Published on January 13th, 2016 | by admin
Maryjane Cosplay Interview (Our Canadian Princess of Cosplay)
Impulse Gamer recently caught up with Maryjane Cosplay, Canada’s very own princess of costumes who is not only a seamstress but also a performer and designer.
Welcome to Impulse Gamer Maryjane! So besides being an amazing cosplayer, what do you do in your secret identity?
Art is the most satisfying thing in the world to me. My life is a non-stop montage of me pursuing every opportunity I have to create something. I mostly make clothes, sew plush, write, illustrate and I’ve recently taken up film-making again after an 8 year hiatus. I’ve been working on a few short-film scripts lately but film-production is a long (yet extremely rewarding) process so unfortunately I don’t have any upcoming films to plug at the moment.
I’ve also started producing a satirical convention interview series in association with Cosplay Victoria (www.cosplayvictoria.com) called “Asuka Asks”. I’ve been meticulously transcribing and editing hours-upon-hours of side-splitting footage from a few conventions I attended last year for the series between more time sensitive obligations.
I even manage to wedge artistic expression into the video games I play. Also, I’m obsessed with the Animal Crossing series but instead of limiting myself to making cute houses for talking animals, I’ve used the game as a medium for broadcasting social commentary using provocative imagery. Otherwise, I play Magic the Gathering, run panels at conventions and somehow manage to squeeze in the time to work a 40 hour/week day job so I can afford my much-more-fulfilling creative pursuits.
So how did you become involved in cosplay?
In 2000, there was a segment in between programming on YTV where the VJs went to Anime North and I was blown away by all the footage of people dressed up as characters from their favourite animes. Even cooler to me was the fact that these fans were dedicated enough to make these costumes themselves. Soon after, I found out there was an anime convention called OtaFest run by the anime club at my local university and I got to experience firsthand the excitement of everyone dressed up in cosplay.
Days after going to my first anime convention, I was already buying materials for the costume I wanted to wear the next year. I knew absolutely nothing about sewing outside of what I learned in 7th grade home economics class but I loved the character so I was determined to bring the costume to life. Then I used what I’d learned from that costume to make a costume for the next year, and the year after that and so on. I did a lot of professional theatre growing up too so it felt really natural to plan skits with my friends and enter the cosplay contests. Over time my craftsmanship improved and so did my skits so I started winning awards year after year and I guess you could say the rest is history.
What’s your favourite part of cosplay and why?
My favourite part about cosplay is interpreting the character design into something that’ll work in real life. For example, the character designers for an animated series aren’t the least bit concerned over whether or not a costume makes sense in real life. Their job is to create characters that fit the artistic direction and can be tangibly drawn thousands of times over. It’s an exciting challenge to try to re-create the most ridiculous designs out of a huge variety of materials.
Even the simplest looking designs end up requiring things like foam, interlinings, horsehair braid or boning to give the costume the same silhouette as the character’s reference art. It’s a total 180 from everything I learned while I studied fashion design in university. In the fashion world, you source your materials first then come up with a design that’s suitable for mass production. But with cosplay it’s an ongoing process of finding real materials that will behave together in surreal ways and going to town with the details to create a one-of-a-kind masterpiece.
Can you walk us through designing one of your cosplays?
The process of designing a costume varies from project to project but generally speaking, this is how I do my thing. The first step for planning a new costume is gathering reference materials; as many images as possible from every angle imaginable. Then I’ll start doing scaled technical drawings of the costume. This helps me figure out what’s happening on what part of the costume.
I find is helpful to figure out preliminary measurements at this stage too. Let’s say the character is wearing a skirt that starts at the waist and goes 1/3 of the way down their legs. Cool, that means the skirt will be 15.5 inches long when I go to make it. I’ll also start looking for pictures of people who have already cosplayed the character. At this stage I’m looking to see what materials look the best, what’s clearly worked for other people and what hasn’t. One of the coolest things about cosplay is that no two people’s interpretation of the design is identical.
Next I’ll start looking for materials. I work at a fabric store so usually I’ll already have a good idea of what’s out there and I have the chance stock up on basics like interfacing, eyelets, elastic or thread ahead of time whenever it goes on sale. But shopping around is always kind of inevitable when I’m determined to find something really specific. I like getting most of the materials right off the bat so I know right away how the fabric I want to use will behave and how I’ll need to adjust the patterns I develop for things like stretch factor.
Once I’ve more or less figured out a design from the technical drawings, I’ll start making a pattern for the first muslin (prototype) of the costume. The purpose of the initial muslin is to determine the fit so I’ll reduce the costume to the simplest silhouette without any details. Depending on the complexity of the costume, I’ll develop the preliminary muslin off a tailor’s block or from doing a body cast. Then I’ll use the pattern to sew a fit muslin out of cheap fabric. I’ll try it on and make any necessary adjustments to it until I get the fit right and subsequently make all necessary adjustments to the pattern pieces.
Then I’ll start developing pattern pieces for the details of the costume based on the initial-most set of pattern pieces used to make the fit muslin. It’s at this stage where I’ll figure out where things like style-lines, surface details, pipings or facings need to be. Once I’m confident that everything is going to fit together correctly, I sew another muslin based on my new pattern pieces. Much like the fit muslin, I’ll document any changes that need to be made directly on to the pattern pieces.
Ideally no changes need to be made after this point but if they do, it’s literally back to the drawing board. I’ll continue to adjust the pattern pieces and sew muslins until all issues with the pattern are resolved. It’s a really time consuming process but I’d rather leave out any surprises and know EXACTLY what I’m doing when it comes to making the actual costume. This might go without saying but it’s better to make mistakes on $3 material than on $60 material.
Now that I’m confident with my pattern, I’ll go to make the costume out of the proper fabric with more detailed finishing techniques.
