Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Make the Bed... and pillows... and lamps... and...

Made animateable bedsheet today, added the metal lined wool blanket and ran a wee test. Works exactly as I'd hoped it might. Better actually, I didn't know it would work.
I laminated several layers of heavy strength aluminium foil with white gesso to act as an animateable substrate inside fabrics in the set. (on left) I use an old plastic card to smooth on a thin layer of Stick Flat glue on it. This was encased inside wrinkled, stained natural muslin for Rana's top sheet. See it in action in test above.

I've been stitching various fabric pieces for use as throw pillows for Rana's chair and window seats. (in middle) is my version of Rana's "Slow Cloth", in spired by the marvelous textile artist at Spirit Cloth by embroidering the reverse side of a textural piece in Rana's colors. (on right) I'm in the process of making botanical doilies for Rana's reading chair. I've also added a piping detail to the chair's cushion. Both things really add a reality to the chair prop, breaking up the dark field of maroon color.

While waiting for the xmas cards to arrive last week, I ducked into the incredible Liz's Antique Hardware on LaBrea in LA. They have thousands of pieces of salvage hardware of every variety there, well organized, with an intelligent staff ready to help. I poked around and found this beautiful antique iron wheel (I believe may have likely been part of a pulley many years ago?) It looks wonderful on the cottage porch next to the rain water barrel. The price I paid? Let's just say the lovely salesman at Liz's is a patron of the arts. He asked if I could use an intern for Halfland! I told him to check out the blog and email me if it looked like something he'd like to do afterall. I don't expect to hear from him, but it was a fun thought.

I recently came to realize a new story development for Halfland. I realized that the Time Flys get caught in the spider's web and end up on Rana's pin cushion. This is how we get more time. I plan to build the upstairs window in the cottage as seen on left above and go for a quick shadow shot as shown to suggest the spider's web.

I have spent a lot of money through the years in a desperate attempt to recreate a little oil lamp chimney for Halfland. I've bought blown glass hollow balls, tiny glass Christmas balls, plastic candy-filled Christmas lights, small chandelier light bulbs, etc., all in the vein hopes of creating the exact look of the plump little one such as the real-life Rana, wonderously gifted painter and storyteller Rima, has in her little portable cottage (on left). I was getting crazed, fixing to sculpt and cast one to scale in that shape when--eBay--swooped in to my rescue instead! I found and ordered the tiny 2-1/2" glass chimney you see on the right. I sketched it to scale and fitted the paper in the mini lamp ring I found in New york and held the pair up to the Rana sculpt for size. I think it'll work. I plan to build the rest of Rima's little lamp from odd bits of metal. It's an important prop that will sit on the table next to Rana's chair by firelight.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Our Christmas [Card] Story; 2008

Final Animation Wheel Art

This year, our Holiday greeting cards were custom designed Early Cinema Phenakistoscopes, Motion Picture Illusion Toys {circa 1833}.

Before film, before cameras, inventors discovered that movement could be generated optically from a series of drawn static images. I've always been interested in early cinema and techniques of animation that can be made without electricity or even photography. I thought a Phenakistoscope would be an ideal holiday card, given our vintage toy theme from year to year.

*Viewing instructions that accompanied the wheel and spindle: Gently thread the paper image wheel, art facing outward, onto the wooden spindle included. View the little Elf Puppet dancing & juggling for you by spinning the wheel with one hand while looking through the blur of holes in the wheel from behind hold the spindle,(about a foot from your face) making sure the face of the wheel is well illuminated, up to any mirror.

The final animation was made in Adobe Photoshop from a scan of a paper elf puppet (our 2006 handmade cards). The art was printed on cardstock by a digital printing service overnight.

The amazing laser cutting was done by friend and reader Mark Fullerton of Precision Graphic Systems, Inc.. Mark took a great deal of care on this for me and turned the job around overnight, thus saving our Christmas. Thanks, Mark and Angela!

Crafting the Wheels
I started by downloading vintage Phenakistoscope wheels from the internet to understand how they worked. It was a thrill when I discovered the art actually did animate when the drawings were viewed from behind the wheel by a reflection into a mirror! I also found some tips for this sort of limited animation from a book I bought in New York years ago called, "Making 'Movies' Without a Camera"; by Lafe Locke. It was clear the animation needed to be made to be a perfect unending loop, for example.

