Urhu Erhu Lute

Another prop finished for the Desert Set. This, the sacred string instrument that the Serpent Sage Musician, Urhu, plays all day everyday by his painted tent in the desert.
Sherie was the "starter" for me on this (that's the designation for my wonderful project assistants who I assign to kick a prop or set off and then I can progress it easily. Project Rule #68; Rolling on a task someone has started with you is far easier than trying to start alone from nothing.) She and I decided the Sage's instrument should follow the petal-shape motif used in his tent design. After auditioning many possibilities, we cobbled together how it might work (upper left) using the bottom of an empty dishwashing liquid bottle and odd wooden shapes I had on hand, including chopped twisted chopsticks.

She started sanding and painting the basecoat on what we'd devised last time. We decided the strings would be golden to connote the sacredness of this spiritual being and his music. We made the center of the flower-petaled bridge a little window on another world by gluing a glass half dome over dried yellow dahlia stamen. Appropriate material to use, yes, but its effect is like a looking into a strange landscape in miniature. Perhaps it's a glimpse into where the character comes from (noted for future episodes in the film!)

It's a Halflandian cross between a cello, a mandolin, a snake, East Indian primitive culture, Middle Eastern primitive culture, Asian primitive culture, and a flower at essence.

The neck has faux ivory inlay details and a tuning peg near its carved scroll head stock. The body, shaped from newspaper and masking tape, was given a hollow wood instrument look by filling in the seams and cracks a few times with layers of wood filler, sanding, and painting with raw sienna acrylic. The final coat was clear natural paste wax for a soft polished sheen.

Sherie cut and fitted an oval of nude leather for the face which was later stained and tinted with Nova's rich transparent Indian Yellow acrylic, tinted, near its wood oval sound board in the middle, with walnut ink shading.

I used metallic gold thread for the strings which begin at the neck and travel around the tail piece underneath. They are held away from the body and separated by the wooden flower petal bridge.  It won't actually play any sounds. But in the film will be resonate like a cello as the strings of the bow are drawn slowly across them.

Sherie is slamming on the Desert Set progress. Next time she comes over I'll ask her to make a start on the bow!


  1. Shelley, what a beautiful piece!

    I sometimes forget how big your items actually are…

    However, I pretty much like the golden light in your pictures, I suppose it fits the desert set perfectly!

    Sherie, you're doing a great job! It's great to have creative companionship!

  2. Thanks so much, Jessica!

    Yes, the scope of the project can be overwhelming easily if I allowed those thoughts. But when they come, and they do, I simply narrow my focus to the tasks at hand and try to put all that needs doing out of my mind.

    I simply can't worry about the whole thing, you know? I have to take each frame as it comes.

    Some of the light in these shots were from a nice golden California setting sun. The season has changed and the light is getting a noticeably warmer lambent/golden quality once again.

    So great to have help, Jessica, isn't it!? Yay for open studios.

  3. oh wait, you meant big scale of the props... I see! YES, the scale is huge for stop mo. 1:3 scale. It's going to be interesting because because I've also got 1:12 scale elements and over-life-sized scale as well. Plus I plan to tweak the photography in places to make what is big look small, etc.

    I'm hoping that in the mixture of levels of detail it will all seem strangely real.

  4. This is brilliant. I want to play it, propped up by a palm tree in the lazy evening sun :)

    I totally agree with Project Rule #68. If only my peers shared my creative interests.

  5. Hi Dean! Welcome to Halfland officially!

    I'm delighted you had that impulse to want to interact with the scene--FANTASTIC!!!

    And I love your idea of the golden setting sunlight during this scene, like that in some of these photos. I hadn't considered that... and it's perfect! It will add so much to the texture in the film over all. Thank you so much for that idea!

    About getting help for your project. I was very surprised that the people coming over here to help wanted to and further that they enjoy themselves?! Most have never done anything remotely like this in their lives.

    You might be very surprised to find people who do share this interest with you and who would love to help. They don't have to know anything in advance.

    The trick is feeling them out for what natural abilities they have, matching your small tasks (that you can delegate) to those, and herding everything like horses towards your goals.

    Having a REGULAR Open Studio day once per week has been without a doubt the greatest single factor in this making progress in real life.


  6. Every time I check out the blog, Half Land's becoming more and more convincing as that age-old, yet timeless place. Great work.
    It's as if each and every prop has it's own back story. I love it.

  7. Hey ya, Matt! Great to see you here. Thanks for the kind words. That means so much. Age-old yet Timeless, yes! You really get where this is going.

