Tell us about your first cosplay experience. When, where, what, etc.
I began cosplaying in 2000. A dear friend had been attending Anime Weekend Atlanta for a few years, and repeatedly told me about it, suggesting I should go. At that time, I was watching Tenchi Muyo faithfully, and fell in love with the Ryo-Ohki character. The two of us contrived to build costumes and cosplay at Anime Weekend Atlanta 6. I built Ryo-Ohki, my very first costume, with the help of my mother, who worked out my design flaws. The Cabbit was well received at AWA, getting lots of hugs and photos.
You've done a number of full body costumes that are great. What made you decide to attempt them?
Believe it or not, I began showing an interest in mascot-style costumes from working for the JC Penney Company. I was asked to perform as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer one holiday season and was provided with the costume. The fun thing about full-body costumes is that no one knows exactly who is inside, so therefore, you become the character. After having so much fun being Rudolph, when the time came to make my own costumes, I wanted the performer anonymity I had experienced before.
Another reason is that after seeing photos of mascot character costumes, I noticed that the majority of them seemed to be either bodysuits with hoods that had ears attached, or the ever-popular tank-top / skirt / ears on a headband idea. Cute enough, sure, but to me, that didn’t seem very much like portraying the actual character. There seemed to be a lack of full-body costumes, so I said to myself, “There’s my niche,” and stepped in.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing full body costumes?
For me, the pros outweigh the cons in my choice of costume styles. But in case anyone else out there is thinking of making mascot-style costumes, they should know this:
How do you go about making the elaborate heads for your costumes?
The head is the most important part of the costume. It’s where people look first. If your head doesn’t look right, the rest your costume seems unfinished. I’ve tried many methods for making the heads. What I’ve found works best is plastic cross-stitch mesh rounded out with foam, or carving the shape you need from a solid block of upholstery foam. I made the mistake of using paper-mache for Ein’s head, and found it didn’t stand up to the abuse the head had to take, along with the moisture that collects inside mascot heads.
Lets look at Moro, for example. Her head is constructed from plastic mesh, first contoured to my head to make a sort of helmet for my head to fit in. Then I added the muzzle supports, and the jaw. Once I had the basic shape made, I then covered it with foam cut from 1-inch thick foam sheets, hot-gluing it on layers until I had the shape I needed.
Once that’s complete, I had to lay the fur on and trim very carefully until it lay where I wanted it. Then, I hot-glued it to the foam and hand-sewed where the edges of the fur met. Then, I added details like her nose, her teeth and gums, tongue, and eyes and ears. I had to play with her expression until I was satisfied, before finalizing everything.
If not for the fabulous cash prizes and the fame associated with cosplay, why do you do it?
There’s cash prizes in cosplay? Ha, ha. But seriously, prizes and fame were not even close to my thoughts when I decided to take up cosplay as a hobby. I’ve had a liking for costumes ever since I was small, and it felt good to have an outlet for all my creative energy. I get a kick out of becoming my character. When you put on a mascot head, you cease to be yourself and become your character. It’s a performance with anonymity. No one knows who you are inside. When I put on Ein, I am Ein. I also found that the more my costume pleases people, the more it pleases me. It’s thrilling to walk across the cosplay stage and hear the crowd roaring their approval of your costume.
What would make you stop cosplaying?
I don’t think there’s a whole lot that would make me stop cosplaying. I like it far too much. But I suppose if something MADE me stop, it would have to be something with my family. Family comes first. Then cosplay.
How do you deal with adversity in life?
Adversity is something we all face. Sometimes you just have to suck it up and deal with it. However, when times really get rough, I rely on my fiancée, my family, and my friends to pull me though. Some days, you just need that lil’ extra push to get you going, you know? I can always rely on the special people in my life to get me though most anything.
What will you be if and when you grow up?
I try to avoid growing up as much as possible. Being an adult can be so boring sometimes. But I’ve found a way to incorporate my hobby into the “real world.” I’ve started taking costume commissions on the side. Ideally, though, I’d like to own my own costume shop where people could either rent a character for an event, or even commission a costume to use as a company mascot. I think it would be a good career for me, as it would not only utilize my love of costuming, but my art degrees that I’ll someday complete as well. Maybe I’ll do a little freelance artwork on the side. Who knows? Maybe I could be the next Jim Henson.
If you were chosen to make a costume for a live action movie character and you'd get to play the part, which character would it be and what would you do to make your outfit Hollywood quality?
I’ve always wanted to see someone do a live-action version of Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, one based on the complex storyline of the manga, not the shorter version of the anime. The horseclaws (the big, Chocobo-like birds they ride) in the manga have always fascinated me. I would love to make Kai, Nausicaä’s mount, feathers and all. I would have the creature’s head, eyes, and beak be animatronic, so they would appear life-like. Feathers would also cover Kai’s body, and real tooled leather used for his saddle and trappings. I would also probably use a latex cast for his skin on his legs. Needless to say, it would be an expensive project.
What are some of your favorite costuming sources?
My mom works for the local Jo-Ann’s store, so I shop there a lot because I get an extra discount. Hancock’s is also a good choice if they happen to have the fur I need in stock. I use a lot of online retailers and catalogs because sometimes faux fur can be hard to find if you’re looking for a particular color or thickness. Most people at the companies I speak with on the phone when calling for information are very polite. They like to hear what you’re making and will usually assist you and send you fabric samples.
Any rumors to dispel?
I found when attending a convention last year that most people who see my costumes, but don’t know me, think I’m a guy under all that fur. I’m not! I’m 100% female, baby. I guess it's odd that a girl would want to spend her time inside a hot, stuffy costume. I’ve also heard that some think I can be hard to approach. I’m not! I LOVE to talk to other cosplayers, to answer questions about my costumes, and so on. Sometimes I can be a little short with people if I’m hot and need some water or to take a break, I suppose. But don’t take it personally, I’ll be back when I’ve cooled down!
I appreciate this opportunity to tell others about what I like to do. I know some may have more questions about my costumes, and please, feel free to e-mail me about them! I love making new online friends!
AnimeCat, I truly admire the work that you put into each of your costumes. Your passion for cosplay and mascoting is the heart of what I consider cosplay to be about. I've always been amazed at the creativity and detail required to pull off these types of costumes. I wouldn't even know where to begin. Thank you for sharing some of your insight and best of luck in all you do.
Garry aka Prof.