Sunday, February 8, 2015

Interview with Crabcat Industries' Jessica Merizan

Yours truly, Hanging with Jessica
@ Wizard Portland
I mentioned a few days back in my Wizard World Portland recap that I had the pleasure of doing an interview with the super talented cosplayer, Jessica Merizan. I really enjoyed chatting with her. She was very inspiring at a time where I really needed it. She definitely provided some motivation for a project I was invited to be part of, which you will all be hearing more about over some time. Basically my team and I will be making props, sfx, and replicas and other such nerdy stuff for cosplayers and fans. Stay tuned by following PNWSFX on Twitter and Instagram.

I also would like to mention and thank Haylee Troncone for her help with this interview. I was sick the weekend of the convention and maybe I shouldn't have attended, but it's gonna take more than bronchitis to keep me away from a con! Anyways, my brain was fried from cold meds, so Haylee, who is a fan of Jessica Merizan, stayed up late and texted me some great ideas for questions, so I gotta give her some credit where its due! She is also a great up and coming cosplayer in her own right, so you should probably follow her on Facebook: Haylee Troncone Cosplay. I approve of her as an arist and friend 100%.

Please enjoy and be inspired by my Q&A with the talented and sweet, Jessica Merizan! I can't wait to hang with her again. Who knows, maybe she'll be a guest at one of my cons someday?

SteveStrout: What got you into cosplay?

Jessica Merizan:  
I had always been involved in theatre and dressing up at home, or whenever there was a theme day at elementary school or middle school, my mom would always dress me up to the nines, and all the other kids were in like painted t-shirts or something. So, I have always been dressing up, like putting on the shoes of some other person to just be someone else for the day, then I really got involved in cosplay after going to the Ren-Faire, and starting to make my own costumes in high school. My friends took me to my very first comic con in 2005 and I was , like, done!
S.S.: You have the partnership with Holly (Conrad...of Crabcat Industries). Have you two been lifetime friends?
J.M.: Holly and I have been friends since middle school. We were in choir together and everything, then we became really really close in high school, with a few of our other friends like Lizzy. She's on our podcast, and everything together, so we've all had this really tight knit group since we were kids. We were like, "Let's just keep going at it professionally".

S.S.: Are you all self taught, or is there any formal art schooling?

Neither of us went to art school , but I was an art major for a hot second when I went to Berkeley, but they were like, "why don't you use cardboard instead of a canvas?". I was like, "this is too pretentious, I'm not gonna be an art major". So we're basically self taught, and we've been really lucky to have some amazing mentors, and the Halloween haunted house industry, and the people in L.A. that do special effects for movies and film, so we learned how to do casting and molding, and foam armor from other people who are super talented. Now a lot if it's just learning on Youtube and and on the internet and sharing tutorials.

S.S.: At what point did you decide to take it to the next level and be a professional?

I feel like I'm still not really a professional. We do commissions for big companies and that's been awesome, but it still feels like a fun hobby and something to do on the weekend to meet other people and have a good time.

S.S.: When did Crabcat Industries come into fruition?

We started Crabcat Industries in 2010 after we had been filming a movie with Morgan spurlock called Comic Con Episode IV: A Fan's Hope. We made up this fake company for our Comic Con skit. We were like "Crabcat the subsidiary of a company that don't exist". Then we were joking around and were like, "then why doesn't it exist? We should just do it. Let's just have fun and make stuff!"

S.S.: What exactly does Crabcat offer?

Crabcat, Holly and I, have our own YouTube Channel, She is and I'm, so we both have tutorials and we do reviews, and silly videos and fun things. Then we have our own community we really want to foster and help people just get into cosplay and learn how to make stuff. Every once in a while we've done big commissions for companies. Mostly it's going to conventions, meeting people, trying to inspire people to get over their fear of like "oh I don't wanna look silly, or I don't think I'll make it very well

S.S.: Are there any big commissions out there that people might recognize?

We made a Pacific Rim costume for one of their YouTube commercials, so it was a kaiju that we foam fabricated, sculpted, and cast the mask. Guillermo Del Toro actually wore the head for the video, so that was an amazing costume that we made. We've done some Mass Effect costumes for Bioware and we've done a few other things. We do like one or two a year fro big companies.

