labricoleuse: (mee)
In Bill Brewer's designs for Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd, her second look has a very specific stripe to it. He'd found a swatch of fabric at a New York vendor which he loved, but there were two problems: the vendor sold out of the fabric before the swatches were approved, and in order to match the fabric up the center front in this inverse chevron, one half of the skirt would have had to be cut inverted, which creates a visual anomaly in textiles with satin weaves.

Concept slide and design rendering by Bill Brewer

Image of silk yardage - the fabric we couldn't buy

In order to achieve this look, my assistant and first-year grad student Erin Torkelson took the above research image of the fabric Bill liked, rendered the stripe as a TIFF, and uploaded it to Spoonflower. We ordered sample swatches of it in a couple different substrate fabrics and Bill chose the fabric he liked best (the poly satin). He also elected to change the stripe to feature more whitespace. Then, because the stripe design is not a balanced mirror of itself, we had two versions of the stripe printed so that the skirt could be cut with that matching chevron up the front with the directional nap accommodated for.

Lovett Stripe
Lovett Stripe Reversed

Pretty cool, eh?
labricoleuse: (mee)
We're working on Sweeney Todd at PlayMakers right now, which is largely why i haven't posted anything in a while. Busy! But here's a quick look at just one of the many cool costume projects we've had in-house: the animal.masks for the masquerade scene.

Our costume designer, Bill Brewer, and our director, Jen Wineman, were really drawn to the mask designs of an artist named Steve Wintercroft. Wintercroft creates masks which look like the faceted shapes of 3D digital character designs before they have their "skins"--shapes reduced to planes. When i saw the images, i was so excited about the look of that scene and i couldn't wait to start work on them. For the scene, we would need a total of thirteen different masks, so my concern was how we could make this quantity of masks from something durable enough to survive a 25-show run, but which we could produce in under a month, alongside all the other craftwork i needed to stay on top of.

Wintercroft sells his designs as PDFs on Etsy, so Bill chose 13 masks he liked and we bought the patterns. Upon looking at the structures of the masks (which based on the instructions are intended to be printed on paper or cardstock and glued together for parties or children's play) and considering how we might adapt them to our needs, i came up with our process plan:

This spreadsheet was how we kept track of the project. With 12 different processes happening to 13 different masks, you have to devise good record-keeping strategies! (This pic was taken when we were close to being done, clearly.)
I printed the patterns off onto heavy cardstock, and then several undergraduates got trained on the industrial heat press, which they used in backing the cardstock with a heavy-weight fusible non-woven felt (think Pellon). Since each mask was between 10 and 20 pages worth of cardstock, this took a few hourrs. Then my assistant, first-year graduate student Erin Torkelson, began to cut these things out and assemble them.

Erin used Fabric-Tac in a curved-tip syringe to apply the glue to the tabs of each piece.

Clamps and clips secured each join while the adhesive cured.

Once the masks were in 3D form, we painted them with two coats of gesso and a sealer called Sculpt-or-Coat, inside and out, for stability. We also reinforced some of the joins around eyeholes and ears/mouths with papier-mache.

Several more in progress...

Then all the masks were painted with grey acrylic, except the Minotaur for the character of the Judge (top row right, hiding behind the Boar), which was painted deep red to match his costume.

Then, the masks were fit on the performers, interior padding constructed and added in, and now they're off to tech rehearsal to be waltzed in!

If you want to follow these kinds of projects in real-time, find me on Instagram or Twitter.
labricoleuse: (mee)
My grad students in Masks and Armor this semester have just presented their first round of projects. At this point, we've covered a range of different maskmaking media, and the students have proposed basic mask projects for which they may choose which type of media to use. These masks are meant to be fairly simple, in that they don't require a life cast or any full-head structural elements.

Check out what they made!

