Cosplay Cafe 09: Pileofrox

So Pileofrox and I are currently getting to the payload. Overwatch problems am I right? Anyway, while the two of us strategize check out the interview down below.

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Photography by Ambercool Photography

1. What were you like growing up? What were some of the things you were into?

I was an odd kid, that’s for sure. I’ve been drawing and creating art since I was born, so the fact that I became a cosplayer probably isn’t surprising. My favorite holiday was always Halloween because I got to dress up like something weird and different from just regular old me. I was also a bit of a shut-in and played a lot of games online. It started with those ancient flash games and Newgrounds things and eventually evolved into every free MMORPG I could get my hands on. When I wasn’t doing that, I was reading all the manga at the library. So my nerd obsession started early, you could say. Thinking about it now, I’m honestly still very into the same things as I was as a kid. I still play MMORPGs (Guild Wars 2 is my current fav) and I still draw constantly.

2. Did those things influence who you’re today?

Absolutely! If I hadn’t spent so much time getting lost in the fantasy worlds of books and video games, I wouldn’t be so compelled to try to bring them to life now. It’s interesting to think about how I’ve gone from consuming escapist media (well, I still do) to bringing that escape into reality, and making it my real world. Create the world you want to live in, create the character you want to be, that sort of thing. The difference is now, I have the skills, experience, and resources to bring to life the things I love. It’s kinda cool.

Photography by JustCoz Photography
Photography by JustCoz Photography

3.I discovered you when a few people retweeted your Huntress Widow Maker costume. What went into making this version of Widow Maker? It seems like a lot of work went into making the details of that costume.

I said it to myself over and over while I was making it, but Huntress Widowmaker is the most complex costume I have ever made, and I think it’s probably the most successful thing I’ve ever made too. Around July my friends convinced me to cosplay Widowmaker because they needed on for a group at Katsucon. I picked the Huntress skin because it was the one skin where she has a normal flesh tone, so I wouldn’t have to deal with body paint. Plus, the whole sexy tuxedo thing she has going on was very cool. I started the process after Otakon 2016 and finished it February 2017, so the whole build from start to finish took about six months, on-and-off. I wasn’t working on it constantly because I had my fall semester to deal with come September.

The whole costume got broken down into parts: The leggings, jacket, vest, tiny decorations, bracer, helmet, and dun dun dunnnnn the rifle. Now, my mom and I are a team when it comes to cosplay and she is the seamstress, so the fabrication of the leggings, jacket, and vest were all her immaculate handiwork. I just stood there for fittings and offered my opinion occasionally, but all the beautiful trim and clean edges on the jacket? That’s my mom’s incredible sewing skills. I keep telling her she should make her own cosplay identity online, but we’ll get there!

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Anyways, first I started small and picked out the little tiny things on Widowmaker’s clothes that needed to be made. The odd little buttons running down her legs, the metal nubs on her gloves, the ornate shoulder pads on her jacket, that sort of thing. They didn’t require much thought in how I needed to make them (mostly foam, a little thermoplastic here and there) so I buckled down and made them real quick at the beginning. After that, I tackled the bracer and the helmet. Both were a little daunting because I had never made a helmet before and the bracer has a very odd shape that doesn’t align with how arms are shaped at all, and I had to really understand how I was going to piece together foam to make the shape, while also being able to put it on my arm comfortably. I also made a point to make nearly everything on the cosplay out of foam. I’ve been experimenting with thermoplastics for a while and I’ve found that I personally like working with just straight foam better, and using thermoplastics for tiny sculpted details that need rigidity that foam lacks. It was a challenge, but I think I pulled it off.

A fun little thing about the helmet, in order to make it I had the wild idea of making a plaster cast of my head, so I could more easily work on the helmet without having to constantly take it on and off my head. So immediately after Otakon 2016, that’s what I did! It was a weird process but now I have a cast of my head on a stick in my living room whenever I need it! It’s pretty odd, but extremely useful, especially when working with wigs as well! I highly recommend making one for your own use; there’s lots of online tutorials of how to do it.

