Amber Brite is a professional prop-maker, cosplayer, and model.
We recently had the pleasure of meeting Amber at Wizard World Austin where she was appearing as Ahsoka Tano from Star Wars Rebels. We kept in touch and she agreed to take part in an interview to reveal even more about the world of professional cosplay.
She expands on what a professional cosplayer means on her Patreon page:
What does ‘professional’ mean? Well, this is actually my full-time job now! I make and sell my work for a living. It is so incredibly stressful, and the hours are long, but its so very worth it. Getting to make & create new things every day is so rewarding and I love all of the friends and fans I’ve made along the way.
It is inspiring to see someone successfully following their dreams so we hoped to help spread her work and learn more about her profession. Without further delay.
Geeks Broadcast: According to your website you’ve been to many great conventions all over the country. What town/city is it that you’ve enjoyed the most both inside and outside the convention hall?
Amber: Oh, starting off with the hard question! Okay… favorite places… I think out of all of them I would have to say Tucson, AZ. The convention itself is just fantastic. It’s one of those medium-sized cons, where it’s not so big that it’s overwhelming, still has that friendly atmosphere. But it’s plenty big enough to put on some cool stuff. The costume contest is always a lot of fun with some great contestants. And the city is really, really cool. I always love taking some time after the con to just hang out and see the sights.
GB: I understand your first cosplay of Gaige is in retirement (gotta love cats). Do you have aspirations of any day putting your costumes up for display for people to see the progression they’ve gone through over the years?
Amber: That would be really cool! I would love to do something like that! Sadly, about the only time most people see me in person is at a convention, and you can only really fit about 2 mannequins in a booth. But I do keep all of my costumes in a portfolio on my website so people can see them there!
GB: Ahsoka at Austin Wizard World looked INCREDIBLE. I understand the prosthetics were probably the hardest thing to create. How many iterations did you go through before getting to the point that you were happy with the final results?
Amber: With Ahsoka, thankfully this was the first iteration of the headpiece. The reality is that working with prosthetics like that is expensive enough that you pretty much have to get it right the first time. Second attempts are two costly. I did spend roughly six months figuring it out, though. Took my time, stared at my sculpture for weeks at a time to make sure I was truly happy with the shape of it, did my research, tested some theories on smaller props, that sort of thing. So that by the time I finally took the plunge, I was pretty comfortable with what I was doing.
GB: Can creating what seems to be just a basic fabric costume (such as Phoenix) be as difficult or even more difficult than armor and props and if so what are some of the hurdles you run in to with a costume like Jean Greys?
Amber: Oh absolutely. I’m personally more of an armor and props person. The sewing machine and I… we tolerate each other! The thing is… with armor, you know it’s going to take more time, because there’s more busy work. After you get the armor in the right shape, then you have to fill it… sand it… fill again… sand again… paint with primer… sand AGAIN… so many steps and they all take a bunch of time. But also, if something goes wrong, it’s usually pretty obvious what the problem was. You can set to work fixing it right away. And anything can be fixed on armor with just some glue, some paint, and some patience.
Sewing, though? It’s not always obvious why your sewing machine might stop cooperating. It was working fine yesterday… today it’s skipping stitches. And you have a laundry list of things to try to get it to work right. And if you got your pattern wrong somewhere… sometimes the only option you have is to start over from scratch! I have so much respect for the ladies who do those massive gowns… I don’t think I could ever do one. A lot of people think sewing is easier than armor. I honestly think it’s the opposite, at least for me. Armor may take longer… but it just makes more sense in my head than sewing does.
GB: Any really weird stories you can tell us from conventions? A particular fan or person who you will never forget?
Amber: Well my favorite are always the reaction of the children. I remember one convention I was cosplaying as Mystique from X-Men, and a family came up to me to ask for a picture. They had a kid with them, probably 4 or 5 years old. So I told the child to “strike your best super hero pose!” And he looks at me, very serious and says to me, “No! You can’t do that! You’re a super VILLAIN!” I love stuff like that! Nerdy children are the best thing at a convention, hands down.
GB: Have you had any really bad experiences with fans or do the majority of them treat you with the respect you deserve?
Amber: Thankfully, no! Almost everyone I meet at conventions are super friendly and kind, just excited to be there and to talk nerdy stuff together.
GB: Do you have a good rapport with other professional cosplayers, what is the culture like? Do you see each other around the country and ‘ talk shop’ and recollect about previous cons?
Amber: I think the most amazing part is that the rapport just happens so fast. One thing that always stands out to me is when I have to leave my table to go speak in a panel. Sometimes I don’t have my own booth helpers with me because I travel alone. But every time, one of the other cosplayers near me will happily help any customers who come to my table while I’m gone. They even have helped take payments for me when a customer wants to buy something. These are cosplayers I’ve known for maybe a day or two; they’re trustworthy and helpful enough to do something like that. It’s really cool. And this has happens at conventions all over the country. There’s just this… understanding between all of us, that we’re all in this together. All trying to turn cosplay and prop-making into a career. So everyone’s happy to meet each other, to help each other, share ideas… it’s great. I love it.
GB: Do you find that most professional cosplayers are in it for the passion, as it is so obvious you are, or do some of them come off as being in it for a paycheck?
Amber: Honestly, this is the easy question for me. Passion, 100%. Every cosplayer I’ve ever met. Sometimes they have different reasons for wanting to be a professional; some, like me, own our own business and are trying to make our living off of it because we can’t think of anything we’d rather be doing than making costumes all day. Others just love conventions and want to offset some of their costs so they can afford to make more cool stuff. And there are even a few that never planned to be pro, but just started getting invited to cons because people wanted to see more of their work, so they went along for the ride! But no matter why they went pro… it always starts with their love of geek culture, and their love for the character they’re cosplaying. I can honestly say that every cosplayer I’ve met absolutely loves being a nerd, no questions asked.