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.