Tag Archives: silicone

First Links of Winter

Okay, so it’s still a few days until winter, but the sudden temperature drop makes it feel like it’s already here. I am driving down to North Carolina today; enjoy these links and websites in the meantime.

Stage Directions magazine shows how props artisan Jay Tollefsen improved the “baby-in-a-bag” trick for the Actors Theatre of Louisville’s annual production of Dracula in this article titled, “Baby’s Got a Brand New Bag.”

Hirst Arts Fantasy Architecture has compiled a nice tutorial with lots of helpful hints on casting small resin pieces in silicone molds.

This fascinating post looks at the history of imagined books as props in theatre. One example is the first use of a prop book in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, in which the script mentions Prospero’s book; what would they have used as a prop in those earliest of performances. The article talks about far more; like I said, it’s pretty fascinating.

The Educational Theatre Association has a nice how-to on adding texture to hard scenery; it’s great for using on props as well.

By 1974, the EPA had produced over 80,000 photographs showing how America interacted with the environment. The National Archives has begun making them online, and the Atlantic has posted a fine selection of some of these slice-of-life images of America in the 1970s.

Future Fossils is a collection of technological items from the near-past, such as 8mm cameras and Atari joysticks, which have been molded and cast in concrete so they look like archaeological relics from bygone days. You can buy them as well, but really, I just thought they looked cool.

Miracle Materials

Though I’m knee-deep in Shakespeare in the Park at the moment (tech starts next week!), I’ve been looking forward to a slower pace this summer and a chance to experiment. Below is a list of some new materials I’ve come across lately that I’ve been wanting to play around with.

Inventables has a whole smörgåsbord of strange and interesting materials for props people. Squishy magnets, translucent concrete, aluminum foam, waterproof sand, rubber glass… I can go on and on, but the site begs you to just peruse everything for yourself.

Styrofoam has been a big boon to props artisans, but it brings with it a host of environmental concerns, both in its manufacturing (it is a petroleum-based product) and in its disposal (it will not bio-degrade for thousands of years). I’ve recently come across a foam made from mushrooms and bio-waste (technically, it’s made from the mushroom roots, which don’t contain spores and allergens). It seems promising as a potential replacement for some uses of foam, though I haven’t gotten my hands on a sample yet to test it out. Eben Bayer, one of the inventors and founders of the company, gave a TED Talk called “Are Mushrooms the New Plastics” where he goes into further details.

Along the same lines, researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln are turning chicken feathers into plastic. It’s still a ways from being a usable product, but you can expect a whole host of non-petroleum-based and biodegradable plastics to be popping up over the next decade.

Shapelock is a new thermoplastic which becomes moldable at low temperatures (150°F). If you’ve ever used Friendly Plastic or Instamorph, this seems like similar stuff.

Finally, Sugru has been getting a lot of buzz lately. It seems similar to epoxy putty in its use and application, but it is a silicone, so it remains flexible, soft and waterproof.

A Silicone Severed Head

Dragon Skin

This week, at the Public Theatre, we begin working on some props for The Bacchae. Since there is going to be a dead corpse which is picked apart and torn up on stage, Jay Duckworth has ordered some “Dragon Skin” from Smooth-On to experiment with.

Many of us in the props world are familiar with Smooth-On and their range of products for molding and casting. My father, a potter in Pennsylvania, has been using their polyurethane for years in his mold-making, and they’ve really pushed some new products for theatrical purposes in the past decade or so.

A Silicone Severed Head
A Silicone Severed Head

But wait, there’s more! Their website isn’t just some bland information portal. They have a treasure trove of guides, tutorials, and instructions for using their products. On the special effects and propmaking section you can find step-by-step video sequences, photo sequences, and examples of what other people have done with their products.

You can also find a Smooth-On video channel over at YouTube. This contains many of the same videos showing molding and casting with their products as their website. They also have a list of “Favorites” showing videos from other users making and casting molds.