Monday, December 14, 2009

Valkyrie Cuirass: Metal Piping

Completed Portion of Valkyrie Cuirass

I’ve made some major advances on the Valkyrie costume today. All of the segments for the cuirass have been cut and ironed, and most of them have been surfaced. I wanted each segment to have “piping” around the edges, but the vinyl tubing I was trying to use was much too difficult to cut and bend into shape. Even at 1/8” it was too stiff. I figured a way to make the seams using piping cord and ribbon and still achieve a neat, smooth surface almost as smooth as the vinyl tubing would have looked. Up close it looks pretty good, but a few feet back it looks perfect. It took over two hours to do this one section though so, I’ve still a long way to go.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Cherub Wings

Completed "Cherub" Wings

I was able to spend some of this morning working on the “cherub” wings for the choir of angels in my church’s Christmas production. The choir of angels will consist of 6-7 children from the church. For each of them I’m making a small pair of wings made with whatever I have around or can find for cheap: coat hangers, nylon, turkey feathers and boas. I’m keeping them simple since I’ll need to make multiples and need them finished within the next week.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Modeling Homura's Mask

Homura's Karas Mask
I received my life-size head mannequin in the mail yesterday. I haven’t had my hand in any modeling for a while so I started sculpting right away. I’ve started making the mask and helmet for the female karas: Homura from the 6-part animated series Karas.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Gabriel's Angel Wings

Wire Wing Form with Turkey Feathers

This year for Christmas my local church is presenting the story of Christ’s birth through music and drama. I’ve volunteered to help with the production as much as my tight schedule will allow, taking on projects one at a time. To start, I’m making the wings for Gabriel and the choir of angels (a small ensemble of 6 children). It took some time to make Gabriel’s wings, but fortunately I already had all the supplies I needed on hand.

Beginning with some scrap chicken-wire and some heavier gauge wire I made simple understructure that I could glue and tie everything to. I covered this with fabric that had a couple rows of turkey plums sewn in place. For the major coverts I simply glued some turkey quills in place. Glue will do since the production is soon and will only run once. For a longer show I would have glued and sewn the feathers in place.

Wings with Primary and Lesser Coverts

Some scraps of turkey feather boas were used to the lesser coverts. Then I attached the primaries that I had made. To my great fortune I was able to make the call that these wings will be static, not articulated. Therefore, I was able to use a rigid wire understructure and, only needed to make a couple primary feathers to achieve the look of a full pair of wings. All that’s left to do is find some gold rope to use as a harness.

Gabriel's Wings Completed

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Valkyrie: Wings

Valkyrie Wing Sketches

I’ve begun drafting the wings for the Valkyrie costume. They are quite different from the Angel of Death wings, although they will still be based loosely on a bird's true wing structure. The structure for animating the wings should be significantly simpler as well.

I’ve decided I want a vertical span when the wings are fully open instead of horizontal, which is much more a fantasy wing design than anatomically correct. A vertical design, however, has the benefit of being easier to wear in crowded areas (such as Salem on Halloween)

I’ve split the wings into two main sections, the Primary and Secondary Wings. The Primary section, containing the primary feathers, is the piece that will accordion fold, and pivot to open to full span. The Secondary section, containing the secondary feathers and coverts, will be completely stationary, housing the pulley/gear system that will animate the Primary wings.

As exciting as it would be to have exposed gears operating the animation, I simply can not afford the type of gear motor I would need. Chances are I’ll be using a network of pulleys. Pulleys shouldn’t need to be so precisely aligned as gears, (so the wings will be able to flex a little). Additionally, the wire rope can be pulled and fastened using a belt, which works for a costume that already has a number of belts on it.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Valkyrie: Skirt Design Progress

Asymmetrical Skirt Sketches

I’m closer now to a skirt design that suits the Valkyrie character. Switching to an asymmetrical design added more interest instantly, plus I think the drape will be considerably more elegant and much less like curtain drapery. I’ve pretty much thrown out the idea of fish-scale armor completely; it made the design feel too “mermaidy.” I’m toying with the idea of including some asymmetrical/ broken off chainmail instead, but it seems likely this will be edited out later. I will definitely want belts and bands throughout the piece and have played around with them in sketches. When it comes to construction though, the belts will be assembled randomly depending on what I manage to scavenge.

