Meet Kartsie: 2020 Creator Contest Grand Prize Winner

With her Kyoshi warrior-inspired cosplay, Kartsie was chosen as one of the grand prize winners of our 2020 CosBond Creator Contest. We caught up with Kartsie after following the contest to learn a little more about her as a cosplayer.

What is your cosplay/account name? Is there a story behind it?

Kartsie is my account name on both YouTube and Instagram. I made it up when I was in middle school because I have a fairly long name and I was trying to “brand” myself with something short and catchy. The first 4 letters are my initials: K.A.R.T. and the last three stand for: Sewing, Imagining, Exploring.

So it reads: Karina Ali Rodriguez-Toledo Sewing, Imagining, and Exploring. It’s funny, my friends have started to call me Kartsie now. So In a way, it’s a nickname of mine now.

How long have you been cosplaying? How did you get started?

I started cosplaying my freshman year of High School, so about 4 and a half years now. But I started sewing a year in a half prior in middle school. My friends introduced me to conventions and we made it a tradition to go every year. At first my costumes were more like themed outfits. I made a Ladybug bomber and purse and looked like the Miraculous Dance AU. Then I tried to thrift clothing to be Marinette Dupain-Cheng from Miraculous ladybug. It was at this point that I decided to take on something more challenging and I made Allura from Voltron Legendary Defender in her Paladin uniform. 

I was in my Junior year of High School when I decided that I wanted to be a Costumer and used cosplay as a way to teach myself the skills I needed to enter that career and build a portfolio of work. My biggest accomplishment came after Allura and that was Violet Evergarden. She was an insanely complex build, but it was through this costume that I discovered fashion history and started researching how to build historical clothing. You can not see it, but underneath the Violet Evergarden Cosplay is a hand sewn chemise, a S bend Corset (pattern from 1901), and a bustle cage. From there on my costumes were more complex and research heavy.

What were some of your earliest cosplays like?

For the amount of time I had been learning to sew they were okay. I look back at them and am often surprised at what I did, but in a good way. In the moment I am not very kind to myself but when I reflect and look back I can see my growth and I realize that I did a good job. They were important in my journey to learn and I still have them. I even re wore the Marinette cosplay a month or two ago and took new photos for Instagram.

My earlier cosplays were made when I didn’t know costuming was going to be a career path. There was less pressure to make something “amazing” and it was more just about having something to wear when I explored conventions for the first time.

How has your creative process changed over time?

Over time includes when I was a literal preteen, so, a lot has changed. At first there was none. When I figured out I wanted to take this seriously, it turned into finding a character I like enough to make something detailed for my portfolio. 

Once I figure out the character, I begin the research stage, which is when I full on nerd out. This is arguable the most fun for me. I get to research the world the character lives in, figure out the creators inspiration for them and dissect their design. I see fandom theories and come up with my own. I tell myself to view cosplay like a costume designer who is charged with the task of turning an animated character into a live-action adaptation. If this were to become a movie how would I make them real people? This is what I ask myself and almost always it leads me down a rabbit hole of Fashion history research.

What are your favorite parts of a cosplay build? What does your process look like?

My favorite part is doing things I have never done before or that I haven’t seen other people online do. It gives me a feeling of accomplishment and motivation. I like the mystery and detective aspect of building. I ask myself: What am I building? What looks impossible? How can I solve this or translate it to reality?

For the most part fashion history 9 times out of 10 answers any question I have about a complex design. Most characters have some form of reference to real life and finding what that inspiration was helps me identify what skills I need to research. Which in turn tells me what I am doing and how to get it done.

What are your favorite characters/types of characters to cosplay?

My favorite type of character to cosplay is any character I love, from a show with a great or amusing story, that I can have the most fun with in the building and researching process. So to some extent they need to be sewing heavy. It all comes down to story, character and design. If I like all three, then bingo, it gets added to my to do list. 

So far, I have only made cosplays of characters from cartoons or animes because it gives me enough wiggle room to imagine what they would look like in real life. Live action removes that element and becomes more of a replication process. I haven’t done one of those yet but I am excited to because it is outside my normal. Any character design that pushes me to learn new skills and make things I haven’t before is my favorite type to cosplay.

How do you show off your cosplay? Do you attend cons, do photoshoots, etc.?

At first conventions, but now YouTube and Instagram. I started my channel Kartsie back in March and discovered that I love recording my process and editing my footage. It is a different type of art I am learning in my free time and it has opened up a world of possibilities. I take photos for Instagram like always, but I now am exploring making mini videos and fan films. I experimented with a couple already and I plan to make more. 

I have the goal, that I want to make a special video for every costume I make. Especially now that conventions haven’t happened for months. It’s a new way to bring a character to life.

What’s your dream cosplay?

Hands down, General Lin from the movie The Great Wall. Why you may ask? THAT TEXTILE! There is the most gorgeous textile used for her body suit under her armor I have ever seen. It must have been custom made because it moves as if it is literal electric blue feathers. They move when she moves in the action scenes and it is beautiful. I am not at the skill level I want to be to make that fabric yet. It would be very intense with hand sewing and fabric manipulation. I would have to figure out the perfect shade of metallic blue and air brush it, plus learn to sculpt the detailed crane on the helmet. One day I will make this, someday far in the future.

Do you have any funny cosplay stories or memories?

I was a freshman in high school. I made a costume of a Alyss Heart from the Looking Glass Wars trilogy. I wore this full on costume with wig and makeup to school and walked up and down the stairs to my classes balancing a giant foam wig piece on my head. The wig piece was attached to a headband and every class I would take it off and put it on a Frankenstein foam head. I was the weirdest gal in school and I didn’t care.

What are some of your favorite things about the cosplay community?

I love how everyone makes so may cool and interesting things and shares that progress with each other. It’s very inspirational an encouraging.

What are some cosplay goals you have going forward?

I want to get better at painting and learn skills outside of sewing to become a more well rounded costumer. I would love to explore props more and armor making. I especially want to learn how to create my own textiles for costume designs.

Where can we find your cosplay online?

Kartsie on YouTube and Instagram!

Is there anything else you would like to share?

I would like to give a hint for my next costume. I applaud you if you answer correctly.

I arrive on the East wind and leave when I am no longer needed. Who am I?