By Rizwan Merchant

Editor Note: Karmaluna Cosplay was chosen as the Representative Team at Anime St. Louis to represent the Eastern region of The United States at the 2014 U.S. World Cosplay Summit Finals at Anime Central 2014. Karmaluna Cosplay is comprised of two Michigan Cosplayers Karmada and Lunaladyoflight. The winner of this competition will travel to Japan for the International World Cosplay Summit and compete for America against representatives of the other countries involved in the WCS.


Introductions

Chrono Cross Group Photography by IM Instrumental Photography

Chrono Cross Group
Photography by IM Instrumental Photography

Tell us a little about yourself.
Emily: Hi, I’m Emily. I’m 26, I have a degree in Musical Theater, I speak Spanish and German, and I love glitter. I have a cat named Chester who assists me on all of my sewing projects, and I love him very much. I have a wonderful and supportive fiancé who understands that sometimes my house is a mess due to cosplay and is always looking to introduce me to new anime and games. I am also blessed with some of the best friends I could ever ask for and the majority of them are due to my involvement in cosplay.

Kristie: I’m Karmada, one half of the team Karmaluna Cosplay! I’ve been cosplaying for a good 12+ years now (I feel like I lose count some days and then I feel old, but you’re never too old for cosplay!). I enjoy creating beautiful garments, and some of my favorite parts of sewing together a costume are the initial planning, and then any precise tailoring. I just love it when those seams match up exactly as they should! I enjoy attending all manner of conventions, and love interacting with the crowd; I’m an entertainer at heart.

When did you start Cosplaying?
Emily: I began cosplaying in 2007 (Anime Central 2007 was my first convention), however my love of costumes goes back much further. I used to plan the craziest Halloween costumes with my mom, and in 1999 I began making costumes from the musical CATS.

Kristie: If I had to pinpoint an exact time I began cosplaying, I’d say it was around 2001 when a friend convinced me to make a Halloween costume based on a favorite anime we had at the time. I put a ton of research and effort into the costume (I had to get a lot of help hemming and putting together the top; I had no clue what I was doing!), and didn’t even realize that this was a thing that people do outside of Halloween.

What got you into Cosplaying?
Emily: In 1999, when we first got a computer, I would go onto the internet and look up Sailor Moon pictures to print out and use in collages. In one of my searches I found photos of girls cosplaying Sailor Moon. Even when I was too busy to use the internet very often those photos stuck with me. Once I got into college and started working I decided to try cosplay for myself. My first costume was Super Sailor Moon from the manga, complete with a rainbow skirt that took 18 hours to paint.

Kristie: After doing the Halloween anime costume, I was also involved with a local Renaissance Festival at my school, so I started learning how to make my own costumes for the events. It wasn’t until a year or two into that it was brought up to me that there are these things called Conventions, and you can go there in a costume like you’re at a Faire, and nobody will care because it’s normal there! Naturally, I couldn’t help myself and headed to a bigger con (other than my local college con), and I’ve been hooked ever since. I’ve got a box full of badges to recount the history – and I keep adding to it!

What is your favorite Cosplay that you’ve made (or worn)?
Emily: My favorite costume would have to be Takiko because I love Fushigi Yuugi and it displays a number of my skills in one costume. Or either of my Zelda costumes because I love Zelda.

Kristie: Oh gosh. This is a really hard question. I love almost everything I make, and often times I’ll wear them to the point they start falling apart. They’ve all got their own stories and their own sentimentality to them. So I guess long story short is I can’t pick just one? Some of my absolute favorites over the years have been: Luke Fon Fabre (Tales of the Abyss), Pascal (Tales of Graces F), Elizabeth (Black Butler), Peter White (Alice & the Country of Hearts), and Emmet Brickoswki (LEGO Movie). I’m sure there will be more in the future, so it’s just too hard to pick one – I love them all!

How do you determine what characters you Cosplay?
Emily: I usually choose a character with a design that I like, or would be flattering for me. I also cosplay characters I like or feel passionately about.

Kristie: First and foremost, I like to pick characters that I enjoy out of any series, manga, anime, videogame or otherwise. If I’m emotionally invested in the character, I’m much more interested in seeing the costume enter reality. My second qualification is how much fun I will have “being” this character. I love to entertain, and if somebody recognizes the outfit or wants a picture, I enjoy being able to just drop into the personality, and give them a memorable moment/photo. This is also why I don’t tend to cosplay a lot of “serious” characters; I have too much fun making silly faces.

