By Rizwan Merchant

Editor Note: Envel Cosplay is part of The Cosplay Team Teacup Kiwi Studios with fellow cosplayer Phaleure. 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

Sailor Moon

Sailor Moon

Tell us a little about yourself.
Hello, my name is Jo!  I work full-time as a floor manager for JoAnn: Fabrics and Crafts.  Among the things I love are sewing, general crafting, wig-styling, designing, prop-building, and makeup (not necessarily always in that order!).  If it’s creating garments, jewelry, or just big messes, I love it!  I started working at JoAnn just part-time while I was in college so that I could have some extra money (and a discount on cosplay supplies!), and throughout the years, I’ve learned that I just love being surrounded by creativity.  Whether it’s just a set of placemats, a collage from a baby shower, or some new jewelry for “just because,” I love hearing not only what other people are making, but how they make it.  I love learning and experimenting with how things go together into completed pieces and ensembles.  I can be very shy at times, but get me started on cosplay, sewing, and/or crafting, and I have endless things to share!

When did you start Cosplaying?
I started cosplaying in 2002 at my second anime convention ever: Anime Mid-Atlantic.

What got you into Cosplaying?
I always just thought that the idea of dressing up as different characters was really fun!  Anime Weekend Atlanta 2001 was my first convention, and I wanted so much to dress up, but I was afraid I’d be the ONLY one dressed up…  And then when I saw everyone else in all their costumes, I couldn’t wait to have my own to wear!  I love cute clothes and looking fancy, and cosplay is one of the many ways that I stretch my mind, skills, and creativity.

What is your favorite Cosplay that you’ve made (or worn)? I have a lot of favorite costumes, actually!  My newest favorite costume for comfort is my Makise Kurisu cosplay from Steins;Gate.  She’s such a cool chick (plus I have a thing for purple/violet eyes), and since the outfit is so close to how I dress normally, it’s so much fun as a lounging/fun/comfy costume!  My favorite costume for being extra fancy-pants is my new Shadow Princess Utena cosplay.  I get to wear a zentai suit (no makeup, yay!), and a huge, fluffy cupcake dress!  Definitely my favorite for when I want to parade and feel super-special-awesome.  Then, my third favorite just kind of all-around is my Sailor Moon cosplay.  Usagi/Serenity is definitely on the top of my list of all-time favorite anime characters, and she’ll always have a special place in my heart, so whatever outfits of hers are active in my wardrobe will always be my favorites!   I currently have Usagi’s original concept manga outfit and her eternal fuku.  I have the fabric to do her high school uniform, just waiting for the right opportunity!

How do you determine what characters you Cosplay?
A little bit of everything.  I have cosplayed several different characters for many different reasons.  Some characters I cosplay simply because I really love the outfit they are wearing and I want it in my closet.  Some characters I cosplay somewhat because I love them and/or their outfit, but mostly because I’m looking for a new challenge.  Other characters I have cosplayed because I adore the character and/or the series they are from and I want to advertise my love, as well as try to both get others into the series or find others who already love it.  I believe there’s no real “wrong” way to cosplay a character and I’ve even watched a few anime and played a few video games for only the reason of getting to know a character or design better because I loved the design so much.

Why do you enjoy Cosplaying?
There are so, so many reasons I love cosplay!  Of course, it gives me the excuse to do all the sewing, crafting, and mess-making I adore and roll it all into one fun hobby!  It also gives me so many opportunities to travel around and meet new people with new ideas and see new places, especially now that there’s at least a handful of anime cons in each and every state!  I never had a lot of friends growing up since I was always the “weird” kid in my classes, and cosplay has turned my life completely upside down for the better.  All of my very best friends (whom I now consider family) I have made through cosplay.  I’ve laughed in cosplay, cried over cosplay, and bled for the sake of cosplay (on accident, of course!), and knowing that I have so many dear friends who “suffer” the same ups and downs gives me the sense that I am never alone. Cosplay helped me become more confident and outgoing and makes it so much easier for an introvert like me to talk to complete strangers at cons and online and make new friends.  Cosplay is also an ever-changing challenge.  A method or technique that worked well for one project may or may not work so well for the next.  New techniques, tools, and materials that weren’t available ten, five, or even two years ago in the community are popping up all the time.  Cosplay is an ever-evolving community with an always-growing collection of new skills to learn, and it’s that constant progress and changing that keeps it exciting and new and keeps me in line at the fabric store.

