At Con Jikan last year everyone was buzzing about another Albuquerque based anime convention. “If you liked Con Jikan you’re going to love Sabaku Con,” everyone said in response to my excitement about the professional cosplay contest at Con Jikan. They could not have been more right. Sabaku Con takes place in the Marriott Pyramid, which is a gorgeous setting to enjoy any convention in. The lobby, where registration takes place, is an open area where, if you look up, you can see the hallways up to the top floor. There is also a “natural waterfall” covering two transparent elevators. It was a beautiful setting for us to enjoy lunch each day of the con, with a hotel buffet set up, as well as, a permanent Starbucks/Bar. Near registration was also a free professional photo booth where a photographer took photos of your cosplay for future upload on Flickr.
The first day of Sabaku Con we drove in from Santa Fe after work and made the last part of Garnet Runestar’s panel on Thermoplastics and Foam in Armor. She had a slideshow where she talked about worbla and how inexpensive heat guns were, which was encouraging. Afterwards we went to Lady Zia’s panel on Cosplay Makeup: Special Effects. She also had a slideshow and explained the difference between haunted house makeup and special effects make up. The panels were split up in weird intervals with thirty minutes between each, which somewhat threw off our schedule. Our final event of the day was participating in Sabaku Con: Team Trivia Challenge. I was the weak link with my severely limited knowledge of anime and, while @skyberry13 tried her best, even her knowledge was not enough. We finished tying for last place with 0 points, but that is because we had bet all 9 points that we had earned. The winner had upwards of thirty points if that gives you any idea of how terrible we were. While there was a rave that night, we still had costumes to finish so we went to our guest cosplayer’s family condo where we were staying that weekend. I stayed up till around 3:00AM painting stripes onto the purple leggings for my Pokemon Go Trainer and I do not know when@skyberry13 went to bed, but she was sewing finishing touches onto the Bulbasaur costume.
When we woke up we realized, to our utter horror, that we had left the Bulbasaur wig back in our apartment so, @skyberry13 made the 45 minute trek back to Santa Fe while our guest cosplayer and I tried on our costumes in full for the first time. By the time we got to the convention center @skyberry13 was on her way back. We met up in the lobby and immediately headed to the bathroom to fix and put on the rest of our costumes. Once we looked as good as it was going to get we went to the photo booth where we got one group shot and an individual shot for each of us. We had our Masquerade Craftsmanship Judging in the morning so we were the third to be prejudged. I will preface with the fact that this was our first time entering a professional masquerade. The only other costume competitions we had entered at this point were walk on ones at comic conventions. Fortunately, I had attended enough cosplay panels at Con Jikan and we had watched the whole season of Heroes of Cosplay so we knew what to expect. We had our printed materials for the judges which started us off on a good foot. I had printed reference photos for each of our costumes as well as some in progress photos.
The judges were further impressed that @skyberry13 had constructed a corset for the Bulbasaur costume. They thought that because @skyberry13 did costume design/construction and I did fabrication of everything else including detailing on the costumes the final products came out very cohesive. The judges circled us, asking questions about construction, mostly of the costumes but they also asked about my stenciling and paining. This was probably the most gratifying part of the weekend, hearing professionals compliment our work.
After we had debriefed from that surreal experience we attended the Cosplay Photography panel put on by Oh Snap! Photography where he walked us through types of shots, how to get your environment to work for you, and lighting and accessories from inexpensive to high quality. We then had some lunch from the buffet set up in the lobby which appropriately consisted of rice bowls and salads. We took some time in the bathroom for costume touch ups before heading to the green room to begin the excruciating wait till the masquerade. They divided the contestants into groups and assigned each group a staff member to assist in anything they might need. I got to talk to some pretty great cosplayer, two of which were DJs for that night’s rave and all of which ended up placing in the contest. Our skit could have gone better. I had composed, what I considered, a pretty great narration that we were to act to. Our guest cosplayer was leery about getting up onstage so I had made it as easy as possible. We just acted out what was being narrated, though in hindsight overlaying some Pokemon Go theme music would have been nice. Here is the narration I composed:
“Pokémon Go trainer, Mae, scoured the dimly lit streets of her northern New Mexico home searching for her favorite ghost type Pokémon with her trusty starting Pokémon, Bulbasaur, by her side. It was on this night that the pair finally finished walking the two kilometers required to hatch a 2KM egg. The screen glitched for a second denying her the image of the Pokémon she had worked so hard for. Finally it loaded, revealing the dark blue tresses and skirts of her favorite Pokémon, Misdreavus!”