Why do you enjoy Cosplaying?
Emily: I enjoy the sense of accomplishment from putting on a completed that I’ve worked hard on. I also enjoy cosplay as a creative outlet and as a way to connect with others. Cosplay connects people from different backgrounds and parts of the world because we all love the art of creating and/or wearing costumes.

Kristie: I enjoy bringing a design on a page to life. I love being able to breathe life and personality into fictional characters. I love bringing a character into reality. To me, the creative process is a thrilling thing – to see a drawing turn into a plan, into piles of fabric, and that fabric can become anything. It’s such a feeling of accomplishment when it’s done! (And the chance to entertain fans of the show/character is a big plus too!)

Do you have any dream costumes you want to make or wear?
Emily: I have too many to count. But for this year it is definitely “make more poofy gowns.”

Kristie: We don’t have enough room for the entire list, but if I had to pick a pie-in-the-sky costume, I want to make a Female Commander Shepard Armor Set. Mostly because I love her character, secondly because I’d love to make some armor – it’s been a while since I tried.

Out of all of your costumes, which was the hardest to fabricate?
Emily: My Sarah Sisulart costume from Lost Odyssey. It has over 1,000,000 stitches of embroidery, satin stitching, hand painting, corset parts, and everything was drafted from scratch. I definitely felt that even though I had years of experience while making it I was a complete novice again.

Kristie: Oswald from Odin Sphere. He wears almost an entire suit of armor, and I had no clue what I was doing. My husband helped me out back in the day, and we had to make so many mockups, poster board testers, duct tape doubles, the entire thing took us about 6 months to fabricate. Not to mention all the extra under layers I had to make to fit under the armor (mostly out of pleather), oh, and the light up sword too! It was a beast to make, but I was actually capable of running in the suit of armor with little/no hindrance, and to me, that’s a pretty awesome thing to be able to do.

What are some Cosplays you are currently working on?
Emily: Aside from some tweaks to Kohane, I am working on a lolita version of Rico Brzenska from Attack on Titan. The outcome of the World Cosplay Summit US Finals determines what comes next for me.

Kristie: I don’t have anything at the moment; I’m taking a short break from making much of anything to prepare for the upcoming finals, as well as the shows I’ll be working at.

Which costume are you most looking forward to wearing in the future?
Emily: Out of all my future costumes this year I am looking forward to making Princess Zelda from A Link Between Worlds. It reminds me of Queen Zelda from A Link to the Past, which was a favorite costume of mine.

Kristie: I’m going to say there probably isn’t room for the entire list? I think every cosplayer has a “future cosplay” list that’s a mile long, and since I’m in a sewing break I haven’t really taken the time to decide what I want to make in the future. Who knows what I’ll read/watch between now and then; I might get inspired and make something completely new I hadn’t even though of making yet.

Do you think you will ever retire from Cosplaying?
Emily: I think someday I will tire of the hobby, but that day is not today.

Kristie: From cosplay in general? Probably not. From competing? Most likely. I can determine making fewer costumes in the future, but I think I’ll always be a cosplayer at heart. I’ve been doing competitions for a long time now, and I’d rather the awards go to newer cosplayers. I’ve got more than enough on my shelf :)

xxxHolic

xxxHolic

Have you ever considered wearing costumes outside of conventions, for your day-to-day life?
Emily: I put too much work and money into my costumes to wear them regularly. They’re built sturdily but I’d rather not have to wash them that often.

Kristie: Certainly not! However, if this question is changed to “Has cosplay inspired you to make your own clothing to wear” then the answer is YES! I just have yet to find the patterns I’d like to wear in real life, but I’d like to take this knowledge I’ve learned from making costumes to apply it to everyday durable garments.

Do you tend to fabricate/make your own costumes or buy them?
Emily: I make all of my own costumes, but sometimes if I’m running short on time, and not competing, I have nothing against buying a costume.

Kristie:  I do indeed! The closest I get to “buying” costumes is when I’m doing a “found item” cosplay and end up using pre-made garments and editing them. Or if I need dress shirts, or basic pants and shoes and the like. Otherwise, I feel I need to make them if only because I’m picky and I need my costumes to be durable and fit me exactly. A lot of prefab costumes, while pretty, are made of lighter materials and I tend to wear costumes for 10+ hours a day. They got to stand up to the stress and being washable is a plus.

