Cosplay comes in all shapes and sizes, and Cosplayers come in all levels of expertise. From those who buy costumes, to those who enter high level competitions, and beginners learning to make their own costumes and are looking to improve, the MCM Expo has room for everyone. In 2011, the UK EuroCosplay representative Xaerael (aka Neil Lockwood) and his Skeksis costume went on to win first place as the EuroCosplay champion. He was nice enough to chat with me about how he got into cosplay making, the process of making his winning costume, and his future plans.
Laura: Hello. For those who don’t know you, could you introduce yourself?
Xae: Hi there. I’m Xae (or Xaerael). I was MCM Expo‘s 2011 representative for that year’s Eurocosplay Championships, and went on to take first place in the final.
Laura: How did you get in to Cosplay? How long have you been Cosplaying for?
Xae: I visited MCM Expo London in May 2008 and saw loads of people Cosplaying, and thought, “heyyy… that looks like fun!” By October Expo the same year I’d made my first costume, Alphonse Elric from Fullmetal Alchemist.
Laura: What was the process of making Skeksis like? How hard was it, and how long did it take you?
Xae: It took a LONG time. Far longer than any other project I’ve worked on. Even after I’d worn it at the ECC qualifier in May I still had 3 months of work to do on it. It’s hard to guess how hard it really was, as there’s been so much lead up to doing this project. It certainly took a lot of learning, research and experimenting before I even got started. While making it, I broke the costume down into its separate parts and built each part as an individual project, more or less how a professional studio would, except they would give each part to a different person!
Laura: What were the most difficult parts of the costume?
Xae: The robes. By far. Everything else was easy to pattern or size up, The robe literally had to be guessed in every way.
Laura: How much of your spare time is devoted to Cosplaying?
Xae: A lot. I’m almost always spending my free time developing my current project, and my work time is now filled with commissions for Cosplay props for other people. For all the time I spend on projects though, I usually only produce one personal costume a year, spending as much time as possible on that one costume.
Laura: Where did you learn the techniques you use?
Xae: Early on, from asking about online and experimenting. Now, I spend a huge amount of money on courses and video tutorials from professional studios.
Laura: What advice do you have for people looking to get into Cosplay?
Xae: RESEARCH!!! I’ve always felt that the more you research, the better the end result. Experiment with materials. Watch tutorials. Read articles. Watch makings of movies.
Laura: What is your favourite costume you’ve made?
Xae: I don’t think I have one really! I guess the Skeksis is the one I feel most satisfied with. If I was pressed to choose, I suppose Twighlight, my werewolf based on my old Werewolf the Apocalypse character.
Laura: Do you have any costumes you would love to make, but haven’t? If so, for what reasons?
Xae: Do you want the list? Haha. I usually have a list of around ten costumes that are waiting to have some technical issues worked out before I start making them. It’s usually either that or component sourcing that stops me from starting a project.
Laura: Do you have any future costumes you can tell us about?
Xae: I’ve enjoyed making “monsters“, so my next few are all monsters. I was planning on making Valkenhayn‘s werewolf form from Blazblue next, but I’m having trouble finding some important parts, so he’s been shelved for now. Next one I’ve confirmed is Flammie the Mana dragon from the Secret of Mana franchise by Square Enix (actually had it planned for around 2-3 years now!). I recently learned how Hollywood studios deal with wings, which was a major hangup on that project since he has four wings, but without that in the way anymore it’s all go. Part of the hang up with the costume design was that I really wanted the wings to fold, so I’ve had to do a lot of bird wing anatomy study, and maquette building (see? lots of research!).
Laura: Do you have any final words?
Xae: Always spend as much time as you can on a project. Try to manage your time, plan when you want things to be complete, and ALWAYS try to be ready a good month in advance of the event you’re planning to wear a costume at.