Friday, October 01, 2010

On a Prayer and a Wing

Constance and I dove right into making Yanu's Luna moth wings and started working out a technique that turned out so well I believe I'll make all the rest of Halfland's insect wings with this exact method.

This could be my favorite Halfland build so far! After Constance and I built the bamboo grove set (I'm so behind in posting you likely don't even know yet about Constance, or the bamboo grove!), we started constructing/designing the illuminated moon lantern that the Mothman character, Yanu, will carry through the grove in the dark (you heard me!) Then somehow, one thing lead to another and all of a sudden Yanu himself started wanting to be finally realized in the flesh.We started puppet building with Google, calling up as many images and videos of Luna moths as we could wish for. (The age we live in offers increasingly awe-inspiring privileges in its making it so effortless to have all that we need at hand to create.)

I strung an old piece of silk voile on a large quilter's hoop and secured the fabric all around with tape. Affixed scale print outs of the character's wings to acetate to the underside of the fabric with more tape. Next I used fine (34 metric gauge) gold wire lengths and positioned them as "ribs" in the wing structure, using the print outs as the guide. These wires were held in place with the use of straight pins pushed through all the layers, to make the ribs curve and stay close to the silk.
Then several coats of matte medium on both sides were applied to adhere the gold wires in place. I mixed a custom florescent UV reactive paint, to capture the Luna moths' elusive, delicate blue green color, and hand-colored the wings on both sides over the dry matte medium layer. Walnut ink and dye was used to tinge the edges for an organic look.

To securely sandwich the wire structure between 2 layers of silk, I brushed on a flood of matte medium, carefully pressing down the new top layer tightly around each little wire. The resulting durable wings are animatable, due to arcs of aluminum at the top of each wing part, and the thin gold wires supporting well the shape. And yet it's all still nicely translucent as well (see back lit photos just above).
Then came my Graham Owen-inspired moment. One of the reference images I had from a moth and butterfly macro photography book showed the phenomenal feather-like texture of these wings, including the elaborate mosaic that make up the four "eyes" on the wings. I started painting the ovals organically with yellow paint (as seen doing above) and used many colors of flocking powders and chalks to emulate the eyes on both sides You can see the feathery texture the flocking powders give when seen through a magnifier above. I dusted each segment of each wing on both sides with white flocking powder, to avoid coating the wires.

Once fully painted, I freed each wing part from the hoop by cutting around the paper pattern shape I had been following. I layered the top and bottom wings, shaping the frill of the tails with the wires, and was blown away at how beautiful, natural, and functional these came out. My newest 1/2L thrill.


  1. Your genius amazes me. It's unbelievable, seriously, the things you come up with!

  2. Astounding ingenuity!
    I am so glad you have taken a minute to keep us up to date!
    Sending my best,

  3. Oh my... So... Pretty! It really shows how much love you're putting into this. I'm always thrilled when you post something new!

  4. Anonymous7:40 PM

    I am blown away as always! I love the color. The wires are genius.

  5. My thanks to each of you! Thank you so much for these kind words of encouragement! I can't tell you what a difference they make.

    Yes I can, they make all the difference in the world.

  6. Beautiful Wings! They are so very delicate and lovely! I noticed you accessorized to match the color scheme. Nice fuzzy headband!

  7. Thanks, KKallweit, and thanks for noticing how my fuzzy headband totally ACCIDENTALLY matched the wings! I swear! I did however enjoy that detail when I saw the photo!

    I wear the fuzzy to hang my am radio headphones from so they aren't directly in my ears.

    I am weird. ()"-"()

  8. And... it's also NOT MY FAULT that the shape of a Luna Moth's lower wing part is so phallic!!!

    Take it up with nature! Shapes. They repeat themselves, eh?

  9. Oh wowee....Amazing, I am blown away Shelley.
    Luna moths are in this neck of the woods, hubby saw one about a month ago on the screen, he came to wake me, but it had flown away. I have never seen one myself. I have always been mesmerized by them. So just very well done with yours...just magical.

  10. Such silky wings! Absolutely perfect. Can't wait to see the rest of Yanu take shape!

  11. Woo! Marcie, maybe all of Halfland really takes place in your neck of the woods!!? We saw some footage of Lunas on porch screen doors on Youtube. But your gentleman saw one in first person! Cool.

    HIya! Nick! THANK YOU! I started sculpting him yesterday. Coming out really well. Planning a WIP post now (even though I should be doing two overdue graphic jobs.) I am so undisciplined in everything but Halfland.

  12. Shelley, these are amazing! And it's great to see such progress... I'm working at a school teacher at the moment and the new job takes every creative energy... So I'm feeding myself with your beautiful pictures, and hopefully start working on the important things...
    Thank you for sharing!

  13. Thank you so much, Jessica! Working is important too! When you get back to your amazing projects, that I love to watch the same way, you'll be so happy.

  14. Stunning, Shelley!! Truly.

  15. Thanks, Ubamaster Big Daddy!


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