Fosshape/buckram/kanakelon Noh theatre mask by first year grad Michelle Bentley

Wonderflex mask by first year grad Robin Ankerich

Wonderflex Scandinavian mask by second year grad Max Hilsabeck

Embroidered textile mache mask by first year grad Erin Torkelson

Wonderflex/TerraFlex Witch King mask/helm by second year grad Emily Plonski

Hardened leather maquette and full size Bioshock mask by PlayMakers Repertory Company stock supervisor Alex Ruba
labricoleuse: (mee)
For our current production of Three Sisters at PlayMakers Repertory Company, we had to make the Order of St. Stanislaus medal for the character of Kulyegin.

Our costume designer, Tracy Christiansen, provided me with this great research image of what the medal looks like:

Read more... )
I did the manip using Photoshop and Tinkercad, and you can grab the file off of Thingiverse, here, if you want one of your own!
labricoleuse: (vintage hair)
We're working on a production of Ibsen's Enemy of the People right now at Playmakers Repertory Company, and i've had the occasion to do a distressing/aging project that some of y'all might enjoy.

Our production is set in the 1950s, and we've got a character whose very nice, new wool suit actually needs to look old and decrepit. The actor playing this character is one of our company actors, which means he's cast several times a year, and we have some go-to items for him which get used frequently--suits, shoes/boots, etc. Rather than wrecking a really good suit from our stock which we know fits him well and which would get future use, if it could be restored after this show, I'm using the Schmere line of products to do some reversible surface design.

Schmere makes a line of wax-based crayons and "smudge sticks" which have dry pigment suspended in them. You rub them on the costume, and they wash or dry-clean out. They're used a lot in the film industry, when a production might rent a HUGE number of costumes for a crowd scene and need them dirtied up, but not actually wrecked beyond restoration. For theatre, use of Schmere does mean that any treatment will need reapplication after each cleaning during the course of a run. For us, this means i'll need to "re-up" the Schmere at least two more times. Take a look:

Yes, they come in deodorant containers. Yes, one color is called sweat stains. Yes, that's funny.

Would you believe all the highlights and lowlights and shading on this coat will disappear at the dry cleaners?

Detail of streaky "sun-fading" and "sweat stain" on the coat back.
labricoleuse: (vintage hair)
For the second of the Witch's costumes in our production of Into the Woods at Playmakers Repertory Company, designer Bill Brewer had a truly fantastic vision for a sort of wizardy robe made of ornately-dyed and embossed velvet.

Draper Denise Chukhina came up with the process for how this fabric would be created, from which she would then make the costume.
Read more... )
labricoleuse: (ass head mask)
Today i'm talking about vegetation, part two! Recall from my last post that we're working on Into the Woods, and that our Witch's first look is quite vegetable-covered, which has meant a lot of fascinating craft projects for me and my two colleagues on Team Witch, Denise Chukhina and Sam Kate Toney.

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (macropuppets!)
We're currently in production on our repertory shows this year, Into the Woods and Midsummer Night's Dream. Today, I've got a behind-the-scene peek into one of the many cool special effects we're doing in the costume crafts world to create these two huge, magical shows.

Our costume designer for Into the Woods is Bill Brewer, of UNC-School of the Arts. I've been aware of Bill's work for years and met him many times at conferences and symposia, but we'd never worked together. Really excited to have the chance on this great show!

For his concept of the Witch's first costume, he envisioned a dress covered with actual vegetation from her garden, in which Jack's magic beans grow.
Read more... )
labricoleuse: (ass head mask)
For the current show, Assassins, painter/dyer Denise Dietrich and I wound up lending a hand to our props department and creating a "dead dog."

In one scene of the show, the character of Sarah Jane Moore has a dead dog in her handbag, which she takes out and drops on the ground. Our fake dog needed to be realistic-looking, and to have the weight and limpness of, well, a dead dog.

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (vintage hair)
Recall if you will the super-exciting project we have in the works, the creation of custom silk crepe for our upcoming production of Private Lives at Playmakers Repertory Company.

I wrote the first post a while back, about the sample-creation process in which we determined techniques and media to use to get the results our designer, Jennifer Caprio, wanted for the gown. The second post, back before the winter break, covered digital manipulation of the artwork in order to prepare it for our process. And in this one, we really take it from 2D to 3D.

