Posts Tagged With: Associated Studies

Head first into the summer opera double bill.

The workshops are in full swing and beginning to fill with the pieces of our opera double bill. Arianne and Alexandre Bis has our students working on realising the designs of Simon Corder.

Here is a snapshot of the samples produced by scenic art for the set. We have three main finishes that need to be produced for this set. We have a yellow marble finish, a painted number grid and a white-washed concrete finish. Here are the samples that were put together for Simon to look at.



Construction have been busy building all the necessary flats to make up the walls of the set and treads for the show and with the help of our TT students, who are with us for their associated studies, we seem to be making good progress.

Construction have also had the pleasure of realising one of the more decorative features of the set. Alice, Lana and Oscar under the instruction of Andy were able to have a bit of fun in creating the Baroque style fireplace.

The main frame was made from timber which was clad with ply to give us the basic shape. The edges of the frame were decorated by laying a border of a thick plaster mix and then shaped with a purpose made jig to give the edge shape you see below.

the larger decorative mouldings were made by pouring plaster into vac formed moulds and the attaching these to the timber frame. The The mouldings were strengthened by laying hessian into the plaster.

Andy also sculpted some extensions with clay to finish off sections of pattern too fit and align with the size and shape of the piece. A mould was made of these clay sculpts which was them cast to create a finished plaster section.

The pieces were then screwed onto the main frame using the supports that had been set into them.

The joins were then filled and moulded by hand to give the impression it was one fluid piece.


The piece was then ready for a paint job. Our second year student Lana and I finished the piece by applying a marble paint effect.



Our scenic art students began their process by texturing the flats. This was done by covering them with a thin layer of idenden which gave the surface a rough concrete texture. They were then painted white and a raw umber wash applied to the bottom sections.


In props our students have been busy constructing miniature models of  the Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and Sacre Coeur which will sit on plinths around the walls of the set.They have been using mainly styrofoam to construct the models and some of the final details will be drawn in CAD and 3D printed.

Emily did a great job at gilding the large picture frame to give a degraded finish. This prop piece will sit above the fireplace.


Props have also had the opportunity to work on some polycarving. In front of the fireplace is to be placed a decorative peacock fire gate. Sneha with the help of Anna carved the peacock from blocks of polystyrene. This was then covered with layers of foamcoat to help smooth the surface before being painted in metallics.


Alongside preparing the opera set, we have had students from other areas of technical theatre creating work for either a personal project or getting stuck in with assisting on the construction of the Alexandre Bis set.

Here are some example of the work going on amongst our associated studies students.

Fit Up….


Fit up for the opera went relatively smoothly. It began by constructing the steel deck truck onto which the set was attached. The walls and treads went in first, followed by the windows and balcony.


Once the set was attached to the truck we had to attach some breaks to it. However…we didn’t have any rubber fixed to the breaks we had… so we improvised…

…Worked a treat!


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Three departments, two shows, so many photos…

Firstly, I can’t quite believe it’s nearly the end of week 3 already! Secondly, I can’t believe I haven’t posted anything about what we’ve been up to here in design realisation this term yet! I can honestly tell it’s been non-stop here in the workshop at the Guildhall School; three lots of Associated Studies (where 1st year students in other TTA streams try their hands at design realisation), one production in the Milton Court Studio and one giant opera set ready to head into the Milton Court Theatre next week…

I might as well tell you in pictures, that way you don’t have to read my rambling explanations of what we’ve been doing, and I don’t have to try to remember it all!

A snippet of what props have been working on:

And meanwhile in construction:

And in scenic art:

Phew! I told you we’d been busy! Next week is fit-up for the opera double bill in the Milton Court Theatre.  The scenic art team have been texturing and painting the floor over there too so I will be sure get some photos of that and the fit-up in progress which is always one of my favourite things to blog about.  Also stay tuned for more goings on in the prop department…

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Spring week 2…

It’s looking like week two here in the design realisation workshops; scenic art associated studies is taking place in the paintshop with first year students from other pathways getting their first taste of what it’s like to do scenic art here at the Guildhall School.  They are learning all about a variety of scenic art techniques ranging from creating textures, to wood graining…and a whole lot in between! What is interesting in the paintshop at the moment is that in addition to the associated studies bricks, which have been created using a brick template and artex, the paintshop is full of vacformed brick flats for the upcoming opera Pinocchio which the team are painting.  The effect for the opera is slightly different in that the bricks are much darker with a black base coat and layers of earthy colours dry-brushed and sponged on top.  They are going to have a dark wash on them as a final process which always makes such a difference with the bricks- tieing all of the colours together, ageing and adding depth.  I think you’ll agree they are looking really impressive…and huge now that they are put together and on the paintframe (thanks to construction!). 

