Interview with Fire Lily

It’s time for another interview, this time with Fire Lily! She’s a talented cosplayer from Virginia, who has an amazing array of costumes!

Fire Lily out of costume, photo by David Dunn

What’s your cosplay alias and why did you choose it?
I go by Fire Lily, and it’s actually the name of a short story I wrote in high school (1999). I was looking for something pretty and original, and that fit the bill, plus I really liked the character from my story.

How many years have you been cosplaying and what got you started?
I started cosplaying in 2004. I found out about a convention being held in Austin, TX, where I was living at the time. I decided to make a costume for the con and wore it on Halloween as a trial to see what worked on it and what I’d need to fix. After sprucing the costume up, I wore it to the convention and had such a fantastic time that I was hooked and I’ve been making costumes and clothing ever since! 

What has been some of your favorite things to work with when constructing costumes and why?
This isn’t a really direct answer as far as materials, but I really love working on detailing and crafting. If I have a costume that features a lot of details, I will do it by hand (embroidery, beading, intricate painting or applique, puffy paint or hot glue reliefs, rhinestone application, etc) and I really enjoy putting that amount of effort and work into all those details. I feel it adds a level of personal involvement (aka love) not seen in a lot of costumes out there. I also love crafting for my costumes – making jewelry, beads, props, accessories, etc. Working with accessories is just like detailing in that I spend a lot of time being as accurate as I can to the reference, plus I have fun working with paint and knick knacks!

Fire Lily as Riddel from Chrono Cross, photo by Joseph Lin

I also enjoy learning and employing old fashioned or little used sewing techniques. Working on historical costumes is a real eye opener as far as technique is concerned. There is so much care involved in hand finishing a garment, such as hand binding hems, using hem tape, using pinking shears to finish seam allowances, working on a bias, cascade pleating, corsetry, flossing, sewing eyelets and button holes by hand, blind hems, and so on. I’m a fan of putting a lot of care into my costumes!

What are you excited to be working with in the future and why?
I’m looking forward to working with Wonderflex and Expanding Foam. I haven’t really needed them for any of my costumes yet, but I’ve seen what they can do and I would love to start using them for props and armor pieces! 

What are some of the traits you like to see in other costumes and who do you think does well in them?
I like to see cleanly crafted costumes. There is something so satisfying about seeing clean finished hems and straight seams and tidy sewing and prop work. I really appreciate just how much it takes to finish a costume, both inside and out, and that is something I always look forward to seeing when I inspect or admire a costume! I also really enjoy proper or unique fabric choices for costumes. I feel that fabric choice is a very important part of crafting a costume! It changes the overall feel and effect of a garment, so I love seeing period correct fabrics, or a fabric that just makes a costume pop with color or texture.

What is your view of the “cosplay scene”?
Right now it is very melodramatic. I am speaking from an older perspective, though! I see a lot of kids having fun but there are also a lot of behind-the-scene recurrences that I find troubling. Maybe that’s just part and parcel with the “theater” background of this hobby – tensions run higher, reputations are at stake, images are paramount and there is a “celebrity” streak making its way through the cosplay scene. Perhaps with the amount of attention that cosplay and conventions are getting in the media, it makes for a more celebrity-esque atmosphere. Arguably, it is very easy to get caught up in the glamour of it all: the pictures and photoshoots, the guests at conventions, the “high-profile” cosplayers, the media and publicity, etc; however, I would prefer to see the scene return to its roots and remember its humble beginnings as a hobby, fueled by creativity and a love of fandom. 

Fire Lily as Mina from Francis Ford Coppola's "Dracula", photo by Leonard Jinto

What are some of the things you want to see change in the scene?
I want to see more cosplayers putting more effort into their costumes and skits. I love seeing well crafted costumes and I feel like the newer generations are treating cosplay like Halloween instead of costuming – they just slap something together to wear and have fun. While fun is a huge part of cosplaying, I would like to see people improving their skills and teaching themselves new techniques to really make their costumes more polished and put together. I also want more unique and well thought out skits in the masquerades. The voice overs need to be more energetic and sincere (i.e. not dull and monotone), the choreography should be well blocked and solidly practiced, and the presentations themselves really need some theatrical flair. I would like more variety and more obscure shows and games on stage. And lastly, I’d like to see a more mature atmosphere among cosplayers and less drama mongering and gossip. There’s a very juvenile and malicious air surrounding cosplay that I feel is damaging to all of us, and I would hope that we could all come together in supporting each other in our creativity instead of constantly tearing everyone down in jealousy and misunderstanding.

What is some advice you could give people starting to get into cosplay?
Don’t be afraid to start! Everyone had to start somewhere, even the amazing cosplayers you see out there. Even if you are using hot glue or Stitch Witchery to hold your seams together, or you are hand sewing (like I did for a few years), or you are modifying existing garments, you just have to start! Costuming is a huge learning process but it is very rewarding and can teach you some very valuable skills. So just start! As long as you have fun with it, it is worth doing. You will get better with time as you learn more techniques and hone your skills, and you may even surprise yourself and others with your ingenuity and resourcefulness.

What are some of your favorite conventions you’ve attended and why?
My local conventions are always fun! Anime USA, Anime Mid-Atlantic, Katsucon and Otakon are my staple conventions. I have staffed for all of them and I always have a good time seeing my friends and helping out. I like staffing for the Cosplay Departments – it’s a way for me to give back to the community and help out developing cosplayers. I do go to a few out of town cons like Tekkoshocon in Pittsburgh, which is small but nicely run and lots of fun, and more recently New York Comic Con which was amazing!!! I would love to attend more out of state conventions and I’m planning on Anime Central and Youmacon for next year.

Give a random fact about one of your costumes that you’re proud of!
Wow, there are so many – it’s hard to pick just one! I guess I’ll go with the fact that my first three costumes (Etna from Disgaea, Feena from Grandia, and Kelvena from Xenogears) were all hand sewn. I didn’t even own a sewing machine until January 2007! I am extremely proud of them, especially since I won my first major costuming awards with Feena and Kelvena – Best Overall Hall and Best in Show Workmanship AUSA 2006, respectively. Also, Etna’s spiky wig was the first wig I ever styled in my life!

Fire Lily as Nanai from Avalon Code, photo by David Dunn

Thanks for the interview, Fire Lily! You can see more of her work on her webpage, her Deviantart, and her American Cosplay Paradise account!

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About Yunie

I am a cosplayer, a nerd, a geek. I am whatever you call me. However, I have a brain and tend to use it.
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