Friday, October 7, 2022

CNA staffer gets creative

For Mary Farrell, cosplay has been a hobby that fits like a glove.

A Clerk Typist III at College of the North Atlantic’s (CNA) Prince Philip Drive campus in St. John’s, Farrell says cosplay has something for everyone.

Mary Farrell cosplaying as a plague doctor. The Plague Doctors Walk takes place annually in St. John’s, NL. Photo by Brian Carey.

“It is for all ages, sizes and skill levels. You can take a character and put a twist on it to make it your own by switching the gender or setting it during a different historic time,” she said. “You can go with a store- bought costume or a homemade one.”

Mary says cosplay has been a rewarding hobby and a great way to meet new people.

“It is very enjoyable, and it brings you into contact with people you might otherwise never meet,” she said.

Born and raised in St. John’s, she says she took up cosplay slowly, and over the years, her involvement has gradually grown.

“I always loved costumes and dressing up for Halloween. I started going to the local science fiction conventions,” she said. “First, there was a MUN student convention that operated for a few years in the early ‘90s, and then Sci-Fi on the Rock started theirs in 2007. I didn’t cosplay for the first few years, but enjoyed watching them so much, and received great tips and suggestions.”

An employee with CNA for more than 32 years, Mary says all it takes to get started is a bit of research.

“Find out what interests you. Anime? Video Games? Movies? Books? Costumes can be very simple or extremely complicated,” she explained. “There are many groups on Facebook that can answer your questions and offer suggestions. There are many crafters, makers, and seamstresses in these groups to give advice. A really good one to start with would be Newfoundland Cosplayers.”

Attending conventions are another great way to become involved. She recalls that she was a volunteer with what is now Steampunk NL and started dressing in mid- to late Victorian-inspired Steam Punk outfits. She has since attended Avalon Expo (St. John’s), Burin Expo (Marystown) and C Dot Com (Clarenville). This past summer, she joined a local Pirate Crew formed on the Avalon Peninsula who cosplay at various events.

When it comes to her elaborate outfits, the CNA employee credits the final products with a good imagination and a few trips to the thrift store.

“I find a lot of the Steampunk accessories either online, or during the Halloween season at Spirit of Halloween, Shoppers Drug Mart, or Value Village, especially hats, goggles and jewelry,” she said. “For the clothes, I repurpose some of my dance costumes and add blouses, jackets, tops, skirts and/or shoes that I find at (local) thrift places.”

She says being in the spotlight is old hat for her as she has been a belly dancer since 2006.

“I was in a troupe for about five years,” she explained. “Since then, I’ve been doing solo numbers, or duets, and being a guest artist in other’s troupes and performances. Many of my dance skirts can also be incorporated into cosplay. It gives me a good excuse to buy long, flowing skirts if I know I can use it for both dance and cosplay.”

She adds that you don’t have to live in a big city to get involved, there are lots of options for people living in smaller, more rural areas.

“Certainly, there are more thrift stores in the city, but I know many people who buy cosplay outfits, or pieces of them, online,” she said. “There are costume creators that take orders and create outfits without being in the same area as their clients. There are also many free online tutorials on how to work with fabric, foam, paint, and other materials to create costumes.”

Inspiration for her hobby isn’t too far away. Mary looks to her favourite books, movies, and of course, some Google searches. She also maintains that a person doesn’t have to have a lot of money to get involved.

“It can be as cheap or as expensive as you want to go. You can go all out, or you can start small and work your way to a level comfortable for you. There are many people around here who can offer suggestions and advice, and newcomers are always welcome.”

The pandemic has certainly put a damper on in-person conventions, but Farrell is optimistic things will slowly return to normal.

“Of course, we didn’t have many of our in-person conventions in 2020, both Sci-Fi on the Rock, and Avalon Expo were online, virtual conventions. We did go ahead with Burin Expo in the Fall. We were able to get together for a couple of in-person conventions in 2021, but all of them aren’t back yet. Here’s hoping 2022 will be better.”

For more information visit https://www.cna.nl.ca.

Ryanne McIsaac
Ryanne McIsaac
Born and raised in Stephenville, NL, Ryanne recently moved back to Newfoundland after spending 16 years in Calgary, Alberta. Ryanne has a Journalism Diploma from College of the North Atlantic and a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Cape Breton University. She worked for many years as a reporter and freelance writer. She is happy to be back in her hometown and working for CNA.

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