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About designrealisationblog

I work a the Design Realisation Assistant in the Technical Theatre Department at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Here we teach students how to build and paint the scenery and props for theatre, film and the entertainment industry.

Trailer for Blackout event

Exciting trailer is out for Blackout, the Video Design for Live Performance BA event happening inside Tower Bridge bascule chamber next week – with Immersive installations by Design Realisation..!

Tickets selling fast don’t delay!!!




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Design Realisations students have recently been assisting Video Design for Live Performance BA to create an new an exciting Immerisive Video projection and sound installation which takes place inside London’s iconic Tower Bridge!

Running from 23rd -25th March 2018. Check out the event page here: Blackout

DR students have been working with the VDLP who are revisiting this stunning hidden space for the second year.  DR have been creating props & scenic installations to assist the realisation of the Immersive Design which compliments the Video installations created by VDLP.  The thematic design is based on the Blitz photography of City of London Police Officers Arthur Cross and Fred Tibbs and recreates an World War 2 shelter like environment within the interior chambers beneath the south tower of Tower Bridge.

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Have a listen to this podcast discussing the event and please do come along, tickets are still available and as well as experiencing a mind blowing immersive video and sound installation you also get the rare opportunity to visit a hidden subterranean space in a world famous monument!

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From CAD to Realisation and back

Here’s a little teaser of some things we’ve been working on lately.

We’ve been experimenting with 3D scanning and photogammetry.  This technology re-instates the materials based practical skills of craftspeeple back into the CAD, VR and CGI pipeline.

Big things are happening with us and this tech and I’ll be putting more stuff up in the coming months but for now, here’s a little example of a basic room scan of some scenery…

Step inside the set for our recent opera ‘The Consul’.  This section of the set is the kitchen, the furniture which was created by students in Props, the walls and tiles were made grotty by the Scenic painters.  A great example the broken down look.

Click on the model and go for a look around inside the set!

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Graduate Exhibition 2016

Join us once again for this years show of work by our graduating third year students.

It’s shaping up to be a real mega-mix of pieces of constructed set, props, lighting installations, projection mapping, scenic art, props, costume and any number of other wonders.  All taking place right here, at The Guildhall School’s in the Milton Court Studio Theatre.

Hope to see you there..

tt post

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Technical Theatre Arts Graduate Exhibition 2015

Every year we showcase the work of the third year graduates with an exhibition of scenery, lighting, sound, projection, props and costumes from the shows we put on here at the Guildhall School.

If you are in the London area during early June be sure to pop by and see for yourself some of the work that we blog about.

Open to the public  Wednesday 10th – Thusday 11th June.

TT exhibition poster

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Laser Power is Fablab-ulous

Always on the look out for technological solutions to set making problems, we recently made a visit to a fantastic local initiative called FABLAB London.  Housed in the somewhat unlikely position for a manufacturing laboratory – in the centre of the City of London; this Digital Fabrication and Rapid Prototyping workspace is open to the public and offers users access to a range of manufacturing equipment. The team at FABLAB also provide advice and guidance for ‘designers, entrepreneurs, kickstarters, hardware startups, parents and young inventors’.  Indeed, it’s a FABrication LABoratory, a sort of digital manufacturing equipment and knowledge library.

I love the concept and it’s very much in the spirit of the 3D printing revolution which is quietly and sometimes not so quietly developing amongst tech communities around the world; here at GSMD we are – and have been for some time – on the crest of that technological wave using our very own 3D printer to boldy go where no prop has been before.

What we don’t have quite yet however is a CADCAM Laser cutter! But FabLab do! So we popped down recently to try it out as a potential solution to producing detailed lettering cut from plywood…

As you can see, this technology has a lot of potential for cutting sheet material and for making objects that are assembled from 2D parts, or to mark and etch materials. As with all tools we use they are not a catch all production solution but they can form an important link in the design and manufacture chain, a very useful tool to have in the box. Laser cutters will cut and mark paper, card, wood, plastics, textiles and apparently even gingerbread – as we found out on our visit! It will also mark metals using special etching paste.  So lots and lots of uses for the realisation of set designs and the creation of Props.

We will be making many more visits to FABLAB in the near future, we have some sign making experimentation for our upcoming summer musical, and I will be using the laser cutter to create fantastic name signs for our Graduate Exhibition 2015 showcase taking place from 9th-11th June.  I will post some more detailed pictures of the results soon…

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Miniature Making; The model box project

Our first years have been expanding their skills on a different scale this term with the annual model box project.

During this module visiting lecturer Susannah Henry guides our students through the process of designing a set for a play.  Once they have arrived at their concept they go on to create a 1:25 scale model designed to fit in either the Silk Street or Milton Court theatres.

A change from the usual role of realising the designs of others, it’s a chance for the students to experiment, design, learn model making techniques and express themselves creatively and we really enjoy the results.

Here are some photographs of the finished models:



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Design Realisation in Wonderland


Welcome one and all to DR blog 2015!

To start the year, let’s look at some work from the end of last year!

As promised, this is a run down of the first major making project undertaken at the end of last term by our first year students.