Do you have any dream costumes you want to make or wear?
Yes!  Yes, very much!  I would LOVE to make Galaxy Fraulein Yuna’s final galactic battle armor (the one she is portrayed with in her final OVA and in her last few video games).  Yuna’s personality hits so close to home with Usagi and the fact that her secret weapon is that she can make friends with any and all of her enemies and turn them to good… she’s so adorable and badass!  I would also love to make my own interpretation of Princess Serenity from the Sailor Moon manga.  Serenity is such a beautiful character and her dress has so much potential to be done with so many techniques and fabrics, I would love to make one of those of my own as well!

Shamanized Nina from Breath of Fire II

Shamanized Nina from Breath of Fire II

Out of all of your costumes, which was the hardest to fabricate?
Though I could do it much better and more quickly now, the hardest costume to fabricate that I have made to date is Shamanized/Metamorphosis Nina from Breath of Fire II.  I had never made a corset.  I had never made a petticoat, ball gown, giant wings, a wing mount, or any of several different things I had to learn to make Nina’s outfit.  I had to not only build giant angel wings, but also had to airbrush them to have a gradient from pink at the top to dark purple at the bottom (I found out that Sharpie dye works very well for this… But that it rubs off on you… Eep!)  I had to learn how to make a steel boned corset from scratch because I was so afraid none of the ones online would be the quality I wanted.  Not only did I have to make all these crazy things, but I also had to… well, I had to figure out how to put all of it on at the same time!  I ended up wearing platform boots underneath the gown to elongate my legs (since Nina has crazy long anime legs), I put on three layers of skirt/hoops, two corsets (one for the wings and one visible outside the dress), extra dangly doodads and jewelry, the angel wings, and even the queen’s crown!  Though she made me shed a few tears of frustration during her fabrication process, Nina taught me that as long as I push myself, I can make ANY design possible.  With the right time, budget, tools, and materials, I can put any crazy design I love into my closet, and I can meet any challenge when it comes to building cosplay.

What are some Cosplays you are currently working on?
Currently, I’m working on Lucina from Fire Emblem: Awakening.  I am a long-time fan of the Fire Emblem series, and Marth was always one of my favorite heroes from the games.  Lucina is basically a girl version of Marth so I absolutely ADORE her.   Once I finish her default outfit, I have the fabrics for two more of her outfits ready to get cut out!  I’m also currently working on finishing up an Attack on Titan harness set (whew belts!) and getting ready to cut into some of my fabric stash I’ve had sitting in my closet for a bit, starting with Princess Elincia from Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance and Zidane from Final Fantasy IX!

Which costume are you most looking forward to wearing in the future?
Lucina!  She’s pretty, she’s a Fire Emblem Lord, she uses an awesome sword, and she’s a descendant of Marth!

Do you think you will ever retire from Cosplaying?
I don’t know the meaning of the word retire.  There are so many outfits I want to make, and eventually I’d love to start designing my own and do some original cosplays!  Even if I don’t necessarily always make cosplays for myself, I don’t think I could ever leave or turn away from the hobby that has brought me so much love from new friends and has taught me so many new skills and techniques.  As I said, cosplay is an ever-evolving hobby and I’m excited to see where time and new inventions and tools take it!

Have you ever considered wearing costumes outside of conventions, for your day-to-day life?
I have used some of my real clothes for cosplay, and some clothes I made for cosplay have ended up in my every day wardrobe.  I have also participated in cosplay photoshoots in public areas when no convention was in town.  I also think it would be fun to dress up as a character from a new video game and/or movie and be a sort of promotional person at a local theater, GameStop, or similar place when the game/movie is released!

Do you tend to fabricate/make your own costumes or buy them?
I used to buy costumes back in 2002-2004 but I learned very quickly that for me it just isn’t the same fun to buy costumes as it is to wear something I made myself.  So now, all of my costumes are 100% hand-made by me!

What in  experiences in your life has changed the way you Cosplay?
Well, when I was a teenager/younger, I used to pick characters based on what my friends were doing or wanted to do.  I would also shy away from elaborate or sexy designs because I was too afraid I wouldn’t be able to do them justice.  As I got older and gained confidence I realized I can look really elegant and pretty in a giant gown, and I can even look classy and sexy in a more form-fitting garment.  Becoming an adult and seeing the world and having to live in it, I realized there are too many possibilities and there’s too much fun to be had to let me limit myself in the designs I choose to portray.

