Monday, April 30, 2007

Giving Myself a Hand

Before going down with couch-time last Friday, I discovered that my small puppet for the black mermaid, Kyra, had the exact right size hands for the sculpt in progress for the half-crow woman, Tarn, character. I thought why not pull a cast of the hands in hot glue with wires inside and add them on the existing sculpt rather than to try making hands from scratch. Plus, this way two of film's character hands will look the same in style. (Plus plus, I dislike sculpting hands.) Stuck it on there, looks pretty good to me. Woo. Rock and Roll.

Have I mentioned how much I LOVE casting my plaster molds in hot glue?!!! These were Ultracal molds made over a decade ago for the Kyra character. I glued some floral wire into half the mold, filled both halves with high temp hot glue, smashed the mold halves together and waited about 2 minutes. Instapupp©, gotta love it. I trimmed the clear hand cast and of course, hot glued it onto the modeling clay sculpt in progress. For a quickie experiment it seems to work purty dern well. I can position the fingers and they hold. Fun not to have to sculpt these hands!

Sculpting the Invisible
Whilst on the couch I watched a Part One of classic poetic realism film, The Children of Paradise (1945). "Les Enfants du Paradis...undisputed grande dame of French cinema: majestic, imperious, and undiminished in its seductive allure."

I had never heard of it before and am so glad I have seen it now. It was lavish in budget and manned by director Marcel Carné and written by poet, Jacques Prévert, who have achieved the near impossible, creating an experience for the viewer of what isn't there, a contemplation of the nature of true love. It is available on Netflix as a two disk set and is well worth getting. From a review: "Notice the specific lighting that highlights portions of people's bodies, eyes, hair, and the sincerity that the acting embodies. Everything is in it for a reason, from the flowers to the moon. And if you love the theatre, the backstage sequences will knock your socks off. There are hundreds of people in a shot at a time, and each one of them is doing a specific thing. No movie will be made like this ever again. Choose your friends based on whether they like this film."
The brilliant performance of Jean-Louis Barrault as a pantomime is in each frame a work of art.

"...Blessed with the sort of convincing realism that can only result from a profusion of detail, atmosphere, and artifice, Children of Paradise succeeds in creating a self-contained, grandiose universe in miniature with deceptive ease."

The makers artfully use stage within stage, within stage motifs to superb effect.

Sample of what I learned from film scholar Brian Stonehill on disk one's commentary track:

• If your introduce a character by filming from his or her POV over their shoulder you can immediately begin to establish a sympathetic position for them with the audience.

• The blocking and the lighting specifically, are crafted to enhance the telling of the story more intimately.

• If you hold up a miniature chandelier in a theater set, in position, in camera, like a 3D matte painting--it works great!

• If you have a lot of entrances and exits in a scene you can design the set as a spilt level with stairs to add a great deal of drama and visual interest to an otherwise dialog-heavy sequence.

• During the era the film is set in, Paris of 1827, the poor would pay a few cents to sit in the topmost balconies of theaters, hence the name, "Children of Paradise" (or as they were referred to in England "Children of the Gods") and they would demand entertainment loudly from their perches. There were no movies, no television, no internet. Live theater was the public's only Visual Culture and they wanted it badly. I think the demand is the same today, just online now.

• French live theater traditionally begins with about six loud thumps on the floorboards back stage to herald the curtain's rising. We'll have to come up with some sort of new tradition for these little electronic theater pieces. Hmmm.

• If you announce a character with a specific sound, before he is seen, you can add to the character's symbolic metaphor. Like the sound of glass shattering as Tarn arrives, for example.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

FIELD REPORT: ASIFA-Hollywood Stop Motion Expo

Last Saturday was a instructive and constructive stop motion gathering of professionals and enthusiasts held on the beautiful campus of Woodbury University in Burbank. I had never heard of The International Animated Film Society or Larry Loc, who, from what I could tell, was the fellow along with other volunteers, that organized and put in the tremendous work and coordination involved to make this sort of event happen. My thanks goes out to those involved in putting the expo on and for those coming out to speak and spend time.

