“We help each other so much,” says Katie Davies, one half of the cosplay duo Parallel Works Cosplay. “I couldn’t make half my cosplays without Mollie.”
“Yeah, same with Katie,” responds Mollie Neal. “We make all our cosplays together if we can.”
From Weston-super-Mare, Katie and Mollie first met in secondary school. “We were aware of each other’s existence,” said Katie. “But… Mollie didn’t like me.”
“It’s such a stupid story,” laughed Mollie, as she explained how during a netball game she was in the perfect position to throw the ball in the net, only Katie did not pass it to her. “I never forgave her for five years,” said Mollie. Years later they went to college and soon found a shared interest. “I was sat down in the library and I was looking at Kingdom Hearts on my laptop,” recalled Mollie. “Katie walked up behind me and said, ‘Oh, is that Kingdom Hearts?’ I’m like, ‘Yes it is. Do you like Kingdom Hearts?’”
“We were inseparable ever since,” laughed Katie. “She was the Roxas to my Sora!” The interest in anime led to conventions and cosplay, as they attended their first MCM London convention in May 2011, cosplaying from the anime Hetalia. They have since cosplayed characters from the likes of Homestuck (which they described as “a massive part” of their lives), One Piece, Danganronpa, Vocaloids, League of Legends, Miraculous Ladybug and Black Rock Shooter (which saw them win MCM London’s Mini Masquerade in October 2014).
Polite and funny, both Katie and Mollie were a pleasure to talk to, yet what also came across was a friendship strengthened by a shared sense of silliness. Their Facebook page states that their personal interests are “Crying in the hotel room and worshipping glue guns.”
“It’s still true,” laughed Katie.
“I have so many glue guns, I’m not even kidding,” responded Mollie. “I just couldn’t find the perfect glue guns.”
“I feel like we’re moving onto bigger things now,” added Katie. “Why not super glue and duct tape? Just adhesives in general!”
During our time we talked about wigs, make-up, their most challenging cosplay, their wall of weapons and Monster Energy Drink.
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How did you get into cosplay?
Katie: It was always my dream to get into cosplay, but I didn’t know anyone who did it. And I think you wanted to as well, Mollie?
Mollie: Yeah I did, I just had no one to go with (laughs).
Katie: So we were two ‘Larry Loners’ and we formed together and went to our first MCM Expo.
Mollie: It was kind of funny, because we were friends, but we weren’t really close. It was always that kind of, (shy) “Oh, do you want to go to a con with me?” And it’s like, are we friends enough to do this?
Katie and Mollie: (Laughing)
Katie: But it worked out well.
Mollie: It certainly did.
When was your first convention?
Katie: That was May MCM Expo…
Did you cosplay during your first convention?
Katie and Mollie: We did!
Katie: We did US and UK from Hetalia. It was a hot summer’s day, we were wearing full military suits and… we sweated out (laughs)!
Mollie: It was horrible. It was so hot. Never made that mistake again.
Katie: We realised at that point that there is a season for cosplay, where you wear less clothing in the summer and more in the winter (laughs). That was fun though.
Mollie: It was pretty much just testing out the waters and seeing what it was like, what there was to do there. Obviously after that we were like, “That was amazing. We have to go every year, twice a year.”
Katie: And then all our money went (laughs)!
What is the decision process like when it comes to which cosplay you’ll be doing together as a duo?
Mollie: What we do is we look at them and say, “Oh, they look really similar. Are they assholes? We’ll do it!” (Laughs)
Mollie: We are really lucky as a cosplay pair, in that we always like separate characters. We never go, “Oh, I want to cosplay the same character as you.” It’s normally the pair in the show, or a pair with a really cool design. It’s normally designs that draw us in.
Katie: Yeah… and height differences.
So there’s never been an, “I’m cosplaying that character” argument?
Katie: Not yet (laughs)!
Katie: I’m sure eventually, one day.
Mollie: One day it’s going to happen and we’re just not going to know what to do (laughs).
Katie: What we’ll do is end up doing the same character. That’s something we would do, just do the same outfit.
Mollie: (Laughs) Yeah.
Katie: Who wore it better?
Sometimes, a few people cosplaying as a duo would work separately, and when they come together it’s clear that one has done it better than the other. But it doesn’t appear that way with the both of you.
Mollie: Obviously, now that we live [further] apart it’s a lot harder to do, but if we can do something together, we will do something together. So, when we make our outfits, we are next to each other making it. If Katie did something to her outfit and said, “Oh, I did this and it worked.” [I would] do that to my outfit so it’s exactly the same.
