Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Bed Post

There now, a cozy bed that I would want to climb into on a quiet day with soft sheets, warm blankets, comfortable stack of hay under the mattress, all framed in a finely carved cherry wood sleigh-bed. This prop piece for the cottage was yet another huge question mark on how I could make it. It's finally complete and I'm very happy with it. All these years, whenever I saw a style of wooden moulding in a lumber yard, I'd buy a foot length of it with the idea in mind of using it to construct Rana's bed. How various pieces of moulding could take on the shape I had in mind was unknown to me. I started by taping the shapes together like a child playing with building blocks (upper left). The bed grew taller and taller still as I went back and forth with it to check how it fit in the bed alcove on the cottage set. I wasn't expecting it to be a high bed as it is, but as I built it suddenly the alcove's window being so high made sense! I knew I wanted part of Rana the goat woman's bed to be made of straw. And at the same time part of it had to be rustic folk cottage style proper furniture too. I like the balance I got with that in the end. When I got the profiles stacked the way I liked, I used stainable wood glue to hold them together (upper right). I tried using a Dremel tool to cut out end caps for each edge of the head and foot boards but it was so weak I did a better job by brute strength. I used a metal point tool and an Exacto™ blade to perforate the shape out of 1/8" plywood (upper middle). Sanded the pieces down and glued them in place, and then filled the gaps with wood putty paste (lower middle). I fastened all the bed pieces together with small "L" brackets screwed on the inside (lower left). Mixed a stain out of Indian Red Oxide acrylic with gloss medium, linseed oil and beeswax, to get color and sheen right. Made the haystack to fit the bedframe out of a cardboard box base, edges softened with newspaper/masking tape bumps, then painted with a mustard undercoat. When the base was dry, I sprinkled it with loose hay after it was coated with matte medium. I kept layering up the hay with more matte medium until it looked like a stack, sculpting it piece by piece in the front corners so they would remain solid when they extended past the mattress. The matte medium is entirely invisible when dry, even when examining the hay up close it looks completely natural. The back of the finished bed, that won't be seen in the film as the set's alcove covers it, looks like a fine piano with its polished curves. There's an extra vool blanket over the foot board in case it's chilly in the night. I attached the carved wooden ornament I found at the fabulous Kit Kraft Shop to a moulding base and painted the berries red, the bow mustard. The gap between it and the angle of the surface of the base moulding was filled in with wood putty to make it look as if carved from one piece. How the bed looks in position on the unfinished set (lower right). The hand stitched duvet cover was one of the first things I made for the project years ago but this week I sewed on a backing of aluminum gutter guard mesh to it so it would be positionable for filming, I then added a thin layer of foam and wine colored silk to the underside to conceal the metal mesh. I built two additional set pieces... but I can't talk about them today as this is The Bed Post.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

SPECIAL FIELD REPORT: Gerald's Last Day LA Premiere

My husband, Paul and I brought two of our closest friends, who are digging the independent stop motion flicks we've been showing them, to the event. We arrived on a perfect California day just as the Rasch family was arriving to get set up.

Friends of Halfland, Justin and Shel Rasch, did a spectacular thing last Sunday. They rented out a classic movie theater in Pasadena, California and invited all their friends, fans, and loved ones, to a screening of their first ever Stop-Motion animation they've produced together. Like the film itself, Justin and Shel footed the bill for the event themselves. And here's one of the cool things about it, not to further its distribution, or to get a deal, or to garner more paid work, whatever. They did it because to them, sharing the WIN they had in finishing it with people who care about them was most important. That rocks all kinds of ways.

We were greeted so warmly by the entire family, which was very appreciated! Thank you! The full-house crowd admired the statues of the film's characters on display in the lobby. Justin and his kids hosted the throngs of animators, friends, and well wishers. Everyone seemed satisfied and happy as they buzzed after the mini-festival, especially Miss Adeon and her best friend!

The audience took their place. Justin and Shel introduced the event to the crowd. I loved the way their shadows were 25' tall, just like in real life. It was exciting to see their own poster at the theater's entrance. The folks enjoyed popcorn, candy, and drinks like at a regular show, only this was better. Children of all ages romped around. I caught one fast moving little one coming down the aisle! First shot of the big film--it was fantastic. We all loved it!