It was scheduled with panels from 9 am until 5 pm and was followed by two sets of animation film screenings until 10 pm. The members of the various panels, on Stop Motion Education, Sets, Lighting, and camera, and evolution of Stop Motion, were big names and highly expert in the medium. How this event pulled the likes of creative geni, Will Vinton and The Chiodo Brothers, Jim Aupperle, et al, is a mystery to me, but that may be my ignorance of the organization involved. Everyone brought a reel to run during the panels, some of which was dazzlingly great. One of the chief things I came away with was the realization that I know exactly what I'm doing for my projects and furthermore have permission from those who have marshaled the craft into an industry to go forth and create as I see fit. Hooray.

I casually went about getting there at 10:30, not feeling a need to rush there for opening remarks. I arrived during the first panel on Stop mo in computer age, recognized the remarkable animation talents of Justin and Shel Rasch (from their photos on their blog) seated in the audience. I cuddled up and whispered hello, like we've been pals for years, which is how I feel. Their eyes got big until they realized I wasn't a stalker exactly and just their fellow stop mo geek. I got to chat a bit, too briefly, with them during the break for lunch though it was enough to be completely confirmed in my feeling that they were bright, open, natural, and sweet people. I look forward to the day when their films hit the world and they emerge to everyone as the superstars they are.

The first panel was headed by the riotously dynamic T Reid Norton who, from my point of view, single handedly commanded life into a very quiet and withdrawn or perhaps just sleepy collection of animators up on the stage as if he were a Dr. Frankenstein's pork pie hat wearing cousin, Benny. Animators must be by definition introverts, people who prefer to spend their time alone with puppets and little worlds rather than with other people. That's why communicating with each other via the Internet fits so comfortably with the field. So, it would be no surprise if even its most successful practitioners were not sparkling public speakers. Misha Klein however, master performance animator, made several comments I thought were noteworthy enough to write down.

He used the new to me term for stop mo animators being "Sculptors in time".
He suggested having a character tell YOU as the animator what it wants to act out for performance.
He said to consider the qualities of the character's movement, sad/happy, etc, in order to sustain the level of emotion even while your life changes during the interval of filming a sequence. Filling in the character's emotional blanks when your mood has naturally changed was to him one of the greatest performance challenges.

Devolving into Random Notes
**Design your character INTERNALLY (their back story) then build them externally.

It was said that the "problem solving" required in stop motion is possibly the most satisfying aspect of it.

It was pretty much the consensus of the day that Stop Motion as an art form is the most rewarding. It requires more abilities than any other single form and demands the artist to do it all, from the artistry to the technical, etc. It is an intuitive medium, not yet in it's Golden age, despite being over 100 years old. It was felt it was a dormant art, the funnest, if the truth were known.

"don't recreate the world, create a new reality"

There is a perceived tangible quality to stop motion that isn't possible in 2D or CG.

"Stop motion is ALWAYS real, CG, no matter how well done, is ALWAYS fake." --Stephen Chiodo

It's always Performance over Technique.

Geek Out Tips
Tinderbox: a plug in for Final Cut Pro that removes unavoidable camera flicker from animating with digital still frame cameras.

In case you had to ever remove a burned out light bulb or otherwise make a repair to a light head during a shoot one could put paper down on the floor and trace the shadow of the existing light(s) on your final set up and then match the position to back to the tracing.

Soft directional light makes it flattering to your characters.

You could affix a laser pointer pen to your camera and mark on the wall behind your characters the exact trajectory of your shots for matching later. By securing a ruler you could lengthen the handle on your tripod to make even more precise incremental movements during pans.

Secure everything as though it needed to remain as it is during an earthquake. This means heavy sandbags on sturdy tripods, taping down the lens setting in position, all lighting taped and stable, etc.

Always shoot a clean blank of your finished set before characters are on it for erasing rigs, etc.

For consistent light power levels, rent or buy Variac transformers (Harbor Frieght has best price) to plug all your lights into and then under power the voltage by about 10% to extend the life of the bulbs dramatically. When you power up the lights each day do it from the transformer by slowly dialing up the power rather than turning off and on the unit. Same at end of day. If you can, get a line conditioner in order to filter or compensate for drops in city power supply. [follow safety rules]

Cross the character eyes slightly, so as not to appear wall-eyed.

