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Gainesville High students learn about cosplaying
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Carolyn Reams works on her armor project at the Quinlan Visual Arts Center in Gainesville Saturday morning. Reams is part of Gainesville High School's National Art Honor Society. - photo by HAILEY VAN PARYS

For serious cosplayers, making things work in creative ways is the name of the game.

“You really have to think outside of the box when it comes to costumes,” said Bill Williams, serious cosplayer and marketing director for Omni-Channel Customer Engagement Solutions.

Cosplay is the practice of dressing up like a character.

Foam, plastics and cardboard are a cosplayer’s bread and butter, but access to those materials can be tricky.

“If you can’t get one of those, the Spirit Halloween store or Party City always have what you might need this time of year,” said Grace Williams, a Gainesville High School junior and president of the school’s National Art Honor Society and daughter of Bill.

Her classmates met up Saturday at the Quinlan Visual Arts Center to learn more about costume design and cosplaying. Bob Hader, a friend of Bill Williams, dressed up as the character Hagrid from the “Harry Potter” series to share his costume design wisdom with students.

“It’s just a fun hobby for us,” Bill Williams said.

Hader said the three components, foam, plastics and cardboard, make up the majority of the costumes seen at Dragon Con and other cosplaying conventions.

He also explained how to create his elaborate costume using unconventional materials like hairdryers.

Hader first started with studying photos of the character online. Once he had a good idea of what the dimensions were, he began.

Hagrid is quite tall and round in the middle, so Hader needed to make stilted shoes to add a few inches to his height and find a way to make himself seem much heavier.

He attached tennis shoes to a few pieces of wood, then filled in the empty space with spray foam. When the foam was dried, he shaped them into shoes and covered them with a leather-like fabric from the Jo-Ann Fabric Store.

To make himself look bigger, Hader utilized an upholstery foam doughnut. He measured it to fit around his waist, then cut the foam with a turkey carver to make it more round.

Next came Hagrid’s outfit. The inside of the suit is made up of a plastic styrene skeleton, which Hader can slip into and out of. Hagrid’s clothes were made from designs of real clothes he bought at Goodwill, cut up, traced and blew up to 120 percent.

“Always make your outfits in felt first. Do a mock-up,” Hader said.

After that, he crushed up coffee grounds and brushed it over the clothes to make them seem dirty.

In the series, Hagrid also has huge, bushy hair. Hader took a trip to Sally Beauty Supply to purchase curly, black hair extensions, which he pulled apart piece by piece. Once the hair was in individual strands, he attached them to a bald cap.

When he’s not creating costumes, Hader gets booked for celebrity impersonations and has some experience in voice acting.

He also regularly attends Dragon Con. One year he wore the Hagrid costume in the parade and was thankful for the air conditioning system he installed inside the suit.

According to him and Williams, it is important to consider where you’re going, how long you’ll be there, what time of year it will be and the possibility of stairs when you’re creating a cosplaying piece.

To apply what they had learned, students were each given a piece of foam to create whatever they wanted. Art teacher Clay Sayre was on hand to help his students, as well.

Some chose to create armor from the foam by scrunching up aluminum foil, placing that on top of the foam and running a heated clothes iron over the top of both. A few people used a metallic luster paint from Michaels department store to make the foam look more like metal armor.

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