All the shows in the Raschs minifest were laugh out loud great, each one. Their post has all the details about them. But the biggest thrill was getting to finally see Gerald's Last Day in full. And it did not disappoint. It was every bit as great as I expected over the last few years of watching them create it via their blog. And the music was perfectly matched to it in style, tone, and mood. Everyone involved should be thrilled.

They've made something real, that makes the audience feel something real and worthwhile. All I can say is that our cats are way lucky there wasn't an animal shelter open on Sundays in Pasadena!

Take a bow, guys. We're all thrilled and proud of you.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

My Famous Finished Finnish Folk-style Finish

Finished oil lamp with assorted props on table
(click through to Flickr for larger view)
Another big prop out of the way here. I labored hard over the finish on the little oil lamp. I wanted it to look like tarnished brass or copper alloy, something warm, Rana would have. I decided that all her metal items will have a warm reddish burnished hue, no gold, no silver.

Tarnished Brass Finish
(click through to Flickr for larger view)
It took me a long while to construct the lamp's base. I finally made it by slicing off a piece of a larger turned wood base and adding it to the other two pieces made earlier. I carefully filled the gaps between the shapes with stainable wood glue. Upper left, the finished lamp waiting for its paint job. Upper middle, Nova Color's brass pearl base coat and the little wood shape one step ahead with a layer of red copper.

I would paint other random wooden shapes with test ideas for the tarnish finish recipe to see the results before applying them to the lamp. These extra items were then made into filler prop jars and canisters, hooks, etc. Bottom left, My tarnish patina; I ground down black chalk, silvery graphite powder, and an iridescent gray charcoal Sennelier pastel, to mix/tint into plain gloss medium. Lower middle, the lamp mid-finish, still wet with gloss. lower right shows the finished Finnish Folk-style finish.

The most challenging part was getting the sheen right. Too much gloss looked fake, too matte looked lifeless. I tried beeswax (my answer to everything these days), water-diluted gloss, frosting medium, etc. Kept swinging shiny to dull and back. Got a bit obsessive about it. Declared it done. Very happy with it. I fancy myself as having a knack with aged patina finishes and wanted to challenge myself with something other than my usual rusted iron chemical tricks. Now I can add taking plain wood to tarnished metal to my skill list.

Side table construction(click through to Flickr for larger view)
So happy with the lamp was I, that I thought to go ahead and make the setting for it, a round side table that will sit next to Rana's upholstered chair. The table's leg and bottom base were originally from a white-washed birdhouse that I was decor at our wedding.

I took more heavy strength aluminium foil and laminated it, this time with gloss medium. Painted the outside with white gesso, let dry. Used Stick Flat low moisture glue to adhere it to an Irish linen napkin with a fine edge that I'd cut down and sewn to fit.

Once the fabric was backed with the foil, it was an easy matter to carefully sculpt it over the table to drape as a cloth would. I liked the stains of the white cloth but felt it needed something more to look finished. I surprised myself by cutting a nicely woven-textured wine-colored fabric (that I thought was for something else) into a circle as a table topper. Not wanting to make yet another foil, I simply coated the reverse of the topper with a thick layer of Stick Flat and pressed and sculpted it over the sculpted white cloth.

I then cut into both cloths and the cardboard round that is the table's round top to make a trap door for the oil lamp's LED light battery housing under its base. Flip the switch, stick the works into the hole and the lamp sits properly on the surface. No one's the wiser. (More on my newest fascination with re-figuring ready-made orange flickering LED tealight votives later. Let's just say that the semester of electronics I took in Junior High has finally come in handy!)

Vermeer like art scene mock up
(click through to Flickr for larger view)
Rana's stand-in puppet enjoys a mock-up meal by the lantern in Vermeer-like light. Goodnight all...