When you light your set, light with miniature heads as if it were a live action fully human scale set, using all the same pro techniques. Jim Aupperle, unarguably the finest stop motion lighting director in the world's general method, first get your ambient light for the mood, make it theatrical, then install your fill lights, get your detail in the shadows, bounce on white foam core or white silk, even making snoots if needed for soft but highly directed light (gradated directional spots to concentrate light as spot.) Then lastly add your key light. Gels add color, Jim finds he uses CTO orange and blue most of all. Rim lights, diffusion, new use for LEDs, blaa blaa.

Watch Vittorio Storaro for an education in cinematography, as he's an artist painting with light.

**Test your character designs as they MOVE not just as sketches or maquettes.

Some Wows
Jim Aupperle brought some real gems on his reel. One was a sequence from the movie, [corrected] Runaway Ralph (1988), where they shot the stop motion mouse riding a motorcycle on a highway OUT OF DOORS!! IN NATURAL LIGHT!!! Jim said that the "chatter" of the clouds and the leaves on the trees moving during the filming were smoothed out because of the frame rate increase? I didn't follow exactly but I can say that the footage looked so natural and inspiring.

Another Jim gem was an old clip behind the scenes of ROTATING SET by John Mathews for the film, Frog and Toad Are Friends (1985) I'd love to see it in full--hell, I'd buy a copy! I found it hidden on this dvd, if you can find a copy. The camera was more or less fixed while the set rotated giving a spectacular illusion of following the cycling from over hill and dale. Man--I am so doing that. I had originally thought of it for my main set, but then thought it unpractical, no more!

Biggest Shock of Day
Why dear God in heaven, are HUGE amounts of luxurious cash, hundreds of thousands of dollars, being forked over to inchoerent beginners so they can make sort-of-sequels to lame yet peculiarly popular, albeit intrepid efforts?
Maybe it's because these people have actually done something, anything, that can be held up as an actual achievement. There's a point to that. I better get down to my work.

An Elephant in the Room
For all the awe power in the room all day from people who have spent decades of their life innovating, laboring, and living with animation, and as much as I'm grateful for being able to attend an event of this kind and get to see the people involved and hear a bit about how and why they work, for me there was a big issue unaddressed. I see a lot of shorts by professionals and amateurs alike being a complete and utter waste of time.

Crafting even the briefest of stop motion clip takes an incalculable amount of time, effort, money, and collaboration between many talented individuals to make happen. So why does it seem to me that much of what is done is either pointless, shallow, callow, or even puerile?

Much of the paid animation work freelance talent does these days, at least the work hired for tv and film studios (OLD MEDIA), is geared for juvenile tastes and profoundly trivial results. I'm taking it too seriously, it's just entertainment, right? Maybe. But I wrassle with why so many truly talented and skilled artists/animators spend their precious decades making what I consider to be pure crap. I'm sorry, apologies to my betters, but what's the point of singing vegetables and the like? I should be more accepting of everyones contributions and expressions, maybe it means something deeper to those who made it? Or maybe making meaningful art isn't everyone's objective.

I am beyond supportive of everyone on the green fresh earth making their art, whatever it is, good, bad, meaningful to them, drivel, whatever. I think there is room for every stitch of it on the Internet. Each one of us can and should have their own online channel to express through, in whatever way we wish. Let numbers of viewers decide what's popular. Bring it on. I think what irks me is the gnawing question of whether or not these expert animators have anything other than crap to say. Are they deep-down-shallow? Am I missing their point? Is the point that there is no point? And why is crap paid for? It must be that it makes money. Is this a half-hearted planet then? Is there an opportunity for people to go deeper?

I will say that the sincerely talented Will Vinton (he is so much more than a dancing raisin, check out some of his showcase reels here), indicated that his experience of JOY and FREEDOM as an independent animator was in direct proportion to how much business overhead he had to carry. His greatest satisfaction came at his most independent phase. He's doing his own handmade "Free Will" thing now with total creative freedom, but then, he has the fame, name, and I assume bank account for some well-earned sovereignty. His advice to go for it as an independent is well taken.

I come away from the day clear that my work is my own, with a personal agenda, that may or may not have anything to do with what animation means to experts involved. I know now that I'm not after any job in the industry. I am free.

Biggest Highlight of Day
Getting to meet a friend for the first time. Mark Fullerton "Mefull", long time eFriend and reader came up for the expo too.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Playing With My Food

Today I food propped a little. The potatoes, onions and garlic were already made. I'm happy with they way they look. Everything in Halfland will be at this level of detail and realism or lack of detail and realism, the same rustic folk style.