    My thanks to you, and everyone who visits. It's truly motivating to have it all appreciated.

  8. Thanks for the official welcome :D That was my first post I guess, though I've been visiting a long while.

    I love the evening sun. Not too hot, not too bright. Perfect. If only it could be like that all day. There's nothing more beautiful than nature and I love the connection to nature that Halfland has. What a great place :)

    I think I'll ask some friends and family if they're interested in being part of my next big project. In fact, I've never really had any big projects, so it might help me create one.

    Thanks for the advice :)

  9. Just looked in after not checking for a while, and got a special treat - I'd been looking forward to seeing what your mini lutiers came up with for this instrument. And It's fabuloso!

  10. I really appreciate your coming here, Dean. Try a little simple project. Help on that would be great to get too. Big projects are easily overwhelming while simple direct shorts can be every bit bit as important and meaningful to the maker and the audience.

    Nick Hilligoss took one look at Halfland's blog and thought it couldn't be done in one lifetime and at times I too fear he was right. But things like this can be chipped away at and over time progress is made

    Are there any images/stories out there that grab your imagination?

    Hi ya, Nick! thank you thank you! Sherie finished the bow for the lute (in 1/2L I guess they are played via one) and I captured my husband playing it. posting shortly!


  11. Beautiful instrument, Shelley! Does it actually play? Too cool!

  12. Hi Maureen! I *think* the instrument would make sound of sorts if I had removed the ball of newspaper after its shell were hard enough. I think if it were hollow it would actually plink plunk. But only fora while because the metallic threads used for the strings are not strong enough to take much stretch and strumming.

    I plan to use real instrument sounds in the soundtrack though.


  13. FAN tastic!


  14. SUPERlicious to hear from you, Justin! Thanks!

  15. Just a wee note to say that The Fall was one of the greatest films I've ever seen - totally mind blowing - and of course we would have that in common.

  16. Karima! Naturally we would share a love for The Fall! Of course!

    The transitions! The transitions! The butterfly to the island! The butterfly coat! You know what I mean!

  17. Shelley,
    I just got a package of goodies in the mail... That's right, it's the Musca tempora! Folks, this is a fly with an irridenscent green butt that could be taken for real, sitting in a tiny glass vial, which rests in a perfect bird's nest of fine straw, inside a small vintage looking cardboard box that once held a pocket watch... well of course it did! What else would a Time Fly travel in? It's tied up with thin brown string, and on that string is the tiniest bronze frog I have ever seen! Really it could sit on the nail of my little finger with room all around. And there is a matching packet of Fly Butt Pigment and some clear medium in with another pack of fire making materials. (The animated kind of fire.) And some of the fine black wire that was used to make the fly legs, with some different scaled, organic looking twine. All of this shows exactly the same craft and attention to detail we've all come to expect in Halfland.
    So thank you Shelley, for this pack of small miracles!
    ...and now back to the regularly scheduled comments.

  18. Hooray! Nick, I'm so happy it got to you! On the other side of the world in Australia! I'm always a little surprised when packages get so far flung.

    Hooray! You deserve one of the Time Fly puppets as you and Mike named them so cleverly, Musca Tempora.

    I love sending/receiving art friend's packages of stash share. It's the next best thing to being down the hall or down the street.

    Cheers and thanks for all your many contributions here....

  19. OH! Take a second look at that medium I sent in the pack, Nick. It may actually be a bit of Nova Color's brilliant iridescent base that has the most incredible delicate snail-trail-like shimmer when dry! It can be mixed with any tint or color and looks amazing on insect wings. Just saying.

  20. OH! Take a second look at that medium I sent in the pack, Nick. It may actually be a bit of Nova Color's brilliant iridescent base that has the most incredible delicate snail-trail-like shimmer when dry! It can be mixed with any tint or color and looks amazing on insect wings. Just saying.

  21. Oh that's right, that's what you wrote on the label. I did do a film with snails once and a shimmering trail would have been perfect for that! But no doubt it will get used for something quite different and unpredictable - you really never know what strange uses these things will get put to.

    So sad to see your next post about Jeremiah.

  22. Can't wait to see what you'll do, Nick! Huge fan huge fan!

    By the way, the vintage watch box came from reader Marcie's father's watch repair business materials that she generously sent to me. (I like to give credit where it's due.)

    Thanks for the kind word on Jeremiah. Yep, pretty sad about him.


Post a Comment