An early great challenge of the project was creating my own dieline for the wheel and its precise circular series of holes without any ability to do math. (see lower left) I may be the only person right now who could create this in a page layout program that doesn't space and align items in a circle automatically.

Early attempts (on crazy tight timeline with the holiday approaching fast) were epic fails. The animations I initially made were way too subtle for a Phenakistoscope and I quickly learned that the action needed to be more simple and reduced in size in order to fit more "frames" on the wheel.

Building Wooden Spinning Spindles
(Photos will click through to larger versions on Flickr.)
I used store-bought miniature toy wheels and banister spindles. One stem on an end of each spindle needed to be sawn off and sanded smooth. Each part was them polished with only natural Eco-House pure Linseed primer oil and liquid Beeswax.

The colors of part sets needed to be matched up and then attached together with brass washers and decorative upholstery tacks, that were dotted with red oil-based paint pen dots on each center. Festive festive.

Getting Them Packaged and Out
(Photos will click through to larger versions on Flickr.)
I made 100 wooden spindles for recipients to spin their Phenakistoscopes on, running out of parts a couple times.

The project was so squeezed by time I literally spent a crucial day in my car waiting for the laser cut disks to arrive via FedEx so I could tie on a spindle and numbered instructional tag with a ribbon, tuck them into expandable cd mailers and dash them to the nearest late night
Post Office.

The first batch went out last Thursday to the people furthest away from Los Angeles. Two more large batches were shipped out on Friday and Saturday.

I've heard from people as far away as Hawaii but you may not have received yours yet, especially if in the super slow UK. Whenever it arrives to you I hope it finds you in good health and cheer.

It was a lot of fun to put the pretty sets into their envelopes. Paul and I were thrilled with this years' results and wish you all a merry holiday.

Here's how they look in action! (Photos will click through to larger versions on Flickr.)

(PS: If you are not on our Christmas card list, the printer over printed about 10 wheels, that are a hair off center in their laser cutting but still work. Let me know if you'd like a wheel and a tag mailed to you to check out in person.)

Merry Christmas to All!

Friday, December 12, 2008

SPECIAL FIELD REPORT: Kit Kraft Art Materials

I'm deep into Christmas Elf mode today but I couldn't wait any longer to tell you about my long awaited visit to Kit Kraft, Inc. a remarkable craft and art materials supplies store in Studio City, California.

I had found them online about a year ago when I was looking for a source for (allegedly non-toxic resin) Magic Sculpt to use in armature building. The site was extensive and pretty much indicated that they carried absolutely everything one could ever wish for to build a movie. Reading what they carried, I pictured a vast old space with room upon room of stock on shelves. I thought someone there would say, "The casting material ROOM is this way, just past the clays." I'd been dreaming and panting to get there for so long but it was so hard to arrange the trip.

When I finally walked in on Wednesday I saw this... and was crest fallen.

My first view from the door. I was so disappointed to be able to see all four walls of the place and not even a little second floor!

Surely this small shoebox of a place can't have much of anything?! WRONG!!! In about :30 flat of looking more closely what I found was a mind-blowing kick-ass well-run and thoughtfully curated mega art supply shop.

Every aisle was perfectly organized and fully stocked with huge variety of goods in a wide range of materials. This is only a small sampling of a few. Every wooden shape one could need in perfect bins (I bought the rest of the Christmas parts there!) Every size and shape of scale lumber and plasti-struct, all kinds of leather and plenty of styrofoam on hand. There were aisles filled with just metal stampings, and the best selection of jewelry findings I've ever seen (and I've been everywhere). Can you imagine, there was a box of walnut shells!!! And to make matters more spectacular--I NEEDED walnut shells!!!!! They had me right then.

I noticed a man moving quickly and efficiently to restock a spot high up on a shelf. This guy was on it. Clearly for this store being merely ok was not enough. This store is managed with a high regard for its customer's delight. I'm sure that's why there was a steady stream of customers the whole time I visited. When other art supply stores are run like cold heartless big-chain supermarkets with employees who hate you and hate working there (I guess I was bitter about it and didn't know it) this place is like the artisanal village establishment that warmly cares about what you need.

I was raving about the place to the owner, Mike Sitkin, and asked him if he would order me a larger-sized bag of Ultracal for my large puppets that need molding. He said that he would although he stopped carrying the 100lb sacks as they were too hard to handle. He suggested a building materials place where I could fill up pails that I could carry (for a bit better price than his as well) and besides, he said, he was using the former space in the back room to stock his newest passion, GLITTER!