In the World of Cosplaying

What experiences in your life have changed the way you Cosplay?
Emily: I have had a lot of experiences with negativity in my life. (Cosplay) has allowed me to be able to grow and move past it. When I make a costume, I make it the way I imagine it. I am open to outside suggestions but I tend to do things in the way I think would work best for me.

Kristie: I worked for a fabric store for a short period of time as their webmaster – and I learned SO much about sewing from the other employees. I gathered a lot of information on vocabulary and fabric types as well as finishing techniques and pattern editing techniques. We all had to make the sample garments displayed in the store, and I’ll admit, those couple of years really ramped up my sewing abilities!

 

Lost Odyssey

Lost Odyssey

What kind of reactions do you receive for any alterations and reinventions of character designs and attire?Emily: I’ve received positive and negative reactions, but they’re mostly positive.

Kristie: I’ll admit, I don’t usually alter or reinvent character designs, so I’ll bow out of this particular question. I have, however, made my own characters’ costumes in real life (I draw cartoons/comics as well as play Tabletop RPGs – and character design is one of my favorite parts of it). Taking the drawings I’ve made and making them real is a fun thing to do – it also has helped me draw them more accurately as now I know where all the seams should be!
How do you react to the attention your cosplays generate?
Emily: I tend to not react to negativity, but if someone compliments me I will genuinely thank them. Or if they ask questions about how I did something I will do my best to help them.

Kristie: I’m always grateful when people like what I’ve made. I will chat with anybody who’s noticed my costume or happen to recognize what I’m from. Since I like the characters I’m cosplaying it makes it very easy to strike up a conversation with a fan! I also love answering questions on how I made parts of my costume, and I have to make sure not to be too much of a chatterbox, hahaha! Frankly, I don’t put a lot of emphasis on whether or not I’m getting tons of attention, I’m just happy wearing the costume I’ve made, and if it puts a smile on another patron’s face, then I’m even happier!

 

What are some of your favorite moments while cosplaying?
Emily: I enjoy my older, more obscure cosplay being recognized. It is nice to know that people still enjoy the classics! People recognizing Takiko or my old school Zeldas definitely stand out.

Kristie: There’s a lot, but a couple really stand out to me. One, while I was dressed as Luke Fon Fabre, I was continually being called silly names by fellow con-goers (since he starts out as a big stuck up jerk in the game, and they’ve clearly played/watched it), and I’d come up with little quips and backtalk to the attendees, and they’d start to laugh when I try to defend myself in character. This became a running joke the whole weekend. Another one, and I kind of group these kind together, is interacting with kids. Sometimes I’ll dress as characters known to younger kids (like Ben Tennison from Ben 10, or Emmet from the LEGO movie), and their eyes will light up and they’ll get really excited like they’re seeing a face character at Disney World. I do my hardest to be in character for them, chat with them in character and always offer to stand with them for a photo if they want one. They get so excited, and I love making their day a little brighter! My last and favorite moment was actually my Oswald costume, which was a complete secret to just about everybody. A friend of mine cosplayed from the same game (Odin Sphere), and she was sad that nobody else did, so my husband and I secretly constructed this full suit of armor, and got her to come to the convention in the corresponding costume. We brought her in, and I got to surprise her in a big crowd, spouting dialogue from the game (my character was to wed the character she was playing), and she started to cry, but it was a happy cry! It was really magical that it all worked out and she was legitimately surprised!

Do you participate or have you participated in any cosplay contests (Convention, online, etc)?
Emily: I have been competing since January 2008. I mostly participate in convention competitions but I have participated in a few online contests as well. I have been judging since 2009. I was also a cosplay department head for three years.

Kristie: I’ve been competing in Convention Cosplay contests since forever. Gosh, I think I started in like 2003-2004 (I didn’t win anything until 2005)? I’ve not really participated in costume contests outside of conventions, so I can’t really weigh in on those ones. I’ve also had the chance to run a local convention’s Cosplay Contest for 3 years, so it was nice to give back to my original starter convention and be on the other side of the judging booth!

Tsuyuri Kohane from xxxHoLic

Tsuyuri Kohane from xxxHoLic

Have you won any awards for your cosplay? If so, what kind and/or where did you win them?
Emily: Honorable Mention Craftsmanship Youmacon 2008
Best Novice Performance Youmacon 2010
Best Journeyman Craftsmanship JAFAX 2012
Cosplay Shinkou Best Overall Craftsmanship 2012
World Cosplay Summit US 2013 Katsucon Preliminary 1st Place (team)
Best Master Skit Colossalcon 2013 (team)
Limelight Masquerade Best Overall Craftsmanship Summer 2013
Best in Show Godaikocon 2013
Best Master Kaizokucon 2013
Best Master Craftsmanship Hallway Youmacon 2013 (team)
Best in Show Youmacon 2013 (team)
World Cosplay Summit US 2014 Midwest Preliminary 1st place (team).