I painted real, dried flower seed pods with acrylic and gloss medium to make green peas. I painted glued clusters of tiny glass (no hole) beads with tinted medium to finish off the raspberries. I took deep garnet seed beads and packed them with glue into dried, round seed pods to make pomegranates. They will be displayed in Rana's kitchen on a platter, some closed, some cracked open. (Full disclosure: pomegranates are my favorite food.) I was going to hand-place each seed bead in the right direction but I think this quicker result fools the eye sufficiently.

I painted the insides of the faux glass bottles with ink colors and it really looks interesting, just like liquid inside glass. I sketched up the Writing Mouse with a hand puppet to show the scale his final puppet will be.

Mouse Hand Puppet Test on VimeoHimself kindly loaned one of his outstanding rat hand puppets for a little quick clip, so I could see whether the Writing Mouse character could be a live action/stop-motion puppet hybrid. He would still have a wire armature for the stop motion movements at his desk, but could also move from my hand inside if I wanted to say... shoot outdoors! Matter of fact, this is what I'll be doing at the start of the film with the black mermaid, Kyra, at the shore too! Halfland now has two rod/hand/armature puppet hybrids.

Programming Note: There's a lot I'd like to say about my experience at the ASIFA-Hollywood Expo last Saturday, it's been revealing and galvanizing for several reasons. Tomorrow I'll have more time to write up what I learned.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Still Hitting the Bottle

And the jar... I couldn't stop trying to get a system down for making custom hot glue "glass" bottles and ink jars for the Writing Mouse scene. [Did I mention how fantastically fun it is to cast glue in plaster? It's fast, it no tox, and the results are thrilling when they work.] I don't know if I'll use them, but it sure was fun figuring out how to do it. I found the way to make the halves match was to assemble a 2-part mold with rubber bands and the squeeze the hot glue in, slush on all sides, then pour the extra out. Wait until the glue cures and then release the bond mold halves to reveal a round little bottie. They were complete, but the seams were pronounced. It would work if the mold were cut in two more precisely through exactly half of the bottle instead of obtusely like my test bottle had been.

Feeling sassy though, I made other molds that were kept whole. The clear glue skin of the cast was pulled firmly from the bottom while still slightly warm. These then were drilled with a Dremel™ tool when cured and they looked remarkably like hollow glass (Got that, Mikeee? Hold your liquer.). Then I applied dry pearlized pigments and an aging acrylic patina to give them an old, dug up artifact look. Little glass jars with lids were made the same way and filled with ink and leaf quills, ready to write down the wise answers from deep inside the Listening Tree.

Tomorrow I plan to write up my Field Report and Notes from the ASIFA-Hollywood Stop Motion Expo held in Los Angeles on Saturday.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

We'll Always Have (Plaster of) Paris

Not bad glass for hot glue. My most successful "slush glue" casts on the right, one with an amber-colored bead inside.

I baked the first mold with Liquid Sculpey in it even though I was dubious that the heat would penetrate the thick plaster mold enough to cause the material to turn translucent. I was right about that but I was surprised that the mold survived and continued to be usable to experiment further all day. I am in love with Plaster of Paris now. The casts were coming out so flexible and easy to work with that I even tried the technique on some of the Ultracal cement molds for Kyra's body parts in case the whole puppet could be made with hot glue with wire armatures inside (TBD).

I followed Smarty Mike's tip about wetting the plaster before squishing in the hot glue into both mold halves. (How can that work? but it does!) Sure enough, the hot glue pops out completely, even in the undercuts, when cooled. I made several bottle test samples in this fashion and was feeling pretty Wile E. Coyote about the results. I was excited that they looked translucent and better formed than the build-up samples but wasn't too thrilled that they didn't look like glass.
Then, by accident, I pushed the temp on the hot glue gun to a higher level which caused the hot glue to become more liquefied which in turn caused me to have the idea to slush mold the bottles with it. I put less glue in and ran it around the mold leaving a thinner skin as I went. Which I have to report looks pretty darn glass-ish compared to the more dense solid version, seen below on the right.
I painted "ink" on the reverse of the various bottle halves, finding transparent marker ink to look the most like a liquid filling vs. a red opaque paint pen (shown in the middle, photographed next to real glass to see how the faux glass mustered.) On the right, you can see how the lower temp created patterns in the thicker bottles.

