By Andrew Dodson on August 29, 2013 at 9:00am
One of the biggest fantasy/science fiction conventions, DragonCon, is right around the corner (this coming weekend, in fact). Last year, the Atlanta-based convention drew an attendance of 52,000, and a huge percentage of that number used the opportunity to assemble fantastic costumes to show off where their fandom lies. Some even come with more than one costume. It's safe to say that cosplay is a huge part of any geek convention.
It's part of the atmosphere.
I first got in touch with Shattered Stitch Cosplay after the first interview we did with a cosplayer (Avant Geek) a few weeks ago. After some back and forth and with DragonCon fast on the approach, I shot her a message for an official interview, and she agreed. I've always been interested in what goes on in the mind of a cosplayer before a big con, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.
PT: I know you're busy preparing for DragonCon, so thank you for doing this interview with us. Can you take a moment and introduce yourself?
SSC: Well, I'm Alexis and I run Shattered Stitch Cosplay, which to date mainly features myself, but my ambition is to include others into a cosplay team or group that fabricate together. I'm an active model with a love for fashion and gaming, which blended together nicely in cosplay. I'm the 2013 reigning Ms. BioGamer Girl and was just featured on the cover and center spread of their summer issue; they ran my Ranger General Sylvanas Windrunner cosplay. I'm a laid back cat lady, Internet addict, and messy little weirdo.
PT: Are you excited about DragonCon this year? Have you been before? Are there any panels or events that you definitely want to attend?
SSC: Excited doesn’t even begin to cover it. I was up until about 3am last night working on costumes. If I remember right this'll be around my fifth year of attendance; I’m going to try to never have to miss a year again. I will (hopefully) be at all of the "Warcraft" panels and some of the costuming ones – but other than that I generally wander around and people watch, seeing what I can stumble into.
PT: The big focus at Player Theory is on video games. What are you playing right now? What's your favorite game?
SSC: My favorite game has always been and will always be "World of Warcraft." Before that, it was "Final Fantasy 7," which really brought me "back" into gaming. Before my PlayStation, I only had an Atari and a classic 8-bit Nintendo, but when I saw those commercials for "FF7," I knew I needed it in my life. After that, some friends got me into "WoW" a while before the release of "Burning Crusade," and I've been a faithful follower ever since. Right now, I'm taking time to play through "Diablo III," and since Steam just had their summer sale, I hoarded a bunch of the classics like "Mass Effect," "Portal," "Half Life," and "BioShock."
PT: Are you excited about any new games coming out soon?
SSC: Of course I'm always ear to the ground for new "WoW" news on expansions, but to satiate my obsession, as far as games with confirmed release dates, I'm pretty stoked about the new "Assassins Creed: Black Flag" and "Batman: Arkham Origins." I'm pretty behind on the great titles of this year such as "Crysis," "Devil May Cry," "The Last of Us," and "Castlevania: Lords of Shadow" at the moment, so I need to really catch up before more get released and added to the queue!
PT: Besides video games, what other sources do you draw inspiration from for the costumes you design?
SSC: Manga, anime, and movies. I try to stay mostly away from live-action movies, so Katniss is a real departure from what I "normally" do as far as fabrication; I saw that dress and my eyes got huge and I just thought to myself “…..yes”. I've done book characters (Max – "WtWTA"), Ghibli ("Ponyo"), Princess Ai ("Princess Ai"), and even Nalu, the mermaid for an Nvidia graphics card promotion.
PT: How long have you been doing cosplay? What got you started in it?
PT: Where did you first pick up the skills to make your own costumes?
SSC: Trial and error. I don’t know how to read a pattern, I never measure, I eyeball everything, and until this past Christmas, I had never used or had a sewing machine. Everything was fabricated by hand, generally the hard way. For Sylvanas, I started trying to use craft foam for armor, because it was spoken so highly of for ease of use and price, so I watched tutorials on Youtube. My next step is to move up to Worbla, and I already have some great tutorials lined up for my learning process. My biggest asset and skill is to be able to see the potential in something and be hard-headed enough to slam into it until it does what I want.
PT: If someone wanted to start making their own cosplay, what is a piece of advice you would give them that you wish someone had given you when you first started?
SSC: It's going to look bad. Its going to look terrible, and when you look back on it years from now when you're making film-quality items, you're going to wish it never saw the light of day. But it is a rite of passage we all go through.
Don’t give up. NEVER give up. If it doesn’t work, go back to the drawing board and think about it in a different way.
Ask for help. The cosplay community in general is a very helpful place; find someone whose work you admire and ask them questions. Heck, I answer FB and DeviantArt mail pretty frequently, and I’m always happy to help if I can.
Have fun. Don’t let it stress you out. A button pops off? No need for a meltdown. Safety pin that sucker and keep on going. I'm super hardcore and competitive, but that’s just my nature and personality when it comes to things like this, and sometimes I forget to have fun.
PT: What was the last costume you completed?
SSC: For myself, Katniss’s Capitol Portrait dress, which technically isn’t done but can be worn as-is if I have to. I was up until the wee hours of the morning working on it, and it still isn’t done. It's going to be one of those finished in the hotel room cases, along with Croc Bait Lo’Gosh for my co-cosplayer Jonathan Bane.
