Sunday, October 2, 2011

Fairy Wings: More & More

I'm gearing up to hopefully sell many pairs of wings this Halloween season through my etsy shop TruWings. In other news I'm also in the process of updated my portfolio website.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Never Ending Fairy Wings

Yup, they just keep coming. More and More coming available soon.

This pair now available on Etsy:

Friday, September 16, 2011


I've a friend at work who runs a festival in Eugene OR : FaerieWorld. I plan on getting all decked out and going for at least a day. That is - if I can find the time to finish the costume. At the very least I'll have a great big pair of wings to show off. The wings above are about 3 1/2 feet tall, the the whole ensemble will be about 6 ft.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Fairy Wings: So Many!

I've been making wings, so many wings. The first three pair posted to my etsy store, TruWings, last week have been sold and these two are now available. (They're on sale this week only though so they're going fast) I've about 7 more in the making though. Hopefully they will start showing up online next week.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Fairy Wings: Got It...Just About

I'm fairly certain I've got it worked out the way I want now, just need some minor adjustments. I've figured out how to make the wings perfectly symmetrical, having a metallic iridescence when front-lit and a vibrant jewel tone glow when back-lit. The only thing is I'm only really finding iridescent cello in green/pink or blue/pink. It would be ideal to find a silver toned cello so that it reflects pure white light but also allows light to pass through when back-lit.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fairy Wings: Good Blots

Now this is more like it. I’ve figured out how to successfully blot the painted layers on the fairy wings – so long as I’m not going for detail. Turns out they look better when the paint is really wet and blurry since there is so much detailed being put into the veining instead.

Even this blot turned out to work just fine. I thought it was a failure; that there wasn’t enough alcohol in the wash and the colors were too harshly separated. But when I added a layer of veining over it everything came together.

I’ve also been finding that if I don’t plan anything out but just work freehand and do everything on the fly then, the pieces turn out much more interesting. This is true for both the paint wash layer and the veining.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fairy Wings: Almost but Not Quite

Fairy Wing Sample

I'm getting closer to the intended effect using alcohol inks for the fairy wings. This sample is almost there, but not quite. There are still a lot of adjustments to be made in my process. At least I think I have the materials right now, and this is the right idea.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Fairy Wings: Rorschach

Failed Rorschach Blot - too dry

It is essential, in my opinion, that if I'm going to make painted fairy wings they must be symmetrical. It would just be odd to imitate any sort of insect wings without symmetry. The only solution I could come up with for perfect symmetry on hand painted plastic was to do a Rorschach blot. Simple enough - except it turns out to be quite tricky with alcohol paints which dry very quickly.

Alcohol paints can be blended with denatured alcohol; too much makes everything a soupy mess though and dilutes the colors, while too little doesn't keep the paint wet long enough to blot. The blotting process itself has a tendency to destroy any detail if there is too much paint or too much alcohol. I'm finding it very difficult to get a complete transfer and detail, so I may have to settle for less detail.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Small Angel Wings: Faux Feathers

Faux Feathers in Process

I've switched to using completely different materials and methods for making my faux feathers. For months now I've been experimenting with different means of achieving a compound curve in each feather, blacker black, and detailed texture so that the fake feathers will match the turkey feathers perfectly. I couldn't stand having such a disconnect between the real and fake feathers. For a while it seemed my only option was to make wings with only fake feathers which would mean a lot more hours of work on each piece.

BUT, I believe I've found the solution. I've switched from fabric to foam. It is a well known fact among wing makers online that good faux feathers are made by laminated layers of fabric with an adhesive. Usually these feathers are made with light weight fabrics and have some sort of shaft sandwiched between the layers. This works to produces great feathers, but it is very time consuming, somewhat costly, and there is always the problem of trying to get a true black.

