We're so pleased to announce our latest Maker of the Month, Natasha, an inspiring cosplay and 3D printing fanatic who goes by the pseudonym Bindi Smalls. Natasha infiltrated the cosplay scene rather quickly and combined her passion for making costumes with the power of her LulzBot 3d printer. We're increasingly amazed by the breadth of crafts 3D printing is touching, and Natasha is a shining example of the future maker in everyone.
Us: How long have you been creating cosplay. "Creating cosplay" is that even a term?
Natasha: I wouldn't say that "creating cosplay" is a widely used term. But I've been making costumes for about 2 and a half years now. I've always been creative, and started to get way too involved in Halloween every year. I couldn't stand waiting an entire year before making a new costume, so I got into cosplay!
Us: What's your favorite costume you've created?
Natasha: This is a really tough question. There are a few costumes that were a real challenge to my skills, and those are always my favorites. I think I'd have to go with Bloodseeker from Dota 2. This was the first cosplay I had that really pushed my skills to the limit with 3D printing. Each sword was 7 different parts, printed and glued together. Then, I'd cover the prints in wall spackle, then sand them smooth. Once that was done, I would apply about 6 or 7 layers of filler primer and sand between each coat. After all of that, I painted it. The result is worth the work. The blades look really great! You can watch a video of them in action here:
Us: That is amazing, where did you learn to do all of this?
Natasha: I learned all of this in my free time, on the internet. YouTube is truly a great resource for those who are just starting out, and sites like CGCookie or DigitalTutors can really help you take your training further.
Us: Is there a career path that can arise from cosplaying? Or is it strictly hobby?
Natasha: There are career paths that can arise from cosplaying, but usually you'll have to blaze that trail on your own. Many professional cosplayers have a business, and cosplaying is simply marketing for that business. Some cosplayers sell signed posters, some book appearances, and others sell commissions or other products.
Us: Awesome. Well I can see how it might segue into professional costume design for films or video games. Speaking of, what's your favorite video game?
Natasha: My answer for this question *always* changes. I play games a LOT. Currently, I really enjoy Heroes of the Storm. It's a moba-style game from Blizzard Entertainment, and it's super fun. I particularly enjoy playing with my close friends.
Us: Very cool, is that similar to Heroes of Newerth? I've lost many friends to that game.
Natasha: It seems similar at first glance!
Us: I don't recommend it. Ok this might be a weird question, but does being a "hot gamer girl" pose any unique complications? And on that subject, does the overt sexualization of certain female characters bother you?
Natasha: "Hot gamer girl" is really starting to become a thing of the past. Out of every convention I attend, there are as many attractive female gamers as there are attractive male gamers. And female vs male attendance is becoming close to equal. Therefore, the only reason it ever poses a complication is with someone who isn't aware of gamer culture, or is "out of the loop" with gaming in general.
The overt sexualization of certain female characters does not bother me, but definitely sends a message as to what audience the game is marketed towards. That is, people who find those characters desirable, attractive, or to whom the overt sexualization of a female character is normal or wanted. However, this leaves out a large margin of the public that is still interested in video games. So, game developers and publishers are starting to incorporate a broader range of female characters, and the reception has been great -- and has reached an even broader audience. I hope this trend continues, as there are even more character types that could contribute to great storytelling, whether they be female, male, transgender or without a definite gender.
Us: Ok, back on topic. What do you love about cosplay?
Natasha: There's a lot to love about cosplay. You can dress up as your favorite character, and feel cool/beautiful/badass while doing it. You can also express yourself in a way that's normally limited to you -- you can wear a suit of armor or a bunny suit and be respected and applauded for your skill, and devotion to the costume. Where else in life does this occur?
Photo by M9 Cosplay
Us: Honestly it sounds amazing! Making something and then living it... that's quite badass. So what does the term "Maker" mean to you?
Natasha: Maker is a new term for me. I don't even really consider myself a Maker. But the term Maker means someone who makes things, like a more-involved DIY enthusiast. A Maker is a part of a large sharing community as well. I don't think the term Maker would exist if not for the community.
Us: That's interesting. Clearly, we think you're a maker. I mean you're hacking and slashing props and costumes like it's nobody's business. Our goal is to highlight the many facets of "maker culture." But I agree the community aspect is imperative, and is really what makes the maker movement [whoa alliteration] so special. Does the cosplay community behave in a similar way from your understanding, or does it mostly center around conventions?
