Interview with a Cosplayer is back with a yet another Cosplay Gem!!! Say Hi to the alluring Elepahntbird Cosplay, a New England native who’s been around the world and back and it really shows in her designs. Mostly working with anime/manga characters (where the margin for error is pretty much non-existent) she definitely gets a gold star. Her work looks very polished and from a technical aspect you can tell Elephantbird puts a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and most importantly thought into everything she does. So sit on down and strap in and let this talented young lady blow your mind.
What is the Cosplay scene like where you live?
This is actually a really difficult question for me to answer! I’m on my third college right now, all of them in completely different locations, all of them far away from where I grew up. I cut my teeth in New England, and to date that’s my favorite community. There are a ton of states in New England and all of them are the size of a shoebox. It’s a really unique area of the country where by driving say, four hours in any direction, you can pass through five or six states. And of course, all of them have a few cons! So really, you could go to a different one every month if you really tried. It makes for a really interconnected, intimate community of small fan run cons that I just love. While I may not be friends with all of them, at any major northeast con there’s a rotating cast of faces I know and can be friendly with and be comfortable hanging out with for a few hours if I end up on my own.
My first foray into higher education lead me to the Pacific Northwest. Completely different. I don’t know if you’ve never been out there, but it’s basically a major city, and then… the woods. You can drive for hours and see nothing but trees. It was major culture shock to me to get there and realize that no, being able to go to a con two states away like it’s nothing isn’t normal! But because of this, the cons that they do have are a major occasion, even smaller ones that might be overlooked if they were in a more saturated market like the Northeast. People will come from five, six hours away for a little con and start planning next year’s cosplay by the following Monday. The convention Facebook groups are active all year round. When I expressed my frustrations with how few cons there were out there to a Portland native friend, he said that he likes it this way. It makes the community feel stronger and cons more like a special occasion. (Also, it’s easier on the wallet.) So I guess it’s all a matter of perspective.
After leaving that school, I took a gap semester and spent the time studying in Tokyo. And of course I had to take my costumes with me. I can’t really talk much about the community in Japan… what I experienced was a much more individual experience than the community-based one we have here in the US. However, cosplaying in Japan, especially as a foreigner whose grasp on the language is tenuous at best, is a whole other blog post. Finally, I’ve landed (hopefully permanently!) in Savannah, GA. Haven’t gotten to go to any cons here yet, but Savannah’s an art school town, it’s just bursting with creativity. I can’t wait to see what the south has for me.
What got you into the art of Cosplay?
I’m a sucker for clickbait. That’s honestly it. Around the time of San Diego Comic Con all the clickbait was about cosplay. I’d always loved making my own costumes for Halloween and I was just starting to dip my toes into nerd culture, so I started wishing I could go to SDCC and was sad I missed it. I didn’t want to wait a whole year so I did a little research and realized… wait, these things are all over the country! My first con was New York Comic Con in 2011. I went in a Chell (Portal) costume handmade mostly out of duct tape and got a really amazing response- I was hooked and never looked back!
Who are your favorite characters to Cosplay?
Murderers. I swear it wasn’t on purpose, but one day I looked through my cosplay roster and realized, oh jeez, literally everyone I’ve ever cosplayed has killed someone. I’ve kept my streak up to this day, with the sole exception of Hanayo Koizumi (Love Live). A few favorites are Junko Enoshima (Dangan Ronpa), Mikan Tsumiki (Dangan Ronpa), Undyne (Undertale), and Kyouko Sakura (Madoka Magica). I’ve got a particular fondness for the Dangan Ronpa series in general- I’ve cosplayed eleven characters from it and have plans for at least four more. In general, though, I look for characters that inspire me, be it in design or personality. I want to wear cosplays that will be fun and challenging to make, characters I can embody, and that’ll maybe attract some attention on the big day.