Once the first years start to settle in we throw them in at the shallow end with a full on realisation of a small set design created by one of our lecturers. This time round our Construction lecturer Edd, conceived a Victorian drawing room with a difference, where all is not as it seems. Watch closely because, remember, the clues are there, as we go… Through the Looking Glass.

Modelbox closeup 1

Is it a Model? Is it real? Nobody knows… Course we do! It’s the Model box!

Edd’s detailed model offers up a wealth of opportunities to learn new techniques and develop skills.  We can see from the model that this make is going to require upholstery, painting wallpaper, wood graining, marbling, routing, construction of flats including construction of a rotating reveal, rigging of staging and lights, copy painting, frame making, and the construction of various props.

A suitably challenging project which captures the process of realising set designs for Guildhall Productions that will be encountered throughout the rest of the Design Realisation course.


On with the making…


Here’s a look at some of the individual elements…


This piece of copy art by Lana amazed us all, some skills you can teach but others are just natural talent…


So that’s some of the processes involved, let’s take a look at the completed set:


Time to go, Through the Looking Glass and see what we find there…


Final word goes to the designer, seen here revelling in his Wonderland. Well done Edd. A big well done to the first year Design Realisation students and a special thanks to the students in the Technical Theatre department who collaborated on the project providing excellent lighting and sound. It looked great and the feedback was fantastic.  Big productions are round the corner so we’ll see you in fit up!



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Blog is back for a Cunning Christmas

Hello world! Would you believe it?! Already the jolly season is with us and we are thus far blogless… No excuses I’m afraid other than being ear deep in set making and Design Realising, nonetheless; here comes the blog…

It’s been a very interesting term so far with two productions going out on the main stage at Silk Street: The Cunning Peasant and Her Naked Skin. While two more productions: True Dare Kiss and South Downs/The Browning Version – a double bill, were climbing the treads over at our Milton Court Studio Theatre. This blog is a quick run down of what went on during the build for The Cunning Peasant by Dvořák.

In the workshops it was a polystyrene skills fest bonanza as the team set to realising the darkly imagined Tudor timber framed Burton-esque vision of Thomas Hardy’s Essex as designed by Francis O’Connor.

First port of call on the build was – as it so often is – the construction of mass flattage. On this occasion steel frame flats were the order of the day, clad with 4mm ply to provide a base on to which we can glue polystyrene sheets which could then be carved into the herringbone brick infill. Strips of MDF cladding were fixed on top of the polystyrene to create a timber frame appearance synonymous with Tudor Period buildings.

Once the polystryrene had been marked up with the brick formation it was out with the kitchen knives and flat head screwdrivers to carve out the mortar lines and apply plenty of distressing to the edges of the ‘bricks’ adding to the realism. After this we use heat guns to consolidate the carved surface by slightly melt the surface of the poly before finally applying that ubiquitous flexible coating medium – Idenden; which provides a textured surface ready for painting.

Another element of the design which provided a great opportunity to hone our poly carving skills were the plentiful roof tiles. Each tile was cut from 8’ x 4’ sheets of foil covered insulation board, more often found insulating the walls and ceilings of buildings but as always we’re making use of everyday materials in innovative ways. So, the foil was peeled off and the edges of each tile distressed a little with the kitchen knives to look like slate, and once again the Idenden goes on prior to final paint effects, spatter, dry brushing and washes and voilà, roof tiles!!

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Some elements of the design were sky high and this called for some heavy industrial metal processing; time for our monster Ring Rolling machine to be rolled out so we could curve some huge sections of steel tubing. All of our best remembered geometry and GCSE mathematics knowledge were dragged up from the depths and it was best sohcahtoa’s forward to employ some marvelous numeric wizardry and where that didn’t work we bent it a bit more until it did fit!

Our Ring Rolling machine is able to create large or tight curves in anything from light to heavy gauge steel, in square section, flat bar, rod and tube. This section of the design was to be flown above the stage, yet appear to be a continuation of the curved walls, in order to provide enough strength across the span of this section we used 3mm wall mild steel scaffold tubing – which is a demonstration the power of this Ring Rolling machine. The curves were carefully calculated and welded together before extra sections were added creating a branch like structure, on to which more roof tiles were T-nailed into place to create a kind of deconstructing blown away house morphing in to a tree effect, as I perceived it, for me it was a rich and conceptual design which was both interesting and functional in drawing attention to the whole space.

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Two movable houses were also part of the build, one made from wooden flats and the other house from welded steel, as the 1st storey had to be fully functioning as a 1st floor. Both were mounted on wheeled trucks and both required more poly carving and of course roof tiles! End result; two extremely des-res, well-appointed – if a little compact, mock Tudor properties in a prime location in Central London. Not sure we can afford the rent on those, maybe we could use them as halls of residence for our new first years…

Speaking of whom….

I would like to extend a warm welcome to all of our new first years who have thus far been inducted into the beginning of their technical theatre education. After spending the first few weeks sampling various areas of our cross discipline faculty we threw then head first into a major build for their self-led Design Realisation Project! Results were stunning BUT… I’m giving nothing away until January, when a full run down with photographic evidence will take the form of our first blog of 2015, that’s right I said it 2015! Ouch!