The draper on this production, third year graduate Leah Pelz, carefully laid out and threadmarked the pieces of the gown onto lengths of 4-ply silk crepe. She also threadmarked a lot of guidelines--where the floral pattern needed to travel, where darts would be sewn into the bodice, etc. We wound up having two lengths of fabric, each of which would need to be hand-painted with the lily pattern.

Recall that at the end of the sampling process, we had decided upon a resist technique using a thinned gutta resist and a combination of silk paints and acid dyes. In order to get the most crisp control for this sort of process, you have to stretch your fabric on a frame, kind of like a canvas for a painting. In my dye studio, i have a large steel table, 4' x 8', with a removable stretcher frame made from 1"x4"s that we bolt together and fit into the table. But, we needed to border our silk pieces with strips of muslin in order to stretch the fabric on the frame--partly because the crepe was not wide enough for the frame without them, but also because we didn't want to damage or waste part of the silk by stapling or tacking through it to hold the fabric on the frame.

Check it out! )
labricoleuse: (silk painting)
In Part One of this series on some hand-painted silk we are making, i got as far as the sample process, in which my assistant and i created a whole range of surface design swatches to show our designer, Jennifer Caprio, how we might create the fabric. Once Jen chose the sample, our next task was to get the image onto the fabric, a rich 4-ply silk crepe.

Recall that the inspiration for the dress was a 1935 Schiaparelli gown in the collection of the Museum at FIT. Because Jen wants the lily motif to be the guide for our own fabric creation, i decided Photoshop would be the best tool to make our template.

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (silk painting)
We've begun a really exciting surface design project for our next show at Playmakers, Noel Coward's Private Lives, in which we are making some fabric yardage inspired by this 1935 Schiaparelli dress in the collection of the Museum at FIT.

For the character of Amanda, costume designer Jennifer Caprio dreamed up a glamorous dress clearly influenced by the Schiaparelli gown but without being an exact copy:

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (supershakespeare)
We're opening two plays in repertory this Thursday and Friday evening at Playmakers Repertory Company, one of which is Shakespeare's The Tempest. I've got some posts in the pipeline about all the interesting work we've done in and around the production process (those pool water tests were only a drop in the bucket, ha!). Today's installment deals with the challenging costume process for the clown character of Stephano, which involved figuring out how to make a fat suit that someone could fall into a pool in!

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (dye vat)
At Playmakers Repertory Company, our next two shows of the season (which will run in repertory using basically the same set between both of them) will be Shakespeare's The Tempest, and the Greek mythological drama Metamorphoses.

Those who are familiar with Metamorphoses will perk up--the script calls for a pool of water onstage, in which a lot of the action occurs. This presents an interesting range of challenges for costumers, as we have to look at how the various textiles and costumes will hold up to repeated and prolonged submerging in chlorinated water. As the dyer for this production, that's my responsibility to conduct that testing.

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (vintage hair)
A collaborative project on this show between myself and Candy McClernan was this fun pink feathered "bob" for the character of Rosie, one of the Kit Kat Girls, who is played by Maren Searle. These kinds of close-fitting hairstyle-esque hats were popular in the nightclubs of the time, and are made from hackle pads.

For this project, we didn't have a rendering to work from on the hat; instead we had a research image provided by designer Jen Caprio:
Read more... )
labricoleuse: (design)
As soon as i saw Jen Caprio's designs for the show, one of the elements that leapt out at me as a major craftwork endeavor was the Kit Kat Girl costumes for the "Mein Herr" number. Her design incorporated drapes of pearls, numerous iron crosses, and the aesthetically singular spiked German helmet called a Pickelhaube.

I'm a huge fan of words and vocabulary, and i prefer finding out the proper name for an item instead of making up some shorthand like "Kaiser helmet" or whatever. I also studied German for several years and was an exchange student in Berlin in high school, so this show has been a wonderful excuse to expand my Deutsche Vokabeln, as it were. For example, die Rotsamtstiefeln is German for "the red velvet boots!"

