I thoroughly enjoyed Katsu this year. I decided not to push myself too hard and only booked one shoot per day and left the rest of my schedule open for quick shoots and hanging out with friends. I wasn't able to finish my big showstopper costume (Lilith - Reference here) due to health reasons. In the end it didn't bother me that much. In the past it would have bummed me out for the entire weekend which is an unhealthy habit. Instead I had fun. Here's what happened over the weekend.
Seven costumes makes for a productive year by my standards and I got to use quite a few techniques along the way. For more details about how they were made, check out their pages.
| Cancer | Kida | Swanna | Aion | Sivir | Mousse | Taliyah |
WHAT I LEARNED
It's a tie! Both Sivir and Kida cost about $218CAD. Most of the cost of Sivir was in the wig, worbla, and spraypaint, while Kida's cost were loaded into silk and rhinestones (most of which I didn't use but I repurposed them for Swanna).
I`m switching it up this year since no convention could really compare to amazing time I had in Western Canada with my friends. I always want to be surrounded by mountains and turquoise water. All that fresh air and exploring was so refreshing plus much needed change to my usual con routine. A special thanks goes out to my fellow explorers Calamity, Shushuwafflez, Nomadic Goldfish, Vickybunnyangel, Lichon, Tricky Love and Thistle.
Another highlight of the year was going to the League of Legends NA finals in Toronto. Participating in riftwalk was a blast and nothing beats watching the games live.
Forward to 2017
I was able to accomplish my goal of using leftover fabric on new projects in 2016 and I hope to keep that up for 2017. I'm already working on four very ambitious projects including my original Pokemon gijinka design for Sawsbuck (Headpieces on the left). I also hope to visit some new events as well. I may not be able to have another adventure in the wilderness next year but I'm already poised on planning my next big trip :)
I hope to add new ways of showing my work or work-in-progress with you all. I'm exploring my options - Twitch, Patreon, etc. I'm a slow adopter so bare with me.
For a list of my upcoming events and costumes you can visit my "PLANS" page.
See you in the new year!
I’m a big fan of being able to re-use my wigs as often as possible so when I took on Kida (Hannah Alexander Vers.) I didn’t want to modify it too much. Also, I wanted the wig to remain full since reducing the fibers in light coloured wigs increases the chance of seeing through the wefts to the hair underneath. Finally, Kida normally has waist length hair so it makes sense that it’s pinned up for this hairstyle. In the end, I found a way to easily turn a long curly wig into a styled curly up-do.
Needle and thread to match the wig color
Scissors (for cutting the thread)
Sewing pins (To secure wig to foamhead)
A wig with ringlet curls - I used a Victoria provided by Arda
Using a Victoria or similar will save you a lot of trouble since the top half of the wig is already styled and you will only have to worry about the long strands of the wig.
Setup: Secure your wig stand and install the wig head, then place the wig on top, pinning it in place with the sewing pins. Section off any hair that you do not want included in the up-do. In my case, Kida has long straight strands framing her face, so I kept some curls aside.
Strategy: Pick a side to start, I worked from left to right, then find the top ringlet curl of that side. It is easiest to work your way from the top down as to not get tangled in the other curls while styling the wig. At this point you need to decide on where you want to stitch your curls in relation to the placement of the vertical lace strips. The lace serves as a stable sewing base. Since the Victoria wig has a lot of curls at the top, I started sewing the curls about half-way down the cap.
Sewing the Curls: Prep your needle and thread, tie a good thick knot and start stitching from the vertical lace strips. Once you have anchored your stitch, gather your curl and pass your needle through it (See photo below on the left). Once you have passed through all the rings of the curl you can lift it up and stitch it down to the lace strip. I do at least two stitches per curl to secure it down. Continue stitching curls along the length of the lace strip until you have sewn all the curls. Be sure to secure your stitches when you finish or run out of thread. Then move onto the next lace strip until you are done.
Finishing: Set the wig with a light coat of Got2Be Freezing Spray to reduce the number of flyaways. When wearing the wig, use a few bobby pins to keep it in place. If you ever want to return the wig to its original state simply remove the stitches and shake out the curls.
