One of those hobbies that requires buckets of passion, a flair for creativity and the confidence to show off your work, cosplay can be a daunting thing to get into. It’s the kind of thing you have to be prepared to devote tons of time and likely a fair bit of money to in order to get the most out of it. Once you’ve vaulted those hurdles, many cosplayers will tell you there’s hardly a more fulfilling hobby or more supportive community out there, even if you a little hesitant to jump in at the deep end first time round.
PixelPantz Cosplay is the artist that very nearly wasn’t, if one awesome friend hadn’t been so convincing. We spoke to her about what finally persuaded her to give it a go and the creative adventure she’s been on ever since.
PC or Mac?
PC forever and always!
What is your favourite cereal?
I absolutely ADORE Reese’s Puffs. I could eat it for every meal if it was dietarily appropriate.
What is your favourite curse word?
How are you supposed to pick just one?! I honestly think out of all my favorite four letter words, “Fuck” would have to be the top dog.
If you could pick a world from any video game, where would you live?
I would want to live in ARK: Survival Evolved! It’s just terrifying enough to be a good survival game. But there are dinosaurs. What more could I ask for?
What fictional character from movies, comics, TV or video games have you secretly crushed on?
I have the biggest crushes on Superman, Captain America, Master chief and weirdly enough Ganondorf. I could honestly go on. I get attached to characters way too easily. But those are my babes!
If Gozer the Gozerian from Ghostbusters asked you to choose the form of your destructor, what would you think of?
If I really had to choose my destructor I’d want something cute like a pug. I mean not only do I love them but I’d like to believe I could bribe it with dog treats and cuddles. So maybe I wouldn’t get wrecked.
What’s your favourite joke you’ve ever heard?
I don’t know if this is my favourite of all time because I’m a sucker for bad jokes and puns but when I heard it the other day I cracked up.
The love of your life.
Liar! Chocolate can’t speak!
Hehehe. That’s definitely something I would say to my fiancé.
What got you into cosplaying?
I owe my cosplay addiction to my best friend in high school. She had been attending cons for about a year before I got into it and she swore to me I’d love it. Well, I was sure I would hate it. In fact, I refused to dress up for months before she finally convinced me just to start with a wig I like and work my way up from there. I was so judgey and thought it was the weirdest hobby. One of my biggest fears was that someone would recognize me (the con we attended was in my small hometown). But in the end I agreed to go and luckily had the time of my life. That seems like forever ago but I’ve been hooked on cosplay ever since.
What was the first character you ever cosplayed?
My first cosplay was a half-assed effort of a vocaloid character. It was all clothes from my closet, I didn’t make anything, and all I did was purchase the wig. Totally still counts. I also even had most of the character wrong! I was like a mix between the vocaloids Miku and Gumi but regardless I felt super cute.
How did it feel going out in cosplay for the first time?
It was terrifying! Not only was I hesitant because my home town was small and I didn’t want to get noticed, but I was so new to the entire culture! Like, people do this? They dress up? Do people not think they’re weird?! I had to be deeply hidden in a panel room surrounded by friends before I finally started to get comfortable.
How does it compare to how you feel showing off new cosplays now?
Now when I put on my cosplays I am instantly empowered. It’s an adrenaline rush I haven’t really experienced anywhere else. It always sounds silly because it’s just a costume but to me it’s the pivotal moment where all of my stress, anxiety, long hours, and sleepless nights culminate. It’s where I get to stand back and be immensely proud of everything I went through to complete this costume. I don’t think I could ever get tired of that feeling.
What do you think of that first cosplay now?
I feel so ashamed! Not that it wasn’t good enough or that it wasn’t accurate, I’m more ashamed I didn’t care enough to try more. I look at the work I do now, the love I have for the hobby, and community, then I think back to who I was at that time and I just wish I had known where I would be now. I would have tried harder a lot sooner.
When did you realise you were first getting noticed as a cosplayer? How did it make you feel?
There are plenty of milestones I’ve kept track of. Like the first time anyone said they looked up to me. The first time I received fan mail. The first time someone said they wished they could see me at a con. But the first time I was ever actually recognized as “Pixelpantz” at a con I nearly exploded with excitement. My cheeks were sore from smiling so much after that. I mean, inevitably this is for fun and I enjoy it. I cosplayed before fans and before having a Facebook page so I would like to say I’d still do it without those things. But I can’t deny the recognition and supporters hasn’t pushed me to better myself and better my art. It’s honestly been a whirlwind of growth that’s been hard to keep up with, but it keeps me on my toes and keeps me pushing forward.
