Interview: Janelle Marie
Please tell us some things about yourself – where you’re from, what you like to do, what your community is like.
I'm from a small town in Ohio wedged between Cleveland and Amish country. Growing up, my father loved to take us on spontaneous road trips to new camping spots or different cities. My mother was always baking something or working outside in her garden. She hand-made our Halloween costumes every year, including a bunny suit I wore for months afterwards. They both lived by the mantra “Only boring people get bored”. We were a family who loved to be busy and I definitely absorbed a lot of that from them. I moved to South Carolina after college and have joined an amazing cosplay and crafting community here.
You say your sewing skills are self-taught. Where did you learn to sew? What were some of your first projects?
I was taught by my mother and grandmother how to thread a needle and do basic running stitches on a machine when I was twelve but quickly lost interest. A friend convinced me to go to my first anime convention when I was 18 and it was amazing! I loved all of the costumes so the next time I went, I sewed myself a very simple dress and bag to be Kiki from Kiki’s delivery service. It was very rough but I loved making something tangible. While studying Computer Animation at SCAD, I did an internship with the Vermont Teddy Bear Factory. There I learned how to pattern tiny clothes, set up embroidery designs and use an industrial machine. I landed an animation job right out of school and didn’t sew again for several years until a coworker asked me to make them a My Little Pony plush doll. I shared it online and that turned into 5 years of sewing custom toys for people. I sold them at conventions and rediscovered cosplay. I sewed my first “serious” cosplay (sewn, not just assembled or glued) in 2018, which was Qira from Solo: A Star Wars Story. I won the Novice Category at Anime Weekend Atlanta and was hooked!
What is a ‘Professional Fabricator’? It sounds like fun!
As a fabricator, I mainly work with companies who need something made for a specific ad campaign. It can be clothing, a prop, a sculpture, an accessory; anything really! A few things I have made are pancake-shaped slippers for Denny's to give away during March madness, a transforming tractor costume out of cardboard for John Deere’s Halloween advertising, and a Havertys Furniture living room out of gingerbread for the Holidays.
You take part in Cosplay events. Can you explain what Cosplay is for those who don’t know?
“Cosplay” is the combination of words “Costume” and “Play”. It originated in Japan but has become a globally beloved hobby and career for some. Cosplay began as people specifically dressing up as Anime characters but it is now the common term for anyone dressing up as either a recognized character or in an original design.
Besides sewing, what other skills do you need to make the items you wear for events?
The majority of my costumes require wigs so I've had to learn wig styling and how to apply them. Also, depending on the cosplay, I might need to alter or make shoes, jewelry and other accessories. One of the big reasons I love cosplay is because it utilizes so many different sets of skills. You are always learning something new!
Are there specific tools you use consistently? Which ones could you not live without?
The tools I use most are scotch tape and heat-erasable ink pens! I use scotch tape to make patterns, hold things I don’t want to pin in place, add notes to garments and test adjustments quickly. The Ink pens are what I use for marking light-colored fabrics and muslins.
What are some costume making tips you can share?
The number one tip I have: Always make a mock up. Even if you are making something from a pre-made pattern, everyone’s bodies are different and the chances you won't need to make adjustments are very slim. I have wasted so much good fabric because I was in too big of a hurry to make a mock up
What are some of the more unusual surfaces you’ve sewn with?
Vinyl has been the most challenging material to work with so far. I made a skirt/romper thing to wear last year as “Susan the Alien” and that piece took three times as long as expected. I had to individually punch holes and stitch the pieces together.
Show us some of your favorite costumes and tell us why you love them?
One of my most favorite costumes is my original Sophie Hatter. It was planned in 2019 as part of a Ghibli Witches group for Dragon Con 2020. The convention got cancelled but I chose to make it anyways. Over the next year I kept adding little bits to it like embroidering the apron, hand carving my own broom from a branch I found on a hike, customizing a potion kit and many other pieces. I entered it into Dragon Con's Friday Night Costuming Contest and won Best Journeyman.
Another costume I'm especially proud of is one of my most recent. I made an original design of Persephone from Lore Olympus inspired by 17th Century shapes and hair. The bodice had to be made twice and I experimented a lot with mixing fabrics and textures. I made my own pocket hoops and styled a super tall wig by making a wig cage from things I had on hand. This is another one I plan to keep building on and adding things too!
When you get a day off, what do you do? Do you have other hobbies you enjoy?
When I'm not sewing or working on something in my craft room, I love hiking and spending time outdoors. I'm currently training for the Spring Make-A-Wish Trailblazer Challenge at the end of April. Its 28.3 miles in one day with a fundraising goal to help grant wishes of kids with critical illnesses! Other than that, you can find me thrifting, hanging out with friends at one of our favorite local breweries or planning my next adventure.
Fill in the blank: When I get invited out to dinner, I like to _______.
Look at the menu online if it’s a place I haven't been to before! If I have been there, then I always like to have a recommendation ready for coffee or dessert nearby
Hop over to Janell's Easy Rococo Trims, Ruffles and Carnations project here.