To complete the look for Kida, I carefully attached some orange rhinestones using Gemtac.
Five cosplayers with 15 costumes and three photographers on a week long road trip across Western Canada into the mountains and beyond. The trip was a dream come true but it did not you miraculously plan itself. Here a re a few things I have learned when planning a big trip such as this.
Research, research, research
Many, many hours were spent hunting for locations on Google, blogs, etc. Consume as much information as you can and pick the locations that fit your needs. Once you find them start keeping track. I used a combination of OneNote project pages and Google Maps (more on that later).
While you are mapping it out look into driving direction and distances between destinations (eg. 10min drive N of the hotel or 1hr drive and 30 min hike). This is especially important when dealing with cumbersome costumes when deciding how much to put on before getting to the destination and how long they can stay in costume.
KEEP MOBILITY AND EASE OF ACCESS IN MIND
Digging deeper into those travel blogs beyond the pretty photos will help you in the long run. Many sites will detail how to get to these locations which can be a tough hike. Make note of the obstacles you can face and keep that in mind when planning that leg of the trip. Another thing to remember, especially for cumbersome costumes, is to take note of the distance between the parking lot and your destination. Or simply find out if there is parking available in the first place. Parking tickets are a bummer while on vacation
TIMING IS EVERYTHING
Carefully chose when to take your trip while factoring in peak tourism seasons and weather conditions. I picked September because there would be fewer tourists (meaning cheaper hotel rates), it was the month with the least rainfall in the region, the weather would be cool but manageable for most costumes, and it was right before certain park services shut down for the winter.
In order for people to confidently join you on this adventure, they should be given a ballpark figure to budget for. Hotels, rentals, passes, airline tickets should be factored in including miscellaneous costs. The onus is on them to settle n their own budgets and put the money aside.
Map it Out
I highly recommend using Google maps for planning out any trip. You can find all of your preferred shooting locations then save them to a custom map which you can load as an overlay on top of regular Google Maps. You can customize the markers' shapes and colour for even more precision, add notes and photos, plus you can add layers to your specialized map so you can filter out certain markers. My three main layers/categories were "Shooting Locations," "Hotels" and "Tourism Stuff." Best of all, you can open it up to other people the add and elaborate on.
Once you know your locations and the time of the year for your trip, then it is time to figure out what gear you will need. I cannot tell you enough how much my hiking purchases saves me over my week long trip to the Rockies. If all our locations were easily accessible I would have soldiered on with regular sneakers and made it work, however, we had to hike up mountainsides, through streams, up stone piles, etc. If you have done your research then you should have a clear idea of what the trip calls for. Granted not everyone on our trip was as decked out as I was, but I have no regrets for my purchases.
What I brought:
What I forgot:
Strategically pick your Costumes
If you are going through all the trouble of flying across the country to get photos, you might as well make it count. Pick costumes that match well with your settings by doing even more research. Have potential backups in case you do not finish your new projects in time. Make sure you have enough room to transport everything to that location.
Do all your costumes fit in your luggage? Does your luggage meet airline standards (weight and dimension)? Do you have enough space in your rental car for everyone's luggage?
Match up your costume choices with specific locations ahead of time so you can schedule out your trip and have your photographers on the same page. This way everyone knows what to expect.
Pick your Team Carefully
Spending a weekend with friends at a convention is one thing, spending a week on the road with them is another. I would suggest not inviting the ones that drive you crazy after 2 nights and to stick with the people who are cooperative. Being organized and clean are important as well as meshing with the rest of the group. It sounds cliché but teamwork is important to maximize everyone's potential. Everyone had to take on several different duties to make the vacation a success (human crutches, photo assistant, bag carrier, splash expert, bead placer, etc). Enthusiasm and willingness to help each other helped make many of these photos happen.
Also from a practical standpoint, numbers matter. Dividing costs 8 ways helps cushion the financial burden on everyone especially when it can to transport and accommodations. Since most rooms fit 4 people, a group of 8 was ideal since you maximize savings.