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The very last thing I made was Widowmaker’s rifle. In hindsight I shouldn’t have put it off for as long as I did, but it was the first time I’d ever made a gun prop. Up until now, I’d mostly made swords and wands, but never something this complicated. After a lot of frustration, I broke it down into layers, build it up out of insulation foam, EVA foam, and a few PVA pipes. The build took two weeks of non-stop work, and then another week to sand and paint it. Overall, it’s probably one of the best things I’ve ever made and I’m very proud of it! But what baffles me is that during the course of the entire project, I learned so much through the process, that when I look back at the first things I made, like the bracer, I can see flaws that I would have addressed differently. Widowmaker was a huge challenge but I’m glad I did it, because it gives me the confidence to tackle ever more crazy costumes.

4. How was your Katsucon this year? I had a great time but I’ve been seeing mixed opinions depending on the person. Some of them dealing with “elitism” others about Katsucon as a whole not being up to par. So what’s your take on Katsucon 20172.

I had an amazing time! I may be slightly biased because Katsucon is my all-time favorite convention. The venue is beautiful, the convention is very easy to access without having to walk too far, and there’s always food just a few minutes away! Although, my real reason for loving it is that at Katsucon, cosplayers bring out the big guns. Costumes that are extremely hard to get around in, uncomfortable, and overall not something you’d want to wear for long periods of time always make an appearance at Katsucon because of the location and the accessibility to a hotel room to quickly change. At least that’s my theory. So on Saturday at Katsucon, cosplayers really go all out and you get to see the incredible and absolutely ridiculous things people have been working hard on, and wouldn’t be able to wear at a con like Otakon because of how impractical they are. I go to Katsucon because of the cosplayers, because of the amazing work I see there, and the amazing advice they give! This year, I talked to so many cosplayers and we swapped stories about how we made things, about the secret flaws our costumes had, and asked each other how we did some particular thing! Everyone I met was incredibly nice and interested in what I had to say about my costume, and I wanted to hear what they had to say about theirs!

It also may have been that the beautiful weather put me in a good mood, but I didn’t have any negative interactions with anyone at Katsucon this year; it was overall a really fun time. Of course I was fatigued as hell and my feet were killing me, but I think that’s a small price to pay when it comes to making new friends and catching up with old friends who love cosplay as much as I do!

Photography by Bryan Lee Cruz Photography
Photography by Bryan Lee Cruz Photography

5. What’s it like having your mother cosplay? It’s rare to see such a hobby as cosplaying shared by family members. Also, her Ana was well done, just wanted to throw that in there.

It’s honestly an incredible dynamic that I’m very lucky to have with her. When it comes to cosplay, the two of us are a team and have been for years. She’s an extremely skilled seamstress so her sewing skills really puts our costumes over the edge when it comes to craftsmanship. She started cosplaying three years ago, when she was one of the three fairy godmothers from Sleeping Beauty along with her two other sisters at Katsucon. The response was insane; they were stopped for pictures so much that they couldn’t walk around the con! After that, she was hooked, and kept making more costumes for herself!

The great thing about working with my mom as a team is that at any given time, we’re both working on a cosplay. If one of us gets stuck or frustrated, we just call up the other one, talk it out, and by then end we’ve come up with a way to fix the problem or approach the costume differently! While I was building Widowmaker’s sniper rifle, I got pretty frustrated by the complexities of the thing and trying to figure out how it all fit together. But because my mom is also a cosplayer, having her to give me a second opinion and new look at what I was making really helped me to keep going and get it done!

6. Off topic question, favorite food?

I’m a sucker for good falafels. There’s bad falafels in this world but when you put some really well made and seasoned ones in some naan with cucumbers and tahini, mmm it’s delicious.