S.S.: How has being on Syfy's Heroes of Cosplay boosted your career and confidence and everything in cosplay?

I think it's just made me realize how much people enjoy cons. This knowledge that this tv show is opening up the convention world and the cosplay world to a lot of people. When I go to cons I hear a lot of people saying, "this is my first con and I'm coming here because of Heroes of Cosplay and how fun it looked". So ya know, regardless of what anyone says about the show, I think that it's really inspiring that it's encouraged a lot more people who didn't know about the hobby or who hadn't tried it before to just get into it and start doing it and go to conventions. Conventions are awesome!

S.S.: Yes they are! So, how has being on the show changed your approach? Like, do you feel like you have to step up your game? Know what I mean?

I have made the costumes on the show that I've always wanted to make, so gave me the opportunity in a really short time to force myself to make certain costumes that have been on the backlog where I just might be like, "I wanna make these costumes, but I don't know when I'm gonna make them". It also kinda forced me to learn how to make costumes in a shorter timeframe, because they had like a two or three week filming window and they wanted to see the entire process so that people can see it on tv, so I've gotten a lot better at making things quicker.

S.S.: This might be a tough question to answer, but what has been your favorite costume that you designed?

J.M.: It always seems like my last one is my favorite, but with my last one its also like, "I can do so much better than that". I've learned so many more things. I really like my Tank Girl costume. I loved my Peter Pan group cosplay that we did. I really just love making costumes with my friends and hanging out with them.

S.S.: Is there any advice that you could pass along to new cosplayers?

I'd tell them to not be worried about whether the thing your making is the right way to make it, or if it looks good, or being scared or nervous. Everyone's really excited to meet you and talk about your costume and the character you're portraying, and everyone's learning. Even the people who are the expert of the expert of the expert are still learning, and I'm certainly like, no giant big expert. I have people that I look up to, so just don't worry and have fun.

S.S.: What about the people that are interested in doing it, but are intimidated to jump in and start doing it?

I mean, my first costumes that I started doing were like thrift store clothes that I cut up and altered and them hot glued things to them, and went to Home Depot and Michael's and got supplies there, so don't feel like you have to go to a specialty special effects shop or know all these crazy workshop skills. You can just go and get a glue gun and some old clothes and some stuff from the craft section at Michael's and just put something together and go wear it, and people will think it's awesome!

S.S.: I asked this question on Facebook and got a lot of response. What are a few things that you can NOT forget to bring with you to a con?

Oh gosh. Ok, so bring energy bars, like protein bars, I have Slim Fast shakes that I always have and then I have fiber bars for lunch, so I always make sure to bring those types of things because it's so expensive at a con and there's so many times that you just won't have time to get food so its easy to have a protein bar in your pocket. I always have a small fixit kit for if I'm in costume that has safety pins, and makeup touchups, and eyelash glue, and barge glue, which is my favorite kind of glue to use, but its super toxic though so I have to hide that. Yeah just a little fixit kit, food, stay hydrated, and comfortable shoes or like Dr. Scholls inserts.

S.S.: When I do my interviews, I always like to give you the chance to plug something or add anything you'd like, so...

J.M.: People can go follow me at . I'm also on Instagram as Jessica Marzipan, and you can find me on Twitter as Jessica Merizan. I love to see anyone progress photos. I love to hear about what people are doing or first con experiences. I would love to talk to anyone out there.

S.S.: Thank you.

Thanks so much, this was fun!

Steve Strout is the media mastermind behind this site, host of the Comic Book Swap Meet, nerd, terrible artist, gamer, convention goer and comic book reader who spends more time rescuing toys from thrift shops than a normal adult should. He is also known around the northwest for his promotion of live music and stand-up comedy events and is the creator/producer of the Comic Book Swap Meet mini convention, and Olympic Peninsula Comedy Competition (which will make it's big return in 2015). Follow him on Instagram at, and  He can be reached for comments at on twitter at @thestevestrout