What first got you interested in Cosplay?
It was probably around 2002 when I discovered the word Cosplay. I had seen people dressed up as comic book characters in the past, as depicted in traditional media - movies and TV, but it wasn't until I saw in an online forum that I saw people also dressing up as Anime characters, and that there was a broader term to describe the practice. I became instantly fascinated! It wasn't until Halloween 2003, the year I graduated from high school, that I saw the opportunity to intersect my curiosity for making a costume, with the socially acceptable time of the year to dress up in public (because I didn't know that anime conventions were a thing until 2006). So I begged my mom to help me make a Link costume. We didn't have a sewing machine, but we still went to the store, picked fabric, some foam, thread and pleather, and over the course of a week, we assembled my first cosplay. Through college I made two more costumes with the help of my mom and my friend. However, It wasn't until 2012, after I had moved to Seattle, that I attempted to make a costume for myself, and haven't stopped since.
Can you describe your creative process for us? How long does a typical costume take to construct?
I usually take about 6 to 7 months to make a costume. I only work on them on weekends and some days after work. I usually start by planning out the costume in my head, identifying where I can incorporate something novel, and what costume elements are going to be the most complex. The complex parts usually require me to 3D model some component, so I'll tackle them first. The Gray Fox helmet is the first prop I 3D modeled on the computer. Typically, before I sit down on the computer to design something, I spend days thinking about it, trying to figure out how it's going to work. I think about limitations, feasibility, looks... I think about it so much until I have no other choice but to sit down and start designing because the idea is so clear in my head. From then, it becomes a matter of tackling simpler and simpler tasks until the process is complete. I plan phases and milestones to complete a costume, though I don't typically stick to a very strict schedule for completing them. That's probably why it takes me 6 months to complete a costume that could have perhaps taken me 3, if I was more structured. At the same time, I like having free time and not obsessing about deadlines. I like having a social life outside of work and cosplay, so sometimes cosplay takes a back seat.
We're obsessed with your motorized Gray Fox helmet and the way you blend technology and art in your pieces. What are some other ways you incorporate the skills you have as a mechanical engineer into your Cosplays?
Like I said before, I usually 3D model all the complex or "gimmicky" components of a costume, whether it's a prop that has lights or a helmet with a rotating lock. I'll also think about the loads a certain costume element may experience during wear, and plan construction of the costume to increase its durability. This can take the form of reinforcing a piece of foam with webbing, if it will be under repeated tension, or knowing that I can swing my 3D printed sword around because it is reinforced with an aluminum tube, and the load path to the handle is continuous. Besides the technical skills, another aspect of engineering I use in making costumes is project planning. it may not be a skill specific to engineering, but it is definitely crucial to making costumes and still have a good time, without being stressed or overwhelmed in the process. Being able to divide a task into sub tasks and tackle them appropriately is something I learned more during my professional life, and transferred into my hobbies.
Do you have any advice for people looking to get started doing Cosplay?
I get asked this question a lot. I always give the same answer. Just try... try and fail. Then try again. Go to a fabric store, look at reference images, cut, pin and sew, and just try. It's OK to make mistakes. I've made pretty much every costume twice. The Link one my mom made, we made the tunic twice. The one my friend made in college was also a Link costume. I have a roll of fabric sitting in my closet to make another Link costume. I made the patterns for X (Mega Man X) twice.
What would you say has been the highlight of your Cosplay career so far?
Check out Diegator at http://www.diegator.com/