Makers 1-on-1 is our original interview series featuring today's makers and DIYers. We're sitting down with new makers every week to learn more about their projects, how they acquire information, their purchase processes, and their passions.
This week, we’re interviewing Cody Stanley and Ryan Dyke — co-founders of Rubber City Cosplay, a club for pop-culture cosplay enthusiasts. Both Ryan and Cody have created a number of pop-culture cosplay costumes based on characters from movies, comics, and video games. They use a wide range of fabrics, glues and adhesives, and even household items in their cosplay. If your brand sells to cosplay makers, this 1-on-1 interview with Cody and Ryan will give you some important insights into connecting with makers like them.
What's your name and what do you do?
C (Cody): My name is Cody Stanley.
R (Ryan): My name is Ryan Dyke.
C: And we run Rubber City Cosplay.
How and when did you start?
R: This kind of started at Akron Comicon about six years ago, at the very first one. I went with my friend and we were running the costume group and we were doing the costume contest and just promoting the Akron Comicon at Akron Comicon. And from there we started going to more events and going to RubberDucks and the Racers games, and just kind of dressing up and promoting cosplay. But it was under the guise of Akron Comicon.
So after doing that for about two to three years, I started my own group: Rubber City Cosplay. I started with Cody here and it was more about going out as Rubber City and promoting the positivity of cosplay, not under the guise of Akron Comicon. We still work with them, but it was just kind of this new thing that we had started. We operated our free photo booth and we just have a great time.
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What is the process for creating a cosplay costume?
C: The things that go into creating a look for cosplay…
R: It’s a lot!
C: It’s a ton. Normally we start by printing pictures, a reference photo.
R: You just Google the costume and pull out photos from the movie or TV show, or other cosplays, other people who have done it. See how they’ve done it.
C: Typically there’re a lot of different ways you can create a costume. Either there have been remakes of movies or characters you’re doing. So you have to choose which costume you want to do. So we start with getting a reference photo, and then we decide the materials we’re gonna use and kind of go from there, like a snowball effect.
R: And then it’s thrifting. No matter what it is, go thrifting, check your garage, check your junk drawers, see what you have lying around the house that you can put toward making this new costume. We’ve used everything from toilet paper rolls to old prescription bottles, just about anything that you have lying around the house you can put toward making a new costume.
What do you have to purchase the most for creating your costumes?
R: I think the number one thing that we’ve purchased is hot glue. Hot glue goes with everything. And craft foam. I’m a cardmember at Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, JoAnn’s, Home Depot, and all the craft stores in the area. You [also] have to buy materials, and thread and fabric, velcro…
C: There are so many different things out there that you can use per costume. So a lot of stuff that we have to use is spray painted. So we buy a lot of spray paint, Plasti Dip. Things like that are things that can add up. But hot glue is by far what we purchase the most.
R: We should invest in hot glue!
Is there research that goes into making a costume?
R: The research that goes into making a costume, it’s kind of in the eye of the beholder. What I mean by that is you can watch a movie so many times, you can watch the TV show or read the book or look at pictures online, but it all comes down to what materials you feel comfortable with using. I made a Tony Stark prototype arm from Iron Man. It’s just the skeleton of the arm and I made it out of metal. I was working at a machine shop at that point so I was very comfortable using a drill, and using a press, and using all this stuff. But if I were to remake that now, I’d probably use craft foam because it’s a much easier thing to work with than trying to bend metal.
C: As far as references go, and where we would actually find out what we want to do, it really always begins with what costume or look we want to go for. Like, there are a lot of steampunk adaptations for example. We don’t do a lot of that necessarily, but there are different things like steampunk that you can add to just about any costume. So you have to get a mental picture of what you’re looking to do.
Do you guys use tutorials online?
R: There’s always someone who’s done something before you. And you can always either follow in their footsteps or kind of check out how they did it and do it your own way. Definitely YouTube videos; you can find a YouTube video for anything.
Which social media platforms do you tend to use the most?