What makes a character jump out at you as something you have to cosplay?
I usually gravitate towards badass armor. It’s more so the creation of armor is the most fun to me so I tend to pick characters like that but I’m never opposed to an elegant dainty design. I just hope I can better my sewing skills to expand the types of characters I do!
What’s your most memorable con experience?
That’s so hard! I swear I walk away from every con with a plethora of great memories. But if I had to pick it would have to be competing in the costume contest at Blizzcon 2016. It was my first contest, my biggest costume, and the farthest I’d ever travelled for a con. I met so many amazing people and made so many great memories!
You’ve gone to conventions all over America. What’s your favourite place you’ve visited for a con?
I absolutely love Anaheim, California. When I was finally able to attend Blizzcon, I fell in love with Anaheim! Such a nice area and the weather was amazing!
Are there any international conventions you’d like to go to? Why?
I have an international dream list that consist of a LOT of cons. If I had to pick a couple of my favs I’d have to say Gamescom in Germany, MCM in England, Calgary or Edmonton Expo in Canada, and Supanova in Australia! I add more to my list all the time. I’m really hoping to expand my horizons next year!
What’s your favourite character to cosplay?
I always pick two of these because they’re my favorite comfortable cosplay and my favorite not-so-comfortable cosplay! As far as uncomfortable but so worth it, it would definitely be my Ashes of Al’ar costume. But as far as comfortable cosplays I used to cosplay Chun-li a lot and that one was so much fun to wear!
If you actually had to live as one of the characters you’d cosplayed, which one would it be?
Wonder Woman! I love her so much. She’s so badass. Though her life is a little stressful I would totally rock it.
What’s the most difficult cosplay you’ve ever done?
Most difficult would have to be my Ashes of Al’Ar costume. It really pushed me as far as time restraints and craftsmanship. I had never made something so intricate in just 6 weeks. But I was so determined to make it happen!
A lot of your cosplays are very intricately detailed. What’s the most time you’ve spent getting those little details right?
Oh my goodness. The details are the thing that’s always the most time consuming. I would say the most time I spent in one sitting would probably be 8-10 hours. But the most time over the course of an entire build would be at least 100-150 hours of just detail work.
Have you ever given up on a cosplay idea because it was too difficult?
Not yet! Usually what I end up doing is just putting it on the back burner for a little bit while I learn the techniques necessary to make it. But I always come back to it eventually. I don’t know if I could ever truly give up on a cosplay idea.
Are you working on anything new now?
I am! Currently I’m working on a Magikarp Gijinka design I made. I’m excited to make it and a Gyarados design as well because my motto has always been “Just a cosplay Magikarp trying to be a Gyarados”. So now I finally get to make costumes that represent that and my growth as a cosplayer! Overall, I have a lot of aspirations for this year. So I have some big plans but I just have to execute them.
What are your favourite materials to work with?
Definitely worbla! I feel bad because worbla is so expensive, so I want to make more affordable costumes. But worbla would have to be my crutch. I can just work with it a lot better than other materials and I don’t know if that will ever change.
What is the most unusual or unexpected thing you’ve used as part of a cosplay?
It’s not too unusual since it’s a staple in my cosplay supplies now but I will never get over how weird it is to use insulation foam for props. I still feel so weird when I go to the store to buy a bunch of sheets of it because they always ask what I’m doing with it. I can’t exactly say I’m making swords and guns, haha.
How creative do you have to get to make some of the more mystical effects?
Cosplay definitely takes some ‘out of the box’ thinking. I’ve finger painted for better metal effects, dusted my costume in makeup highlighter so it’s shinier, and even attempted to resin cast a marshmallow bird to make the perfect bird sculpt. (Note: Do not attempt to resin cast marshmallow anything.)
Are there any characters you’re looking forward to cosplaying in the future?
Right now all I can think about is Magikarp and Gyarados. But, I’m really looking forward to some big armor builds I have planned. I have plans for Pokémon, World of Warcraft, Mass Effect, and so many more.
