Costume Musings

An Insider look into Star Trek: Discovery‘s Alien Prosthetics

It was the last hour of the last day of IMATS Toronto and while things were winding down on the exhibit hall side, seats of the Open Forum stage were filling up for Star Trek: Discovery; one of the most anticipated panels of the weekend. Make-Up Artist magazine’s publisher, Michael Key, sat down with  prosthetic and special effects make-up department head, James MacKinnon; key make-up artist, Hugo Villasenor; and actor, Doug Jones.

  

Discovery is the newest installment in the Star Trek universe set to premiere September 24, 2017. The narrative takes place ten years before Star Trek (TOS) so it was of particular interest to us to see how the special effects make-up would bring something new to the table while staying true to the continuity of the universe established by Kirk and his crew. Early preview images show the Klingons in particular looking drastically different from their TOS counterpart. When asked if this was a stylistic decision or plot-driven change, MacKinnon claimed it was purely an artistic choice. We’ll have to wait to watch the series to see if his words hold any weight since the entire panel had to be very careful to not spoil any narrative elements.

To keep things focused on the technical aspects of make-up, the panel brought on actor Doug Jones and centred around the development of his character, Lt. Saru the Kelpien. Kelpiens are a new alien species to the franchise. As seen in the teaser pilot, Kelpiens were biologically determined to sense the coming of death as they are characterized as the “prey” species on their planet. Lt. Saru subverts the cowardly stereotype of his species, and becomes the first Kelpien to join Starfleet. Saru’s look had to convey a character that was distinctly memorable and lovable. It seems like he is positioned to be the Data or Spock of the series, so his ability to connect with audiences was important.

That need for connection between Jones’s performance and audiences was the basis for finalizing a design that could be executed using prosthetics instead of relying on CG. Everything from the actor’s natural height to the way he had to move on hoofed platform shoes (putting him at a towering 6’8”) contributes to the physicality of the character. Everything you see on screen is 100% the actor’s performance through the prosthetics. There was one exception for digital enhancement regarding the Kelpien ears, but since that was a narrative-based detail the panel couldn’t reveal too much other than to say “something cool happens”.

Before Jones can saunter around on set like a graceful gazelle, he has to sit in the make-up chair for around 2 hours while MacKinnon meticulously works on painting his prosthetics. Lt. Saru is comprised of 5 pieces: cowl, face, chin, bottom lip, and sclera contact lenses. Most of the prosthetics on the show are prepainted during production to provide the base coloring but the rest is done by make-up artists on set. Using a combination of 6 colors, MacKinnon creates the textures and realism of Kelpien skin (for those curious, the brand of paint he uses is Skin Illustrator).

Fresh prosthetics are used every day as they found it more efficient to cut the actor out at the end of shooting and repaint another set. The prosthetics for Saru are created from a 2 part silicon called Smooth-On Skin Tite, so once all the pieces are attached in the morning it becomes one continuous skin around the actor. In the above picture, you can see what Jones looks like after the back of his prosthetics are sliced down the center back and peeled forward. To date, Mackinnon has done the Kelpien make-up about 70 times.

While the panel was quite hush hush on what other jaw-dropping looks they created (as to not spoil any upcoming alien encounters), they did touch on a few other characters who were revealed in the pilot. Sarek (Spock’s dad) played by James Frain is not as heavy on the prosthetics but he sits in the make-up chair just as long as Jones does while the make-up and hair department painstakingly apply facial hair, lace, and skin blockers to create the iconic Vulcan look. You wouldn’t know it just by looking at Frain’s normal photos, but his real hair is actually used and styled into the Vulcan fringe.

Mackinnon and Villasenor both stressed the importance of creating depth and texture when doing body painting work as one solid color never looks good. That’s a tip cosplayers should certainly keep in mind when doing characters with full body paint. Be sure to accentuate your features with shading and don’t be afraid to texturize a bit to make it more realistic.

For any Star Trek fans in the Greater Toronto Area, the panel did reveal that the bulk of filming is done inside Pinewood Studios, but they have shot on location in a forest and quarry near Mississauga. Should any of you aspiring Discovery cosplayers be looking for screen accurate shoot locations, there’s a neat tidbit for you!

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Introducing two new products: Worbla’s Deco Art and Crystal Art!

We’re so excited to announce two new products to our lineup from Worbla: Deco Art and Crystal Art.


Worbla’s Deco Art is actually an older product – similar to friendly plastic, Deco Art was always too cost prohibitive to import to North America, but recent changes in packaging and shipping options means we can now bring it in for customers to see this alternative for quick and easy building.


Crystal Art is brand new, a plastic pellet that you can mold and form and even sculpt to a degree that remains clear and flexible when it cools. It’s a great alternative to resin casting when you need something clear and it needs to be fast, or when you can’t resin cast due to space, cost or health reasons.

When would you use Deco Art? Adding dimension to Worbla builds is the most common use, adding skulls, pommels, texture and decorative details to a Worbla base. You can also sculpt Deco Art on its own, or cast it in moulds to create quick hard plastic copies of a needed shape.

