Author: Dan Barnett
Dan first encountered anime at the ripe old age of six with a VHS copy of Laputa. Ten years later he re-discovered it in Robotech and overnight a DVD collection was born.
Behind the Costume with JinxyGee
In todays Behind the Costume we sit down with JinxyGee to learn about how 3D printing fits into the world of cosplay and why she keeps getting in trouble about scissors....
When did you you start to become interested in getting involved in cosplay?
I started doing it personally about June or July of 2015. I’d been aware of it for a couple of years beforehand because my sister had been doing it for a few year before tht. But I’d never really sort of...gotten the bug or been interested to give it a go before then.
A bit of a family hobby then!
Yeah! So it was my sister that got me into it and introduced me into the fact that it was something that was out there because she went a bit more to comic cons...a lot more regularly than I did. I was sort of ‘oh she’s off with her friends so I’ll just stay at home’. I was a bit envious of her!
Did she hand you down all the old costumes?
No! She taught me a few simple tips and tricks but it was like ‘I’ve spent too long on these you can’t have them!’. Now that I’ve got the bug I know the feeling! (laughs)
What was your first costume?
My first one was Jinx from League of Legends. I have somewhere in the history of my Facebook archives some very unflattering pictures of myself! I just turned up at the con, with everything, I don’t know what to expect and their like ‘so now I’ll take your picture’. ‘Err Yes? How do?’ (laughs)
Sounds like it was a bit of an unusual experience!
Yeah! It was a steep learning curve. (laughs). I think I made the mistake of my first ever con to go all out and be like ‘I’m going to Comic-con! I’m gonna give it a good old shot!’ So I went up In Jinx, with all of her guns. I think it was Manchester MCM. I just rocked up, no idea what was about to happen.
I think I remember I didn’t move very much because one it was very uncomfortable, two I just kept getting stopped for pictures – I just feel sorry for anyone who stopped me for a picture then because they must have been terrible!
Manchester must have been a fun one for the first time – waiting in that queue in cosplay must be awkward!
Yeah! (laughs) I think we were queuing through most of Manchester for ages because we got tickets for general entry. That was a learning curve – I’ve never done general entry since!
How many costumes have you done since then?
Ahm….At least twelve? I loose track, I have the bad habit that most cosplayers have of starting something, getting halfway through and going ‘Oo, shiny new!’ and going somewhere else. But I think at least that many. I always try to take at least a couple of new ones to each convention.
A couple eh? I guess there are quite a few suitcases travelling with you!
Oh definatley, I don’t travel light!
What’s your favorite cosplay?
It’s one that not many people knew of when I wore it, but one of my favorite ones was D.VA the Destroyer. I think one because I love the characters design and two because I had to learn so many new skills to actually make it. There were so many things to do like it had lights, it had 3D printing, it had foam, it had wig styling and everything. It was a bit of everything that I had to try and do. That was one of my favorites. I was a bit bummed out when I go to the meet and no-one has a clue what you are but… I’ve had a couple where I rock up to a con and someone’s like ‘oh is that a fan art?’ and I’m like ‘no...official….but it’s niche….’
But yeah D.VA was just really cool because one of the guys who works at Blizzard saw it on a forum and actually got in contact with me to let me know how much he liked it!
You can’t ask for better feedback than that!
No definatley! So it’s like ‘well, if no-one else knew who it was, the people who made it knew!’. That was the cherry on the cake.
It’s a really striking cosplay! Is it an edited image – it almost looks like it’s grayed out apart from the flames!
No that was face paint and everything! The only thing I didn’t have right was contacts but I struggle to put them in. That’s all a suit. The gun actually lit up, there's LED’s inside. The leg pieces and arm pieces are foam and that was one of my biggest foam builds I’ve tried to date. The pauldron and the crown are 3D printed.
How do you go about choosing a costume to do and putting it together?
Usually I look for some game or show where I have some affinity for the character. So it’s either that I really like the design or some affinity for part of the character. Like the one I’m starting to work on now is Sofitia from Soul Calibur VI. I fell in love with her years ago when I started playing the game but it was only now that I felt like I had the self confidence to attempt to pull it off. Me and a few friends are working together to help me do that.
A group build then?
Yeah, so like one of my friends is helping me with the 3D printing because he has a printer. I’m attempting to sew it from scratch having never sewn anything before and one of my friends is giving me sewing tips and mostly yelling at me for having the wrong scissors for cutting fabric and such because I don’t own fabric scissors.
We’ve had the scissors converstion before on these interviews!
(laughs) It’s like ‘yes, I’m trying – it’s the best I have we’re on lock down and I can’t go to the shops’ ‘Well why didn’t you order them at the same time at the fabric’ ‘Well, I didn’t think of that then! I’m trying to make do – I’m sorry!’
Well as long as the end results good…
Oh yeah. The friendship might be slightly frayed but the end result’ll be amazing! (laughs)
You’ve mention a lot of different techniques whilst we’ve been talking like foam work and 3D printing. 3D printing in particular is becoming more and more a part of cosplay recently. How did you go about picking up these skills?
3D printing I learnt years ago at university because I’ve got an engineering background so I got to play around with that at uni. I don’t have a printer but when I saw that who had domestic 3D printers and were doing things I was like ‘Ooo here’s a thing that we can try and do’. I wasn’t trying to be to ahead of the crowd because other people were already doing it but I had that awareness and a slight ability to play around with basic shapes. I’ve never been able to do the intricate designs or anything yet. I’m trying to teach myself now because the software’s slightly different than what I learnt before but I think it was just knowing that that technology was there and that people doing it were popping up offering services. I was like ‘hey, I have an idea….could we try this’. The first thing I ever 3D printed was a D.VA headset and her gun and I think that was a good few years ago now. Not wanting to be the hipster who's like ‘I did it ages ago before the kids did it’. I’m not an old person honest! (laughs).
