Svetlana Quindt gave up a regular job to become a full-time cosplayer.
While most German working adults her age might be pinning down a proper job to support their families, 28-year-old Svetlana Quindt quit hers as a social media agent eight days in, to pursue her love of cosplaying and crafting costumes.
She recalls this pivotal moment in her life, which happened last year.
She had been commissioned by semiconductor chipmaker Intel and computer hardware and software retailer Newegg.com to create two intricate character costumes: a Wizard from the video game Diablo III and a Deathknight from World Of Warcraft.
They were to be showcased at BlizzCon last November, a major annual convention held by game-making giant Blizzard Entertainment, in Anaheim, California. She was thrilled, but also at a loss.
She says: "It was already pretty hard for me because it was quite close to BlizzCon and it was hard to make an elaborate costume and, at the same time, work 40 hours a week."
Quindt, who graduated with a bachelor's degree in technical journalism, had previously declined another invitation to a convention because she did not have enough days off from work.
This was the tipping point.
She says: "I had to make a decision - to accept this commission request and convention invitation or stay with my safe job. And in Germany, it's your goal in life to get a safe job, to work full-time, to save for your kids, to pay the rent, so I was really desperate. I had to make the decision fast, otherwise I would be stuck in this job."
In tears, she consulted her husband Benjamin Schwarz, 28. He told her to live her dream and try it out. So she quit and has not looked back.
This year, Quindt has more than a dozen conventions lined up as she embarks on a world tour and was in Singapore over the weekend to headline the third edition of International Cosplay Day Singapore at *Scape, where she met fans and presented a panel discussion on armour-making.
Since she turned full-time, she has published three books on crafting costumes, available at US$20 (S$25) for a physical copy or US$5 for a digital download.
While she declines to reveal how many copies have been sold, she says that the income is enough for her husband of three years to quit his job in advertising and start working with her in March this year.
Her first foray into cosplaying was in 2003. She wanted to attend an anime convention and while uninterested in costumes then, felt compelled to wear an outfit because most of the attendees would be dressed up.
So she pieced together a costume from the Japanese manga series Dragon Ball, based on the Great Saiyaman character, on her grandmother's sewing machine.
"It was horrible," she admits.
She only got hooked on the culture two years later when she started playing World Of Warcraft, an online role-playing game.
"I got very addicted to it," she raves, "The lore, the world, the books, the quests - the Druid was my very first character. I just loved it, everything was so colourful, so full of fantasy."
Her husband says: "I watch her light up when she sees a character she loves."
He later helps her to put on her full Barbarian outfit, a character from Diablo III, for the photoshoot. It takes them just under half an hour to go from Quindt's black-clad, bespectacled self to an orange-wigged, midriff-baring warrior.
While Quindt's early armour sets took her at least half a year to complete, with "a lot of experimentation and a lot of failing and so much money, time and effort", she has since gained enough experience to pull off a costume in one week, with the help of her husband.
She is quick to add that this means neither of them gets much sleep and that less experienced cosplayers should not be discouraged by the length of time they spend on a costume.
Schwarz chimes in: "The only thing that matters is that you're having fun doing it." Her Facebook page has garnered more than 158,000 "likes" and she regularly posts tutorials on how to work with the materials she uses - types of thermoplastic called Worbla and Wonderflex.
While most of her costumes range between €300 (S$496) and €500 to put together, an especially complex costume might cost up to €1,500 and take 800 hours to create.
Their most important quality, however, is their durability.
Quindt says with a grin: "It's important that the costumes I squish in my suitcase like crazy also survive the trip."
She loves meeting like-minded cosplayers all over the world, from Canada to Italy to Singapore, saying: "You can talk for five minutes and find something in common.
This guy can be your best friend, he also stays awake days before a convention and cries when the sewing machine breaks or when he wants to sleep but the costume is not done."
She still seems to be reeling from her lucky break.
"Every day, I get feedback from people who say, 'I started cosplaying because of you'... It's really amazing. I'm really happy I made this decision and I'm not stuck in a job - and I can change the world with something I love."
This article was first published on August 25, 2014.
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