When you first see yourself wearing your completed costume, what do you think?
Samuel Butler once said “Think of and look at your work as though it were done by your enemy. If you look at it to admire it, you are lost”.
I’m always critical of my craftsmanship because the most meaningful experience will always be learning from YOUR mistakes. I feel blessed in a way because when I started cosplaying, it was such an underground hobby that you couldn’t just go out and buy a costume. There were no commissioners, there weren’t hundreds of thousands of cosplay tutorials and there weren’t vendors at conventions that exclusively sold cosplay related merchandise.
If you wanted to cosplay, you HAD to make the costume from scratch. I feel like having next-to-no resources at my disposal in my early days of cosplay really forced me to be self-taught and more innovative with my approach to fabrication. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad thing that these resources have made cosplay more available to lots people nowadays but I think being critical from within until the very end is the natural predecessor of innovation.
To date, what’s been your favourite character that you have cosplayed?
Asuka from Neon Genesis Evangelion will always be my favourite character to cosplay as. NGE is such an interesting and thought-provoking series thanks to its cast of complex and believable characters. I feel a really strong connection to Asuka because she acts the same way I would when I was her age so I’m really sympathetic to the tragedy she goes through during the series. She’s brash, unapologetic and larger than life which makes her so much fun to characterize because those aren’t really socially acceptable ways of conducting oneself. A surprising number of people talking to me for the first time have told me they’re shocked that I’m not actually as much of a bitch as Asuka is. It’s a really back-handed complement that I portray Asuka’s character so well in photos and during stage performances that people are actually afraid to talk to me!
Costume-wise, I’m probably the most proud of my Liliana of the Veil cosplay from Magic the Gathering. For about four years leading up making Liliana, I was mostly focused on making simpler costumes with a greater degree of accuracy than ridiculously complicated and time consuming cosplays like I’d made in years past. During those years, cosplay had experienced a huge surge in popularity and the culture of cosplay had really changed. Social media was becoming a huge part of cosplay (which I’ve never had the time or desire to actively promote myself using) so I was beginning to feel like I had become somewhat irrelevant in the exponentially growing world of cosplay.
So in 2014, Lilliana was my personal swan song to both my love of Magic the Gathering and to proving to myself that I still had what it took to plan and execute a large-scale project. After investing about $1300 into materials and spending something like 400 hours making the costume, I ended up falling on my face on stage during the cosplay contest I entered as Liliana and somehow won the “Best in Show” award. Talk about a bitter-sweet way to punctuate such a sentimental project.
What do you enjoy most about conventions?
Meeting new people. Cosplay is awesome because it’s like walking around with a giant fluorescent sign above your head that says “I’m interested in this character from this series! We could probably talk for hours about this specific thing that I seldom have the opportunity to talk about face to face with other fans.” Just people watching in generally honestly. Like as mainstream as things like video games, comics or anime have become, the people who attend cons are still representative of a subculture.
What kind of shenanigans will a lot of these self-proclaimed “outsiders” get into when they’re surrounded by similarly-minded individuals? It’s obviously a great opportunity to meet other people who make costumes too. So many people have spent months shut-in to their homes making costumes and they finally get a chance to show-off the fruits of their labour all at once. Conventions are such an energizing experience. Everyone is there to escape reality for the weekend and the energy in the atmosphere is completely unparalleled.
Tell us some of your inspirations in the characters you’ve played?
Every character I’ve cosplayed as is someone who I identify with on some level. I’ve watched the show or played the game and there’s been something about that character that’s really resonated with me. Seeing a fictional character that I identify with overcome their over-the-top, life-or-death obstacle makes me feel a little more confident to get up off my lazy ass once a year to file my taxes. I think the entire appeal of cosplay is that it’s a way of celebrating the characters that inspire us to be a better people.
I’ve tried making costumes of characters that I only share a superficial bond with in the past but none of those costumes have ever seen the light of completion. I’ve learned that wanting to make a costume just because I like the way it looks or because I want to be part of a cosplay group with friends simply isn’t enough to drive me through the entire creation process. My heart has to be in it 100%. Cosplay is truly a labour of love for me.
So… have you see Star Wars the Force Awakens and what did you think?
Nope. I’ve somehow made it 25 years without ever having seen any of the Star Wars films. I’m really on a roll here. Maybe I’ll wait another 25 and you can interview me with the title “Meet Maryjane: the only person alive who has never seen Star Wars!”
What are you most looking forward to in 2016?
Right now I’m the trenches of re-making Asuka’s plugsuit from NGE. It’s really satisfying to be completely re-making something I originally made about 6 years ago because I thought at the time that my skills had reached a plateau but here I am today coming up with all these ways of making the plugsuit look infinitely better. Otherwise I’m excited to release a bunch of the “Asuka Asks” videos and hopefully some of my before mentioned short films as well. I’m also the assistant coordinator for the cosplay contest at Tsukino-Con this year so I’m excited to see how the overhaul I have planned for judging and awards will go over with the contestants.
Lastly, where can we find out more about you?
I occasionally post cosplay photos to my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/MaryjaneCosplay) and my Tumblr (maryjanedesignstudio.tumblr.com). If you’re interested in seeing work-in-progress shots and happenings from my everyday life, I post more frequently to Instagram (www.instagram.com/queenofdegenerates). And of course if you’re curious about seeing any of the film projects I have in the works, stay tuned to my Youtube Channel (www.youtube.com/c/QueenOfDegenerates).
About Maryjane Cosplay: Award winning, Vancouver Island based textilemancer Maryjane has been sewing and cosplaying since 2002. Her extensive background in theatre and formal design education give life and prestigious detail to the characters she entertains as at local and international events.