Saturday, November 28, 2009

100 Days: Boring Bowls

I hesitate to show these small thrown porcelain ceramic soup bowls and extra bowl like things that don't have handles or flat bottoms, but I figure this blog documents everything, one at a time, as they are completed so... My initial rough red clay ceramic soup bowl had to be thrown out when the entire plastic bag got filled with mold because I stored the real mini loaf of bread seen in that picture in there with the container of moist hair gel. I thought that bread was petrified after 15 years but apparently there was some vital life left in that whole wheat!

UPDATE: I realized by looking at that old too small soup kettle in the photo linked above that I should add a curvy spout to it paint it a metallic finish and then I'd have Rana's kettle! I was wondering how I was going to build that! Thanks boring blog post!

I filled holes in the bottoms of the bowls with more clay, glue, and stale spices from my kitchen to look like seasoning at the bottom of Rana's soup after the gel and vegetables are put in.

(I have no idea what was making my nails so dirty that day, looks like I was out digging up a field.)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

100 days: Making Miniature Flors

After I added stems and calyxes to my coffee filter paper roses for the Tea Cup Roses prop in the film (stuck into the face of foam block upper right, of photo below). I kept the floral train rolling by creating Rana's floral arrangement prop seen here.

Making Miniature Flors, originally uploaded by Nobledesign.

I used powdered desiccant to dry out every miniature scale leaf and flower I came across for months. At the end of the day, they never turned out fresh-looking enough to use for this. I opted for hand-painting small silk flowers instead.

Each bloom was painted for the cottage palette, glued onto wire stems, calyx and leaves, painted green. The stems, and things like the yellow center stamens (upper left) were bulked up by tinting Aleene's Porcelain-Ize-It silk flower dipping liquid (part of my essential tools. Couldn't locate any link online (?) the small bit in this last bottle may be it on earth?; closest item here).

(center right) I made an orchid-style flower out of real dried petals, cut down and glued around a smaller dried flower base.

I'm thrilled with how I made the vase. I used the crystal drawer pull that was a candidate for Rana's front door knob, hack sawed off its metal bolt on the reverse, before placing it face down. Then I hacked through a clear plastic over-sized Christmas tree light candy box (bought last year to possibly use as the glass chimney on the oil lantern prop.) slicing off the top and the bottom making it a bowled tube. I filled an inch at the bottom of the shape with clear gel glue and flakes of dried flowers to look like vase detritus and held the knob in place with Funtac (as a glue dam) After a couple days, the glue dried, sealing the bowl, and the knob was firmly stuck onto the bottom of it.

I scratched the inside a bit with sandpaper to add age and texture so it wouldn't look like plastic at first glance. When the bottom of the vase is filled with a lump of the clear museum gel that Mike gifted me with thoughtfully, the stems can be secured in it and it should look just like water!

(PS: I used my Flickr account to post some of the blog photos this week because I was so behind in posts. But I'll much prefer using Blogger posting tool alone in the future.)

100 Days: Pluck a Rose for Tea

Tea Cup Roses Progress
I went back to the ceramic studio for the forth time and finally retrieved my tiny thrown cups for the props. I fired the worm-sized handles separately and the clear glass glaze slipped off them during firing and melded many of them to the flint board they were on. I chipped off as many as I could and then had to play match up with whatever cups survived to whatever handled made it through.

The "white" glaze I used came out more like iron ware to me, nice looking on their own, but I really needed these props to be bright white to read as teacups. I painted them with acrylic (I'd use white glossy spray paint if I had to suggest an improvement) and then hit em twice with glossy clear acrylic for a porcelain sheen. Much better.

I love the wonky misshapen quality throwing these cups on a wheel made. I could have sculpted more perfect cups, perhaps even casting duplicates for uniformity, but the way these surprised me works for me. I think that's because these cups are meant to be actually grown as living things.

I added calyx to the cup bottoms to further sell the concept (upper right). When I pair these finished cups with the paper roses on the hand-painted vines I've made, it looks positively magical.

Today, as I was waking up, I solved how I want to construct the bay Tudor window that the Teacup Rose bush will grow on (AND THROUGH!). With all the rose foliage now painted, all the little cups now ready to grow on them, now all the miniature roses finished ready to go on the trellis as well, the brown twig like wire base for it all now ready... assembling this special Teacup Rose set detail is going to be an enormous thrill.

100 Days: Fail Bois

Faux TrunksI bought a real birch tree trunk for visual reference at a local floral design supply in the flower district downtown. To tell you the truth, it looked as though it had a quick sloppy sponged white paint job on it. It looked good but so easy to replicate for the many trucks I'd need to finish the set.

As I started to test making a few out of the tons of free fabric core tubes I had here, I soon realized how insanely complex real tree texture really is.

Making the straight tubes (upper left) zig and zag slightly was the easy part. I used a Japanese pull saw to gouge out small 1/2" HA! wedge shaped sections for the tubes set up between two cinder blocks (center top). Then I forced the tube to collapse at the break point and used my favorite material, masking tape, to tightly wrap the joins. I also added rolled up paper clumps to act as quick branch stubs here and there.