Natasha: While I do believe cosplay would exist without the community, I believe the reason cosplay is so well-known and successful is because of the community. The cosplay community believes in sharing information, and you don't have to dig very deep to find tutorials and advice on just about every aspect of cosplay. I'd say the community centers around conventions, but by no means does the cosplay community stop sharing and talking when the cons are over. Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr are great for the social side of cosplay, and we all keep in touch via those channels. There are cosplay specific social media sites emerging too, like Cospix.com.
Us: What drew you to 3d printing initially?
Natasha: I had always admired 3D modeling. But I never thought it was something I could do. I had no experience with CAD programs growing up, nor did I know anyone who did 3D design. But one day I saw that the MakerBot Thing-o-Matic was within a price range that I could actually afford. Then I started to get ideas -- lots of them. "What if instead of making props out of foam, I could print them?" This was a question I'd ask myself almost daily. Eventually I started learning how to 3D model with free software, like Blender. Once I felt that I finally had my first 3D model ready, I ordered it to be printed from Shapeways. It was the pendent for Elizabeth from Bioshock Infinite. This process was long and costly, but I was hooked. My boyfriend and I bought our first 3D printer, an original LulzBot TAZ, and we haven't stopped printing since.
Photo by Elysaim Entertainment
Us: Awesome choice. How has 3D printing changed your approach when designing cosplay pieces?
Natasha: 3D printing has changed my approach to cosplay tremendously. There are costume props and pieces that I would have not considered making before, and now feel equipped to do so. And with the materials cost being so low, I can print as much as I want without worrying about my budget. There are still parts of costumes that I cannot print (like fabric) and there are parts that I wouldn't want to print (large flat surfaces on shields, enormous armor, etc). Determining what parts to print and not to print is still one of the biggest challenges for me.
Us: You guys print a lot! What are types of filament do you use?
Natasha: We mainly use PLA because it's relatively cheap and easy to print. But we frequently print in NinjaFlex & SemiFlex, as well as HIPS and ABS. We're starting to get into Polycarbonate and Nylon, which is really exciting for me. Nylon filaments are astoundingly strong, and can be dyed with fabric dye. So many possibilities!
Us: Has 3d printing fully infiltrated the con scene yet, or will it ever?
Natasha: 3D printing has yet to fully infiltrate the con scene, but it's starting to become more popular. I believe once 3D printers are faster and cheaper, we'll see an entire takeover!
Us: What's your favorite non-cosplay piece?
Natasha: Recently I've been printing articulated action-figures and robot figurines. I absolutely adore the idea of printing an robot or action figure, then assembling it and posing it. It brings a life and dynamism to 3D printed objects, instead of having a truly static piece. I'm working on my own articulated figure now, but I'm unsure of what the end result or character will be. Hopefully something cool!
I also recently had a high-quality scan made of myself by DigitalScan3D.com and printed the resulting scan on my LulzBot Mini. The resolution on the scan and detail on the print is astounding. It's a little creepy to have a 6 inch high 3D printed version of myself of my desk, but I love thinking about the possibilities of this technology. Scanning technology has moved forward by leaps and bounds in the past few years.
Us: Uh-mazing. I need me one of those. Do you have any links that you want me to share? What's Geekfablab all about?
Natasha: My boyfriend Sox and I started GeekFabLab after receiving numerous requests to 3D print for our friends and family. We decided that we could offer 3D printed goods and design services for the public. We love running our little store, and shipping out a cool cosplay item or geeky home decor thing each morning always puts a smile on my face. Soon we'll post tutorials and videos on how to finish and paint 3D cosplay items, as well as how to incorporate electronics (LEDs, speakers, smoke machines) into 3D printed items. Stay tuned!
To follow my cosplay progress and see photos of the finished costumes, follow my Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/bindicosplay
To follow my daily 3D printing antics, follow my Instagram: @bindismalls
And to purchase some cool 3D printed stuff, visit http://www.geekfablab.com!
Us: Natasha, thank you so much for being a part of this. We can't wait to see more of your amazing costumes and to see what's in store for GeekFabLab. Keep in touch!
Edit: we just found this AMA video. It's safe to say we're in love with this couple.