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Creature Feature: Sofia Ajram

White Tiger Kigurumi Orobas Cosplay Interview
Sofia Ajram is the magical mastermind behind Orobas Cosplay and Morphē Jewelry. We had the honor of asking her a few questions about her cosplay-crafting and jewelry-making processes as the first instalment in our Creature Feature series. Sofia is a profoundly multi-talented artist, and we're very happy to kick off by sharing her work with you.

R: Let's start by focusing on your cosplay career. Your Facebook page has almost 15,000 likes--impressive! When did you start making costumes, and what got you into the world of cosplay to begin with?

S: My first cosplay was when I was 17. I went to Otakon dressed as Lady from Devil May Cry 3. I had always wanted to dress up and embody a character but I was a pretty poor seamstress at 17 and had difficulty finding armored/weaponed female characters I could relate to. I didn't cosplay after that for the same reasons until 2013 and I've been doing it regularly ever since! It happened then for a few reasons: I finally found a game I liked to play regularly (and in that game some characters I wanted to bring to life), more resources and tutorials were available to help people learn how to cosplay, and I knew people within the community that would cosplay with me.

R: Over the course of your cosplay-making adventures, what's been the hardest element to construct? Can you describe the process?

S: The most difficult part of a costume I've had to make to date is Irelia's blades (from League of Legends).

The character wields these 4 giant blades that float around a glowing orb. I enjoy making impressive props, so that wasn't the problem - the issue was that it had to be both moveable and disassemble-able. In the game, Irelia's blades move between two stances: active (where the x-shaped blades are like open scissors) and passive (where the x-shaped blades are like closed scissors). This was simulated through attaching the four blades onto a plexiglass "x" shape that ran through an LED-lit acrylic orb (the plastic rivets of the orb would keep the x from opening too largely). Big issue #1 solved! Issue #2 - making this nearly 6-foot tall weapon fit into a normal-sized suitcase! I had to drill holes through each blade (which was 8 layers of dremel-cut EVA foam sandwiched between a thermoplastic layer), through the plexiglass parts, and attach screws that would hold it all in place - without the plexiglass cracking or breaking. It impressively hasn't broken yet and is displayed on the walls at the Riot Games office, the makers of League of Legends. I'm happy all that work paid off!

Irelia Cosplay Kigurumi Orobas  Interview

R: That's incredible. I'm glad your work is getting the recognition it deserves! That being said, which costume are you most proud of, overall?

S: I'm definitely partial to Irelia both because I put so much work into it and because it was a collaborative effort. I had seen this artwork of Irelia as illustrated by Polish artist Ewa Labak and I fell in love with the details she had added. Irelia was an older champion (in terms of game design) that still hasn't been updated, so I contacted Ewa and asked if she'd be open to collaborating on concept art for her version of Irelia. She said yes and we literally worked for months on the piece. You can see her finalized concept art here! I'm also pretty proud of my Talon cosplay, because I took another dated champion (my favourite to play in a game of over 120 options) and added a lot of details. It's really satisfying bringing that sort of thing to life!

Talon Cosplay Kigurumi Orobas Interview



R: Thank you so much for your insight! Let's move on to another one of your creative talents: your jewelry! I am definitely enamored with your space-inspired Urobune collection, but I'm curious as to your more humble beginnings. What was the start of your jewelry journey like?

S: 
Thank you so much! I started jewelry classes in 2011 at a local centre that offered jewelrysmithing workshops. I remember the first thing they taught you was to saw your initials out of a bronze plate and I was so bored and pretentious because it'd been so long since I had to start something from such an elementary level again. A lot of other things you can learn on your own (jewelry included!) but I'm definitely glad I stuck through the years of study. I did the classes part time while I finished my bachelors in East Asian Studies and when I graduated I found myself to be a full-fledged adult with no real career prospects. I had dabbled in all sorts of arts (photography, graphic design, sculpting, book binding) and worked retail for years but nothing really jumped out at me. A month after I graduated it just sort of hit me that I could take jewelry more seriously. I had my first custom order for a centipede bracelet after only a few months of class. I've spent the last year and a half doing nothing but jewelry. It's been a lot of non-jewelry tasks (as it is in building your own small business) but I've never felt so at-home in my life. I'll be bringing the centipede back as a permanent part of my collection later this year. Sort of fitting, I think.