I think when it was still quite niche and new I thought I’d play with it. But it’s really good seeing it become more widespread and available for everyone because it’s such a good way to make durable props. I’ve accidentally dropped many a prop at cons and they’ve broken instantly but you have a 3D print and that's basically indestructible. I’m now very jealous of my mate who has one. I’m like ‘how can I get one and how can I fit it in the flat...do we really need the sofa?’
Do you just do the printing with friends or do you commission pieces?
It’s sort of both. Previously I used to commission a fair bit for them to do the design and the printing. Bt now that it’s a bit more wide-ranging and available a lot of files are ready to buy so I bought my recent ones from like Etsy and stuff. So there's not as much communication with the design as there used to be just because there’s more available because everyone’s doing it. With current printing it’s mostly just me and my friend trying to figue out how to cut up the file so it fits on his printer. But a while ago it used to be me and I’d spend ages trying to find as much reference material as possible from every single angle. A lot of screengrabs from games and sitting down with the person who was designing it a work with them as best I can to say ‘this is what we’re aiming for’. It was a lot more of an involved process and now everyones doing it and everyones doing a bit more of the 3D designing and the printing it’s just so much easier to go online and go ‘oh look that’s the exact file I need thank you!’.
So given those kind of fabrication builds, how much do you make yourself vs buy off-the-peg?
I think it depends outfit-by-outfit. So I’m trying now with Sofitia, that’s my first proper sew from scratch. I’m sat in-between piles of Muslim and my sewing machine trying to mock-up the pattern for the outfit and everything. But usually it’d be a case of I need a say...for the case of my Zero-2 build, that was a case of I bought the suit, I bought the pattern got that printed off, styled the wig and then made the back armour. Even if I buy the base outfit then I’d try and embellish it or have to tailor it so that it fits better. I always try and add something to it. So like my D.VA suits, to start with they would always be the plain printed lycra but then with each iteration I’d add something new to it so I’d sort of make the shoulder pads and the neck piece. The headset and such. So even though I don’t have the sewing skills my foam building has com on a lot more than it used to be. So I couldn’t say that everything’s a high-percent made because that would be a complete lie but at least 50% if no more. Like my Caleb was I think all charity shop finds that I attacked with a cheese-grater (laughs) when I go for that hobo look. It’s brand-new basically and someones abandoned it in a charity shop so I cover it in brown paint and use a cheese-grater. It’s amazing what you can find for not a lot.
Thrifting is one of the lesser-known cosplay skill sets isn’t it!
(laughs) Yeah, I have gotten lucky with thrifting especially with Ebay finds. You usually spend days trawling through the internet to try and find one particular piece and be like ‘oh I can buy it new or I can make it’ and then at 10’o’clock when you should be going to bed you just have a quick scrawl and go ‘that’s it, that’s the thing I need!’. Some weird old shirt from the 70’s or something with the exact colouring or cut that you want. It’s very bizarre. There’s always a little flare of me in every build.
Are there any specific skills that you’ve built up or specialise in?
I know that at least in my friendship group I’m the one who can help out with foam building. I wouldn’t say I’m a specialist in it but it is one of my stronger suits. For sewing I struggle to tread a needle but I think foam...I’m getting there. I’m getting stronger in it. Maybe not being able to make the smoothest joins or anything but I’m quite good with a bit of car sealer to fill in all the cracks (laughs). That’s one of the things I’m teaching and helping my friends out with. Telling them what good glues are or giving them links to the polyprops website. That’s my newfound interest. Especially in quarantine. My boyfriend comes into our living room sometimes and I’ve got all my foam on the floor, knife in hand cutting out everything and he’s getting a bit stir-crazy like ‘ Again? We just clean this all up!’ and I’m ‘ Yeah but I found this other thing and I found this new way of sticking things together that I hadn’t thought of before...’
So how many events to you try and do a year?
I had four lined up these past couple of months that got cancelled. I used to go out a fair bit. Usually I go to between four and six different conventions a year. The MCM’s in London are the main ones but I always try do all the local ones to get out and meet friends and spread the word of cosplay!
What’s been your favorite experience?
One of my favorite ones was when I was wearing an outfit that no-one knew what it was and then one person ran up to me really excited and knew exactly what it was and where it was from. That for me was one of the best ones . Being out with big groups and all that fun is amazing and I won’t discredit that but but going there in a whole personal project that you’ve pick purely because I wanna make this for me and I don’t care if anyone likes it...but then you go to con and no-one gets it until one person recognises it and is very excited. That’s one of my best experiences.
Do you go in a group a lot?
I used to a while ago, but then it got hard to organise large groups. We used to get a bit ambitious organising cosplay groups. With the nature of life it wouldn’t always work out in the scale that we would hope. So we scaled back. I still do groups but normally about 3-4 people rather what we used to try and organise with 10 people. (laughs) You’d look at stuff like San Diego and go ‘look at all these massive groups – we could do that’ and you get everything sorted but it never quite goes to plan. We found that with the smaller groups it’s still completely possible and it’s way less stressful. Because the groups smaller you don’t put as much stress on yourself to overstretch yourself with the dreaded con-crunch and everything.
Thanks so much for speaking to us Jinxy! Where can people go check out more of your work?
You can find me on Facebook Twitter or Instagram
*Please note all photos are used with the permission of JinxyGee and her photographers