By Rizwan Merchant

Editor Note: Phaleure Cosplay is part of The Cosplay Team Teacup Kiwi Studios with fellow cosplayer Envel. Teacup Kiwi Studios was chosen at Katsucon to advanced to the 2014 U.S. World Cosplay Summit Finals at Anime Central 2014. The winner of this event will travel to Japan to represent the United States in the international World Cosplay Summit, where they will compete against representatives from other countries.

 


Introductions

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Berserker Yuna – FFX-2

Tell us a little about yourself.
Hidy-ho! I’m Lauren, a self-proclaimed jack-of-all trades. By day, I work as a chemical engineer building training simulators for power plants. By night, I am a costume-making, cupcake-baking, game-playing, corgi-taming lover of life and things! I have a constant need to learn more and do more, and am always doing what I can do expand my knowledge pool.

When did you start Cosplaying?
I first started cosplaying in 2003 at a local Baltimore con called Otakon. I  had attended the con the year prior with a handful of friends who had built their own costumes from the anime series Trigun. I saw how much fun everyone in costumes was having, and was blown away at some of the amazing creativity of the costumes. I knew I needed to try it, so the very next year I created my own costume and was a part of the fun!

What got you into Cosplaying?
I first started cosplaying because of a group of friends who thought it would be a fun idea to create costumes to celebrate their favorite series, Trigun. I did not make a costume to wear with them, but I saw how much fun they were having and was really impressed with the creativity and ingenuity that many of them had to display in order to create their costumes. As a generally crafty person, I thought it would be really fun to try to make a costume from my favorite game, so I did, and I have been hooked ever since.


What is your favorite Cosplay that you’ve made (or worn)?
My favorite cosplay that I have made is probably my Pinkie Pie Grand Galloping Gala Ballgown. I adore the costume not only because of my love for the character and show (My Little Pony : Friendship is Magic), but also, when I wear the costume, I cannot help but be happy and playful. It is a bright pink (my favorite color) poofy cupcake (my favorite food) dress that is just over-the-top and fun (my favorite thing). Aside from my love of the show, character, and design, the actual dress was designed by my good friend Kaitlin Reid (Sunsetdragon) who I met through cosplay. So it also means a great deal to me in that regard, since I have met so many of my amazing friends through cosplay. The dress just embodies everything that I think cosplay should be about, so it is an easy pick to be my favorite.

How do you determine what characters you Cosplay?
Normally, I chosoe to cosplay a character because I love them, or because I play as them (like in a fighting game), or because I connect to them emotionally on some level, even if it is just because I love their design (because adoration for a design is an emotional connection). I don’t cosplay every character that I connect with, but that is normally the first level for me. Once I decide that I like a character or the character’s design, I then start to analyze it on a construction level. I always ask myself is there some new skill or challenge this costume presents that will force me to learn or grow as a cosplayer. If the answer to both questions is yes, then it is going on my to-do list.

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Royal Milk Tea – Sakizou “Afternoon Tea”

Why do you enjoy Cosplaying?
When I went into college I had considered two majors, art or science, because those were the two subjects in school which really captivated my mind. I ended up choosing science, but after a 9-5 science related job, when I get home I have this pushing need to put my hands on something, to design, create, and make things – to really get my hands dirty. For me, cosplay has turned into a way for me to apply my passion for science to something creative and artsy. Yin and Yang. It makes me feel whole. Not to mention all of the people who I have met through this hobby – they also enrich my life – making me more than just whole, but fulfilled.

Do you have any dream costumes you want to make or wear?
I have a few dream costumes. My first one was Berserker Yuna, which I finally made 3 years ago. I had wanted to make that costume since I started cosplaying but didn’t feel that I had the skills to do it justice, but I was finally able to make it and wear it and felt like a long-term goal had been finally completed. Now my dream costume is a Terran Medic from the game StarCraft II; that costume seems like a monster of a project, and I’m brushing up on my monster-slaying skills so hopefully I will get there some day!

Out of all of your costumes, which was the hardest to fabricate?
My hardest fabrication on an entire costume was my Blood Elf Death Knight, because the costume was an entire suit of armor, and required a lot of sculpting, shaping, sanding, and painting. I am still not done with all of the details on the costume and have been slowly adding them as time passes by. But, if I had to pick a single piece or prop of a costume, it would be Pyrrha’s (Soul Calibur) demon arm. The arm is made of silicone and was the culmination of about 2 years of research and experimentation. I was really proud of how it turned out and how much I learned to make it happen.