Speaking of the construction team, they have been hard at work too; working on the rest of the set for Pinocchio.  Here they are making the Blue Fairy’s house flat, which involves working out and cutting quite a few angles.  The set design by Dick Bird is a fascinating one so over the next couple of week we should see some very interesting pieces being made.

The props department are also cracking on, tackling the vast amount of props for the opera.  As usual in props there are a lot of things going on at once and every time I walk through it’s all moved on three or four steps but here’s what I caught when I had my camera; the wig for Pinocchio being sculpted, masks in progress, puppets being sewn and drapes being measured…

Well as usual by the time I’ve written this and uploaded the photos the guys here in design realisation have moved onto something else so I’ll try to get more shots near the end of week.  Don’t go anywhere…

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2014 kicks off with Associated Studies…

The new year and the new term brings new faces into the design realisation workshops this week as we welcome students from other technical theatre pathways into the world of construction and prop making.  A selection of first year students from the Theatre Technology Pathway and the Stage and Costume Management Pathway are spending a week working in the department and learning the basics of scenic construction and prop making, including learning all about the health and safety aspects of the workshops and all of the machinery, tools and materials that they can use.  It’s nice to have some new faces in the department who will hopefully get a taste for design realisation and will be back for an allocation in the department next year.

We also have some second and third year students from other technical theatre pathways working in the department this term; third year Will is in scenic construction, third year Katie is in scenic art and second year Marie is in props. 

As well as associated studies, we are also starting work on this term’s opera, The Adventures of Pinocchio which will be presented in our Silk Street Theatre.  The production features a huge set and some very interesting props so there’s no doubt that the design realisation department will be kept very busy over the next few weeks.  Fit-up starts in week five so there’s a lot to do in quite a short space of time!  

As with all productions, the early stage of the process for us is planning how we are going to make and paint all of the elements.  For scenic art, led this term by third year Hannah, that means trying out different paint processes and creating samples for the designer to look at.  These samples, painted from the model piece as a reference, allow the designer to give feedback to the team concerning the colours, textures and overall ‘feel’ of the sample compared to their vision of the overall design.  Sometimes, this sampling process continues for a while, with the scenic artist creating a variety of different version for the designer to consider.  For Pinocchio, there are several paint finishes that need to be created, the main one being a brick effect.  Because of the scale of the brick work, the set is being covered with ‘vacform brick’; plastic sheeting that has been created by heating thin plastic within a vacuum over a 3D shape.  We have our own smaller scale vacformer here in the props department but for a large project such as this it would take a long time to create the amount of bricks we need for this set! 

In a similar way the props department need to create samples to show the designer.  This usually takes the form of quick prototypes of props showing shapes and sizes along with research materials that form the centre of a discussion with the designer.  For Pinocchio, the props team are making (along with many other things!) several masks; such as crickets, owls, foxes and a crow doctor.  The team, led by third year Katie, have been using card and other materials to quickly mock-up shapes for the masks.  Once these have been approved by the designer, they can begin ordering materials and making the real masks.  

For the construction team, led by third year Tara, planning the build concerns drafting technical drawings from the designer’s model, ordering materials and creating cutting lists.  They have to consider how each scenic component will be made as well as it’s relationship to the rest of the set.  They also have to consider other features of the component; will the piece be flying? Does it need wheels? Will someone be standing on it? To name but a few…

Well as usual it doesn’t take the design realisation department very long to get stuck in, here are a few photos to show you what’s been going on. 

Next week it’s the scenic art associated studies and the rest of the department head straight first into building and painting all of the set and props for Pinocchio…it’s going to be one fast paced term so keep your hats on, keep your eyes open for more blog posts and keep your fingers in your ears, because it gets pretty noisy down here…but it’s ok, because sometimes I stop talking!

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Welcome to the summer term…

Well one thing is certain; we don’t hang about here in the design realisation at the Guildhall School…

Last week was the start of the summer term.  Instead of taking it easy and enjoying the sunshine out on Barbican lakeside, we were already building and painting scenery and props for our first two productions (it IS what we do best after all!), introducing some of the 1st year technical theatre students into the world of design realisation and welcoming new faces onto the teams for this term. 

