Exclusive Interview with Gabrielle Donathan of Maise Designs

Sewing. Leatherworking. Jewelry art. Costuming. Design. Is there anything that Gabrielle Donathan, creator of Maise Designs, can’t do? You’d be hard-pressed to find something in the world of costuming that she can’t. She has designed for Renaissance fairs, masquerades, and of course cosplay. Gabby was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule at Phoenix Comicon 2016 to talk with me about her costuming.

How did you learn your crafts? You do sewing, leatherworking, jewelry making—

“—Everything! (laughs). I have, ever since I was little, I had a crafty grandma and she raised me. So I learned everything I know from her, and the past seven years I’ve been focusing on cosplay.”

What inspired you to get into the costuming?

“Actually, it wasn’t necessarily ‘inspiration,’ but my friends wanted to cosplay and I was the only one who knew how to so…so it began!”

What are some of the favorite costumes that you’ve created?

“Easily the Arkham Knight Harley. I did the first one for Itty Bitty Geek. I made it literally a week after the first trailer for the game came out. I was the first person in North America to make it and really get it out there. And then Jessica Nigri had me make one for her as well, and then it just exploded and to this day, I still get at least two people asking me for it every day.”

What does it feel like to design for video game promotions? It must be pretty exciting to be able to do that.

“Yeah, the whole making the Vivianne for the Bioware—the Dragon Age: Inquisition, all the promotional stuff, that was super humbling. I didn’t think that something like that would ever happen, and when it did it was really exciting for me.”

How long, on average—I know it depends from one to the other—does it take to finish a costume overall?

“Simple ones can be within a week, but really intricate ones like the Arkham Knight Harley can take me up to a month. Especially the Arkham Knight Harley, I cannot make that unless the person is in front of me. So that one is very intensive.”

You can’t do like me and get a pattern from JoAnn’s and make a couple of things….

“Yeah, ‘cause the whole thing, especially with Arkham Knight Harley, is I make it with real vegetable-tanned leather. And with that, it’s literally molded to your body. So if you’re not in front of me there’s no way… It doesn’t matter how many measurements you give me there’s no way I can make it, as much as I might want to.”

And of course, everyone’s going to want it molded.

“(laughs) Oh yeah! I get asked for it all the time, and I’m like, ‘I can’t. You’re in the UK. I can’t do this for you. I’m sorry.’ What I’ll usually do is everything except the corset and the harness if you’re long-distance.”

Which is more challenging for you: creating historical costumes for Ren Fairs or the fantasy costumes, which some of them kind of defy the laws of physics a bit?

“Oh, fantasy hands-down is way more challenging. The historical stuff, I mean, it’s all set. You do this, and this is the end result. You do this, and everything’s gonna look perfect. With fantasy, you’re kind of making it up as you go along. Especially going off of—God love ‘em—going off of video game designs, they don’t design those thinking about gravity and things stretching and moving and…so you kind of have to make it up as you go along. It’s always way more trouble to do the fantasy costumes.”

What would be your dream costume to create?

“I don’t even know what I would do! Just probably one of those super-duper intricate, you’re-probably-going-to-pay-me-two-thousand-dollars-to-make-it-for-you, Game of Thrones outfits. I would love to make one of those. Hand-embroidery, everything. The nines. That would be my dream, to make one of those.”

Let’s talk nerdy! What are some of your favorite personal nerdy interests?

“What isn’t a nerdy interest for me? (laughs). I play video games. I am mostly a movie and comic nerd. X-Men, I love X-Men. Don’t like the movies—like the comics. But yeah, X-Men is my favorite for sure.”

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