Can you tell me what it took to make this particular design? (Time, cost, materials, etc)
This depends a lot on the cosplay. Time wise, I’d say the average costume takes me around a month to put together. Add a week or so per new technique I have to learn. However, this varies wildly. A basic seifuku I can knock out in two days. Some of my more elaborate ones can take upwards a month. I think the longest I ever spent on a cosplay, from initial planning to debut, was Nui Harime (Kill la Kill). She took a year. However, that was when I was first starting out- now that I’ve got a few more years under my belt, I could do it a lot faster and higher quality. That’s actually the most frustrating thing about that cosplay. I learned so much making it that by the time I finished I could’ve done it way better!
For materials, I’m primarily a seamstress and a wig stylist, so most of my costumes are going to be fabric based. However, I love pushing myself and learning to work with new materials as the cosplay demands it. Resin casting and electrical wiring are some of the more out-there things I’ve done for cosplay. Also, when you move around a lot and are a full time college student it’s really important to be adaptable to survive as an artist. When I was living in Portland in a tiny dorm room adapting to a college workload, I got very into special effects makeup and did more makeup-based costumes. Most of the labor for those costumes are done the morning of the con. I really love doing makeup now. I’m actually thinking of picking up a minor in sculpture so I can get better at prosthetics. When I was living in Japan with even less space, no materials, and knowing I’d have to change into my costume after I got to the con, most of my new stuff came from the H&M down the street or the cosplay shops in Akiba. Now that I go to an art school, I’m hoping to really push my craftsmanship to the next level and learn some new techniques. I’m entirely self taught up until now, working out of my basement and watching lots of YouTube, so the concept of having entire labs full of equipment and industry professionals to guide me is mind boggling. My major, fiber arts, involves things like fabric dying, printing, and weaving, so as I finish off my gen eds and start learning more of these specialized techniques you should expect even crazier things to come out of me.
Who/What is your biggest inspiration?
I’d say the character designs themselves are my biggest inspirations. I love costuming from anime because it doesn’t make any sense. Those animators aren’t thinking about things like logic or physics when they draw! They’re just going for it! It’s ridiculous! I love it! I want to take these impossible designs and make them possible. I love the challenge of it. That’s what gets my brain going, and that’s why I’m in school for this stuff. I want to keep getting better and better, keep making bigger things, keep pushing myself and the boundaries of what people can do with costuming. There’s actually a big need in the professional costuming world for people who can make things. Lots of people can draw a picture, not a lot of people can look at that drawing and go, “Yeah, I know how to do that.” Cosplayers can. That’s what I love about the community. In terms of specific people… let’s see. Craftsmanship wise, I adore J Hart Design, Mitternacht Cosplay, and Cowbutt Crunchies Cosplay. They all have this impeccably clean craftsmanship for even the most intricate cosplays. You can see the care and love they put into everything. I’d love to be on their level someday. In addition, my friends are a huge inspiration to me. Sitting around, brainstorming photoshoot or group cosplay ideas are where my favorite cosplays have come out of. Special mention would have to go to three of them. First up is El, or Helios Eternal Cosplay. They’re an artist, writer, musician, businessperson… An all around virtuoso that’s an incredibly kind soul. They’re so supportive of me and feed my creative energy so well. I’m proud to call them a friend. Next is Naeem, or Narmbo Cosplay. He’s done, I swear to god, over 30 Dangan Ronpa cosplays and he looks great in all of them. It’s amazing. He pays such close attention to even the smallest details and works incredibly hard to make sure everything is right the day of the con. His cosplays will be accurate down to the underwear. He’s also my favorite con/photoshoot buddy and my partner in Dangan Ronpa hell, which helps! Finally, there’s Melissa, or Melissa D’Acunto Photography. She’s photographed pretty much all of my costumes, and she’s really where the magic happens. She just as enthusiastic as I am about going out in 20 or 90 degree weather for that perfect shot and she always delivers. Actually, I should mention a few photographers too! Photographers are so important. It doesn’t matter how good your costume is, without good photography, the only people that get to see it are the other people at the con. In the age of social media, that’s not enough to get your name out there. Some of my favorite photographers I’ve worked with are DG Photography and Ansen Photos. Both of them see photography as a way to bring the cosplays to life and add a whole new element- to really tell a story- and not just as a way to document the costumes. Someday, I hope to work with Alive Alf. Have you seen his stuff? Stunning.
