At the same time as making the larger horned headpiece for Dance Wi' The Deil we also decided to add a new suitcase to the performance. While it is used openly to store the performer's coat, it also has a secret compartment which is full of stolen hearts. The suitcase itself we found online, and you can see the stages of the build below -
1. I constructed shelves inside the suitcase using balsa wood, as I wanted to add as little weight as possible. They needed to look expensive and old, so I knew I would be painting a wood effect on them
2. The hearts were carved from blocks of soft foam, string hot-glued for veins, then skinned using a mix of silicone and oil paint (a very effective technique which I keep coming back to). In this photo they have had one opaque pink coat and some transparent red applied in patches. I also rounded off the corners of the shelves to match better with the shape of the suitcase
3. I drilled and glued 5mm dowel rods into the shelves to support the hearts, cut two smaller shelves for the bottom section, then primed them all using gesso. In this photo the hearts have had a few more transparent coats of silicon and oil paint first to build up their colours, then to add smaller details
4. In this photo the shelves have been painted with one flat coat of yellow ochre, and grey on the dowel, then a wet glaze with a darker brown in loose stripes. I also added small sections of beading where the shelves meet to smarten it up a bit and reference old furniture pieces
5. The hearts were hot glued to the dowel rods, and I worked into the wood effect with a yellow colour and a lighter neutral brown
6. I painted over all the wood effect with a dark brown wash which I rubbed back slightly using a rag, this stage really helped it look more convincingly like wood, then I varnished it with household wood varnish
7. I fitted a piece of red velvet as lining behind the shelves and hot-glued the shelves in place
8. Here's a more detailed shot of one of the hearts, the wood effect and the red velvet
Just finished working on these large musical horns. It's been a great, fun job and I had the chance to try out some new making techniques, which was really exciting. Last October I made a smaller set of horns for the walkabout performance by Diane Thornton called Dance Wi' The Deil. This year, with performances at larger festivals on the cards, we decided to upscale the speakers and horns to increase impact. The Minirig speakers we're using now are very loud, and work in stereo using bluetooth from a mobile phone. Although they are small for such powerful speakers, they are fairly bulky objects to wear on your head, so I knew the rest of the headpiece had to be well secured, and as lightweight as possible.
The horns themselves are made from sheets of 3mm P120 Plastazote foam. It's very lightweight, and can be stretched or heat formed into interesting shapes. Below you can see the stages of making the horns -
1. Four strips which work like the segments of a beach ball make the horn shape
2. Contact adhesive to join the strips, which are begining to take the form in this photo
3. The last stages of joining the foam with the contact adhesive are very fiddly, but it's super satisfying seeing the hollow horn take shape
4. Marking out holes for the sound to escape and drawing where I would like ridges to go
5. Cutting out the holes, and hot glueing string along the lines of the ridges
6. Covering the string ridges (and any other imperfections) with caulk, then smoothing out with water
I then painted the horns with eight layers of watered down PVA glue, which took ages, but the final surface was lovely and smooth. Following that, the stages of painting were -
7. Priming with gesso
8. A coat of black acrylic
9. A transparent glaze of dark blue over the black to make the dark tones a little richer
10. Dry brushed layer of bright blue to give the colour body, leaving a shadow area above the ridges
11. Dry brush layer of light purple to brighten it up, leaving both the blue and shadow visible towards the ridges
12. Dry brush highlight in pink around the front edge of the ridges to draw attention to them
The horns themselves were then incorporated into the headpiece -
13. A welder's visor provided the plastic frame for the headpiece
14. Two tubs of car wax turned out to be exactly the right size for the speakers to fit inside
15. The Minirig speakers fitted snugly inside the tubs
16. The horns then slot over the speakers and tubs
17. I used more of the P120 foam to make a central piece which covers the plastic frame and forms the base of the horns. I then caulked the joins of this central piece and also coated it with eight layers of PVA
18. The central piece was painted, following the same steps as the horns, before the headpiece was varnished with several coats of Rust-oleum Crystal Clear matt spray varnish
Getting ready for another Call of Nature performance, which reminded me that I had meant to post some more recent photos of the show. This one was from a wonderful sunny weekend up at the lovely Woodend Barn in Aberdeenshire.
Over the past month I've been working on this Weave Tree float and these Ribbon costumes and flags for Paisley's Weave Parade, and for the first time in three years the sun was out for the whole parade!
Earlier this year I made these animations for the Edinburgh International Science Festival exhibit Moments in Time.
The animations are now online, and you can watch them below. If you're interested in how the animations were made you can find out a bit more in my earlier blog posts.
Here are some snaps of the Werewomen performing with Surge at the Grassmarket in Edinburgh last week. It was so exciting getting to see how far the performance has come, and really great to see the way the performers use the costumes as part of their characterisation. It's been brilliant working on this project, I was given a lot of freedom with the design process and the performers trusted and went with the suggestions I made.
The brief for Werewomen was "three female wolf-clowns". I knew I wanted the costumes to be feminine but not too cute, and I had an idea from the start that I wanted to focus on the weird stage of Werewolf transformation where the skin and muscles are stretching, but before it grows fur all over its face. The performers needed to have a good amount of their face visible, so I decided on a hood which covered their hair and altered the shape of their faces by adding wolfy ears.
I researched werewolf transformations -
White face clowns, bald caps and clown noses -
And dip-dyed fur coats -
I used a cyclists' lycra balaclava as a base for the wolf hoods, and carved ears and noses from soft foam. I painted the hoods using transparent layers of silicone and oil paint to get the look and texture of stretched skin, and made hair by teasing apart and spray-painting natural brown string.
While I was happy with the costumes in my studio, it was another thing altogether seeing them in action. What a treat!
Werewomen will be performing again at Physicalfest in Liverpool on Monday 28th May, and at the Merchants City Festival in Glasgow on 30th July.
Today is the first outing for Werewomen, a walkabout street act by Suzie Ferguson, with Diane Thornton and Beth Frieden. If you're around the Grassmarket in Edinburgh today then pop by and see them! I've had a wonderful time designing the costumes, it was a treat!
I am a Glasgow based visual artist and maker.