Above: Deco Art used with various molds.

Deco Art used to create raised detailing on a shoulder pauldron.

When would you use Crystal Art? As an alternative to resin casting, or when you need something translucent but flexible. Crystal Art will let you create small gems and stones, magic runes and organic looking crystal with ease. Larger pieces can be much more difficult to mold ‘cleanly’, as it can be difficult to evenly heat the pellets and prevent air from getting trapped, but it still can give you a product that will work especially when you need more of an overall effect than something to withstand closeup scrutiny.

Crystal Art molded and colored in a variety of ways.


Crystal Art casting process by Naruvien Art & Design

It’s important to note that neither of these products are suggested as a replacement for resin casting, just as an alternative when casting with resin is not the best option.

Deco Art and Crystal Art will be available in 4.4oz and 14oz packages, and can be found here on Cosplaysupplies.com

Interested to learn more about these products? Check out their product pages here!

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Now Available: The Book of Cosplay Sewing

Kamui Cosplay has created another book to add to her lineup, this time all about sewing!

The Book of Cosplay Sewing!
Are you a beginner when it comes to fabric? Have you never touched a needle and thread, but finally want to start? This is the book just for you! In 52 pages and over 220 pictures you’ll get easy step-by-step guides and detailed explanations about: Sewing by hand or with a machine, choosing the right fabric, sewing stretch fabrics, creating new or working with pre-existing patterns, sewing a mock-up, adjusting patterns, adding a zipper, lining, sewing gloves, leggings, boot covers and a dress, attaching armor to fabric and of course a lot of detailed pictures, tips and work examples!

Included in the book, which has 52, full color pages:


Introduction to tools, machines and materials
Sewing machine and serger
Choosing the right fabric
Three useful hand-stitches
Working with stretch materials
Sewing simple gloves with lycra (drawing a pattern on paper)
Sewing leggings with jersey (creating patterns from old clothes and working with a serger)
Sewing a dress with satin (working with store bought patterns)
Sewing a boot cover with faux leather (creating patterns with duct tape)
Attaching armor to fabric

It also covers these useful techniques:
Creating a mock-up
Adjusting patterns
Placing a zipper
Adding lining
Many more useful tips

As well as the following work examples:
Cleric (Aion)
Xena: Warrior Princess
Monk (FFXIV)

The Book of Cosplay Sewing is available at Cosplaysupplies.com! It retails for $28 but is only $22 if purchased with a Jumbo roll of Worbla!

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Interview with Meesha / Kyuu Vixen Cosplay from Cosplay Melee!

We were lucky to interview Meesha of Kyuu Vixen Cosplay about her episode of Cosplay Melee and talk a bit about the experience!

Your dragon was such a great idea, and I loved the way you built up layers with Worbla and Foam. Have you used Worbla on other projects? What are you most proud of?

Luckily this was not my first encounter with using Worbla, while I was on Cosplay Melee. I tend to use fabric and various types of foam for most of my creative processes. Though I have used thermoplastics here and there, for various projects. Usually having to do with some type of armor or prop making. One of my favorite builds of mine, while using a mix of foam and Worbla. Similar to the sandwiching and shaping like was shown on the show, would be my Diablo cosplay from Diablo III. It was my first full bodied reptile-like creature costume, which took 4-5 months to build but I had to get very inventive with the process while working on the cosplay.

The magic of TV editing means we don’t always get to see issues with a build – was there anything you had issues with on your dragon that they didn’t show?

Making any cosplay wouldn’t be complete without having some sort of road block of course. Making an original character can be a bit of a task in itself but while under pressure while a clock is ticking can be even harder and leave a person a bit flustered while making blueprints of their character. My trouble was that accidentally ordered too small of PVC piping, and made the Dragon skull a bit too large while jotting down patterns in my foam and worbla. So my staff became a bit too top heavy. As a competition judge myself, I knew that was something that my panel of judges would “ding” me for. Which of course they did, but I completely understood.
Other then that, the skull staff was supported on the PVC piping by a cone that I had created. While screwing the skull onto the cone shape, I did have to be careful and have a very steady hand. As to not pierce the screw completely through the sandwich layers of worbla, but just enough to keep it tight and a bit of extra glue to reinforce the mounted skull.

What inspired you to participate in Cosplay Melee? Would you go back for another round if they invited you?

The casting director actually reached out to me very early on, as my information was kept. After I applied for “Heroes of Cosplay”‘s first season. Which when speaking to the casting director, the premise of this new cosplay related show was going to be focused on the craft. Which is what really interested me, as I am more about the positivity in the community and sharing similar interests with other inventive people. It was a bit of a risk, but definitely was worth every minute of it.

I absolutely would love to go back for another season, gotta show how much I have been working on my prop making skills since the end of the show. It really inspired me to reach out a bit more into my community and speak to people who do focus their skills more in this area, and in exchange I have been offering more sewing techniques to my friends.

