At 14, Clare McCutcheon was acquiring costuming skills on the set of Lord of the Rings in New Zealand, and today, at 32, she’s vying for the Championships of Cosplay crown.
Cosplay is a performance art in which participants called cosplayers wear costumes and fashion accessories to represent a specific character.
The Hazelbrook costumier by trade, last September won the Oz Comic-Con Championships of Cosplay national finals with her Orc Death Knight outfit, and heads to the US on April 19 to test her mettle against the best in the world at the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo.
Since December she’s been working on the earthy, elemental shaman character from the World of Warcraft multi-player online role-playing game, incorporating geared motors into the design and self-taught electrical skills to create the effect of lava flowing through cracks of rock.
She knows the competition will be stiff.
“People work all year on costumes,” Mrs McCutcheon said.
“The calibre of costumes in Australia was amazing.
“What an entire costume department will do an a film, a cosplayer will do themselves.”
For Mrs McCutcheon, the appeal in becoming a character is in the costume creation.
“It’s mostly the process of making things,” she explained. “A video game has not been made into reality and to try to figure out how to make that, it’s not something that exists in our world.
“The reaction of people at the conventions is also pretty great.”
Memorising lines spoken by the character in the video game is all part of the job.
She’s cosplayed the character Mei from popular video game Overwatch, and that was a hit with kids at cosplay conventions.
“They see the hero that they play all the time and I try and memorise lines from the game so I can say that to them,” Mrs McCutcheon said.
And she’s building quite a reputation for her cosplay creations, being invited to judge various costume competitions and appearing as a guest at other countries cosplay conventions. Henchwench as she’s known in the industry, has her own website of the same name, where she shares tips on how to make cosplay costumes.
“I use gym mats for armour. I have friends who work exclusively in leather [to make armour]. YouTube is great for learning new skills,” Mrs McCutcheon said.
And she’s met her match in husband Chris. “He’s a nerd,” she says with a laugh, but a role player who enjoys group storytelling.
“Other people go to the pub on a Friday night. We hang around with a bottle of wine and choose to be a policeman [on Judge Dredd],” Mrs McCutcheon said.
The Oz Comic-Con will be held in Sydney from September 30 to October 1.