Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Wiz

While I was doing City Wide, I also rebuilt the giant sea spirit puppet to be used as the wizard for Sacred Heart Academy's The Wiz, at the formidable Shubert Theater in New Haven. This required a new head, which I built out of cardboard so it would be lighter then the massive chicken wire torture devise I originally made. Here it is not quite finished, and then filling up the back of my car in transit.

Here's a video I took during their first half hour working with the wizard, (while it's still unfinished- excuse the drooping fabric and unfinished hemline and all). You can hear how giddy I get when I get a group of great kids playing with puppets like this. It is crazy fun. And they came up with their first choreography like pros by the end of just 30 minutes.

I again wasn't able to be at the show and didn't get photos!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

tent of pants

Right after the float came City Wide Open Studios. I didn't know the float was going to happen right before when I signed up for CWOS, nor did I know India was going to happen right after. So this little installation of a tent made of blue jeans was squeezed as tightly into the weekend as it was in the tiny downtown office mail room I was assigned to. (Also for some reason, all this fall I failed to get decent pictures of anything. Luckily ElizaB took these for me.)

In my head were tents, horse skeletons, eyes, and the Vermont floods. At hand was an mountainous surplus of blue jeans and a new skill for jigsawing plywood. I made another pavilion for an exoskeleton structure, and sew-sculpted a tent of jeans right into it. And with all the extra jeans I made a rippled flood of denim flowing out of the tent to fill the rest of the room. I'd originally planned to be a living sculpture within, but with the soundtrack of rain, dim blue lighting, and the bizarre halloween weekend blizzard, it was too cold for anyone to stay in this space for very long. I left my horse skull mask to take center stage on its own. But I've got more to do on this.

On the wall, eye clouds.

Monday, December 05, 2011

paint parade

I made a time lapse movie of me painting one of the arches because I finally discovered the timer function on my camera. (Parade float making begs for the accompaniment of Nino Rota music):


Saturday, December 03, 2011


Phew is there a lot to catch up on. Let's go bird by bird, starting with my first ever parade float in October.

The Mystic Aquarium asked me to design a permanent float structure that incorporated fiberglass animals made by their shop carpenter Gary Grimm, including a 14 foot beluga whale. It had to come apart so it could be stored in a small space, and be able to change from season to season.

For the pitch I made a model of a wave pavilion, two crossing arches that could come apart to be stored flat, and sides to cover the trailer. Then I had fun making a stop animation of how it would look as it traveled by (the column in the center represents a human figure for scale):

By the time I got the green light I had two weeks to build it by myself, the staging, plus 3 penguins and various sealions, corals and seaweeds. And all on this challenging metal U-Haul trailer. Hello float marathon!

Thankfully my mum lent me her ballsy jigsaw, and do I love cutting plywood with it.

With cutting, painting and carving all going on at once, my makeshift studio expanded from my living room, to the dining room and kitchen. And with the pieces all being BIG (and almost always wet with paint), I was at over capacity.

And luckily my mum lent me herself for a many long days and nights. I worked her hard. Here she is carving penguins. The picture is fuzzy because she made me promise not to post her.

A few days before the first parade I drove it all up to the Mystic Aquarium shop where I spent the day helping to cover the U-Haul with my staging together with Gary's amazing whale and Ron's beautiful fish. We found a spare rock from the aquarium grounds that fit perfect.

Here's Gary and Ron, who were so gracious to let me in their shop:

I couldn't be at the first parade, but the aquarium took some photos.

I'd loved this project, a float was so right up my alley. I hope I get to keep working on this one, and get more opportunities like this. Though I could really use a warehouse next time.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

City Wide Open Studios 2011

I'm squeezing in an installation this weekend right before a sudden and unexpected trip to India. After doing City Wide for 7 years and taking a few years off, I'm back in a gloriously abandoned downtown building at 200 College Street. I'll write about the project here on Monday, but you can read where it started in the post below. The horse skull figure is up at Artspace for a few more days in conjunction with the City Wide festival.

Monday, September 12, 2011

feeling with the bones

There are things in you sometimes that just demand to get out. They don't care about your work schedule or your dinner plans, and they'll wake you up in the middle of the night, or sprain your ankle so you're forced to sit with them till you do something about it. They bypass the brain and go right to the body making irritating disturbances. But if you're quiet and open enough you can feel exactly what they want you to do.

