We Have The Stars

Christmas is the best time to be working at Props Studios. It’s like being in Santa’s workshop. There was fake snow, sleighs, polar bears, giant candy canes and glitter by the sack load. I went into Props to help them with these silver stars as part of Liberty’s Christmas decoration scheme.

The star shapes were cut out of a light silver aluminium that was embossed with a pattern. They came in two sizes. For further variation, some of the stars were rubbed lightly with tiny amounts of black spray paint to bring out the embossed pattern and give an antique look. Then, we used a jig to score and fold each star so that it was 3 dimensional. There were thousands of them.

The stars were to hung in the atriums on each floor of Liberty using wooden rods and fishing line. The rods had to be measured and spray painted. Each rod of stars had to be made to measure so that it would fit perfectly into its allotted space within the department store. This included measuring the exact length for each strand of stars so it was a lot of work to prepare and organise.

I was also part of the team that took all of these decorations down when the season ended. We worked through the night while the shop was closed and had to be careful not to make a mess or damage any of the displays. It was fairly easy for the most part, until we had to take down all of the stars in the ceramics department which was a bit nerve wracking as everything looked so fragile and was precariously stacked up around the edges of the atrium. A lot of splinters and tangled wires later, the store was back to normal and it was as if we’d never been there.


An American Werewolf In London

ImageHalloween is my favourite time of year! Are you surprised?

Taking a break from being a zombie, I planned a different makeup challenge for myself last Halloween and went to my friend’s party as Teen Wolf.

To create the costume I bought a costume store Varsity jacket, made a fake fur tank top and fake fur mittens and a giant brown wig. Then I bought a werewolf makeup kit and a few metres of crepe hair. The crepe hair comes in long plaits and needs to be straightened out to be used. We found that ironing it was the best method. The makeup kit came with a brown palette of greasepaint with several tones, translucent power to finish and the dreaded spirit gum.

I wouldn’t rate the kit that highly. First of all, the colours in the palette weren’t labelled and trying to figure out the difference between mid brown, light brown, tan, dark brown and olive was actually a bit difficult because there wasn’t much difference in tone between some of them. Secondly, there were a lot of stages to the initial shading and contouring (around 12 to 15) which took ages and then didn’t show up through the top coat or the hair anyway so it seemed a bit pointless.

I can’t claim all of the credit for this look as I had to ask for my boyfriend’s help with it. As I’ve mentioned before with spirit gum –  to get it sticky you have to be tactile with it, so before I was even halfway around my face with the hair it was stuck to my hands, my face and the bottle of glue in a big hairy mess. Two hours later the hair looked great. It was a 3 or 4 hour makeup job in the end. Next time I’ll skip out all of the contouring stages and just use one or two shades of brown all over as the effect would be the same.

I was really happy with the finished look. It kept me warm out in the cold, but unfortunately the wind and the long night of partying meant that I spent a lot of time molting.

My boyfriend went as Edward Scissorhands. His makeup had to be done quite quickly as we were pressed for time. First, I masked Nick’s eyebrows using a pritt stick – the tips you learn from youtube! Then I gave him a base coat with white face paint. In hindsight, white face paint was a bad choice as it had a chalky finish and didn’t provide a good base to then add contouring and shading to. It also faded, smudged and rubbed off easily as the night progressed. I’d love to get my hands on some dermablend concealers and a foundation palette or two but for now I’ll work with what I’ve got.

I used purple, grey and black eyeshadows to contour his chin, nose and eyebrows as well as hollowing out his eyes. From my bruise wheel I added a tiny purple tint to his lips and gave him some scratches and scars.

Nick’s costume was from a store, although he trimmed the wig a fair bit to give it some shape and we added extra belts to the black suit.

It was a great party with some brilliant costumes – zombies, mummies, serial killers and comic book heroes but my favourite of the night were a troop of Black Swans who had great makeup and a really original costume idea.

