When you can’t find Kathleen Mercury teaching middle school design or science she is usually busy playing or designing board games or planning her next cosplay project.
When designing class activities while teaching extended classes at her former school in the US (2012-2020) she would often think to herself, “What do geeky adults do?” and then have her students do exactly that. Through this, she saw opportunities to express creativity and passion. Cosplay was the greatest trick to get students to work hard and engage thoroughly, especially near Halloween.
Sometimes, their excitement would overflow to the point of going to school on Sundays to work on costumes. With Netflix and snacks, they would spend hours working on their costumes or going thrifting for pieces and even dining at the culinary experience that is IKEA! “There was a weekend when I had three parents send me pictures of their [male children] on the sewing machine and it was so funny. The parents thought it was the greatest thing,” recalls Mercury.
I’m gonna be wearing, the biggest most ridiculous costume of everyone in school, so if my crazy self can do it, everyone can. Life’s short, let yourself be free!Kathleen Mercury
“[During] Covid, we were online, so every day I did a different character makeup, so when I would turn on my camera once class started they would have Scar from Lion king, skeleton, or the evil queen from Snow White looking at them.”
Mercury fondly shares “The reason why I love cosplay is that it’s about inserting yourself into the narrative, not wanting to look like such and such, but becoming them.” There are several types of cosplay, including but not limited to, perfection cosplay, where you achieve the perfect identical-to-the-character look, crossplay, where you dress like characters of the opposite sex, and juxtaposing cosplay where you combine characters together, which happens to be Mercury’s favorite type.
Cosplay gives people the opportunity to really live in a narrative world. We need play in our lives. We need imagination. I don’t care who old or young you are, I love me a good costume.Kathleen Mercury
When it comes to sewing, it’s a hard pass. She instead prefers to find the bits and pieces and put the costume together. For example, for Darth-Ursula (a mix of Darth Vader from Star Wars and Ursula from Little Mermaid) she made tiny sea creatures out of clay and stuck them onto Darth Vader’s metal armor to make them look like mechanical buttons. She has been known to spend as much as 300-400 dollars on her costumes! For example, for Rosie Riveter-Superwoman, bought original goggles and a drill from 1940 that the women welding back then could’ve actually used. No one else would notice it, but for her, that is what it means to be passionate about something.