ANDERSON – Alex Cox wrapped Emma Krieg, wearing a painter’s suit, with duct tape from her shoulders to her knees before cutting a slit along the back to let her out.
The 14-year-old Anderson Preparatory Academy sophomores then traced onto the duct tape dummy areas where they planned to place blue fur.
“You then cut it into pieces and put it onto the corresponding fur color,” Alex said. “There was so much tape involved. It was not just the duct tape dummy. We had to tape everything, essentially, to pattern it.”
The end was Jet the Blue Jay, the school’s new mascot, unveiled a couple of weeks ago at an all-school assembly. Alex and Emma actually put in 100 hours over the summer to design and sew two suits in two sizes.
Anderson University also recently unveiled a buffer Rodney the Raven mascot, designed by Jeffrey Jackson, that will bring a new voice and personality to the NCAA Div. 3 school’s athletic events.
The blue jay replaces APA’s previous mascot, Captain Cal, a pilot in a gray suit and aviator helmet waving light sticks. Emma said she found that mascot not very engaging and its dual roles as a pilot and a ground control marshaller confusing since a pilot can’t be in a plane and on the ground at the same time.
Alex and Emma decided to go a whole different direction when late last year they were challenged by English language arts teacher Cassandra Lindemeyer to come up with ideas to improve school spirit.
“Originally, it started as a joke,” Alex said. “We jokingly said, ‘How about we have a real mascot? It kept going until we actually designed it.”
Starting with sketches, the pair visited furry fandom YouTube sites to learn how to make the costume. Though a professionally commissioned suit can cost $3,000 or more, Alex and Emma were about to make theirs for about $800.
Alex did the cutting, and Emma did the sewing, placing each feather on the wings individually. Though they each have been into furry character costumes and other cosplay for about three years, this is their first real dive into making one, they said.
Creating a mascot is not only about the costume but also about the character. Though Jet does not yet have a back story, Alex and Emma said, he – or she since they consider the character gender-neutral – has been practicing with the school’s cheerleaders to learn their routines.
“Sometimes, we will need to break off from the cheerleaders, but some of our moves should be the same,” Alex said. “When I’m in the suit, I’m improvising literally everything. You have to feel the atmosphere to know what’s appropriate.”
Emma said it was important that the character design and personality were fun for the audience.
“Mascots are made to be fun for the audience. It’s fun for kids,” Emma said. “If they’re scared of you, you act scared of them.”
Emma said she also feels a sense of satisfaction in creating a new personality.
“You feel like someone different. It’s an escape from your own life,” she said. “It’s taking that part of yourself and making it better. It’s a good place to put your anxieties.”
Wanting to preserve all their hard work, Alex and Emma plan to leave the costumes to the school with an extensive care manual in case cleaning or repairs are needed. They also plan to do interviews their senior year to help select their successor.
“We don’t want to give it up to just anyone,” Emma said. “I fully intend to stay connected with it.”