Interview with Cosplayer Laura Bronkhorst
Laura, your recent shoot as Maya from Borderlands 2 was nothing short of stellar! What got you into cosplaying?
Interview by: Jillian|
Laura has been a hidden gem in the cosplay community. Talented, funny, extremely smart and calls herself “Resident Planeswalker” (I mean come on how cool is that for all you MTG fans???). She was part of an epic genderbend Avengers group at SDCC where she and the other ladies received praises and attention for their cosplays and presentation. Laura also does freelance 3D modeling and animation all while geeking out as much as possible, so we have a ton of brains to go with the beauty here!
I have this problem...which is that if I see someone doing something cool, I'm convinced that I can do it, too. This has occasionally ended in disappointment and/or injury, but lucky for me, cosplaying has turned out pretty well!
My introduction to cosplaying (and conventions as a whole) was while working for Anime Central; there were always such awesome costumes milling about over the course of the weekend, and I found myself wondering more and more how people did it, and if I could do it just as well, if not better. Of course sewing was totally foreign to me at the time, but I still started seeing characters on-screen and immediately dissecting how their outfits would be constructed in real life.
Since I was little I've always had an obsession with figuring out how things work, and I feel like that comes into play with costuming for me, and specifically my interest in props. Costumes are kind of like little puzzles, so I like trying to figure out my own way of doing things - I'm not one for following tutorials and walkthroughs, because it takes the fun away for me sometimes. (You know, the fun of failing miserably before finally stumbling upon the answer after hours and hours of frustration, obviously.) I like finding solutions to problems, and ways to make seemingly impossible things come to life. That interest is what got me started and keeps me going.
Anime conventions are constantly changing and moving in different directions. What are some of your favorite and least favorite things about convention cosplay today?
I love that I'm consistently amazed at what people can do; seeing the different ways people interpret the same character and the different approaches to construction is astonishing to me. And the amount of opportunities for people to learn these totally new methods and crafts and skills is just awesome. As someone who's always been a very "I can do that" type person, it's amazing to have so many talented, experienced people that are willing to share their knowledge so openly and help us novices fumble our way through our own projects.
But of course with that community comes some negatives. Healthy competition often deteriorates into spite and ill will, and that just, well...sucks. I'm as competitive as they come, and I'll admit that it occasionally gets the best of me when I peruse the interwebs. But there's a difference between looking at someone's costume and saying, "Pfft, I can do better than that," and "They did a great job. I want to do better." People sometimes forget those little things. We're all doing our best - tearing each other down doesn't help anyone.
It just seems like the cosplay scene is less and less about the actual costumes, and more and more about likes, shares, pageviews, prints, and activism...and that's just not my thing. There's absolutely nothing wrong with having or desiring fans, or making money off a hobby - that's awesome! But I just make costumes and props because I enjoy doing it; I share my work because I happen to think some of my stuff is pretty cool, and that's what you do with art - you share it, get feedback, inspire people, and get inspired.
It's remarkably easy to feel pretty isolated in this community when you have a different outlook on things, different goals and what not. But it is what you make of it, and I'm pretty happy with where I'm at!
Back to talking about your Maya cosplay... what were the hardest and easiest things to make?
The hardest part was definitely her boots. I was hellbent on making them fully-functional - not just a boot cover - and spent (read: wasted) a lot of time on things like searching for the exact soling she'd be wearing...only to get it in the mail and discover it wasn't actually heat moldable like the description said. So these boots were quite literally made from scratch around an existing climbing boot, right down to the sole. They turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the costume, but those 16 hours were quite the labor of love. Not sure I'll be making shoes again anytime soon.
Easiest part? Ok, real talk...I actually hate sewing. Like, give me props and detail work any day - hell, I'll even do pattern-drafting. But put me in front of a sewing machine and I swear I'll stitch right through my hand. (Out of clumsiness or hatred...it's hard to tell.) I'm lucky that I had an amazing seamstress (Heather Garry of Corsetiere) to work with for this project. So the easiest part for me was the bodysuit - Heather took care of it! Bouncing material ideas off of each other was a ton of fun, and while the process was simple for me after that, the fitting and assembly process was no easy task for her and I can't thank her enough. It's so awesome to watch a professional work.
Aside from that, the pants were probably the easiest. I nailed the pattern on the first try - which almost never happens! - and they came together quick.
How did you get that body paint spot on? It looks great!
I'm kind of nuts when it comes to details and accuracy (can you tell?), so I actually tracked down the in-game 3d model to use as reference. I was able to grab Maya's diffuse map (the image that gives her model color) from the model, pull it into Photoshop, isolate the tattoos, throw that into Illustrator, make a clean vector drawing of it to scale for my arm, print it, then make a stencil out of it so I could airbrush it on. Simple, right? :P
I do freelance 3d modeling and animation, so I feel pretty lucky that I have this tool at my disposal. It's been incredibly helpful with my obsessive tendencies.