I slathered the armatures with my other favorite material, flexible cement, up and down with a small plastic card to obscure the joins and add bark-like texture, not birch bark texture, but a generic tree impression.

Once dry, the painting tests began and what I thought would be too easy ended up being too hard.

I kept trying to get a decent Faux Bois finish on these tests, going dark light in various browns, taupes, creams, yellow, everything. I simply couldn't get anywhere. Finally, I turned off all the lights at night and took straight white and sponged it on trying to get the values right to my eye in the dark. In the morning the value was better and then it was a simple matter of tinting them over the top with dilute cocoa brown fabric dye mixed with dilute yellow acrylic to stain them for hue. They aren't Birches, but detailed enough to give the feeling of tree trunks to cover the support column on the set.
Here I've quickly hung a panel of sky-blue plastic tablecloth to start to cover the column. I propped the test trunks in front of that and then placed a piece of sheer silk in front of my camera lens on that side to softly blur. Just trying to get an idea of what needs to be done to finish off the background edges of the set.

100 Days: Porch Progress

Building up Porch

Porch progress. I cut out another layer of the porch from 1/8" plywood using a utility knife (lower right).

I had a thrill when I discovered the joys of hole bits for my power drill. I had been wondering how the heck I was going to make the holes in this for the pole supports.

I screwed cross pieces through both top layers to secure it all together and then filled in any gaps with stainable wood glue, wiping away excess with damp towel (lower left).

Once dry, I darkened the whole thing with dilute cocoa brown fabric dye.

Friday, November 13, 2009

100 Days: Tea Tin Time

A lot of floral work has been going on (tease below), but here's a quickie post on a bonus prop just made. It's an old-fashioned red metal tin that will help clutter the tea table in Rana's cottage next to the white porcelain teapot and freshly picked cups (!) The tea bags are miniature versions of Paul's current favorite. I dried his out for several mornings, opened up the little cloths and took 2/3rds of the loose tea out, cut down the stained cloth and retied them with string that had their ply reduced to fit the scale. I hope you'll join Rana for a cup as soon as it's ready.

I used plastic bottles from our recycle bin, cut down with a small hand saw to get their curves. Rolled metal edges were added by carefully gluing different gauges of wire. I made one but it wasn't large enough, so I made another a bit larger and decided to make it operate like a real tea tin with an inner and outer lid. Had to make these a second time out of metal as the cardboard version no longer fit back together after the thickness of a coat of paint.

I went back and forth with finishes, black, red, metallics of all kinds. Seriously. All the metallics in the house, even shiny gold foil at one point. What finally worked for me was to cover the entire container in ceramics finishing, wax-based Luster Paste in a warm red gold (bought every color in New York years ago they are really especially gorgeous in person.) And then painted over that layer, leaving the rolled edges gold, with flat red acrylic. I gave the jars a patina with diluted charcoal gray/black wash to simulate oxidation and wear.

The earth laughs in flowers --e. e. cummings

Friday, November 06, 2009

Special Studio Guest: Increda-Shel!

This bright beautiful creature is Shel Wagner Rasch. She's half (HA!) of the real life Super Hero duo, Justin and Shel Rasch and their amazing animation production company, Stunt Puppet Pictures, where they make heartfelt, creatively detailed, and astoundingly well-performed stop motion animations. Their last short, Gerald's Last Day has garnered numerous well-deserved accolades around the world.

Shel and her family are the most organized, effective, and achieving bunch I've seen. Through a highly efficient schedule structure, Shel and Justin get every important thing actually done and accomplish all their significant dreams, one by definite one.

Somehow, in the midst of all that, Shel wanted to take the time to visit Halfland, see where I was at on the set, and graciously offered to make suggestions. I showed her what was new since her last visit, we ate and yakked about the important things in life, she solved all my worst set problems, and then flew out the window like Superman. Poof! She's superhuman like that.

Before she left, Shel figured out how I could reinforce the cottage set walls with simple hardware (that can be painted up to blend) and secure roof supports solidly to the stationary walls, with removable roof panels dropped into a metal I-beam shaped channel of some kind that I re-purpose from a home improvement store.

These suggestions were incredibly helpful, definitely, but the biggest difference Shel made on this visit was to suggest that I secure the wall panels to the set with long tie-down bolts! That may seem obvious to everyone else, but it would never have occurred to me. I was trying to use lame little pegs in holes that wobbled and never could be made solid in the layered wall material. This new way, allows me to go ahead and trash the wall bottoms and ram them up with a long bolt, slathered in iron-strong Propoxy until you can drive them down the road like a tank--Bouhyah! And then fasten them down from underneath the set with heavy duty nuts until they need to be removed during filming.

Thank you for coming over, Shel. Thank you for being a wonderfully inspiring person, thank you for lending me your able mind for my set, and thank you for speedily putting all things right--in a flash!
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