Set Realistic Expectations and Sort out terms with your Photographer(s)
We reached a nice balance with 3 photographers for 5 cosplayers. At any given location there were 2-4 people in costume at once. We were able to have a nice rotation of cosplayers and photographers without putting too much pressure on one person. Be mindful of the working styles of those involved similar to booking or working with photographers at a convention. Don't expect a photographer who likes to produce one polished image per shoot to pump out ten all of sudden. Be respectful and set out your expectations and goals before your book your trip so that all parties are happy in the end.
Friends and Fun come First and Photos come Second
When I signed up people for the trip I made sure that everyone would be okay going out to these locations even if the photos didn't turn out. Enjoy the trip for what it is and the photos will be gravy. To put it simply, shit happens. The weather could be awful or a memory card gets corrupted. By focusing on having fun and spending time with your friends the trip becomes less stressful.
Keep an Open Line of Communication
Have everyone on the same page through a group chat or forum. Facebook groups or a Messenger group chat work well. Be sure to post updates for everyone to see so that they can contribute to the planning process.
Have back up plans in place in case you split up and cannot contact each other. We made this mistake once. There is a surprising level of cellphone service out in the national parks in Western Canada but there are black out zones, Lake Moraine being one of them. Setting meet-up locations and times can easily solve this problem.
Where would you go for a cosplay trip?
For a long time I've been amazed and inspired by cosplayers who do on location shoots. After cosplaying for 12 years, you tend to get into a routine when it comes to conventions. I'm hitting the 10 year mark for certain regional cons, so even though I love these events, when it comes to getting new and interesting photos, you are at a loss. Either you are shooting at the same place that you have in previous years or you end up with the same photos as ten other cosplayers due to the lack of suitable shooting locations.
What I love about conventions is that I get to see friends from far away, however, it's a catch-22 since people schedules are busy so you have to settle with saying hello in passing or ten minutes of chatter between shoots and panels.
So I took it upon myself to switch it up this year. At first I was inspired by Anna Fischer's Wild Places project and her "Cosplay Iceland" trip. I was also inspired by Lichon Photography's work with cosplayers out in western Canada. I was curious to know why I didn't see Canadian cosplayers going on these adventures, especially out west, so I figured I might as well make it happen.
I've never been to Western Canada, the furthest west I've been in Canada is Windsor, ON which is next to Detroit (although I've been to Vegas in the US). This was a multipurpose trip since I would get to do cosplay stuff but also be a tourist. The same applied to many of the people who participated.
Secondly, in the Banff area (We hit up 4+ national parks along the same highway) there is a high concentration of beautiful natural wonders, such as turquoise lakes, waterfalls, mountains, and giant cedars. The furthest point we traveled was about 4 hours from the airport in Calgary.
Thirdly, cost-wise Banff is an affordable trip. The locations are close and since it is in Canada we didn't lose money on exchange rates. This trip was supposed to serve as an alternative to travelling to a big US convention. For myself, it costs over $1000CAD to go to Dragoncon. Although I had a great time that one year I attended, the return on investment wasn't that great. Why not spend a little more and go someplace amazing for a week and get unforgettable photos and memories?
I find it amazing that I have reached a point in my cosplay life that I can convince seven individuals to go out into the wilderness with me. I was overjoyed that these lovely ladies signed up for the trip. I've known each of them for several years and it was nice to have us all in one spot. Katsucon 2015 was the last time we were all in the same building together, pictured below.
COSPLAYERS: Shushuwafflez, Nomadic Goldfish, Myself, Calamity Cosplay, and VickyBunnyAngel.
Another shout out goes to our amazing photographers. Three cheers for Lichon and Thistle for trusting that we weren't a bunch of psychos and signing up for this trip without knowing any of us. Can you imagine a week long road trip with strangers? Well, by the end of it we were all great friends so it worked out marvelously.
