Sunday, 30 March 2014

Goblin King Masquerade Ball

I typed up a long post the other night but I’ve decided against using it.  The gist of it was a general kick up the backside for being so bad at following through with things I say I’m going to do – including updating this blog!  I was feeling very ill and grouchy at the time (allergic reaction from hell that had me bedridden for a day and a half!), which may have contributed to a somewhat pessimistic tone, hence why I decided not to publish in the end.

But the essence of the complaint remains, and it’s one I’m resolved to work on.  Half the projects I’ve mentioned on this blog end up in the ‘unfinished’ box in my studio, never to be spoken of again.  Or they get stuck in the ‘research’ stage, in which I waste countless hours scrolling through ‘inspiration’ on pinterest, and reading about other people’s creations on their blogs, when I could be spending that time creating my own!

A good way to keep motivation up for a personal project is to give it a deadline, such as an event on a set date that my costume needs to be ready for.  I’m really jealous of all the costume events that get mentioned on the numerous American blogs I follow, and although there may be less of that here, I’m determined to discover all that there is!

One such event coming up is the Goblin King’s Masquerade Ball.  Me and a group of friends already have our tickets, so now all that remains is for me to make myself a costume by May 2nd!  I’ve been hankering after something 18th century, inspired by a black gown with a tulle overskirt worn by Kirsten Dunst in Marie Antoinette (2006).  Fittingly enough, she wears it to a masquerade party herself.  The tulle overskirt isn’t particularly historically accurate, but I have my heart set on it, so I’ll be going for costume, rather than a true depiction this time!

Friday, 31 January 2014

2014, will this be the year I get my blog off the ground?

"It's been a while" is probably an understatement...

But it's a new year so lets give this thing another whirl!

Things have been going pretty well on the costume front, which has been a great ego boost when work can be quite hard to come by for a novice in this industry.  It's especially rewarding to be hired by a company who then continue to keep me on for other projects, that definitely makes me feel like I'm doing something right, which is always nice!

So I have plenty of updates to make, and will do so on here gradually.  I've decided that aiming for one post a month (minimum) is a very do-able scheme, so I'm starting it off by slipping this in as a last minute one for January.  Stay tuned for posts on more of my Carnival work with Kinetika, as well as my first foray into wig making for a Christmas Panto!

In the mean time I’ll leave you with a few photos from one of my latest jobs.  I met Fran Rios whilst helping out on a production of ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ by The Alchemic Order.  She is a really talented designer, who recently decided to branch out from her usual employment as a Creative Pattern Cutter to make her first Bridal collection under her own name, which launched in Spain just after Christmas.  She invited me to assist her in constructing some of her looks for the show, and it was a really informative opportunity to work with someone with over a decade’s worth of experience in the fashion industry. 

For a start, there are a lot of differences between sewing for fashion and sewing for costume, which is my usual forte.  Generally, you’re drafting to a certain dress size, rather than directly from an actor’s set of measurements.  There’s also no faffing around with mark stitching massive amounts of seam allowance for fittings and later costume alterations (say, if the costume is likely to be reused on another production).  Instead, a respectable 1 cm seam allowance is calculated into the original pattern and stitched by simply positioning the edge of the fabric along the guide on your sewing machine’s needle plate, doing away with the need for mark-tacking altogether. Very efficient, although slightly odd to adjust to when you’re so used to a much heftier amount.

The real challenge of this particular job was getting to grips with the chiffon, which although beautiful and perfectly suited to twirling around in (I can attest to this), is a real bugger to work with!  Still, we got there in the end, and the dresses look fabulous.  You can visit the Fran Rios London official facebook page here, and find more photos from the launch party here.  Bravo Fran on a job well done!

edited: 9/2/14

Monday, 11 March 2013

Medea - finished set photos!

I actually finished painting the set last thursday, but didn't get a chance to take any photos until today.  The poor patient guy on security at the Guildhall was literally turning the lights out as I was dabbing the final details in on thursday evening, so it wasn't really the opportune moment to stop for a bit of camera action.  Luckily, I had to head down today to drop off the leather buskins I made for the character of Jason (which, typically, I forgot to take a photo of - I'm useless at this!), so that gave me ample time to go down to the amphitheatre to take some photos.

The sides will be curtained off and the green display behind switched off  too.

Closer look at the door.
Close up of shading detail on marble column 

I didn't go into very much detail about the project in my previous post, but for anyone unfamiliar with the original Greek play, here's a rundown.  It's about the title character, Medea, who is married to Jason (of Argonauts fame).  Jason decides to remarry, and Medea (being a little put out by this) naturally reacts by sending his fiance a poisoned robe, killing her own children and escaping in a suitably spectacular fashion in the dragon chariot of the sun god Helios.
I'd originally signed on to help out my friend Mel, who designed the costumes, but, since they needed someone else to design and paint the backdrop, I stepped in.  It's actually the first time I've painted anything in this scale, so it was definitely an educating experience.  The task was to create the outside of Jason's palace, with central doors that characters could enter and exit through.
I relied pretty heavily on wall paintings from Pompeii and Herculaneum for the colour scheme and layout of my painting:

If you look closely, I pretty much ripped off all my detailing from the door in this painting - but shhhh!