Kristie: I will admit, I’ve kind of lost count, as some of the awards are given for multiple people and there’s only one certificate or statue given. But, if I had to estimate, I’d say I’ve gotten close to 18+ awards (if we’re counting some judges choice and hallway awards in there) over the past decade.  They’re a mixture of varying stages, levels, and such. With some being Judges Choice, a couple of Hallway wins, the rest are either 1st in a category (usually novice or journeyman) with a couple of Best in Shows mixed in there. I’ve gotten awards for mainly craftsmanship, but a few performances are in there too! The highest awards of the bunch (aside from Best in Shows) are probably the two WCS qualifier first place certificates I’ve got on the wall. Other shows I’ve won awards at are Anime Central, JAFAX, Youmacon, Colossalcon, Anime Crossroads, Anime World Chicago, and probably a couple more I might not be remembering off the top of my head? I will say, I didn’t start winning right away. I didn’t compete and win anything until 5 years into my cosplaying journey.

What was the first event/convention you went to?
Emily: Anime Central 2007

Kristie: The very first “Convention” I went to was JAFAX, which is a small college-run convention that takes place at my Alma Mater, GVSU. My first “Big Convention” (like one that’s at a con center and everything) is Anime Central, which a friend of mine convinced me to wear my costume and drive down for a day. Best day ever! I’ve been hooked ever since.

 

What is your stance on handmade vs store-bought cosplay?
Emily: As long as you aren’t using a pre-made or bought costume to compete in a craftsmanship competition I have no problem with it. Have fun and do what makes you happy.

Kristie: I live by the motto, “If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong!” I believe that as long as the cosplayer is enjoying themselves, it doesn’t matter if you made it from scratch or you bought it from the internet. The only time handmade vs store-bought matters is if you’re competing for craftsmanship in a contest. Then you probably should have made most of the costume yourself. :)

 

How do you feel about those who get into character while cosplaying? Do you get into character as well?
Emily: I do not get into character while cosplaying, but I will pose for photographs in character. Sometimes it can be a bit strange when you need to communicate with someone and they’re in character, but most people will drop character when they realize you’re trying to communicate with them as opposed to the character.

Kristie: I find this a touchy subject. While I like the idea of people getting into character for photos, a short meet-n-greet, and maybe photoshoots, I tend to frown on those who want to be the character all day. First off, it’s exhausting. Secondly, not everybody at the show knows what you’re from let alone what your character would do. Not all cosplayers have theatrical/live show experience so they tend to keep trying to interact with people who have no clue what the cosplayer is doing. This is what causes the rifts. I tend to recommend people not be in character unless you are specifically being interacted with (the attendee noticed/talked to you first), or you’re taking photos. This is pretty much how I do things – I’ll drop into character if somebody recognizes what I am (especially if they indicate an interest in the character), or they want a photo. I get a lot of memorable experiences and photos that way, and it’s a lot less stressful too!

Is there anyone you’ve always wanted to meet and have a photoshoot with?
Emily: There are many very talented cosplayers that I would love to cosplay with, I don’t think I could say just one.

Kristie: Welp, I can’t say that there is. I’ll admit right now, I don’t follow up on a lot of other cosplayers or photographers, but not out of any sort of elitism. I’m honestly just too busy making things (aside from costumes, I do a lot of artwork), so my time on the internet is very limited. I guess I could say I’d love photoshoots with enthusiastic cosplayers and photographers who can tell me what direction to look to get the best photo!

 

Personal Experiences

Heart no Kuni cosplays Photography by LCP

Heart no Kuni cosplays
Photography by LCP

What would you say are the challenges of Cosplaying?
Emily: Budget and skill. Cosplay is an expensive hobby; for some people it takes months of saving and coupon clipping to put together one costume. There are also many popular designs that require certain skill levels and experience before they’re attempted. I attempted a few designs that were well above my skill level when I was a novice. They were difficult to work on and I recommend to new cosplayers to hone their skills on simpler designs before tackling something too complicated.  They can avoid a lot of frustration if they learn at their own pace. I want to say try to avoid making cosplay stressful. Time management goes into that as well. If you aren’t good at managing your time and are finishing things 12 hours or less before the con, you will be frazzled and frustrated. We’ve all been there and it is not an enjoyable feeling.