Going on a professional set can be a bit intimidating at first, even though I have acted for roles either in competitions or for theater. Nothing really can prepare you for television till you are actually standing there. Once I got to speaking to other people, it really relaxes you. Also reality television really makes it a bit easier, all you have to do is be yourself. That’s why you are there, because you were chosen because the producers for the network liked your personality.

I actually didn’t know any of my fellow contestants, but really hit it off with them the moment we all met. Also having a nice reunion a few months later when I was in California for the “Talking Dead.” #teamhardicehorses #sandstorm

Has being part of Cosplay Melee inspired you to take on new projects? Is there a dream costume in the works for you now?

Being on the show really did remind me a bit more on why I love doing what I do. Kinda was little an invigorating feeling that really amps you up for creating more projects that may have been on a “list” for a while. Some projects that I am currently working on for Anime Expo is Revali from Legend of Zelda-Breath of the Wild and Bayonetta’s main skin from Bayonetta 2. I do know that eventually, my dream project would be making an EVA from Neon Gensis Evagelion, more specifically Rei Ayaname’s EVA Unit.

Photo by WeNeals

The workshop is really out of a cosplayer’s dream – were there any tools or supplies you wish you could have taken back with you?

Common, of course I am going to say EVERYTHING. I’d take the whole lot please!

Photo by WeNeals

Lastly: What advice would you give someone who wants to apply for the next season of Cosplay Melee?

Well aspects of season 2 might change, so what advise that I can offer for future contestants would be that you do not know what the staff is looking for in future contestants. Remember to be yourself always, they like you to be real for reality television. The judging is not as difficult in my opinion compared to large convention competitions. There is a time constraint but they are not judging for accuracy, looking up close at every detail, so your construction does not need to be flawless.

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Interview with Jacqueline Goehner from Cosplay Melee!

We had the chance to interview Jacqueline Goehneron her experience with Cosplay Melee and her work as a Cosplayer!

First of all, congrats on your episode and being chosen for Cosplay Melee! Your work is always wonderful and it was a treat to see you work ‘live’.
Awe!!! Thank you so much! It was such an incredible experience!

So first question: I know what Moe is, but I never remember the rest of the random titles for characteristics. Did they explain those to you off screen if you didn’t know/offer to explain, or was there the assumption you all knew the terms?
There was an assumption that we knew all the terms, but I’ve been explained before that “Moe” was a cute, feminine, innocent person or rather something or being precious. I’ve also heard of different sub-variations of Moe, like being submissive or shy or coy.

Photo by Paul Tien

For your staff, you put that together so fast and so *large* it was really impressive! When working with expanding foam and caulk, are there any general pointers you’d give cosplayers who want to emulate that effect?
Thank you! Actually, it’s important to know your materials and how well they work. The expanding foam can cure pretty quickly if you don’t overdo it. So do thinner layers if you’re in a time crunch! And caulk is very much like working with frosting! (It looks like frosting too!) It can be smoothed down, but It can also take on some really amazing texture without going overboard on work. Again, you have to make sure you get the kind that cures faster and can be painted, or you’ll end up with some big problems!

Your final costume had so many parts! Could you breakdown the whole thing? I feel like they didn’t show enough of your construction to really give us a sense of your underpinnings and layers.
Haha! There was so much to ALL of our costumes that they didn’t cover, but it’s an hour long show! So from head to boot: lavender and silver streaked wig, flower hair pieces connect with chain (shown in the back), elf ears, purple breastplate accented with gold also with iridescent fairy wings attached, white bodice, cincher (unseen), pink and magenta floral lacing and embroidery fabric, multi-colored pick-up pleated skirt with train, stripped gold tulle petticoat, six floating elongated purple faulds (skirt armor), and gold with purple lace painted boots. I think that’s it lol!

I loved the way your Worbla breastplate framed your chest! It was super flattering. What other projects have you used Worbla in? Do you have any you are especially proud of?
Thank you! I was already in love with Worbla, but I had only used it on smaller pieces or smaller parts if armor. I’ve used Worbla for my Zelda armor, for my upcoming Samus Varia suit (and I just ran out of Worbla *cries*), I’ve used a good chunk of it for my Borg cosplay (the breastplate and stabilizing other parts of the costume), Ganondorf’s headpiece, Vampirella’s armband, and other characters…too many to list!

Speaking of your chest- I mean, if I may – you do a lot of revealing costumes and photosets, and part of your introduction was about being confident in yourself – which you absolutely rock! That said – did SyFy tell you that they wanted a certain amount of skin covered for TV? Were there any guidelines everyone was expected to follow?
haha, thank you girl!!! Confidence is a big important factor in cosplay. SyFy was well aware of my revealing costumes, but they never ever told me what I couldn’t design. They were equally supportive with all of us of what we wanted to do. It’s funny though, I’m known for the more revealing characters, but I’ve done more conservative cosplays than revealing! Maybe 5 or 6 revealing cosplays out of 80+ costumes. So being covered up wasn’t out of the norm for me LOL!