Our summer terms have a reputation for being the busiest, and most impressive of the year, with huge productions that show of our capabilities as a department and most pleasingly, when students at the end of their year of study really step up and show us everything they have learnt so far.  For our first year students this term is a busy one; they start by completing their associated studies sessions, sampling techniques and processes in other streams.  Then they join us in the workshops helping out with the public productions (we are always grateful of a few eager and talented pairs of hands) before completing their final first year project.  Our second year students don’t get a break either…this is their last term working as scenic constructors, scenic artists and prop makers before taking on the leadership roles next year.  And of course who can forget our third year students.  It’s always a bittersweet term for them; the excitement of entering a vibrant and challenging industry coupled with the sadness of saying goodbye the Guildhall School.  Well we’ve still got 13 weeks of them here in our workshop, so let’s make the most of it!

Our first production is May 08, a devised piece which will be performed at the Bridewell Theatre.  The main thing to point out about the design for May 08, which is designed by James Cotterill, is that it is very…well…yellow! The whole of the Bridwell Theatre will be completly transformed next week into a sunny paradise complete with a bold yellow floor and two painted canvasses.  The scenic art team have been working hard this last week perfecting the right shade of yellow and painting all of the floor ready for it to be taken down at the end of this week.  It’s harder than it looks getting a good even coverage without patches or streaks, but as usual the team headed by third year Nancy are up to the task! They have also started work on one of the large canvasses which have a solid yellow bottom that fades into white as it moves up the cloth.  Here you can see them using ‘bobbly’ rollers to apply a broken up first coat of yellow which will then be sprayed into to create the wonderful blended look.

In the props department last week, work began on the upcoming opera Owen Wingrave which will be performed in our Silk Street Theatre next month.  For the production, the props department have a lot of interesting things to make but they started work on some black glossy ornate picture frames.  The props department was also busy last week with a final group of associated studies students learning some of the basics of prop making.  The group worked with a variety of materials including clay, plaster, latex, expanding foam, wood, plastic and paint to name but a few and seemed to have a brilliant time.  One of the highlights of the week was learning about the new machine in the props- the vacuum former.  The vac former works by heating a sheet of thin plastic and them creating a vacuum that sucks the plastic down over an object, leaving the shape of the object imprinted on the plastic.  Lots of plastic toys for example are made in a similar way and as usual within the props department the uses of the vac former are endless.  Some possible uses include making moulds, casings and even intricate vac form mouldings.  Here are some photos of the associated studies team learning about the vac former and making a shield.  What do you think?

Meanwhile in scenic construction, more students have been taking part in associated studies.  The group have been learning the basics of scenic construction including making flats and treads and how to use all of the machienery safely.  Here are some photos of the team in action making some flats for the production of May 08 and two very smart sets of treads…

The rest of the construction team have begun work on the set for Owen Wingrave which starts it’s fit up in only a couple of weeks.  Lucky the department has a large team ready to take on the challenge…

This week it’s the turn of the scenic art department associated studies.  Plus, scenic construction and props power ahead full steam on the production of Owen Wingrave…stay tuned for some more photos…

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First show of spring is taking shape…

Week three is here already and the preparations for Twelfth Night are well and truly under way.  Our first show of the spring term, which will open in the Silk Street Theatre on Thursday the 31st, is starting to take shape now; the beautifully marbled tiles have been laid onto the steel deck stage and a large green gazebo has been assembled and adorned with flowers scaling up a trellis. 

Here are some photos of the floor being laid and of third year props co-ordinator Lai adding flowers to the back wall of the gazebo…

 As you can see the two types of marbled floor look really nice together and the marbled skirting adds depth and a sense of grandeur…

The back wall and the upright sections of the gazebo were made by some first year students as part of their construction associated studies.  It is really nice that first year students were able to build scenery for a public performance this early in their education here at the Guildhall School; it is such a good way of learning new skills as well as contributing to the production.  All of the students should be really proud, it looks very impressive stood at the end of the platform with the marbled floor beneath it. 

One thing that always makes us happy here in the design realisation workshops is seeing the (nearly) finished product alongside the original model, designed by Mark Simmonds.  What do you think?

Gazebo model versus actual gazebo   

For more information about our production of Twelfth Night, visit the Guildhall School website at:

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Treads, marble, moulds, welding and more…

It’s the end of week two: snow is starting to fall outside whilst the design realisation workshops hum and buz with the sound of machinery and people.  All three departments have had a busy week this week, working on different shows and utilising a range of skills. 

