Yolanda Baker is the Last Disco Ball Maker. She has made tens of thousands of mirror balls by hand for the past fifty years at Omega National Products in Louisville, the last American manufacturer of this iconic object. Chances are, if you have a US mirror ball, it was made by her. She even did all the balls in Saturday Night Fever.
Make Magazine shows us How to Make Breakaway Bottles and Window Panes. They use sugar glass, ugggggghhh. The process they describe is easy enough to adapt to isomalt, though, which is superior to sugar glass.
Adam Savage visits Weta Workshop’s Model Painting Shop. Adam seems to be visiting all sorts of cool places lately, and the model painting studio at the shop that built Lord of the Rings is no exception. Check out all the cool work they did while learning some painting tips for yourself.
PuppetVision has a Pinterest board with 92 pins of Animatronics & Puppet Mechanisms. You can spend days looking at all the clever ways to make objects move and come to life.
“Designing Windows is an Art”. Take a look at this interview with Erin O’Brien, a freelance window designer at Bergdorf Goodman in London. She talks about how she got started and shows off some examples of her work over the years.
The Rooms They Left Behind – After their deaths, the New York Times photographed the private spaces of ten notable people. The photos are such wonderfully crafted images filled with real life set dressing, hinting at the lives of these people.
Locked & Loaded: The Gun Industry’s Lucrative Relationship with Hollywood – The Hollywood Reporter has an incredibly in-depth look at guns in Hollywood. This article takes us from the NRA’s “Hollywood Guns” exhibit, to the ISS armory, with stops at the Internet Movie Firearm Database and discussions with the gun manufacturers themselves. You get a glimpse at some of cinema’s most well-known firearms, and we examine the seeming contradiction where actors can be anti-gun off-screen, but gleefully wielding weapons on-screen.
Raw Steak and The Revenant – Cinefex takes a look at the meatier effects from Leo’s Oscar-winning role, including several scalpings and a zombie skinned bear in a suit for a dream sequence. Besides the tight turn-around, most of these effects were built on set in the middle of the Canadian Rockies.
Adam Savage Visits The Lion King’s Puppet Shop – Adam Savage goes backstage while The Lion King is playing in San Francisco and talks with Michael Reilly, the show’s puppet supervisor. What more is there to say?
Artem: Inside a Real-Life Santa’s Workshop – Artem Studios has been making weird and wonderful props and effects for commercials, television, and film for the past 30 years. Little Black Book sits down with the founders to talk about some of their recent projects and how they approach their work.
Behind the Scenes at Playhouse in the Park – Take a read through this wonderfully written and gorgeously photographed article on the scene and prop shops at Cincinnati’s Playhouse in the Park. Their shop is built in an old skating rink; if you look at the photo of the props shop, you can see how the floor is made up of curved wood boards.
Lyceum Theatre Flamingo Puppets – The Prop Solve is back with a post about foam and fabric flamingo puppets she made for Alice in Wonderland. The flexible neck mechanism is particularly ingenious.
How to be a Prop Maker with “Evil” Ted Smith – The Pod Sequentialism podcast has a new episode where they talk with Evil Ted Smith, who has worked on a number of film and television projects. You may recognize his name from his numerous flexible foam tutorials found online. If you have an hour to kill, give it a listen.
Creating Molds for Handmade Porcelain Dolls – Bill Chellberg guides us through the steps to make a mold for porcelain dolls. You can adapt these techniques to make molds for anything, or you can create your own cute (or creepy) doll heads.
This week has been especially hard for a lot of us in theatre in the US. A lot of the diversity inherent in our community feels threatened, both by potential policies that will pass, and by the implicit approval of hateful behavior in people across the country. We are also anxious about the safety nets and health insurance we rely on for some semblance of financial security in our lives. We are worried about our international collaborators, who already face difficulty crossing our border and working here. And of course, we worry about the theatre itself, which now must work under a President-Elect who has crossed IATSE picket lines in the past and shown no hesitation to jackhammer artwork into a thousand pieces if he can make a buck off of it.
Theatre can survive. We’ve survived the complete banning of our craft by governments and religions in the past. Modern theatre continues to survive its complete censorship (Belarus Free Theatre) and even survives in war zones where its leaders are assassinated (Jenin Freedom Theatre).
But we need to recommit to protecting everyone in our community and making sure the theatre remains a safe space for us to work and tell our stories. And we need to continue telling stories to ensure our country can stem the tide of demagoguery and bigotry that has plagued it throughout its history.
That’s my piece for now. Onto the links:
The USITT Member Spotlight shines its light on Jeff Bazemore, the props master at the Philadelphia Theatre Company. Jeff only finished graduate school a few years ago, and he has already proven himself to be a rockstar in props and an integral resource for others.
Popular stage shows like ‘War Horse’ are leading a puppetry revival. If the world is having a puppetry revival, perhaps there’s some hope after all. Macleans takes a look at some of the puppeteers and companies leading this revival.
Wired showcases the work of Jordan Boltan, who constructs hundreds of tiny props, set pieces, and costume elements, then arranges them to make delightful posters for various films.
My shows have all opened for the season, but plenty of other people are still doing cool props stuff around the Internet. Let’s check them out:
Tested has teamed up with Punished Props and Smooth-On to document the construction of a replica alien assault rifle from the film District 9. Part 1 is up now, showing how Bill drew out the design and cut all the layers from MDF and styrene.
The most incredible parts of Carnegie Hall are offstage. As a theatre person, I’m more interested in the backstage and behind-the-scenes parts anyway, but Carnegie Hall has some especially interesting and historical details going on under the hood. Atlas Obscura takes us on an illuminating tour deep into the depths of this famous performance hall.
Dug North continues his 16-part series of automata tips with this article on cams and cam followers. A cam can give some pretty intricate movement to a prop just from a single spinning shaft.
We’re going back to Tested with this great article on creating the practical creatures from Gremlins. Videos and photographs show how Chris Walas and Joe Dante made dozens of ground-breaking animatronic puppets on a shoestring budget to bring the story to life.
Finally, Popular Woodworking tests out some methods for removing rust from steel using only lemon juice and vinegar. It’s a nice little technique to keep your tools in tip top shape, or when you need to spruce up that antique you just bought for a show.