Posts Tagged With: bricks

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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Bringing the little wooden boy to life…

Week 5 kicks off today and with it, fit-up for this term’s opera ‘The Adventures of Pinocchio’ designed by Dick Bird. The design realisation workshops at the Guildhall School have been a hive of activity over the past few weeks and we aren’t finished yet as this week is sure to be even busier as we fit the set up in our Silk Street Theatre. The construction workshop and the scenic art paintshop have been changing every day, with new scenic components being made and more layers of paint being applied to make what I’m sure will be a very interesting and impressive set. Here’s just a snippet of what’s been going on in scenic art and construction…(click on the pictures for a closer look!)

The blue fairy’s houses are now completed; vac-formed bricks applied and painted, roofs tiled and chalky slate washes sponged on and trompe l’oeil (literally ‘trick of the eye’) effects added to the perspective windows. There are a lot of interesting processes involved in making and painting each of the houses and I think you’ll agree they look brilliant. One of the elements that I particularly like is the paint effect on the doors that Will made. Kim has been learning the process of creating a crackled paint effect using size, a heated glue that is applied after the base colour. A top layer of paint a different colour is added which is force-dried using a heat gun. This method means that the top layer of paint that dries quickly separates, causing a cracked effect. The process is a fairly organic one meaning that it is quite difficult to predict the result although you can control the cracking to some extent; dictating the direction of the cracks by what way you apply the glue and the top layer, and the general size of the crack by how thickly you apply the paint.

Another interesting component that has been made this week, again by Will is the circus frustum. This piece is made from a timber skeletal structure with MDF wrapped around it. In order to bend the MDF around the shape, the sheets were dampened, clamped in place and left overnight so that when dry they naturally sat in a curved shape. Kim has been working on the paint finish for the frustum, masking off triangles shapes around the curve and adding a dark spray to the edges of each segment to age the piece. It’s a work-in-progress with the yellow still to do but here it is so far…

Another scenic element that has been worked on last week was the Funland sign; a large metal curved sign with decorative elements and letters secured in place. In order to create the piece, lengths of steel were rolled into curved shapes of various radiuses and welded together.  Here is the sign taking shape…

As well as vac-formed bricks, we have used a lot of other vac-formed pieces in the set. The ticket booth and the puppet theatre are both quite complicated pieces, made up from a combination of mouldings, vac form elements and shortwood mouldings to add a highly decorative look to the pieces. Although they take a while to build, and paint, I think you’ll agree they look very impressive when complete. Katie has painted the ticket booth with a variety of scenic processes, including a light crackle effect and antique gold on the mouldings as well as some signwriting. The puppet theatre has a similar effect on it which has been started but will be finished this week.

Well that’s just a small snippet of what we’ve been up to and some of the interesting scenic components that we’ve been working on. Fit-up has started so I’ll be sure to get some photos of the set taking shape in the theatre. Also not forgetting the props team who have been working non-stop on all of the props for the production; including the puppets for the puppet theatre, various masks, Pinocchio’s hair and even a set of whale’s teeth just to name a few! More photos to follow of course, stay tuned…

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Pinocchio in full swing…

Week three is here and the workshops are buzzing and whirring with activity.  Associated Studies is over for another term so the departments have spread back out, filling the workshops with set and props, samples and ongoing projects…

Work is continuing with this term’s opera, Pinocchio, with lots of pieces being made.  In the props department, Giulia and Marie have been working on the puppets for the show.  These puppets are really interesting as they are secured around the necks of some of the characters so that their own faces animate the faces of the puppets.  Sophie has been continuing her work on the eerie Crow Doctor’s mask which is taking shape and becoming more frightening every time I walk past!  Meanwhile, Katie has been carrying on with her work on Pinocchio’s hair; making a plaster mould of the sculpted clay hair and casting it in latex coloured with black pigment…looking good so far. 

The scenic art team have been continuing their work on the bricks, adding washes to make them more realistic and ageing them; I think you’ll agree that they look fantastic!  They’re also been sample other paint finishes including gold for the last crest and the floor.  Anna has also been working hard on the gravestone, creating a marbled finish and drawing up the lettering which will be painted with a trompe l’oeil effect so that it looks like it’s been carved into the marble. 