Photo by William D Lee Photography

Your profile says you’ve done work for different productions – anything we might recognize that has your name attached? Any productions you are especially proud of being a part of (besides Melee of course!)
Yes! The last film I costume designed for was The Curse of Sleeping Beauty which came out last year I believe, I’m very proud of my work there! I’ve also made costumes for SMOSH, Anovos, Disney, and many others.

Do you have a dream costume still on your bucket list?
actually I’m working on TWO dream costumes! My Samus varia suit and my Angelus costume (animatronic WINGS!!!!!!!!!), one of which involves a LOT of Worbla!

The shop had so many tools and supplies – was there anything you wished you could take home with you?
OMG yes! If I could’ve, I would’ve taken ALL the Worbla and L200, the cutting mats (I go through those quick), drawing table, work table, I have a vacuform, but the one they had there was much bigger, I’d also take the ENTIRE electronics section (SO many goodies in there that I wanted!)….and yeah, basically the whole space! Paul and I talked that if either of us ever won the lottery, we would recreate that space! I’m sure Meesha and Jessie are in the same boat!

Photo by Eurobeat Kasumi Photography


Lastly: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to compete in Cosplay Melee season 2?
Have fun! This competition is a boat load of work, but if you have fun with it, it’ll be rewarding no matter what the outcome! Also, practice with your materials and tools prior. It helps cut out the stress if something doesn’t go right and it’ll really help!

—-

You can see more of Jacqueline’s work on her facebook!

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FoamWerks cutting tools!

FoamWerks sent us their Deluxe FoamWerks kit to test on Worbla, so we gave it to Amanda (Elemental Photography and Design) and Vicky (Vickybunnyangel Cosplay) to run the set through the paces of cutting Worbla, EVA foam and Sintra.

You can see the tests they did live on Twitch here, starting at the 1h13 mark!

Overall:
FoamWerks Cutters are handy for cutting Worbla and foam especially if you have difficulty gripping/controlling an Xacto knife. The ergonomic design makes it comfortable to grasp and utilizes more of your arm strength taking the strain off of your hand muscles – Amanda has tendinitis and grip issues, and this was a huge benefit for her especially. Here’s a breakdown of the standout tools we tried:

WB6020 Freestyle Cutter

V: Originally meant as a push style cutter, we found it worked better “pulling” on Worbla. Starting from the middle of a sheet (you can’t start from the edge, so if you’re drawing the outline of your design make sure you leave enough allowance between the edge), the Freestyle Cutter can do complex curves and worked with a single layer of Worbla. The precision was not as exact as cutting with scissors, however this could be used to cut out basic shapes before using scissors to cut out the finer details.

A: I had more success with this than Vicky, and I think if I had one I’d use it for cutting my large general shapes (such as cutting out pieces for sandwiching) because it’s faster than scissors but also doesn’t strain my wrists the way a xacto knife or scissors would. I do a lot of sandwiching and folding and this would cut that basic shape time (and strain) in half.

WC-6001 Straight Cutter

V: The Straight Cutter is a much larger tool with a wide flat base to provide stability when cutting straight lines. It can be used free hand, or in conjunction with the W-3001 Channel Rail. The Straight Cutter has a build in channel guide that will lock onto the tracks of the W-3001 ruler to prevent slippage. Very handy for making worbla strips consistent in width for edge details. We found it can handle 2 layers of fused Worbla with some effort, otherwise it easily cuts 1 layer.

A: This is a game changer for me – I hate the time it takes to cut lots and lots of strips for Worbla detailing, and while a rotary cutter might work well for some, the replacement blades are just too expensive for me to want to dull them on plastic, while the blades of the straight cutter stay sharp even after many cuts on both foam and Worbla. Especially after cutting through 2 layers of black, I’ll be using this for my Sailor Mercury build!


Above: Strips cut with the straight cutter. The bottom strip of black was done freehand with scissors for a comparison.

WC-2001 V-Groove Cutter

V: Worbla is too thin to use with the V-Groove cutter which requires a minimum thickness of ⅛”. Typically it’s used for foamboard. It can cut material up to a max thickness of ½” . It will cut a “v” shaped strip out of your material so you can make seamless 45 degree joints. The real takeaway though is the strip that is extracted. It creates that perfect beveled triangle edge that is so prevalent in a lot of armor designs like Warcraft – we tried this on 6mm EVA foam with great success.

The V-Groove Cutter can cut in a straight line, or cut curves so you can customize how your strip will turn out if you want minimal twisting i.e. to get an “S” shape.

A: This so did not work at all on Worbla, but the application on foam is really, really neat. If you do a lot of armor that requires that sharp raised beveled edge, this could save a lot of time with a dremel. You have to get the right hang of how ‘deep’ to push as you extract the foam or you’ll have an uneven V shape, but once I got the hang of it I was sold. This is getting added to my toolshop.

WA-8001 Circle Cutter

V: The circle cutter is a bit of a niche tool, but if you ever need to cut perfect circles out of Worbla, this is great for that. It’s easy to use with the crank handle slowly lowering the blade in a circular motion. It can cut through multiple layers of Worbla. The circle cutter creates circles between 1” – 6” diameter

A: I wish I could think of a better application for it, since circles are so niche, but man this was just FUN and very rewarding to use. If you do have a costume that requires circles, consider this instead of shelling out for a laser cutter.

