Like many creatives, Alea Holland has a dream: to live off something she loves, building a career out of her craft. Having a day job in retail, there are not many outlets for creativity during daily shifts – which is why Alea has turned to costume and prop making to kick off her creative juices in her spare time. And you can tell from the pictures below that she's a huge Star Wars fan.
Alea also seems to have a special love for teaching. Everything she builds gets filmed and uploaded on her YouTube channel, now sitting at over 100k subscribers. Which, in this digital era of visual noise and information overload, is certainly quite an achievement.
For this Member Spotlight, we're having a lovely chat with a talented artist and costume maker. And we know her time to shine will come pretty soon.
Where are you based now and who do you work for?
I am currently based in Sussex in England and in terms of my creative work, I work for myself. I have a day job in retail but in my spare time I make props and costumes based off movies and television shows that I am interested in to learn more about different techniques and continue to learn and improve on my makes. I am hoping to find a place with a props company in the future and make it a full time career, as it is my greatest passion. Everything I build gets filmed and uploaded to my YouTube channel, Ace Cosplay, where I show other people how you can make certain props and costume pieces on a budget and get them interested in creating either as a hobby or possible career path.
Can you explain your creative process?
The way I work is a form of problem solving, I would say. Usually I look at something that already exists, eg. a superhero/villain costume from a movie, and start to break it down to see how I could possibly replicate it. This involves research on how the original piece was created (if there is any existing reference material for that) and seeing if their methods are something I can reasonably reproduce or if there is another method I can use that will give the desired effect.
I make sketches and notes to help plan out in my head what parts I would need to make from scratch, what parts I can repurpose from existing items or if it's something incredibly specific, if it will need to be commissioned.
From there it’s a case of putting everything together. Sometimes an idea that works on paper doesn’t work practically, so you have to think on your feet and find a way around. This is something I really enjoy about creating as it forces you to try new things. Sometimes what you’re doing can go wrong on a project but in such a way that you think ‘oh, this look could be perfect for another prop/costume’. So you make a mental note of it and work your way around the current problem.
For me it’s a constant learning curve and when you get to the end of a long build it’s an extremely fulfilling feeling.
Photo credit: Pow Pow Pictures
How has technology affected the way you work (if at all)?
Technology has been instrumental in helping me move my work forward. A lot of creators now share their creative process online and it's really what got me started learning how to make things myself. Having a video tutorial for me is the ideal way to learn as seeing how the process works is more informative than a written set of instructions. So I have taken that on board and started to film the creative process of my makes, in order to show others how I went about creating a specific piece and how they can also replicate it at home. I think a creative outlet should be available to anyone who wants to give it a go.
What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?
Staying motivated can be difficult sometimes, especially if something is not going how you planned, but over the years I have found a few ways around that slump. First and foremost, if any aspect of a build is frustrating you and you cant seem to get it right, just take a step back and move on to something else temporarily. Sometimes you just need to step back from the problem to figure out how best to overcome it. This could be working on another project if you have more than one or just taking a quick break.
Sometimes looking back over the original source material helps to re-inspire me if I am struggling with a project, as currently I get to work on costumes/props I have a personal interest in. Sharing works in progress also helps. A lot of my friends have the same interests as me so a second, honest opinion can also really help.
What’s the work achievement you’re most proud of?
It’s actually one of my earlier projects. Back in 2013 I set about making a fully wearable Doctor Octopus costume from Spider-Man 2 (2004). It was the biggest project I had ever tackled at that time and I had no experience with moulding and casting. The whole costume took about a year to put together including the time spent planning. It was a long process but once it was completed, I was so pleased with how it looked and the great reception the costume got at conventions. It even got approval from Alfred Molina, the actor who originally played the character via twitter. It proved to me that with time and practice you can make whatever you want!
How do you recharge away from the office?
If I'm not making my costumes I can usually be found practicing my drawing skills, indulging in some video games or just wearing my costumes around for fun. With Covid having cancelled all the large social gatherings and conventions that I would usually attend in costume, I mostly make small videos with my work on social media just to keep interacting with people.
What’s your one big hope for the future of the creative industries?
With the world being the way it is now, I fear that the arts are going to suffer the most and I know that certain aspects like theatre have been struggling. I hope the creative industry can come out the other side of this stronger and hopefully it can thrive for a long time to come.
If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?
Speaking personally, I would change it so it would be easier for aspiring creators to be able to get a foot in the door regarding where they want to take their career path. A lot of people don’t view artistic jobs as “real” jobs and it can be hard for people to find success. There is a lot of talent out there and I hope people get to use it.