“I just kind of looked at the characters and thought ‘I want be that character’,” said Laura Kupse (aka Cauldron of Mischief) on how she started cosplaying. “My first costumes were Tohru from Fruits Basket and a Pokémon Trainer from Pokémon. I just kept thinking, ‘I really like that character.’ I didn’t know it was cosplay until I found out and did some research that it was cosplay.”
From West Yorkshire, Laura started cosplaying in 2005 as a hobby. Having initially studied computer animation, her passion for costume and prop making won over, as she taught herself how to sew. Soon she was taking on costume commissions and earlier this year she launched her own website accepting commissions. “I know jobs are kind of hard to get and I wanted to get a job that I really enjoy doing,” she said. “It picked up and went from there.”
Our interview was conducted on the Sunday of MCM London Comic Con, where Laura was cosplaying as Krul Tepes from Owari No Seraph. She mentioned that she was feeling tired; yet during our time she was humble, cheerful and very polite. We discussed her most challenging cosplay, budgeting, making tutorial videos and being a perfectionist.
Who have you been cosplaying at MCM this weekend?
This weekend I’ve been Motoko Kusanagi from Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and Krul Tepes from Owari No Seraph.
How did you initially get into cosplay?
It started out as a hobby. I’ve always been sewing and always enjoyed it since I was little. When I was about 14, 15, I started having an idea of dressing up as some of the characters. Then I realised it was actually a thing. Like people actually did it. Then I thought, ‘Oh, that’s really good, I should try that.’ So then I started with a really basic costume I made from one of my cloaks.
You studied computer animation, but eventually moved to becoming a costume and prop-maker. How did that change come about?
I went to university and did computer animation and special effects for three years. I found out it was quite difficult and I just wasn’t enjoying my course as much. I decided to move on to sewing. I wanted to learn how to do it, but the courses were so expensive. All my sewing is self-taught. I did attend a small course at Hybrid FX to learn about prosthetics and make up, but anything else I taught myself. So I learnt from there and then moved on to that. Eventually it turned into a business. I wanted to just make and sell costumes. I just love making stuff.
What would you say has been the biggest hurdle for you to overcome to get to where you are now?
I guess it’s confidence. I was worrying a lot about what people thought. There were a lot of stupid things that I worried about and I just had to push all that away. For example, I’m not very confident speaking on camera, but when I’m cosplaying it helps boost my confidence a lot, because I don’t have to worry about anything else. I can jump into somebody else’s shoes temporarily and it just helps my confidence… greatly.
What has been your most challenging cosplay to create?
Definitely Elphelt Valentine from Guilty Gear Xrd. The way the character is designed, she has a hoopskirt, but there is a gap towards the side of the hoopskirt, but it’s only a very small gap. I had to engineer the skirt so it would stay up without collapsing. [I had to] put a dress on top of it, then loads of other details and then roses on top of that so that the whole thing would take the weight of it and it wouldn’t collapse. That was definitely a pain to figure out (laughs). But I did it! It ended in a lot of sleepless nights, a lot of mistakes, a lot of, ‘Oh God, I’ve done that wrong, I’m going to have to go back and start again.’
You also described your Elphelt Valentine cosplay as one of the most complicated to put on. What makes it so complicated?
I have a corset built into the dress and also a separate corset that I wear with it. I’ve got to put the corset on, then I put my shoes and socks on, then the hoopskirt on top of that, because once the hoopskit is on I cannot bend or sit down to put my shoes on. Then I got to put the dress on top of that, and there are loads of little hooks and attachments that attach the details that hang off the sides and the roses at the back. Then I got to put my jacket on over the top. That’s it; it’s just layer upon layer.
How long does it take to put on?
That can take up to an hour for me to put on (laughs). The quickest time I’ve put it on is 40 minutes, because I had [my partner] Sam (Varia Cosplay) to help me. I can put it on by myself, but it’ll take longer. But I do ultimately need somebody to zip the back up and put the roses on the back because I can’t do it by myself. Definitely a hard costume to wear (laughs).
Eventually I get back pain and side pain from it. If it gets to the point where I’m walking around and I’m hurting in it, I have to just take it off, because I don’t want to sacrifice my health for it or anything like that.
Out of the many cosplays that you’ve created for yourself, which one is your favourite?
It’s a cross between Elphelt Valentine and this one I’m wearing now, Krul Tepes. I wasn’t sure how I was going to look as Krul when I first made it, but I actually really like how this one came out. I like how long the sleeves are, I like the fact I get to wear fangs and prosthetic ears with it. Plus it’s not too bad to walk around in.
Elphelt I really like, but it’s so hard to wear because I can’t sit down, I can only stand up straight and walk straight. It’s a good costume other than that.
What is it about their costumes or characters that stands out for you?
I’ve always liked the Guilty Gear games. When I saw Guilty Gear Xrd come out, which was in 2014 when Elphelt was introduced, she was one of those characters where you just look at her and think, ‘I love that design. I need to find out more.’ I didn’t get a hold of the game immediately, so I had a friend bring it over and I played it. I also watched a play-though online as well. I loved it, I like her move-set and I just think it’s so cool. It’s so cool how much thought went into her as well. And I like the fact that she fights with roses and different guns (laughs). I really enjoy it.
And Krul Tepes?
When I first read Owari No Seraph, I felt it started out quite slow. Then I went back to read it from the beginning and I really enjoyed it a lot more. I also like the fact that Krul’s surname is based off Vlad Tepes, so that was cool that they put that in there. And I just love vampires as well (laughs). I also like her design, the long sleeves, the cape… I just like the way she is (laughs).
It did! The majority of that cost came from the helmet. I haven’t learnt how to make helmets yet, so I had that commissioned from Aniki Cosplay. He makes these helmets for a living, so I really wanted to get that from him. But because it was a custom commission it cost me about £350, including shipping. The rest of the cost was just the outfit… materials…
Is that the most you’ve ever spent on a costume?