See you then blogland

Design Realisation


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The revolving door spins no more.

Hello everybody!!

It’s been over two months since our last post and now at last, all the shows are up, the academic year is drawing to its close and we’ve got a massive blog to let you know what we’ve been up to.

Since you last heard from us we have built an amazing cast concrete effect set for the Opera double bill; we’ve curated, installed and hosted our annual 3rd Year Graduate Exhibition; slipped in a couple of paint calls, prop makes and fit ups for Opera scenes and Napoli Milionara in the Milton Court Studio Theatre.  Finally, with a massive push we managed to the fit up the phenomenal build for the end of year musical ‘Grand Hotel’. Just a bit busy then!

It’s been a real who’s who of materials and techniques this term right across our Construction, Painting and Props departments.

Construction have had the volume turned up to 11 this term working on the set for Grand Hotel; we’ve seen welding on an industrial scale to construct fully operational revolving doors and two huge frames to support the mirrored and glazed frontage of the Grand Hotel as viewed from the inside.

First thing out were the two metal frames for the frontage and interior of the hotel; box steel welded and then clad in timber and MDF. Once the frames had been constructed it was through to the Paint Shop for black gloss on the cladding and gold leaf on the fret work and window frame details.

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The Gold leaf we use is in fact brass leaf, it is applied directly from the roll onto surfaces coated with an adhesive called Gilding Size. The size is applied over a layer of yellow paint which hides any small holes in the leaf. Once the leaf is on and the size has dried, we brush off the excess leaf and apply two layers of french enamel varnish to seal it, and to achieve the antiqued effect the designer was looking for.

We’ve also been applying more black gloss effect to all the cladding, flats, panels, treads and handrails; you name it – we glossed it!

Before we could get anything fitted up in the Silk Street Theatre, we had to paint an intricate geometric floor design on the stage.

Our friends in the Technical Theatre department helped us out by rigging a projector on to a flying bar so we could project the design on to the stage and trace out the geometric pattern. The whole ellipse was first marbled in white before we marked on the lines for the masking. Thirty five rolls of masking tape later and we began to paint and marble the black tiles. Off with the masking tape the next day and finish the surface with a lovely glaze to create a beautiful marbled floor on to which the set could be installed.

Here’s the beautiful finished floor with a layer of Bona Mega gloss glaze over the marble painting. Amazing!

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We’ve seen the construction of a rotating concierge reception desk made from bendi-ply, a glorious curved and fanned Grand staircase, and seemingly never ending fret work to create art deco inspired hand rails for the various balconies and decorative elements which adorn the glazing and carefully disguised steel deck.

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All the glazing has also been dirtied down by spraying with a matt glaze with a bit of white paint mix in, adding to the slightly defunct look specified by the designer.

Props made three Belfast sinks on wheels complete with dressing room mirror lights.  We had some decorative brackets for the sinks laser cut by a CADCAM company in south London; CutLaserCut have a selection of industrial size laser cutters so we emailed over our design and they were put to work cutting 9mm MDF to make Art Deco style brackets…Laser Power!

End result is an absolutely epic set, I couldn’t wait to see the actors and musicians apply their magic and it certainly didn’t disappoint, it was a great show and a brilliant demonstration of the collaborative production process here at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

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So there you have it, many weeks of hard work was certainly worth it looking at the amazing result. If you want to see a fascinating time lapse video of the set being taken to pieces you’re in luck! It’s quite a cathartic process destructing a set, the thing I find hardest to comprehend is that all those weeks of hard labour can be undone such a short time, about 12 hours. But that’s the way it goes I suppose. See the video courtesy of  the Technical Theatre department either on their blog or by clicking here.

We’re checking out of The Grand Hotel now;

The Props Department have realised a host of interesting and challenging creations this term. We’ve seen the creation of a prosthetic body parts including the frighteningly realistic torso of St. John the Baptist in its unfortunate de-limbed, decapitated and disembolwled state – so goes the brutal end for St. John in the Stradella opera. Our props students have also served an apprenticeship of sorts in coopering, deconstructing Scottish whisky barrels and recreating a fake barrel mid construction which allowed the opera singers to simulate the construction of the barrel during the performance of Arne’s The Cooper. Sound complicated? It is! See Pat’s Blog for a full run down.

Any finally, to round up this academic years activity, our annual first year Puppet Project!

Our first years have just presented their end of year project. The theme for this years project was the Grim tale of Hansel & Gretel set in an urban landscape, conceived as: HSNL + GRTL

The project kicked off with a crash course in puppetry with puppetry guru Steve Tiplady who gave a half day crash course in making and operating puppets.

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The first years then spent a week creating their puppets and taking crash courses in lighting and video editing from our lighting and video lecturers, then it was into the studio, out on location and finally many hours in the editing suite to create their fantastic version of the folk story, great work guys.

That’s it from us until September so enjoy your summer and we’ll see you on the other side.

I’ll leave you with the video of the first years puppet project HSNL + GRTL, enjoy!





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