“In my debut as Fran, I won Best in class, Novice, and there was no going back from there,” says MeltingMirror as she remembers her very first competitive cosplay masquerade.
That first masquerade was at Anime North in 2008, but MeltingMirror has been cosplaying since 2004 when a group of her friends heard about Ottawa’s first anime convention. “So they decided and said, ‘let’s all get dressed up,’” she says. “I got all dressed up and I went there and I had a good time and from then on it was just going to another convention.”
MeltingMirror dressed up as Oruha from Clover for her first cosplay, choosing that character more for practical reasons than for being a fan of the manga. She remembers thinking, “oh, I’ll do this character because we have the same hairstyle even though I haven’t even read Clover.”
While she has her friends to thank for bringing her to that first convention, she also credits them for helping to push her into competitive masquerades. MeltingMirror remembers one of those friends once telling her, “we’re making these really great costumes, and you’re not picking anything challenging.”
The comment made an impression on MeltingMirror.
“From that point on I just kept trying to get more challenging costumes and try to up my game,” she says. In response, she made the Fran costume, and she’s only pushed forward from there.
As Melting Mirror has moved up from the Novice class to more competitive masquerades, she’s worked hard to develop her sewing and craftsmanship. She’s refined her skills over the last few years, but she remembers one experience in particular that gave her the confidence to keep challenging herself to new heights. “I made a Scout costume from Grando Espada,” she says. “That was the first costume that I felt that it looks exactly how I wanted to look and it looks like the reference photo.”
“…The second I got offstage I started taking pieces off it was so uncomfortable.”
The Grando Espada Scout experience was a turning point for her. After completing it, she remembers thinking, “now when I pick a costume that I want to make, I know I can actually deliver. I know there is a level of quality I can hit, and if I’m not pushing myself to hit that level of quality, I know I can do better and I have to push myself to get there.”
Years worth of hard work and pushing herself has led MeltingMirror to produce some stunning cosplays, and at Fan Expo Canada 2011 she won awards for Best in class, Master for both Craftsmanship and Performance. “I think it was the highest level award I’ve ever got, so it felt like quite the compliment since I pretty much took care of the costume myself and came up with the skit idea,” she says. “Everything came together perfectly.”
The awards at Fan Expo Canada have again boosted this talented cosplayer’s confidence, and she says, “I’m at the top of my game, and I’m glad I’m being recognized for that, and that’s very very nice.”
Of course, MeltingMirror has never been one to rest on her laurels, and again she’s pushing herself towards another challenge. “The only award I haven’t won is the Best in Show. Now that is what I’m gunning for…If I’m competing in a masquerade, that is what I’m going for.”
Cosplay is ultimately about having fun, and MeltingMirror isn’t just about the competitive masquerades. When she shows up for a convention, she’ll bring several different costumes, each with a purpose in mind. “I tend to classify my costumes into different categories,” she explains. “There’s the casual costume that you can wear easily and get out of easily, and then I put masquerade costumes in a different category.”
Those masquerade costumes aren’t always the most comfortable, but MeltingMirror now makes sure her competitive masterpieces are at least bearable. “I made a Styria cosplay a few years back, and that was the most absolutely uncomfortable thing ever,” she says. “I think I was only in it for maybe a half hour to do photos…The second I got offstage I started taking pieces off it was so uncomfortable.”
“there is such a different feel and dynamic when you’re cosplaying with someone else”
While MeltingMirror puts a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into her coplays, she also has to find a way to pay for those highly-detailed costumes. To help offset the cost of both costume making and traveling to conventions, MeltingMirror has been trying to find creative ways to finance her hobby. “When I go to a convention, I’m also participating in the artist alley or crafters corner, and I’m making my own little trinkets and I’m selling them,” she says. “I’m also doing commissions, and I find that’s a good way to meet people and connect with those that like my work.”
Making costumes and trinkets goes beyond just a mere hobby or a way to make a little money for MeltingMirror. “I’m a very artistic person just in general,” she says, emphasizing how important it is to her that she can express herself through what she does. “It’s great to be able to use my artistic skills, which I didn’t really get a chance to use after graduating high school.”
After she did graduate from high school, MeltingMirror moved on to Carleton University to pursue a degree in journalism. Recently, she’s finished up her masters degree, also in journalism, but she would love to find a way to make cosplay a bigger part of her daily life. “[Cosplay] is becoming an industry,” she points out. “People are able to actually make a living….I am exploring options and seeing what works, and I would love to have it as a job, if possible, or at least a part time or side job.”
MeltingMirror does admit that being a part of the cosplay industry as a full time job would be “a matter of finding that perfect balance.” She also concedes that if cosplay became more like work, she might have to find an additional hobby to keep that balance.
For now, MeltingMirror already has a wide range of hobbies she enjoys. “I have a PS3. I’m slowly going through my reserve of games,” she says. “I like movies. I like cycling. I like going into a pool and swimming. A little variety is good.”
As one might guess from looking at MeltingMirror’s cosplay choices, anime is also one of her hobbies. “I’m totally into anime and manga,” she says. “I’m on top of the basic one: Bleach and Naruto.”
Bleach is one of MeltingMirror’s all time favorites. “I’m a sucker for Bleach,” she admits. “It’s one of my favorites. It was one of the first series I cosplayed from. I think it was my third or fourth costumes were both Bleach related. I think I’ve made four at this point. I’m making five.”
In addition to making her fifth Bleach costume this year, MeltingMirror is also looking to be a more social cosplayer. “The plan is to take part in more group cosplay,” she says. “I’ve been kind of a solo cosplayer for the last two years.”
While MeltingMirror has mostly gone alone, she has done some spectacular cosplays with fellow Canadian Kudrel. “We’ve been going to conventions for years and years and years,” MeltingMirror says.
Perhaps the most impressive cosplay of MeltingMirror and Kudrel is their Shiva Sisters. MeltingMirror gives a lot of credit to her cosplay partner for this particular endeavor. “It was her crazy idea to make the Shiva Sisters, and I’ve got to thank her for challenging me on that one.”
The enjoyment from cosplaying with friends is something that is sometimes lost when cosplaying solo, which is why MeltingMirror is looking to change things up. “I just can’t wait to get back into group cosplay, because there is such a different feel and dynamic when you’re cosplaying with someone else,” she says. “I just find it so much fun, and I haven’t been doing as much of it. I want to get back into it, so I’m going to try to do some more group cosplay.”
There is one more thing MeltingMirror will be looking to do this year. “I want to…participate in a few more masquerades as well and get that elusive Best in Show,” she says. She has to keep pushing forward to accomplish that dream, as there’s no going back for MeltingMirror.
Lead photo by Artisto Virtuoso