What kind of reactions do you receive for any alterations and reinventions of character designs and attire?
I actually have rarely altered a character’s design for my cosplay.  The only alterations I have ever made to any of my cosplays are to make somewhat skimpy designs into something more modest and flattering for a real woman’s body.  For example, when I cosplayed as Rikku’s Berserker dressphere from Final Fantasy X-2, I eliminated the underboob from her bikini top and altered the cut of the furry panties to a style that flattered my curvier hips.  For Tira from Soul Calibur V, I did the same with the top and shorts; eliminating underboob and fully covering my bum as opposed to having some of it hanging out the back.  For my Queen’s Blade armor, instead of having practically ¾ of my breasts showing, I made the armor into a more full plate that has only a bit of cleavage showing, and altered her thong bottoms into a full-coverage bikini.  I have received much positive praise for not only being confident enough to wear the aforementioned costumes, but for turning the designs into something that could arguably have been very “skanky” into designs that are more comfortable, practical, flattering, and modest (but still sexy!)

Merle from Escaflowne

Merle from Escaflowne

How do you react to the attention your cosplays generate?
I am very grateful that not only do people appreciate my work, but they take the time to comment on it or want to take a picture!  I am happy to receive compliments and feedback on my work, but sometimes when people get a little overly generous with their praise, I get a bit flustered and embarrassed (but in a good way!).

What are some of your favorite moments while cosplaying?
A favorite that never gets old is being in ANY costume and going out to eat away from the convention area.  The reactions of “innocent bystanders” are always fun!  I’ve had moments of people being excited to see silly outfits and confused to see silly outfits.  One of my favorite memories is wearing a version of  Rei’s plugsuit from Evangelion to the Hard Rock Cafe.  As we were walking to the restaurant, a man walked past us, then exclaimed, “Daaaayumn!  Dat ain’t no SAILAH MOON!”  I have had children approach me to ask if I’m a princess and ask if my hair is naturally blue/pink/green.  Friends and family of those who love characters I have cosplayed have asked to take photos WITH me to send to said loved ones and to post on FaceBook.  I also really love when I’m dressed as a really obscure character and those few who recognize said obscure character are SO excited to see you when they realize what you’re dressed as!  When I debuted my Meta-Nina cosplay, one woman approached me and said, “I have been DYING for years to see someone cosplay this ever since I played the game… You just made my weekend!”

Do you participate or have you participated in any cosplay contests (Convention, online, etc)?
Yes!  I have participated in a few ACP and Facebook cosplay contests, and while they are fun they aren’t really my thing (share share share and get as many votes as you can!). I much prefer cosplay contests that involve raw judging of overall craftsmanship and/or performance.

Have you won any awards for your cosplay? If so, what kind and/or where did you win them?
I have won many awards ranging from runner-up and second place, all the way up to best in show awards for craftsmanship and/or performance. I have won Best in Show at Ohayocon, Tsubasacon, Fanimecon (craftsmanship and performance), and Anime SouthEast.  I have won Best Master awards at MTAC, Ohayocon, and MomoCon.  I have won major and minor awards at Anime Weekend Atlanta, Sugoi Con, Otakon, and Katsucon.

What was the first event/convention you went to?
Anime Weekend Atlanta 2001.

What is your stance on handmade vs store-bought cosplay?
There is no wrong way to cosplay.  Some people love making their own cosplays and have the time/money/skills/tools to do so, and some people lack the time/money/skills/tools/desire to do so.  We’re all just a bunch of silly people wearing silly clothes, and as long as no one is cheating/lying in cosplay contests, I see nothing at all wrong with store-bought cosplay.  Besides, I and many of my friends eventually run out of storage space and we all love it when our “old” outfits have a second chance at life and getting some wear, so anyone who is willing to adopt them is always much appreciated!

How do you feel about those who get into character while cosplaying? Do you get into character as well?
Different people enjoy their cosplays in different ways!  While I don’t typically get into character 100% of the time I am wearing a costume, I will typically get into character during photoshoots because it makes the photos so much more believable as far as “I AM this character!”  Again, staying in character 100% of the time isn’t my usual approach, but when someone dressed as a character from the same series approaches in character, it’s always fun to respond in character!