PT: What are the major deciding factors for you to make one costume over another?
SSC: Rarity. I try to do cosplays that are uncommon. If I can Google it and there are just pages of it, I cross it off the list. Other than that, its got to be a character that I know I can portray well – someone I could see myself sharing a kinship with or someone I identify with on some level.
PT: So, you're getting ready to go to DragonCon. What costumes are you bringing with you? Is that something that took a lot of planning?
SSC: I’ll be bringing my Dark Faun costume (which was just a fun original character I used for a photoshoot), Psylocke, Katniss, Ranger General Sylvanas Windrunner, and Princess Powerful. It wasn’t really difficult to plan which ones I wanted to bring – the planning difficulty was wearing what and when. Obviously Sylvanas is my main showing, so she was easy. It was planning around her and the other events that took the most effort.
PT: Whenever I go to a big geek convention like DragonCon, I always end up taking a ton of pictures. I've always been curious. Does getting asked constantly by strangers to stop so they can take your picture ever get annoying, like if you're trying to get to a panel or specific event? What is the best way for a photographer to approach a cosplayer on a con floor?
SSC: Its not annoying at all. It's why I'm there. I know there is a big movement in the ‘Cosplay is not Consent’ section – and while that is absolutely true (if you don’t know what CINC is, Google it!) - people make costumes to be looked at and photographed, or else they would’ve work jeans and Chucks. When you're in costume, you know people are going to stop you. If you aren’t ok with that, its probably not a great idea to wear a costume to an event with hundreds of thousands of people. A glass case in a gallery would probably be a better option.
I always try to take time to stop for people and talk to them. That’s the best part – the interaction with the community. If I'm trying to get to a panel, I invite them to walk with me while we talk (if they want more than just a photo, but generally I'm early to panels, so I have no problem standing around and talking to people. And if I'm running late? Well, given the size of DragonCon, I probably wont get a seat anyway – so whats the rush? Unless someone is rude to you first, there is NEVER a reason to be rude, short, or snappy with anyone who wants to admire your work.
The best way to approach someone is to just be respectful. If they are sitting down, obviously resting, eating, or any other normal out of costume “human” activity, give them some space. When they start to move around again, then approach and ask if you can take a photo. Most of us understand that by being in costume in a public space that we are consenting to be photographed, but we always want to be photographed under the best possible conditions to show off our craftsmanship. We would prefer you ask us so that we can get into a pose than take a candid shot from 30 yards while we eat our tacos.
PT: How often do you hit up cons every year? Do you have plans to attend any more specific convention this year?
SSC: I try to always hit up my local cons – ChattaCon and ConNooga. I will be leading panels at both of those, TBA in 2014. Other than that, you can usually find me at DragonCon and Anime Weekend Atlanta, and recently I've added Alabama Phoenix Fest to the roster and intend to return next year. My ambitions are to make it to a ComicCon and BlizzCon at some point, so I can just die happy.
PT: I asked earlier what the last costume you made was/ Can you tell us what you're working on now or after DragonCon? Or give us a hint at least?
SSC: I’ll give you a hint: its seven feet tall, and her name is Anmut, president of the Vol’Jin Fan Club. I've also got plans for Young Sif, Lady Sinestra, and Angel of Death from "Hellboy."
PT: If you had all the money and time in the world, what would your immediate next project be?
SSC: Something with huge wings: Blood Queen Lana’thel, Valefor, Mateus, Spirit Guide. If not something with huge potential like a giant wingspan, something that would require a lot of tech – LEDS, EL wire, resin, etc. If I didn’t have to be a cosplay in particular, it would go immediate to building a workroom, as space in my house is limited and that inhibits me more than anything else.
PT: Are there any places you think you'll be hanging out a lot if someone wanted to meet you or take pictures during DragonCon this weekend?
SSC: I should be at all the WoW panels, but other than that, I’ll be wandering around. I've got my costume schedule on both my SSC Facebook and Deviant Art, so that way folks know what to look for. Other than that, if you have the DragonCon app, shoot me a friendcode via PM on either of those sites, and I’ll add them if possible; the app has been hiccupping a bit. [I'll] try to broadcast where I am via the app! Other than that, I’ll try to update Twitter as often as my phone battery will allow!
PT: Finally, my favorite question to ask cosplayers: If you could choose one of the costumes that you've made, put that on, and gain the power of that character, which costume would you pick?
SSC: Sylvanas, hands down. As a ranger, she is excellent in all ranged fields on combat, and as she puts it, “I can hit a bird in the eye flying.” Not only that, as a High Elf, she has a natural and innate ability with magic and is skilled as a warrior in close combat. She is the consummate warrior and leader.
Thanks so much to Shattered Stitch Cosplay for taking a time out of con-prep to talk with Player Theory. She's got some awesome stuff planned out. While I love the Sylvanas she designed, I'm excited to see her Princess Powerful (I am a huge "Runaways" fan). If you happen to be going to DragonCon, keep an eye out for Alexis, and have a blast this weekend!
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