapon prop involved (which there usually is, it seems), I'll research the scale and the weapon and design a template. Then, I begin my hunt for materials... Home Depot, the Fabric District, Ace Hardware, the Salvation Army, etc... I hit up anything and everything that might contain supplies that I can convert to my needs. Depending on the weapon size, the materials needed can vary drastically. The Buster Sword has evolved from pinewood (far too heavy) to foam core with plastic coating (much better).
I've made 3 Buster Sword variations so far and probably will make 2 more down the road, hehe. Once I've gathered the supplies, I schedule the actual creation process so that the most time consuming aspects are finished first while the easier aspects are set back as final items. I get most of my work done late at night or early in the day on weekends. I always schedule to finish early; that way when the schedule slips (and it will), I won't be up the creek. Then comes the home stretch... but I must warn you. I seem to keep making the mistake of not wearing a finished costume until the actual con (usually due to time constraints). DO NOT DO THIS! Little surprises like to pop up and make your experience miserable... like 'wow, when the leather gets hot, it expands and the snaps come right off!' or 'I didn't think this wing needed a bigger counterweight.' *sigh*
Suppose Square Enix offered you a chance to create a new Final Fantasy character for the very last installment of the game. Would you reincarnate a prior character, or come up with a new character altogether? Explain.
Whoa, now that's a question. As much as I love FF7, and would thoroughly enjoy another game based on that world, Square is finally revisiting that realm (Advent Children, Before Crisis, etc), so my worries are suppressed. I would probably create a new character that embodies my favorite aspects of each favorite Final Fantasy lead character. A warrior with an undying sense of honor though repenting for past sins and dark deeds (Cecil)... slightly aloof from their comrades though warm at heart (Squall)... a sharp wit and sense of humor when able to express it (Zidane)... and carries a friggin' huge sword (Cloud)! Seriously, it's hard to say what I would design... but I think it may have to be a badass, female lead for once! Of course, creating a new villain would also be a delicious experience... *cue 'One Winged Angel' theme*
Where do you see yourself 5-10 years from now, and will cosplay be a catalyst to achieve that goal? If you have any rumors to dispel or anything else you'd like to add, please do so.
Five to ten years from now... I would like to see myself a successful film and television actor, respected for my talents. It continues to be a struggle, but things have been looking up recently, and I truly believe I can accomplish what I set out to do. Cosplay, interestingly enough, has helped me come into contact with a number of people who continue to support me in my choices... and some good business connections. If anything, cosplay has helped me realize how satisfying it is to work so hard on something you love, to throw yourself into a project with no expectations of compensation, and enjoy the outcome of your labor-of-love regardless. This has helped give me the inspiration to pursue the difficult and risky path of acting... and I can only hope it works out. If not, back to the game industry I go, lol.
As for rumors... I myself have successfully managed to avoid hearing any about me so far. I'm sure there are many floating about, but none have caught my ears yet, and I like it that way. People can think of me however they wish as long as they don't try and involve their negativity in my life. I'd like to think of myself as an all-around amiable person, so if anyone has any issues with me without getting to know me, then that's not my problem. ^_^
Matt, your responses motivate me to do more with my costuming. Your costumes are the epitome of what cosplay is all about and it is great to see that you are having fun with it. Final Fantasy fans likely shout "We're not worthy" when they see you approach in full gear. All the more reason to make sure we have fresh batteries and plenty of film in the camera. Best of luck with your career and with your future bride.
Garry aka Prof.