Puppets are still very much a thing, according to this American Theatre article. Scott Cummings checks in on some of the companies, festivals, and books dealing with puppetry in a contemporary context.
The costume shop at PlayMakers Rep is working on the enviable task of recreating costumes for the Museum of Science Fiction. Rachel Pollock takes us through the steps of making Neo’s costume from The Matrix.
Popular Woodworking magazine brings us this awesome process for faking antique wood. It uses just paint, lacquer and a heat gun. No crazy chemicals or stains needed!
Propnomicon shows us some great primary research on “Things in a Jar”. If you’ve ever made preserved specimens, Britta Miller works at a museum specimen collection, and has kindly shared all kinds of visual and technical details about the actual jarring and labeling of things in jars.
Finally, Make Magazine shares top tips from 17 amazing makers. I wanted to point out one quote that many of us props people can relate to:
“He was giving the interviewer a tour of his shop, showing the towering shelves of carefully-sorted industrial junk. He said something like, ‘Properly sorted, this is a parts library and a useful tool. Unsorted, and it’s a pile of junk and a curse.'”
Over at HowlRound, Seth Tyler Black talks about career transitions from theatre to film. He interviews a few art directors and props people to see what skills are shared between the two fields, and what makes them different.
I loved this article and photographs about Syrian refugees building scale models of historical landmarks. As their homeland is destroyed by war, and ancient artifacts are being destroyed, these artists are coming together in their cramped camps to create a record of what is lost. They construct the models with whatever materials they can find, from rock, to MDF, to wooden kebab skewers.
Brendan Bernhardt Gaffney has been researching ancient methods of measurement, and has come up with the Rulers of the Ancient World. These wooden measuring devices come in several flavors: Ancient Egyptian, Japanese “Kanejaku”, and Ancient Roman. So if you’re sick of inches, but millimeters leave you cold, why not measure your next project in Pes and Uncia?
Bill Doran shows us how to make shiny metal prop finishes. The real trick he shares? Make your prop glossy before adding the metal spray paint.
Finally, Make Magazine has 11 tips for creating a good weld. Here’s a twelfth tip: welding is awesome.
First up is my latest article in Stage Directions magazine. I talked with a number of props masters about creative ways to stretch your props budget. The result is “Creating Relationships to Create Props.”
If you can find twenty minutes today, I definitely recommend this video. TechBuilder, a 17-year old from the Philippines, builds a life-size working BB-8 droid from materials he found at the hardware store. It’s all paper-mache, Styrofoam and wood cut by hand. If he needs a tool but can’t afford it, he makes one. He uses roll-on deodorant for ball bearings. The results are absolutely stunning.
Dave Lowe has this fantastically easy but incredibly effective technique for painting faux chipped paint rusted metal. Apocalyptic props, here I come!
Ugh, another actor dead from props. This time, it’s a Japanese actor who was stabbed with a samurai sword during rehearsal. So far, they have not said whether the sword was real or a prop, and whether they think it was an accident or murder, so I don’t really have much to say about the incident. Depending on what we find out, my advice would either be A) Don’t give actors real swords without a fight choreographer present, or B) Don’t hire murderers.
Finally, take a look at some of the props Alton Brown has used over at the Food Network. Somewhere, there’s a prop maker having the time of their life.
StarWars.com has a great interview with Bill Hargreaves, one of the prop makers on the original Star Wars trilogy. He talks about how he got the job, how he built many of the props, and what it was like working on the set. His most famous creation was the bounty hunter droid, IG-88, and he has gone on to build props for the Indiana Jones films and many others.
Speaking of interviews with cool people, the Greensboro News & Record talked with me about my work on Deathtrap, which begins performances this Sunday at Triad Stage. “Eric Hart won’t be on stage when “Deathtrap” opens Sunday, but his talents will be seen in every thrill delivered and every goosebump raised.” Aw, shucks.
CineFX has a cool (though very gross) look at the creatures and special effects in The Strain, a TV series based on the novels by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. Don’t read this right after you’ve eaten.
So, this is something I really want to try someday: hydro-dipping. I first started coming across videos of it a few months ago. Now, Make Magazine has collected 12 tutorials on how to hydro-dip. I can try to explain it, but once you see the videos, you’ll know what it’s all about.
Ok, this isn’t props, it’s models, but still pretty cool. Tested has a long profile on Greg Jein, one of the main model makers on Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 1941, and Star Trek. Despite advances in CGI, he is still going strong, working on new films such as Interstellar.
Propnomicon has a great history of adhesive plaster, the fix-it-all tape used before duct tape was invented. Besides the history lesson, he has some great photos of vintage packaging for the plaster.
Korwin Briggs has put together this fun and educational infographic on the gross and deadly history of color. He reveals the origins of many popular coloring agents, such as mummy brown (made from ground-up mummies) and ultramarine (crushed-up gemstones).
Make has a great round-up of five wood gluing tips. I’ve done the ol’ “nail the boards together before gluing them trick” but always thought I was somehow cheating. It’s good to know it’s an actual technique used by others. Not that you can actually “cheat” in props. If it lasts until the show closes, then it’s a good technique.