I’ve yet to come up with a way to make the belt work appear truly functional as opposed to merely decorative. It isn’t fitting for a post apocalyptic warrior to be wearing a whole lot of decorative pieces (the Costume is about the Character). The only true decoration in the costume should be remnants from pre-apocalyptic periods particularly Nordic Dark Ages and Early Renaissance Design. I think that I can get away with using the belts as "holsters" for ammo and/or projectile weaponry and, in some areas, for "added protection". I’ll have to work with it more when the time comes. As for the assemblage of junk and scrap metal that will constitute a good portion of this costume, I’m getting away with saying it functions as protective armor. (even though it will be elaborate, eye-catching and primarily for effect)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Valkyrie: Skirt Design

Skirt Sketches

Lately it’s been fairly difficult to find the time to work on the Valkyrie costume. This weekend I’ll have a break from work though and should be able to finally make some serious headway on my various art projects. I’ve started playing around with the design for the Valkyrie skirt. I’m thinking of using a blue chiffon. I’d like something a bit “flowy”; loose, comfortable, pretty while at the same time battle appropriate. I’m toying with the length and placement of darts. I’d like my legs to be visible from the knee down, at least on one leg, because I’ll be wearing armor that I want to show off, plus it is more practical for a warrior to be wearing a slit skirt that is easy to maneuver in.

I’m not satisfied with any of my first drafts yet (hence “1st draft”) but the bottom left design is getting there. I think I need to start working some asymmetry into the design.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Angel of Death photos

Photos of my Angel of Death costume worn at the Salem Witches' Ball are now online. Photography by John Hurley (no relation)
The Angel of Death costume was awarded the grand prize at the ball. I hope to be able to compete again next year. It was a blast!

Gallery One (pages52-57)
Gallery Two (pages 8, 20-21, 23-24)

More photos will be added to Gallery Two very soon.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Halloween: The Angel of Death

The Angel of Death, Salem MA
On October 30th I attended the Official Salem Witches’ Ball in Salem MA for the purpose of entering the costume contest. I went in my Angel of Death: Version 2009 costume. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to bring the matching scythe that I made especially for this costume. On the other hand, the replacement prop lantern that I brought turned out to be quite a hit. The lantern was also more “crowd-friendly” and as a whole worked out better for the environment I was in than the scythe would have. I won first place in the costume contest at the ball and am already planning on going again next year. Sadly, my wings were broken by the crowds of Salem on Halloween night. Next year I’ll be wearing something more durable that can withstand the pushy crowds. I’ll also need to go downtown much earlier in the day. It’s just too packed out at night and large/delicate costumes are in constant danger.
More pictures will be coming soon.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Last Minute Prop: Lantern

Angel of Death Lantern

Salem now has a number of rules in place for Halloween night. At the top of the list is the No Weapons rule. Anything that looks like a weapon, real or fake, will be confiscated. Unfortunately this means I can not have my scythe with me in town on Halloween. The authorities chose to overlook my scythe from last year however I was only in town during daylight hours (not to mention the old scythe wasn’t nearly as menacing). I’m sure the police are stricter about the no weapons rule when it gets darker and harder to distinguish between the real and fake. So, (sigh) I’ll be leaving my Angel of Death Scythe at home and have doctored up a quick replacement prop because, I mean, I have to be carrying something and the scythe handle, cool as it is, is just not enough for me to carry on it’s own.

I quickly put together a lantern that can be bolted to the scythe handle (good thing I made that blade easily removable). Thank Goodness for liquid latex: the easiest way to make something look old and creepy in a matter of minutes. With a bit of latex and paint I was able to make this brand new electric lantern look a bit more like something the Angel of Death would carry around.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Surprise Birthday Cake

'Shley with her Cake

So yesterday I took a little dive into a medium I don’t generally work with; Food. ‘Shley’s Birthday was yesterday and I decided to take responsibility for providing the Birthday cake. It couldn’t be any ordinary cake though, oh no. I was contemplating how to get a picture of some pop icon on the cake, either painted in frosting or sugar-screen printed, but decided either of those ideas would take too long. Then I came up with the great idea, what could be better than having a celebrity pop out of your birthday cake? I rigged up a jack and the box with a picture of Jesse McCartney and hid it inside the cake. ‘Shley couldn’t stop laughing, none of us could.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Polo Shirt Tailoring

