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Her craftsmanship leaves me in awe and I’m super jealous of how talented she is– I am blessed to be able to say that I’ve met Christina a.k.a. LeekFish and that I get to hang out with her during and outside conventions when she is in Northern California.  An artist of multiple mediums, LeekFish is someone I admire as a fellow workaholic.

SSBG: When did you first learn how to sew?

I first learned how to sew during my sophomore year of college, which was just a year and a half ago. Admittedly I’m a little ambitious and wanted to attempt what was essentially a ball gown for my first made-from-scratch costume, so my first project certainly required a lot of outside help from good friends… Not to mention trial, error, frustration, lots of tears, and eventually success! That first costume was my crash course in sewing, and I was able to learn a lot which helped with future costumes.

What is cosplay to you?

Cosplay is, by definition, costume + play, but I think it goes a little deeper than that. To me, I think it is one of the ultimate forms of showing appreciation and dedication to a character, the series from which they come from, and their creator(s), because you are bringing a character to life. It’s an art form that dabbles in multiple areas and requires a lot of time, effort, and the patience to learn different skills, from sewing to photography to acting.

And more than that, it’s a community in which its “members” (for lack of better word) can grow and learn from each other. I’ve made so many friends, improved my sewing and prop-making abilities, and found a bit more self-confidence as well.

What got you into cosplay?  Do you remember the first cosplay you created?

Well, my very first convention was when I attended Fanime 2008 for a day- it was my first exposure to cosplay, and I was amazed by the skill and creativity that go into all of these costumes! I instantly knew I had to try it out, and was totally hooked.

At first my costumes were bought- I didn’t yet own a sewing machine or possess any of knowledge of how to create costumes, but I still wanted to be part of the fun of cosplay. I did do my research though, as I tend to avoid settling for anything low-quality; if I’m going to portray a character, I want to properly do them justice.

However, then I was lucky enough to meet some friends in college that did create their own costumes and were willing (and patient enough!) to teach me. This provided me with a new opportunity- I could now make costumes that were unique, and I wasn’t limited to online costume shops. So for my very first costume, I created a design for a humanized version of Pinkie Pie in her dress that she wears to the Grand Galloping Gala from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. And lord, what a project that was! It served as a major crash-course in sewing and a lot of details needed to be done by hand as well… And though it was in the planning process for a while, I had to do all of the construction in about three weeks to have it ready in time for FanimeCon! While tackling college classes and my part-time job, no less! It was pretty stressful, but every time something turned out right (or better than I had expected) it was such a fantastic feeling, and it felt really awesome to create it all from scratch.

I remember being so nervous the first time I wore it- I was a little scared to be wearing something I’d made and designed myself, especially at a convention full of such amazing talent. My worries went away pretty fast though- other My Little Pony cosplayers were so friendly and eager to chat with me and take photos, and it was a huge boost in confidence to be told I did so well for my first time sewing. I made so many friends, and later won two cosplay contests with that costume (much to my shock!) Although I’m not really able to wear that costume much anymore (as it’s a little worn out and I’ve lost weight since I first made it) it holds a special place in my heart and I have so many memories attached to it.

Along with cosplay you are also extremely talented with digital art– do you just commission your digital art or do you do costume commissions, too?

My digital artwork keeps me rather busy- in addition to being a digital arts major and selling art prints at conventions, I also have worked for 4 different My Little Pony conventions, doing everything from mascot designs to shirt designs to promotional artwork… So I actually hardly have enough time to put into my own costumes, let alone someone else’s! I also don’t think my skill level is really there yet, since I’m still learning.

You also have had some shirts produced by WeLoveFine– does your ultimate career goal involving graphic design for apparel?

Admittedly, I’m not sure where I’ll really end up in the long run as far as my career goes- I don’t want to latch onto something specific, since there’s lots of things I’d enjoy doing. Ultimately I want to find myself involved with comics and/or animation, probably starting kinda low on the totem pole and working my way up.

I like creating strong, diverse casts of characters though, and I think a sub-goal of mine is to create unique characters that others would want to cosplay! In recent years I’ve found myself paying closer attention to fashion and how it relates to character design; I pay attention to those around me and start to notice what sorts of styles they associate with their own personalities. So in a way, I suppose what I’ve learned from cosplay and sewing and design is being applied to my future career in a way, if that makes sense!

What artsy projects are you currently working on right now?

Currently I’m finishing up my senior year at the University of Oregon! I’m looking at a pretty packed convention schedule for 2014; I’m a promotional artist for MLP cons BABSCon and Everfree Northwest, and as far as costumes go, I’m hoping to make Amethyst from the DC Nation short series “Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld,” Reese from Animal Crossing: New Leaf, and Derpy in her “mail-mare” outfit seen in the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic comics.

I actually entered two shirt designs into WeLoveFine’s Adventure Time contest, so I’m hoping those do well! I’m also working on a BABSCon exclusive MLP shirt right now, which will be produced by WeLoveFine as well (provided that Hasbro approves the design.) I’m pretty much always working on something new though, and I often post works in progress to my Twitter (@LeekFish) if I’m allowed to. When I’m not though, everything typically ends up posted to my deviantART, tumblr, and (in the case of cosplay) Cosplay.com pages.