Conventions are a big part of my life, and the lives of other creators in cities across America. Today, Katharine Tillman talks about the convention experience from the other side of the table. Check out her thoughts on cosplay, vendors, celebrities and more below. Be sure to check out her links that follow!
SC: First tell us a little about yourself, who you are and what you do.
KT: My name is Katharine Tillman but I allow people to call me Kat to make it easier to remember my name. I am a single working woman who also participates in a women’s non-profit non-political service organization called the Daughters of the American Revolution. I currently work for an IT consulting company as Document Support. My hobbies include sewing, crochet (primarily afghans for veterans), knitting (did both needles and loom knitting), light drawing in high school, cross stitch and jewelry making. I am a certified graduate jeweler and lately have been making elastic bracelets and stringing pearls on the side.
SC: How many conventions have you taken part in?
KT: I started attending in 2013 for the first time at Comicpalooza where my sister took me. I then went again for the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. panel after the first season dropped. I then went to Bell County Comic Con (first ever in my area) in 2017 and then managed to attend Comicplaooza 2018, Bell County 2018, Fandemic 2018 (first ever finally) and lastly Wizard Con in Austin 2018. For one day convention trips, I didn’t dress up because it was a one day trip on most occasions.
SC: Why do you enjoy conventions?
KT: I enjoy them to meet certain celebrities but also see my friends who love cosplay be there and take photos with or of them. It is also interesting to see who comes dressed as what at each of the cons. The other thing I like is seeing the exhibitors and vendors and possibly seeing someone new. At Fandemic, I found this booth that was selling jackets that they showed first time ever at San Diego Comic Con (SSDC) that I thought were neat. Expensive but still cool. I also like seeing some vendors that I have seen previously, what new merchandise they might have from the last con I saw them at.
SC: Do you cosplay? What characters?
KT: I have cosplayed at comic cons as Hermione Granger/Gryffindor Student one day and an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. another day. I want to dress up as a Star Wars rebel character (not any one in particular but need help with cinching up the costume). The other costume I would like to get together is a Steampunk version to either wear at cons or at Ren Fest.
SC: Any advice for current cosplayers, or people who might want to?
KT: For current cosplayers, you can always add accessories or improve them if you want to make them more authentic or better depending on your preference. Make-up is another key thing to keep in mind to pull the piece together (took me forever to find the right shade of burgundy red eye shadow for my harry potter look). For new cosplayers, if you want to dress like a character, first thing I suggest is Google different ideas for your costume. This also includes make-up to really stand out. Like for my steampunk costume, I want brown/tan/gold-bronze tones instead of black since my current corset is red and black so I can give myself some color diversity. You can also look for styles of costumes and how others wear theirs or where you might find an inexpensive way of making a decent costume. To make it really good is going to take a lot of research and time so don’t feel bad if you can’t get the perfect costume together before your first con. Starting simple for the cosplay is your best bet to get a great first experience. I will say that custom making pieces is a challenge if you’ve never done it before. For example, my agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. could have been easily mistaken as an MIB costume if I didn’t have my S.H.I.E.L.D. badge on display to tie it together. What I did was have a plain black suit and white top on hand with some shoes (I wore sneakers for comfort that day). All I needed to do was look for a tie that would work and the S.H.I.E.L.D. badge and it was my costume. Starting with what is in your closet first will help you save money on items that you currently don’t need but can put towards props or make-up if needed.
SC: What kind of booth draws your attention?
KT: The booths that draw my attention are ones with either Pop-Funkos, figurines, or other items like jackets, purses or wallets. I normally skim past art tables unless I see a booth that I want to look more into. The first art booth I saw that I really was drawn to was at the Bell County Comic con 2017 who happened to have been at Comicpalooza the following year. He has done anime art (Pokemon), DC, Disney and Marvel. Some of his art is discontinued because the files are missing but I still go to his booth to see what he has new each time I see him at the cons. I enjoy the plushes as well. I really look at all the booths to get a feel of what is there but anything shiny or creatively crafty draws me in.
SC: Have you had any positive vendor experiences you’d like to mention?
KT: The positive experience I’ve had so far is the Artist I met at the Bell County comic CON 2017. I had just purchased a Lucario shimmer drawing and noticed there was a blemish (tear of missing art) on the piece. I took it back to him and showed him and he offered to get me another mailed to me down the road. It turned out that he delivered it to my house since he was in the area and was really sweet about it.
SC: Have you had any particularly negative experiences?