Katie: And Mollie used to help me a lot with my make-up and wigs. [Because] we’re not together in the same town it’s made it harder to do our processes together. It’s quite sad, but we Skype a lot.
Mollie: Everything we need to know is said on Skype. So if we’re making stuff separately, I will call up Katie and say, “Can I ask you this? Do you think this is a good idea? What do you think about this colour?” So, nothing is done separately and everything is agreed upon between us.
You’ve described how Homestuck was “a massive part” of your lives and that it influenced so much of your cosplay. In what way was Homestuck an important part of your cosplay journey?
Katie: We made a lot of friends through it. I found that some of our closest friends now we made through Homestuck, because it had a really good community at conventions. Also the first challenging outfits we did were from Homestuck. It pushed us to start sewing, using different materials and challenging ourselves, challenging what we did as cosplayers.
Mollie: The Homestuck outfits we’re talking about is the Militarystuck outfits. That was a huge challenge for both of us. It was really expensive. Like… (laughs) we spent so much money on buttons! We learnt so much from those outfits. All the other outfits from Homestuck were very simple, but like Katie said, we made so many friends from it. It was just a really important cosplay for us (laughs).
Katie: It broke us into the cosplay community as making friends goes. We didn’t have that before. We were quite… segregated I’d say? Because we just didn’t know anyone at all.
Was this the turning point where you found you were having to change things in your life to accommodate cosplay?
Mollie: I would say this was the turning point for us when we decided we need to sew (laughs). It was the first big sewing project for us.
Katie: I think it was. I think one of the main aspects for me, for cosplay, is the money.
Mollie: (Deep) Yeah.
Katie: We’d spend so much money, not just on the cosplays, but also on going to the conventions, the hotel rooms. So that was when it started getting serious, in the sense that we were investing, not just time, but money into it, for our own enjoyment. And I loved it. It was great (laughs).
Mollie: Yeah, it was a really intense outfit for us. Like Katie said, money-wise, so much money went into tiny little things. Like beads, buttons, and stupid things. You’re like, “Oh my God, I’m spending so much money on this one tiny thing.” I think that was the one outfit where I don’t think we’ve ever got up so early to paint ourselves before (laughs).
Katie: We painted ourselves grey at silly o’clock in the morning (laughs).
Some people would say, “we wasted so much money.” But you’ve said “spend”. In your mind, was this money that was well spent?
Katie: I think our standard was quite high for that, because we didn’t cut corners on the money-side of things. Like, we found this fabric and it was such a lot of money, but it was perfect.
Mollie: (Very deep) Yeah.
Katie: So we went for it, even though it was a bit more… and when I say a bit, it was a lot more than our budget. I say budget, we didn’t have a budget (laughs).
Mollie: No, we didn’t (laughs)!
Do you budget now with your cosplays?
Katie: We don’t!
Mollie: I would say what we tend to do is pick… it’s not every year, but we would go “Okay, this is our big outfit for this year, and this is the outfit that all of our money is going to go into.”
Katie: You don’t cut corners on it.
Mollie: It’s like, this is going to cost a lot, but it’s going to be worth it.
Katie: That was Black Rock Shooter for us.
Mollie: Black Rock Shooter in a nutshell.
Katie: I feel like it pays off when we put the money into it. You can sometimes tell. There’s a bit of polish to it.
Mollie: I’d say that we are really good with what we buy, but I have to admit that there are some things where, if I’ve got the money to do it, I will buy something to try it. Sometimes it doesn’t always work, but if you don’t try it you won’t know. We had this thing we tried before Worbla was a thing. Worbla is life now…
Mollie: …but before Worbla, we were making props and we just didn’t know what do to. So we were like, “Right, we’re going try resin, see how that goes.” It wasn’t cheap, we weren’t really sure what we were doing, but we did it, and it worked well enough. It was okay for the time. Then Worbla came out and everything was solved (laughs).
Curiously, how much did the cosplay for Black Rock Shooter come up to?
Mollie: See, this is something that we don’t do. We don’t write down all of the prices for everything.
Katie: I think we would cry if we did (laughs).
Mollie: (Laughs) I think we would.
Katie: [It was] over £300 each I’d say.
Mollie: Easily, if we rounded everything up, but that is for the main parts of it. That’s forgetting things like the glue…
Katie: …spray painting…
Mollie: …tiny little things. Definitely over £300 each.