Mike showing off part of his gorgeously curated selection of fine grain glitter in his stock room. Treat yourself to a creative rush, go visit Kit Kraft and the fine people there for whatever you're into. (They'll even fire your precious metal clay pieces there for $1 a piece!) The store's been thriving since 1946 and let's keep it that way. Hours: 9-6 Monday through Saturday, one block north of Ventura Blvd. East of Laurel Canyon.

I found a lot of great Halfland stuff there. Here you see the wooden ornaments that will embellish the exterior of the cottage and its furniture. They had a large selection of carved wooden items in both human and small scales. I used one of the rectangles as Rana's front door plate. I got the brainwave while at Kit Kraft that Anthropolgie's huge array of vintage style drawer knobs would double for Rana's front door knob. I rushed over there and found too many great choices (above bottom left are just a few I found in their bins and would be perfect. I finally boiled it down two based on correct size and color, one is crystal and the other embossed ceramic.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Easier Chair

Another 2 days' work on a single prop, but again, this one was a biggie. It's the only major piece of furniture in the cottage interior and has loomed large in my mind as a giant question of how I was to do it.

It's a cheat in that I bought the chair (for $10 (!) from a discount department store several years ago) You should have seen my glee at finding a ready made perfect-style upholstered chair for Rana to settle in while sipping tea in her home. It was pale green satin and a shy too large for the cottage scale however.

Dyeing the damask fabric was easy, I just doused it with tons of intense paints and pigment until it was for the most part a fit for Rana's interior palette of wines, ochres, and pinks. I used the dyed chair in a few test animations (see below's before shots) but avoided chopping it down for ages. 1. At one point I took the chair completely apart with the thought of using the pieces as patterns. I intended to reduce the fabric pieces on a copier, buy new fabric and build a chair from scratch from that exact pattern. Then I thought--wait, I'll just axe this guy down and refashion him. It'd be faster and easier and that's good right now.

2. I sawed off about 2" in the length of the arms and reduced the width by about the same. 3. I used Gorilla duct tape to reassemble the cut down pieces. 4. I cut down the original foam and taped it on as well. I took off about 1/2 HA! an inch off the height of the legs as well. The chair remained extremely sturdy surprisingly. 5. Then began the laborious task of re-tailoring the existing fabric pieces onto the newly smaller chair. 6. By the time I got to closing off the last part on the back I was able to use curved needles to stitch an invisible seam.

(A rough idea of the size change.) I believe that having the store bought chair to work from made the result better and more quickly done than if I'd started with nothing.

UPDATE: Completing Things (more on that concept later)

I'm delighted to report that workshop guest, Nicole did actually finish the artwork she started here and sent along photos of it! (It struck me how so rare and wonderful it is to see someone actually finish something they started without the grueling burdensome delay that drags on them for years. Ahem. Memememememeeeee) So, hats off to Nicole. I really love what she made. It represents to her a wonderful experience she had in China recently. And I especially love that when the little fabric flower lanterns she'd made here wouldn't fit inside the small shadow box, she simply added them on a dangling wire to the assemblage. Beautiful job, Nicole!

Goodnight from Halfland. Stay warm and cozy where you are.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


I stared at these stairs for a long time. How exactly could Rana the goat woman walk down such a steep path (on the left)? Rustic steps were in order.

I let me hands work without my head once again and sawed some branches for risers and braces with newspaper/cardboard-based steps to fit. I checked the stride with the Rana stand in puppet, looked great, really charming on the set. I'll keep going until the pathway from her door to the stream makes sense.

I Googled for images of a "primitive natural steep footpath" (Don't you love using the Internet this way?!) and got a series of truly helpful reference images (below). I had no idea how to make it happen, especially since I thought I was done with building the set. But I realized the steps on the pathway had to be built up with papier maché and be be made to look like ground before I could begin to plant the grass and other foliage.

Christmas 08 Workshop has begun as well
This year the Vintage toy is animation related and far far easier to create than any so far. I believe I can do this in the time allotted before mailout. Hmm, I wonder what can be made with these wooden shapes for Christmas? hohoho. You'll see if you're on my card list! (email your mailing address (kept private always) to nobledesign[at]sbcglobal[dot]net with "xmas" in the title and you're on it!)

And... KIDDING! Found this on Cuteoverload.com and couldn't resist pretending that I'd made an even tinier caterpillar! Willyou look at how small those wild whiskers are?!
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