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Sewing up an exciting career

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Receiving her first sewing machine at age 16 and feeling a draw to cosplay has led to an interesting path for College of the Rockies Accounting student Emma Ross. With that sewing machine she started making skirts and altering existing pieces to fit her cosplay costumes until she was confident enough to sew full projects on her own.

“I had always been drawn to cosplay since I was young,” Emma said. “I loved playing dress-up and always wanted to sew clothes. My aunts all quilted and offered to teach me to sew through quilting but I never had an interest in it – I always wanted to sew dresses! I think costumes are such an important part of storytelling.”

In the decade since receiving that first sewing machine, Emma has made quite a splash in the cosplay world. After earning her Bachelor of Science in Clothing, Textiles and Material Culture from the University of Alberta, Emma has become a well-known professional designer and costumer. She’s also a popular cosplay character – Ellyboo – which earned her an invitation to the 2024 Calgary Expo an event similar to ComicCon.

“The support of the cosplay community is huge,” Emma said. “I have been quite involved in the community for many years and have performed as Princess Leia in the 501st Legion’s booth since 2017. The Calgary Expo was the first real opportunity that I got to be showcased as myself and it meant so much to me that I had so many friends and cosplayers that I didn’t even know come and visit me at my booth. It felt like it was my birthday every day! Calgary Expo is also my favourite convention that I have attended so far. It was a huge milestone for me in my costuming journey to get to be a part of their team this year judging contests, hosting panels and interacting with guests at my booth.”

In costume as Ariel with the voice of Ariel!

While working on a Twilight Princess Zelda costume, Emma discovered the College’s Idea Lab and the ability to make embellishments, hairpieces, belts, and jewels with one of the 3D printers.

“The Idea Lab is extremely valuable to me as an artist because it allows me to test and learn different computer programs, equipment, and techniques before I possibly make the decision to invest in one myself. I can use the 3D printers to print items I need for my costumes, using files I purchased on Etsy. It allows me as a student to come and throw something on the printer in my spare periods and get extra work done on my costumes while at school. I have also been allowed to have lots of freedom in the lab, and it’s been so nice to have the amount of support I’ve had from the Idea Lab team when I come in with my quirky ideas and need to print complicated items!”

The Idea Lab also has a laser cutter which Emma is very interested in learning about in the future. When she saw her friend laser cut a pattern onto a piece of wood and then use that to stamp a custom design onto her fabric for a costume it reinforced Emma’s belief that there’s always a way to get creative!

As her popularity within the cosplay community continues to grow, Emma has big plans for the future.

“After I finish my program here, I’d love to really try my hand at getting into the film industry. That has always been my dream and cosplay is a great gateway into that because there are so many liberties that come with it. You can make screen accurate costumes like I do with my Star Wars costumes, or you can take some creative liberties with different fabrics, embroidery techniques, embellishments, etc., like I do with my Disney costumes. I am hoping that eventually these techniques I’m acquiring through my sewing and learning about 3D printing help me in the industry in the future.”

We’ll watch the credits for your name, Emma!