Find out more of her in our interview below, where she tells us all about how she got started, and something about her you probably didn’t know!
I started costume design probably five years ago, and it mostly started with my love for theater and film-making. I got into sewing when I was eight, but I didn't have a real passion for it until I was about 20 and from there, I wanted to do and learn more.
2. What are the steps you took to becoming a professional costume designer? How do you obtain your business?
I started out just learning how to sew as a kid in my 4-H group in Lodi, CA but it wasn't until college that I took on more serious projects and took theater classes. I was really lucky actually. The theater program at my college had a two year focus on all aspects of theater, like acting, stage managing, lighting/sound, and makeup and costume designing. Even in our program, we had to work in a costume shop and work on productions making costumes for however many hours a week.
I also started designing and making wedding dresses during this time as a side business, so it was great practice learning the business side of craft (which at age 19/20, was not exactly easy!). But becoming a professional comes with learning from your past mistakes, and applying them towards your future.
Anytime I've had an idea on a design, or if I've seen something that I'd like to recreate, or if it inspires me, I'll take a photo of it, screen capture it, or draw it (most often I'll draw it) and keep in a folder either on my laptop or have it in a sketchpad. I'll save them and occasionally come back to them down the road, which often ignites ideas for any current project I'm on.
One of the great things about costume designing is that there are fewer of us out there than there are actors. I grew up with a mad passion for acting (I still do!), and I've learned from acting that part of your job is putting yourself out there and standing out. Same thing applies with costume design, only it’s far less competitive. Just do a good job, don't make a fuss, don't over promise, and always over deliver. Because word of mouth is the strongest foot in the door!
3. How did you first get started with cosplay? What are the aspects about cosplay that you like and dislike the most?
I got started with cosplaying back in late 2005 at Ani-Magic, which is a cute little convention in Lancaster, CA. The biggest draw to cosplay for me is the fact that this is something that I get to be creative with on my own, but also provides a challenge of recreation. It's not necessarily designing it that makes it so alluring, it's the "how" factor. How did you make this part? How was this sewn without showing any seams? How did you get that shape without a pattern?
I'm a HUGE Zelda fan and Zelda games are littered with puzzles and navigation. I see each cosplay/costume project as a Zelda game. Sometimes I get stuck and even frustrated that I can't seem to get what I'm working on. Sometimes I discover a creative and unique way of making something that no one, or very few, are able to do. Sometimes I learn a new skill and test it out for future projects. So to me, what I like about cosplay is that it's very fun to me. It's a creative outlet that I get to do entirely however way I want to express my love for a character or series.
My only dislikes are the online, and sometimes in person, bullies that you meet, which is funny because this is a hobby bred in geek culture; you'd think we'd embrace each other more than heckle someone for wearing a costume!
4. Could you walk us through your process of creating a costume for cosplay, from the inspirations you draw from in picking a character, to designing the outfit?
The VERY first thing I do is research. Finding your references is very crucial when it comes to making a good cosplay, because accuracy is key! I don't know about other cosplayers, but it makes me bananas if I have several references and there are slightly different colors/features. Rule of thumb: when in doubt, do the official art work version.
After I have all of my references, I study the movement of the character and the costume. Does the character have unique poses where I should be conscious about fabric selection? How does the fabric flow on the character (is it flowy, rigid, bulky, or soft), and does it have texture? What is the grain of texture? Does it need to be dyed? Lined? Boned? Knowing anything and everything about what the costume is made of (most of which is guessing), helps me select the right materials to make it a good cosplay.
After figuring out my materials, I then make a budget for myself. If I find that my budget is too small for the project, but I am dedicated to making it, I find corners to cut (like instead of leather armor, I'll do either fiberglass or even craft foam....though I don't think that has ever happened to me before).
Once I have a budget and all of my materials, I set goals for myself. Typically, I have a TON of drive at the start of a project, but sadly, I like shiny things and get distracted REALLY easily. So making a list of what I need to do on a day-to-day or week-to-week basis helps me focus on getting the costume done. It also helps recording what I've done (taking photos or recording video), should I want to remake the costume. Also, if something tears or breaks, I'll be able to go back and re-do it with ease. I've gotta tell ya, the last 20% of making a costume is the WORST! By that point, I'm ready to chuck the damn thing! LOL. But, just to keep things kickin', I'll either start playing the game, reading the comic book, watching the anime, movie or cartoon, or I'll start looking for places that would be kickass for a photoshoot. It also helps having a convention come up...