WD8011 Hole Drill

V: This picks up where the Circle Cutter leaves off. If you are making say a corset out of Worbla or need to create holes for a lace-up system to attach your armor, then this can be a handy tool to achieve that. Then you can install grommets to further strengthen the holes. It’s small in size and portable compared to the large Circle Cutter.

It’s recommended that your holes be drilled in your Worbla pieces, before you heat shape them as you need a flat surface to properly use the tool.

A: Vicky pretty much sums it up! I think the fact it can give you really clean, sharp holes is great – usually I just poke holes with a leather tool, but they don’t come out this clean and even. We didn’t end up testing this on video while we were streaming, but it’s very simple to use. And it comes with multiple sizes!

WC-6010 Straight/ Bevel Cutter

A: Admission time. We tackled all of these live on Twitch, and the kit instructions on the bevel/straight edge cutter weren’t clear, so we didn’t see a ‘value’ in it and set it aside. The next afternoon I decided to give it another try because I felt like we must have been doing something wrong – and so I watched a YouTube video to realize that we’d missed a step completely.

Giving the bevel cutter a second chance was really quite awesome – it gives you sharp, perfectly beveled edges at 45 degrees, similar to the V groove cutter but useful when you need to bevel an edge. It isn’t strong enough to cut through multiple layers of Worbla, so it would be something to use on EVA foam, as Worbla just isn’t thick enough on its own for that bevel to matter. That said, I really love how neat and clean the cuts were and how easy it was to get that edge

Conclusion!

Overall we think the Straight Cutter, Hole Drill, Bevel Edge Cutter, and V Groove Cutter have a lot of potential for speeding up the process for cosplayers, and the freestyle cutter may be a great help to folks who would like to cut down on scissor/xacto knife use at the start of a build. These aren’t replacements for your normal tools, but if you want to save time or are looking for some more ergonomic tools to add to your toolbox, look into FoamWerks!

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Interview with Becka Noel from Cosplay Melee

We got a chance to talk to Becka Noel about her episode of Cosplay Melee, War Games!

First of all, congrats on your episode! I have to admit I was rooting for you the hardest because I am a Star Trek Nerd, and you really did look like something from the universe!

Haha, Star Trek forever! Thank you for the kind words 🙂

8 hours is not a lot of time! You managed to create something really huge in that timeframe, and it looked really lightweight and well balanced. How heavy was your Genesis and did you have any issues with it that the show cut out?
Thanks! The Genesis was actually pretty lightweight. I carved it out of a very lightweight pink insulation foam and attached the spikes using…Worbla! It is also connected to my breastplate with big straps made of EVA foam that was wrapped in worbla. The most difficult part of building the genesis was probably attaching it to my breastplate. It was a little more complicated since we had to build the weapons for the first challenge and then go back and somehow attach them to our costumes. Because of the way my straps were initially built, I actually had to rip them off and redo them so they would fit into my breastplate properly, which used A LOT of my time.


As a fellow floor-worker, I thought it was great you had so much floor space to use for your build! Did anyone from the show try to encourage you to use the tables, or did they let you work as you needed to?
Haha! At first, they asked me why I was on the floor instead of using the nice huge table and I explained how I work at home and they understood. However, it wasn’t the easiest to film me on the floor, so they did eventually ask me to work at my table. I guess I do need to get used to working at a table at some point, haha.

I know from another interview that the makeup was done by a MUA, but did you design the look yourself? It was really striking!
I’m sorry, but I don’t think we’re actually allowed to go into detail about the makeup, but yes, I did design my look! And thanks! 🙂


You used Worbla for your spine and chestplate, but of course the magic of TV editing mean we don’t always get to see the full build. Where else was Worbla used on your costume?
I used Worbla everywhere! My breastplate, Genesis, pauldron, bracers, thight, shin and shoe armor were all Worbla. I also used Worbla as a construction tool to “glue/attach” various pieces together.


What other work have you done with Worbla? Do you have a favorite costume you’ve constructed with it?
I have many Worbla armor cosplays! I’ve loved working with Worbla since I discovered it before it was even available in the US! A few of my favorite cosplays that I made with Worbla are Ame-Comi Wonder Woman, my original designed mashup characters, Goddess Warrioe Pinkie Pie, and Valkyrie Eevee, Sejuani and Red Riding Hood!

Did working on Cosplay Melee inspire you to any new or bigger projects? Anything you were scared to try that you want to dive into next?

Yes! I feel almost invincible now after Cosplay Melee, haha. Like I can start a new costume and finish it in record time! I also want to make bigger and more detailed things in the future. Cosplay Melee was and is incredibly inspiring. From my own episode to all of my castmates’ episodes, it’s a really special and invigorating feeling.