Katie: Maybe even going on £400 I’d say. (Laughs) I don’t like thinking about it!
Katie, you’ve said that you were constantly asked how you made the wig for your copslay of Celestia Ludenberg from Danganronpa. You uploaded a wig tutorial video, which is now the video to go to for those that want to cosplay Celestia. With over 140,000 views, how does it feel seeing that it’s become the most viewed video on your channel?
Katie: It’s such a happy feeling to know that I’ve helped people make a cosplay. (Pauses) I really wish I’d put more effort into that video now (laughs), because I did not realise how many views it would get. But I’m just so glad that I documented that progress, because I went into that wig-making with no clear idea of how it would look at the end. It was all just hoping for the best and it came out so well. So, for people to be using that, it warms my heart. It’s a really nice feeling. I’ve seen people online [cosplaying Celesita] and I can tell that they’ve used the tutorial, and I’m like, “Yes, you’ve listened to me!” So, it’s wonderful and it’s an insane amount of views really. I wasn’t expecting that at all.
You’ve put up a Black Rock Shooter weapons progress/tutorial video. Could we see more cosplay progress videos in the future?
Katie: I’d like to hope so. We always talk about how we should do more cosplay help videos. It’s difficult through because you want to post stuff where you’re pioneering that subject. But if there’s already a video existing of it, then you don’t really need to.
Mollie: Most of the time we don’t really do tutorial videos, because most of the time we’re winging it ourselves.
Mollie: So we don’t even know if it’s going to work (laughs)!
Mollie: It’s also remembering to do it as well. Sometimes you just get so involved in making stuff that you just don’t think, “Oh yeah, I should film this!”
Katie: I made a wig for Ladybug from Miraculous Ladybug recently. I had some people ask me how I made it. I knew of someone who had made a video similar to that and I shared their video rather than make my own. It’s good to share stuff. Me and Mollie share stuff all the time. We’d be like, “Oh, have you see this cosplay? They made this thing using a different technique.” Suddenly we’ll explore their whole Facebook page. It grows the community quite a bit.
Mollie, you’ve described cosplaying Portgas D. Ace from One Piece as “a big deal” and that he’s your “favourite character from anything ever.” Why was this so important to you?
Mollie: Well… I’ve never ever cried so much at a character’s death in my life! I felt so emotional for a week afterwards. I would go to work and I would just stand there and be sad. And I’m like, (miserable) “I can’t believe this has happened.”
Mollie: This is spoilers if anyone hasn’t watched One Piece! Katie can confirm that I do tend to cosplay dead characters a lot. Because then, in my heart, they’re not really dead.
Katie: (Laughing uncontrollably)
Mollie: I’m just living on as that character. Ace, he is my favourite character ever; he is number one husbando. One day I just decided, “You know what? Yeah! I’m going to be Ace!” I just remember messaging Katie, saying, “Oh yeah, I’m [cosplaying Ace].”
She said, “Why? This isn’t planned.”
I said, “I DON’T NEED PLANS. I NEED TO BE HIM.”
Then after I showed Katie, she said, (softly) “Hey, I’ll be your Luffy if you want.” Then the tears came back again.
Mollie: It was just all emotional for me (laughs). It was a good time in my life.
About doing the make-up for Ace. you said, “I will never ever be happy until I’ve redone it ten more times.” Was that specifically for Ace, or do you generally redo make-up for a character that many times?
Mollie: I do tend to do make-up for a character more than once. I have my general girl make-up which I do for normal characters, but if they have a really recognisable face, or if they have really over-the-top features on their face, I do try my best to do that. Sometimes I’ll do it and it looks absolutely terrible! So I tend to do make-up more than once, definitely, until I get it to a point where I’m more than half-satisfied.
Katie: And it’s getting the speed up. Because you have to do that in the morning and the quicker you can do it, the big a line you can get on the convention day. So it’s always good to practice.
What would you say has been your most challenging cosplay to create?
Mollie: Black Rock Shooter is the obvious one to go for. It was extremely difficult, but I think Katie would agree with me in saying that it went a lot better than [we thought]. We went into these outfits not 100% sure how to do this thing, but [trying] our best. It was the first time we were using Worbla as well, so that was us going in blind with that, and it went really well. So, for me, Black Rock Shooter, but at the same time there are so many other outfits that I have had an absolutely horrific time with. It’s more sewing than anything.