My biggest inspiration in picking a character comes from my connection with them. For example, Sara Pezzini is a comic book character that I look up to, and is one of my all time favorite super heroes. She was written in such a way that I find not only appealing, but relatable. Her spark and wit carries her, but I think it's mostly her strength that draws me in. Throughout the series, Sara has gone through hell and back numerous times, and, with every moment of despair, every wide-eyed torment, every fear and challenge, she picks herself up and becomes a stronger person. That's the kind of woman I look up to and find inspirational; that's the kind of character I want to cosplay and inspire others to know as well.
5. You travel across the nation, attending cosplay conventions. What has been your favorite convention/location to go to and why? Where have you not yet been that you would love to go?
Oh dear! Well, so far, my favorite convention is DragonCon. Which is funny, because, for years, I have been told how great it is. I've only been going since 2012, so I feel a little late to the game! But, I love it mostly because you see some of the BEST costumes there. Everyone really goes all out at DragonCon, and it makes it stand out from the rest.
My favorite location would be Fanime in San Jose, CA. Before I went to DragonCon, Fanime had me wrapped around its little finger! I absolutely love the Bay Area (it's where I'm from!). There are wonderful locations around each corner at the convention, and more so outside. On top of that, Fanime is huge, but intimate. It's got SO much to do every day and night, and I've never experienced a bad time there.
6. In addition to being a costume designer, you are also a talented makeup artist, model, and actress. If you had an unlimited budget, and could work with anyone, anywhere, tell us your ideal video idea you would love to create, and the roles you would have in making it.
Thank you! ^_^ HAHAHAHA! Oh dear! I feel like I'm going to embarrass myself here! I'm actually so honored that I got to sort of act as my top favorite video game character, Princess Zelda in Smosh's Zelda Rap Music Video (see video at end of article). However, if I could, I would love to play the character again! I am writing a fantasy/adventure piece that is heavily inspired by Zelda (though not Zelda), and if it could happen, I would say the actors Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hiddleston, Robin Williams, and Sir Anthony Hopkins. I can't think of any actresses off hand. I've got too many I want to work with!
Oh my, yes! One of the craziest was me showing up on set for the Zelda Rap Video with Smosh - and I think it was my producer Ryan Todd who came up to me and said that Anthony was going to lick my face today. I really thought he was joking! Turns out, Anthony had to lick my face that day (he was Ganondorf and I was Zelda). It was hilarious and gross at the same time, but ironically enough, it was one of my favorite Smosh moments, because Anthony accidentally licked my eyeball...you just can't forget something like that! LOL.
I have a twin sister, but don't worry, I'm the smarter one! I'm taller too :-)
9. Do you have any advice for people looking to follow in your footsteps? Any pitfalls you can recommend avoiding?
Costume Designers: LEARN AS MUCH AS YOU CAN! Oh dear poop! You don't always learn your skills in a classroom or at a college. Start digging into history and check out what people wear and how it was made. It'll help in the long run.
Makeup: Wear lots of hats in this field (same goes for Costume Designers, but I find that more makeup artists are unable to do hair or FX, which is kinda disappointing). The more you know, the more often you'll get hired.
Actresses: Don't ONLY act. Have other interests. Go hiking, paint portraits, fly a plane, make gourmet cereal, fish for mermaids, make scrapbooks! Wait...don't make scrapbooks. Scrapbooking sucks. Just do something that gives you something else besides acting. When you walk into an audition and they ask you about yourself....don't list the projects you've done on your resume. They already have it. Knowing the kind of person you are and how well they can connect with you is important. There are THOUSANDS of actresses who are pretending and giving up their personalities for their dreams. Whoever is seeing you, let them talk to YOU first, then be an actor.
If you would like to find out more about her, you can check her out at any of these links below:
Watch "The Legend of Zelda Rap" music video she talks about in the interview!