Last question: What advice would you give cosplayers who want to participate in next season’s Cosplay Melee?
Even if you’re scared or don’t think you’re up to a certain level, GO FOR IT! What do you have to lose? If you don’t make it, try again next time! I wasn’t even going to applyto be on Cosplay Melee and the only reason I did was because my friend, Jackie (episode two) convinced me to. It’s easy to measure your true talent lower than what it is. But believe me, you’ve got it, you just have to give it a shot.

—–

You can find more of Becka’s work at her Facebook! Becka Noel!

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Interview with Jessie Pridemore from Cosplay Melee

For AniMelee, episode 6 of Cosplay Melee, Jessie Pridemore made a Transforming Magical Girl based on Madoka – and we got to ask her some questions about the episode and her costumes!


So, question one: What made you decide to take the leap and compete in Cosplay Melee? So many other cosplay ‘documentaries’ and that Reality Show That Must Not Be Named miss the heart and soul of cosplay in order to chase something flashy or their own preconceived notions: what made Cosplay Melee interesting to you?

They reached out to me early on in the process and it sounded really interesting. Just talking to the people involved and the casting directors, it was clear that they wanted something really different and positive. More about construction. Those of us in the first season, we took a huge risk by jumping on. It really paid off. It makes me happy and proud to be able to be a part of something the community has been wanting.


What was the interview process like?

It took a while. We submitted our portfolios, then filmed a Skype interview with questions, then had a two-hour demo where we made something and finally we met with the producers.

Your staff was adorable and so very Madoka-inspired. I was really impressed with how you hid the motor – have your worked with electronics and moving parts before? Were there any hiccups the episode didn’t show?

Thank you! I had no made anything that moved before. It was a challenge. With my prop, they showed all of my hiccups, haha. The motor was actually the easy part compared to everything else.

Quickchange is one of the current cosplay ‘fads’ I’m seeing, but you really accomplished it especially the *quick* part I think some cosplayers miss. Did you get to test the costume and change at all before hand, or was this a one shot sink or swim attempt when you made your way down the runway?

I knew I had to stand out from the other cosplayers. I knew their work was going to be amazing and solid, so I had to set myself apart. I only got to rehearse it twice before the judges saw me walk and it was really rocky. I didn’t think I was going to pull it off (hehe).

Speaking of your runway walk: WOW were you ever intense! I thought you were incredibly badass and looked like you could drive a heel through anyone who crossed you. Do you have advice for cosplayers who have a hard time faking confidence for stage or photos?

The funny thing is, I didn’t think I looked that serious! I was just concentrating really hard. Fake it til you make it. My motto. I’m not the most confident person in the world, but at some point you have to realize that in the grand scheme of things, none of this really matters and therefore you should just have fun with it and go for it.


You mentioned to me that this was your first time using Worbla! Why did you decide to give it a try while in the shop, instead of another material?

I’ve used regular Worbla before, this was my first time using black Worbla. I knew it was smoother and required less prep time. Plus the black base works better for metallics. It was strictly a time thing but I ended up liking the material a lot. It’s just a lot less adhesive than normal Worbla.

Now that you have used Worbla, do you have any projects you might use it on next? And if not, what *is* on your to-do list?

I have a lotttt of projects I want to use Worbla on. My Rei pluguit, Fran from FFXII and I really want to work on some water splash concepts with clear Worbla.

Photo by Joseph Chi Lin


Did competing on Cosplay Melee inspire you in any way? Tackling that dream costume, stepping out of your comfort zone, or just working with new materials?

Stepping out of my comfort zone is something I need to do a lot more of. I try to learn something new with everything I make. You don’t get better if you don’t challenge yourself.

The workshop really was out of a cosplayer’s dream. Was there anything you wished you could take home with you when the show was done?

EVERYTHING. Especially the power tools.

One thing I was surprised was how much SyFy didn’t advertise cosplayer’s handles, nor facebook pages. Did they ever explain the reasoning behind that, or was it just something left in the air? If new fans to cosplay want to find the contestants, they might have a harder time of it, I thought. Luckily everyone involved in the show has been so good at signal boosting one another – I’d never have found everyone to interview otherwise!

I’m not really sure what their reasoning was, unfortunately. It as a bit disappointing.

Would you compete again if they one day had an ‘all stars’ round the way Face Off does?

Hell yeah!

Photo by MinhP


Lastly: what advice would you give a cosplayer who wants to compete in season 2 of Cosplay Melee?

Hard to give advice since the format might change, but based on my experience: Just got for it. You never know what they are looking for. Be you, most importantly. Don’t worry about the time constraints. You’d be surprised how much you can get done when you don’t have a cell phone. The judges didn’t inspect our seams so… maybe spend a little less time making your construction perfect…

Most importantly, have fun! Be supportive.

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You can find more of Jessie’s work on her Facebook, Jessie Pridemore!

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Interview with Dhareza (Dhareza Cosplayza) from Cosplay Melee

Episode 5 of Cosplay Melee featured some super Super Heroes and we interviewed with Dhareza about his work on the show – including that oh-so-interesting ‘pebble’ technique!

Photo by Vivid Vision

To start, congrats on your episode and your awesome work! It was awesome to see your character come together and we were all cheering as you pounced down the runway – I love seeing people who can really evoke their character in posing, and you had that down pat!