Once I'd put a scale drawing together I popped down to B&Q to dither about in the paint section for awhile, then got to work!  It took about 8 full days to get it all completed, and overall I'm really happy with the outcome.  I think I'm most chuffed with how well the 'marbled' texture turned out on the columns either side of the door. The perfectionist in me would have wanted to do something more with the brown panel along the lower edge (shading or texturing of some description) but unfortunately there wasn't enough time, what with other projects all crowding for attention at the same time!  Nevermind, I'm always my worst critic.

The play opens this wednesday (the 13th) and I'll be going to see my handy work in action at Sunday's matinee performance!  For more info on the staging of the play (the first time the Roman Amphitheatre has been used for this purpose since, well, Roman times!) visit Medea in the Amphitheatre.

In other news, David Bowie's new album came out today and it is BRILLIANT.  Buy it. Now.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Medea + new shoes!

So, life's been pretty changeable since last time I blogged.  That's pretty much the way it is, working as a freelancer, you can have a couple of weeks of just twiddling your thumbs with absolutely nothing to do, and then suddenly find yourself frantically working on four different projects at once!
This would be one of those times.

The main project I'm involved in right now is a production of Medea, by Euripides.  It's actually being staged in the ruins of London's Roman Amphitheatre, under the Guildhall Art Gallery, and we're trying to make it as close to the original way it would have been performed as possible, with an all-male cast, a chorus, and all the actors in masks.
I've actually branched out into Set Design for this show, which is proving interesting - and tiring, painting a backdrop is quite a workout!
Here's a sneak peak of how it looks so far:

The doors, before painting.

In completely unrelated news, my 1920s t-strap shoes from American Duchess arrived today and they're gorgeous and really nice quality to boot! (pun unintended but enjoyed nonetheless)
My feet are annoyingly between sizes so I went a size up to be on the safe side.  The shoes are a smidgen too large for wearing with regular tights, but they look lovely worn with some nice knitted socks, dontcha think?

(please forgive the crappy angle, it's difficult to get good photos of shoes when they're on your own feet!)

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Coat Sew-Along!

Two posts in one day, how decadent!
So, in other news, I've decided to join in a coat sew-along.  Gertie Hirsch, whose blog I adore, has come out with several patterns for Butterick.  One of them is this lovely coat (Butterick 5824), and she has set up a sew-along on her blog that's starting in October.

I mentioned months ago that I was hankering after a Sherlock coat, and I haven't forgotten!  I've just been a little bit shy of stepping out into the deep end with it, since I've never made a properly tailored modern coat before, and I want to do it justice.  So now this sew-along has appeared, with a fabulous coat I'd love to make, the motivation of a schedule to stick to, plus plenty of helping hands all doing the same project should I run into any difficulties, and it seems only sensible to pave the way for my next coat with this.  That way, when I come to tackling Sherlock, I'll be well prepared!

One day this will be mine (and I'm not just referring to Benedict Cumberbatch!)
I ended up going fabric shopping yesterday for my Butterick coat.  I found two great shops in Hackney that I'd never been to before, since I've only really ever done the obvious Shepherd's Bush or Soho gambit when I've been visiting London.  Luckily now I live here I have the opportunity to dig a little deeper.
The first was Mermaid Fabrics on Mare Road, which had an eclectic mix of fabrics, including a room dedicated to suiting downstairs.  Not necessarily brilliant for your basics, but good for a rummage.  That's where I found my top fabric, which is an interesting one with an unusual silvery sheen to it, without being overly glitzy.  I'm not sure how well the photo picks it up.  The other was Dalston Mill on Ridley Road, about a 15 minute walk away.  This one was pretty huge; an Aladdin's cave of fabric with bolts piled high up the walls.  I'd already found a nice and cheap lining fabric, but then made the mistake of looking at the duchess satin.  I ended up falling in love with this gorgeous purple colour and splurging on it.  I don't really want to think about how much money I spent that afternoon, these weren't my only purchases!

Toodlepip x

Helga - Weymouth Maritime Mix

So, I never did get round to talking on here about the delay in Helga's grand debut.  Mostly because at the time it was too depressing, then afterwards I didn't really want to make myself glum by thinking about it too much.
To recap, I made Helga (see previous posts) to appear in the Spirit of the Sea Carnival in Weymouth, which this year was made to coincide with the Olympic Torch Relay to celebrate its arrival in Weymouth.  Unfortunately, when the day came there was such torrential rain (literally, there were flash flood warnings all over the South West that week, it wasn't messing about!) that the parade had to be cancelled.  This was gutting for everyone, especially the organisers who'd put so much effort into making it happen in the first place.  And it wasn't just me and the other 3 large scale costume students that had been working for months on it, there were a group of 2nd years that had been leading around 800 or so school children in making costumes for themselves to wear in the parade.  It sucked, basically.
Anyway, flash forward to September 9th and it was finally Helga's chance to shine! (and luckily the sun did too)  This time round we were there to mark the end of the Paralympic Games, and it was fabulous!

