Tuesday, July 02, 2013

She's Alive and I Love Her

Here she comes. Rana, the film series main character, begins to come alive in her rice paper skin layers and hand made eyes. I love her. Good thing I feel that way.
Been papering up a storm in all the new Ultracal 30 molds made here with Ms. White's help. And so the experimentation begins in how the puppets from them will get made and also be, at least partially, animate-able.

I may end up using latex instead of the rice paper layers for the skins. But right now I'm still trying out ways of getting the facial expression to change without a collapse of the flesh underneath. I'm currently testing a product called Liquache, which is a chemical polymer with paper fiber pre-mixed to a pancake batter smoothness. It's pourable directly into plaster molds, comes out without the need for release agent. Or it can be brushed on top of my flexible paper mache skins in thick layers as I'm doing. I don't need a lot of movement in these, just subtle shifts in lip and eye shapes.

The interior of Rana's face mask, lower right, is being fitted with armature wires to give her some movement there. There are horizontal wires embedded in her lips and cheeks under these in her chin and nose. The shifts they make can be seen in the set of pictures under the top image.

Another note about toxicity: Liquache is labeled and announced to be Non-toxic. I had to dig deep online to even come up with a MSDS for it. The company's site claims no precautions need to be taken with its use. Its MSDS however clearly states that a respirator and gloves need to be worn.

I'm finding this to be a common reality. Where materials that are sworn to heaven to be "safe", even so far as showing children handling the products with bare hands, etc. only to look at the MSDS that indicates the ingredients to be in fact harmful without precaution. Liquache seems to contain an enzyme called Transglutaminase which I don't imagine to be seriously neurotoxic. [UPDATE: it's aka is Meat Glue. Wikipedia ID's it as a biological enzyme forming extensively cross-linked, generally insoluble protein polymers. And states that it's used in food production to make things stick together. ]  I like the product so far. I think the bigger picture and point I'm getting to is that "non-toxic" on a material doesn't mean safe to use without mask and gloves in the raw state generally.

Many people might use highly toxic materials without protection for years without any adverse effects, others may get reactions without realizing what's happening, others too may be fine for a while and then have their system overloaded. I'm big on being careful and will probably use mask and gloves with nearly everything as a rule, no matter what their label says.
Next Post will show the continuing armature experimentation that has me feeling pretty frustrated. It seems like I'm trying things in the hardest way possible, nearly impossible, and don't know what else to try. You may know.


  1. gorgeous eyes, so life-like! i'm in awe.

  2. Thank you so much, sylvï!!!

    I make a forest world while you actually live in one! xoxo

  3. I love Rana's face! That rice paper texture is gorgeous. I don't quite understand how this sort of papier-mache material is going to be animatable, or how you join the front and back after taking them from the mould, but it looks SO good!
    Rana's face has shapes in it that would probably allow quite a bit of mouth movement if cast in a hollow skin of liquid latex. That's easier than mixing and baking foam latex. But with either of those, that papery texture would be lost....
    Now that filming is getting close - I have a worry that the foam latex underwater critters I made way back when will have seriously deteriorated by now and might just fall apart.

  4. Nick, Nick, Nick! I've been wanting to write you this all day...

    I *think* I may be onto something re the two points you make above.

    The puppets are being made with a bizarre combination of rice paper skin, made inside the plaster molds, wire or heavy metal foils inlaid into key points that will need to move, a built-up thick layer of Liquache (liquid polymer with paper fiber), the armature and then filled in the rest of the way with either, claycrete (pure paper pulp) or more liquache.

    This composite is currently giving me an INCREDIBLE!!!! paper skin surface, with a hardened flesh under it so it doesn't collapse, and most amazingly... areas on the face that move and hold their position!

    If you were here holding the Rana face in your hands you would go ape over how light, yet strong, how mask-like, yet (hopefully) animate-able this solution is turning out so far.

    Of course, only really trying a clip will tell what can be gotten from these faces/puppets. But so far I have let my hands work with my head understanding what I was doing and now that my head can see the results, I love it for this project.

    And joining the two filled halves of the casts is accomplished so effortlessly by simply using more torn rice paper pieces over the seam with more matte medium. The torn edges of rice paper are utterly invisible, melding into the prior surface, as well as being extremely resilient when whetted.

    Once dry, the puppet is like a whole sculpture, with an armature embedded inside. All non-toxically, by the way.

    I'm still putting the pieces together now. I may end up using latex for the skins for greater flexibility, not sure yet. But I really love the paper finish too! Thank you so much for liking it. That encourages me to stick with it.

    About your sea pupps!! I am so sorry not to have the scenes done yet after your and everyone else's hard work! However, I can report that all puppets made for the sea scene are soft, supple and in camera-ready shape to this day, your wonderful Piano Tuna and Quadripods included. I show them to all guests here. Jaws drop regularly!



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