A few years back I made a shoddy Warhammer 40k – Imperial Guard cosplay for Phoenix Comicon that consisted of lacrosse gear, spray paint, and a nerf gun. A majority of convention-goers had no idea what I was, however there were a few folks who did recognize what I was and they actually gave me praise for doing it! One of these fine folks was Jay Zarecki, at the time I had no idea who he was but he told me to watch out for his Warhammer cosplay the next day. I said I would but had no idea what he was talking about.
The next day came and I was having a wonderful time, and then I saw a giant Space Wolf cosplay that towered above everyone, the cosplayer inside could not move because he was surrounded by photographers snapping photos. He spotted me and waved, I was surprised by the action until it hit me that this was the same guy who praised me for my super shoddy Imperial Guard cosplay. Since then, I’ve been following him on Facebook and look forward to his next costumes!
With out further ado, here is my interview with Jay Zarecki!
The Geek Lyfe: Although I am a fan of yours, there may be a few readers who have not seen your work before, would you be alright introducing yourself?
Jay: Thanks for being a fan, DeAngelo. My name is Jay Zarecki, and I have been making costumes for about 31 years, starting with a Proton Pack from Ghostbusters, later made a few Star Trek costumes, Batman, and some other things until in 1999 I made a Sandtrooper and joined the 501st Legion in 2000.
I think I’m most known for Link from the Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. It weighs the most of any of my costumes; probably around 85 to 100 pounds, due to the real chain-mail and weapons, and took me over a year to make. Most of the other costumes I’ve made in about a month or less.
I have co-founded two local costuming groups, the Arizona Joe’s (GI Joe) and the Arizona Autobots (Transformers). Several friends and I, made some Gears of War costumes to include Jessica Nigri for the Gears3 game release a few years ago. I have also made Voltron and a full-scale Warhammer Space Marine.
TGL: Could you tell us how you got into costuming and what led you to where you are now?
J: My mother got me into it, as she was a seamstress for a national performing singing group back in New York. She helped me make a TOS Star Trek costume back in 1993.
In the last two years, I’ve been solely making Autobots and Decepticons. The learning and designing curve was pretty high. Trying to get IDW artwork, or the cartoon scale and designs into the real world were actually very hard and a difficult process. Trying to capture an emotion for each Helmet was a challenge that was pretty fun to figure out. Learning a whole new process of working with foam was a massive group project that I think turned out pretty well. The last Autobot/Decepticon I built took about 2 days, but the one I’m most proud of is Soundwave.
Over the years I’ve met interesting people all with different skill sets; artists, prop makers, famous people, fans, and other costumers, all of which helped me learn more and more about the trade.
TGL: When you aren’t doing awesome costumes, what do you do?
J: I’m a flight director at the Space Center, I teach music for the City of Surprise as well as privately, and I’m in one of the top punk bands in Arizona; Interstate Heroes. I also have a 6-year-old daughter, and she’s already into making her own costumes.
TGL: What geek medium (Video Games, costuming, books, movies, etc.) would you say has impacted the most and why?
J: Movies. It’s the realistic props and awesomeness that comes across on the screen that’s awesome. But I shouldn’t forget Warhammer. I’ve been playing since 1992, and it has influenced me a great deal due to its extreme detail on all the miniatures and art, that trying to bring across to real life is a challenge. Warhammer influenced some of the greatest games of our time: Starcraft and Gears of War. Also, Being a part of the 501st Legion has also shown me the intricate parts of making props and costumes that you’d really not know was there, but by having it a part of the prop or costume adds that much more realism to it.
TGL: What has been your favorite moment in your costuming career?
J: Winning 2nd at the PCC Masquerade with my small scale Space Marine in 2012. And most recently, due to the realistic take I’ve designed with the Autobots, having our members cast in a live-action, with a good budget, Transformers movie, shot Hollywood style out in California.
TGL: What was one major conflict you have faced or do face and how did you resolve it?
J: The conflict I think all costumers face at one point or another is how to bring your costume to life. Loads of reference photos and plans all help in the end, but sometimes I find it difficult to decide where to start.
TGL: Due to a series of unfortunate events, one fictional world merges with our real one. Which universe do you bring to life? Warhammer 40k, Mass Effect, World of Warcraft, StarCraft, Diablo, Lord Of The Rings, Star Trek or Star Wars? And why?
J: Star Trek would be the safest bet. Humanity is far better off in that universe. No need for money, which eliminates greed and poverty. Everything is about bettering mankind, and all about exploring.
TGL: Do you have any projects in the near future that we’d be excited to see?
J: Working on a better Space Marine, and possibly a larger Voltron. With all the new skills I’ve learned building Autobots and Decepticons, foam has become a great medium to work in as compared to the circle of death that is Fiberglass and Bondo. But the dream costume is to finish this Toothless quad-suit costume.
TGL: What advice do you have for any aspiring costumers out there?
J: Get to know everyone, and pick their brains on how they made their props or costumes. There is always someone better than you at something. Don’t be shy, ask them how they made it, and than go try it out! They only way to get better at something is to fail a few times, and keep picking yourself back up and trying again until its the best you can do!
I want to give a huge shout out to Jay for taking the time to answer a few of our questions! He is a fantastic cosplayer and incredibly humble seeing as he doesn’t even have a Facebook page! You’ll just have to check him out at conventions!
Warhammer photo by: Tony Julius