I now use foam. I've found a way to mold the foam quickly so that I can have the feathers curve like the turkey quills. I've devised a means of adding texture quickly and inexpensively. I've also developed a means of stiffening the feathers so they hold the curve permanently after I've shaped them. They also take paint much better than fabric which means I can achieve a true deep black. The only thing that is not so simple is attaching shafts - I'm still working on this part but may have come up with a solution. As it is - structural shafts (as opposed to painted) are entirely unnecessary for wings that do not open or close.

That's all I can say for now. As far as I can tell, no one else is really doing this, so for now my method is a trade secret.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Small Angel Wings: Patterning

Small Angel Wings Paper Pattern

I've pretty much worked out the sizes I'll be offering for Fixed Frame Angel Wings. Starting with SM at 2ft tall up to XL at 5ft tall. All of them will have faux feathers which are what make them more realistic and proportional. Right now I am only working with a fantasy design which requires far fewer feathers. I may perhaps offer a realistic line latter which would be more strictly based on actual bird wings.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Small Angel Wings

Small Fixed Frame Angel Wings in process

I've a plan for making smaller angel wings that will soon be available to buy online. These wings are Fixed Frame meaning they don't open or close - but they still look pretty dang good.

So I've developed a method to produce them more efficiently so I can start making them more affordable to the public (yay) I've also begun experimenting with an entirely new method of making the faux feathers, which are key in setting my designs apart from others available online.

More on faux feathers to follow.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Fairy Wings: Paint on Plastic

Experimental Fairy Wing Layers

Because angel wings simply aren't enough...

There seems to be quite a market for fairy wings. I figure while I'm already on a roll with getting an online store for angel wings I ought to add fairy wings to the collection as well. I don't plan on doing what's so widely available online though - which is bent wire frames sandwiched between layers of iridescent cellophane. This method of fairy wings making is beautiful but it's been done, over and over. Not wanting to be limited by the colors of cellophane I can find easily
I decided to add paint to the mix.

So right now I'm working on the fastest, easiest and most repeatable way to make painted fairy wings. The trick will be developing an method for achieving symmetry since everything is hand painted.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

New Wings Finished

I just yesterday finished this commissioned pair of 4' tall non-articulated angel wings. I love them and want to build a pair for myself - but I think I have enough of my own.

I hope to have wings like these along with some smaller models available on an etsy store within the year. I might be switching to foam feathers rather than fabric though. We'll have to see. Up next will by my experiments with that.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Merchant's Cart: On Stage

Merchant of Venice

To finish up an early thread, the cart I had been working on this spring made its way onto the stage in STC's production of "The Merchant of Venice." It looks pretty much the way I had left it at the end of my internship. Some parts were simplified, which I think is really a good thing - it was a very busy cart before. The cheese wheel, maybe some baskets and the clothesline for meat products and other hanging what-nots was removed. Looks like the pole for the cheese wheel was re-purposed. Definitely some final touches were done after I had gone, like some more set dressing and paint treatment. I'm very happy with the outcome. I'll try to find a photo where the whole cart is visible.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Headless Body: Completed

Severed Neck Detailing

And for the final touches: make it gross. Cloton's head was cut off so, it needed to look like such. I built up the neck with various blocks and coils of upholstery foam. The esophagus was a bit of carved down pipe foam. The bit of spine was simply a piece of white felt cut to shape and given some dimension and sheen with hot melt glue. More hot melt glue was generously.

The painting got a little tricky since one type of paint would stick to the latex but not the glue and the other type of paint would stick to the glue and not the latex. I found that I could apply the first paint and wipe it off wherever it wasn't going to stick and repeat the process with the second paint. This seamed to work alright. In any case everything got tinted and didn't seem to rub off excessively anywhere. I knew that more paint and reel blood was going to be added later anyhow.

Oh yes, the neck also needed to have a hollow in it which I built into the esophagus. In the production of Cymbeline, grief stricken Imogen marks herself with blood from the body, thinking it's the body of Posthumus. Therefore we tucked a little squeezey-toy full of reel blood into the neck of the body so it would be easy for the actor to access without leaking fake blood all over stage.

