Wednesday, September 30, 2009

100 Days: Got It All Sewn Up

NO, THIS prop is my favorite for the film so far! It was an intense process but richly satisfying to finally complete. On the arm of her overstuffed comfy chair, next to her baskets of thread and yarn spools, is Rana's seashell sewing box.

The clam shell box (with working miniature copper latch!) opens to show the pin cushion on one side, filled with fancy decorative pins, and a little pocket pouch with more pins and spools of thread on the other.

The white shells were painted to match the cottage decor and rimmed in metallic antique gold paint as if metal-worked. The latch and working hinge were attached and finished with the heads of pins as nails. The pin cushion is filled with sand and holds the pins well. The pins themselves are the smallest made, only 1/2" long, used for sequins. I had a blast searching my bead stash for the smallest vintage German glass pearls, mother of pearl, and cut glass crystal to top them with.

But I didn't stop there. I remembered I also had real ladybug wings saved and thought it might be fun to have an insect theme for the kit. I already had made a pair of embroidery scissors for Rana with a bee on them. If I added little lady bug pins, that would make the Time Fly being there make more sense, if such a thing could. And when the ladies looked like the other little jewels being used, it gave me the idea to have the Fly also be a decorative pin rather than being pinned himself.

I think this little element will add a great deal of detail and texture to the cottage set, making it all the more genuine that Rana really lives there.

100 Days: Filament of my Imagination

Waiter, there's a fly in my film.

As part of Rana's sewing box prop, I thought I needed to have a small version, at least, of a Time Fly sticking in it. Making Time Flys, or as Nick puts it, Musca Tempora, has been a real challenge for me before now. I had collected large amounts of various loose watch parts from online sources and then Halfland's Official Naturalist sent me tons of larger vintage pocket watch parts to work with. I had various grand plans involving building the flies out of watch parts but it wasn't coming together.

I had the thought a while ago to go back to the Halfland creative mojo and to make the flies as I had originally envisioned them 16 years ago. Using three perfect fly shades of metallic green filament and shiny pearlized green metallic pigment powder that I had bought way back then for the purpose of making these flies.

I started by tightly wrapping the filament into a shape shape that I then tied off with strong thread into insect body segments and re-wrapped in the bright filaments in stripes. The body was dusted with the pearlized powder which gave the whole thing the effect of being a real common housefly. So much so, that I kept thinking I needed to shoo it away forgetting I was making it.

The wings were real (I think either sent by HON Marci or weirdly found and collected by me along the way.) They were dusted with red/gold pigment powder in order to brighten their coffee color.

When I make additional flies, I'll be using much finer gauge wire and painting it black for the six legs as the jewelry wire used here is a bit coarse for me. Tiny milky red glass seed beads were glued on for eyes and then dotted with clear glossy diamond drop paint. The mouth piece is an actual watch gear glued in. Tiny hairy leg filamentous outgrowths were glued on paint brush bristles dyed black with sumi-e ink.

As part of Rana's fabulously detailed seashell sewing box, Halfland's first Time Fly would look wonderful one day under a glass dome display as part of a exhibit on the film.

100 Days: Thread Bare

The fancy embroidery scissors here were made to slip into a little pouch on Rana's sewing box (featured in next post) but I felt they looked better complementing this little basket of thread spools instead.

The spools were cut from dowel, capped with small wood rounds, wrapped in thread in the set's color palette. The scissors were fashioned out of 2-layers of roof flashing metal, 2 smashed metal grommets, and a small bee stamping, painted with aluminium paint basecoat, and bright shiny silver leaf, washed with dilute black ink patina to bring out the detail.

Sewing Box Hardware Detail:
(upper left) the scissors before leafing and black ink wash show the detail. (upper right) I tooled a working miniature box latch for the sewing box out of copper. I had more fun than should be legal making decorative pins for the pin cushion (shown next). These were insect pins made from real ladybug wings and beads! The antennae are ink stained paint brush bristles. The final shell sewing box has a working hinge whose "nails" were nothing more than the glued on cut-off heads of tiny pins!

Life Follows Art

As I was sewing a gift for a friend last week, a funny little stubborn fly landed on top of my pincushion and stayed there for quite a while. It was so funny to see this because it was like real life imitating my art here in Halfland.

I had decided that a Time Fly (Musca Tempora) would be kept on Rana's sewing pin cushion. In my initial version, the poor fly is pinned through onto the cushion which I thought was just a way of saying that time was being pinned down. (Arggg, seeing that original sketch, I realized only now that I forgot the pin cushion would be made out of a pocket watch frame. That was such a good idea I lost. Will have to see how to use it another way.)

