Olivia Ward of Olivia’s Atelier
There are many talented models and performers who bring their love & enthusiasm to dressing up as their favorite characters. Comic Book Critic will regularly showcase a performer who embodies this spirit of cosplaying.
Whether it’s creating the costume from scratch, altering the appearance of an existing one, or just getting into character, these performers spend a lot of time and effort on their craft. As much as we all enjoy seeing our favorite fictional characters represented in real life, let’s not forget the behind-the-scenes work that goes into that portrayal.
One thing is for certain though, their love of cosplaying shines through in their work.
The Comic Book Critic Featured Cosplayer Interview this week is:
Olivia Ward of Olivia’s Atelier from Toronto, Canada
Hailing from Toronto, Canada, Olivia Ward of Olivia’s Atelier began cosplaying almost 10 years ago, and in that time, she has amassed an extensive catalogue of costumes. Her influences span several genres from comic books to video games to anime and more. Olivia’s love of costuming and cosplaying is really apparent in all of her work as well.
Recently she gave us an interview that gives us a look behind the scenes of her work and the experiences she’s had with costuming and cosplaying in general.
Due to the overwhelming amount of excellent work she’s done over the years, We’ve chosen to mainly feature her comic book cosplaying. If you want to see Olivia Ward’s enormous amount of costuming work, check out her links at the end of the interview!
You began doing this almost a decade ago, what was it about cosplaying that made you decide it was for you?
Oh my, it has been almost that long. Well, my first convention was in 2004. I saw everyone else in costume and was a little envious of the fun they were having and decided that, the following year, I would be in costume too. And I was right, it was fun, and I’ve met some of the best friends I’ve ever had through it.
Have you modeled outside of cosplay and is it something you’d consider doing?
I’ve done some work with one of my frequent photographers both just working with him, and also doing modeling for some of the workshops he runs for his camera club. I enjoy it, but I don’t think it’s something I’d ever actively pursue.
What was your first costume and did you make it yourself?
My very first costume was Temari from Naruto. I didn’t actually know anything from the series, I just wanted to dress up too and thought it looked simple enough that my mom could make it in the small time frame I gave her. She helped with the next few I made and then I started doing them on my own.
Of all the ones you made, do you recall one costume in particular that you’re the most proud of completing?
Probably my Sailor Moon costume. Not because it was particularly difficult (other than the wig, which really was), but more because it’d been a dream of mine for such a long time but I kept putting it off in favour of other scouts.
Out of all your costumes, which was the hardest to make?
Probably either my Black Lantern Ice, which was my first time insetting spandex and doing a full suit, or my Raven costume. I wasn’t happy with any of the tutorials for Raven’s belt that I found, so I had to figure out how to make it the way I wanted to, and also document how I did it, in under a week. But I love how it came out and that I was able to share the process with other people.
Who are some your favorite characters to cosplay?
Ice and Sailor Moon are definitely at the top of the list, but I also really love wearing my friend’s Isabela costume. Putting on that costume just unleashes a certain level of confidence that I love having. I really need to make my own.
Did you consider yourself a nerd or geek while growing up and do you now?
Oh definitely. My father was really big into comics and sci fi, and I grew up playing Atari and Nintendo, so I’ve always been really big into gaming. As far as more nerdy habits go, I was part of the gifted program all through school, so I guess there’s that.
You cosplay a wide range of characters from comics, anime, video games, etc., did you grow up with a lot of that?
Yup! As I mentioned, comics, sci fi and video games were a huge thing from my father. On top of that, I mean, Sailor Moon was huge. I grew up in a very rural area, and we only had three channels, but one of them played Sailor Moon, so that was a very important part of my childhood. That might have something to do with how many Sailor Moon costumes I’ve made.
Having attended both Comic and Anime Cons, do you prefer one over the other and how are they different for a cosplayer?
I’ve actually outgrown anime for the most part, so the conventions are a little uncomfortable for me. I don’t really know any of the new things people are cosplaying, and everyone just seems really young. At the same time, I love talking to people who are just getting into the hobby and how enthusiastic they are, and I find there’s a little less of that at comic conventions since it’s an older crowd.
