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.


You can find more of Dhareza work on facebook!