In the end the fake body still looked like a fake body, BUT it was a pretty darn good fake body with a pretty darn gross severed neck. Hopefully it will see some stage time again in the future.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Headless Body: Skin

Headless Body with Top Coat

Nearly completed now. With all the foam and poly batting in place to build out the form, the headless body was ready for skin. Nylon is the easiest and least expensive material I have found for making skin. We had a lot of large pairs of nylon tights in stock in the shop so I just took a couple pairs and with some whip stitching and clever wrapping I was able to cover the whole body in two layers of nylon quickly and easily.

As a final step in building the skin layer I coated the nylon with a thinned down layer of latex. In retrospect I ought to have skipped this step as it greatly reduced flexibility. I later had to cut back into the form and remove some of the padding to regain the lost flexibility. The intention was to make the nylon a little more durable so that it wouldn't snag and run. The thought was good but the material needs to be even more stretchy or more lightly applied than the latex I used.

Demonstration of Flexibility

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Headless Body: Padding

Headless Body with Polyester Batting

After the frame was completed I started to build up the form. Starting with the torso I placed layer upon layer of poly batting to build out a sort of simplified musculature. The arms and legs needed quite a bit more padding than the torso So I began building out the limbs with some cheap 1" upholstery foam. Fabri-tac and hot glue held it all in place. I didn't worry to much about using a super permanent adhesive since I knew that all the layers would be held in place with the final skin.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Headless Body: Frame Completed

Lower Half of Headless Body

With the upper half of the frame for the headless body complete it was time to finish up the lower half. The legs were previously made out of wooded dowels. The pelvis and upper thighs were carved out of a foam mannequin. The three parts were beveled so that the legs would bend properly. The legs were attached to a wooden dowel set at the hip height.

Headless Body Frame

The two halves were assembled and the frame for the headless body was complete.

As an afterthought I realize that the foam upper thigh pieces were superfluous. I used them thinking that they would restrict unnatural movement of the legs much in the same way that the sculpted epoxy was used to restrict the movement of the arms. As it turns out any unnatural movement would have been eliminated by the shape of the pelvic piece, and the final layers of foam padding. The same might be true of the shoulder sockets but of this I'm not so sure. It would have been better to have had a little more flexibility in the end.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Headless Body: Lower Spine

Upper Half of Headless Body Back View

Here we can clearly see the stretch fabric used to bridge the gap between the shoulder blades and chest. We can also see the purple plumbers epoxy used to sculpt the joint for the shoulders.

Next the lower portion of the spine was attached. A bungee cord was threaded through the five fiberglass plates and pvc rod, then it was tightly tied in place.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Headless Body: Arms

Shoulder Socket

After the pvc upper spinal column was placed in the rib cage I added support to the inside walls of the fiberglass shell. For the lower, more flexible half I used semi rigid foam and for the upper half I used a rigid foam. The foam was layer on the inside walls but I choose not to completely fill the chest cavity so that I could still have the option of adding sand bag weights later.

The gap between the shoulder blade and chest needed to be bridged before I could attach the arms. For this I used heavy duty stretch fabric.

Then I could final attach the arms. Using plumbers epoxy I sculpted a sort of stopper that would restrict the movement of the arm. This prevented the shoulder from pivoting or bending in an unnatural manner.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Headless Body: Spine & Shoulders

PVC Upper Spinal Column

The fiberglass ribcage was cut away from the mannequin and the cut seam was sealed with additional fiberglass. Then a support rod for the upper portion of the spinal column was set inside the rib cage. For this a piece of pvc pipe was bolted to the fiberglass and a cross bar was placed to hinge to the shoulder blades. I decided on the pvc rather than wooden dowel because it was the easiest way for me to connect the upper and lower portions of the spinal column. The lower portion, five segmented plates, are strung together with a bungee cord. To connect the two sections I simply had to thread the bungee cord through the pvc pipe.
Hinged Shoulder Blades