The only drawback was that I found it impossible to match and attach the front and backs of the casts to make a complete round bottle. If I pursue this solution for the film props, I may look at making the bottle shapes such that they can be one part molds. I found that brushing the outside of the cast with gloss medium clarified the surface of the mold.

"Anything you do is craft until you master it."
--Otto Natzler (pioneering ceramicist)

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Casting Crouch

I sculpted a wittie bottie out of modeling clay and coated it with Vaseline to smooth out the surface as glass like as possible.

I mixed up a small batch of regular plaster of paris and made a mold in a paper cup. I sawed it in (nearly) half before it was all the way cured because I had second thoughts about making this a one-off pour mold from the bottom.

I banded the halves together, brushed in more Vaseline as a hopeful release agent (I read where If you're using Plaster of Paris no release agent is needed? mX) and encouraged the gummy Sculpey in along with a green bead at the center to act as "ink" in the bottle's finished form.

It dawned on me around dawn that rather than try to build up bottle shapes for props I could theoretically sculpt a bottle and cast it in translucent Liquid Sculpey (or other even more transparent poly resins, if I thought it worth going tox). I plan to bake this test up with some others in the big oven on Wednesday when no one else is around** Between trying to cook up the polymer at just the right temp so nasty chems aren't released and residue doesn't build up in my food oven, I'm actually thinking using a little two-part resin mixed at the window while wearing a respirator might be safer in the end?

From an informative tutorial from Karen and Ann Mitchell on using the product :

• Overheating polymer clays will result in blackening and the release of irritating gases including hydrogen chloride**. Use an oven thermometer and timer to assure that your creation is not overheated. • Polymer clay can be baked in a home oven, however many polymer clay enthusiasts use a separate toaster or convection oven dedicated to polymer clay baking. • Another option is to use a dedicated, inexpensive roaster pan (speckled enamelware) with a lid to bake clay inside your home oven. Another, even cheaper option is to take two aluminum foil baking pans: invert one over the other, and clothespin them shut. Voila, a baking container! • Liquid Sculpey has more of an odor when baking than solid Sculpey clays. Although polymer clay is not toxic, it is important to always bake clay in a well-ventilated area. • In thin layers Liquid Sculpey bakes to a translucent finish. TLS can be applied in layers and be re-baked after each layer.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Decanter Go On Like This

This snapshot off the web of ancient Roman glass bottles is what I'd most like to replicate.
I found that the clear paper glue (in blue squeeze bottle) never built up any thickness. Clunk.

I found that the clear window paint (in white squeeze tube) never really dried through in any thickness and would take way too long to build up a bottle. (A blue bead with the black nail for a handle had several dips in it but hardly looks any different than the raw blue bead next to it.) Clackerty.

I found that gooey chewy Liquid Sculpey was really hard to shape (mix it with?) and would mostly slop around uncooperatively, like the ones stuck on toothpicks above. However, I popped one of these into the oven with the polymer clay wrapped tests and think it came out the best of the batch, seen centered in the bottle cluster shown on right. Twinkle tinkle?

The other bottles around it were made by wrapping a thin slice of polymer clay (the white block on right is "transparent" Kato Polyclay by Van Aken) around various small beads and baking in a toaster oven at 300º for 20 minutes instead of the recommended 10 (not a good idea, I have a headache), which is why some of it scorched. I very much like the primitive quality this group has. It matches Halfland very well and I may use these in the Writing Mouse chalet, in the background.

I thought I was being clever when I said, "Hey, hey! why not try HOT GLUE!!!" It's clearish, non-tox, it would build up right away being thick enough not to run off the bead and wire bases. It looked good at the start. I got cheeky and even inserted clear plastic straws in the bead tops as a substrate for the bottlenecks. They looked nice and clear, clouding up only a bit when cooled. Parts of them look meh ok, but mostly just clunky. Clankerty--Smash--tinkle.
So, after these first tests, my winner is... Liquid Sculpey and Polymer Clay with twig stoppers.
Thank you for playing along at home. I hope to leave bottle world alone and get back to some more major plastering this weekend.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Frontal Lobotomy

Today's small Halfland act was to 'speriment with several different materials to simulate hand-blown glass bottles to scale. I started out rolling wafer thin sheets of translucent/transparent Polymer clay and wrapping it around various colored beads. Then I found that I had a bottle of liquid Sculpy on hand, a versatile little product, that I bought to use for image transfer onto jewelry. I dipped beads into that taffy-like goo too. When I feel brave, and well-ventilated, I will pop these samples into my home toaster oven to cure and render clear. (Safety Boy?)

