Friday, July 19, 2013

Gella of a Good Time

I was lucky enough to have Deborah George (aka; Ms. White) come up a couple further work days this week. She commuted via train and Ubercar, about 2 hours each way, each day. That's a great deal of sacrifice to get here. I wonder whether she gets how much it has meant to me that she took her valuable time to come all the up here and help me with the hard stuff as she's done.

We suited up Haz Mat style and triumphantly molded the PART TWO of the Rana body sculpt. (Please overlook the scary unfortunate shape the mold looks like.) Woo to the hoo, it's done! I had planned for us to also make some latex mache puppet skin tests--but changed my mind once I saw how great the stabilized gelatine tests we made on Tuesday were working. If they continue to pan out as well, I will opt for this non-toxic route over having to avoid the ammonia fumes in latex. Firm decision.
I am very excited by this development. If this ends up working, it's a stop motion revelation for people who don't wish to use toxic casting materials for their pupps.

I bought a few grocery store boxes of food gelatine (not a vegan product fyi) to begin seeing whether this concept would even begin to be durable enough for puppet skin. (Since our tests did work, I plan to go ahead and purchase a bulk quantity of "300 bloom strength" industrial gelatine which will be much stronger.), liquid glycerine, and common white school glue. There are other formulas found online, some use liquid sorbitol (or dietetic pancake syrup), pectin, honey, etc. You can add water to thin (Mindfully). Making up a few batches will show how to adjust the recipe to get the amount of viscosity needed to either paint in or pour at the strength needed.

Current formula by volume: 1 part Gelatine + 1 part Glycerine + 1 part White Glue + Crayon 

The formula must never be allowed to boil. Most people nuke theirs in microwaves, but I don't have one and so opted for a makeshift double boiler which worked perfectly well. I try to keep away from the vapor of heated glycerine even though it is regularly heated to make homemade soap, etc. The glue is likely a polymer of some kind, and the grated crayon as colorant likely has petro chems, but all are acceptable to me to use without a mask, as long as I am in a good cross breeze in the kitchen and not sticking my nose directly over the glass as the mixture is taking 8 minutes to melt down.

Once mixed and melted, diluted to the degree wanted, base-colored in any shade desired [!] with melted crayola mixed-in, which also adds a bit of wax to the blend, (there are also gelatine colorants available and food coloring is also a choice) it is the consistency of maple syrup and translucent, which cools to an opaque. (More glycerine means more translucency. One could, if desired, adjust the formula, making the outer skin slightly more translucent and softer and then build up further layers with more of the other ingredients.
Once painted into the plaster molds and allowed to set up/cool for about 10 minutes, the results pull out with a cold clammy feel but are extremely durable (as much as latex apparently), faithful to the mold, and surprisingly, they don't need any release agent at all to slip right out.

The big deal difference in my plan for this type of material vs. how it's generally used as cast special effects make-up prosthetic appliances, is that I'm hoping to use the gel as a binder in layers of paper.

I believe this will provide the puppet with greater tensile strength and substrate support than just the gel could manage alone, yet still allow for its flexibility. Above, you can see the straight gel from Yanu's waist up and my failed attempt to use a layer of paper behind it in his legs. I thought that whetting the paper pieces would allow them to stay in place behind the outer skin coat of gel but the wetness seems to cause the gel to release itself instead.

Want to try again with dry paper and/or dry gauze in the next test. I want to use the gel as back-filled flesh around a foam-wrapped wire armature as well.

If that result looks convincing enough on a camera test, well, I'm in business.

All thanks to Ms. White for bringing her courage and willingness to make these important experiments with me. Deborah George, YOU ROCK!


  1. Hey Shelley,
    Thank you! I got the package! Got the gold leaf, got the frayed silk - guess I have no excuse for not giving my next puppet radiant eyes and luscious lashes. Getting ready to cast a Triclops, probably not gonna use it for that one 'cause 3 eyes means 1 1/2 times the work, plus he's more your hairless reptilian type. But the Lenore head coming up soon could probably benefit from eyelashes.

  2. Farout and waycool, Nick!!~

    If you ever make a Cyclops you're in!

    Since I sent you that pack, I found a great video online that shows exactly how to do needle punched hair/fur on pupps. I hope to try that technique for lashes as well.

  3. Everything is looking amazing Shelley, as usual :) I love this safe alternative to casting that you are cooking up, curious to see how the pups hold up!

  4. HI Uba!!! I sure will report on how the pupps hold up, I doubt it would be as long lasting as latex though. Some conjecture that the pupp life will be at most 1 month.

    If true, this will mean I'll either be shooting scenes fast as lightning or making new pupps every time I want to shoot.

    I do have a supply of latex if it comes to that.


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