Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas Magnets

This in another one of my holiday projects. I started out making a set of these glass marble magnets for my boyfriend for a housewarming gift.
They were so easy and so popular with the friends who came to the house and saw them that I am now selling them through one of the local comic book stores.
They're really easy too, can be done with any images and use supplies that can be purchased at any craft store.
I start with clear flat marbles like these (lots of people put them in the bottom of fish tanks)
I then use the marbles to scan for the right image and trace them.
It is important to individually trace each image because the marbles vary in shape and size. After tracing I cut them out on my cutting matte with my exacto-knife. Because the marble curves in from where I trace I usually make my cut about 1/8" in from the line I drew.
I laminate the image onto the marble with elmers glue.
Attach the magnet to the back with a heavy duty adhesive.
I'm pretty happy with how they turned out.
You can make them with any images, but I found that the comic books were working by far the best. Clean lines, bright colors and interesting shapes. If I were to do anything else I would probably start looking at brochures, magazines or other media with high quality images.

Coasters for Christmas

Around this time of year things tend to slow down a lot in the theatre world. The Christmas season shows are all up and running (they usually open early or mid November) and the January shows haven't really kicked into high gear yet. It is the perfect time of year to use my crafting skills to make gifts for my friends and family (and this year I'm thinking of selling some too, more on that later).

One of my projects this year is resin coasters.
I have been saving bottle caps all year for this project, it helps that my friends drink a lot of interesting beer.
I bought these resin molds online for pretty cheap (don't cut corners here, the chemical reaction as the resin hardens will cause it to stick to or melt your mold if you aren't using one designed for it).
The next step is to spray on a mold release and let it dry (if you don't let it dry all the way the mould release will float to the top of your resin when you pour it in, where it will be useless)
Next I pour out the right amount of resin
and mix in the hardener. I do this in disposable cups with disposable spoons to make my life easier.
I pour a small amount of resin into the molds, arrange my bottle caps on top, check underneath to see that they are straight and then fill the molds the rest of the way.
The resin takes a few hours to harden all the way through, and then I pull them out.
And as an added bonus I am becoming much more comfortable and skilled with using resin (which is really great for fake drinks, but I have messed up multiple times in the past when I didn't measure parts correctly).

Monday, November 15, 2010

smushed plum

In the upcoming production of Cherry Smoke at The Side Project theatre in Roger's Park, one of the characters is supposed to be rubbing a piece of fruit on her skin. I needed a piece of smushed fruit that was believable in a small space, and was comfortable for the actress to press against her skin without getting her messy (the show moves very quickly scene to scene and she wouldn't have much time to clean herself and get back on stage.
The director decided she wanted the fruit to be a plum so I started out with a rubber racquetball.
I cut a whole in it and painted it dark purple.
For the inside of the plum I used wax. I figured it would feel smooth and slip easily across the actor's skin without leaving a residue. 
I bought two candles that were approximately the color of the inside of a plum. 

I melted the yellow one into the ball first and then used the red on top in a hope to duplicate the correct coloring.
I don't know if the yellow ended up having an effect at all, but the end result is still pretty convincing.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


For the hourglass in Wizard of Oz we were looking for something interesting, a little creepy, but most importantly plastic.

Apparently the last time they did the show they had a beautiful glass hourglass that shattered all over some poor little girl in the front row during one of the performances. There were no injuries, but it was certainly not something we wanted a chance to repeat.

I found these two purple plastic bottles in the floral section at Michaels. They were simple little spray bottles, they came in multiple shapes and colors and were only $1 each.

I filled the bottles with colored sand. I started with red sand and it was far too dark, it was almost invisible inside the dark plastic bottles, I switched to white and it worked much better.

I created a cap inside the mouth of one of the bottles using epoxy putty and slowly adjusted it until I got the right speed and amount of sand flowing through it. Once the inside piece was adjusted I attached the two bottles together using more epoxy putty making sure to get a good seal (the last thing I want is sand leaking out all over the place).

For the stand, I started with two basic plywood circles and three pieces of dowel. I had been hoping to find some bats or gargoyle-ish figurines to use on the corners, but was coming up empty after visiting multiple Halloween and toy stores.

For plan B, I bought a few packages of sculpy bakable clay

and made a set of snaky twisty pieces. I collaged them onto the corners.

I painted the whole thing a tarnished antique gold.

The piece turned out looking pretty good, and more importantly, sturdy.


I wish this cyclone was my idea, but it's a re-creation of the one that was built the last time the theatre did a production of this "Wizard of Oz." It's so cool though I had to share the idea.
It starts with a cone sewn out of a light-weight sheer fabric (I bought this grey georgette on sale at JoAnns). It has a pocket sewn into the top that I threaded a piece of flexible copper tubing into.
I built this cross-piece to match the circle at the top of my cone.
The copper tube screws onto the spokes and the dowel in the center fits inside the end of a large piece of PVC.

The cross piece slips easily in and out of the dowel for easy storage and assembly backstage.

In it's finished state the actor holds the 7' tall piece at the bottom and slowly guides it in small circles  The top and the bottom of the cone are much more secure but the center of the cone is free to move and swirl in a very cyclone-ish manner. 
The effect is very cool and I'm sure will be even more magical under stage lights.  
*Note- Sorry about the sideways video, I couldn't figure out a way to rotate it without reloading it. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

cuckoo clocks

It's funny how the same props seem to show up in multiple shows at the same time. I just did two shows that had large amounts of sand onstage. I hadn't used old wooden crates in months and now I have three shows at once that need them. And now I needed two cuckoo clocks for two shows with the same director. 

The clocks are completely different of course. The first clock is for the Wizard of Oz. It is supposed to be balanced on the headboard of Dorothy's bed and then it falls and hits her to knock her out during the tornado. 
We of course couldn't use a real cuckoo clock, if we really knocked Dorothy out it would be a short show. The director asked if I could build a clock out of foam. 
I bought some foamies from the craft store and set to building. I used this as my research image.

I used 1/4" thick foam for the base frame of the house.

I used 1/8" foam for everything else (it comes in many more color options)
Everything was attached with hot glue.
And then I coated the entire piece with some watered down elmers glue, tinted with a little bit of brown paint.
And glue in a Styrofoam birdie to top it all off.

The second clock I needed was for It's a Wonderful Life- The Radio Play. I rented a clock from an antique store and the man there carefully wrapped the clock in layers of newspaper and bubble wrap. Unfortunaely neither he or I knew how a cuckoo clock should be packed and when I went to take the clock out I discovered that the chains had come off of the cogs on the inside of the clock and the stress of sitting on it's back had ripped the fragile paper of the bellows (the little paper accordion-type things that push the air through the whistles and makes the cuckoo sound)
I had the luckiest night ever though. I looked up clock repair on google maps. I found the phone number of a repairman about 5 miles away. I called and he told me to come right over. I got to his house at 6pm, he reattached the chains, replaced the bellows, and oiled and tightened everything. I picked the clock back up at 10 pm and he charged me the cost of parts and a pair of tickets to the show. 
The clock looks beautiful, and it sounds fantastic!