Thoughts and more

I don’t wanna grow up

I watched Adam Savage’s TED Talk about cosplay again last night. I’m sure there are like a billion blogs about that lecture, but I think I’m going in a different direction so give me a few. Savage discusses falling in love with the armor from Excalibur and a mass-produced Halloween costume from Jaws . I’ve discussed how I got into cosplay, but watching this prompted me to think further about it…like into my childhood and how that got me here. Mostly though, it made me think about how I just never want to grow up.

I remember my friend’s mom asking me what I wanted to be when I grow up. I think I was in kindergarten at the time. Without hesitation, I gave my answer, “A rabbit.” She laughed at me and told me I couldn’t be a rabbit. I mean, we were told we could be anything we wanted to be when we grow up. I didn’t get it. And I guess I still don’t get it. I want to be whatever I want to be.

What it all boils down to for me is that I never wanted to grow up. I mean I pay bills, go to work, and all that fun stuff. I adult the best I can. And I’m getting old. Man, I am like ancient in the cosplay world. But what is old to me? It’s not really an age. As cliche as it may sound, it’s really a state a mind. It’s losing that wonder and fun that life can bring. It’s closing your mind off to possibilities. It’s thinking that your numerical age defines what and who you are.

As a kid, I remember being so proud of my Halloween costumes that my mom made. I remember looking forward every year to the costumes for my dance recital. Those costumes made me feel so glamorous and exotic, like I was from another planet or at least Broadway. Those costumes took me somewhere. To a large extent, that’s what cosplay still does for me. When I put a costume on for the first time my adrenaline starts pumping. I get so excited. I might not exactly feel like I’m from somewhere exotic, but I definitely feel like I’m somewhere that isn’t just adult life.

In addition to the ability to escape, which as an adult type person is really wonderful, the actual making of cosplay is super important to keeping my mind active. When you’re young, like teenager young, for some reason you think adulthood is going to be dinner parties and fancy stuff. A lot of doing stuff. Secret: I’ve found it’s a lot of…boring. Most adults are too tired or busy with boring stuff like bills to challenge themselves. But cosplay does that for me. It keeps me problem solving and researching and learning and exploring.

So yeah, I’m gonna avoid getting old as long as I can. I’m gonna keep dressing up like superheroes and cartoon characters. I’m going to keep that world of whimsy and wonder in my life. I suggest you try it too. Don’t turn into an old person…they don’t even get memes.

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Guest Announcement Coming at Ya!

I’ve been asked by the awesome people who run Cleveland Concoction to come back as a guest this year! And of course I said yes. I love this con and getting to return as a guest is so, so, so exciting. Concoction is a totally volunteer and fan run convention that has everything you’d want out of your con experience. Tons of gaming and amazing programming tracks to keep your entire family or geek family busy all weekend. Filk, fantasy, art, writing, it’s all here.

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I’ve had the pleasure of being a guest at Concoction a few times before and it’s been a blast watching this con grow, so I’m extra excited to be going back after they’ve relocated to a new home. I know we all have different tastes and expectations from cons, but by far my favorite kind of con is the small intimate fan-run con where you can bump into guests at any moment and have a great conversation. And no matter what you leave the weekend feeling like you have an entirely new family. This is that kind of con.

I’m especially excited because Concoction has let me offer a workshop. If you’re interested in a new hobby, stop by for my needle felting workshop. It’ll be super fun and you’ll end up with supplies to take with you at the end of class. So what is needle felting? It’s the art of combining wool fibers to create cool art. Honestly, it’s the most fun you’ll have repeatedly stabbing something and not getting arrested. I love it. Check out some samples of my work. And that’s all done with wool. Pretty neat.

If you’re interested in attending my workshop, sign ups are now! Check out the registration information and get yourself signed up. Space is limited and filling up!

Con Crunch….not as good as Cap’n Crunch

The good old land of procrastination. It’s a comforting place for most of us cosplayers. We thrive a bit on the thrill and pressure of working towards an upcoming con. Deadlines are a great bit of self-imposed pressure in the cosplay world, but it’s also been the cause of so much burn out. Let’s just delve into the good, the bad and the burnout.

We should be honest here. We all procrastinate. I think it’s a fairly normal thing. Part of the reason for this is that we’re prioritizing things. Many times that outing with friends or family or completely rearranging your kitchen is higher on your list of things to do than making the pattern for the cosplay you need for a con in 3 months. You gotta do those things. Making sure your bills are paid or that you have clean clothes for work this week are important reasons to put other things off. Don’t freak out about it.

During these times that you are putting off the work you need to do for your cosplay can also be beneficial to your cosplay. Often we need a little bit of time and separation from the project to come up with the best ideas for it. Procrastinating can allow you to think through your creative problems. Your first and immediate response how you will make your cosplay might not be the best and allowing some time before you begin work can lead you to a better solution.