It’s weird. I feel more at home at a comic convention, since there’s more people closer to my age range, but at the same time, that can also lead to some extremely uncomfortable situations, sometimes involving harassment.
For a cosplayer just starting out, I’d say an anime convention is probably the best way to start because there are so many fresh faces and people are so encouraging. Sometimes comic conventions can be a little daunting for people who don’t really know what they’re getting into.
Do you have any other interests that you’re pursuing outside of cosplaying and creating costumes?
Well, I’ve got a few years experience working in the wine industry so I actually have a rather strong interest in that. I’ve also starting doing some character redesigns in my spare time just because I’d like to get back into the design aspect of costume creation. And there’s video games, of course.
What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of cosplaying?
I love meeting people who are fans of the things I’m dressed as. Talking to people about things they’re passionate about is just one of the best things.
What’s one of your most memorable moments while cosplaying?
When I finally got my lovely group of friends together to do the Inner Scouts from Sailor Moon at Anime North this year, we were moving to an area just away from the convention to do photos. Unfortunately, it was enclosed by a fence. So us, in our brilliant wisdom, decided to hop the fence. We were the most ungraceful pile of creatures, and so horribly in character. The only one who had no trouble (and then had to help the rest of us over) was Gillykins as Sailor Jupiter. Typical.
Have you ever had any bad experiences at conventions or while cosplaying?
Unfortunately. Mostly just lewd comments or uncomfortable situations. Or people letting me know just how much they hate the character I’m dressed up. It seems strange saying I’m fortunate that that’s the worst I’ve experienced, but I know people who’ve been touched without their consent, or who’ve done interviews with people who’ve asked some pretty lewd and tasteless questions, so it definitely could be worse.
Do you have any favorite cosplayers?
Would it be wrong to say my friends? I’m surrounded by amazing and talented people. Gillykins, Gina G. and Red Ribbon Cosplay, and Vickybunnyangel to name a few.
There have been plenty of changes, good and bad, in the cosplay community over the last few years, what are your thoughts on that?
One of the best things I think to come out of the cosplay community is actually talking about the bad things. A lot of people are under the impression that convention harassment is some new thing that people are only now experiencing and that they should just get over it, but it’s only recently that it’s been something people are willing to talk about.
For a long time if someone did something at a con, most people would just stay quiet, but now where so many people (mostly women, but there are men also sharing their stories) are coming forward to talk about it and bring the problem into light, something can be done about it. You can’t change something if people don’t know it’s a problem, so while I’m not happy it is a problem, I’m glad it’s something people are talking about and working to change.
What advice do you have for someone just starting out?
Don’t get discouraged. Do it for your own reasons. There are a lot of awful people who might try to bring you down, but there are even more good people. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. There’s nothing wrong with changing a design if it makes you happy.
If you could change anything since you started, what would it be?
There was a lot of negativity and pettiness when I started, both in my friends and in myself, and it wasn’t great (to say the least). While I think I learned from that, and grew from that into a better person, it would’ve been nicer if I’d skipped that step. We can’t change the past, and there’s no point in being ashamed of things you did when you were younger. You can only use that to make yourself a better person today.
Do you have any new costumes that you’re working on, that you can tell us?
I’m supposed to be working on Leliana from the Sacred Ashes trailer from Dragon Age: Origins. I got my scale mail done and then took a break because leather working is a bit daunting. I really need to get back to that. Other than that, I’m making Sheik from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, as well as more Liara costumes from the Mass Effect series.
What does the future hold for you?
Convention wise, I’m hoping to hit up PAX East and DragonCon again next year, as well as maybe adding MegaCon to my roster (along with my local conventions). As far as real life goes, I’m still trying to figure that out. Who knows!
Thanks for the interview Olivia. We look forward to seeing a lot more of your cosplay and costuming work in the future!
If you’d like to book Olivia Ward for convention appearances, commissions, or other work – you can do so here.
Olivia Ward Links
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– The Comic Book Critic