Sunday, March 29, 2009

A-Door-ing It

AFTER ANOTHER FOUR DAYS of Halfland building progress the set is beginning to take magical shape. All masking tape has been removed from the tree roots and the places where the soil meets the tree have been finessed. The cottage door is completely finished and operational in all ways. Functional hinges are concealed behind leather and twig sets. There is even a wooden latch on the inside that Rana can swing down into a twig catch at night. I'm loving the painterly quality the sky backdrop is giving.

The door plate, locking hardware, and sweet key are finished. This is the level of set detail that I'm looking for in the film. It's rustic but seems real in this world taking form. The key will hang from Rana's belt, with her medicine bags, by the wired silk cord seen here.

The key (measuring 1.5"; 3.81cm) was made of pounded wire and punched copper (upper left, on the upper right is the key coated with iron paint and metallic silver on its way towards a pewter patina. I didn't want to take the time to make the locking mechanism truly a working one, nor spend hours learning about locks, so, I copied the brilliant model door detail from my friend Hila Rosenberg Arazi (lower right). Hers was much more tiny (1/12 scale vs. 1/3) and therefore more difficult to realize. I chiseled out a niche in the wood with a screw driver and used cut pieces of balsa & snipped eyelet hardware. These were then also painted with iron paint and instant rust solution (seen in earlier door detail photo above).

The bulk of my effort was spent in prepping the landscape for ultimate planting. Every inch of grounds were painted several times with my favorite Art Paste gel and sprinkled with vermiculite/mulch mixture and left to dry. Everything had to be scrubbed and brushed off between each layer. (Paul grows weary of having the walk through grit on the way to the loo at night, bless his patient heart) I love how realistic the ground looks at this stage (upper shot) I almost hate to dye it brown an green and put plants on it. I kept setting a goal here of planting the set, planting the set, planting the set. It wasn't until I started to create the pathway that I realized all of this work was preliminary to that.

More was constructed this week, but one of the most fun was the tiny eyeglasses for the Writing Mouse. I noticed that the art paste (cellulose) dried strong and clear, like a tough membrane. I push some into the wire eyeglass frames and let it dry. I think it stands in perfectly for thick vintage glass! I wrapped the bridge and ear stems with purple thread just how the antique pair I have were made. Above you see the finished Writing Mouse puppet wearing them and his little acorn cap. My favorite puppet so far, although is is the first one finished properly.

More goodies ready to show soon...

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Gaining Ground

WITH GRAPHIC JOBS DONE and a few days before a book project comes in, I got to spend Monday through Thursday this week in Halfland and it was pure heaven for me. It was a lot of creative problem solving and quality brut strength to move things forward. Among other things, I finished constructing the pathway from the cottage to the stream with 2-3 layers of making tape/newspaper/paper mache and my versatile formula of cellulose/mulch/vermiculite. Mini logs will be placed behind each pair of twig braces.

Over the course of the four days, whenever I sat inside the cottage I'd space out. I'd snap out of it after a while. It must be because it puts me nearly in Halfland (a very nice place) as though I'm living there. I'd always come back with lots of ideas for realistic, lived-in touches.

I got some fantastic prop work done while waiting for the layers of the pathway to dry. Here are the finished candle sconces started last year. There can never be enough texture in Halfland. The more texture on things the better I find. My newest favorite is IRON FILINGS base paint, dusted with BLACK SAND and the rusted out with antiquing solution. Zow!

Each sconce, while part of a pair, are slightly different; the shape of the dangling crystal, the type of ornament, etc. They have small spider webs on them as a foreshadowing of the larger more elaborately lace webs that will appear on the porch. The crystal theme is carried into the webs where they act as dew drops. I used what's called a "big eye" needle to thread the beads onto the long polyester web fibers. It's split down the middle to make things that can't be threaded easily be put through for sewing.

How I made these pillar candles was a total surprise to me. I had no idea they would glow on the inside as if real! Holy cow. The bases were made early on the project, while I still lived in New York. Made from odd bit of metals found at the super source, Space Surplus Metals on Canal Street. Go there. It's filled with things nobody but us wants and can give great ideas for making props out of the world's flotsam.