A little procrastination is pretty beneficial for a lot of people, but once we start pushing it to the extreme…that’s were the burnout comes from. Pushing yourself too close to the due date can definitely lead to making a lot of the wrong choices. We know that hot gluing our cosplays isn’t the best way to make them, but when you run out of time you’re more likely to make the choice to do that. The more we make these time-saving decisions the more likely we’re to run into the next two issues; our cosplays falling apart and some massively negative feelings towards our work. It’s a dead end for our mental health.

The negative consequences of procrastination doesn’t end with us personally. Putting off our own work, whether in the workplace or in cosplay, will often create more work and stress for others. In a group situation, putting off your part of the cosplay will ultimately mean someone else needs to work overtime to make up for it. Or consider this…not only will you be having an awful time dragging your sewing machine to a con and working until 4am, but your whole room will now have to try to sleep through your sewing that is if they haven’t kindly offered to stay up and keep you company or offering help.

So what do we do? We’re all going to procrastinate, but you’ve got to work with that knowledge. Give yourself small  and reasonable goals like finish styling your wig this week. That gives you a whole week to work on it and you can prioritize as needed. Finishing a wig in a week is doable, but finishing the entire cosplay in a week….probably isn’t. Don’t promise more than you know you can finish. I personally have a cosplay planned that I know I can’t complete to its entirety the first time I want to wear it. But I know I can get it to a good presentable place by the time I need to wear it and then I have plenty of time to add more details as I get close to the next time I’ll wear it.

Please remember you can say no to things you know you can’t complete. I know we want to do it all, but knowing when you can’t is much better for your mental health. It’s also important to know when do put something away because you can’t finish it in a week. It’s way better to rewear a cosplay that’s already finished than to attempt to hot glue a whole cosplay in a week. Put the hot glue down. Back away. You’ll be way happier when you can come back and finish that costume properly.

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Giving thanks to those behind the cosplayer

It’s that time of year, the holidays, gearing up for con season, sitting around in the dark because the sun goes down at 4pm, and I’ve got to thinking about all the people who make cosplay happen. There are so many and their support is vital to keeping us going.  First and foremost on my list is not my cats. To be fair, they’re adorable and I love having them around….but trying to crawl through my sewing machine is not what any cosplayer needs.

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Every cosplayer does need a friend who is willing to help them pick up things that are dropped, carry their wallet, fix a strap, and just generally help them navigate the con floor. Lord knows we can sometimes be pretty helpless and whiny in costume. Cosplay handlers, even if you never call them that, are so so so important. I want you to know from the bottom of my heart, you guys are the true heroes. You seek no attention, but are willing to help us show off. We owe you a lifetime of drinks.

All the friends who are willing to go along with group cosplay plans, you’re amazing too. I try not to do a lot of group cosplays for personal reasons, but I have had the pleasure of working with some awesome people. They’re always down for goofy photoshoots or collecting weird props. I’ve subjected people to some really weird stuff, but you never questioned it and for that I’m forever thankful.

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There is also an army of people who stay behind the scenes. They’re my support system while I work on stuff isolated in my house. These are the people who like and comment on my posts. Those who encourage me when I’m feeling discouraged. But this support system goes beyond social media and into the real world with people who are willing to buy my products or promote my events. You are the people who really make my world go ’round. I even have a friend who has encouraged me to start this blog. I cannot thank anyone enough for helping to push me and make me grow all while not expecting more than I can give in return.

My family doesn’t much support my costuming. Not that they don’t…they’re just indifferent to it for the most part. Shout out to my older brother for often bringing the niece and nephew to craft shows I’m a part of though because that’s really great. My biggest support comes from my friend, cos-manager and person who isn’t completely uncomfortable and creeped out that we’re constantly shipped together and/or cosplay as ships, Daena. Everybody deserves to have a person in their court and she’s mine. Not only will she let me bounce ideas off of her constantly, but she’s also willing to sit at my table at a con for hours on end. I literally and figuratively wouldn’t be able to do any of this without her help. In the cosplay world, there are lots of people who come and go, so I wish for all of you to find someone who will stick by your side. And for real, you need someone who you can laugh off the zero sales you made that day or the rude person at your panel and then be able to sit in a hotel room and eat too much pizza, breadsticks and macaroni and cheese that you impulse ordered on Grubhub.

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Find your people. Let them know how much you appreciate them. And try to be that person to them in return.

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Supporting Artists and Cosplayers Makes You a Hero

That’s right, a hero. Honestly. Your local artists are more than just some dude making stuff. They’re the people that help to bring vibrancy to our neighborhoods and cities and your support makes that possible.

I live at the crossroads of two worlds, crafting and cosplay, and it definitely gives me a wider perspective and how everything works together. That local craft show? Those people are not only making some amazing work and pouring their hearts and souls and maybe some other stuff into their products. Those people are putting the money they earn back into local businesses in a huge way. I cannot express how your dollars and cents really truly help your local world go around.

I wish I had more to write on this subject (generally, I try to keep a certain word count on my posts), but really I just want to encourage everyone to make an effort to keep your money local at cons, craft shows and whatever else you find. You’re getting cool stuff out of it and there is an artist who is so so so excited that you liked their stuff and were willing to hand them dollars for it. I promise your money will be going back to the community around.