But after seeing this real life guy, I realized that I couldn't really be that violent. I resolved the problem in a way I like better. Be sure to see the post about Rana's sewing box to see how!

Art Bonus: PS; I was sewing this Shoulder Wrap for Genie
Shoulder Wrap for Genie

100 Days: Throwing Teacups

I had a little time left on a gift of time at a ceramic studio in town. I decided to use it to throw tiny teacup props for the cottage teacup rose bush. Throwing pottery this small on a wheel is tricky. The best way is to center a large mountain of clay and then to keep shaping the little vessels off the top. I am not good at throwing pots but in this case it didn't matter because the cups should look a bit organic and the ones I collapsed and ruined were turned into "growing" shapes that could look like roses blooming into cups. (That's my story and I'm sticking with it.)

I even used the same clay to shape realistic roses so that the rose bush will have all sorts of roses in various states of being flowers and teacups in various sizes. Tiny worm-like handles for the cups were shaped by hand to be added later. After the clay was leather hard, I trimmed and sculpted the heavy bottoms into little cup feet. Lower left shows a mini honey pot for Rana's table.

These are being bisque fired this week and will be glazed pure white this weekend for their second, glaze firing. When done, the stretching bush with the roses and cups blooming on it will grow right through the cottage bay window near where Rana is serving tea. I think I'll have her reach up and pick a cup to serve her guest.

Paul made these wonderful things with his time there. (My proper bowl broke during the last firing).

100 Days: Pitch Her

I especially enjoy making faux finishes. This one on a scale metal pitcher found at Michael's for about a buck, is well-worn painted tin. It started out smooth powder coated cream colored. I laid down a coat of aluminum paint to get back the silver undertone and then made 3 passes of white acrylic, black ink wash, and scuffing up to arrived at the right look. This prop will live on the porch next to the rain barrel.

100 Days: Steaming Stars

I can't believe this worked. I took a rigid dried starfish, tinted it to match the crochet doilies and then (using craft only cooking gear) steamed it for a few minutes to make it pliable enough to slump over the arm of Rana's chair. Pins held it in place until it hardened back up as it dried out, then it was glued down.

Rana's cottage is decorated with little bits of sea treasures here and there because Kyra the black mermaid brings Rana sea gifts whenever she comes to call.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

100 Days: Chandelier Tease

This could be my favorite Halfland creation to date. It's one of those things that happen when I give myself the luxury of time to build things like this. I didn't know what or how I wanted the cottage chandelier exactly. I knew I wanted it to look at first glance like a normal crystal chandelier but then when one looked closer, it would be "half" somehow.

Ester Jantzen
brought over a huge box of genuine vintage chandelier crystals on a previous visit. She had salvaged them from somewhere and intuited I could make use of them. Bless her. I started taking the brass wired strands apart to grade the crystal sizes and was searching my mind for how to translate them into the set. I hit upon using the amazing wooden myrtle pods that Halfland's Official Naturalist, Marci Knowles, sent me several months back.

When I set an open myrtle pod over the top of a small crystal drop, like a half woodland/half traditional chandelier would be--I went bananas! That was my answer. To blend the two worlds together in one element.

When I looked at all my reference images of interesting Halflandian chandeliers and was wondering how I could make six similar chandelier arm shapes I struck upon the notion of using crooks in the large collection of seasoned natural tree branches I had on hand here. I attached them together in a spoke pattern using drilled holes and coiled wire joints, cut them to length and fashioned candle holders out of wooden shapes and real nutmeg pods that Marci had sent earlier. (Where would I be without ma' girls?!) The holders were harmonized as one piece with iron paint and rust.

I proceeded to make led-lighted candles and waxed vellum shades for each holder out of small plastic cups with iron-painted rims top and bottom. The pattern on the shades was made by daubing sumptuous red pastel dust with liquid beeswax with my finger tips. It made an interesting spider web pattern that I then coated with burnished hard beeswax to preserve. The translucent shades appear red during daylight and glow warmly in amber at night.

Looking forward to finishing this piece and installing it in the very center of Rana's roof.

