Now that anime conventions are finally back in full swing, there’s never been a better time to get crafty with cosplay! And whether you’re just starting out or you’re looking to broaden your horizons with new techniques, Humble Bundle’s new “Return of the Cosplay” set is a fantastic resource to make your costume dreams into reality. From now through July 22, 2021, you can pay what you want for $461 worth of ebooks and pattern collections that cover everything from basic costume construction to prop weathering to avant-garde wig styling and much more. And since a portion of proceeds goes to a charity of your choice, you can help support your community while you’re at it! You can get it HERE.
We were lucky enough to speak with three authors featured in this Humble Book Bundle: prop-maker Steven Meissner of SoloRoboto Industries, Regan Cerato of the cosplay duo Cowbutt Crunchies, and cosplayer Amanda Haas of C&T Publishing. They chatted with us about their inspirations, favorite tips and tricks from their books, dream projects, and even cats! Let’s see what they have to say.
Interview with Steven Meissner (SoloRoboto Industries)
Steven Meissner has been a full-time prop-maker since 2011, with his creations appearing both on convention floors and in film and television. His books, A Robot’s Guide to Bondo and A Robot’s Guide to Sanding, can help you fine-tune your cosplay props to a professional level!
Honey’s Anime: You’ve become well known for your commission work, but if you could pick your own personal dream project, what would it be? Which materials and techniques would you use to construct it?
Steven Meissner: Piccolo is something of a dream project - he's my favorite part of Dragon Ball (especially in Super! BEST DAD.) It'd be a very different project than anything I've done before because it's basically a creature or monster suit. That means silicone rubber prosthetics for my whole face, neck, and much of my chest, and more silicone sleeves or gloves for my arms. All those elements have to be sculpted on top of a copy of my body first - either a traditional "life cast" or a 3D scan that has been printed out. The sculpture can be in clay, or also done digitally and 3D printed out. I'd almost certainly do it all in clay because I like working with my hands. My approach is very old-school, similar to practical effects that have been practiced in Hollywood since the 80s, if not earlier. But it's still the only way to make a big alien-like that look real in person!
Honey’s Anime: Why are things like body filler and sanding so important to making props look professional?
Steven Meissner: If you want things to look "professional", that usually means "highly finished", so they need to be, well... finished! Every process has imperfections: 3D printing has layer lines – yes, even stereolithography (SLA) unless you get things perfect – clay has sculpting lines, and scratch built items have all sorts of little mistakes here and there. To fix those things – smooth them out, fill them in, or just patch your own screwups (we all mess up!) – body filler is going to be the best option 90% of the time. The only exception is something flexible like foam, and even that has its own version (foam clay, latex caulk, acrylic paste, etc). It's like an eraser for things that you can't just sand away.
Honey’s Anime: Who do you look to for inspiration in the world of prop and armor building?
Steven Meissner: This is a tough one, actually. Studios like Volpin Props continually raise the bar on what sort of things can be accomplished by a small team of talented people on crazy deadlines; Iron Head Studios makes the most detailed, perfectly finished costume pieces in the entire film industry, bar none (Jose Fernandez has probably the best – and I mean that literally, the best – eye for symmetry and imperfection of anyone currently alive); and a number of my independent maker friends (Bill Doran of Punished Props, Svetlana and Benji of Kamui Cosplay, Eric Jones of Coregeek) still surprise me with ingenious ways to solve problems! Iron Head probably works in the way closest to my ideal (they body-shop things to perfection), but I wish I could think the way Harrison Krix (owner of Volpin Props) does.
Interview with Regan Cerato (Cowbutt Crunchies)
Regan Cerato is half of the illustrious cosplay couple known as Cowbutt Crunchies. Her book, The Art of Extreme Wig Styling, offers comprehensive tutorials on how to turn a plain wig into the gravity-defying anime hair you’ve always wanted.
Honey’s Anime: Many of your cosplays include couture-inspired elements like the Machine Queen’s “wrought iron” corset or the Seraphim’s detailed lace and ribbon work. What have been some of your favorite individual cosplay elements to create, and why? Does the challenge of bringing such a complex design to life inspire you?
Regan Cerato: I love using creative details like this in my cosplays whenever I can! Intricate work doesn't just involve technical skill; it really challenges you to think about the design and how these smaller pieces will work together to create the larger whole. Plus, I always get a real kick out of creating a feast for the eyes! Some of my favorite detail pieces I've made have been Helga Sercle's intricate filigree helmet, as well as Princess Bubblegum's corset sculpture. Both of these involved my own twist on the creative design, on top of utilizing several types of materials to bring them to life.
Honey’s Anime: Plenty of beginning wig stylists (ourselves included) struggle with techniques like sewing in extra wefts, dyeing fibers, and adding foam understructures. How does your book help less experienced cosplayers master these tasks?
Regan Cerato: I'm a firm believer that the road to cosplay mastery is paved with the basics! The wonderful thing about wigwork is that even the most advanced skills are built off of core techniques: heat, glue, and how wigs are constructed. Once you have a confident understanding of those, it opens up a world of more extreme possibilities. Rather than just providing a numbered set of instructions to follow, I'm a firm believer in teaching why a technique works and how it can be applied to any type of cosplay project! With that in mind, the first half of this book focuses on building up that core styling knowledge, breaking it down for folks who are newer to styling or for those who just want a refresher!
Honey’s Anime: Tell us about your cat rescue charity! Why did you start it, what people and organizations do you work with, and what has been the most rewarding aspect of running it?
Regan Cerato: Thank you for asking! My wife and I adore our four cats, and our cosplay name "Cowbutt Crunchies" was actually coined after our oldest two cats' nicknames. We really believe in the idea of cosplay as a passion and a community-based hobby, and so we always try to share both our knowledge and our success whenever we can. A few years ago, we launched our charity Patreon, Cosplayers for Cats, and we love being able to constantly put on our cosplay for a good cause! All profits from our Patreon are donated to smaller, local cat shelters and long-term fosters, so we're always looking for new charity groups to donate to.
Interview with Amanda Haas (C&T Publishing)
Amanda Haas is an accomplished cosplayer with over a decade’s worth of sewing experience and a knack for fine detail. Her book, Creative Cosplay: Selecting & Sewing Costumes Way Beyond Basic, is an all-in-one guide for newcomers to learn about the world of cosplay.
Honey’s Anime: Since you’re a big Star Wars fan and have featured it in many of your cosplays, what would be your dream Star Wars costume to create one day?
Amanda Haas: Honestly, my dream Star Wars cosplay is Queen Amidala’s entire closet! I'm working on making as many of her outfits as possible. I was enchanted by them at such a young age, so I'd like to think these outfits got me into cosplay!
Honey’s Anime: In your book, you offer all kinds of suggestions for how to save time and money on cosplay builds. What are some of your favorite “shortcuts” that can help cosplayers avoid making everything from scratch?
Amanda Haas: Thrifting! I will make mostly what you see but thrift buy my shoes, bags, and accessories. I will reuse my corsets and leggings for multiple different outfits. Sometimes, I even pair multiple characters to one style and color wigs. If you plan and research well, you can save so much money with cosplay.
Honey’s Anime: Now that conventions are finally making a comeback, what did you miss the most about attending them?
Amanda Haas: Definitely my friends. I can't wait to see everyone's faces on that convention floor. I'm looking forward to chatting about cosplay builds again with folks and taking a closer look at everyone's cosplay. I'm ready to be back!