PHOTOGRAPHERS: Lichon Photography, TrickyLove, and Thistle Photography
This trip took a lot of planning. A lot. I'll get into that in another blog. On the plus side, it is something I am used to. I'm usually the one booking rooms for all my cons and airline tickets for myself and friends. I started organizing this one year in advance by scouting shooting locations, looking into park passes, and potential costs. Once I had a solid idea of the trip I sent out invitations and got other people involved.
The goal was to hit up as many diverse locations without feeling rushed. In the end we still ended up staying in five different hotels over a 7 day period but I feel we still had some room to relax. We had several potential shooting locations set aside for each day as options or back-ups depending on the weather and our energy levels.
Each cosplayers brought a selection of costumes (2-5) that fit the scenery. We kinda dropped the ball on big group cosplays but we'll make up for it next time. I was the crazy one who brought five costumes [Aion - Taliyah - Kida - Ravenna - Merle]. I figured if it could fit in my luggage, why not? Worst case scenario, I just don't wear one of them... but I wore them all, somehow. One of the important aspects of this trip was to enjoy ourselves without the crazy cosplay stress that comes with conventions. Which meant there were days that people had to take it easy and skip on wearing a costume or shooting at a certain location and it was OK. You're on vacation so take a step back, breathe a little, and enjoy your time with friends.
This trip was more than I could ever ask for. The whole group got along well and I got to bond with old friends. Our new team members quickly became good friends and I look forward to touching base with them over the years. I got to soak in so many sites and breathe in that fresh mountain air. I even saw two wild moose and a wolf while driving down the highway #Canada
We all got to test how hardcore we were as cosplayers.
Don't let your dream be dreams. JUST DO IT! We were three days into our trip and I still couldn't believe it was actually happening. It was a dream come true so it felt unreal. I made memories that will last a lifetime and I can't wait to do it again. Now that I know what it takes, I will likely do one of these trips every year or every other year.
This was my 9th year at Otakuthon. Wow! It has always been a favourite of mine thanks to the venue, location, and friends. I had a great time this year even though it's getting harder and harder to spend time with friends since the event is so photoshoot friendly that everyone tends to wandering around shooting all day.
This was a much more relaxed year since I skipped competing in the WCS Canada preliminaries/finals and judged the masquerade instead of competing. Although after a year of judging events I feel due for a good stage performance.
Recently, I got together with a group of 20 cosplayers and we each bought a copy of Fashionpedia when they launched their Kickstarter back in March 2016.
I was really excited to get a copy since I am a big fan of another book they created - The Fashionary - which has fine outlines of figures, so you can draw consistent designs over top. They even have variations for men and shoes. I just did my first read through the Fashionpedia and here are my impressions .
Note on Images: All subsequent photos are from Fashionary's website so that I don't post anything beyond what they are willing to share because copyrights are a thing.
Colossalcon has been consistently one of my favourite conventions every year. I ran into a few issues leader up to this year but the overall experience was great and I am very happy that I was able to attend. I met a lot of new people which gave me that old school con feel where everything is new again but you are also surrounded by old friends.
Want to be a villain in the Once Upon a Time universe but you don't want to get your hands dirty? Well, I have to tutorial for you!
I've been cosplaying for close to 12 years now, and I must say with the latest initiatives like #29daysofblackcosplays and photographers taking an active role in showcasing black cosplayers has definitely helped in giving black cosplayers a chance to shine. For many years it was if this group was a subculture within a subculture, and in many ways it still is to this day. When I hear about some of the vitriol people get for simply dressing up as characters they like it just boggles my mind, but it is also a sobering reminder that there are close-minded people everywhere and that geekiness does not cancel out racism.
I consider myself very lucky to be part of my cosplay community. Over the many years I have been cosplaying within Southern Ontario and Western Quebec in Canada, I have yet to face any overt discrimination within the community. If it happened, it certainly was not to my face. Online, I have also been fortunate that I can only think of one instance that people needlessly brought up my skin colour when it came to costume choice. Ironically enough, someone thought I was too pale to be Korra. Although, "lucky" and "fortunate" may not really be the right words to describe it. I realize that I am a light-skinned person of colour and often times people cannot guess what my ethnic background is (half black, half white if you haven't guessed yet). Also, my lighter skin tone means the range available characters with a similar tone is much wider (although in general very limited compared to the amount of white/pale-skinned characters out there) than say someone several shades darker. From what I gather from fellow POC cosplayers, the darker you are the more of uphill battle you have against haters.