Is there anyone you’ve always wanted to meet and have a photoshoot with?
There is a neverending list of people I would love to have a photoshoot with!  I would love to get together for pairs/groups with Daydreamer Nessa, Sparkle Pipsi, Neo Queen Honeybee, Tohma, Shinra Junkie, PixieKitty, Catisy, the ladies of Green Jello and Wild Garden…  So much talent, and I would be honored to participate in group cosplay with any of these wonderful people and so many more!

What would you say are the challenges of Cosplaying?
The challenges of cosplay include but are certainly not limited to: -learning new methods and techniques to do things you’ve never tried, -failing….  And having to start over and/or try something new, -approaching new people and friends for the first time, -having the confidence to wear the new outfit you’re so proud of for the first time, -admitting that sometimes an idea or material you have just isn’t going to work for your project when you had your heart set on using it, and -finding the balance between time spent at conventions doing “official” or fancy photoshoots for your portfolio and spending that time just hanging out/playing/enjoying sushi or fancy food with your friends…  It’s so hard to get everyone’s schedule to work together sometimes.

How do you deal with  the constructive criticisms that you receive on your Cosplays?
I don’t actually get a lot of constructive criticisms on my cosplays since I don’t often ask for them.  However, as long as others are respectful in their delivery of said advice, I am always more than happy to learn an alternative and potentially better way to do something I’ve already done.  I believe that there is never any ONE “right” or “only” way to do a costume or a piece of a costume, and it’s always fun and interesting to learn how someone else has or will approach something I’ve already done!  There have been a few times when people have left comments such as, “I love the way you did ___ part of your cosplay!  I used ___ technique for mine!” and I just sit there and think… Dang… That would have been much easier, haha!

Do you have any words of wisdom for aspiring Cosplayers?
Don’t give up!  Taking that first step or those first few steps can be really hard, and there are going to be times that you feel really discouraged.  Don’t ever forget that you’re not alone!  Cosplay is a community full of all kinds of costumers: novice, master, wig specialists, prop specialists, sewing specialists, outgoing, shy, thin, curvy, chubby, short, tall, Asian, Caucasian, African American, Hispanic, etc., and we all come in different combinations of all of these things and more!  We all had to start somewhere, and while it’s said that practice makes perfect, none of us are perfect, and we’re all just here to have fun, learn, and grow.

Do you have any hobbies other than cosplaying?
I love to cook.  Love, love, love to cook.  I like food and I like it a lot.  Homemade soups, stews, and casseroles, pasta, hamburgers, fried fish, roast chicken…  I also like to play video games.  I used to be a hardcore gamer, and while I don’t play as much as I used to, I still love playing Pokemon and other games for handheld consoles.  Although you wouldn’t know it by looking at the current state of my bedroom, I also really like looking at interior decorating and looking at ways to utilize my space to its fullest and make it pretty too! I’m looking at different ideas for getting some sort of soothing fairy lights or something similar into my room and I’m looking into making a duvet cover since I can’t find any comforters for the color palette I want in my room.  Will also have to make coordinating curtains and/or pillow cases.  JoAnn, ho!

Do you have any helpers (pets) that often assist you?
No. I wish I could have a kitty, but my roommate is allergic.  I have been playing with the idea of getting a small aquarium though!

mami tomoe

Mami Tomoe from Madoka Magica

Is there anything you do outside of Cosplaying that gives you ideas of what to do for a costume?
Yes!  Sometimes when we’re at Home Depot I look around random aisles for things I never buy.  For example, the aisle that has random wheels and the hardware for making Lazy Susans.  We ended up using a Lazy Susan for part of our Soul Calibur performance!  I also like wandering around dollar stores at all the cheap plastic toys and party wares.  You never know what you might be able to carve, sand, repaint, and turn into a random cosplay piece!  I also really love glancing through general craft magazines and blogs to get ideas on how things are made.  If you learn enough different techniques, you can figure out different ways to utilize them.  I had to use wood filler once to fix a hole in a wall in an old apartment.  After learning how to use it and how it works, I started to often substitute wood filler for paper clay in cosplay projects because it’s much cheaper, and for general hole filling it functions in the same way.  I substitute fingernail polish on the backs of resin gems instead of using dyes and pigments most of the time because dyes and pigments make it trickier to mix resin and get it to fully and reliably cure.

For more information on Envel, check out her social media below! http://envelcosplay.deviantart.com/
http://envelcosplay.tumblr.com/
http://www.acparadise.com/loves/envel
http://www.cosplay.com/member/48935/
https://www.facebook.com/envelscosplay