C: For social media, we have a Facebook page and we have an Instagram [@rubbercitycosplay]. We utilize that in a couple of different ways. With our group, we run a free photo booth at events, Comicon, RubberDucks games, Racers games, Canton Charge games, a lot of different things. If people don’t bring costumes or a camera, we have props that they can use, like Hulk hands, a Captain America mask or his shield, different things like that that are popular in pop culture. And people will use those props to take pictures, either by themselves or with use, we’re always dressed in costume too, and then we post those online and people can get them for free. So it’s kind of like a cool service that we offer. And then we also use it to post pictures of us and costumes that we’re working on. Or like we’re going to Cincinnati Comic Expo this weekend so we’ll post pictures from there so people can see different costumes that were there as well.
What is the average amount of time you'd say you spend on a cosplay costume?
R: We always procrastinate so I would say the time that it would take us to make a costume does depend on the costume or prop that you’re making. We made BB-8 in about five days, start to finish. It just depends on the costume piece and our schedules. We work really well together, being able to do a layer of paint and then someone else does the next layer, etc. I’d say anywhere from a week to a month. We made a Darth Vader costume that we were sewing and working on every night for probably a full month. Most of it is handmade because we take it to a lot of events with children, we wanted it to look as authentic as possible. So we craft them, we bought electronics to make a light-up chest piece. That [costume] by far, I think, is the biggest one we’ve ever done.
C: The process for making stuff varies, but the more time you put into it, generally the better things turn out, which is kind of true with everything. But I’d say anywhere from a week to a month, depending on how big the prop is or how large the costume is or how much detail has to go into it.
R: And sometimes it’s a group costume. One time we did an apocalyptic mystery gang. It was the four mystery gang members but they were dressed up to look like zombies. So that took a little bit longer because we had to do four costumes.
How do you find time to do all this?
C: So not only do we have full-time jobs, but we’re also involved in countless other things in the community, from theater to podcasts.
R: I do improv comedy. Cody teaches speech and debate at Norton High School. We’re very involved in our community. So to find time, we make time, I guess is the best way to put it. We’ll stay up late, we’ll get off work at 3, [then] work on something until 6 when rehearsal starts. But like I said before, we work really well together, especially when it comes down to crunch time.
C: It kind of works out in our favor because since we work so well together, a lot of times when he’s doing something I can pick up right where he left off. Or vice versa. We know each other’s thought process or we’ve talked it all out together.
How do you display your work?
C: We show off our work in a couple different ways, mostly through social media I think is the biggest way. For example, two of the things that we’re the most proud of are probably Cogsworth and Lumiere from Beauty and the Beast. We’re taking those to Cincinnati Comicon this weekend.
But we like to take those to different events. We’ll enter those in the costume contest. That’s one of the ways we can show off. But we don’t do it to show off stuff.
R: We’ve gone to events in very minimal costume because we want to go and promote other people also. But definitely social media [for displaying work], daily on our sites to try to gain a following and share other people, and then to bring people in and show off their work also, we have a lot of “Con friends” as we like to say. We’ll show off their work and they’ll show off our work. It’s kind of this really cool community of people that work together.
What's the most rewarding part?
R: The kids.
C: By and far the most rewarding part is getting to see the kids’ faces when they see…
R: Darth Vader! I have a photo of a child hugging me as Darth Vader. And normally children would be afraid. And we told this mom, “You need to watch you child because they’re hugging Darth Vader right now.” [laughing]
[But] there are so many great examples of when we go to Racers and RubberDucks games.
C: You know, people take their kids to all kinds of events like this. And not a lot of them have costumes so they get to use those props we bring and use Thor’s hammer and do a cool pose with it or Batman’s mask.
R: Nothing’s better than getting a grandma to hold up Thor’s hammer for a photo and getting the whole family in. And then the other thing that we can see is people starting to use the free photos we offer on our Facebook page. You’ll just be scrolling through pages and you’ll see people using our photos for their Facebook or their profiles. It’s just really cool to see that we are reaching families and kids and the next generation of people in the world.
Is there a community of people doing the same thing as you? Where do you find support?
R: The cosplay community, the con community, the wonderful people who attend conventions, they’re like a second family to us. We’ve made dozens of friends that we only get to see once, twice a month at these events. We become Facebook friends and keep up that way, but they live in Columbus, they live somewhere else. And here in Akron, sure we’ve made friends in the community, but we’ve made lifelong friends, people that we’ve brought into theater and the other aspects that we do. I have to say, there’s nowhere better than a comicon for trying to show off your inner geekiness, there’s nowhere else you can walk around in a Joker costume.