When I first started posting cosplays online, I would often get people inquiring about my ethnic background and it would irk me. I know people were just curious, but I found that it was an irrelevant question to work I was putting out there. Back then, about 7 or so years ago, it was so difficult for me to find other people of colour or dark-skinned cosplayers online. It was like a wasteland, and whenever I would find anyone it would always be the same 3 costumes - Yoruichi from Bleach, Storm from X-Men, and Anthy from Utena. Why those costumes? My best guess is that these were the only ones that were from popular enough series that they would be praised for wearing because they looked the part.
Although I have made 2/3 of those characters' costumes, I still find it important to cosplay what you want. Nothing has brought me more joy than when someone messages me to tell me that they didn't know that black people can cosplay outside their race so now they will do it or that seeing my work inspired them to give it try.
The State Today
I feel that many things have changed for the better in the last few years, thanks to these kind of initiatives. Black cosplayers are stepping out of the background and getting to stand alongside everyone else. But that is not to say that there is not progress to be made.
Here are some issues that I have experienced that could still be worked on as a community. I know for a fact, that if I cosplay a character with a different skintone than mine, it has less impact online. Less likes, comments, shares, less everything. At conventions, it has a lighter impact, but mostly results in less photos and interactions with congoers.
Often times I'll cosplay a character and it doesn't matter what I'm wearing I'll be asked "You're cosplaying Storm, right?" As if that is the only black woman in fandom that exist and that I couldn't be cosplaying from anything else because of my skintone -_-. As a general rule, and most cosplayers will agree with me here, if you are not sure of the costume just ask instead of guessing. just like everyone else, POC cosplayers are a varied bunch that cosplay a wide range of characters.
If you ever want to find out about all the obscure POC characters in geekdom, just ask a POC cosplayers for an open call for costume suggestions. Whenever I make a call to followers to make costume suggestions I get this nice long list of dark-skinned characters, and what boggles my mind is that it is rare for anyone to suggest anything else. A year or two ago I asked which League characters people would suggest and lo and behold it was all the dark skinned characters even though the game has full body paint characters and monsters which I can also portray. Luckily, my friend VickyBunnyAngel threw in some other suggestions that helped me keep my cool that day.
It is just strange since anyone follows my work knows that skintone doesn't dictate my costume choices. However, I will admit I still think twice about doing any popular light-skinned characters because I know the reception will be lukewarm at best. I have to think about whether am I ready for whatever the internet has to dish out if I do this. Which is sad when you think about it. If I like the costume and the character I just go ahead and do it anyways. And that's what I tell anyone who is uncertain about cosplaying outside their race, shape or whetever. Just do it! Your happiness outweighs whatever a random person on the internet has to say.
So let wrap up with a little story from my childhood. When I was growing up I loved the Spice Girls. I used to sing all their song and collected stickers and albums. When it came time to play pretend, guess which spice I always ended up being with my full head of curly hair. Scary Spice EVERY.DAMN.TIME. even though Baby Spice was my favourite. And that is what it feels like when you are wearing a costume outside of your race. You can have to most well constructed outfit an be 100% accurate but there will still be someone there saying you would make a much better Scary Spice. To put is simply, it's exhausting. It's not fun being typecast so I ask that when you are looking at cosplayers at an event or online to truly appreciate what that person is bringing to the community especially considering how much crap they may be going through just because of the colour of their skin.
I don't want to end on a sad note but here's a reason why these initiatives are important and needed. I am fairly certain that the very act of writing this blog and posting it is going to mean I will lose some followers. Ain't that a hoot.
Keep being awesome black cosplayers. I'm proud of all of you. Cheers to another year of celebrating your talents and let's keep the ball rolling year-round.
MeltingMirror's Cosplay Blog
Learn more about my experiences in the cosplay world, from conventions to photoshoots and everything in between.