Wednesday, 12 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!)

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