Hello, everyone! Welcome to my blog series: #CreativeQueens! Every few weeks we interview and feature an up and coming female content creator(s) in the video game and animation industries!
This week we interviewed a team of professional cosplayers and prop-makers aka, The Dangerous Ladies! Let's get started!
Hi, ladies! Before we start, can you introduce the members of your team and tell us a bit about yourselves, where you guys are from, and about The Dangerous Ladies?
Hey! We're the Dangerous Ladies from Toronto, Canada. We're a pretty big team now –– we're Jenn, Christine, Shazz, Adriana, Tam, Aubree, Ele, Emmy, Kat, and Gina. Half of us started cosplaying in the early 2000s, but we didn't start Dangerous Ladies until 2008.
Dangerous Ladies is a team of cosplayers that “specialize” in group cosplays and prop making. How did you guys come together to form this team? What was the story behind the conception of Dangerous Ladies?
Jenn: Three of us (Jenn, Emmy, and Diane) had been cosplaying for a number of years but wanted a place to post our group content together, and cosplay.com was very oriented towards individual accounts. The three of us were cosplaying a lot of Azula, Ty Lee, and Mai's costumes from Avatar: The Last Airbender at the time so when we made a DeviantArt account, we decided that we should be called the Dangerous Ladies as a reference to them.
Over the years, more people joined, some people left, and we started doing big themed groups every year, collaborating so everyone worked at least a little bit on everyone else's costumes. Some of our biggest annual projects were Madoka Magica, Sailor Moon, and three rounds of Fire Emblem, and in 2014 we started doing resin casts for some of our own projects.
"That was the start of the business end of things."
Can you tell us a bit more about your creative process as it comes to building and making props and cosplays? Some cosplays and props can be very complex or even long-term projects. Where do you guys start?
Jenn: We have two types of projects: long term marathons (or relay races!) or short sprints. Where projects fall usually depends on how big it is; a massive project with a lot of people or moving parts, new materials and techniques can tend towards the longer end, whereas pieces with a lot of familiar material end up having really quick turnarounds. They always start by gathering references and spreadsheets.
"Spreadsheets are crucial, they let us see where we are in any given project, what is blocking us, what we need to buy, etc. We also use them to break down different parts of the costume, price sheets, and any other information we might want to track."
What made you all decide to push the boundaries of hobbyists and pursue this professionally? Is it something specific members of the team, or even all, always envisioned doing?
Jenn: I grew up with a million career ideas but was very determined to keep costuming as a hobby. I bounced between a lot of things in my teens and early 20s, and...
"I'd been cosplaying for over a decade when I realized costuming was this thing I kept consistently going back to."
There's not a lot of "career" in cosplay, though, especially back then, and I much preferred making things to wearing them so modeling wasn't really in the cards. Christine and I kept puttering around with our resin kits in addition to our day jobs, and then in late 2016, I took a job for a company where I could make cosplay full-time.
By the end of 2017, I thought, you know what, if I can do this for someone else's company, I might as well just do it myself, so I took the plunge and started doing custom commissions full time.
I spent the next two years expanding to being able to bring on the rest of the team, and now in 2020, we've got six people in the studio at least part-time.
What would you say is the most rewarding aspect of what you do? Could you give us a story in where you all really felt this first-hand?
Jenn: Part of why we started doing this was that we started cosplaying before you could buy costumes or props or even wigs, and when those things became readily available, we saw some cosplayers get discouraged––they wanted to make their own costumes but they felt intimidated by all the details and that just buying the costumes wasn’t as personally rewarding to them. Not everyone wants to sit down and make forty identical buttons out of craft foam or worbla, and not everyone has access to 3D printing, resin, or laser cutting…If a kit was available, people could focus on other parts, making the whole process less intimidating or time-consuming. Seeing people make things they would have found too intimidating otherwise is really rewarding, and we’ve also had the privilege of watching many of our clients grow as artists.
"Some clients who started by commissioning 3D printed kits from us have moved onto commissioning files for their own printers, and now are learning to model themselves––that’s amazing to us."
What is the biggest and/or most challenging cosplay you guys have tackled?
