June 30, 2011

Costume Portraits

More production photos from Four Acts / One Night can be found at:


Costume portraits of each character are at:


A few stories, and examples of the teamwork involved to put on a show:

This dress came to us with a broken zipper in front and too-short sleeves.  Annie restructured the whole thing:  She turned it around so the new zipper was in back, put darts above the waist to fit the actress and make the look less frumpy, and opened the neckline a bit.  She added lower sleeves, yoke, and sash, made from some curtain fabric bought resale, and also added the lace bib front, made from half a dresser scarf, plus some trim and buttons.  A masterwork, and looks so pretty now.

This jacket had (as Patty's research showed) Viet Nam War arm patches and stripes.  We took those off, and added (a splurge, but nothing else looked right) real military gold braid that Mina found at an army-navy store.  It's priced by the foot, folks!  Use sparingly....  The jacket was missing a couple of buttons, the whole set was replaced with buttons I bought for $2.00 a scoop at the fabric store.  I made the medal and bars, totally inauthentic, but giving the right impression.  We bought the pants resale, since we didn't have any black pants in the right size.  They are tux pants, and the waist sliders were broken, so they had to be stitched into place to stay on him.  

The medal was a doo-dad I picked up at a garage sale a year or so ago.  The bars are ribbon wrapped on cardboard.  I went with just blue and white ribbons, no red, yellow, green, etc., which in the real world are often used as well, because of the decision to keep the colors in this play very neutral, echoing the black and white movie look. 

The sleeves of this jacket were way too short for the actress.  Mina's first idea was to let them down all the way, no hem even, and cover the edge with a black braid.  She decided it would look better with braid around the collar as well, so she added that.  The sleeves were still too short.  The blouse we'd chosen is short sleeved.  So Mina came up with the idea to add false cuffs to the jacket lining, so they would look like the blouse sleeves sticking out.  She found a good match of fabric.  I went to the fabric store for more lace - I'd just added lace to the blouse collar and short sleeves for our previous show.  Happily, the store still had more of the same lace!  That's one of my favorite parts of costuming, all the tricks we get to play.  

And beyond all the fun stuff, there is always lots of plain old alterations and repairs, so important and never noticed by the audience.  I've decided that lots of the time, the better the costuming design and execution, the less it is noticed!  

June 26, 2011

The Aloe Plant

Here's the story of the bloom on my aloe plant:

May 9

May 20

May 28

June 15

today, June 26

June 25, 2011

Animals of the Fen

As promised, here come the animals to populate the fen quilt.  

My friend, as I said earlier, specified particular species of each animal.  It wasn't hard to find photos of each via google.  I also found info on each animal's size, so I could reproduce them somewhat in scale.  

I put each photo into Illustrator (I imagine any program would work somewhat the same, but I'm nowheres near a computer expert).  I drew a box the size I wanted the animal to be, and scaled the photo accordingly.  Then I printed them out, traced each onto paper, pinned them on the quilt, and checked it out with my friend.  I posted a photo of the quilt with paper animals in place in a previous post.

When the sizing was all set, I used the tracings as patterns to cut the fabrics for the basis of each animal.  Again, the fabrics were all stabilized with iron-on interfacing before I cut.  I stitched the animals in place, using a zig-zag with invisible thread.

Then I made another tracing, this time with details also.  I basted these over the plain bodies, and embroidered through the paper, using the photos as guides for color.  It works best using a stab stitch, so the needle goes exactly where I want it to go.  I used a quilters pin to finish tearing the paper along the perforations made by the stitching, so I could remove the paper.  Sometimes, that meant scooping under the threads where there was a solid area of color.  I had to be gentle so as not to disturb the stitches too much.  

Here are the critters:

The Bog Buckmoth (3/4")

Dragonfly (1")

Green Frog (1 3/4")

Eastern Painted Turtle (3 3/4")

 White-tailed Deer (1 3/4" tall)

(The deer was appliquéd with a straight stitch.  The zig-zag looked horrible on the ultra suede, and wasn't really necessary for fray control anyway.)

Harrier or Marsh Hawk ( 1 1/2")


 (I pulled the grey cross threads out of the back wing to lighten it up.  Well, it happened once by mistake, and I liked it, so I pulled out some more....)

 I also added detail to the kayak.

And the overall effect so far:

June 20, 2011

Quilting in the Fen

My current art quilt project is a major one.  I've been working on this quilt for longer than I'd like to admit.  So this rather lengthy, photo-filled post will serve to bring you up to date with an overview of the steps I've taken so far.  This is a very condensed version of the process.  There were many detailed decision points and adjustments along the way, of course.

