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.

 

Trace

I have enjoyed using Affinity Designer and it’s sister products Affinity Photo and the beta Affinity Publisher, but the lack of a trace function in Designer is a serious drawback.  Compared to CorelDraw (£599) or the endless cost (and irritation) of Adobe Illustrator, Affinity Designer (£50) is fantastic value for money and there are no extras or pressure to use on-line ‘services’.  So, why is it taking the developers at Serif EU such a long time to add trace?

Designer was launched almost five years ago and whilst Serif have never specifically promised to have a trace function users have always wanted it, and eventually gone elsewhere – Illustrator or CorelDraw.  Inkscape (freeware) manages a trace function but Inkscape can be clunky and it’s interface a little daunting.  The power of current computers is such that the trace function should be straightforward.  Come on Serif!

Poster printing

Printing documents that are larger than A4 can be a pain.  I find Windows to be way behind the mac in this respect, and most of the cheaper apps don’t have printer dialogue boxes that can handle this.

So third party apps would seem to be the way, but are there any?  I tried Wrapcandy Poster – it crashed repeatedly; Easy Poster Printer£2.09 from Microsoft Store but it is a weak and feeble thing which does not print to the correct size.  Gimp is supposed to be able to handle poster but it is difficult to work through, I couldn’t get a result.

Then, having wasted about 40 sheets of A4, (even printing both sides) I discovered that Acrobat Reader now has poster print ability.  Not the best print dialogue box but it worked and produced an 18 sheet print that was the correct size.  So two cheers for Adobe, who I have little time for, generally.

Affinity Designer, Photo and Publisher all lack the ability to print posters, which is a glaring omission.

Plywood Model Trawler

This model is one of four laser-cut boats which I will soon be cutting a batch of, ready to sell.  Having recently tidied up the .svg file of this boat – a trawler – using Affinity Designer I thought it would be fun to see if I could add a livery of sorts.  I have printed peel-off stickers before and used them for a helicopter, so I revised this set in Affinity Photo ready to print.

But why bother to do this then re-photograph the model when I can just add them virtually?  And as I am learning this software this is a good opportunity to try a little perspective distortion.  The livery is for my son’s lovely organic food shop, Field Fayre in Ross-on-Wye, England.  I actually prefer the models without stickers but they are a selling point, I hope.

No difficulty at all using the distortion/perspective tool in Affinity Photo, accessed through the Filters and I felt it was easier than Photoshop.  Now to check and tidy the three other boats .svg files, remove overlapping lines, unnecessary points and so on.  If you use a vector drawing app you will know what I mean.  No problems at all so far with Affinity Designer, just the usual learning curve  but on the whole I find it well structured and logical. I did struggle to change line dimensions from points to millimetres – change the Document – but that’s all.

 

 

Short term memory loss…

Spending far too much time reading the media, as I do, it is the short-term outlook that that seems the most striking feature of much of the press.  The endless and permanent demand for novelty (in order to sell stuff?) means that yesterday’s major issue is quickly relegated to the file store, until the subject breaks out again.

Equal Pay Now (apologies to the original film poster for Imitation of Life)

The issue of equal pay for women seems to be much too boring for most of the media but of course it won’t go away.  One story in the news briefly this week concerned a demo in Parliament about Waspi women but women are very seriously disadvantaged in the entire UK pension system.  Pensions are deferred wages, not some gift from the lords and masters.