Monday, January 17, 2011

Make the Moon

In a recent post about Yanu's bamboo grove set I showed the finished Moon Lantern prop in the green forest. Here's a recounting of how Constance made it with me.

Job one was to determine the size to make the moon. I wanted it large enough to seem like the moon in the night sky yet also like a paper lantern hanging in the Answer Tree. It needed to be small enough for the mothman puppet Yanu to carry through the grove at night, to get that great light-moving-through -the-stalks shot, yet not so small we wouldn't know somehow it's also more than just a normal lantern.

It had to read as BOTH moon and Japanese sort of luminaria. But not so obviously the moon as to have photographic moon topography reproduction on its surface. (I plan to briefly superimpose the moon surface onto the lantern in post, like a glimpse, just to play with the misperception further.)

We started by taking (--ok, stealing.) We stole a small black rubber exercise ball from Paul's workout gear, covered it in plastic with masking tape, so it wouldn't get dirty. She wound a kind of brown bark-like paper wrapped wire in a spiral shape around the covered ball, then secured these ribs with thinner cloth covered floral wire as vertical supports.

This is where it gets tricky mentally. We decided then to cut off this wire cage off the ball in order to papier maché the plastic protected ball underneath with rice paper, a few layers think. Once dry, this paper shell was also cut open in order to get the original ball out. Then Constance carefully replaced the wire cage around the now empty paper lantern shell, seamed it up with more paper.

Lastly, we both took turns making a final layer of absolutely moon-like paper (see above right image) maché top coat in about nine shaped paper sections.

Cram the shell full of battery op'd lights and voilà!
In Halfland, the moon is like a lantern hanging from a friendly neighbor's porch. Both a figurative and  literal metaphor. Here is a sketch of how Yanu will look at night, illuminated by just the Moon Lantern, as he slowly brings it home to rest for the night in Rana's tree (image concocted after being inspired by the amazing creative image maker Joel and his moon image.)

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Catching You Up: Honey, I'm Home!

A while back I completed another detail for the cottage interior, the honey comb installed in amongst the Answer Tree roots, just under the hearth. The honey slowly drips out from the comb into an old waiting ceramic dish for Rana to sweeten her tea.
It started with a lotus blossom pod, with all its lovely organic shaped chambers and cells,  sent to me by Halfland's Official Naturalist, Marcie, in one of her amazing packs. I coated the paper thin piece with the discontinued :( product Porcelainize It which makes it hard as ceramic when dry.

Then I carefully fitted each cell with a gate of oil paper set in place with more liquid porcelain. A few of these chambers were then pierced to reveal drops of royal larva, flecked with gold, cocooned in multi-colored layers of flower petals. This because I had read where they've just discovered a species of bee that makes these sorts of petal cases for its young. I put pollen behind some cells and egg-like beads behind others. I used glossy transparent non-tox urethane glue for the dripping honey at the top.

A Storybook for Cirelle

One of my absolute favorite shots ever of Halfland. It's of the fairie-like creature that comes here regularly to help with the project, Cirelle, lost in her imagination, examining the Mouse House under the Answer Tree on the set in progress.
Some of the drab bugs, dressed in petals and other finery for the do, already made for the party on the left so that Cirelle can see each one here, name it, develop its back story a little, etc. (Herman, the argyle sweater-wearing caterpillar pictured here.)

So, this whole "Bug Party Escapade" is looking like it really wants to be its own side project illustrated picture storybook and Cirelle has engaged to give writing it a good go. Hooray!

I was working yesterday on the bug's party decorations (seen above on right at their beginning stage) making oh-so-charming little floral and seed pod pendants when it occurred to me that this was no ordinary weekend party these bugs were having. Oh no, this was a highly swanky affair (for bugs) and some really important person was going to be feted for sure, but who?

Then it dawned on me, Cirelle's own Halfland character creation, the Mimizard, the little lizard with heraldic butterfly wings! He must be the VIP everyone is decking out, bringing gifts, and serving cake for! I was thrilled with that idea and told Cirelle this afternoon. Now she's got to get that puppet finished! (It's already, sculpted, molded and latex-machéd!)

The Writing Mouse is the star of the tale however, and it's his home we get to see as a secondary location after the party. Above, I've begun taking snaps of the set from various angles and started playing with illustrative texture to give a sense of how the finished pages might look. Here, you can see,  from over the crest, the Mouse's front yard, with its two large fruit trees and new twig garden gate.
A lot of finishing has been done to the mouse's house, since you've seen it. A twig bench under the cherry tree awaits a weary gardener with a small broom. As he climbs the steeply-strepped hill to tend his new flower and vegetable gardens just beneath his front door. (details of what Cirelle and I used to make some of these tiny props just below).

Cirelle, you are a wonder and delight. Magic follows wherever you go. Thank you for coming here.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Meet Constance: Bamboozled in the Groovy Grove

 Sweet and shy, Constance peers through the Bamboo Grove set in progress.

Constance has been coming to Halfland for months already and this is the first chance I've had to introduce her and some of the marvelous contributions she's been making here.
 Here she's reinforcing Peggy's cardboard trees with scrap lumber so they can be made to stand as scenery flats.