What made you pick Maya out of the other Borderlands 2 cast?
Well for one, Sirens are badass and anyone who tells you otherwise is crazy, so I take any opportunity to get to look like one. But aside from that, she got bumped up on my to-do list when I was asked by Mike Prost and Kearstin Nicholson if my boyfriend and I wanted to join in their group for C2E2 as Maya and Mordecai. I was excited to be able to add the cool new Siren to my lineup and hang out with some awesome people in the process!
I think Maya is a really interesting character that doesn't get enough credit. Sure, she appears to just be this cold, emotionless killer-type (and who doesn't love that in a woman?), but she's so much more than that. She has an insatiable thirst for knowledge, a strong sense of justice, a determination to become as strong as possible, and a willingness to accept crazy axe-throwing, poop-screaming psychos regardless of their totally insane appearance. I love her.
If you could "do-over" any part of your costume what would it be and why?
Well luckily, there's nothing I'm outright unhappy with. There are a few placement issues to be fixed on the bodysuit, and two little details I need to add, but those are minor. So I guess I'd say I'd redo the digistruct, since I didn't get the final version with LEDs finished in time for either C2E2 or ACen...but that's in progress! Then I get to just add more fun stuff.
What cosplays are you thinking of doing next? Anything more from the Borderlands universe?
Like everyone else, I have a costume wishlist that is totally and completely unrealistic, but right now I'm focusing on Liliana of the Veil and Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas from Magic the Gathering that will *hopefully* be ready for NYCC.
And of course my Borderlands obsessions won't stop anytime soon - I'll be doing a Commandant Steele for myself next, and Angel after that at some point. But I do feel the need to make a Krieg costume, so I'm sure I'll be wrangling someone into that sometime soon. Any volunteers? (:
What is your favorite cosplay you've done thus far?
I have a soft spot for my Sadi-chan from One Piece, because I felt like that was my first real advancement in sewing and pattern-drafting skills. I drafted everything from scratch, and sewed the entire thing out of 2-way stretch PVC in the three days before con when I really needed 4-way and about a week...and it didn't fall apart!
But I have to go with Maya as being my favorite. I feel like this was the first time I actually had the time to properly invest into a project. Sure, it was still down to the wire because I'm one of the world's worst procrastinators and I threw her and Mordecai together in almost exactly three weeks, but since it wasn't all done the week of the con (like usual), that extra time let me really get into the details...that no one will ever notice but me. But that's the part that I enjoy most, so I call that a win! Plus, she's so comfortable and so striking, and the Borderlands community is always a trip. Some of my favorite people that I've met at conventions are BL cosplayers.
What are some words of wisdom for newer cosplayers?
Don't be afraid to ask for help. It's awesome that some people are able to make every petticoat, button, sword, or helm for every costume, but you may not be able to yet - or ever. Don't feel bad about bribing your friend that's an awesome seamstress (just pay them in good beer!), or commissioning your favorite prop-maker; that doesn't make you any less of a costumer. That was a really hard thing for me to get over - starting work on Maya, I felt like I needed to make every part it in order to call the costume mine. But when it comes down to it, I'd rather spend time on the parts I enjoy, and let someone who enjoys sewing (and is actually super skilled at it) take over those parts when I need them to. I know my skills will improve with practice, but I'm more than happy to throw some cool projects to great craftsmen in the meantime. I think of it like any other art - people hire me as a designer because even though they might be able to do it themselves, my skills are better than theirs. Why wouldn't I do the same with costumes?
That said, don't be afraid to try something totally new, even if you don't think you have any idea what you're doing. How else will you learn? For all the lists I make and planning I do, when it comes down to actually making something, I usually just jump right in - final material and all, who cares. (But I also test code in production. What now?) I might totally fail and waste material and money, but it might work out! Either way, I'm gaining experience.
And don't let yourself get down if you're working on a costume and some awesome person just did the same character and it looks incredible and omg you'll never ever EVER look as good as that... Relax! If you're making the costume for yourself and your love of the character, none of that matters. Be inspired by their work, not put off by it. And hey, maybe try shooting them a question about something you're struggling with. They're probably excited to talk about what they've done, and you might learn something new.
And finally, don't forget why you're doing this in the first place, whatever your reason is. Whether it's money or fame or a love of the craft or whatever - your intents might not be the same as anyone else's, and that's totally ok. Don't get swept up in the trends and movements and common opinions just because they're there, and don't tell people their reasons are wrong.
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June 26 2013