The candles were made out of a slice of pvc pipe covered at one end with an eyelet, painted white and then papered over with a transparent glassine disk on top. Inside was fitted with little battery powered LED light that are made to be put inside party balloons. I melted a small batch of rose colored beeswax in a double boiler and dipped and dribbled the faux pillars until they looked right. The wicks are snips of black wire. The candles remain removable in order to turn the eight hour light on and off. When the light is on the candle looks illuminated and also casts a practical light on whatever it's next to on the set.

I hung Downstairs Clare's wonderful cottage door on the set. Halfland friend and downstairs neighbor, Clare has been in a medical care facility since September, everyone. Prayers and good thoughts for him and The Jean That Goes With Clare, his loving wife, would be much appreciated I sure. He wasn't doing all that well for a long while and seemed to me to be gathering himself deeper inside himself further each week.

He was a professional set builder for decades in LA for the prestigious Music Center as well as a multi-talented multi-medium fine artist so, I always thought he'd *want* to come up here and help me build the set. But he never offered or asked to even though I kept dropping larger and larger hints. Finally, I asked him directly to please build me the door for the cottage. I was thrilled he said yes, and he went to great trouble to craft the door exactly as I had asked. He got as far as the perfect wood slat construction and iron nail heads. Thank you, Dear Clare.

I picked up the door from Jean when I was ready for it. I made a fun Doorplate for it with iron paint and rust solution on a carved wood piece and various metal stampings. It includes a keyhole made from an oval charm bracelet frame and hand-tooled copper.

I have no idea on earth how I knew how to cut leather strips from an old leather handbag into working twig hinges!? Where did this know-how come from, I've never seen leather hinges like that. Hmm. Past life recall? I'll show the whole door when it's all finished. In the photo above one can peer into the cottage and ooogle over the layers of fitted cardboard sub-flooring that evens out the set's platform bases and will have mini wood plank flooring with copper nail heads, hopefully right-soon.

Lastly today, I wanted to announce that reader Marcie of The Rustic Victorian in Alabama sent me two big boxes filled with wonderful things she's collected in an around her exotic Southern environment. I had admired the insect wings and puffy seed pods she featured on her blog and she up and mailed them to me! I spoke with her by phone and she mentioned several other things she had but wasn't in need of that I would dearly love to use for the set. It's as though she had been collecting things for this project for years without knowing it. I dubbed Marcie the "Halfland Official Naturalist" (HON for short) Above is just a sampling of things that she sent that will be used in the film. Thank you, Marcie HON.

Love in a Puffs as lanterns in the tree, real cotton still in their pods (!) that will be next to Rana's loom on her porch, tiny myrtle pods that will be strewn for ground debris and used as beads in Rana's necklaces, real birch bark from Washington State that is paper thin and will be rolled into scrolls for the Writing Mouse's work area. I've decided the 'writing' in Halfland will all be, what is in our world, natural markings. I do this so the viewer will imagine their worlds is filled with communications from nature, hoping they might look more closely.

She also sent boxes full of antique watch parts perfect for constructing the Time Flies.

There's a month's worth more to say, but for right now that'll do. Thank you so much for following the project. It's an unbelievable support.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Being Chairitable

Here's a Quickie early morning post to show that I managed to finish one of the half-chairs today, it surprised me. I've tried placing the wooden chair up against the tree or the wall in the cottage but it never looked quite right. This morning I instead made it into a half-chair/half-table, or as I've dubbed it, Chairitable.

I took apart a wooden heart-shaped box and cut the lid in half HA! to use as the end table top. I knew I wanted curvy cabriolé-shaped legs and so set about building them up out of odd wooden shapes as I had on the wooden bed. After it was assembled, I filled in all holes and seams with wood putty, painted it with transparent acrylics. Oh, and I added myrtle pod petals as claws on the end of the leg, which I love. It's just a small suggestion that the table may be alive in some way too.

I dropped my pretty little porcelain flower vase twice while mocking up the chair (seen repaired in main shot above). Glued it back together enough to still use it as my prop but it's a great thing it won't have to hold water. The fresh-looking flowers are real blooms and greens that have been dried with silica powder. They will now remain this way in shape and color permanently.

Chairitable will live just inside the cottage door, next to pegged rack for cloak and hat. I like to imagine what sort of creatures might come to visit Rana that might be comfortable in such a half-chair.

Hoping to have more to show here soon.
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