C: In addition to that, it’s a really cool thing to see people supporting each other in ways that you wouldn’t see in everyday life. People get to dress up as their favorite movie character, their favorite TV show character, their favorite game character, different things like that. It’s a very supportive, welcoming community all together. It’s a really neat experience. We really try to promote that “cosplay’s for all” at our booth, we’ll have bookmarks with #cosplayisforall and we’ll pass them out to people. It is just to promote this community. Positivity.
Why do you do what you do?
R: I didn’t do Halloween growing up, my parents were both pastors, they do now, it’s really funny, my younger siblings now do Halloween. But we didn’t when I was little. So I like to think that I have 25 years of costumes to make up for for Halloween. I think that’s one of the main reasons that I started getting into it was that I never had done it as a kid. But, it’s moved past that, wearing costumes is one thing but being the characters, and dressing up as your favorite movie or comic book [character], it’s just so satisfying. There’s literally nowhere else where you could do that, except one day a year at Halloween.
R: When you got into it [pointing at Cody]…
C: I didn’t like it at first because I was kind of uncomfortable, I didn’t understand what I was supposed to do. And then I got into it a little bit, and I met different people that did it, and I learned that I could do anything. There were no limits to what kind of costumes you could make. It’s a cool experience, improving, so not only do I get to make costumes and hang out with people that I like all day, but I get to work on theater stuff as well, because I get to improv and learn. I get to work on those skills, [while] hanging out and having fun. It’s just a fun time, and it’s really rewarding. To have those kids there, and they look up to you, it’s just a really neat thing that you wouldn’t get anywhere else.
How do you deal with problems that arise when you're making a costume?
R: There’re a lot of problems that arise when making a costume. We’re not pros. We’re not going to lie, we do this for fun. Sure, we’ve come a long way from our very first costumes. But difficulties arise in every aspect because you’re constantly learning, it’s definitely a hobby where you have to keep learning, keep experimenting with everything. You’ve [pointing at Cody] definitely gotten a lot better. When he first started, he didn’t like using an X-ACTO knife at first. I mean you’ve grown a lot with it, we both have. I taught myself to sew. I went from having zero sewing machines to now owning five. So I had to teach myself to sew and I’m still not the best at it. He doesn’t sew at all [pointing to Cody]. But I’m teaching him and he’s getting better at it.
C: There are always problems that come up. If you run out of hot glue, we have to go to the store and buy some.
R: Like hot glue does not stick to metal. That is something I figured out very late in a project. I was done making it and then I realized hot glue doesn’t stick to metal and it completely fell apart. I had to remake it. It was a difficulty that we just never had to encounter.
C: So you improvise and figure out what else we have at the house or find something else to use.
What's next for you?
R: Each new year, we do a variety of events. Anything from Akron and Hall of Fame City Comicon to RubberDucks games and Racers, we try to go to the same ones every year. We try to make friendships, make connections.
Up next in terms of crafting and skill, I want to get better at sewing, I want to get better at crafting, I want to get better with electronics (making stuff light up).
C: As far as the organization goes, for Rubber City Cosplay, we don’t have a lot of longterm plans because we’re kind of happy where we are right now. We’ve reached a point where we’re really busy. Not with only this, but all the other things we do as well. So it’s kind of hard for us to say “OK, we definitely want to be here,” because things change for us every day almost. We’d love to get bigger, go to San Diego some day, but those are pipe dreams right now. We’re really happy with where we are.
R: We have great volunteers that lend their time and their energy and their money, it’s not cheap to make these costumes, to come out and help us. Shoutout to all of our friends and all of our con friends. But Rubber City Cosplay was not around three years ago, it wasn’t a thing. What we do, offering a free photo booth, wasn’t really a thing at comicons. Usually you go to these events and you pay, but we wanted to offer a free service that a family walking through the event could get a family photo for free. So we do like where we are. Of course we have goals, but we also don’t want to forget about the little guys that kind of helped get us to where we are.
C: I would say we definitely have goals and dreams, but we don’t have concrete plans right now.
R: We’ll see where we are.