But i digress.
Read more... )
labricoleuse: (shakespearean alan cumming)
As Cabaret rolls toward opening, we barely have time to sleep, but i've got a quick couple photos to share of Candy McClernan's amusing coin codpiece for the Emcee!
Read more... )
labricoleuse: (vintage hair)
Here's a project Candy and i have been hard at work on for a few days: knee-high red velvet combat boots for the Emcee!

I'll walk you through how we made them.
Read more... )
labricoleuse: (vintage hair)
This quick entry concerns the process of making an elaborate lace dress for the character of Sally Bowles. Costume designer Jen Caprio has worked with draper and second-year grad student Leah Pelz (under the guidance of Costume Director Judy Adamson of course) on exactly how this garment is to be made, and these three images illustrate the path so far from page to stage.

Read more... )
labricoleuse: (milliner)
Co-crafts artisan Candy McClernan and I have been hard at work on Cabaret--tech starts in a week! I've written quite a bit about all the cool projects she's been heading up, such as her screenprinted spandex map fabric and her digital textile prints of zeppelins and Deutschmarks, but I've not talked about any of my own projects.

When Candy and I looked at the crafts on this show and discussed how to divide up the workload, we had to take a lot of different factors into consideration: the time we had to produce things, where each of our strengths and interests lie, and how many things we knew would have to be made in-house. Because of the highly specific aesthetic nature of the designs, our made-to-order crafts list is pretty long on this one, and full of tons of really cool and exciting projects.

Whenever i share a crafts workload on equal footing with a graduate student (this happens when they are in their second or third year, and usually when they intend to pursue a crafts-centric career), I try as much as possible to give the student "first dibs." What areas and projects are they particularly drawn to? After all, part of this whole thing is to educate the students in a practical production environment, to give them opportunities to produce professional work that appears onstage in a regionally-staged production. And, besides, this is my job. I will always have more cool crafts to make, while they're in grad school for only three years.

Since Candy has a particular interest in the applications of digital technologies to the field of costume production, when i saw how many digital fabric prints and other related projects this show afforded us, I suspected she'd want to be in charge of those, and i was right! As you've seen from the prior posts, she's been doing a great job, too.

And, i'll own up to the fact that the project i'm going to talk about today, i was really wanting to do, so i'm glad we didn't have to jump into Thunderdome over it--that's the leatherwork! I love working with leather in applications like these, and really, i think if i had to pick an area of crafts to specialize in, it would be a hard decision but leatherwork would be one of the top contenders.

I first really learned a lot about leatherwork when i was living in Boston and working at the American Repertory Theatre at Harvard. My contract was one of those "swiss cheese contracts," where you wind up on for a month, off for a month, and it can be hard to pick up gainful employment sometimes in and around that sort of gig. I freelanced all over the place and had a couple of other jobs, but my absolute favorite was doing patternmaking and production work at a custom retail leather shop. Most of the shop's clients were of the "leather daddy"/fetish variety, and much of what we made consisted of custom-fit leather pants, chaps, vests, and a variety of things made of straps. We also got commissions for things like leather corsets, hats, and even adding cavalier-bells to the tops of boots. (This was before Disney made pirates popular enough for those things to exist off-the-rack.)

I learned four methods for making straps from leather, each suited to a different aesthetic or functional application, and i learned invaluable skills like laying out patterns on hides, estimating square footage of leather by hide or by project, and how sewing with leather differs from fabric. It remains the absolute best non-theatre job i've had in my life, and i try to pass on at least some of the knowledge i gained there to my students. The place is defunct, long out of business at this point, or else i'd give them a link here.

Anyway, when i saw the leather elements Cabaret's costumes would require, i did a little dance, because i could not wait to get my hands on some beautiful hides and start work!

The major project of this sort is a part of the look for the Emcee and the Kit Kat Girls for the "Money" number, in which the costumes are a sort of fetishy-burlesque take-off on dirndls and lederhosen. Recall from the post about making our Deutschmark fabric, that designer Jen Caprio's renderings looked thus:
Read more... )

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