Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Nice Ink !

Several weeks ago I got an email from writer Robert Ito requesting an interview for a piece on Stop Motion in California he was writing for the New York Times. Here he is looking closely into a lighted tin lantern which houses Halfland's tiny insect band for the bug party scenes.

I was fervently delighted at the thought of being mentioned specifically in the New York Times because it was the New York Times' Sunday Magazine that first introduced me to the phenomenal work of Julie Taymor that changed my life so completely. That exposure and the opportunity to work on three of her opera productions in the early Nineties, started a cascade of events that ultimately brought me to Halfland.

Robert could not have been more appreciative and lovely during his four and half hour visit. Nor could he have guessed that his email prompted round-the-clock scrubbing of every inch of the place to make me feel ready for such prime time honor. By the time he got here, I was fully zonked. I was glad I could say what I think I wanted, or actually, glad to be able to speak at all.

I love the article that Robert wrote. Not just because it amazingly gave Halfland its first mainstream public recognition, but because of the articulate clarity that artist John Frame gave to the soul of the piece, which was how personal works of art are distinct from larger stop motion films.

Robert's article gave a brief moment in the spotlight to this extraordinary clan of stop motion filmmakers mentioned who love nothing more than to push puppets one frame at a time to tell their original tales.

My husband sent the article link to everyone he's ever met. It was like he was passing out cigars after a baby is born. Friends who have no interest at all in Stop Motion forever more take what I'm making here seriously, as if being mentioned in such a prestigious publication means that what I'm doing is "officially" important. The article mention validated what I make to them. People at ballet applauded when my teacher congratulated me on the mention. (But then again they applaud everything over there.)

It is nice to no longer have to defend what I'm doing so much, if you know what I mean. I'm not just the crazy nut case toiling away making little things for no reason in some people's minds. But here's possibly the surprisingly BEST two things that have come from the gift of Robert's noticing Halfland so far...

While I greatly appreciate sincere well wishes that have come this direction from this opportunity, (and understand the silence about it from some friends) at the core, it hasn't changed what I'm doing or why. That to me is a gold nugget of knowledge to have. I've proven to myself that I'm not after public recognition by having a taste of it and not feeling swayed. I'm just happily doing what I'm doing. And I hope to continue to, despite setbacks and challenges. (Like moving!--more coming in other posts.)

And secondly, among the incredible artists whom I greatly admire who took the time to write their well wishes and make a connection, one popped up in that same inbox yesterday named, Maggie Rudy. Her work, MOUSELAND (can you imagine how similar our world's names are?!) thrills me with joy and delight! I'm packing madly and haven't had a moment to read and look and buy everything she makes--yet but I was gobsmacked at her unusually artful levels of detail and the charm of her mouse characters. We've decided via email that we are some sort of Art Sisters!

And Lisa Wood, the astonishing talent, making spectacular detailed diorama featuring real bugs living fully realized lives we would all recognize, has given me the finest award possible. After connecting due to the article, she now calls me friend.

I wonder exactly how big this cloth we are cut out of is?! That's the beneficial thing, without the article, I would never have known these women!

My thanks once again to Robert Ito for thinking enough of Halfland to take notice and for being so generous in his gift.

PS: I'm trying to persuade him to have his little son make a fish for the underwater scene covered in...
what else but the NYTimes article newsprint! I'd love to see such a magnificent fish swimming with the others in the Halfland sea.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Golden Sands

For the last sequence in the film, a desert setting will have a feeling of a humble sacred temple.

The bed sheet coated with three layers of real sand has now been hand tinted a vivid orange yellow. The color was at first custom mixed from three yellows and golds by Jacquard's natural fabric dye. But the sand and matte medium coating wasn't able to absorb the color as I'd hoped, so I mixed the color I wanted from Nova Color's insanely wonderful Indian Yellow #106 diluted with water to soak in. I also dunk-dyed huge amounts of paper from the clothing factory in the same dye bath to use as far away distant hill shapes when dry. Mid-range dunes will be simple curves from tinted 1/8" foam shaped with more paper underneath them to shape.

The entire desert will glint with gold particles from leaf and superfine gold dust applied in the sun.

Sculpture on the Serpent puppet continues....

Tuesday, May 08, 2012


Another feature of the porch set Complete. Done. Finished. A natural wisteria vine that has grown itself as a chair for Rana! This is where she will sit and weave macro close up patterns of butterfly wings on a tapestry style loom with elaborate spider webs nearby in the sun.