Polo Shirt with Right Side Pinned

My mom just picked up this polo shirt for me because it was on sale for 80% off plus it has wings on it. It’s a men’s polo though so I figure it will make a fun project to tailor it so it’s a women’s polo. It’s a little tricky deciding where to add darts so that I don’t loose too much of the print or the trim down the side which I quite like.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Felt Cuirass: Surface Treatment

Felt with Metalic Surface Treatment
Creating a uniform look with the glue application has proven to be more difficult than I had anticipated. The consistency of the glue must be just right for it to soak in a little bit but not too much. I’ve found though, that with a little more effort put into the surface treatment I can get a relatively consistent look on all the pieces. Alternating between silver Rub n’ Buff and black tinting solution I was able to create a sort of aged, acid-etched metal surface. Then the feathers were applied with gloss medium and pewter pigment powder. The feathers are a bit more subtle than they appear in this picture. Their visibility depends on the angle of the light hitting the piece. Now I just need to do this to 15 more pieces and I’ll be ready for the next step.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Webbing Problems

PVA Glue Application for Felt Cuirass
I ran into some trouble reproducing the effect I had achieved earlier in my test samples. The type of webbing I bought is different from that which I was working with previously. The webbing I applied to a few felt sections is much finer, thinner and produced a flat consistent surface. As a result the glue application soaked right into the webbing and underlying layer of felt producing a smooth stiffened surface. I thought, well that’s beautiful and will work wonderfully for some armor pieces, but not this one. I now have to reapply the webbing with the heavier, irregular, non-paper-backed variety. Unfortunately I don’t know what kind it is exactly so I can’t get more. I should have enough of this in stock though thanks to raiding my mom’s closet.

The glue was also a problem. In my materials tests I had been using an old bottle of elmer’s. As a result the glue was thicker than the new bottle I am now using. I found that if I use a combination of elmer’s and tacky glue I get the consistency I need so that the glue will puddle on the surface where the webbing is thicker. Too much elmer’s and it all soaks into the felt. Too much tacky glue and it all stays on the surface. This has turned out to be a much more delicate process than I had originally anticipated but at least I now know how to reproduce the intended effect.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Helmet: Foam Base

I used a basic foam wig mannequin for the base from which to build the skull helmet for my updated Angel of Death costume. Fortunately my head is almost the same circumference as the foam mannequin so I didn’t need to build it out very much. When making hats or helmets it is always important to measure the size and shape of the wearer’s head. This can be done quite simply by cutting a hole in a piece of cardboard and adjusting it until it fits comfortably around the wearer’s head.

Foam Mannequin with Horns

I started sculpting the helmet in foam beginning with the horns. Symmetry is very important in a lot of my designs so I wanted to make sure that the placement of the horns was symmetrical from the very beginning. I started with two identically curved pieces of wire. Then I covered the wire with scored pipe insulation foam. Foam is a great choice for sculpting the core form in if you especially if you intend on leaving the core from inside the finished product as I did.

Spray Insulation Foam Base

The rest of the form was roughed out in spray insulation foam (GreatStuff) and a chicken-wire armature for the beak. Again, the idea here is to keep the materials light and easy to carve down later. Note: spray foam expands a lot! So don’t fill in gaps too heavily and expect to carve the form down later.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Summer Project: Helmet

Angel of Death Helm Sketches
During my spare time this past summer I decided to do some significant revamping on my Halloween costume from the year before. The Angel of Death costume was a big hit in Salem in 2008 but I knew it could be bigger and better for this year. The ’08 version included a sort of veiled head covering, which I wanted to hide my eyes (There’s something very intimidating about not being able to see someone’s eyes) So, I started my upgrade beginning with the headdress. I designed a helmet that would bring the costume to a whole new level. The design is a hybrid crow and ram skull helmet with lace veil. Like all my new projects I started with a series of sketches and reworked them until I had what I wanted. Even very detailed sketches are subject to change though. A few alterations occurred during the construction process but, for the most part, I’m a major planner who sticks pretty closely to my initial designs.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Felt Cuirass

Felt Cuirass Layout
The base material for the cuirass will be made of felt: a cheap, durable, easily altered material. There is more than one way to make felt look something like metal. In this case I decided I wanted the base layer to look like a sort of hammered-metal with lots of irregular stippling. The second layer will be a soft, organic feather detailing followed up by the final layer: a bright silver knot work pattern (the design for which has not been drawn up yet) After much experimenting and a bit of luck I found a process that would give the look I had in mind.