The construction team have also been busy working on the two Blue Fairy houses; adding windows, adding MDF tiles to the roof so that it looks like it’s been tiled with slate and making doors for the houses.  Will has also been working on a mechanism for one of the doors which ‘breaks’ when it gets kicked…I’ll try not to say too much in case I ruin the surprise- all in the name of the magic that is theatre!

Anyway as I’m sure you can see, we’ve been quite busy here in the design realisation workshops.  There’s still a lot to do and a full week ahead of us so I am sure there will be more photos…stay tuned!

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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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Another busy week for the Design Realisation team…

The design realisation workshops have been very busy this last week as all of the staff and students have been focusing all of their energy on building and painting the scenery and props for this year’s musical Rags which will open in our Silk Street Theatre in a couple of weeks.  There has been so much going on that it’s been hard to keep up but hopefully I have managed to take enough photos to show you just a bit of what has been going on over the past few days… The scenic construction department have been very busy, so busy in fact I had hardly have any photos of what’s been going on- every time I turn around something new is happening!  The team have been cracking out scenery left right and center this week, making all of the brick flats and welding some interesting steel frames that are going to have a nice rust finish on them. Here’s a couple of shots to get you going, I will make sure I get some amazing photos next week of the fit-up which is always a fascinating process…

The props team have also been busy this week making flags, banners and carts for Rags…among other things!  I’ve managed to get another photo of our new Design Realisation Assistant Grace making a banner and putting her prop making experience to good use this week and of course third year Meg and second year Katie have been working full on as well continuing on the range of props required for this year’s musical.  Here are a few photos of some of the props taking shape, can’t wait to see them finished they look great!

It’s hard to miss what has been going on in the paintshop this week; every inch of the space is taken up with different scenic element being painted or textured ready for fit-up next week. One of the biggest tasks this week has been texturing all of the brick walls for the musical.  The realistic brick effect is made up from quite a few layers.  First the flats are primed with a mixture of glue, sawdust and water which acts as a gritty base to hold the texture in place.  Next an artex and sawdust mix is applied with the use of a template (lovingly made by the construction team!) which is left to dry overnight.  Then the painting process begins; the base of grout grey is applied followed by the two brick colours.  Then a dry bush technique is used to add more depth to the bricks by applying contrasting brick colours.  Dirty washes are then added to the flat finally followed by a dark speckle spray…phew! I think you’ll agree that’s a long process, but hopefully you think it’s worth it, I think they look brilliant!

As well as all of the bricks, the scenic art team have been busy working on the two cloths for Rags.  Second year design realisation student Hannah has been putting her scenic art skills to the test this week taking the lead on painting the ‘harlequin’ cloth for the musical.  The cloth is mainly black with a lovely checkerboard effect that disappears off into the horizon so they have been drawn up and masked off in perspective.  The white squares are painted to look like marble with grey sponged into them and then marble like veins added.  It looks brilliant already and will look fabulous next to the pink and gold Yiddish proscenium that was built and painted last week.  I will be sure to get a photo of these items together during fit-up…

The final (and biggest) scenic element that the paintshop team have been working on this week is the colossal backcloth for the musical.  The cloth, which measures about 10 meters by 6 has a wonderful image of the New York skyline painted onto it, framed by a series of oversized bricks.  The cloth is a filled cloth which has been painted with layers and layers of paint on the more solid areas, such as the bricks and the buildings, and with only a thin wash of colour on the sky.  This will allow the cloth to be lit from behind during the show so that the sky will have a different appearance based on the scene on stage.  There is still some work to be done on the cloth but I couldn’t wait any longer to post it here…I think you will agree it’s well worth a look and represents the scenic art talents of our third year Design Realisation students Nancy and Daisy very well! What do you think?

I told you we had been busy! And it doesn’t stop there…next week it’s fit-up so the construction team are going to be very busy putting the set for Rags into our Silk Street Theatre.  The scenic art department are going to be working hard finishing the cloths and the props team are going to be getting the props ready for tech week.  All in all it is going to be a very busy week for the design realisation department, working on the last main production of this academic year, and the last show that our third year students will be working on before they leave Guildhall School and enter the industry.  It sounds like we have our work cut out for us…but as usual…we’re game!

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