A long time anime fan, Marikasan has only been cosplaying for a little over two years…but her impressive costumes reflect the quality and skill of an extremely talented craftsman. While running GS Props – a commission business – with her brother, Marikasan has also recently taken the position of Cosplay Director for Anime Matsuri, in addition to juggling a professional career and a family. Always interested in pushing her skills and knowledge, Marikasan is certainly on her way to becoming a landmark figure within the cosplay community and is definitely a cosplayer to keep an eye out for! Read below for the full interview…
You began cosplay about two years ago…were there any specific cosplayers or artists that inspired you to take up the hobby?
MarikaSan: There are too many to name, so many people I admire and have had the privilege to meet and some have become personal friends. I don’t want to single one out because there are so many that have inspired me, there are many passionate and very talented people in the community!
Your Clare costume from Claymore was your first armored costume, a project you undertook with your brother Turi. Were there any valuable skills or techniques you learned during the construction of this costume?
MarikaSan: This was a project we undertook with Foayasha; she really was a great moral support and friend through the experience. I learned the value of having good molds and the importance of sanding including that there is a right and wrong way to go about it. Those were the first molds I created and even though I was referencing Volpin Prop’s build and I had read up and studied a lot of other builds on theprf.com nothing prepared me for sanding Bondo. I spent weeks covered in it, looking back I realize that the point of all that was the journey not the final destination, experience really is the best teacher and now I really do appreciate how much less time our builds take. Other skills I picked up were vacuum forming, sculpting, mold making, and casting. Just a few small things to try out for the first time.
Since then, you two have opened your own prop shop in Houston – GS Props. What is it like running a business with your brother? Do you two ever have any sibling conflicts running a business together?
MarikaSan: Well, he takes commissions for items such as swords, rifles, things of that nature mostly he does his own thing, I rarely help make commissions. I help with emails and taking requests and such but I work full time as an accountant and always have a few cosplay projects of my own that I am working on, leaving almost no time for making things for others. Its funny, sometimes he thinks I will get mad or jealous when other female cosplayers requests my props like Excalibur or the SAO swords but if people are willing to pay I have no expectations of exclusivity on most things. We generally don’t have conflicts or fights, other than I am very neat when I work and clean as a go, a habit he doesn’t have but the shop is pretty spacious and we keep to our areas. We are not at a point where shop or the hobby pays for itself but hopefully someday we get there and slowly work towards upgrading and adding to our equipment and tools. I would love to have a laser cutter and a CNC some day.
What people might not realize from viewing your costume portfolio is that you actually have a Masters degree in Business. Do you have any advice for costumers who are thinking of opening their own commission business? Do you see any common mistakes being made by the numerous costume commission websites on the web?
MarikaSan: Any self-employed individual someone who wants to take costume and prop commissions for a living needs to have a solid business plan and make sure they either have another source of income at the beginning until there is a steady flow of paying commissions or enough saved away for that initial period. The problem is that you have to find the right audience. There are very few people with the dedication and business sense to make it work. One major problem I hear about is people taking commissions and the money but not following through… I am a person of my word so hearing those kinds of things is very upsetting. That also leads to genuinely interested people to be skeptical about commissioning.
As cosplay continues to increase in popularity, an unavoidable side effect is an increase in competition and negativity. Have you ever received any negative feedback on your work as a costumer? Do you have any advice on how to handle these situations?
MarikaSan: The over all look of a cosplay includes they way it is modeled by a cosplayer, while it is an important factor for the visual appeal, sometimes I find it very sad when people only focus on the physical look of the cosplayer and do not see the craftsmanship at all. Modeling is an important part of it, but most cosplayers do not do it for that attention seeking reason and sometimes the audience forgets. Everyone at some point or another receives some kind of negative comment but for the most part I rarely receive any or maybe I just don’t care to notice. The best way to handle the situation I believe is to completely disregard the individual, giving attention or replying in anyway is only going to encourage those kind of comments and behaviors.
Similarly, many people feel that cosplay is only a ‘beauty show’ and an increasing number of cosplayers are focusing their attention on creating sexy, attention-grabbing costumes. Do you feel that ‘sexy cosplay’ is a rising trend? How do you feel about cosplay ‘models’?
MarikaSan: Like I said before, it is human nature to be attracted to beauty so it is only normal to see some individuals get into cosplay solely for the modeling aspect involved and as a way to get attention. It is great to see so many people involved and to see the popularity of cosplay rise but at the same time I hope everyone takes into consideration the community as a whole and the negative effects that some costumes can have. There is nothing wrong with wanting to look attractive and sexy while faithfully trying to represent a character and some portrayals require less garments than others [laughs], however I do not believe this gives an individual free reign to wear a little clothing as possible. Just like everything in life, there needs to be moderation and for the individuals taking up the hobby for the purpose of modeling or for the sole excuse of wear revealing outfits should keep that in mind, there is a time and a place for virtually any kind of costume.
GS Props offers a wide range of services – from vacuum forming to sculpting and mold-making – that many cosplayers don’t have available to them. How did you go about building the skill set and purchasing the tools necessary to make such elaborate props?
MarikaSan: It all starts with that one project you really wanted to come to life. It take a lot of time and dedication, there are no short cuts to those. A person has to be dedicated and willing to invest the time and funds. It is something we do on a daily basis, we both work normal 9-5 jobs and work on props and costumes in the evening and weekends, so it is basically like having two jobs. To acquire the skill sets and tools you have to keep at it through trail, errors and failures. No one became good overnight. Slowly we build up out tool arsenal, usually we set small goals accomplish them and reward ourselves with some kind of tool.
You also mentioned that GS Props makes silicone molds of your original props – do you sell raw casts of your props that cosplayers can then finish and customize?
MarikaSan: Yes, that is something that we offer. Many times we get requests for an item and we will go ahead and make a mold of the original prop in order to create duplicates available at a much lower cost than a custom or finished prop. This however does not work for all props, for example the blades of all swords are hand sanded, we do not create molds of them. It just depends on the item, we also use molds and casted pieces on personal builds too for things that require duplicates. It makes the building process a lot faster.
As Cosplay Director for Anime Matsuri, is there any new Cosplay programming that you are planning on adding to the convention?
MarikaSan: The cosplay programming at Anime Matsuri is really a combined effort of the team which consists of the chairmen as well as myself. We are working very hard looking to the future and implementing changes that are meant for growth. We are really focusing on creating a very fun and exciting masquerade that accommodates both the audience and the participating cosplayers, which we hope will find the challenging opportunities rewarding and above all fun. We love both groups one would not be possible without the other, we are trying to put on an amazing entertaining show with lots of cash prizes available not only to the Best in Show. The goal is to appeal to a wider audience and create a wonderful experience for everyone involved. I look forward to seeing the convention and the community grow.
Finally, what are some of your upcoming conventions and costumes?
MarikaSan: My upcoming conventions are Ikkicon, Katsucon, Anime Matsuri (of course), A-kon, Japan Expo USA and Dragon*con. There are some more conventions I also hope to attend but those are almost completely certain. As far as costumes, there are quite a few in the works what I will disclose is Asuna and Kirito form Sword Art Online, both to be cosplayed by me, Rhys from Teahouse, Demon Hunters from Diablo 3, a Sakizou, and gods from Saint Seiya, that is all I am willing to reveal for the moment.
Want to stay up to date on all of Marika-san’s incredible cosplay? Find her online here:
Photographer - https://www.facebook.com/FallingFeathers.net?fref=ts
DeviantArt - http://marikasan.deviantart.com/
GS Props - http://www.facebook.com/GSProps