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