The Vermont floods really got into my psyche, so did the trip back to the town and my home where I hadn't been for so long. I don't know why I couldn't stop thinking about my horse's grave, but it was an itch I had to scratch, and scratching it was to sculpt a little horse skull while I laid in bed with my ankle. When that turned out, the rest of this scene followed, revealing itself step by step exactly what it wanted. I had no idea myself where it was going, it didn't feel like it had a point or purpose. But when the torso cracked in the oven because of a poor mix of clays, without missing a step I felt my fingers making a rose to grow out of the crack. Adding that last detail was deeply satisfying. It's funny how the soul works things out without you even knowing it.

Still not quite finished, but most of the pieces in place after two days of obsessive making.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

studio 9-10-11

Apparently I get the most work done when I'm incapacitated. Yup, I'm incapacitated yet again, this time a giant swollen sprained ankle I'm trying to stay off of. I've got it propped up on a cot in my studio, finishing up some half finished projects. Some hipstamatic snipits of the many things growing in here right now.

Friday, September 09, 2011

love fish

Did some watercolor for the first time since college for a friends' wedding card (the ones who got married at the aquarium, of course). I'm out of practice, but I can't believe it was actually fun.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

paper doll & stage how to

I'd always wanted to make paper dolls. I'd had a bunch as a kid, this one was my all time favorite, and when I dug it up recently I was flooded with distinct memories of carefully cutting out all the dresses. I loved that it came in a package with a little window like a puppet theatre stage. (This is clearly a pretty strong continuing theme.)

I wasn't sure what to make a paper doll of, until my friend and go-go partner's birthday came around. Dot Mitzvah is an aerialist, roller derby skater, and burlesque artist. Her own wardrobe of costumes was ripe with paper doll possibilities. When this shot was taken at one of our go-go shows with the surf band, the Clams, I knew this was the pose for it.

I printed out the photo to the size I wanted the doll, just big enough to fit on 8.5 x 11 paper. I traced her on tracing paper, changing her costume to something easily coverable with other paper outfits. I xeroxed the sketch (copy machines have waterproof ink, unlike inkjet printers), glued it down to bristol board, and painted directly on top with acrylics. I printed her out on card stock, cut her out, and I had a doll to work off of.

I used the same method for the costumes. Using photos from her events I sketched her costumes on trace paper right over the doll so they would be precise. It was tricky figuring out which body parts to include in the costume, and which of the original doll would be exposed. This took a lot of trial and error.

Again, back to Staples to make black and white copies from the sketches on tracing paper, pasted them down on bristol, and painted them in with acrylic.

I painted four costumes, then scanned them into Photoshop. This is where most of the work was. I drew all the lines in on the computer so I could revise them. This was all the tabs for each costume that fold back on the doll so they stay on. This was hard, and took a week of experimenting, by printing them out and trying them over and over. I had to manipulate some of the painting in Photoshop because they were never quite perfect. It's a very precise art form. I had little paper dresses all over my studio.

I wanted her to have her own stage that was part of the packaging of this kit, so I scanned in some theatrical etchings from a Dover book of ornamentation, and with piecing elements together in Photoshop, built up a proscenium and back drop.

I altered the color to be a nice old sepia tone. Because Dot is a burlesque performer, I wanted an old vaudeville look.

Packaging was an important aspect too, because I wanted to give these to her as if they were a printed published kit, and I wanted her to be able to sell them or give them to her fans. To economize on paper I placed the Dot doll in the proscenium to be cut out. Here I had to go into Photoshop with that darn pen tool to make lines for her stand, and add directions for construction, also a very important and complicated task.

Engineering the stage was also tricky, but I went with a tab system, and with just 2 pieces of nice card stock made a sweet little 3-d stage. I am so excited about this stage! It's a step towards those elaborate paper theaters I've been obsessed with since I first saw them in the Albuquerque folk art museum.

Then I set her costumes up with titles, honoring each of Dot's many characters. These two are from our go-go group, the Nouveaux Pony Banditos.

After I'd tested all of these endlessly with print outs from my Epson, I took them to Tyco printing in New Haven and had the amazing Kick do her color copy magic with them. On good card stock paper, they came out gorgeous! I'm so happy with the rich color, sharp details, and the feel of the paper.

The kit is backed with an instruction sheet with photos of the constructed piece. The 5 sheet kit fits in a clear print sleeve, and looks very handsome. They'll be up on an Etsy site soon.