Mask Week

As I enjoy the practical side of this course I valued being able to spend a whole week designing and making a mask. We had a workshop where we made and wore basic paper bag masks that immediately made me feel invincible and express myself with my body rather than through facial expression. I was particularly interested in Mike Chase’s work at the mask symposium last year as I believe mask workshops can be used to support people as in his psychotherapy work.

Although I was used to using clay as I do pottery, I wasn’t used to moulding it around a model head and using it to create a face. I found the clay easy to manipulate which was an advantage as I attempted to figure out how to convey the shy facial expression I wanted for my character, an otter. At this stage we were advised by the practitioner Stephen Jon not to think too much about intricate detail as it wouldn’t show up later in the process. I therefore focused on making a large, bulbous nose and accentuated the cheeks, referring to otter photographs, as well as shaping the eyebrows to create a shy expression. We covered the design in foil and began the process of layering brown paper scraps on using a papier-mâché technique and a mixture of wallpaper paste and pva glue. I found the second layer, J-cloth scraps applied using wallpaper paste and filler, the easiest material to use. I did find the process laborious at times as we had to wait for each layer to dry however it gave me an idea of patience and time efficiency needed in this industry.

I found painting the masks the most satisfying experience because I was able to see my work come together. Stephen gave us a demonstration, painting his mask with subtle, natural tones such as raw umber and then highlighting areas with white. I tried applying his techniques to my own mask and enjoyed the contrasting effects a wet brush and dry brush created. We were able to showcase our mask at the end of the day, taking on the characteristics through our body to support the fixed mask expression. I liked that the half mask meant the actor’s mouth was showing to allow them to talk. Although I enjoyed the skills week, I would have liked to have had time to devise further with the masks in order to understand how they could be beneficial in a Forum theatre or drama therapy situation.


CTM – finishing touches

12874294_1293124710701385_992588279_oThere’s always those things that are the finishing touches that make a piece work. With everything wood grained and the bars attached at the front we needed to paint the floor at the front to look like concrete in the prison cell and blend it in with the surrounding black floor.

We also started to dress the set by getting out the camp bed we were usi12443718_1293124757368047_1287789404_ong as the prison bed and covering it in sheets and grey colours. Then a trip to the props store was needed to make it all look realistic.

We also created and printed a Billie Holiday cover to stick in the middle of the record which instantly drew attention to it.


Dressing the prison with books, newspaper clippings, a bucket.


The Billie Holiday Cover


The Gramophone dressed on the walkway with Red shoes and bottles to suggest Ruth’s presence. 

CTM- Fit up week!

We had five days to get everything finished for the presentation and suddenly list making was our best friend!

We still had to make a record and so 2 people went into the workshop and cut a the circular shape out of MDF using the diameter of a steel deck as a guide.The used a nailed piece of wood to create the grooves in it and then we used ‘idenden’ to create texture on the record and the bars and painted them black.

We used gloss to make the record look shiny but we wanted to bars to look rusty and weathered. Using reference images Lizzie sprayed the bars a silvery grey and then hand painted rusty red/oranges in patches along the bars, building up texture when the idenden was prominent.


rusted metal reference


the wooden bars painted to look like rusty metal

We used an image from the original His Master’s Voice record player to create a stencil for our trompe l’oeil design. I drew out a design and then copied it in a row and cut it out with a scalpel.

Ruby and Becky painted the design on using a yellowy, leather lake base and building it up with highlights to create light hitting it, using white paint. Finally they used paynes grey, a dark blue colour to darken it and then lines of raw umber to blend it into the background wood grain.

After putting the gramophone up it was obvious we needed to further build up colour and shade it in order to disguise the join between the lipping and the frame edge. So I mixed paynes grey with the original spectrum red and sprayed around the scalloped edges and down the joins. Reference images were really helpful for this.

After the Gramophone had been sprayed into I felt like the project was really coming together because it was a very large and challenging piece of work to create.

CTM -Gramophone

We needed to design a lip for the gramophone and so we took the measurements from the edge of the gramophone and created a semi-circle on the laser cutter which we then routered.

We then had to work out what angle the lip should be fixed at against the frame so that it would sit flushed.

  • The blocks with a cut angle to sit on the edge on the gramophone (3 x each frame)
  • Scrap MDF to check where the lip will sit before pinning the blocks
  • The blocks pinned on 3 times through the back of the canvas

Painted and primed lipping…


The group bolting the frames together – painted and with scalloped edges!