Now to start planning next year’s look…

The Dead Will Walk The Earth


October meant one thing – zombie time! After having such a great time at last year’s Beach of the Dead, my friends and I were really excited about attending this year. Our zombie wedding theme from 2010 was fun, but we saw a lot of zombie brides that day and wanted to try something a bit more original for 2011 and decided to go as the Zombie Village People.

As you can see from our lineup we were missing a couple of members. Organising a group theme is tricky and our Leather Man, G.I. and Traffic Cop ended up dropping out at the last minute. We were left with Laurie as the cowboy, Roisin as the Indian and myself as the Builder. Later in the day my friend Sam stood in as our Leather Man because she had a leather jacket on. Clearly some people aren’t as dedicated to zombieness as others, but we were determined to make the most of it and we still had a great day.

I put more work into my base coat this year. I used black face paint and purple tones from my bruise wheel to shade around my eyes, contour my cheeks and give my lips a cold dead blue tint. I then coated myself in a thick coat of white face paint and blended the colours together. I picked up some of the purple bruise wheel on my sponge as I layered the white, which created a nice grey blue hue.

In my camp builder outfit I was showing a lot more flesh than last year so I had to paint my neck, arms and legs too. You can see my short shorts in this photo. Thankfully the weather was great for October so I could survive being exposed to the elements for a few hours.

Once my base coat was complete I used my red eyeliner to give my eyes a sinister, unhealthy look, which contrasted really well against the blue and white. I decided to use less latex than last year and created lesions in the usual way by layering it up, ripping it open and then applying reds, purples and finishing up with fresh scab.

I used left over latex from last year and I think this was a mistake as it had a gloopy consistency and went a bit yellow when it dried. It wasn’t as sticky as usual and the finish was more uneven. This wasn’t so bad though as it added to the decaying look. I’ll be sure to use fresher latex next time though.

We had a new kind of viscous blood in our kit this year that was great. It partially dries but remains glossy. It created a great dripping blood effect as it would run off wherever you applied it and then dry in big dangling drips. You can see some of it on my face above and I also had some on my knee.

You can spot us briefly in this video from the day at about 0:44

Diamond Dogs

Last summer I was back at Props Studios to help them make these Denim Dogs for Oasis. We received a prototype from the client that we had to stick to closely and I think we made around 30 in all.

The team at Props constructed a metal frame to form the skeleton of the dog, consisting of legs, neck, spine and tail. We then used stuffing and bubble wrap to mould the body of each dog. As none of this was going to be seen, we used parcel tape to attach the wrap and stuffing and to manipulate it into defined shapes such as the nose and the belly.

Once the dogs had taken shape, we used recycled denim from Oasis jeans to finish the dogs. We started by making feet with a little extra stuffing. Then we wound strips of denim up each leg and around the body until the dogs were fully covered. It took a long time to cover each dog as trying to fit the irregular denim pieces together was a bit like doing a puzzle. We also had to try and cover the ends of each piece of denim so that the joins weren’t visible.

We cut ears out of plastic that we coated in denim, attached jeans buttons for eyes and used waistbands to create collars for the finishing touch.

I really enjoyed this job as I found that shaping the dogs was a lot like the puppet making I have done in the past for my animation work. If you’ve seen any of my animation work you’ll know how much I love to bring different creatures and characters to life.

The nature of the design meant that no two dogs looked alike and each one seemed to have its own personality. It was quite fun watching them grow in number around the workroom until they were sent out to Oasis stores around the country.

I Wish That I Could Bake A Cake Made Out Of Rainbows And Smiles

My largest job to date with Props Studios was making a range of table decorations for Lady Barbara Judge’s 2011 Summer Ball at the Royal Academy of Art. The event is a fundraiser held every three years at the Royal Academy of Art. The 2011 event was sponsored by Faberge.