Jenn: My biggest project to date is my Emperor Edelgard from Fire Emblem: Three Houses; she was a seven-month project that took hundreds of hours and challenged me to throw down just about everything I’d learned and then some. She featured a fully canvassed velveteen bodice, molded and cast urethane rubber armor, custom textile printing, custom undergarments (a corset, petticoat, and hoop skirt), a wig that comes apart for transport, resin accessories, puff sleeves with internal structure, a pleated asymmetrical skirt, and a 72” flag with custom finials.
Likewise, what is the biggest/most challenging prop you have brought to life?
Jenn: To date, the most complicated 3D model I’ve done is the Sword of the Father from Final Fantasy XV; I’ve yet to finish it myself, but several clients have!
If you guys could collaborate with any cosplayer, costume-maker, artist or other creative in the world—who would you guys individually choose and why?
Jenn: We’re currently doing some work with Yaya Han, and as someone who used to look starry-eyed at her Fire Fairy fifteen years ago, that’s pretty cool. For the future, I’m hoping we can someday do something with Volpin. I’ve also joked that the only thing that can lure me away from Dangerous Ladies is working for the Disney Parks’ Imagineers, so it’d be cool to get to do something with them someday.
Adriana: Del Toro for me! Working with Del Toro would be incredible because he really has a sense of history and he dives into human nature and our fears and desires. He knows how to create a sense of place that sucks you in. He is one of the most authentic and expressive storytellers out there! I would love to also collaborate with Colleen Atwood for any period piece. Ruth E. Carter also blew me away with the Black Panther costume. It is hard to pick just one. McQueen/Sarah Burton, John Galliano, Thierry Mugler, J.P. Gaultier are all top faves.
Tam: Honestly, Del Toro for me too. He has an amazing mind and his horror always veers into something fairytale and dreamlike, which I love. He has a sense of aesthetic and detail that I find really inspiring.
Christine: AlexanderMcQueen. Because his tailoring, creativity, and showmanship, there is no one comparable. Or Miss Frizzle–– I live by her rules of “make mistakes and get messy” when learning new things, and to be never afraid to try something.
What does your workstation look like? What tools are essential to your creative processes?
Jenn: While we spent over a decade working on our kitchen tables, as of January 2020 we’ve moved into our own dedicated studio. Our workspace is an industrial space that used to be an automotive garage. We put up a wall to separate it into props and costumes/office and have spent the year getting settled there.
What would you say is the biggest challenge you all face regarding your craft? How do you overcome this/these obstacles?
Jenn: Time. I have so many projects I’d like to do but not enough time and drive. I also prefer to mix it up; I can’t just do one thing over and over, so I get around this by picking projects that are outside Dangerous Ladies’ usual wheelhouse so it feels like I’m not coming home from work just to do the same thing.
Tam: Pure intimidation when faced with a project where I have low confidence about my skills (even if this is unreasonable and I am skilled enough) and getting over that barrier to just create rather than worry about how I may fail.
Christine: Learning new skills for a project, or boring repetitive tasks for items that I have to make multiples of. I deal with it by doing them first then everything after is just a cakewalk.
Is there a dream cosplay each of you have and/or a prop project that you really want to work on and see brought to life?
Jenn: I’d love to do more historical costuming, but right now I don’t have anything specific that I’m not already working on. Hoping to finally finish Amyr in the next month or so, though!
Adriana: My dream project would be a Del Toro project or an epic sci-fi like Alien or Dune. I would love to see a film or TV series based on The Difference Engine and many other books. Transmetropolitan would be an amazing kind of series with an Altered Carbon or Star Trek kind of scope.
Tam: Dream cosplay… Can’t decide between Moon Moxxi from Borderlands, Gwendolyn from Odin’s Sphere, or Bayonetta, haha.
Christine: Princess Serenity from Sailor Moon. I have wanted to make it for the last twenty years and still just haven’t.
Finally, what advice would you give for someone looking to get into cosplay/ prop making? What skills do you think would be essential to have in this type of field?
Jenn: Research and then TRY IT! So many things that seem complicated have their layers stripped away when you do background reading and actually get your hands messy doing trial pieces; it saves you from getting discouraged during the trial and error or practice portions.
"Half of the things I thought seemed impossible only felt that way because I didn’t know enough going in."
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Storenvy: Dangerous Ladies
Etsy: Dangerous Ladies