100 Days: Caught Partially Dressed

I needed to see if all the finished cottage props and furnishings were on track for working together. They may look alright individually, but do they come together to create a warm inviting place to visit as a whole? I quickly placed things, insecurely and roughly, on the set to have a peek. Come on in...
(The overall tour)

It was very helpful to see the set, even partially dressed, like this. I found that the small hat was too different in scale (already removed). It will have to grow on an acorn. Making that prop change had me realize that all the hats for the Birds actually grow on the acorns!
(From the other side)
In this one I saw how needed grass and fallen leaves were inside the cottage to better blend the organic tree half with the man-made flooring. It's helping me design the cottage window treatments. I bought a bunch of great richly-colored maroon sheer cotton voile and nicely sized-pattern pink which I love but I still have to work out what goes where and how.
(At night)
This one describes some of the practical lighting and reveals Halfland's director in her power spot.

100 Days: Skirting the Issue

I normally advise everyone to never go back. I find that moving forward on any sort of project to be a better way to go. It usually leads to a better than imagined result. But the cheap printed compromise fabric I had installed on Rana's kitchen table, while done, continued to irk me.

It wasn't until I stopped into a great designer fabric shop and saw this luscious red, loom woven, highly textural raw silk, slubby, little number that I saw the other fabric had to be banished right away.

In this case, going back was only a brief detour on the march to completion. And I'm much relieved and happy for it. I learned that Halfland requires Extreme Texture. Nothing can be included that is flat. Being fabric is not enough, it had to be a heavy hardy weave.

Wire was sewn into all skirt panel edges. The panels were hot glued into pleats on the underside of the table front and sides. The wire at the hem was bent to loosely match the pleats. If any scene calls for Rana to lift up the table skirt to look for something, or feed a carrot to a dust bunny #>()'∞'(), the wire allows the soft fabric to hold it's shape for animation.

Generous Arts

I had a birthday a couple weeks ago and some of the incredibly talented and kind people who I've met and taken as friends through this blog sent me a lot of love and appreciation in such wonderful ways...

Sven Bonnichsen and gretchin lair, of Scarlet Star Studios in Portland, Oregon, sent me an extraordinary original painting of Halfland and many of its characters. It sits framed right near me now and will be one of those gifts that is treasured always. I'm tremendously honored to have an artist friend create a piece depicting something that matters to me so much. This was done with minute attention to detail, a micro brush, and a huge heart. Thank you, gretchin and Sven! (Can you spot the Halfland details in the painting? answers: Answer Tree, Writing Mouse's House, Rana's cottage, Rain Barrel, Pink Snail, Time Fly, Bird in Hat.)

And, in what has to be one of the all time sweet heart ideas, Yaz and her big-hearted family threw me a charming birthday party all the way from Turkey! With husband Hakan at the camera and adorable tiny daughter Zeynep stirring at the stove, Yaz goes to the time and trouble to make me a biscuit cake decorated with my name, light the candles, sing and honor me before cutting the cake to enjoy. I was overwhelmed with the gesture of it and have to say the caring and thoughtfulness of it absolutely made my birthday.

I don't know what was sweeter, the delicious looking cake or the generosity of this warm family's hearts. I listen to it sometimes just to hear their sweet voices. Thank you dear Yaz, Hakan, and Zeynep, love from Aunt Shelley.

Many other visitors and friends here shared their hearts, wishing me a good year as well. I find the people here to be utterly remarkable. My humbled thanks to everyone.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

100 Days: Getting Clearer

Shot through my new old set of vintage Polaroid glass macro lenses in a leather case! Came across the case in a modern camera shop's dusty bin of anachronisms--on sale! (wouldn't that be great if they labeled the bin like that!) Un-priced, I axed the man how much fer them and after much head scratching with an associate they came out with "$5". I am no poker player and nearly leaped at them and said "sold" as calmly as I could.

I instinctively felt that lenses such as these would allow me to photograph Halfland in the outmoded, almost spy glass, early photography feeling that we've all seen luscious examples of lately around the web. Have you seen the 100 year old COLOR photography collection on Flickr yet? Or the madly inspiring glass distortion effects from the Black and white images from 155 years ago such these!? My film style reference board is filled with smoky, blurred imagery such as this.

Above you see a new tin pot prop, the background puppets the Knitting Beetles hard at work, Bosq the Cat's new sleepy bed, and the kit that I used to get the effect through my vintage Polaroid Land Camera.

This test demos a station on the track to my ultimate unique lens and camera set up. But at least I'm getting clearer on what I want.

More excitement tomorrow...

100 Days: Bosq the Cat's Bed

In the film, a minor character, Bosq the Snoring Sleeping Cat, is asleep by the warming hearth when the quarreling Birds in Hats, fighting in the branches above, cause a hat to fall off its hook and land on his napping noggin.

