In this article we interview GunKat Cosplay who ran an Otakon panel called “Defying Gravity: Anime Physics in Cosplay.” I discussed with GunKat days before her panel about the art of elaborate costume-making and prop-making and what cosplayers should be aware of before making them.
Share a little bit about yourself and how cosplay first entered your life.
I’m GunKat and I’m a 24 year old cosplayer that loves making pretty clothes and crazy props. I work for a video game company, which helps out in Con crunch time when I roll in with my sewing basket to work on things. The name GunKat actually comes from the fact that I was a varsity rifle shooter in college and is the reason why I got into this so late, there was always a match on the weekends of the big Cons in the area.
My older sister actually got me into this as she was cosplaying well before I even went to conventions and my first cosplay was Millia Rage from Guilty Gear with her. It was a travesty that will never see the light of day again. I’ve been sewing since I was 10, very basic stuff, but the pattern making and crafting demands were very new to me, and I had no idea about anything like wigs. I wasn’t really hooked until I made Tomoyo – hime and Kurogane from Tsubasa Reservoir chronicles in about 3 weeks over a summer and I realized that this was something that I could really do.
You have a panel called “Defying Gravity – Anime Physics in Cosplay” at Otakon. Can you explain specifically what your panel is about?
I’ve read pretty much everything by CLAMP and for the first costumes that I made, I did exclusively CLAMP characters, because they were the ones dearest to me. In making these costumes, I realized that gravity is a major factor and that CLAMP doesn’t particularly take that into account when designing costumes. This lead to a quest to find ways to make the fabric or other materials do what I want to make the look of the character. The panel is about all the crazy stuff you can to do to make the costumes Con-legal, not cost piles of money and yet still look like the shape, texture and rigidity that you want.
What are the necessary steps one has to do to start making props? Do you need a specific skill or talent to make one?
To start? Really the only thing you need to do is research and buying the materials. There are tons of tutorials out there and a load of information from regular costumers available on the Internet and I will actually spend about a month gathering information before I even get started on the outfit. You don’t really need a specific skill or talent, because the more you experiment, the better you are going to get at doing whatever it is you are doing. I will say though, it helps if you can use powertools, saws, or know someone that does as that will cut down the initial time and tool investment. I have found that it helps if you can visualize 2D objects in a 3D plane and have a very sharp eye for detail.
What are some of the precautions cosplayers need to aware of before they start making props or very grand costumes?
Research is your friend, as are safety precautions. If you are working with anything that could harm you or your skin, always wear gloves. Also be aware that these costumes are likely to be very expensive as you are going to need a lot of materials, and very time consuming purely to wait for everything to dry. Make sure that you plan ahead so you don’t end up doing what I do every con, scrambling to finish things the day before.
Hallways at conventions tend to be pretty crowded. What can you recommend for those with huge props and costumes?
Dependent on the costume, there is a very high possibility that you are not going to be extremely mobile and people are probably going to walk into you. Make sure the costume can handle a few knocks. If possible, see if you can make a coating on top that will absorb any nicks or scratches that you may get when someone doesn’t see you. Having a helper is a great plan. My group of friends always have at least one person that goes as a packmule, carrying all of our stuff, camera’s, water, wallets and helping us through the doorways or in and out of costume.
What are the best way to travel with and keep clean items like pauldrons, headresses and fluffy skirts?
Store them in a dry, temperature controlled area. I separate my costumes out into bags, or boxes, dependent on how breakable they are. The fluffy skirts are stored high up in my closet, but for everything, you do want to keep them in sealed containers to keep out the dust. Utilize all the space available without compressing the items to the breaking point. For travel, try to minimize the space needed to store the costume. I am well known for needing an entire van to transport my costumes when I don’t have the time to play tetris with them in a smaller car.
What has been some of the craziest props you have ever seen (or made yourself)?
The craziest one that I have seen has not yet been completed, but one of my friends is making the wings for White Rock shooter. These things are something like 5 or 6 feet across, the same as tall, with a ton of segmented pieces all glued together. The craziest one I’ve made was Tomoyo – hime’s 4 foot wide headdress where I had to scoot through doorways sideways to get through.
What would you recommend to those that are making weapon props for their characters? Can it cause problems with security and police officers?
Keep in mind that you are going to be carrying the weapon all day, so make it something wieldable. My panel breaks down what materials are good to use for which type of props to make them the right size but still able to be picked up and wielded by even the smallest of cosplayers. The biggest recommendation that I can give is know your prop rules and follow them. Con Security doesn’t mess around. I also recommend being very careful with gun or knife props in public, and if you are planning on being outside of the Con area for a while, to leave them in your room to avoid altercations.