What are some Cosplays you are currently working on?
My current list of projects includes many a suit of armor and big weapon. I am working on creating some ghastly weapons to add to my Death Knight cosplay. I have been slow to make them since I am using them to film a tutorial and it’s always difficult to take time and set up a camera when you have a deadline looming. But, other than that, I have an Orc Warrior costume that I am gearing up for, and a fancy Seraphim costume designed by the Japanese Artist Sakizo that I am working on. I am also working on an original elf queen with leather tooled armor for the local Ren Fest. I try not to bite off more projects then I can chew, because inevitably a new costume will roll in and I don’t want to *forget* to finish anything that I started.

Which costume are you most looking forward to wearing in the future?
I just recently finished my Pyrrha Omega costume from Soul Calibur V. I didn’t get to wear it that much at Katsucon, so I am really looking forward to wearing it and getting some really awesome photos of it. I also am excited to wear my Death Knight costume again, since I never got to show off the weapons I was making.

Do you think you will ever retire from Cosplaying?
At one point in my life I thought that cosplay was a hobby I would do as a kid, but now as an adult I don’t think there is an age limit on cosplay and I don’t see myself retiring any time soon. I have met so many amazing people and learned so much through this hobby that I just can’t see a senario in life where I wouldn’t want these things. I can see myself now, as an elderly lady in my rocking chair sanding a breastplate – that makes growing up not seem so bad.

Have you ever considered wearing costumes outside of conventions, for your day-to-day life?
My friends and I have worn our costumes out to parks and museums for photoshoots, even if there isn’t a special costume event occurring. We spend way too much time and love to keep these costumes private for convention floors only. I’m not sure I would ever wear a breastplate to work, but honestly if I did I’m not sure any of my co-workers would be surprised.

Do you tend to fabricate/make your own costumes or buy them?
I generally fabricate and make my own costumes. For me half the fun is in the research, blood, sweat, and tears that I put into creating my costumes. It might not be that way for everyone but it is for me.

What experiences in your life have changed the way you Cosplay?
I started cosplaying before I got into college, and before I really knew about the vast array of information available for my hungry brain’s consumption. I took some classes on materials science, where we learned about thermo-plastics and polymers and catalytic reactions, which translates to worbla, silicone, and resins. In my physics class I learned about circuits and electricity, which translates into LED lights and wiring for my costumes.  I think going to college and learning all of the information out there that I didn’t know yet and that I was capable of learning really opened my eyes to the endless possibilities available. I am always scouring the internet for new technologies that I can apply to my cosplays.

What kind of reactions do you receive for any alterations and reinventions of character designs and attire?
I can’t really remember a time that anyone approached me about altering or reinventing my character’s design, but I do those types of things all the time. I alter shapes to flatter my body, or use different shades of wig fiber to better compliment my skin tone, or add/remove details to make the costume more appealing. The truth of the matter is that sometimes 2-D costumes don’t translate well into real life and if i think I have an idea to make a costume more appealing to me then I am going to do it. If that frustrates people then that’s going to have to be something they need to deal with, because it doesn’t bother me, and I’m the one making/wearing the costume.

How do you react to the attention your cosplays generate?
It is flattering. It is really flattering and encouraging and reassuring when people appreciate my costumes because it means that they appreciate what I do and what I am passionate about. I have had people approach me at conventions and recognize who I am, and that is just an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment to know that other people know what I do and like it.

Phaleure 03What are some of your favorite moments while cosplaying?
My favorite moments are those I share with my friends. Competing on stage for the first time with my cosplay partner Jo, running around Washington D.C. in Yukatas and crazy wigs just trying to capture some shots with the cherry blossoms, smashing 4 of us in a car and driving 3 hours away to NJ to dress up as My Little Ponies for a nail polish photoshoot. I have so many amazing memories while cosplaying that I could do an entire interview on just those things.

Do you participate or have you participated in any cosplay contests (Convention, online, etc)?
I am a very competitive person by nature. I love to be on top, or be the best, but sometimes I feel like it’s hard to really enjoy a hobby for fun when you are trying to win. However, I have been competing the past 3 years to hopefully win the WCS (World Cosplay Summit) slot for team USA with my partner, Jo. I love the competition because the people involved and even the other competitors make it seem less like a “you vs me” and more like “We are in this together.” The competition encourages people to push themselves to make the things they thought they couldn’t make and do the things they never thought possible, and make amazing friends who all have the same passion as you. I have met many friends through the competition and I feel like when push comes to shove, that is the real prize.