Who are your favourite cosplayers working right now?
I have so many favorite cosplayers to follow! As far as inspirations I adore Jessica Nigri, Kinpatsu Cosplay, Kamui Cosplay, and my friend Nefeni Cosplay. I’ve learned so much from each of them and I really tend to stalk all of their progress.
What’s your favourite thing about the cosplaying community?
I absolutely love it when cosplayers come together to help each other with their costumes. In the end we all face the same problems and issues. So doing it together with the help of a community is the most heartwarming thing. I’ve learned a lot from cosplayers that were willing to give me pointers so I try to pay that kindness forward by helping others that need tips too.
How do you think the cosplaying community could be improved?
There are issues in every community. But I feel like with cosplay becoming more mainstream people really get caught up in the popularity contest of it all. People start wanting to be the one with the most likes or the most followers and get really caught up in the numbers of it all. I personally used to struggle with this because I felt like the amount of likes I had dictated the value of my work. It took me a long time before I was able to be proud of what I made regardless of how many people liked it on the internet. So even though my following has grown, I try not to get sucked up in the numbers. Everyone has talent and everyone deserves praise regardless of how many followers they have.
You make a lot of effort to engage with your followers and supporters. What made you want to focus so much on creating a conversation with your fan base?
I really want people to remember I’m a person just like they are. I’m not an unapproachable internet entity that they can’t talk to or ask questions. I’ve been there before when I commented or messaged a person I followed and they just never replied. I don’t hold it against them because I know how hectic it can be to reply to everyone but it makes them feel so distant and unapproachable. In fact, I get so upset when I’m not able to answer every message or comment because I feel like everyone deserves a response, but I know it happens. But overall, I absolutely love meeting and talking to new fans. My page has allowed me to talk to people all over the world that love the same things I do and if that’s not amazing I don’t know what is.
You often ask for your supporters’ input on your work. What’s the most interesting idea a follower has given you?
I get so much input on costumes and videos. I think the most interesting ideas are cosplay suggestions. Sometimes there are characters I never thought of cosplaying or maybe I didn’t know the series. Once I look it up and look into the character I tend to fall in love with them. So I definitely love cosplay suggestions the most.
Has anyone taken something they’ve learned from one of your tutorials that has really surprised or impressed you?
Right now I’m actually following a girl who is recreating my Diablo 3 Crusader and I am so proud of her! I can’t wait to see the final product. I always tell people to send me their progress photos and finished products so I can drool all over them but sometimes they’re too shy. But I want to see their stuff!!!!
Outside of cosplaying, what do you like to do with your time?
I have a very serious relationship with my computer and video games. But outside of the whole gaming, comic, and cosplay world I really enjoy filming. Recently I’ve been making more content for my YouTube channel that isn’t exactly cosplay related but it’s been so fun to film and edit that I doubt I’ll be able to stop!
What are your favourite games to stream on your Twitch channel?
I absolutely love ARK: Survival Evolved, any sort of horror game, and for most fast paced streams Overwatch seems to do very well. I can’t wait to build a better PC to stream more often.
Are they the same as your favourite games to play in your own time?
Definitely! I’m not the type to play something I wouldn’t enjoy off of stream. I want everything I do to be as honest as possible so if I like something enough to stream it I probably like it enough to play it on my own time too.
Do you think you’ll still be cosplaying in ten years’ time? Do you have any goals, in cosplaying terms or otherwise?
I hope to be cosplaying in ten years! I keep telling myself I’ll do this as long as I can, just because I’ve fallen in love with it so much. I’ve been working really hard on Patreon, Youtube, Twitch, and my site to really make more content for everyone to enjoy so my goals are really to grow those as much as possible. I want to make more tutorials and books to help teach people, and I really hope I can be a guest at more conventions around the US and maybe even internationally! Maybe one day this hobby will be more than just a hobby but for now I still squeeze it in after my day job.
Do you have any advice for aspiring cosplayers?
Keep pushing. No matter how hard it gets or how many mistakes you make, keep pushing yourself past those obstacles. Cosplay has taught me a lot about persevering after tough times or countless mistakes and I really believe that’s a great lesson to learn for life in general. We do this because we love it, so all those difficulties we face become worth it in the end.
Special thanks to PixelPantz for taking the time to talk to us!