Kristie: The internet. While I may be a chatterbox at conventions, especially while in a costume, I’m actually very reserved and quiet on the internet and outside of conventions. I’ve watched social media grow and change as cosplay has flourished, and it’s kind of a double-edged sword. While it’s great to be able to find photos SO much easier than back in the day, it leaves a lot of us open to hurtful comments from anonymous people. I’m still struggling with how much I want to put up there, let alone keep up with it (I often don’t update my own profiles for MONTHS at a time. Just ask Emily. I’m really slow at getting con pics up). Maybe someday I’ll figure out a happy medium.

 

How do you deal with the constructive criticisms that you receive on your Cosplays?

Emily: I accept constructive criticism and am always looking for a way to improve.

Kristie: I can’t say I’ve gotten a lot of criticism from people on my cosplays, but this relates to the personal challenges I have that I don’t put myself out on Social Media very much or often enough for people to worry about it. Though, I will admit, I think I’m a tougher critic on myself than others can be when they’re trying to be nice about it. I usually know every mistake I’ve made in a costume so I just take that knowledge, learn from it, and apply it to the next costume. This is how we all improve our own work in the end!
Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring Cosplayers?
Emily: Research, research, research, and follow online tutorials. Also try, and try again. Mistakes happen and are part of the learning process. Experienced cosplayers make mistakes and learn from them as well. Also don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Kristie: Do what makes you happy. Don’t be sad if people don’t take your picture. You’re doing this for you. Other people enjoying your craft is just icing on the cake. :)

 Outside of Cosplaying

Do you have any hobbies other than cosplaying?
Emily: I enjoy watching anime with my fiancé. I also enjoy reading and playing video games.

Kristie: Oh yes! I’m an avid artist, and I’m usually found in the Artist Alley at conventions (yes, still in cosplay too! Haha). I make mainly prints, but I’m working on some comic projects I hope to reveal later this year, and I’m super-excited about those. I’ve been drawing longer than I’ve been sewing, and it’s fun when I can actually apply the knowledge both ways. Knowing how to create garments has improved my character drawing/design tenfold. Other hobbies include Tabletop RPGs, Dancing, Typography/Layouts, and Package Engineering (I love making packaging for my own products)! Oh, I suppose I watch anime and play videogames somewhere in there too.

Do you have any helpers (pets) that often assist you?
Emily: My 5 year old orange tabby, Chester. He is the best cat in the world!

Kristie: Alas and alack! I do not! I hope someday to have a puppy of my own though.

Is there anything you do outside of Cosplaying that gives you ideas of what to do for a costume?
Emily: My love for theater gives me lots of ideas for costumes. Sometimes I will try to recreate what I see onstage or on film in a skit or costume.

Kristie: I’m always constantly creating things for my booth, so I tend to learn a skill to make something for that, and it ends up getting applied to costumes in some way, shape, or form. While I may do mainly prints, I occasionally dabble in the 3-D world making bags, props, trinkets, jewelry, and the like. You’d be surprised how much making products has lent itself to engineering parts of a costume you can’t sew.

 Final Words to the Readers

Chrono Cross

Chrono Cross

Emily: Cosplay for you first, and don’t worry about the fame game. Genuine appreciation doesn’t come from Facebook likes, but from your own love of the art. Also, never stop making friends. Some of the best friends I’ve met through this hobby are or have been my competition. If you have an opportunity to either criticize or compliment, always compliment.

 

For more information on Karmaluna, check out their social media below!

Emily: Deviantart: http://lunaladyoflight.deviantart.com,
ACP: http://www.acparadise.com/loves/lunaladyoflight
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/lunaladyoflight
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/karmalunacosplay
Tumblr: http://www.tumblr.com/blog/lunaladyoflight

Kristie: Karmada Cosplay: https://www.facebook.com/KarmadaCosplay
Anime Cosplay Paradise: http://www.acparadise.com/loves/karmada
Karmada Tumblr (both artwork and cosplay!): http://karmada.tumblr.com/
Karmada DeviantArt (both artwork and some cosplay!): http://karmada.deviantart.com/
Crash Bang Labs (My artwork): https://www.facebook.com/CrashBangLabStudio