Me and Katie re-wore a cosplay the other week, and I looked at my sewing and was like, “Oh my God, this is terrible.” This was Vav, from X-Ray and Vav, the blue and red superhero suit. The gloves and the leg hold-up things were hell. I could have done them better, but I didn’t have time to find another way of doing it. It was a week before the convention, and I’m like, “Oh wow, I am super stressed right now.” I could pick out a really hard thing from every single outfit quite easily. But yeah, that is a tough one. Katie, what would you say?
Katie: Vel’Koz [from League of Legends].
Mollie: (Deep) Oh God, yeah.
Katie: That was the first time I’d done proper resin casting, with LED. So it was my first time properly doing lighting. I had a lot of challenges making that headdress work, making it light enough, and actually wearing it… it was a lot of weight on my head! There were tears at one point when the LEDs wouldn’t work. So, that was a challenge. It took a summer and I was so happy with the outcome of it. I learnt a lot from that as well. My Dead Master outfit from Black Rock Shooter, it wasn’t as difficult. The hardest part of Mollie’s outfit was the legs…
Mollie: (Exhales deeply)
Katie: …and I didn’t have to worry about that. I just had to make a pretty dress. So Mollie had the harder job there.
How much does the headdress for Vel’Koz weigh?
Katie: I haven’t weighed it, but it did give me a bit of a bruise from wearing it too much at the convention. It wasn’t too bad, it’s just a bit too heavy to wear constantly. On my second re-wear I took the tentacles off quite a lot more and it was fine. You find when you’re at a convention and you put a lot of effort into something, even if it’s hurting you, you don’t want to take it off, because of all that time you’ve put into it. It’s normally shoes.
Mollie: Oh, shoes!
Katie: When we wore Militarystuck, we actually took it off quite early. I still kind of regret it, because we’ve never re-worn that. We were in it for… four hours?
Mollie: Four hours, yeah.
Katie: And we put so much time, effort and money into it! Sometimes when you consider the amount of time and money you put in [and compare it] to how long you were in the outfit for, it’s like, “Was that worth it?” Then you re-wear it and it’s alright.
Mollie: Back then my pain threshold was terrible. It was me, my shoes were a size too small, and I was like, “I can’t do this anymore,” and it was me that wanted to get out of them. But through the years my pain threshold… I’m just, “Yeah, I’ll just power through this.”
Katie: (Laughs) Deal with it more!
Mollie: Probably the worst experience, well Katie will know, it was great at the same time, but horrible. We were in Black Rock Shooter and we were surrounded by a whole group of people. Everyone was taking photos and it was really nice. A solid 10-15 minutes of us getting our photo taken. But just before this I was walking to a chair, because [I told Katie], “Ooh, Katie, my feet really hurt. I’m in a lot of pain, I’d like to sit down and take [my shoes] off for five minutes.” I just remember being stood there and every time it looked like the cameras had gone, someone else would come and take more pictures. I whispered to Katie, “I am going to burst into tears in a second. I am in so much pain.”
Katie: I remember glancing over and you were on the verge of tears and I was like, “Okay, we need to stop!”
Katie: So, whoever was taking a photo, I went, “I’m sorry,” and just ushered Mollie to a chair.
Katie: It was bad (laughs).
Mollie: At the same time, while I was stood there, I was like, “I don’t want to let these people down.”
Katie: It’s nice to be appreciated. It’s like, all this time and effort, it was worth it because people are appreciating my outfit. So you don’t want to stop. It’s a nice feeling. I think it’s why we cosplay!
You have a weapon wall, with all your cosplay weapons hanging on the wall.
Mollie: (Boastful) Yeah we do!
Katie: That’s at my house. I have a big shed in my garden and my mum and dad just said, “You can use it for all your cosplays.” So we store a lot of our props in there. A lot of them get put on the wall.
It looks insanely cool. Whose idea was it?
Katie: It was a dream for a while, wasn’t it Mollie?
Mollie: Yeah, I remember us saying, “You know what would be really nice? If we could put all of our weapons on the wall. That would look so cool!”
Katie: We had a dream that we wanted a house together, and you could go into one of the rooms and there would just be all our weapons on the walls everywhere. Plus you see lots of big cosplayers do it. Kamui Cosplay has her weapon wall and Kinpatsu Cosplay. So when we had enough weapons they went on the wall (laughs).
Mollie: Yeah! I love the weapon wall.
Katie: The sad thing is we can’t physically take a picture of the whole thing because it extends on to the ceiling and the other walls in the room as well.
You’ve got weapons on the ceiling!?
