Local cosplayers say foam “werx”

Newfoundland costume makers are a big hit at local science fiction conventions.

Emily Lyver

If you’ve visited Newfoundland’s yearly convention Sci-Fi on the Rock, you may have seen the hulking work of FoamWerx Cosplay hobbling around the convention centre.

FoamWerx is a locally run business founded by Gary Murrin and Hamilton Cornish. They work together to build large, complicated suits and props completely out of foam.

The men met about five years ago when Murrin started working at a hardware company where Cornish was already an employee. Murrin is 38 years old now and has been cosplaying for about 11 years. Cornish, however, is 48 and hadn’t done anything like this until he met Murrin.

Murrin says he could see right away that Cornish had great potential, with his painting and building skills, and that it didn’t take long to get him into the craft. 

Sci-Fi on the Rock 7 in 2013, the first convention Cornish attended, left quite an impression on the cos-play newcomer.

“I was very blown away by the creativity of people, and the stuff Gary had done,” said Cornish. “I kind of hemmed and hawed about it, and Gary convinced me to– for next year, to actually start building a costume and I haven’t stopped since. I just really fell in love with it, with the community and the craft.”

The two currently work out of their homes and build their creations during their downtime. Both have set up workstations  in their basements and have expressed the desire for a shop. But, financially, it’s just not feasible right now.

“If you were, say, on the mainland somewhere, you could probably actually make a go of it,” said Cornish. “But, where the community’s so small here in Newfoundland, it doesn’t warrant it. I can’t say you would never make a go of it, but it’d be much more difficult.

“It’d be great to have an endgame where we could financially support ourselves with this type of venture,” said Murrin.

However, Murrin suggests that while Newfoundlanders appreciate art, they’re not always willing to pay for it.

Gary Murrin has been working on this costume for three weeks during his downtime. He’ll be showing it off at Sci-Fi on the Rock this coming April. Emily Lyver/Kicker

You may have also seen their work in other forms. Just this past December, FoamWerx teamed up with Baddy Vinyl, a new business downtown that specializes in custom prints and etchings. The owner, Jerry Russell, asked the two for some stock. Among the items Murrin and Cornish provided was a Big Stick bologna ornament that went viral here in the province.

“Yeah, they were really popular,” said Murrin. “I had to enlist Hamilton in the actual production of it because it just got out of hand really, really quickly.”

We just tried to dig in as much as we could get done … We had a lot of busy nights, making a lot of bologna. I’d say we almost made a thousand of them.”

Recently, the two were approached by Invasion, a collaboration project between Baddy Vinyl and Kyle Callahan Photography, to hold a workshop on building foam costumes and props, and they decided to hone in on fake weaponry. The workshop will take place Saturday, Feb. 24, at Posie Row on Duckworth Street 

Through this workshop, Murrin and Cornish say they’d like to get more people comfortable with the medium. They say foam isn’t scary; it’s actually very easy to work with.

“Best way to describe it: a very basic intro to foam making and some foam techniques,” said Murrin. “It’ll be pretty straightforward, just to get people to kind of get their feet wet … The more people that are building with foam the better, in our eyes, because we love seeing people do this stuff.”

The FoamWerx owners agree the medium grows more and more popular each year. Three years ago, there may have been about 100 big costumes seen at local conventions; now, over the course of a weekend, they’ll see thousands.

On top of that, cosplay itself has changed over the course of their lives, for both themselves and others.

“When I was going through school, there wasn’t any opportunity for cosplay,” said Murrin. “And I heard personally now that there’s even cosplay groups in schools. It’s actually fantastic.”

While Murrin was an early cosplay fan, Cornish is a true convert.

“If you asked me seven or eight years ago, ‘Would you be down to wearing costumes?’ I would say, ‘You’re crazy, not a chance in the world,’” said Cornish. “But, it’s one of the best things that’s happened to me. It’s just such a big creative outlet for me that I don’t think I’d ever give it up. I think I’ll be 99 years old and they’ll be putting me in the grave with one of me suits on.”

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