There was a last minute switch around with the performers, since my fellow costumier, Immie, who was meant to wear it, no longer had an actor to perform in her own costume, and wanted to wear it herself.  Luckily Gabby stepped in, and I couldn't have asked for a better performer!  One thing about Helga is that she gets heavy.  I tried to make her out of the lightest materials possible; plastazote foam and pvc pipes, but even so, after an hour or so you're going to really feel the weight - especially with the coastal winds we had to contend with as we were going along the promenade.  But Gabby was an absolute trooper, not only did she look the part with her bright green hair, she battled the wind without complaint and posed and smiled for photos for all the crowd.  And wow, the crowd!  I have never had so much adulation in my life before.  I'd been put in the procession as a motivator, been given a costume from our stockroom to wear, and put next to Helga/Gabby to be on hand should anything go amiss.
It meant that I was right there to hear all the praise and see all the excited pointing fingers and variations of "Oh my god, it's the fish from 'Finding Nemo'!"  Not only that, but because we were right at the back of the procession as a kind of grand finale, the crowd would all cheer as we passed them by.  I tell you, it made all the blood, sweat and tears that went into making her all fade into insignificance.  I definitely want to do Carnival again, if only for the 2 hours worth of ego stroking at the end of all that work!
Anyway, photo time:

And some I nicked from the Moving Tides Procession facebook page:

Me walking alongside looking chuffed (and a little bit concerned for Gabby's back!)

I love how this one shows the vibrancy of it all.  Also, you can see my friend Jess in the  foreground wearing her sunset (or sunrise?) costume.  Had a minor hiccup in that someone forgot to pack her poles, but she was able to scrounge some from some unused costumes and bosh it back together in time - it looks fab!

My favourites were the dinosaurs.  The procession was 'ocean-themed' but  because  we were on the Jurassic coast line there was a big fossil theme within that.  The dinosaurs were amazing!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Athletes Parade – Lion Puppets

Ok, so in my previous post I probably somewhat exaggerated the secrecy involved in this project for dramatic effect, but the Athletes Parade has been and gone now so I’m free to post to my heart’s content.  For those who don’t know, the Athletes Parade was a big event in London to mark the end of the Olympic Games, in which all the British Olympic and Paralympic athletes paraded by on floats, various important people made speeches, and the Red Arrows flew over Buckingham Palace trailing red white and blue smoke to mark the occasion.  All very nice indeed, however, the highlight of the event was clearly the two lion puppets based on the British Olympic Association &British Paralympic Association logos that headed up the parade.  Obviously.  And I am of course in no way biased by the fact that I helped make them.

Source - Flickr photoset: rubenarakelyan

Source - Belfast Telegraph

Source - Flickr photoset: rubenarakelyan

Aren’t they fantastic?  They were built by Kinetika, with Tony Mason and Iola Weir leading the make, and I was lucky enough to get involved for a couple of weeks in their Stratford studio.  I’d previously met the guys from Kinetika when they came to my university to help out with the flag-making for the Weymouth procession (more on that later!) and they were able to advise me on Helga’s construction too.

Working on the lions was really interesting.  It’s amazing how creative you can be with quite simple materials.  The frames for the lion heads were made entirely out of fibre glass and aluminium rods bent and bolted or taped into position.  These were then covered in fabric, and mounted on a purpose built backpack to be worn by the performer.  These were built along very similar lines to the backpack I made for Helga, except that instead of plastazote foam heated and moulded to echo the contour of the back, aquaplast was used in its place.  This was a very nifty material, quite rigid and plastic-y at room temperature, but when you heated it up in boiling water it would become quite limp and flexible, and so could be moulded over the back of a mannequin, returning to its original rigidity in 5 or 10 minutes.

Covering not finished yet, so you get better look at the frame

Inside of one of the lions from behind

Backpack - the aquaplast was also used for those 2 white channels that the aluminium slots into

The manes that flow out behind the lion heads and are held up by other performers were a massive job in themselves.  First getting the acres and acres of fabric all cut out, then binding it all with white bias binding, then roding it all up with fibre glass and nylon rods.  Knowing which rods to use seems to be an art form in and of itself, a whole ton of difference will ride on whether you’ve used a 3 or a 3 ½ mm diameter rod when it come to the movement of the mane in the end, and knowing which ones to use seems just to come with experience.
I thought I’d leave you with a few photos of other things that grabbed my attention from Kinetika’s studio whilst I was there. Enjoy!

(Hanging upside down from ceiling so I flipped the picture)

Next post:  Weymouth Parade (Helga’s debut!)