Have you won any awards for your cosplay? If so, what kind and/or where did you win them?
 I don’t usually compete with my costumes. I have only won 2 awards for my cosplay, for a team competition (WCS). I love my costumes dearly and for me just wearing my costumes around the con and talking to other cosplayers and craftsman about my costume and making friends is award enough.

What was the first event/convention you went to?
Otakon 2002.

What is your stance on handmade vs store-bought cosplay?
The very first costume I wore was commissioned, and seeing how that costume was made like looking at seams and construction techniques gave me the courage to make my own costume. I like to make my own costumes because I get enjoyment out of the construction phase of the costume, but that isn’t going to be the same for every person. If you want to cosplay, you should cosplay however makes you feel happy, and that’s about all there is to it.

Bloodelf Deathknight

Bloodelf Deathknight

How do you feel about those who get into character while cosplaying? Do you get into character as well?
I don’t usually *become* a character when I cosplay, but I try to consider my character’s personality when I am posing for photos. Sometimes I will act in character if there is a little kid asking for a picture or if someone specifically requests it of me, but I find I have more fun being myself. Some people like to become a character when then don the costume, and I think that is an amazing skill to be able to throw away who you are and become a character altogether. It all comes down to what makes you happy; if you are happy, then you are doing it right.

Is there anyone you’ve always wanted to meet and have a photoshoot with?
I love to meet new people through cosplay! Meeting people and making new friends and connections is one of my favorite things and cosplay is a great icebreaker. There are many people that I look up to in the hobby who I have not had the pleasure of meeting in real life, but I’m sure it will happen in the future!

What would you say are the challenges of Cosplaying?
Aside from trying to re-invent physics and bring mind-numbingly impossible designs to life? For me cosplay is a challenge, it’s a hobby about seeing challenges and tackling them head on. Cosplay has also challenged my skills at budgeting, time management, and patience (stress management). But what fun would it be without the challenge?

How do you deal with  the constructive criticisms that you receive on your Cosplays?
I don’t usually compete in my costumes or actively seek criticism for them, so i do not have a lot to deal with usually. But I am always looking to grow as a cosplayer and crafter, so if people have constructive criticism that will improve my costume or challenge me to work harder then I will generally take it into consideration. Either to improve the costume they are criticizing or to improve my future costumes.

Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring Cosplayers?
Don’t be afraid to try. Learn from your failures. And, above all else, don’t forget to have fun!

Outside of Cosplaying

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My Little Pony Gala Gown

Do you have any hobbies other than cosplaying?
I do – many. I love sports and outdoors activities. My favorites are soccer and rock-climbing, but I also really enjoy hiking and weightlifting. I also love to bake – making cakes, cupcakes and cookies is cathartic to me, and it’s hard to find something more fun than making edible art! I also love to play games, both video games like Diablo, WoW, Starcraft, League of Legends, Soul Calibur, and Final Fantasy as well as board games like Avalon, The Resistance, Smash-Up, Small World, and even the classics like D&D. Sometimes I feel like I don’t have enough time for all of my hobbies.

Do you have any helpers (pets) that often assist you?
I do! I have a corgi named Toby. He is super eager to lay on any fabric I spread out to cut. Or step on every drop-cloth I lay out, roll/lay in every puddle of wet paint or potentially messy substance. Toby is my best pal and always stays close by. His hair is an integral part of every costume I make.

Is there anything you do outside of Cosplaying that gives you ideas of what to do for a costume?
Well, my job is engineering, so I come across a lot of interesting points of view by having a science-minded job. But watching shows like Mythbusters, Project Runway, Face Off, and How It’s Made have given me amazing ideas in the past. I also make sure to follow the pages of all of the cosplayers that I meet because seeing how other people construct, build, or tackle difficult problems inevitably gives me ideas on how to do it for myself. Always keep your mind open to learning!

For more information on Phaleure check out her social media below!
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/Phaleure
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Phaleure
Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/Phaleure
Deviantart: http://dust-bunny.deviantart.com/
Cosplay.com: http://www.cosplay.com/member/592
AcParadise: http://www.acparadise.com/loves/dustbunny