I discovered an old odd-ball placemat in a bag up on a shelf. It was made from a fantastic loom-woven fabric with a nice botanical motif printed on its center. It was almost perfect. I dyed it a rich yellow, soaked the fringe with matte medium to stiff the threads for stop motion use. When dry, I embroidered the pattern with wool tapestry yarns. I sooted it up with chalk dusts applied with a brush on the edges and trimmed down the fringe to scale. Once I stuffed it with a piece of wood for puppet tie downs, I could see how well it nestled in amongst the set's tree roots--right under the fighting bird's branch!

The slope of the ground there will be filled in with a sculpture of dried Answer Tree leaves to level it out as can be seen in the mock up (upper right).

100 Days: Rana's Hoofstool Bonus

For no reason--it wasn't even on The List--I saw a photo in a catalog of several highly distressed footstools (one seen in upper left) and *had* to add one for the cottage.

I took scrap lumber and moulding from Kit Kraft, glued it together, added nail heads from chandelier crystals I was taking apart (you'll see why shortly!), and started finishing it.

Somewhere along the way I decided that Rana, having hooves, would scuff and damage the stool's paint and wood every time she used it. I started sanding the wear into the wood and scratching and gouging. I stained the texture with strong walnut ink crystals (upper right).

In the background of the finished stool's photo (bottom) you can see where I'm about to build in some matching steps into the tree trunk kitchen so Rana can reach her spice cabinet better.

100 Days: I Have a Soft Pot for You

Inspired by a photo of softly tinted tin cooking pots hanging in an old kitchen, I thought I'd whip up a few more background kettles of various sizes for Rana's kitchen.

I collected plastic food containers that had nice general kettle shapes to them, sanded off the embossed markings, recycling numbering, etc., added wire to create lips and filled in with flexible cement as necessary. Added simple pounded wire handles in the same gauge regardless of pot size, as my character's hand size remains constant (typing that I realize that the smaller pot could have had a bit smaller handle as some things in my kitchen have smaller handles.) Made faux handle rivets out of glue. I finished them off in real aluminum paint a fantastic new patina trick.

I took my trusty burnt umber pastel, ground it down with fine sandpaper to get its dust, and then used that to tint matte medium. It gave the exact soft metal look I was after. I can show that effect off better in my post about the Polaroid macro lenses I scored coming soon. (The photo on the right shows the behind the scenes on that set up.)

100 Days: Why So Blue!?

WHY?! Why why did I buy yards and yards of incredibly bright blue $2/yard suit lining and matching sheer tulle netting? I had planned to buy white silk and hand paint it shades of pale blue and aqua. I had confirmed to Mike Brent that I indeed do understand that water IS NOT BLUE!!!

All I can say is that by the time I get done with this bright blue fabric, and do some weird things to it that I don't even know what they are yet, it will be perfect for the stop motion illusion of the running stream by the cottage.

I can only do what my intuition says is right on this project. Sometimes it makes no sense, even to me. But I trust the results so far.

100 Days: Rana's Attic Builds

Hello patient visitors! I'm whipping these posts out tonight and tomorrow to catch up with the orgy of progress over here. I'm trying to Complete. Done. Finish. the entire list of props as it's the closest phase to being Complete. Done. Finished. And because making detailed props is by far easier for me to do here alone than the more physical construction work that's up next to finish the set.

This is only a preview of the kinds of items in Rana's attic loft above her bay window. The loft will be filled also with skeins of woolen yarn and spools of colorful thread, lots of dust, a big spider web in the window that will cast a web-like shadow, etc.

What you see here is a vintage package of cotton bandage that I bought at an army surplus. I loved the way it was wrapped in postal paper and tied with string. I think it's the first prop in 1/2L that I could buy and put right in without doctoring up.

The hatbox is a 99¢ balsa wood box that I painted with glazes and gave a tortoise shell finish to the lid.

The leather case is also vintage. It's the ancient case that the Poloroid lenses I stole for $5 came in (more on those tomorrow!). I think Rana would have leather cases in her attic. The fiddley bit on it is really a pull for the rusty metal tape measure in the case that I may do away with. I sanded off the embossed Polaroid logo and repainted the area to blend in.

The wooden piece is a dusty broken mini-easel that I got for free at Michaels that I plan to doctor up to turn into a dusty broken chicken-sized easel that the Painting Chicken stows up there.
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