The centrepieces for the Summer Ball are always cakes, sometimes real, sometimes fake. The cakes are usually decorated with flowers, crystals and petit fours.

Props Studios were tasked with creating cakes that looked as if they had been iced and, as the event was sponsored by Faberge, decorating them with giant Faberge style eggs that looked as if they too were made of cake.

We made three different types of cake for the event, in varying sizes – a medium sized round cake that formed the base of a column, a medium sized square cake with an arched sturcture on top and a large three tiered cake. All of the cakes were adorned with flowers by Simon Lycett’s team of florists.

The below picture only shows a few of the cakes that we had to make. This was a huge job which took a good two or three weeks to complete in the studio and several hours to complete and install up at the Royal Academy.

The bulk of each cake was cut out of polystyrene. In order to smooth the texture of the polystyrene we coated each cake in papier mache. Once dry, the papier mache cakes were sprayed with a combination of paint and plaster and then sanded down in order to create a thick, royal icing-like finish. Getting the consistency of the paint and plaster right proved difficult, which meant that the cakes needed to be sprayed, sanded down and repainted several times.

Draoed cloth pieces were created for the three tiered cakes, which we painted with plaster so that they would set and then spray painted white. The draping was then fixed onto the cakes and decorated with fake flowers.

For the square cakes, we spray painted drawing pins in pink and cream, then we used a template to plot out the patterns onto the side of each cake and stuck the pins into the holes.  We then added bunches of tiny fake flowers to complete the pattern.

On top of the cake we built a wire structure with a metal rod in the middle and a hollow round ball holding it all together. The rod and ball were spray painted gold and we glued strings of tiny pearls to the structure, which was to house a floral display on each cake.

We used drawing pins and fake flowers to create a similar decoration for the small round cakes. The round cakes formed the base of a column of flowers that we then fixed eggs on top of.

Up at the Royal Academy of Art we had to work in stages alongside the florists as they added arrangements to the cakes and then we added the eggs and finishing touches. The flowers looked incredible.

The eggs also started out as polystyrene shapes in varying sizes.

We coated them in a thick layer of a polyfilla-like substance that was spongy and set like a lightweight plaster. We had to put all of the eggs in paint pots and sit them outside to dry. They looked completely bizarre all lined up in the sunshine and they kept wobbling around in the breeze. It reminded me of the egg farm in Ridley Scott’s Alien.

Once dry, the eggs were sanded down then painted in the same plaster/paint combination in matching colours to the cakes and sanded again. We then decorated the eggs using various fake flowers, crystals, gold ribbons and paints. The final effect was completely surreal!

When I went up to install the work it was amazing getting to see the preparations going on behind the scenes of such an enormous event. It seemed like there were hundreds of people there to decorate, arrange flowers, set the tables and put out goody bags. I also got an opportunity to look around the Summer Exhibition which was great.

I like to use movie quotes and song titles as titles for my blog posts. In titling this post, only one cake related movie quote came to mind, which is one of my favourite moments from Mean Girls. It was either that or MacArthur Park. If you can think of any others then stick them in the comments below.

I Wear My Sunglasses At Night

In 2011 I worked with the lovely people at Props Studios on a variety of projects. My first project with the team at Props was to construct this giant chandelier for Liberty’s Sunglasses Hall.

The chandelier was made out of dark brown, mid brown, clear and rose sunglasses lenses. I drilled holes in each lens taking care not crack the lenses as they broke easily. The lenses also had to be kept clean throughout the construction.

We then had to measure out and cut varying lengths of wire that we could suspend the lenses on. The wire was rough and frayed, everyone went home with little splinters of wire stuck in their fingers and clothes.

We  arranged the lenses to get a good spread of colours, threaded them on to the wires and attached them with grips. Then we fixed each length of wire into a light box, arranging them in rows by length.

The chandelier then had to be hung in the van and surrounded by bubble wrap to stop it from swinging around and getting tangled on its way up to London to be installed.