Materials Experiments

The felt is first sealed with fusible webbing. The webbing happens to have a very slight irregularity in thickness. When a mix of PVA (white glue) and metal powder pigments is lightly brushed over this webbing some of it soaks into the felt and the rest beads up on the surface. This gave me the stippled, hammered-metal look with hardly any effort at all. The feathers can then be glued on and silvered with acrylic gloss medium and metal pigment. The acrylic medium is not as heavy bodied as the glue so that the fine detail of the feathers is not lost. Figuring out the materials for the knot pattern is still a work in progress.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Cuirass: Drafting

Cuirass Sketches
I decided to begin the valkyrie project with the cuirass, which in this case is still a corset style, but does not lace up like a corset. The final look will be that of plated metal rather than leather which is more typical for a cuirass. I began the process with a series of sketches. When I came to a design I liked, something form-fitting, edgy but still practical for moving in, I started drafting the pieces with a paper model. Having a duct tape double of myself has made drafting and fitting the plates much, much easier. I recommend making a duct tape double to anyone who makes a lot of clothing/costuming for themself.
Cuirass Paper Model

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The "Post-Apocalyptic Valkyrie"

valkyrie rough sketch

The next big project is now underway. I’ve decided to focus on costuming more intensely in an attempt to build a more specified portfolio. Most of my costuming work so far is craft/prop related and falls into the sci-fi and fantasy genres. I’ll continue to focus on this type of costuming.

The next project is what I’m calling a “Post-Apocalyptic Valkyrie.” A valkyrie is a female figure from Norse mythology who decides who will die in battle. They are often depicted as armored women carrying shields and spears while riding winged horses. This version is a cross between two mythological figures; valkyries and shield maidens. In the oldest Norse mythologies valkyries are associated with ravens and ride wolves through the battle fields. Occasionally the valkyries themselves are winged.

I’ve come up with a design that is a conglomeration of these mythologies with a sci-fi twist. The “Post-Apocalyptic Valkyrie” is a winged warrior maiden who has been escorting fallen heroes from the battle field since the 14th century to a future post-apocalyptic era. She and her attire have evolved with the centuries. She wears remnants of the traditional Viking armor and, a mix of accessories from across the centuries. Her outfit thus reflects the evolution of the warrior. The main component to the costume though is the assemblage of scrap and junk materials that one would find strewn across a landscape after an apocalypse. The basic patterning is what identifies her as a valkyrie (ie: spear, feathered helmet, armor cuirass…) but the materials have changed, replacing feathers and leather with scrap metal and mechanical pieces.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Mae West

Mae West Photo Album

As in any occupation, some projects are more exciting than others. For the production of "Dirty Blonde" I had quite a bit of fun making the mannequin heads, but then found myself working on a rather tedious project. We needed a scrapbook of Mae West, one that looked like it was overflowing with photos and news clippings and the like. Such a simple project but so time consuming. It turned out great, but no one who looks at it would know how much work it actually is to make something look like a random accumulation of junk from years of collecting.

Aged Sheet Music

On the side, I aged some sheet music to look like it had been sitting the basement for a number of years. Again, it was a very simple project, but a bit more fun than the scrapbook.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Hangar Theatre: Mannequin Heads

Room View

This summer I've been working as an intern in the props department at Hangar Theatre, Ithaca NY. I'm one of three people in props, and so far the position has been working out well. I've had quite a bit of freedom with a few projects, and am really enjoying the fact that the type of work I do varies from day to day. I can see myself staying in props for a little while yet, but I am still planning on moving my way into special effects costuming.

Mannequin Heads

The first project I had was a set of tree mannequin heads for our first show of the season, "Dirty Blonde." I dressed the heads with a few layers of gel medium, and modeling paste over nylon. I also helped with the assembly of the bases and added a wood grain.

Unfortunately the heads were cut from the show after I had already finished them after two days of work. They look great though, especially the one that is now holding my hats in my room.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Senior Thesis Exhibit: Wings

"Hope is the Thing with Feathers"

My Senior Thesis Exhibit, along with work by Mariwyn, Brooke and Alex, was this past Saturday. The opening reception was wonderful as there was a rather large turn out. I believe all of us in the exhibit fully achieved our goals and put on a fabulous show. I'm so proud to be a part of this group.

