Frequently Asked Questions
As a cosplay I get a lot of questions some are people that are genuinely interested and cosplay, sewing and my process. However there are some that you just need to ignore to keep your sanity.
How did you get your start in the Cosplay community?
I officially started cosplaying in 2015, when I saw a sassy little robot taking the Star Wars fandom by storm. The design of BB-8 spoke to me. I had been seeing others interpretations of BB8 and thought “I have been costuming professionally for 4 years, why can’t I do it?” So I blew the dust off my discount Janome, dug out some quilting cotton and started my cosplay journey. A lot of people enjoy the creative outlet that cosplay provides: the ability to imagine or see something and then to be able to wear and embody their favorite characters. While I do love that about cosplay, the thing that pulled me in first was the community of cosplayers. I fell in love with the support it provided.
Are there specific factors you consider for every design, or does it change for each build?
(submitted via Instagram)
I think each build is different but one thing is the same. I have to like the design and/or the character enough to let them live rent free in my head for as long as I am going to be building them. Most times I like to do a 75/25 split, in that at around 75% of the build will involve techniques I absolutely know, or at least have a passing acquaintance with; and 25% of the build will be new skills. For instance, I know a lot about sewing, but sewing skills such as smocking, or actually USING my embroidery machine might be new to me skills. With the 75/25 split, I am making sure I learn something new, but also making sure that I don’t get so frustrated with a project I give up.
Alright... Let's talk about BEN because I get a lot of questions
How did you go from beautiful fabric creations to …. *gesticulates wildly at BEN*
My most ambitious cosplay started during the Covid shutdown in 2020. With or without global shutdowns, I never stop trying new techniques and teaching myself new skills. However, WITH the shutdown there was even more time to do so. So, when some folks were learning to knit, or starting a sourdough journey, I taught myself how to build a Ben Franklin themed Warhammer Space Marine. I worked out the design years ago while on vacation but now I had nothing but time. The school where I taught was closed and the fabric store where I had part-time hours had cut down hours and staff to a bare minimum, so I had time.
My husband, Bee, made a Space Marine a few years ago which inspired me to design my Space Marine, whom I now call BEN. Because my husband was on permanent work from home, I could pick his brain on the challenges he faced during his build. Furthermore, since Bee had already built a Space Marine, and had been squirreling away foam and other materials for a repair/rebuild of his Marine, there was a basement full of tools and supplies specifically for this sort of build. I had a guide. I had a basement workshop. I had the raw materials. And now I had the time.
Cosplay is like handing someone a puzzle that has no pieces. Just the pictures. First, you have to make the pieces, and then you figure out how those pieces fit together. After many trials and errors, working with new-to-you materials and techniques, you might–if you’re lucky–get a good first draft. This was true for when BEN first came together in his first iteration. You have to have a first iteration before it can be improved on. After every competition I would email the judges on how I could make him a better built cosplay I would take their advice and add my list of changes.
To accomplish a lot of the changes, more research was needed on newer technology. I connected with the Warhammmer community by reaching out to others whose work I admired like Fred and Elle Cosplay; Hoku Props; Plexi Cosplay; and Downen Creations. With their advice and support, I was rebuilding the lower half while redesigning the whole internal support structure. These foolhardy adventures in foam and PVC was all worth it. In 2023 I won the Master of Cosplay Grand Prix at Canada Fan Expo with a 7 foot tall Space Marine built with foam and fabric, PVC and 3D printed parts.
What does BEN stand for?
British Empire Neutralizer
A Benjamin Franklin Space Marine, Why?
I think I have told this story at least a hundred times.
Back when I was 12 maybe 13 my parents sent me to summer camp, like most kids and while I didn’t get physically bullied, there was a camper that called me Ben Franklin. I told them to stop and they didn’t. Now, I was not the most feminine pre teen. Imagine being a stocky pre teen, with bright red hair and glasses. It was not that flattering to be called a chubby 70 year old man. When I asked why they were calling me that. The camper said it was to remind me to look through my glasses, not over the frames as I have a tendency to do.
As I got older I realized that as a child, I focused on Ben Franklin in the wrong light, taking the wrong aspects of him–the physical aspects that many teen girls aren’t keen on replicating. But he also invented and discovered some really amazing things. He was clever in so many ways. I wanted to reclaim those aspects of him.
I also wanted to create that character that would have my back in times like this, in times when I might feel like a young teen girl being bullied for a silly reason. I wanted to create a character who was clever and a builder, and was A SEVEN FOOT SPACE MARINE that could be there for little me and maybe I would be that for others who might need a clever SEVEN FOOT SPACE MARINE to support them.
Who is Mini BEN?
That is a great question, Mini BEN is what I wear under BEN. There are several reasons why Mini BEN exists. First, I can only last about 3 to 4 hours in the whole Space Marine Suit and I wanted to wear something interesting while I am just walking about the convention floor. Second, Mini BEN helps my body support the overall larger structure. A lot of people think Corsets and Stays are constrictive, but they only are if they are made and/or used incorrectly. In reality, one of the main functions of corsets or stays was to help keep the weight of skirts and petticoats from pulling the skin of the abdomen and cutting into the hip bones. I built Mini BEN with stays for the same reason but in reverse. With the full build, I am wearing a hiking backpack frame to support the structure of BEN. And so the weight of the Space Marine armor is pressing down on me from above. The stays in Mini BEN help keep the weight of the chest from cutting into my hips. It also prevents chafing. It can get sweaty in there pretty quickly.
How long did it take to build BEN
I built BEN in phases. The first phase took about a year and was entered into the second year of Ultimate Online Cosplay Championship where I won a Judge’s choice. After that I was able to talk with a few of the judges about how to improve his design and presentation.
Those adjustments took me another year and involved re-structuring the whole lower half, rebuilding the boots to accommodate new stilts, and building a completely new hand to accommodate his lightning rod cane.
I then entered him in the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, better known as, C2E2. While I did not place in that competition, being at that con showed me how long I could handle actively being BEN. Furthermore, after the con I spoke with the judges about what I could improve for his final iteration. There were smaller critiques that some might call nit-picky, but they helped me bring BEN up to championship level. Most of that time was spent repainting parts of him. Some of the paint had rubbed off and other sections needed attention so that the weathering was consistent throughout the build. The re-painting took about 2 weeks. We competed at Fan Expo Boston and then only had 3 weeks before the Final at FanExpo in Toronto, so I did not have time to do anything dramatic… well except that I forgot BEN’s hat at home back in CT. I spent hours in my hotel room the night before the competition painting a white straw hat and weathering it but things like that happen and you just need to roll with it.