I think so… yeah. Elphelt cost me around the £200 mark I would say, because I had to make bits of it again. Other than that, I think Akiba Blue is definitely the most I’ve ever spent on one costume.
Do you try and set a budget in mind before making a cosplay or do you spend till you feel it’s perfect?
Usually I try budget myself a bit. I look at the costume I want to make, I look at the materials I’ve already got, or what I can reuse. If it requires me to buy new material then I usually go to my local market and buy the fabric, or I’ll source other material. But usually I start budgeting, using what I’ve got first if I can help it. If it’s something I’ve already got then I can just use that and save money. If I find out I’ve already got the fabric I can start immediately. With Krul for example, I already had most of the fabric lying around, so I didn’t have to go buy any.
So how much did it cost to make Krul?
I haven’t totalled up my whole costume, but I’d say it’s about £50. The wig was £20 and the teeth and ears were about another £20-25 on top. The rest of it I already had so I just used it up. Half of [the material] was already there; I just had to make it.
You’ve said that you want to try making more tutorial videos in the future. Is that something we could potentially see?
I get a lot of questions on how I’ve made bits of costumes. It might be easier if I just made a tutorial on it, so if people want help on the costume, or if they need help making that one particular thing, it’s there. If it helps, that’s great. It also helps with my confidence as well. I don’t usually film myself for tutorials, but I think if I could it would help me a bit more so I wouldn’t have to worry again. But yeah, I’d love to make more tutorials again in the future.
I’ll probably do that with more of my costumes. Because I enjoy making costumes so much I don’t really think about it. I just go straight into it, because I’m so excited to get on my sewing machine and then I think, ‘Ah, I could have filmed that.’
Would you say that you’re kind of a perfectionist?
Yeah, I’m very OCD about stuff like this. Even if it’s something someone else won’t notice, if I know it’s not there, it’s going to make me feel a bit weird. Because I enjoy sewing and I’m very passionate about this, I just need to focus and make sure I get everything in there. Like today, I realised that Krul actually has buttons on her sleeves. I’m not going to lose sleep over it now.
But you’re probably thinking, ‘I can improve this in the future’?
When I get time, I can just add the buttons or any other details I didn’t add and then it’ll be fine. I don’t mind it at the moment, because it’s not noticeable, it’s such a minor detail.
What part of cosplaying do you find the most fulfilling for you?
Oh man, this is hard, because there’s a lot of things. I think when I finish a costume and then I give it to the person I’m making it to. If they’re really happy with it, seeing their face light up, it’s like, ‘Aww, I’ve made them happy.’ Also, you get to meet a lot of old friends, meet new people. It definitely really helps my confidence in meeting people as well. It’s just so nice to hang around with people that you know in the same community.
I find it interesting that the first thing you answered with was the reactions from people you’ve made something for.
I really don’t want to mess up making a costume for somebody else. If I make a mistake on a costume and they’re not happy with it, I’ll fix it, one hundred percent. But if they’re happy with it the first time around, seeing their face light up and seeing how happy they are in their costume, it just makes me really happy seeing them happy. Seeing them happy is important.
How does it feel for you when you’re at MCM and you have people talk to you about your character, your costume and ask you for photos?
It feels good. It feels nice getting your photo taken. When you’re walking around a con and you’re very tired and then somebody wants a photograph, or they compliment you on your costume, it’s just like a nice feeling. It’s very sweet of them that they like the costume.
Have you had that today with Krul?
I just came from a Owari No Seraph meet and some of the people came running up to me saying, ‘Oh my gosh, I love your ears, I love your hair, I love the clips in it.’ I’m just like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s so sweet, thank you.’ I’m looking at everyone else around me and they just look amazing as well. So it’s really nice for them to come up to me and say that.
It’s also a bit of reassurance. Because, if you’re very tired and you’re worried about how bits of your costume look, getting other people coming up to you saying, ‘Oh, you look fab,’ it’s just…(breathes sigh of relief). It settles your mind a bit if you’re worrying. It’s very calming and reassuring.
On your Facebook page you put up pictures of cosplays you’d like to attempt in the future. With some of them, you sometimes say how they’re a bit out of your comfort zone, or that you finally feel confident enough to work on it. Over the years do you feel that cosplaying has increased your confidence?
Definitely. When I look back to when I was 15 or 16 and compare it to now, I wouldn’t have expected to be doing this now. When I was 15, 16, I just thought, ‘Oh, one day I would like to do this.’ I just kept practicing and practicing, and then it built up… eventually to this.
Would you say it has also pushed you into wanting to create more elaborate, more challenging costumes?
Yeah, I would think so. For example, I really like Trinity Blood; I’ve never done a Trinity Blood costume for myself, though I helped Sam make his Seth Nightroad costume. But I’ve never attempted anything that detailed for myself. I would like to attempt one of those costumes. Definitely Astharoshe Asran.
So would that be your dream cosplay?
One of them, yeah, because I love her design, her hair, her costume, her hat, and I like the staff that she has as well. It’s just… oh my God, I need to try it (laughs). I just need to attempt it one day.
I also like Scissors Crown, which is not very well known outside of its origin, but it’s by the same artist (Thores Shibamoto) who drew the Trinity Blood designs. One of them is Alice and it’s such an intricately designed dress. I’m just looking at it thinking, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to attempt that,’ but I would like to try it one day.
Thank you to Laura for taking the time out for the interview. You can follow her progress on her Facebook page, Cauldron of Mischief Cosplay. Or, if you’re interested in getting a costume, prop or a wig commissioned, then visit cauldronofmischief.com.
Photos by Papercube and Alex Kupse.