She's one of the rare go-getter-people who dives right in and gets a lot done with focus and enthusiasm. It's really rough though because we want to work on Halfland and get great things done but then also just sit, laugh, and talk, and enjoy the delicious coffee she brings from the farmers market and the produce from her own garden. I find her company charming and intellectually stimulating. Her sensitive insights are a joy to discuss.
She's also wryly funny and quick to joke, here she eyes the camera through the Time Frog's belly in progress.
One of the first projects she tackled with me was the Bamboo Grove that will be the setting for Yanu the Luna Moth Man to appear in carrying the Moon Lantern through at night. Here's the How-to:

33 slim, 8' pieces of emerald green bamboo, heavy with natural resin, were given to me from a nearby meditation garden. We took a scaffold plank I had here and cut it in two to ease moving this mini strip set around. Next we used various sizes of hole saws to drill down about 2 inches into the planks 33 times. The round cores left in the wood had to be chipped out by hand. Each piece of bamboo was fitted with wood inside the base as tightly as possible (see lower left) so that the screws from underneath the planks would have something firm to bite into. Next each hole was fitted with a slice of cardboard tubing that fit its interior diameter to act as a support collar for the bamboo.

After each piece was secured by long wood screws from under the plank up into the (now) wood centers of the bamboo, we slathered on batches of anchor cement in and around the tube collars like little mounds of ground. With this method, as described above, even though it may seem laborious (and it definitely was!) we created a very secure, solid, stable 6' wide, 8 ' tall bamboo curtain that can have an afterlife as decorative room divider in our home after filming is complete.

We knew the lovely color of the boo couldn't last over time so we mixed a glaze of wood dye, ink, and and matte medium to paint the grove a few coats. Then Constance added hand-cut crepe paper leaves to the natural vines throughout the grove. We finished it off with a brown bag paper maché base around the collars extending beyond the plank width, covering that in dirt, and hand-gluing forest debris in place.

Please see photos below for previews of how the moon lantern (also already beautifully built by Miss Constance) will look as the light interacts on the surface of the bamboo stalks as Yanu passes through them...

Constance, you are an amazing assistant here and I can't wait to see what butterflies you come up with!

I'm so lucky to have your help.

Meet Carol: Tea Cup Roses Finally Bloom

Carol in initial grass proving grounds, two upper left shots, then in charge of the roses on the right and bottom left. It takes an extra artful eye to create something beautiful while under interrogation-style lighting at night here.

I've known Carol for over twenty-five years. I knew her as the always well-dressed woman with the artful eye making interiors, cakes, and gardens, look professionally designed. But one day not so long ago, Carol asked to come along to Halfland with Sherie on Friday evenings after their workday was done. I coldly told her to have a look at the blog and see whether this madness was remotely anything she'd like to work on. And to my amazement it was!    o.0

I put her in grass-making purgatory at first, not really yet understanding the depth of her talents. But right away she rocked the grass so heavily I was taken aback! She took it to a whole other level of realism and beauty that will become key throughout the set landscape.

The roses growing outside the cottage on the right, and being placed on the interior wall upper left and from Rana's bed lower left.
I soon realized that Carol was going to be a huge boon to the set building and thought to give her a fun, plum job that I'd been relishing the idea of doing myself, the Tea Cup Roses. The tiny cups had been thrown and made to look as though they were growing on a bush, the coffee filter roses had been made and were painted in soft pinks and corals, even the twig trellis and silk rose vines had already been painted and prepped. All that was left was the task of taking those elements and making them look as though they were growing outside the cottage bedroom window and then right through the window and onto the interior bedroom wall.

I'm trilled with her results. And Carol has gone on since to design and create the drapery around the bed using fabrics with various seed pods! I'm going to ask her to complete the Tudor windows next and then... Who knows, but whatever it is she'll do it so beautifully I'll be amazed!

So happy Carol is here!

A Real Halfland Discovered!

 photo by Carsten Peter for National Geographic
In case someone ever wonders, "Where is Halfland?" I always knew that the Halfland we see in the film series, with Rana's cottage on a little hill next to a stream, was on a large island, in a huge sea-like lake, that's in the middle of another island, that's in the middle of yet another huge lake, etc. (there is such a thing by the way, Goggle ette!)

But just this week, folks, I heard about a brand new remarkable true life discovery that gave me a bit of wonderment shivers. Um, yeah, so I can't really imagine anything more fantasy storybook like than what actually apparently exists. I'm now thinking that the entire set of islands and lakes described above, is ultimately residing within AN ENORMOUS UNDERGROUND CAVERN! Can you deal with this?!

From the National Geographic article by Mark Jenkins:

...Hang Son Doong, or “mountain river cave,” in a remote part of central Vietnam. Hidden in rugged Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park near the border with Laos, the cave is part of a network of 150 or so caves, many still not surveyed, in the Annamite Mountains...

...There are actually wispy clouds up near the ceiling...

...swifts are diving and cutting in the brilliant column of sunshine. The tableau could have been created by an artist imagining how the world looked millions of years ago...

...The whole region was squeezed upward when the Indian subcontinent smashed into the Eurasian continent 40 to 50 million years ago,” he says. Hang Son Doong was formed two to five million years ago, when river water flowing across the limestone burrowed down along a fault, scouring out a giant tunnel beneath the mountains. In places where the limestone was weak, the ceiling collapsed into sinkholes, creating the gigantic skylights...

...Below the opening is another moun­tain of breakdown with a jungle of hundred-foot-tall trees, lianas, and burning nettles...

The mind boggles at this astounding world.
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