Photography by U.V Photography
Photography by U.V Photography

7. What is one thing you love about the cosplay community?

The willingness to share. It’s rare that you ever find a cosplayer who keeps their process a secret, rather everyone likes to post every part of their process, the mistakes and the successes! And because of that, we get to learn from one another! This aspect of the cosplay community is kind of new, actually. It used to be, if you were making something you’d have to do extensive research on the materials you wanted to use. Now, you can just look up someone who has already made it, or something similar, and see how they did it! I think this really communal sense of creation is something really special to the community and it brings us together because we all suffer and get stuck when it comes to cosplay. You share that frustration, and hey, maybe someone else got stuck in the same way and knows how to fix your problem! It’s really amazing. The most common question I ask other cosplayers and they ask me is “How did you do that?” There’s a genuine desire to learn and understand how someone made a particular thing, because cosplay isn’t magic, it’s not something that just grows on trees, it comes from a process and in the cosplay community, that process is just as important as the final product. Just about everything I’ve learned about how to craft cosplays has come from learning from other cosplayers who have done it before or have used a similar process. The exception to that? Sometimes I just trying something crazy to see if it works. If it does, I’ll tell everyone, so that they can know about it too, and use it!

Even the community is made up of individual people, I feel like our knowledge all kind of comes from the same pool of shared information that builds up online. You don’t take a class on how to cosplay; you google it!

8.Second off topic question, what are you looking forward to this year?

Travelling! I’m going to be studying abroad in Japan for a bit this summer and I am so excited to go! I’ve never been to Japan and it’s been a lifelong dream of mind to visit. Now finally I get to go, and I’ll be getting credit for it for college too, so it’s a win-win!

Photography by U.V Photography
Photography by U.V Photography

9. What is something you feel the cosplay community should work on as a whole?

This came up most recently I think when Jessica Nigri debuted her Reinhardt cosplay at Katsucon 2017 and got a great deal of backlash for her take on the character. It’s a good example of the community’s tendency to shame or vilify women for making or wearing revealing cosplays. We are all nerds dressing up as fictional characters, just let people create and wear the cosplays that they want. This ties in with a larger issue of the policing of women’s bodies in general, of course. Cosplayers, especially women, tend to get a lot of hate for making “sexy” versions of something. But if they’re comfortable and happy and proud of their work, what right does anyone have to criticize what they’ve made? The community needs to understand that there is no wrong way to cosplay. Just have fun, and let other people have fun.

10. What costumes do you plan on making later this year?

My next project is Cyberspace Sombra! As soon as Sombra was announced I thought, oh my god I HAVE to cosplay her, she’s perfect! I honestly never play her in Overwatch, but as a character I really love and relate to her. Plus, it helps that I already kind of look like her! Her Cyberspace skin is going to be a challenge because I’ll be working with a lot of LEDs to make it glow properly but I’m up to the challenge. I hope to have it completed by Otakon 2017! As for after Sombra, I haven’t decided yet. We’ll see what character I fall in love with next 🙂

Photography by U.V Photography
Photography by U.V Photography

11.What conventions are you attending later this year?

This year is actually the most cons I have ever planned in a single year in my entire life. Usually, I only attend Katsucon and Otakon every year, but this year I’m going overboard. I’m going to PAX East, Anime Boston, Anime Expo, and of course Otakon. Other than Otakon, all of those cons I will be attending for the first time ever, so I’m really excited to check them out and meet new people that I don’t usually run into at my usual cons! Plus AX has been a bit of a dream of mine to attend, since the only anime convention larger than Otakon is AX, so soon I’ll be able to say I’ve been to both!

12. Final question, anything you want to say to your fans?

I know everyone says this, but it’s honestly the truth about cosplay and I’ll repeat it over and over: cosplay is about having fun as a character you like. That’s it, plain and simple. You don’t have to have crazy complex props or even make the costume yourself, it doesn’t matter. I have had eight years of cosplaying and prop-building experience and I still struggle and get stuck every time I make something, so don’t get disheartened if something you’re making doesn’t work out the first time. That’s okay. You will grow and improve with time, I promise. And don’t forget, I’m always rooting for you 🙂

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So we delivered the payload squad. Anyway, it was a blast sitting down and talking to Pileofrox. Be sure to follow her on all her social media, which are down below. I’m still XBen3000 and I’m out!!

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