What are the Biggest cons in where you live right now?
The biggest one here in Georgia would definitely be Dragon*Con. I’ve been to some of the biggest conventions in the world- New York and San Diego Comic Con, Comiket- and this one absolutely stacks up. It’s really fun too because even though it’s so big, it hasn’t become super corporate like a lot of other big ones. It’s still run by fans and you can tell.
Which one is your favorite?
Hard to pick! My hometown con is ConnectiCon so it has a special place in my heart. Colossalcon is amazingly fun because of the water park and how chill the vibe is there. I also love Katsucon because of the high quality of cosplay there. It’s an occasion to really bring out the big guns.
What Are you in to right now?
What Anime are you currently watching? What are you currently playing? What are you currently reading?
Tried Boku no Hero Academia and it wasn’t really to my taste, honestly. Not enough girls. I’m trying to read the manga so I can skip to the parts I’m more interested in. Mostly the ones involving Himiko Toga. I have a type. Playing New Dangan Ronpa V3, of course! I just got a Vita, so after five years in the fandom, this is actually the first time I’ve played the games. It’s a whole new experience, I’m having so much fun. I’m already spoiled on most of the content, but I don’t even care. I’m not in it for the plot. The plot is going to be stupid, I know it’s going to be stupid, it’s always been stupid, it’s a Dangan Ronpa game. What you can’t spoil is falling in love with a whole new cast of characters (and watching them die) and that’s what I’m here for. I’m here on Monokuma’s wild ride and there are no breaks. Once I finish that, I’m looking forward to going through a backlog of video game fandoms I’ve missed out on by not having a way to play them. Currently on my list is Personal 4 and the Zero Escape series.
What is your favorite cosplay moment?
No question when you make something truly stunning and can’t walk ten feel through the con without being mobbed by photographers. Look- any cosplayer who says they don’t like attention is lying. Apart from that, there’s lots of little moments. Cosplaying an obscure character and having one person get really overenthusiastic about you because they never see anyone cosplay their fave and they’re so glad to see you. Meeting your heros and bonding with them because at the end of the day, they’re also just nerds in a costume. Taking stupid selfies in character with your friends. I just love cosplay, ok?
What is your cosplay horror story?
The morning of my first Katsucon, I was wearing Nui Harime for a photoshoot. She was my first really big costume and I was so proud so I booked a big expensive photoshoot. One of my hotel mates ended up having a wardrobe malfunction so we were late getting to the con, making me late for my shoot, and I was anxious about it. Keep in mind I’m wearing six inch platform heels, an eyepatch, a wig that blocks my entire peripheral vision and can’t move my head. I proceed to slip, fall down an entire flight of stairs, break the costume, and burst into tears. Thankfully the photographer had a glue gun and endless patience.
Where do you see the art of Cosplay in the next 5-10 years?
Hard to say. I love thinking about this, though. It’s a really fascinating, exciting time to be a cosplayer. Right now the hobby is moving into the mainstream eye, become more respected, and become something you can make money doing. We as a community have to grapple with that and decide who we are, how we move forward with that, because it’s happening whether we like it or not. Defining what cosplay is is a major point of contention. Does putting on a costume make you a cosplayer? What if you bought it? What if someone else made it for you? What if you’re getting paid to wear it? What if you don’t know the character? Do original characters count? I don’t have answers to those questions. I have my opinions, but so does everyone else, and no one is necessarily wrong. That’s what makes it so cool. All I know is I can’t wait to see what happens next.WR
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