We bowed at the end and they had seating in the back of the room for us to watch the rest of the cosplay competition. There is an existing video of our performance, please don’t watch it. We haven’t and I’m sure it is an embarrassment to our art. Anyway, there were allot of dances and posing to theme music, but all pretty incredible costumes. Unfortunately, a Link cosplayer’s sword broke onstage, but she still got a judge’s choice award. The best of show went to a crossplay of Yuri on Ice, they did a dance and their gowns were very detailed. Craftsmanship for the Novice category went to a crossplay of Mercy from Overwatch. The judges moved some people up from Novice to Journeyman and they won the craftsmanship for Journeyman because of the wiring in their bodice. Craftsmanship for Master went to a cosplayer who made an incredible stitched kimono.
We were disappointed, but it was only our first try at professional masquerade judging so it had not been out of the realm of possibilities to lose. Still, we went and got drinks so we could be a little happier for the rave that night. By rave they really did mean rave, a DJ in a dark room with everyone jazzing in glow sticks. It was a pretty good beat and we stayed for an hour and a half, but we were tired from the day’s excursions so we went back to the condo for the first halfway decent rest we’d had that weekend.
Groggily, we packed and headed to the convention center for the final day of Sabaku Con. Our first panel was Cosplay Makeup: Face and Body Painting where Lady Zia actually
did a demonstration like on Face Off. She recounted her actual mentoring sessions with contestants of Face Off‘s Season 2 and answered audience questions while she painted. Her favorite face paint medium to work with is Wolfe Face Art & FX, which is what she used in her demonstration. She did a half face of one of the soldiers from Attack on Titan which was incredibly detailed and looked amazing. The model was one she had worked with on a number of projects and had been her model when she placed second in a Christmas Nightmare themed body painting competition in Albuquerque.
Next, was an Advanced Cosplay Q&A with Garnet Runestar where she answered audience questions. Both the questions and the answers at this panel were insightful and informative. They ranged from questions about how cosplay is judged and what qualifies a winning cosplay to metal versus foam armor. She also shed insight into her international cosplay career, serving as a delegate of the United States by participating in cosplay competitions from Japan to Switzerland. She shared how intense the Japanese judging is. First, you have to present a PowerPoint on how your cosplay was constructed with progress photos of everything and then you have to make your case for why you deserve to win, all in front of judges from every country that is being represented in the competition. Garnet Runestar’s panel further proved as a great networking opportunity both to have personal interactions with a professional cosplayer of her caliber and with the other cosplayers in the room. While the schedule cut the panel at its end time Garnet Runestar even stayed afterwards in the hallway to answer further questions. She was one of the judges at the masquerade that weekend and shed insight into how we could improve for the next competition. I should have taken the time during judging to explain my decision to use paint as detailing because I thought that paint read better as a cartoon character. Though, I will have to learn how to embroider and macrame if we are ever to become “Master” level cosplayers. The finishes on our seams also needed to be cleaned up. While we do not own any expensive/fancy machines that do this for us, she said we could do any number of things to improve the finishing, namely of which was using pinking shears. Despite all this she still thought our cosplays were really cute. She was an incredible cosplay guest to meet and if you ever have the chance I would suggest attending any con she is going to be a part of.
We were a couple minutes late to Maddest Madi and Elle Graves Cosplay’s Cosplay on a Tight Budget panel because of our great fortune to speak one on one with Garnet Runestar, but I do not think we missed much. There was a slideshow of many cosplay fails and alternative things to use in cosplay. There was much ado made about garbage and dumpster diving for great cosplay pieces. Elle Graves even showed off her costume which she said was mostly made out of trash. The panel did digress at the end with YouTube videos, but for the most part was informative.
We had to leave after this, but our cosplay guest stayed for one more panel, Learning to Love Yourself Through Cosplay. Since it was nearing the closing ceremonies there were few people left at the con and most of the audience had been brought into the panel somewhat against their will. Apparently, the panelist had a slideshow about the many issues she faced in life including domestic violence, rape, depression and self-harm which was a difficult presentation to get through both for the panelist and audience. There were a couple slides at the end with her in cosplay, though. So, long story short cosplay had a positive impact on her life.
So, the weekend was a mixed bag, but it prepared us for our future cosplay ventures. We got some incredible insight into cosplay by a new favorite cosplayer, Garnet Runestar, who we will hopefully have the good fortune of being judged by again. And we created three costumes for the first time. While we had been working on my Pokemon Go trainer and Misdreavus all month, our guest cosplayer came late to the game and Bulbasaur was constructed in less than a week. Which, with a full overbust corset construction was no small feat.