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Interview with AmazonMandy (Life of a Commissioner)

This week we interview AmazonMandy. Based in the USA, she is an accomplished commissioner of cosplay as well as a cosplayer. 

What got you into cosplay?

I used to go to a local comic book convention annually, with some friends. One year, they dared me to costume as one of my favorite characters, the Joker. I did a female version of him, and it was so much fun! It was so much easier for me to talk to people about shared fandoms. Normally I feel shy or awkward, but in a costume you feel so silly that you just kind of don’t care as much, anymore! I met so many people and had such a great time, I was hooked immediately!

How do you explain cosplay to friends/family member who don’t know this hobby?

Honestly, it depends on who it is. If it is someone I know is open minded and not judgmental, I will tell them all about it! How it’s a fantastic hobby that teaches people to sew among many other skills, allows them to meet and share in common fandoms. But if it’s someone who I know is rather closed minded about people different than them, I just say that I sew for a living and pretty much leave it at that. I feel really lucky about my own family though, they are fully supportive of what I do. They love to see new photos of all the things I make, upcoming projects, and my mom even collects magazines or interviews I do! They’re the best.

I usually comment about the cosplay you have worn, but you have worn so many. I think I counted about 20 costumes I saw for 2018. Did you make all of these and where do you find the time?

*laughs* oh my gosh, I cannot deny it’s SO MANY even I’ve lost count. I often find pictures on old hard drives of old costumes I’ve done and think “WOW I forgot I even did that one!!”. As for finding time, it’s a mix of it being a full time job, and I just love it. I really do love to sew and craft, I have a hard time stopping. I sew most days on commissions, then evenings or a few hours on weekends on my own projects. Aside from fitness, outdoors time, and time with my pets, it’s just another thing I love to do. I think I’ve made most of them, on a very rare occasion I’ll purchase parts for one, but I always clearly state that, if I do. I’m grateful I can make a living at it!

What has been you all time favourite costume to make and wear?

ALL TIME FAVORITE! I used to struggle so much with this question, but not anymore: My War Rig!! Hands down, absolute all time favorite, to make AND to wear. It’s my own original design so I feel like it’s my baby. I love the movie Fury Road, it impacted me hard and means a lot to me. Definitely one of my favorite movies of all time, and every part of the costume is a part inspired by the truck. On top of that, as ferocious as it looks, it’s REALLY comfortable (but I can’t sit *laughs)! I can wear it for hours, I feel so fierce and strong in it!!

As well as making costumes for yourself, you also commission costumes for others. How did that come about? 

Sewing commissions was definitely an accident I fell into! I had been sewing and cosplaying for about 10 years as a hobby. I owned and ran another self employed business which was a fantastic learning experience on dealing with customers, managing finances, scheduling responsibilities, and even doing small business taxes. I closed that business down and moved, and was a bit personally lost on what to do next with my life. A grandmother figure in my life asked to see pictures of my costumes, and when I sat down and showed them to her, she exclaimed, “THIS IS WHAT YOU WERE MEANT TO DO. DO THIS. START NOW. PLEASE DO THIS”. I was kind of taken aback but since I was lost, I thought, “well, I guess I can try it for some side money until I figure out my life”. And then it took off so strong and suddenly. From the day I started I haven’t had a lack of business, sometimes to the point of being too overwhelmed. And it’s all been word of mouth. I told you my family is supportive! *laughs*

Any costumes you’ve made you wished you kept to wear yourself?

Hmm…I don’t think so? There’s been a few pretty ones I thought would be really nice to wear, but I seem to have a mental divide about what I sew for customers and myself. I never look at it like “oh, I wish this was mine”, it’s always like my mental goal is to make them feel as good as possible in their commission. It’s not about me. I want them to feel strong, pretty, sexy, badass…whatever they’re going for. I don’t know how that separation exists, but they’re very different things, to me.

Who has been your biggest client you have made a costume for? 

I have a few customers that I’ve done a lot of costumes for, I am so grateful for the repeat business. But I don’t think I should “out” them without permission. I always get their permission to share their photos of themselves in their costumes, and ask if they want tagged or left anonymous as well. Client privacy is super important in most businesses, I think.

How many costumes do you commission a year?

This can vary a lot. If they’re smaller commissions, I can do a lot in a year, maybe a couple dozen. But if I get a few really large commissions, it’s much less. I can’t schedule a lot because it’s important to me not to miss anyones deadlines!

Would you want to be known more for being a cosplayer or a seamstress in the cosplay community?

Definitely a seamstress. I find the game people play trying to be popular online is exhausting and pointless. There’s no rewards for it other than “likes”, and even if that makes people feel somehow validated, likes are not currency. Cosplayers aren’t “famous”. Even the most well known ones. The term “cosplay famous” makes me laugh. It’s like being the most popular kid in high school….one block away, and no one knows or cares who you are. But being a seamstress—that’s my living. That DOES pay my bills. That is how I survive, and on top of that it’s extremely rewarding to make other people feel really good. I think that’s more important, in life. At least, to me.

If you were giving advice to yourself or others who want to go into commission work, what would it be?

Work hard, do not cut corners, and don’t miss deadlines. Be ready for long, long hours. Charge fairly for your skill level, and remember—if you’re being paid, they come first. You finish their costumes before yours. Don’t go to a con or party when you should be working and you know it. DO YOUR TAXES. I see so many people who want to get into commissions and think they are somehow making money under the table. You aren’t. Learn to do self employed taxes and to run a business like an adult (take classes if you have to), or don’t bother. It’s a big responsibility.

Money is no object, which cosplay and location you love to shoot at?

Wow….If I could do anything? Probably shoot the War Rig in the Namibian desert, since that’s where they filmed the movie. Although shooting my Unicorn Knight AND Armored Wonder Woman in front of some ancient architecture in Greece would be AMAZING, too!

You can AmazonMandy via these links.

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Feature Image by Weneals Photography

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