KT: I can say I’ve had at least one negative experience but I did see them again at another con to address it. I was buying a prop holster I had been looking at for at least 3-4 cons at this point and decided to get it. By the time I got home (I didn’t think about it at the time), I realized that the holster I bought would only be able to be worn on my right side when I needed it on my left. If the emblem logo was not on display on either side but was attachable at the booth for the desired person’s request, it would have been an easy sell in my opinion. I did go back and ask them to fix it. The downside (in my opinion) was they seemed annoyed that I was making a simple request. I was willing to do the refund if it could not be done. Their only complaint was its too much hassle and work and inventory to have it for both left and right handed people and to just reverse it. The downside is that the logo is only on one side so it’s not a “simple” fix if you want to show pride. They were willing to work with the request to fix the problem and would contact me once it’s been fixed.
SC: If you had any advice to vendors, what would that be?
KT: For custom orders, consider writing the suggestion ideas down and get the customer’s contact info if you happen to make the item for them. For those that have props that you can customize on site, you can consider adding embellishments per each customer request as needed. Sure this means taking some tools and extra supplies with you but this way, your customers can always come back and recommend you. Just a thought. I remember at a rodeo that a vendor was selling leather wallets, keychains, hats, checkbook holders and had embellishments they could add to the leather products. This example is what I reference as it is a quick idea for vendors to up their profits.
SC: Any interesting or particularly positive celebrity encounters?
KT: I did have a great experience for like 5 seconds with Tom Holland for a photo op. I was in costume as an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. at Comicpalooza 2018 and was walking up to Tom (he actually caught me off guard because I didn’t know he was British) told me that he liked or loved my costume (I can’t fully remember now but I know he commented on it).
I would have to say the best ones I’ve had was with Ross Marquand as well as Michael Rooker, Danny “Machete” Trejo, Zachary Levi, Holly Combs and Brian Krause. So when I met Ross Marquand, I did a video selfie interview with him talking about his t-shirt (clue hinted) and when I messed up his last name, he was a great sport because I felt so bad about messing it up. When I saw Michael Rooker and I gave him a gift, he thought it was so cool and wanted to know where I wanted him to sign it. I had to tell him it literally was for him, lol. For Danny, Holly, Brian and Zachary Levi, I had a little friend with me for his learning experience and training (my sister’s service dog) and everyone loved him and thought he was the cutest thing. When I had the service dog with me during Machete’s panel, I got up and left to go to another panel. While I was walking out down the middle aisle, Machete squealed “Awwww! Puppyyyyy!” As for the meeting with Holly Combs, I saw Brian was looking at us and almost knocked over the barrier between their booths and was given a hard tease about it.
I will say this: when I gave Michael Rooker and Michael Rosenbaum their gifts, they voluntarily gave me their autographs (I told them they didn’t have to but they insisted).
I did however do something a bit special that I want to do for most voice actors (it may not happen as time keeps going and I may only see them once in my life) but I want to give the voice actor a cross stitch of the character they voiced (example would be Zachary Levi as Flynn Rider). I managed to cross stitch it for him and give it to him at Wizard Con. When I was waiting in line for the autographs, he was talking to another fan and noticed the cross stitch I was actually going to have him sign. He commented that it looked really cool. At that point since the fan told him I had one for him, I handed to him and he expressed that it was so cool. He even said the following: “Wait, what is this? Is this cross stitch?” When I said yes, he told his manager and another person behind the table, “You guys, I know my stuff!”
SC: I know you have a lot going on, you cross stitch and do some acting. Tell us all about that!
KT: I only did the one acting portion as a townsperson in the stage show Beauty and the Beast (I had not had the time to go for another show and it may be a while before I go again since I am trying to finish college classes for my general Associate of Arts degree. All the while, I have been cross stitching Disney characters for a trip my sister and I are taking soon. What I want to do is have poster like cross stitching’s for the actors (voice and/or live) to sign instead of getting new posters as cast members change (like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. where Brett Dalton is no longer on the show as well as “Lincoln”, “Bobbie” or the “Ghost Rider”) to sign. Especially those voice actors who have taken on so many roles that there are not enough characters to create. I am now planning to make cross stitches for voice actors to sign and for those that have passed, I hope to at least see who takes up their role (Like the Late Robin Williams who is one of my favorite comedians and Genie from Aladdin). If you want to ask me questions about cross stitching ideas or would like to follow on what I’m doing, you can follow my on Instagram or my Facebook Studio page. I do plan on changing cross stitch projects starting after December until March so it may be a while before I can take commissions if one wants me to make something. I will always post photos of completed projects on my IG and the Facebook Studio page and any updates that happen to them (like autographs), but if you would like me to make something to buy, let me know and We can talk it out. I have actually sold some cross stitches to people in the last 2 years (few and far between but been done).
Contact Katharine and check out her wares at the links below:
Facebook: Katharine Tillman Studio (@ktfinejewelers)