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Galacticon to host award-winning cosplayer

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JAFantasyArt’s Jessi Arntz, a renowned cosplayer, armorer and leatherworker who built her success in the steampunk, con and gaming communities, is attending the Galacticon and will be judge for the Alien Human Cosplay Contest for the second time.

Creativity and craftsmanship is seldom seen in the cosplay realm anymore. With the invention of the 3D printer, cosplayers no longer make their costumes from scratch. Instead many have them done with computers. The Alien Human Cosplay Contest in Roswell still has participants who create their costumes themselves.

“When I first got started, all these techniques we are seeing in our days like styrofoam cutting and thermoplastic — that didn’t exist,” Arntz said in a phone interview. “It used to be that you couldn’t carve a Star Wars blaster out of styrofoam (in contests). You had to find the exact pieces, the exact windshield wipers that they used. You had to find a shower curtain rod to use. You had to put things together to create a blaster or armor or whatever. It is going away and that makes me really sad because I really love the ingenuity of people taking household items and then making something really cool out of it.

“That is the kind of thing that people are doing at the alien contest (in Roswell). I really appreciate it — I really like it,” Arntz said.

Arntz recently won the Fan Expo Master of Cosplay Central qualifier. It’s a North American and Canadian competition in August in Toronto and only three cosplayers in the U.S. and two from Canada qualified.

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“It is exciting,” Arntz said. “I have never done anything that big before. I’ve been talking with my competitors, we have an idea what we are going to be competing against. It has been really cool. We have been really open … and when we all are going to Canada, we all will spend the day at one of the amusement parks and get to know each other. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Asked how she became one of the most renowned cosplayers and artists, Arntz said, “My parents were always super-supportive. I have been drawing and always had a pencil in my hand. My mom used to make my costumes when I was little. I’d watch her sew my costumes. I always really loved Halloween and costumes. Growing up, my best friend’s father was a 501st member (The 501st is the international Star Wars cosplaying group). He professionally made costumes and had probably 15 Star Wars armors. That was really inspirational and I love getting in character.

“I joined the military and went to West Point,” Arntz said. It wasn’t really what I wanted because I couldn’t create. I didn’t have time to express myself. I actually spent two years at the Army Academy. I had an injury, so I got out. It is for the best because I transferred to art school at the University of Missouri in Kansas City.”

Arntz’ first costumes were Star Wars characters and she joined a branch of the 501st in 2009. “I would do charity work every weekend in a costume,” she said. “When you become a member they give you a number. I was number 312. They had 312 members at the time. Now they have close to 50,000 members.

“I got into the leather working because I found steampunk, which I discovered I always loved,” Arntz said and chuckled. “I just didn’t know how to call it. That opened up a whole other branch for me. Doing costumes got me into leather working, so I just started experimenting. I didn’t take classes or anything like that.”

A chance encounter at the Penny Arcade Expo gave Arntz the opportunity to design costumes for companies like Oasis Games.

“The marketing firm that we work with is called Waypoint LA, they are based out of Los Angeles and they contact us when they have a client,” Arntz said.

Asked what she is most looking forward to at the UFO Festival and the Galacticon, Arntz said, “There is a lot. I am just excited over it, I really love the show and the people in Roswell. I got a lot of friends there. I am probably most excited because I am bringing my apprentice with me, John Kadolph, and he has never been to Roswell and he has never been able to go. It is a dream of his. When I told him we are going to Roswell he about died. I am really excited to show him Roswell, so he experiences it himself as I did with the museum and all.”

Arntz lives and works out of San Antonio, Texas. For more information, visit jafantasyart.com. To follow her as she competes in Toronto in August, visit instagram.com/thecovinator. Arntz also has a presence on Facebook and her shop is on etsy.com.

The public has a rare chance to work with Arntz during workshops at the Galacticon, July 5-7, at the Roswell Mall. For details about the workshops, check out the Vision Magazine which will be inserted in the Roswell Daily Record on Sunday — with a detailed schedule of all events during the UFO Festival, Galacticon & Sci-Fi Film Fest — or visit roswellfilmcon.com.

Christina Stock may be contacted at 622-7710, ext. 309, or at vision@rdrnews.com.