The shoulder blades were cut away from the fiberglass ribcage and reattached as hinged pieces so that they would have some movement.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Headless Body: Spine

Headless Body "Spinal Column"

So I wanted to design something for the spine that would bend a reasonable amount in each direction. That is, it would bend forward far more than backward and would also be able to twist to a certain degree. What I came up with was a set of five plates which were beveled. I ran a bungee cord down the center of the plates. I also ran a cord down each side to restrict the degree of twisting.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Headless Body: Fiberglass

Fiberglass Ribcage on Mannequin

After the wooden limbs were built it was time to start making the torso. I began by constructing the rib cage and shoulders using laminated fiberglass and semi rigid polyurethane. I wanted the rib cage to have a little bit of flexibility so I used only woven fiberglass. For the collar bone, sternum, shoulders and shoulder blades I used an additional heavy layer of mat fiberglass.
The piece was removed from the model by cutting up the back and sealing the seam with a strip of mat fiberglass.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Headless Body: Beginning

Leo Marks as Cloten, and Mark Bedard as Posthumus with the Headless Body Prop

(Photo: Jay Westcott/TBD | Date: Feb. 02, 2011)

The most challenging and interesting prop I got to build for STC was the headless body of Cloton for our production of Shakespeare's "Cymbeline." This project was very involved and a lot of fun, drawing from a number of skills including puppetry, molding & casting, and soft goods. Once I got over feeling daunted by the task I dove right in.

Wooden Dowel Limbs for Headless Body Prop

The process started with a sketch. We wanted to build a body that would look as realistic as possible given the time frame and budget. The hardest part in making a fake body is to build it so that the limbs and spine bend naturally and flop under their own weight. So I sketched out what types of joints I would be using in each section of the body.

I started by building the legs and arms using leather joints in notched wooden dowels. The leather was a very easy way to hinge the joints and allow a little bit of twisting between the upper and lower segments of the limbs. The notched dowels were cut so that they would bend only one direction. We didn't want any hyper-extending elbows or knees. The wooden dowels also gave the limbs enough weight to flop naturally.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Merchant's Cart: Designer Revisions

Cart Layout 3

Andrew, our scenic designer for "Merchant of Venice" at STC came into the shop the other day to take a look at some of the work. He rearranged, simplified and clarified the cart layout. It now feels much less boutiquey and much more practical, which is great. Today I did some painting and distressing to tone down the colors and get the cart looking a little more used.

Today was my last day working for STC. It was bittersweet parting; I'm very excited to be moving to the next job but will miss a lot of the people I've been working with. I had an extraordinary year here in DC. I made many friends and at least touched upon every one of my goals: hand stitching, machine sewing, millinery, leather working, dying, carpentry, welding, tool & hardware identification - and those are just the new skills, there are many more I also improved upon.

Thanks STC, it's been really great.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Merchant's Cart: Framework

Existing Cart Frame

I've now begun construction of the merchant cart for The Merchant of Venice at Shakespeare Theatre Company. We have a very neat old cart frame to work with which presented a few little challenges in order to expand the size of the cart bed.

New Cart Bed

I put together a box for the cart bed built to accommodate the position of the wheels. I think it looks quite a bit like a little row boat still, but it's getting there. The next step is to start altering the box and planning out the layout for the wares.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Merchant's Cart

Cart Draft

At the prop shop we've been working on the build for "The Merchant of Venice." One of my projects is the construction of the merchandise cart. We have a frame that our designer likes and I have been asked to make the cart body ( a wooden insert ) in such a way that the cart will be larger while still using the existing frame.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Seraph Prosthetic Finalized

Seraph Prosthetic Completed

The final step in finishing up the silicone prosthetic was to paint the surface with Psycho Paint and gold casting powder. The base color was a darker gold and the high relief surfaces were highlighted with straight gold.

The piece was finally applied with prosthetic adhesive for fit testing.

(The color of the dress and headdress in the final fit images were digitally altered to match the palette for the Seraph costume design. The prosthetic appears as is.)