I pried apart a store bought twig chair and cut it down to scale by half (ha) (upper left) and then built it back up adding more slats and vine curves. Once the hybrid plant was composed of various materials, the entire structure of it was unified by painting a multi-layer faux wooden patina all over, lower left.

How made: The leaves were made by cutting out pointed oval shapes in a few shades of green crepe paper and twisting them into a row of graduated leaf-pairs. MAJOR TIP/MATERIAL ALERT! brown paper covered floral wire $9 a spool at floral supply stores like Moskatels. (Closest stuff I've seen online.)

It is a natural brown paper wrapped wire that has a nice shape and hold and looks like vine already. I developed a quick system of making wisteria like leaf stems (upper left) that could in turn get twisted onto the old dried tree I was using as the vine base. I wired this onto the halfchair and added reinforced roots to the clump at the bottom.

Once I liked the construction, I slathered on a slurry of Flexall cement mixed with a little water to thin, with a brush (upper right.) Painting it on, letting it dry, and then washing with acrylic layers in brown and taupe. Hitting the whole thing with my secret Walnut Ink to darken and age the crevices when all dry and a top highlight wash of pale taupe. Finished results seen top photos, right.

I wove the vine through the porch roof slats letting a little flower, clusters of hand-painted white silk, made in the same method as the leaves, peer through here and there. I could have kept going and made more of a profusion of greenery and flowers on the wisteria, but somehow it felt right to restrain that to a late season amount rather than having it compete visually with the leaves on the Answer Tree.

It's just a quiet, restful spot to sit and weave. Thanks for reading!


Rana's sculpt auditioning the types of straight-off-the-sheep/goat wool that will become the finished puppet's hair! The dark wool on top is my order of Drenthe Heath washed fleece, the bottom is the Gotland. The African photo with mud coated braids is a goat horn idea I'm considering for part of Rana's hair style.
"How much grey would you like in Rana's hair?" The Slovakian living in Scotland "Shepherdess" asked. It was like having an entire flock of Highland sheep standing by to grow Halfland's main character's hair to order!
A very cool thing happened recently to Halfland. I follow the blog of a super nice and impressively talented experimental fiber artist, named Monika Lamackova, where she displays step-by-steps for some of her creations/materials/process, etc. (Some deliciousness of which she often sells on her Soft Fibre Etsy.)

One day she posted some Gotland sheep fibre for sale that had such wonderful natural curls and mixture of white with dark that I lusted for it to use as the goat woman Rana's hair. And I could afford it I recall it was like $6. When I explained in an email its purpose here she asked me what my wish was for the mix of shade! I got the feeling I could have requested any color of hair and pictured a flock of animals with a wide range of hues standing on a hill waiting for Monika to come along with a set of sharp shears to clip off a variety of shades to put in my package!

How exotic to receive these packages from generous Monika from such a faraway beautiful land. Over the months I've also bought a few ounces of Wensleydale washed fleece and Scottis Blackface (white) and Hebredean (black) wool for other characters as well as a few actual Woad Seeds because my natural dye loving soul needed them. (She has always included a wee fibre giftie in the pack as well to my absolute delight.)

Can you believe the people we all get to meet/connect with because of the Web?! I can't really get over it.

Cloud Tech

A few sample dimensional cloud test shots.

In the Halfland sky there are a couple of monofiliant lines to run dimensional clouds in front of the painted versions. They can be moved along like clothes on an old fashioned clothesline via pulley. The clouds can be lit from the front or sides or behind with white or colored lights for changing time of day or type of weather. NICE!
They are made with loosely arranged polyester fiberfill encased in a skin of white tulle (sheer netting fabric) and stitched closed. They can run along the line being pushed by hand with a drinking straw embedded inside and threaded on. (An idea suggested by a workman hired to help on the set for a day several months back) Or they can be glued firmly onto a double pulley line and pulled across the sky.

On the right, a cloud is photographed behind the plastic sky scrim. I like the realistic shading this technique gives the cloud shapes and how dreamy the sheeting makes things seem.

Sunrise Sunset

Had the idea to add shifting color to the Halfland sky via additional sheer color scrims made of tulle, fabric netting that is inexpensive and comes in a large selection of colors.