The props workshop has been a hive of activity this week.  A selection of first year students on Associated Studies have been introduced to the world of prop making, trying their hands at a huge range of processes including basic woodworking skills, sculpting, mould making, casting and paint effects.  Meanwhile, the rest of the props department (Lai, Tara and Lisa) have been juggling work on several shows.  They’ve been making furniture for the upcoming production of A Respectable Wedding which will be at the Bridewell Theatre as well as starting work on the many props needed for this term’s Opera Le nozze di Figaro by Mozart which opens at the end of February.  It’s nice to see the workshop full of people ranging from first year students sampling prop making through to third year Lai honing her prop making skills in her final props allocation at the Guildhall School.  I was especially excited to see one of our second year design realisation students tucked away in the clean area of props which is reserved primarily for sewing or ‘cleaner’ prop making work.  Tara was working on some cushion covers and was surrounded by books, materials and old props from previous productions…It took me a minute or two to spot her in our very own Aladdin’s cave!

The scenic art team have been busy painting the rest of the floor for Twelfth Night which will be laid on Monday.  They’re moved on to the darker of the two marbles now which is a nice rich terracotta colour.  The process is slightly longer than the creamier marble as this version gets several washes applied after the puddling has dried to ‘flatten’ the marble and take out some of the contrast between the darker orange tone and the lighter base colour.  The finished tiles look really nice and I’m excited to see what the floor look like when it’s been laid in the theatre…I’ll make sure I get a picture or two next week.

In the construction department (as well as having the new wall saw delivered yesterday!) the team have been working hard on the opera production.  They have started welding some steel frames which will make up the side walls of a large truck section of scenery.  The use of a jig means that each piece of wall is exactly the same and helps to hold the metal in place so that they can easily be ‘tacked’ and then welded.  It also speeds up the whole process as it means that only the first section needs to be measured and squared up. 

Along with the welding, the construction team have been working on some treads for the opera too.  These are just a basic set of get-off treads which will be used backstage but as with most things in design realisation, it’s all about learning a process.  These simple treads are made in the same was as more elaborate staircases; the principles are the same.  Now that the construction team have mastered the skill of making treads…it’s onwards and upwards…litterally! 

Prepare for a busy one next week as all three departments begin concentrating on building and painting the props and scenery for this term’s Opera Le nozze di Figaro by Mozart…

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A taste of things to come…

As promised here is a photo of the lovely 1st year associated studies group that have been working in scenic art this week, showing off their creations:

Associated Studies Scenic Art

As you can see they’ve been kept busy learning some of the skills that the scenic art department use on a regular basis. They’ve sampled wood graining, texturing, brick work, spray guns, stencilling and puddling to name but a few so they have had a little taster of what we do down here in design realisation. Hopefully we have excited some of them enough to encourage them to take scenic art for a ‘minor elective’ next year, where they can spend 6 weeks in the department working on the public productions.

They look very proud of their work, and they should be; what a great example of something that can be achieved in just a few days with a new set of skills that they can take forward in their studies!

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Four days in…

As usual there’s no slow start in the Technical Theatre Department and the design realisation workshops are no exception…

We are only four days into the new spring term and already the initial elements of scenery and props are being churned out at an alarming rate. As part of the technical theatre arts course, first year students from other pathways (theatre technology and stage & costume management) are able to spend some time in the design realisation workshops whilst our first year students sample the delights of the other departments. 

This week, the construction and scenic art workshops have been full of lively first years learning new skills that should come in very handy over the next two years…and beyond! I must say it’s been very busy down here but great to see so many new faces trying their hands at some different work. The construction team have worked hard building one of the larger scenic pieces for the upcoming production of Twelfth Night and the scenic art team have been working in pairs completing a project that introduces them to a range of skills we use within scenic art; from wood grain to textured brickwork! Photos to follow tomorrow when they are complete.

Amidst the energetic first years, our teams for the next six weeks have been cracking on with work for the shows ahead. The scenic art team have their hands full already as the floor for Twelfth Night- a series of ‘marbled’ tiles- is stacked up, ready to be painted.  Here Taylor and Hannah are practicing their techniques, creating samples to refer to.

Taylor and Hannah sampling marble finishes

And here you can see just how much there is to paint!

The floor for Twelfth Night ready to paint...

The marbling process is a long one with the effect achieved by building up layers of paint, washes and glaze to create the realistic depth that is required. It going to be a long week next week I imagine but the scenic art team are well and truly up to the task ahead and it will look stunning when it’s all laid in the theatre.

For more information about the production of Twelfth Night at the Guildhall School, visit the school’s website or click here.

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