First Things First: This ‘Pebble Technique’ – I’ve never seen it and apparently neither had the rest of the shop and none of our crew here – is this a secret you can share with others?
The “Pebble Technique” came about after getting way too many blisters in my hand trying to form my eva foam into specific shapes. In the past, I would use my knuckles or my palm to rub the foam into a specific shape. But after months of getting blisters, I found a random pebble on the floor and one thing lead to another.

Do you have a pet? Was your Cat Revenge Story because you have a cat yourself? Or are you just a big fan of the John Wick movies….
I have 2 cats that my fiancee, Becka Noel (also a contestant on Cosplay Melee) and I rescued. Every great hero has a tragic back-story. I can’t think of anything worse than my cats being brutally murdered. Also, I had just watched John Wick on the flight to LA and it obviously inspired me.

Photo by Cristal Craft Photography & Cosplay


Your paintwork was great, and we’ve always loved your use of color and metallic finishes. What are your favourite paints or painting techniques? Any tips you’d give to cosplayers struggling to really make their work pop?
I love using acrylic paints. My favorite paints are Lumiere Paints by Jacquard Products. Many cosplayers love using spray paints or airbrushes, but since I live in NYC with very limited space and almost no access to outdoor space, I’ve learned to make do with painting everything by hand. This may seem strange, but it also makes me get more connected with my armor when I have to paint every nook and crevasse on my armor.

Of course we want to talk about Worbla – you used EVA foam for a lot of your armor, but the helmet was Worbla and it looked like you shaped a lot of the curves after you’d assembled it. Do you remember how that process went?
I love working with Worbla. Where eva foam gives me more instant gratification due to how fast you can work with it, Worbla allows me to precisely craft exactly what’s in my head. In the case of my helmet in Cosplay Melee, it was literally on my head. After years of making helmets, I have made templates for every part of my head. When I came up with the complex curves of the helmet, I knew exactly what type of template I needed to re-create. I used the half-sandwich method for my helmet. Essentially, I drew up the individual shapes on craft foam, and then covered one side with Worbla. After connecting all the pieces together, I covered up the seems with Wood Filler, which is great to hide bumps and imperfections because it allows slight flexing.

What other work have you done with Worbla? Do you have a favorite costume or piece you’ve constructed with it?
My very first cosplay I made completely by myself was entirely out of Worbla – my Arkham Origins Deathstroke. It was my first time using Worbla and I ended up using 2 full jumbo rolls to finish it – much to the horror of my fiancee Becka Noel, who knew how much each roll cost … Since then, I’ve learned to be a lot more strategic with my Worbla usage. Almost all of my helmets are made out of Worbla because I love the combination of thinness, and rigidity. But my favorite Worbla helmet would be my Carmine helmet from Gears of War. Constructed over the course of 1 weekend, I used every trick I know into making that. My favorite Worbla piece goes to my Spartan Batman shoulder pauldron. I constructed a Bat face by shaping and heating the Worbla as if it were clay.


Your girlfriend, Becka Noel, was also in an episode and it was so sweet to see you both talk about one another. Were you worried you might end up competing against one another when you auditioned? Who’s episode was filmed first?
While Becka and I are super supportive of each other, the question that is asked ALL THE TIME, is “who is the better cosplayer.” The only way to prove who’s better is by competition and we love competing against each other. But we lover working WITH each other even more. We salivated at the thought of competing against each other, but it worked out better to not be in the same episode. My episode was filmed first, and Becka’s was right after. It worked out for the best because we met amazing life-long friends in the process.

The workshop is out of a cosplayer’s dream: was there any tool you got to use for the first time while working there? Is there anything you wish you could take home with you?
I’m used to working on the floor. That’s been my “workshop” for over 6 years. Having a table was already amazing, but having an entire workshop with EVERYTHING a cosplayer could want was breath taking. Since this was a skills and time based competition, I thought it was more strategic to stick with what I know. Instead of asking for tools that have been on my wish-list for years, I asked for the things I’ve worked with for years. There’s a saying that I live by – “You don’t go to war with an untested weapon.” If I could take anything back with me, it would have been the entire shop … If I could choose something more realistic, it would have been the table.

Photo by Rudi B Photography

Speaking of the workshop: there sure was a lot of last minute spray painting in that enclosed space without masks. Were you worried about the fumes at all?
“Safety first.” That’s a mantra that every cosplayer should recite to themselves everyday. Having said that, the Cosplay Melee workshop had plenty of ventilation and the ceilings were actually beyond 30 feet, so there was plenty of circulation. When I sprayed, it was to spray polycrylic to seal my paint job. It’s relatively harmless, but a mask would have been smart to use.

Photo by Rudi B Photography


Last question: What advice would you give cosplayers who want to participate in next season’s Cosplay Melee?
Cosplay Melee was the most stressful thing I’ve ever done. Cosplay Melee was the most fun thing I’ve ever done … The show will test you to your limits. Do your absolute best, but remember to do what you’re best at. You’re not competing against the other cosplayers. Let them do what they came to do. You’re competing against the clock. Stick to what you know best, and stick to the skill set that brought you to the show in the first place. But above everything, remember to have fun. You’re going to be surrounded by some of the most creative and talented people out there. Soak it up.