A friend of mine from college days, who is a zoologist, asked me to create a quilt depicting the fen in upstate New York where she does her fieldwork.  She sent me many photos that she has taken there.  Here's the overview shot that became the basis for the quilt.  In it, you will see three bog buckmoths, one of the creatures she studies there.

Here is a close-up of one of the little critters.  They are very lovely.

I started envisioning this quilt by cutting and pasting bits from various photos to create an overall layout for the quilt. All along, my friend and I communicated about both the overall concept, and about the details she wanted to be sure I would include.

Since I'm making this for someone who knows this place and its inhabitants in great detail, the challenge is to make the quilt as close as possible to botanical and zoological realism.  I started, of course, by collecting fabrics!  I decided to use as a base those prints designed specifically for making landscape quilts.  This would give me lots of texture and detailing without gobs of niggly appliqué or embroidery.  I had a few on hand, and then scoured the internet for others that seemed to have the right colors and flora.

I added in some solid greens for the water lilies, a grey organza for highlights on the water, and, at my friend's request, a lovely turquoise silk charmeuse for the kayak in which she explores the area.

I started with the tree line in the distance, using one base fabric and then trunks and multi-colored leafy bits cut from two other fabrics.  I put iron-on interfacing on all the fabrics before cutting.

Here is the final plan for the trees.  I only put detail-y bits on the left-hand, closer trees, and added a darker shadow at the base of the right-hand distant trees.  The other fabrics are folded and pinned in approximate positions, just to see how they'll go....

……and then the beginnings of detailed cutting and pinning into place.  I am appliquéing some strips of the golden grass fabric to itself to try to mask the repeat of the print a bit.  The width of the quilt is constrained by the width of the fabric.  I just couldn't figure a way to piece in more width without doing something that would spoil the flat expanse effect.

In this next step, I removed some of the green bits from the grassy background.  They pleased my eye alright, but on studying the photos again, I realized it was more realistic to keep that section much simpler.

My friend sent me the names of specific species of critters to add to the quilt.  I found photos of them via the internet (wherever would we be without the internet - well, at the library, I guess, actually).  To get them all in scale, I adjusted the sizes in Illustrator, printed them out, and made copies with tracing paper so I could see them clearly, and pinned them on.  And here they are.  (There's excess fabric at the bottom still.  The quilt will end at the bottom of the triangle/kayak.)

Then I took the bold, for me anyway, step of actually starting to stitch things down.  It's all zig-zag stitched with invisible thread.  Yes, the green leaves are made with two fabrics, a lighter one peeking out over a darker one.  It kind of gives the impression of light tipping the leaves, and also makes the transition from the yellow grasses just a bit more gradual.

Then I went on with adding detailing at the water's edge.  Ferns, cattails, red leaves, and the prow of the kayak.

Next, water lilies and highlights on the mucky water…..

……cute little red berries……

….and the kayak and some more varieties of grassy plants.  There also are some branches floating along, one of which will eventually have the turtle sitting on it.

Next step: the animals.  You'll meet them in the next post.

June 12, 2011

In The Theater

Our lovely show, Four Acts / One Night, has opened and closed.  Here are a few backstage highlights.

Here are our dressing rooms, at a pretty well organized moment.

Here is the room again, full of actors and crew.

And here's a photo from each of the one act plays.

Set around the year the play was written, 1916.  The overall look we chose was drab and dark and plain, the theme being sadness and murder.  (Pity our poor actors, dressed for a 0 degree New England winter, under the stage lights, on a bizarre 99 degree June day.)

Here are the actresses looking at my quilt blocks.

"The Happy Journey to Trenton and Camden"
Set in the 1930s, about a family on a road trip to visit their elder, married daughter.  We chose, a homey, bright, multi-colored look.

"Sorry, Wrong Number"
Another murder story, this one was written as a radio suspense drama in the 1940s.  It was staged, not as the story itself, but as actors in a radio studio.  No character costumes, as such, just regular old 1940s people and one diva.

And here is the complete diva outfit with those blue shoes.

"Hands Across the Sea"
A comedy about British upper crust folks being frivolous.  This had to be glamorous of course.  We chose to keep to a neutral color scheme to give the sense of a 1940s black and white movie.

More photos from the shows are at http://thinicetheater.com/?page_id=231.