If you’ve been following the coverage of CatCon 2017, you probably saw the inimitable Miel the cat in a few photos and videos. We first met Colleen Bristow-Campbell, the woman behind @dragonsquared, when she was a contestant (and First Runner Up!) in the Furrocious Fashion Face Off at CatCon 2016. She was back this year, appearing in #CatCon selfies and most recently in a feature on “The Ellen Show”. We talked to her about her CatCon experiences, and the cause that’s nearest and dearest to her. (HINT: It involves adorable kittens!)
What was the CATspiration for your distinctive calico costume?
I wanted to make a sweet character, not something fierce or scary. Miel is French for honey, plus when it’s pronounced sounds a bit like a ‘meow’! As a woman close to 6 feet tall, I often get mistaken for a guy so I was looking for a character I could make cute and approachable, that people could identify. So a calico girl was an easy choice! The genetics behind calicos is also a fun little nerdy fact. (Only 1 in 3000 calicos is born male.) My husband and I fostered a litter of kittens shortly after I finished the costume, and one of the kittens was an orange-grey calico who looked just like Miel, it was fate!
Meeting @monty_happiness’ parents
What have some of your most memorable encounters been?
So many people run up and say “My kitty looks just like you!” or “I used to have a cat just like you!”, which is awesome. I worked hard making the costume, and love that to a lot of people I ‘got it right’ and made something they recognize. Hearing “You just made my day!” or that the selfie someone just took with me in my costume was their new favorite is so fun. You make a connection, people immediately warm to you, and that’s always a great feeling. One elderly woman sitting in her walker, as soon as I came around the corner and she saw me, she immediately stood up and shuffled right to me with her arms out, and gave me a big hug. It’s great when you can make a stranger smile so effortlessly!
Miel meets Kitten Lady! Via @kittendorm on Instagram
Southern California in August gets HOT! How do you stay cool in your costume?
The costume is handmade, but my under suit is actually a store bought variety used by athletes and performers. It’s very similar to the sort of thing NASCAR drivers use to keep cool in their cars. It has irrigation tubing sewn to it, which is attached to a reservoir of ice water and a little battery operated pump which cycles the water to help regulate body temperature. It makes costuming during summer events so much more comfortable. Sometimes I even get cold– it IS ice water!
How did you get started with costume design?
It started with my love of all those awesome 80s cartoons; “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”, Samurai Pizza Cats, The Secret of NIMH, All Dogs Go to Heaven, cartoons where the superheroes are anthropomorphic animals. I started going to DragonCon and Comic Con which are full of these characters. Everyone there is self-taught, and I started watching YouTube tutorials on how to sew and the rest is history! My first costume was a unicorn because I liked the movie The Last Unicorn. I’ve also made lions, dogs, bunny rabbits, dragons, I love all the unique shapes and challenges to building animal costumes. And they’re a lot of fun to perform in. I am a nerdy girl, but it’s easy to be confident and enthusiastic in a costume!
Right now I’m working for Disney Research as a Rapid Prototyper, building prototypes out of the crazy ideas of Imagineering. Working on costumes is something I still enjoy doing on the weekends. I’ve also built costumes for web series like “The Guild” and “Video Game Reunion”.
Kitten Dorm guests. Photo courtesy Colleen Bristow-Campbell
While you’re a terrific guest and great fun to have at CatCon, you were there promoting an important cause, fostering kittens with KittenDorm. Can you tell us a little bit about what you do, and how you got involved in fostering?
Not many people understand that you can still contribute and save lives, even if you’re not in the position to commit to the responsibility of adopting an animal. Even just a few weeks here and there makes a monumental difference to an animal that otherwise wouldn’t make it in a shelter environment. If you have a spare room or spare bathroom, with a little bit of effort you can make a HUGE difference. I’m always happy to talk to people about fostering!
Andromeda surveys the scene. Photo courtesy Colleen Bristow-Campbell
I have a guest bathroom that serves as a kitten quarantine for the first few weeks , then they’re moved into a bigger room to socialize with other kittens before getting fixed, vaccinated and adopted. I foster all ages, but I take in a lot of kittens who are still nursing, and who need round-the-clock bottle feeding. These are the ones who are too young to be at a shelter and would otherwise have been euthanized. You are their only hope, so even waking up every two hours to bottle feed them feels like small sacrifice for a huge reward. Once they’re old enough to play, to run up and cuddle on your lap, you forget all about the missed sleep. I selfishly get to have a constant stream of adorable kittens in my life as they grow and get ready for adoption!
It’s the Circle of Life! via @kittendorm on Instagram
We also do a lot of work with Cat Love Rescue, who help find homes for older animals as well.
Will you be back at CatCon next year? Any surprises in store?
Absolutely! I would love to have some time to expand my clowder with a tuxedo or a tabby, maybe a siamese or Bengal… I definitely like building animals that make a connection with the people around me, and there are so many excellent cat models out there. CatCon is by far my favorite event of the year, and I hear DogCon is going to be great, so we’ll just have to see if I can create a well-mannered puppy for the park! Can’t wait!