Then it occurred to me, "Hey, what about that there non-tox, CLEAR-when-dry window paint I bought to use on the cottage windows?" I dunked a few beads in that and am letting them dry. Then I sez, "Hey!, what about this here TOTALLY CLEAR all the time Tombo paper glue type glue?" It immediately looked most like glass of all but the viscosity was too fluid and it kept dripping right off. It'll take a few dippings through tonight and tomorrow to build it up sufficiently into bottle shapes.

So, photos and results forthcoming. Hopeful, custom glass, fingers crossed.
Art Bonus
For the last eight or nine years for my mother's birthday, I've made a little theme birdie out of wool for her. I"ve named the series, "Crewel Birds" (Get it? crewel (made of wool)?). This year's bird, "Birdadette", clutches a little cross made of twigs and has her head covered in blue cloth (to connote my mother's recent conversion into Evangelical Christianity.) I bid her the best of luck on her new path.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Relatively Rough

Our sleepy dinner guests at Chez El Nido.
Wow. Let's just say I've been unable to perform small acts for the last while. I got hit, one, two, from strong middlebesmurches. At the same time, my husband's younger brother, his beautiful wife, and their two sweet and funny boys, came out for vacation, just leaving tonight for their trip home to the UK. It ended up that they were completely self-sufficient guests and only a pleasure to be with. The outcome of their 10-day trip was a total success all around, without me having to do much of anything (guilty). I've spent several days knocked out on a couch, loopy from pain meds. The house is back in order now and all's ready to roll again. I just want to post a week's worth of Halfland bits that I've been saving up in my single-minded head.
One of the background characters in Halfland is a chicken painting at an easel in the yard. The human aspect of this animal is that it has a person's face. I think the allusion from my mind is that line vegetarians often say, "I wouldn't eat anything that had a face." Part of me too finds it difficult to eat animals philosophically, the butchering, the slaughtering, the killing of divine creatures so that I can eat meat. And at the same moment I want it. Meat. I love eating it, lots of it, with sauces. I think the chicken with a face is a quasi representation of my inner duplicity on the what's-for-dinner matter. A comment on a recent Rocketboom episode linked to a home video someone took feeding chickens some leftover rigatoni. There were several hilarious shots of the chickens looking directly into the camera for more pasta. These chicken face-on faces, rarely seen, will serve as inspiration for my sculpting the Halfland character's face.
Yanu, mothman hunter character, will be largely unseen in the first Halfland film series. Like a figment of the imagination, Yanu will be seen only out of the corners of the camera's eye. These types of branch silhouettes drive me wild for this disappearing effect. On the left is the recent artwork for the movie, Premonition, which shows the distinctive contours of star Sandra Bullock's face in the branches of trees. Paul found this for me and knew I would go crazy over it. The right hand image I've had for a while on the visual reference sheets it's a detail of an illustration for a folktale titled, The Invisible Prince. Can you see him?
Cassie Mae Chappell of Mommy Makes Roses, generously shared on Martha Stewart Living her marvelously life-like technique for creating paper roses out of... coffee filters! I couldn't resist trying it myself (especially since she charges about $75 USD to make each one! There's video there in case you'd like to try it too.) I found the method very easy and fun to do (see the raw white paper form on left and some finished blooms in the middle.) They resulted in surprisingly natural looking roses I thought. This answered my long lived wondering about how to get the right scale flowers for Rana's teacup rose bush for her garden--I'll make them! There's my first miniature one on the right, next to a new set of tiny porcelain cups and saucers I found last Thursday at the 99¢ store for this purpose.
Part of the couch based art bonus time was how I came to package the finished batch of paper roses as thank you cards for friends that stepped in to host the family this week. I put single large flowers into cardboard tubes and papier mached them shut with thin, green painter's masking paper. I LOVE the way they turned out. It reminds me of either a mini pinata in their mailbox to open--FUN! or a scene from a horror movie I saw as a kid of people being enclosed inside a honeycomb cell by giant bees. (Um, anyone else see that one?)
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