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Staff Spotlight: Emily Bishop

03/13/2020

She drinks her tea from a cauldron and her patronus is a hedgehog.

Emily Bishop stands with her wands and Harry Potter-inspired crafts.

SLU staff member Emily Bishop stands with a display of her wares inspired by the world of Harry Potter. Submitted photo

Her cubicle may not be as spacious as Hogwarts’ Great Hall, but for Emily Bishop, program coordinator in Saint Louis University’s Division of Infectious Diseases, Allergy and Immunology and the Center for Vaccine Development, it’s a piece of the Potterverse she devotes her time and creative abilities to making real – through meticulously crafted cosplay ensembles and a home-based wand-making business.

The space has become a shrine to the fantasy series, and Bishop is quick to share her love of all things Harry Potter with her fellow Billiken staff, faculty members and students.

“Most of us believed in some sort of magic as a child, and I think most of us wanted that magic to be inside ourselves,” Bishop, who joined the staff in the School of Medicine in 2018, said. “Harry Potter offers everyone a chance to step into another world where magic is both real and tangible, where children can be extraordinary and the heroes of their own lives.”

Bishop was drawn to the wizards, witches and fantastic creatures created by author J.K. Rowling as much by their quirks as by their magic abilities.

Emily Bishop as Luna Lovegood from the world of Harry Potter.
Emily Bishop transforms herself into Luna Lovegood. Submitted photo

“The heroes in Harry Potter are unconventional, and that is so important for kids to see,” Bishop said. “Harry Potter is a boy with a funny scar and big glasses, Hermione Granger is a girl whose greatest fear is getting expelled from school, and Ron Weasley isn’t particularly gifted in magic but he’s fiercely loyal to his friends.”

“Harry Potter shows us how to stand up for what is right and to fight for what we believe in, even if that means going against the rules,” she continued. “It teaches us to think for ourselves, and shows us that being different can be what makes us magical.”

From Fan to Creator to Entrepreneur

A fan of Luna Lovegood and a member of House Ravenclaw, Bishop devotes her time beyond the office to researching and creating costumes for cosplay.

She wears her creations to benefits, like a 1920s-themed charity outing that featured a screening of Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindlewald. She appeared as Newt Scamander, the famed Magizoologist and author of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Creating Scamander’s famed bowtruckle was a special challenge that Bishop enjoyed mastering.

Not content to keep her costuming and prop-making expertise to herself, Bishop combines an entrepreneurial spirit with her passion as the owner and creator behind Swish & Flick Wand Co., her Potterverse-inspired business. Her biggest seller online are six-inch baby wands, perfect for newborn photo shoots. She also does party packs for weddings, birthdays and special occasions. 

Emily Bishop as Newt from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
Newt Scamander is another of Emily Bishop's guises. Submitted photo

Swish & Flick Wand Co. has a booth at the Saint Louis Science Center’s “First Fridays,” with an outing coming up in the fall.

“I love doing face-to-face events so that the wand can truly choose the wizard!” Bishop said. “It’s so much fun to see everyone, kids and adults alike, pick up each wand and see what feels right. I make specialty wands with crystals, colorful details, and some even glow in the dark. There’s truly a wand for every wizard out there.”

A Wizard for Others

Like the wizards come together as members of SLUpefy, the University’s Harry Potter-themed student organization, Bishop finds Jesuit values embedded in Rowling’s fantasy world of muggles and magicians.

“SLU’s Jesuit mission is all about serving others and making ideas into actions,” she explained. “Harry Potter teaches us to put our talents to good use, stand up for what is right, and help those who cannot help themselves.”

More About Emily’s Love of All Things Potter

How did you begin to explore cosplay as part of your fandom?

Cosplay seemed like a natural follow up to wand making. Who can resist dressing the part when you know how to build your own props?

Tell us about your favorite character and your favorite costumes.

My favorite character in Harry Potter is Luna Lovegood. She is in Ravenclaw (the house I am in), and she is the oddest, most wonderful girl in the whole series. She is absolutely and unapologetically herself, and I find that inspiring.

I made a replica of her wand, and when that was successful, I decided to go all in and create a full costume.

Our division lets us wear costumes to work on Halloween, and my Luna cosplay was so convincing that several of the doctors who stopped by my desk legitimately did not recognize me!

They asked when Emily would be in and if I was filling in for her that day.

What is the process like for assembling your outfits and perfecting your look?

It’s all about research! The books are a great resource, but the movies are excellent for making a recognizable character.

First, I look at the costumes piece-by-piece and decide whether I can afford to do a perfectly faithful recreation, or if I will need to make a costume that is reminiscent enough of the character for people to recognize me. For instance, I was able to find a perfect replica of Newt Scamander’s overcoat from the first Fantastic Beasts, but finding a suit in my size at an affordable price is out of the question.

Next, I make a list of the props that I will need to make, then decide what materials I will use. For Luna, I created her distinctive dirigible plum earrings from polymer clay and her glasses from leftover plastic and printed cardstock. For Newt, I made the bowtruckle from a stem of a silk flower, beads and embroidery floss.

What else should we know about your Potter passion?

You forgot to ask what my houses are! My Hogwarts house is Ravenclaw, and my Ilvermorny House (the American school mentioned in Fantastic Beasts) is Pukwudgie.

My patronus is a hedgehog and my wand is laurel wood with a unicorn hair core, 14 1/4 inches and hard flexibility.

Staff Spotlight is an occasional series dedicated to revealing the stories behind the name badges of SLU's staff members. Emily was nominated for a profile by fellow SLU staff member Tammy Grant. Whose story do you want to learn? Find out more about how to nominate a staff member for a Spotlight here.

To suggest a staff member to shine a light on, contact Newslink or call 314-977-2519.