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.

 

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.

Athena’ Shield

I have been working on this collagraph print for the past week or two, learning the process as much as anything.  CATO Press in east Bristol can handle quite large print plates, this one is about 55cm in diameter and is available to buy.

Athena’s Shield
Collagraph print, 1/25, 54 x 54 cm, 2019

I think the real thing looks a bit better than this photo. Now working on another two or three collagraphs but not so big – the cost of paper can be prohibitive. This one is printed on ‘bread and butter’ paper (250 gsm) which is probably not really heavy enough for collagraph.  I had some waste having printed with the paper too damp and had peeling as a result.

We had a community print evening recently, lots of people lino-cutting, very jolly.  These are regular events at CATO Press, check us out and drop by if you are in the area, all welcome.

 

Collagraph

Ready to print my first large collagraph at Cato Press, if my paper ever arrives from Lawrence Art Supplies (Brighton).  Not their fault, just the delivery firm.  The only place to buy a good range of print paper in Bristol is Bower Ashton art college (University of the West of England) but they are shut for the summer.  I need a wider than average sheet for this relief print.

Athena’s Shield proof

Since making this proof I have altered the image quite a bit but  hopefully this will be the final effort.  Time to start work on the next one.  I feel at home with collagraph and I can work on the image without special equipment – just glue, knives, card and other thin material – in my studio at home.

Having spent a lot of time recently on my plywood toys and models – now on sale at Basically Wooden – I hope to give more attention to print making.

Collagraph

Having joined Cato Press, Bristol in April I have begun experimenting collagraph printmaking, both intaglio and relief.  I began with an ambitious piece, a 50cm circle with a variety of shaped and textures, and a number of smaller studies for this piece.

I wanted use text but cutting this by hand is tedious so I used my Cameo vinyl cutter, cutting card and vinyl.

Using a vinyl cutter for vinyl is quite simple (as the name suggests) but for paper and card requires more trial and error.

Collagraph study detail

Card can vary in density quite a lot, some paper is hard on the cutter blade due to the high chalk content.  The prints here (not great pics) are quite pale but that suits the subject.

Collagraph study, A4

There is no text on this study, just hand-cut shapes.   Something to aspire to, here is a rather more advance image by Suzie MacKenzie.