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Shadow Theatre

Some time ago I designed a shadow theatre and then laser cut a couple of them. But the design meant that there was a lot of waste plywood after the cut, and more problematically the dismantled theatre was bulky and not postal friendly. So I didn’t try selling it, other projects took precedence.

Recently someone contacted CATO Press, where I’m a member to say she was interested in shadow theatre, so I thought I would dust off the old design and try again.

To have some impact and to accommodate puppets a shadow theatre needs to be quite large, my first attempt was rather small. This time I started with the central idea that the structure would be fully demountable and would flat-pack to 700mm x 200mm or less with a pack thickness of less than 50mm. I would include a cloth screen and if possible a lamp of some sort, LED lamps make this a practical proposition, even a torch with a wide angle beam should work.

With the Corvid 19 lockdown on-going it is not possible to make laser cut prototypes, so I’ve made one in 5mm construction board, ½ size.  The final version would be 3mm plywood.  The slot-together pieces are not all shown, no screen and no decoration.  Screen would attach by velcro, scenery to hang from cross-bars which slot into the tops of the wings, for quick change.

Shadow theatre mock-up 1/2 size

In the distant past I made quite large shadow theatres decorated with dragons etc. from construction board, but of course they don’t have a long life, unless treated very carefully.  I used these working with adults with learning difficulties (a privilage) and had plenty of fun.  It was often surprising to see who could project themselves into the puppets, and who struggled.

Puppets can be bought and one or two sites provided designs for free, Adventures In A Box is one, and these may be cut by hand, or with a vinyl cutter or stencil cutter.  Making the sort of fabulous designs seen in traditional Indonesian shadow theatre is certain to demand time and skill, but far simpler things can be quite effective.

Miller Toys and Models

My new website – Miller Toys and Models – is up and running – thank you Bristol Web Design – and during the lockdown I have designed a further seven plywood models plus two variations and two steampunk(ish) models.  But I haven’t been able to cut any of these because if my cutters at Basically Wooden are working they are working on protective equipment, not toys.

Dredger in construction board
Part of the instructions for assembly of the dredger model

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course until I cut and assemble the prototypes I can’t go any further.  There are always some errors in the design, no matter how much I check them on screen or make them in construction board.  Construction board is soft and bends easily of course and so model parts can appear to fit when in fact they don’t.

On a positive note CATO Press in Easton, Bristol is reopening soon and I will be able to do some print making.  Time to get some collagraph plates ready.

 

Sketching in Bristol

I recently joined the Urban Sketchers Bristol Facebook group and made a start with some images from the area I live in, Redfield. There are still a few chunky remnants of the railway age in this inner city area and the places near by although these are vanishing fast, converted into facades for new housing and other developments.  Bristol University is planning a new campus alongside the side of the canal, not far from Temple Meads station.

But during the Corvid 19 lockdown (and the excellent weather) it is easy to go out early and do some sketching, take some snaps. No one around at 6 am and not much moving except the gulls pillaging the dumpers and fly tipped rubbish.

At Barton Hill Settlement
Silverthorn Lane, Bristol

Models and printing

Dredger, try-out using 3mm construction board

I’ve been working on several new models and now that we have lockdown for the foreseable future – in the UK anyway – I’m spending even more time on these.  I’m lucky enough to have a (dry) studio at home.  But the laser cutting at Basically Wooden in lovely Devon has stopped for now.

Cato Press (of which I am a member) is closed but some plate making can be done at home, especially for collagraph which only needs card and paste, at it’s most basic.  Great examples at the Collagraph World Wide Facebook page.

Hafez Omar – political prisoner

“Today he may be sitting and rotting in an Israeli cell, but in 2012 Palestinian graphic designer Hafez Omar’s posters were setting the internet alight. On Facebook in particular, his simple, iconic, anonymous brown avatars in support of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel spread like wildfire. People all over social media changed their profile photos to one or other of the male or female versions.”  Middle East Monitor.

The Student’s Struggle is Leading the Masses, Hafez Omar, Poster, 2012

Doll

Almost finished the owl doll, her costume is mainly silk embellished from scraps. The embellishing machine is great for using up even the tiniest of remnants and bits of thread.  Embellishing needles get used up (broken) fairly quickly so I always keep a stock.  Just a few final touches needed, her limbs and neck and around her face need to be darker .

Owl doll

Doll

I’m making another in a series of bird inspired dolls, this one is vaguely based on the Tawny Owl.  Button jointed dolls are fairly easy to make, I always follow  the pattern and instructions of Jan Horrox, a wonderful and inspiring doll maker, then modify things according to my wish.  The most challenging part is to put a face onto the head.

Tawny Owl

These dolls have needle sculpted faces, which takes some practice, then the features are drawn on with Micron pens and water-based coloured pencils.  A steady hand is essential and the results can’t be guaranteed.

Doll head etc.

Once the face is drawn then it has to be sprayed with artist’s fix, the solvent type.  These dolls are more ornamental than play, although I try to make them robust enough for older children.  Next stage is to attach the head, then make hair, or in this case feathers of some sort.

Into The Night

I went to London recently for a few days, visiting the galleries.  The outstanding expo was at the Barbican – Into The Night   where you may, “Explore the history of cabarets, cafés and clubs in modern art across the world, from London to Paris, Mexico City, Tehran, and Ibadan”.  A large show with lots of inspiring images.

Credit: Aaron Douglas, Dance, c.1930. Collection of Dr Anita White. © Heirs of Aaron Douglas and DACS, London 2019.

As usual at this time of year there is a wealth of shows to choose, I didn’t quite manage all of these:

  1. https://www.estorickcollection.com/ Lithography from Leningrad: Eric Estorick’s Adventure in Soviet Art. 39a Canonbury Square Wednesday to Saturday
  2. Bridget Riley Hayward Gallery, South Bank
  3. Lucian Freud: The Self-portraits’ Royal Academy of Arts, Mayfair
  4. Elizabeth Peyton ‘Aire and Angels’ National Portrait Gallery, Charing Cross Road
  5. Hogarth: Place and Progress Sir John Soane’s Museum
  6. Nan Goldin: Sirens, Marian Goodman Gallery