Photoshop Digital Mock-Up

For my Senior Thesis I created a multi-media installation piece centered around the themes "Hope" and "Freedom." It was created in promotion for Not For Sale Campaign ( An open-source organization commited to reabolishing slavery.

This piece is 21 feet wide, constructed of Sintra (PVC foam), Acetate, Wood, Acrylics, and Gold Leaf. It was designed as a kinetic sculpture operated by a gear motor.

Unfortunately we had some trouble with the motor overheating. It shut itself off just minutes before the opening reception and we couldn't turn it back on since the manual reset was located on the motor at the top of the skylight. A few people did get to see the wings in action though, and I did manage to capture some video. For the most part though, we have decided to leave the wings stationary. It functions just as well as a static installation piece.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Three Days Remaining

Rectangular Foam Capital
With only three days left until opening night for “Joyful Noise,” we’re going to be very busy in the woodshop. The rectangular foam capitals are close to being complete; with little more to do than some detail work and a paint job.

Round Foam Capitals
As of last Thursday, the round capitals were in the process of being foamed out. Over the next few days I’ll have to design and carve them, and considering the time constraints they may not be as intricate as the rectangular capitals.


The archway and the pediment are well underway. Surface details are being applied to the pediment and are soon to be applied to the archway. The floor needs to be painted and a few props need completed, then we’ll be underway. It looks like for the next three days my senior thesis is going to have to go on the backburner a bit.

Lesser Coverts

This weekend I hope to be able to work extensively on my thesis piece. I need to finish painting the acetate for both sets of feathers, and complete the other set of lesser coverts before I can move on to the mechanics.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Capital Idea

Foam Capital in Process

Theater Production has been busy getting everything up and ready for the show April 17th. The carved foam capitals underwent quite a bit of work, when we decided to change the design a bit. Fortunately we are able to use most of what I started. There are two sets of capitals we must form. The set I had started were square and foamed out 2 inches. We decided that where we originally had the square capitals we needed to make round ones, so the square pieces were moved to the other side of the stage and cut down to fit the other columns. At first it seemed like making this switch would cost me a lot of wasted time. However, it turns out that I will be saving a lot of time by making these changes. The square capitals are now smaller and only need to be three sided so finishing them won’t take nearly as long. Also, the new round capitals have less surface area so they also won’t take as long to complete. And in the end they will look much better than where we were originally headed with them, plus I’m a lot less stressed about this project now.

Portion of the Archway

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Fourth Quad

Fourth quad has been keeping me exceptionally busy, as such I’ve quite a backlog of work to post, so here we go.

Pediment Technical Draft

Production for “Joyful Noise” is now in full swing. The show goes up in just a few weeks and there’s plenty of work to do. At the start of production I was asked to create the technical drafts for a few scenic elements including a hanging pediment and an archway. Since I was in charge of the drafting I also assisted in overseeing the construction of the pediment and arch.

Foam Capitals

Additionally I have been asked to spearhead the building of four capitals to be mounted on columns under the arch and pediment. Each is to be carved out of Dow foam. It’s a long process and the design has been somewhat modified along the way, but the results are pleasing, well worth the extra effort.

Sintra Feathers Layout

My senior thesis project is coming along nicely, pretty much exactly on schedule. Leo is helping to acquire a motor I can use to animate the wings. In the meantime I’ve been plugging along, cutting, painting and gluing lots of feathers. I’ve got my process down for each component of the sculpture so now it’s just a matter of putting in the hours and cranking out the pieces.

Mailer Design
I’ve also completed the design for the postcards I am to send out before the show. I should have them in hand within two weeks.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Completed Masks

Completed Mask

Brother's Broken Mask
We had a snow day at school today (YATA!) which means I was able to put in a good 7 hours in the studio today. It was wonderful. I wish I could do it again tomorrow.
I was able to finish both commissioned masks. The second mask is a smaller, broken, mirror image of the first that belonged to the brother of the main character in the film. It is a hand prop rather than a costume prop so it took a little less time to create. With a few rag-brushed layers of acrylics and some added details they are both complete. It’s great to be done early.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Mask: Surface Treatment

Paper Mache Mask
The fitted mask is coming along now. The paper mache is not entirely dry yet as it is about 8 layers. However, I was able to demold it and start working on finishing the surface. I’ve spackled and sealed the surface so it’s ready for painting and detail work. As soon as it’s fully dry I’ll be able to seal the inside. Now to start the second mask.