I’m going to steal from a local arts and culture magazine local to me (oooh see how I tie this all together by promoting a local publication?). The Devil Strip  has started an initiative called LIFT Akron. LIFT stands for Local Investment, Local Fun and Local Transformation. It’s basically a month by month list of ideas to get you out and supporting your local community. Most of the ideas are transferable to pretty much wherever you live…except the Cuyahoga River part, but I’m sure you have some awesome local nature thing to celebrate. Help your people out and they’ll help you out.

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Save Yo’ Worbla Scraps or How to Do Something Other Than Sandwiching Craft Foam with Worbla or Why Do I Have This Bag of Worbla Scraps That Everyone Thinks is Broken Tortilla Chips?

So, Worbla is like really cool. The coolest. You literally don’t need to waste any of it. Yeah, it’s really expensive, but you’ll use every cent of that investment as long as you prepare for it. Case and point.

Save that stuff. Save every last bit of it. Even the teeny tiny pieces. They’re all still usable. But first you gotta gather up a bunch and make a pile.

Now that it’s in a pile, heat it up with your heat gun. Typically, I warm a little, flip it, and warm the other side. Lather, Rise, Repeat.

It’s starting to look like a gross colored bit of chewed gum. Perfect! Keep heating it up. Also, cover your fingers with asbestos (Note: Don’t cover your fingers with asbestos. It’s real bad for you.)

I’m working on armor for my Warrior Squirrel Girl costume, so I’m gonna make some acorn tops. You can make other stuff, but you’ll have to suffer through my project too. Out of that long hot dog pile of worbla, I cut off a small piece for the acorn top and just shaped it up a little. Then things get fun because worbla can be pressed into and given texture!

Yes, I literally used a cheap plastic comb. I pressed it into the warm worbla. It leaves an awesome texture so make fun of my crappy tools if you will. Press it in one direction and then the opposite direction. Think of all the things you can use for texture. There’s lots of cool stuff that’ll make texture. Mesh and combs and bottle caps. Dead serious. Think outside the box.

See? Cool looking. Use all the properties of worbla. Stop just sandwiching craft foam with it (I’m not knocking that; it’s a great technique. Just let yourself play more. These are scraps anyways!)

Ignore all my Sharpie marks, but there’s the finished little acorn. The scrap bits I used for the acorn tops not only allowed me to add texture, but it also allowed me to make them stick out a little further and depth is cool.

There’s my finished leg and arm armor. If anyone is confused as to why the base of my armor is black and not worbla-colored, it’s because it’s not worbla. It’s another, cheaper thermoplastic called kydex. But basically, what I want to say, is don’t let the price of worbla scare you away from trying new things. Sculpt that crap. Melt it down and start again. Make cool stuff. Always.

 

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The Isolation of Cosplay

As much as I love indulging my introvert side and definitely picture myself as a badass loner rebel, I have to admit cosplay can be crazy lonely.

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I absolutely love getting totally immersed in a project. Diving right in and focusing on nothing but pulling together my vision for hours at a time is so cool. But then you realize you haven’t left your house in three days and the only conversation you’ve had is with your cats and talking at Last Podcast on the Left because you’ve listened to your entire backlog of episodes. Like…you might be getting a little weird and definitely a little lonely.

Why is this hobby so lonely? A lot of us think about the cool social aspects of cosplay. We get to go to cons with literally thousands of our friends. We spend a weekend sharing a hotel room with the closest of those friends. We eat out and party. But the con is often the reward for a job well done and a chance to show off what you’ve been making for weeks by yourself. In your sewing room. By yourself. Not to mention, most of these friends you look forward to seeing usually live decently far away, sometimes in another state and other times across the country or further.

Cosplayers have been amazing at using technology to try to overcome the loneliness. Costuming communities through sites like Facebook have been a lifesaver for sharing the trials and tribulations of building a particular costume and convention specific groups help you to connect to those you see there. A lot of cosplayers, myself included, love to share updates on our works in progress via Instagram or apps like Cosplay Amino. Explore and see who might be out there to connect with.

So yeah, the internet is cool (Katie says because she’s old), but please remember you probably do need like some real life social interaction outside of cons too. Use that internet for more than just posting your cool stuff. Look around and see what’s available in your area. Local makerspaces and libraries have been pretty awesome at trying to provide places for cosplayers to come, hang out, share ideas, and just generally test out those social skills. These meetups can be like your mini con between cons.

Why is it important to talk about isolation in this community anyways? I think there’s a couple important things here. First off, it’s so helpful to know that you’re not alone in feeling that way. Just because you’re feeling lonely doesn’t mean cosplay doesn’t bring you joy anymore, but maybe you need to explore different ways to achieve what you’re doing. Also, it’s really important to take care of yourself. If you see that you’re starting to feel lonely, reach out and find some people to help you through. And lastly, being lonely seems to be the biggest cause of burnout for cosplayers. Cosplay is really awesome in so many ways, but it can consume you.

Take care of yourself and don’t let cosplay become everything to you, including your only company.

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