The four colors of raw tulle yardage in sunset/sunrise colors from Mood Fabric LA was stitched onto four vertical monofiliament lines attached to the set ceiling and floor and tied tightly. Constance helped me install the lines several weeks/months back and David started off the hanging of the colors when he was last here with Sherie. I finished the other side of the rainbow (OH!-now there's another idea for this technique! Rainbows!) back stage yesterday (Paul took the picture) and took a few test shots today.

Each color can be intensified by bunching up on its own independent set of lines or spread open like a veil for a soft mist effect. In the center bottom row you see a how the back stage arrangement on the upper right photographs in front of the sky scrim with a sample cloud in place.

The colors can overlap for interesting blending and these positions can be kept in place via a clump of quake putty on each corner bitten by a metal clip to stay up on the lines. It's a little like painting with fabric. It's a poetic feeling.

Colored gel side lighting should add a lot to the effect as well.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Hey, It's Only a Paper Moon

 The Supermoon shot outside my window tonight, on left, The edge of Halfland's golden disk, in the center, and how it looks when lit in the sky on set, on right.

In honor of tonight's Supermoon, I thought I'd reveal Halfland's moon. It's a simple round metallic cardboard circle that had a failed image transfer of the actual moon face applied. The moon surface didn't transfer, just an irregular dried residue of its underlying paper with original golden shine only slightly visible under the paper.

When this paper disk is attached to the inside sky scrim layer, the one nearest the set, and a light is shone directly at it, the effect is fine by me! It's a good example of something not working as planned, but resulting perhaps better than could have tried to achieve. And another example of why I find moving forward better than going back to correct. "Use the mistakes" is a motto around here.

I can attach the moon in the sky where I'd like it for a shot, hit it with different color pin spots for different feels. The only issue is the because the sky is "raked", slanted quite a bit, the roundness of the moon distorts a bit. I could probably compensate for that in the shape, but that's too hard. I say the moon in Halfland tweaks out.

Next post: I can show how the sky will get it's color for dawns and sunsets....

Friday, May 04, 2012

Rosy Cozy

An ancient catch up, here's a shot I finally like of the finished rose wallpaper in the cottage bedroom.

The real angle of the two wall panels don't join so seamlessly, and the distressing is primarily made in the layers on the image, but it does show how nicely the teacup roses grow from the outside onto the faded wallpaper and then fade into it themselves. There are some rose images on the wall, more organically placed and brightly colored, as a stage between growing and paper design.

This is where Rana will crawl into bed to be snuggled by the Caterpillow in the gathering darkness, listening to the rain and insect sounds.

In the morning, small beetles will be knitting on the nightstand. (Didn't know that happened in the morning until I just typed it!)

I have recently been dividing all the action/vignettes in the film into four "Akts";


And, through these four changes of lighting, the four seasons will also be shifting in a subtle way as well.

Part of what I'm expressing with Halfland is a game of perception concerning size and time. I keep altering those aspects throughout so that the viewer will be forced to assume the place has a certain reality.

If I make what is built relatively large appear to be impossibly small through tilt-shift effects at certain moments, I feel the audience's heart will naturally believe what is displayed overall is real because the level of detail denotes a certain reality to be something so "small".

Then what was also built at a very small physical scale is shown in relation to those larger elements, the ride of scale perceptions should get very fun indeed. Part of the effect I'm hoping for.

The shifting of time should occur in the same way. Too quickly to be our familiar experience, yet challenging our own perception of how it passes.

Each film series takes place during a Halfland Day.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Real Mouse in Halfland!

A rare moment of stillness, our FeLINE Producer in a standoff with a real life mouse* in the tracks of the cardboard proscenium trees on set.

The other night I got up to see what the scuffling my cat was making was all about. It was the cutest tiny mouse in all of Halfland (awwwwww) being toyed with. It was plopped into my husband's shoe, it was bopped on the head and slapped around the flat, including under the entire set.

In the year's best Twitter comment, friend in Portland, Gretchin Lair, answered my urgent tweet asking what I should do about a real mouse being in Halfland,

"Grant it amnesty if it agrees to play the Writing Mouse?"

LOLlolol ha!--Good one, gl!

*Current condition of the sweet mouse can be assumed to be alright as it gave the never-saw-a-mouse-before cat the slip, took it on the lamb, cheesed it.
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