Many steampunks around the world will be familiar with the name Tayliss Forge. From her first experience of steampunk at a convention in 2009, she’s built up a large fanbase on social media. Partially down to her exceptional skills at making steampunk costumes as well as her many modelling shoots and of course being a super nice person to talk to. In this interview, she chats about her steampunk origins, her love of conventions and her involvement with the amazing League of S.T.E.A.M.
Astonishingly, some people may not have heard about you. Could you tell us a little about yourself?
Hello, my name is Tayliss. I have lived in Southern California all my life with my family. Growing up I was a total nerd, A+ student and total geek. President of Anime Club in high school and a manager for the theatre department. I loved doing musical theatre (can you imagine me as Veruca Salt?) and being a technician as well. After high school I started a marketing degree and I’m two classes away from my bachelors! When filming for Steampunk’d was finished last year, I decided to take a break from my degree to get an occupational certificate in fashion design. I will be completing my certificate this semester and bachelor’s degree next semester.
You’re well known in the steampunk community. How does it make you feel to know you have a global fanbase?
It’s an interesting experience for sure. I just started doing this because I have a passion for costuming and people liked what I did. While I have a fan base, most of my decisions come from what I enjoy rather than what I believe will be popular. Knowing they’re watching doesn’t have much of an affect for that reason.
You’ve managed to pick up that enthusiastic following in a relatively short time. What do you think has contributed to that success?
A little over a year ago a lot of stuff happened. To put it plainly, my family did not approve of my life choices as an artist. I chose to completely separate myself and market my cosplay more. I made a new Facebook account, started an Instagram, and used other social media forms. Having a public personal account on Facebook receives a higher viewership for free rather than having a public page. I have been using that for over a year to my advantage.
I had tons of photos from my costuming shoots over the years and I apparently have a knack for social media marketing. In less than two months, I had over 2k followers on my Instagram which helped boost my Facebook. I started having conventions requesting my appearance very soon after. Of course, being on TV helps just not as much as one would expect because it was aired on GSN.
Modelling and Making
You’re a model as well as a maker. Did you start modelling for your clothes or start clothes making for your modelling?
I began with making my first steampunk costume in 2011 and I met a photographer at a convention that loved what I did. I was his first model and he was my first photographer. We’ve worked together a ton since then so I have a wide portfolio of me modelling my costumes. It’s always been about the costumery, but I enjoy modelling too!
You make a wide variety of clothing and accessories. Which are your favourites to make? Is it because they’re easier than others or because you can be more creative?
I think making chokers and leather corsets have been my favourite over all. I can do a lot of really fun chain work and decoration on velvet chokers. On my corsets, I sew them by hand. It’s so much work, but it’s always worth it. Testing out new leathers, embossing, new colours, and other techniques make them each unique. Both items I have creative freedom over and infinite possibilities.
Exposure and Elves
You posted an image about how you can’t eat Exposure. Do you feel that this problem of people wanting artists to work for free is getting better or worse?
I did post a photo as a joke, apparently other people found it funny as well. I’ve received a lot of back lash as well, but it happens when something gets popular. I feel like the problem of making artists work for free in exchange for exposure is getting worse as the internet and social media forms grow.
Before we had only a few sources that people could get exposure, but they actually had direct relation to sales because there were less options. For example, putting an ad in the newspaper to let people know where to buy hats actually sold more hats. Now, everyone believes that having a certain number of “followers” creates exposure which can be used as a form of currency. While this works for some people, it should not be treated as actual currency.
I have been asked to give Instagramers free jewellery in exchange for exposure on their page and other situations. Giving that piece of jewellery away for free just takes away the materials I paid for and the hours I worked on it. I may get something in return from the “exposure,” but there is absolutely NO guarantee. It would be silly for any other profession to be put in the same position. Asking a construction worker for free because so many people will pass the building they work on would be unreasonable. The same should be for any artist as well. If an artist does choose to do something for free that’s their decision just like volunteer work. Expecting that of an artist is way too common though.
I think websites such as Model Mayhem and the saturated wedding photography market has played a massive part in models and photographers offering services for free. What do you think has caused it or played a part?
The internet has definitely played a major role in this. Now anyone can become an Instagram or Facebook model. While I think it’s amazing that we’re receiving more confident men and women from this, it’s making it harder for anyone to get paid gigs. With so many free options, why pay?
One of your areas of making that interests me is the Elf ears. Is Elf lore something you’ve been interested in for a while?
I’ve always identified more with full or half elves in Dungeons and Dragons because I have the same body type and I look younger than I am. While elves in Lord of the Rings are pictured as tall, elves in Dungeons and Dragons are shorter with tall person proportions. While I’m short for a human (158cm), this is the average height for a DnD elf.
You’re a big fan of sci-fi but you’ve not adapted a character to a steampunk version (that I can find). Is that something you’d like to do or have plans to do?
I’m actually not a huge fan of mashups in my own work. While it’s popular, that’s not what I aim for. I prefer to have my own original steampunk characters. Not only because I can look any way I like, but I have creative freedom.
What did you think of the new Star Wars film? I was on the side of the people who saw the similar plot line to A New Hope and was disappointed. When I saw what Abrams did with Star Trek I was really excited as well.
I loved the new Star Wars film. While it could have gone a lot of different ways, I’m glad it went more toward the traditional hero’s journey route. There are tons of similarities between the original films, but that’s what people wanted.
Conventions and Cosplay
You’re a regular at conventions. Which was the first one you went to?
My first convention was seven years ago at Anime Expo located in Los Angeles. I joined a lot of my friends from anime club and it was a ton of fun. I have attended every year since then.
What inspired you to move into steampunk?
I had friends in high school who were interested in steampunk. While they eventually lost interest, I never did. Going to my first convention gave me a lot of inspiration especially because the League of STEAM hosted a steampunk panel there. I designed my first steampunk costume during that panel. I then started making jewellery and hand sewing costumes.
You’ve since been in a League of S.T.E.A.M episode, what was that like?
I have actually helped them with a few projects. After meeting them at the convention, I helped them as an extra for one of their season two episodes. I later helped them with the Savant music video and then wore my second handmade steampunk costume in their recent season finale. They’re an amazing group of people and I love seeing them at conventions They are some of the nicest people as well.
Do you have any other plans for working on television now that you have an IMDb page?
I would like to work on some non-reality TV work in theatre, TV, or film. I have been asked, but I haven’t been confronted with any real opportunities yet.
Which is your favourite convention you attend?
When it comes to general conventions, Stan Lee’s Los Angeles Comic Con (previously called Comikaze) is my favourite. They bring great guests and vendors are extremely friendly. While I love SLLACC, nothing compares to Wild Wild West Con held in Tuscon, Arizona. The staff and location are perfect. It’s held on a film studio set used for old American wild west films. I’m looking forward to attending again next March.
Are there any that you’d like to go to but can’t?
I’d love to travel to conventions all over the world, but I live on a college student budget. I have been grateful to the conventions so far that have brought me to places around the US that I normally couldn’t attend.
Do you have a stand or do you walk around meeting people?
When I attend conventions for fun such as Anime Expo or SLLACC, I walk around and just have a good time. If I’m a guest I usually sell wares, host panels, etc.
What do you think of cosplayers who also Twitch? Do you think they Cosplay to promote their Twitch or that they Twitch to make money to Cosplay?
I think Twitch has helped a lot of people make money in a way that was unavailable before. Each person has their own individual reasons why they do it, but it’s not my place to question why.
What are your plans for the future?
Finishing school is my number one goal. After that, I hope to work in a theatre doing costuming as a profession. Otherwise, we’ll have to see what happens!