R: The centipede is beautiful. How do you see your collections evolving in the foreseeable future? You don't need to reveal any major secrets, but some clues as to what your next inspirations might be would be great.

S: I have a lot of ideas for future collections. I created Urobune (outer space/alien collection) as Morphe Jewelry's signature collection because I wanted to be able to add to it. It baffles me that the jewelry industry likes to run itself like the rest of the fashion industry in that once a season is over a piece is no longer obtainable. I want to always offer existing designs and expand on/better them. I love space exploration. I love sci-fi. I'll never run out of ways to expand on those themes, so I kept Urobune as a running collection. I already have over 10 new designs I'll be adding to that line by September.
The next collection is more along the lines of magical talismans - pieces inspired by Tarot and witchcraft. I know it's a popular theme that designers have tackled in the past but it's an important theme for me to explore since it was one of the first things that helped me bond with my mother. I know motifs like the ouija planchette or the pentacle have been explored in a lot of ways but I'm hoping to bring a new flavour to these symbols. Aside from that, you can expect me to explore themes of science-fiction, horror, femininity and storytelling in the future.

Some of Sofia's Urobune Collection. Photograph by Hana Haley.

R: The themes you describe certainly resonate with me, and I look forward to seeing what you come up with. I have no doubt that you'll be able to apply a novel spin to whatever you choose to work with! Speaking of--which physical materials are your favourite?

S: I'm preferential to gold. When I was growing up, my father used to travel to Hong Kong several times a year, and would often bring back a 24-karat gold bracelet for my mother to wear. She has no less than 5 gold bracelets on her wrist at all times, so growing up seeing that that really made me fall in love with gold. It's also a really lovely medium to work with technically. I understand however that gold seriously limits who can buy my pieces and I'm working to change that. I don't want to outsource my work, but working with non-precious materials is an option I'm currently exploring for a "little sister" collection to Morphe's signature pieces.

R: I love that your work is inspired by memories of your mom. You mention signature pieces--which is your most special piece?

S: I'd be lying if I said I wasn't preferential to the Urobune Princess Ring. It was one of my first sketches and the last piece I was able to make because it was so complex technically. I love it so much. It's a halo engagement ring with 40 diamonds and an extravagant opal that's made to simulate a little UFO, so it literally spins on your finger. It's super cute and makes my heart soar just to look at it! I definitely have similar pieces in more affordable price-ranges coming soon.

Urobune Princess Ring by Morphe Jewelry

R: Aaah, it's stunning! Very Princess Serenity. Thank you so much for answering all my questions! To wrap things up: do you have any advice for other young people who want to nurture their creative selves?

S: Don't be shy to explore worlds, characters or concepts that you want to create. Some of the most fantastic works of art come from shedding your inhibitions.

If there's a medium you want to work in, try your best to do something creative within that medium regularly. It's not the easiest or most affordable thing, but even sketching designs or writing narratives helps keep your brain working.

Try collaborating with friends or other designers in other realms of art.

Share your work! Even if it's just within channels of communities you find comforting, sharing your work will help build your confidence and can give you some amazing feedback for future pieces.

R: All fantastic advice. Finally, because we gotta ask: what's your favourite kigurumi? 

Kigurumi.ca is the official Canadian distributor of authentic SAZAC kigurumi. SAZAC is Japan's number one kigurumi manufacturer, and the quality of SAZAC onesies is unmatched around the world. Unfortunately, this means that many other manufacturers will try (and fail!) to mimic SAZAC products. It doesn't take much to notice a major difference in quality between authentic kigurumi and imitators' attempts.

Fake. vs. Real: Stitch Kigurumi

For starters, imitation kigurumi are generally made of much thinner fabric--sometimes crushed velvet, which deteriorates much more quickly than fleece, cotton, and poly--and are poorly stitched together. Fakes tend to have wonky-looking faces: crossed eyes, asymmetrical features, and visible stitch defects. Colours won't be nearly as vivid, lining is often missing altogether, and features such as sleeves, tails, ears, wings, etc., will be overall much more floppy and downright sad-looking.