Katie: (Giggles) Some of them are too big to put on the wall! It’s like one of those slanted ceilings, so you can put hooks on it and my Nidalee spear just sits nicely on there. It’s cool! It’s one of those life goals that we’ve achieved (laughs).
Mollie: It does look awesome.
I understand that one of the most important things you like to have when you’re making your cosplays is… Monster Energy Drink?
Katie and Mollie: (Laughing)
How many cans do you tend to go through when working on a single cosplay?
Mollie: I know exactly what picture you’re on about. We were going through a rough time!
I saw two pictures of this.
Katie: There’s one on my Instagram that we’re not supposed to talk about (laughs).
Mollie: We don’t drink it as much anymore. We were drinking those when we made Black Rock Shooter; this was every single night till… three o’clock in the morning? We’d be working and it was our only way of living. Literally. Was it Black Rock Shooter, or was it when we were doing Vel’Koz and Graves?
Katie: I think it was both! I’ve actually had to give it up, so I haven’t touched Monster for over six months now.
Mollie: Katie’s given it up and I have one as a treat every so often, because it was so bad that I physically needed it. Even after we finished the cosplays, I’d still have one every night. I’d be like, “I need it, I NEED IT!” You’ve just got to wean yourself off.
Katie has mentioned that she couldn’t believe how many people recognised the both of you when you cosplayed Rigby and Mordecai from Regular Show. Would you say this was the best reaction you’ve had when cosplaying?
Katie: I think for Regular Show, we cosplayed it at a point when not many people had. So it was more of a shock of people knowing who we were [cosplaying].
Mollie: The first time we had such a good experience being known was when we did Danganronpa. That was crazy.
Katie: We had such tall shoes on, we towered over everyone, and we looked like bad ass bitches (laughs).
Katie: It’s good to cosplay things that are popular and Danganronpa was really popular at the time. So everyone loved it. It was good.
What would you say you’ve learnt the most during your time cosplaying?
Mollie: I have learnt to not leave the hardest thing to last. Don’t do that. Just don’t! I always did it, and it always ended in tears. If you look at your outfit and go, “Ooh, that bit’s really hard. I’m going to not do that and do this other bit that looks more fun.” Don’t do that. Just get the hard bit done, out of the way and you’re all good.
Katie: I’ve learnt that when you’re cosplaying and you decide what you want to cosplay, you need to break down that outfit.
Mollie: (Quietly) Yeah.
Katie: I have a thing where I won’t cosplay something until I can draw it without looking at a reference in detail. That means I’ve considered every part of the outfit and I feel confident. It’s a really good way of assessing an outfit. It makes you more excited to do it as well. We actually have a board in our cosplay workshop where we draw the outfits we want to do and we take them down when we’ve done them.
Mollie: Sometimes, it’s nice to draw it out and get a good grip of what it is. Most of the time, we do genderbend a lot of things. If we are doing a genderbend, sometimes we’ll find a really nice design online, and it’s like, “Right, that’s what we’re working from.” Sometimes we will just wing it ourselves and go “Okay, I don’t want to do that, I want to this.” So you draw it out and go, “Okay, I’ll make the skirt a bit shorter maybe… oh no, that doesn’t look good. I can draw it longer.” It’s planning out your outfit by drawing it first so you know what you’re aiming for. You’re going from a design, but because we’re doing it ourselves, we like to draw it out.
Katie: It’s designing! I feel like some of our genderbending, or when I did Vel’Koz, I was creating my own outfit. And that’s fun. It means that you can go, “Oh, I don’t want to do that bit. I’ll just take it out the outfit.”
So the following is something you wrote on your Facebook page…
Mollie: Oh God.
You said, “We need to do a proper Korrasami shoot with many cute lesbians.”
Katie and Mollie: (Laughing)
Katie: Okay, I stick with that completely!
Mollie: One hundred percent.
So… is this going to happen?
Katie: Hell yeah it is!
Katie: Because we’re in the UK, the weather is rubbish, so we have to find a location and then hope it’s a nice day when we do it. So, organising is a nightmare, but this is on our to-do list.
Mollie: It’s also harder because we don’t live next to each other (laughs).
Katie: I’ve been reminded now, we have to do that Mollie!
Mollie: I know!
Katie: Ah, I’m so excited!
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Thank you to Katie and Mollie for taking the time out for the interview. You can follow their progress on their Facebook page.
Thank you also to Papercube for arrangement and photos. You can check out his work on his Facebook page.
Interview by Shalimar Sahota