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You can find more of Dhareza work on facebook!

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Interview with Paul (Tearatone) from Cosplay Melee

Episode 6 of Cosplay Melee was the last episode of the season, aptly titled ‘AniMelee’ and featuring some of my favorite work yet! We got a chance to speak with Paul who goes by Tearatone online about his work on the episode, as well as his impressive Dot Hack inspired “Bokkuko” Kabuto.

First of all, congrats on your episode! It was awesome to see an episode that seemed equal parts sewing as crafting, and here at the studio we felt you really nailed the Dot Hack silhouette with your character design – there was no doubt what anime you were from!

Thank you! It was an amazing experience to be able to make an original character from a series I love so much! I’m glad I could create something that everyone got right away.

Did you know you would be the last episode, or was that a secret you found out after all the recording was done?

I didn’t know in what order any of our episodes were going to air. I didn’t find that out until well after filming. Though the narcissistic part of me was kind of thrilled to hear I was in the finale!

Your headpiece was really impressive – the fact you could keep it balanced and still emote down the walkway was just great. How much did it weigh when you were done? Would you approach it differently now, with hindsight?

The headpiece was probably around ten pounds, give or take. Though after wearing it for awhile it felt like much more! It was made mainly of high density mattress foam, which is fairly sturdy but lightweight. If I were to ever remake the piece, I would have implemented a better anchor system, probably using more leather belts! Having just one chin strap seems like a bit of a shortcoming now.

Speaking of different – for your second runway walk, it looked like your beetle bracer came apart much easier in one motion. Did you edit it in some way to achieve that, or was it just the magic of editing and some fast motions to get it to fall that wall?

Ah, that was actually kinda funny! If you notice during my mid build critique with the judges, Leeanna suggested that I use more paint to cover the seam, which was part velcro, part magnet button. This slightly weakened the hold of those materials, which made it pop open much better. A happy accident! Combine that with me now spending more time with my prop and learning just how it functioned, and you get the result on the final runway presentation!

As deceptively ‘simple’ a piece as it is, I think your beetle bracer is my personal favourite prop I got to see made on Cosplay Melee. Do you have any favourite pieces others have made, now that all the episodes are aired? Just cool things that made you go oooh?

Aww, shucks! Glad you like it so much! As for my favorite… that’s a tough one to pick. Though the one that sticks out most in my mind is the gauntlet that Steven made in the War Games episode! That was pretty freakin’ awesome!

It was super interesting to see you use cardboard as a base, cover that in foam, and cover that in Worbla – is that your usual method when you work with Worbla?

It is one of my favorite methods! And come to think of it, one of my main go to’s. It is a cheap, fast, and effective trick to bulk up props or armor. Worbla is a versatile yet thin material, so all it has to do for my builds is encase a structure, then have details worked into it.

Another Worbla question – have you used it for other costumes? What projects are you the most proud of?

I have used it on past costumes, mainly for prop work. But more often than not I find I use it for commissions. My favorite piece to date using Worbla has to be a PipBoy3000 a customer wanted made. Oh! And right now I am currently working on some awesome armor a friend of mine designed… though I need to get some more Worbla before I can continue with it, haha!


Are there any cosplayers who inspire you when you’re working on a project? People who’s work you follow who teach you new things?

Oh, there are definitely inspiring people I follow! Featherweight comes to mind right away. Though the builder I take the most inspiration from has to be Volpin, of Volpin props. As far as cosplayers and prop makers go, the guy has been my hero for the last ten years. He’s so informative and talented! Not to mention he is a fellow Daft Punk fan, I think we won me over with that.

The workshop is right out of most cosplayer’s dreams. If you could have taken one tool home with you, what would it have been?

Tool?… Hmmm. I kind of have all of those tools in my shop, if not available in the shop next to mine. No, instead of any of the tools what I really wanted to take home with me was all that pink insulation foam, mattress foam, and Worbla! I could have been set up for at least the next year! UGHH! I still think back to that, and how hard it was to let it all go. We spent a hectic handful of days in that workroom, but grew accustomed to it and fell in love with it so fast, so leaving behind all of those wonderful materials was sort of painful.

Lastly: What advice would you give anyone who would like to compete in the next season of Cosplay Melee?

My advice to them would be challenge yourself. Don’t play it safe! Use what you know and play to your strengths, but take it to a level you wouldn’t normally attempt. Also, expect to have to adaptable and flexible. Something will go wrong, no matter what you have planned out, but how you make that bump in the road work for you is what will elevate what you are making into so much more than what you thought it could be. Most of all, believe in yourself. I know that sounds corny, but its what kept me so upbeat and chipper. The fact that I was selected to be on Cosplay Melee was already proof that I had something amazing to bring to the table, I just had to keep on trucking until I got there.

You can find more of Paul’s work here on Facebook!

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