It’s all coming together!




Construct the moment – Paint/make

Now we had our frames and our tested paint colours the next step was to staple canvas to the frames so that they could be primed.

We used an airhose and staple gun to attach the canvas to the frame, whilst the workmates supported the weight of the frame. We stapled one edge, pulling the canvas taut and then moved diagonally to get an even spread of the staples and tautness.

As 3 members of the group stapled, 2 people primed the canvasses with rollers. We tried to get an even layer of paint and dried it with a heat gun so we wouldn’t have to wait long to paint them red. The painters also primed and glossed the two steel decks and the two 8×4 MDF pieces being used at the side of the record player.

12822739_10153624709239139_2081524779_o12675103_10153624709169139_2055509351_o-Painting and glossing the steel decks/8×4.

Priming the canvassed -frames





I had used a spray gun before at a previous place of work and so it was great fun spraying the canvasses red. Although it was very challenging to grade the colour as we wanted the inside of the gramophone to be darker and gradually getting lighter towards the opening. It was also challenging because each piece was separate when I painted it but need to work as a whole when fixed together.


We all had a go at wood graining, and created a panelled border so that the wood would look more like an engraved record player.

Below are photos showing how we marked out borders with masking tape before wood graining. We wanted to make the middle border patterned and looked at some trompe l’oeil reference.



Construct the Moment – Let’s Paint!

Week 2 – Tests/samples

Even though we still have a lot of construction to do we wanted to start to learn and apply some painting techniques to our work.

The record played was designed to be wood grained, on the top underneath the record and the two sides however we had to establish what type of wood we wanted. As the designer, Ruby told us she had considered Mahogany and after collecting reference images we decided as a group that the dark, rich tones of Mahogany would complement the 1950’s style record player and bold Gramophone head.

We mixed burnt sienna, leather lake and white paint to create a prime for our wood grain. At the same time we look at priming the canvas used for the Gramophone and as advised by the scenic artist Sandra, we mixed spectrum red with white to create a magenta pink which would stop the overlay of red paint looking dull. Below are pictures of our testers which we dried using a heat gun to minimise waiting time.

We played around with colours to drag on top of the prime but raw umber mixed with black was the most similar to dark mahogany tones. We dragged the paint on using a mixture of wet brushes and dry to take away and reapply paint until the grain began to build up.We also applied the spectrum red colour to the primed magenta canvas. The section on the left is hand painted and on the right with a spray gun. We wanted to compare the effects but agreed that the spray gun gave a much more even spread of colour whereas hand done made it appear flat.


Construct The Moment

During our first week of the project ‘Construct The Moment’ we had to choose a design idea from last term’s model making project for ‘The Thrill of Love’. We looked carefully at the model boxes of the 5 members in my group, picking up on favourite aspects and chose Ruby’s design of a Record player (containing a prison cell) and Gramophone.

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The chosen design was complicated because of it’s large scale and angles and so we had to look closely at our materials budget.

  • 50 mtrs of 3X1 (Gramophone frame)
  • 4 x 8×4 sheets of 6mm MDF (sides of record player, prison bars)
  • 5m x 2.5 mtrs wide scenic canvas (gramophone material)

In order to stay within our materials allowance the design was re-scaled down and so 2 members of the group took on roles re-designing using autocad whilst the others researched materials and breakdown ideas in preparation for the painting process such as types of wood grain and concrete.

The Gramophone was our first challenge. image1

We needed 18 x 2000m for the sides and then 9 x 309m for the smaller end and 9 x 618m for the larger end (as well as a supportive bracket in the middle). The greatest challenge was creating an angle so that the wood would sit flushe12822609_10153624707239139_893530758_od and we could stretch canvas over easily. We set an adjustable set square to 18 degrees in order to cut the angle.

I enjoyed using the drills to
fix the frames together especially once we got into a routine. We fixed some scrap wood to a frame and jig-sawed down the sides to create the 10th section, the walkway on Ruby’s design so that an actor could walk from the back to the front of the gramophone.

The Jigsaw is also the tool we used to cut out the bars in MDF as shown above.

We then clamped and bolted the Gramophone frames together to make sure they fitted well and then marked them numerically so that after the next stage (canvassing) we could put them back together in the same order. It felt great to see the Gramophone taking shape.