Friday, January 02, 2009

New Year's Day and Halfland's First Giveaway

Well, here we are, 2009. Hoping for all good things. I spent the day doing a few prop things. I sawed the handle off of my own wooden kitchen ladle to make a rustic hewn bowl for Rana's kitchen. I used pure liquid beeswax to polish it and her kitchen table which gave it a perfect sheen and brought out the grain patterns beautifully. I liked it so much, I thought to brush the wax on the apples and other vegetables. It really gave a luster that looked more natural than the gloss medium I had used on them before. I'm sold on beeswax more and more.

The little glass chimney arrived yesterday and I thought I'd see if I could make it into Rana's oil lamp. (on left is the new chimney before the base was made.) It took the rest of the day but at least it's nearly done. The chimney is perfect, a realization of a prop dream. I couldn't recreate Rima's oil lamp (as seen in the last post) but I made the best shape I could from pieces on hand here. I had to saw off and hollow out a turned wooden candlestick holder for the base. I fit it with various grommets and drawer pulls that were drilled out to hold the practical LED light inside. The lamp ring was cut off and a small ring was pounded and glued on in its place. I made a smaller wick riser wheel out of a small upholstery tack and metal eyelets. I fitted a box latch to the base's curves as a handle. I painted the LED bulb with yellow/red-tinted diamond glaze. The everything but the chimney and the bulb will be given a rusted iron patina or if I can, a deeply burnished brass.

Get Free: Notes from Halfland's first ever Giveaway
PRIZE UPDATE: Martha and I selected commenter, Dana Noble (no relation to me) for the prize. While all the goals listed in the comments were very worthwhile, Dana's seemed the slam dunk easiest to identify. Martha has already sent her a copy of the book to read. They are scheduling a private email session between them when Dana feels she can get the most benefit from it. (Keep us informed how it goes, guys!) May everyone one complete done finish what they would most like in 2009. Good luck!

Martha painting for her book in the workshop. Martha and I had a blast matching her illustrations to her text in a garden pavilion. Her beautiful finished book.

Do you have a project(s) you'd like to make some tasty progress on?

Last January my friend, Martha Ringer, hired me to produce her first book. It was completed in June under the title, "Complete. Done. Finished. The Joy of Doing, The Freedom When Done." Martha is an in-demand private executive productivity coach and a joy to be around.

We had the most creative and satisfying experience possible making her book together. Many of the beautiful illustrations she made for the book were done here. We spent a full day, near the project's end, in a luscious meditation garden pairing each watercolor illustration to each one page chapter, marveling at how each one seemed to be created for each as though it were planned that way. It wasn't, she just played here with paper and paint and all that beauty just came out. It all just happened to fit with the edited book and made a perfect setting for the gems.

Listening to my radical marketing advice, as soon as the book was printed Martha gave it away on her site freely to anyone. The generosity of this gesture resulted in more sales of the actual book rather than less, surprising everyone but those who understand what's right to do. People who got the book from their bosses, family, or friends wanted to have more copies to give as gifts themselves. People who read the book online saw how good it was and wanted to buy a nicely produced hardcopy to have and hold or give, and so it goes. Martha's halfway through her second printing. My goal for the book was to make it like a little jewel, a treasure, that people could easily read and engage with the wonderful content. Martha believes in the power of Completion, in freeing up mental and physical time and energy to do more. Yet, so many of us linger with projects and goals undone.

Here's where the giveaway comes in. Martha has agreed to give a personal email or interactive 10-minute phone session and a copy of the book to one of the visitors to this blog! You are invited to list a goal or two (or all) of the specific projects you'd love to have actually completed in 2009 in the comments of this post and Martha will pick one to give a expert boost! She's very very good at this and having her support, even for just the initial launch, could be the thing that turns the corner for you. This could be the year where you make the progress your heart so desires. Give it a go, feel free to use the comments to purge your list out of your head. That's bound to be useful in and of itself.

And in the meantime, if you have recently completed something...

Martha has made a little Instant Celebration for you on her homepage Just type in what you completed in the box and you'll see Martha celebrate with you*, which is something she also does very very well and is something that her clients look forward to the most!

(*FREE FREE FREE No sign-ups, no emails, nothing will be kept, it's just FUN!)
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