Four Hot Prop Links

What’s the difference between Worbla and Wonderflex? Kamui Cosplay puts these low-melting thermoplastics through the ringer to find out how they differ. She also looks at lesser-known brands like Thibra and Cosplayflex.

BBC asks ten questions of Craig Williams, props master on Orphan Black. Find out what his favorite prop is and whether the crew plays pranks on each other. Oh, there’s a bit more useful information here too.

Ward Works builds a vacuum former and presents the whole step-by-step process with photographs. The whole thing was done for under $600, though you can save money if you have a lot of scrap around the shop.

Make has 11 hot glue tips, tricks and hacks. Most of these go outside the realm of normal hot glue usage. I especially like the one of using hot glue to glue your hot glue into your hot glue gun.

Death of a Mask Maker

Last Saturday, we found out that Donato Sartori passed away. His father, Amleto Sartori, was responsible for reintroducing the art of leather mask making for Commedia dell’arte after World War II. Commedia was outlawed by Napoleon in 1797, and its craft traditions were lost until Amleto reverse-engineered them and shared them with the world. Donato continued his work; most of what we know about the use of masks in Commedia come from these two.

Here we have a video from 1955 showing Amleto at work. It is unfortunately in Italian and only a minute long, but it gives a good overview of his process for creating a mask out of leather.

Here we have a much longer video showing Donato and his workshop from just a few years ago. Again, it is in Italian, but you get to see many steps of the mask-making process, as well as a glimpse inside the studio that both Donato and Amleto worked from.

I got to visit that studio in 2012 when my wife was taking their mask-making workshop. It is difficult to convey just how influential the Sartoris were in the world of modern theatrical masks. We do not have much of a mask tradition here in the US, but it is very popular in Europe and Asia. My wife once bought a Balinese mask, and she told the mask-maker that it reminded her of Commedia masks. It turns out he had met Donato a few times and they shared techniques with each other.

RIP Donato Sartori (1939-2016)

Stories to End the Week

This Saturday (April 23rd) is the Burlington Mini Maker Faire. I’ll have a booth there, so if you live in the area, come say hi. There will also be real moon rocks on display, which are slightly smaller than theatrical moon rocks.

Hollywood Reporter takes a peek inside Newel Antiques, one of NYC’s largest prop rental houses for antique furniture and dressing. They have an exquisite collection, and have been outfitting TV, film, and theater with valuable pieces since 1939. Incidentally, this is the second article this month talking about how props is enjoying a boom because of all the content being created by Netflix, Hulu, and the like.

Sculptural Arts Coating celebrates 25 years in the business. John and Lisa Saari have been making Sculpt-or-Coat, Artist’s Choice paints, and Plastic Varnish right here in Greensboro since the early 90s.

Caroline Framke spends five months on the set of The Americans to see how a TV episode is made. She sees everything from the first table read, to dressing the set, to editing the final cut. This article is very in-depth and fascinating to read.

StarWars.com talks with Adam Savage about Star Wars. Though we know him from Mythbusters and Tested, Savage was also a model maker on Star Wars Episodes I and II. He talks about his time at ILM building models as well as his love of these movies in general.

Finally, Make has four cheap tricks for drilling straight holes. Nobody likes a crooked screw.

Minor Details Aren’t Unnoticed, 1895

The following article first appeared in the San Francisco Call in 1895: 

An exceptionally good performance was that given of “Diplomacy,” at the Columbia Theater last week. The leading parts, particularly those of Beach and Richman, were in the hands of actors who made them artistic pictures, and even the minor characters were finished studies.

The propertyman made the performance of “Diplomacy” remarkable by some rather clever compromises, which showed that he desired to give the French coloring and at the same time did not intend to lose his hold on local interest.

For instance, in the English embassy in Paris the newspaper which the unhappy husband snatched up in his despair and affected to read in the lull glare of the footlights was unmistakably a French journal, for the people in the stalls could read the type of that politest of languages, though they were a little staggered to see that the British diplomat was consoling one of the most trying moments of his life by studying Le Franco-Californien. Perhaps the propertyman wished to convey the impression that if Dora’a conduct forced her husband to fly to happier climes he could not do better than turn his steps to California.

It was a patriotic inspiration, too, to decorate the Parisian office of her Britannic Majesty with three large and handsome maps of the United States. Great rareties they must have been considered in Paris, too, for everyone who is familiar with that giddy capital knows that the outside world cuts very little figure in its geographies. You can buy “France in Provinces,” “France in Departments,” “France With Railroads” — canals, mountains, hedges and ditches— if you choose, but anything outside of France is always represented as of microscopic dimensions, scarcely visible to the naked eye.

Such little touches of local coloring apart, the staging of “Diplomacy” was finished and handsome, as is always the case at the Columbia Theater.

The San Francisco call. (San Francisco [Calif.]), 29 Sept. 1895. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85066387/1895-09-29/ed-1/seq-20/>

The Blog of Eternal Prop Links

Hollywood is Running Out of Tombstones, according to this article from Bloomberg, featuring the world’s worst stock photo. So much film and television is being produced these days that prop rental companies are running out of stock, studio spaces are booked to the max, and production crew is impossible to find. If you wanted to work in props, this article makes it seem like all you have to do is move to Atlanta or Los Angeles. Do any of my readers have any first-hand knowledge to back that up? I’d love to hear about it.

Food styling for photography is always interesting, and Tienlon Ho wrote an article about how it is changing. Gone are the days of mashed potatoes for ice cream. Ho talks with master food stylist Delores Custer about the tricks of the trade and how they are evolving.

Playmakers Rep’s production of Sweeney Todd features some interesting paper masks during the masquerade scene. Rachel Pollack details how the costume crafts shop brought them to life for designer Bill Brewer.

Popular Woodworking has a list of the 16 dumbest woodworking mistakes, along with a link to their magazine article where they go into more detail. Let’s see… yep, I’ve done all of these.

The House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe sounds like an amazing experience. Owned by George RR Martin and run by artist collective Meow Wolf, it’s a massive Victorian house that may have just slipped into another dimension. Reminiscent of Sleep No More, with some elements of Escape Games, the house is designed for visitors to freely roam, explore, and interact with all the props and furniture. It’s a prop builder’s paradise.

Making and finding props for theatre, film, and hobbies