Saturday, December 17, 2016

Splatter/Spray Painting Dilemma...

Today I finished painting the loops that go on the back part of the large structure.  I like the colors in them, and by themselves, I like how they look, but I have two problems with them:  They blend into the background (that can be solved with black outlines, so not that big of a deal) and I'm not especially fond of how they look when paired with the tree tops for the jungle scene.  See below:

The tree tops are all outlined in black.  In the above picture, I was just starting that part.  

The problem is that these loopy things are in two very different scenes, and I can't paint them specifically for either of the two scenes because then they will look oddly out of place in the other scene.  

So I'm trying to decide if i should add additional "spray" paint (I diluted the regular paint about 1 part paint to 4 parts water and sprayed it on with a spray bottle), or if I should do a paint wash over what I have already (but then what about the other scene?) or should I do a paint wash AND more spray, or a light spray in two different patterns?  

Decisions, decisions...

On a more positive note, here are the completely finished Who houses (except if we put a few Who faces in some of the windows)

So, any ideas or opinions?

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Seussical Jr. Who-ville Houses

Welcome to Who-ville!  Here are the houses for the Seussical Who-ville scene.  I still have to outline all of them in dark grey.  If we're feeling really ambitious they might each get lights.  But I'm not sure how ambitious we'll be.  After outlining, the train awaits.  See it on the desk, front and center?  Holy crap.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Seussical Bathtub

Almost done - just needs a showerhead (my coworker has promised to figure that part out) and claw feet... and since this is Seussical, I was thinking the claw feet should really look like real feet with claws. I don't have the plywood on hand at home, so that's a job for next week.  Not much to tell for this prop.  I started by making a drawing:

And then we put it on the computer and shot the image onto the plywood (using an old overhead projector, I think, but I didn't do this part, so I'm not really sure), then cut it out with a jib saw, wood puttied the large knot holes and sanded it well.  Then I took it home and painted it with about 3 coats of plain white.  I redrew my lines after each coat because they would have been covered after 2 coats.   Then on the 3rd coat, I painted a thick strip of white where I wanted my darkened areas, dabbed on the purple and blue in very thin lines, and then smeared/blended the color into the white.  This worked fairly well, but you have to work FAST.  This is latex paint and it's dry in the house now that the heat is on.  

If I was doing this again, I'd redo the mouth of the bathtub to look more like the black lines in the drawing but hey, I've got loads of projects on my plate.  I'm off to work on the next one.  

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Seussian Piano

You know the scoop - we're doing Seussical Jr. this year and I need to make a bunch of Dr. Seuss Style props.  This is the piano.

I found a picture I liked on Pinterest and then I bought 4 sheet of 1/2 inch plywood and 4 8-foot 2x3s.

I had Home Depot cut the plywood exactly in half to make 2 four foot squares and then I used my BRAND NEW jig saw to cut a funky shape out of one of them.  Then I traced that shape on the other one.  Can I digress now and tell you that cutting with a jig saw is kind of like sewing with a sewing machine?  Only with wood?  It is.  Trust me. 

I had my hubby cut the 2x3's for me.  I used 12 inch spacers to separate the front of the piano from the back, and 10 inch pieces for the keyboard.  Each "foot" is 30 inches and each leg (from the keyboard down) is 28 inches.   Here are some pictures:

No one helped me put it together, so I used a chair to hold the plywood up while I drilled holes for the screws. It was a little tedious, but it worked.  

I made a curved line where I wanted to keyboard the screwed in those pieces first. 

 Then I attached the spacers 

I attached the pieces on the bottom with L brackets - really because I should have done that first, and also I didn't have screws that were long enough.

I added the cardboard keyboard, and then the cardboard sides and top.

I duct taped the keyboard down...

... and I duct taped the edges for that cartoon-like look.  More finishing touches soon - going to bed - TIRED!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Missing the Ocean

Why is it that we never seem to do the things we enjoy that are so easy to do?  We live 20 minutes from the beach.  We really need to go there more often.  

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Paper Maché Angel Wings

A few years ago, I decided I wanted to make a pair of angel wings for the wall.  I went onto Pinterest and looked for angel wings to find a pair whose shape and style I liked.  I also found a picture of wings someone made with cardboard.  They were paper machéd.  They were speaking my language!

Then one winter (2 years ago?) we bought a flat screen television, which came in a very large cardboard box.  I have a hard time throwing out large pieces of cardboard.  I decided it would provide the perfect base shapes for my angel wings.  I sketched out a shape on paper and then traced it on the box, then cut them out with a sheetrock knife.  I wanted them to be somewhat life sized.  

My flip flops are in the picture above to give you an idea of how large they are.  

After cutting them out, I dithered for a long time about how to best shape the feathers. I dawdled and dawdled.  I put the small box of cardboard feathers in the basement and forgot about it for a while.  I thought about it every time I passed it while heading for the washing machine.  I promptly forgot about the project as soon as I headed back upstairs.  I killed months this way.  

Then I just decided to get on with it.  Who knows why this happens.  I guess I just decided to stop procrastinating, or I decided that they didn't have to be PERFECT.  Perfection will kill your creativity every time. I plugged in the glue gun and got moving.  

I posted a few pictures on Instagram...

And I ran out of cardboard.  I decided to use a few priority boxes from the post office.  I wanted my cardboard pieces to be all the same thickness so they would be more uniform looking after they were paper machéd.

Before gluing on the final rows of feathers, I attached a wire through the base cardboard to make a loop across the back (see it in the above picture?) to make it every easy to hang them on the wall when complete.

I even loved how they were looking BEFORE they were paper machéd.  I had originally intended to give them to my daughter to hang in her room but when I started them, she said, "IEWWW, no, I don't think I want that in my room."  It was somewhere around this point when she realized that they might turn out ok, and she asked me what color I was going to paint them.  She said, "well, maybe I'll take them for my room..."  HAHA, yes, mom knows best doesn't she?

The paper maché stage was tedious!!  I had the make the paper relatively small, and make sure it was wedged snugly around each feather so that the shape of each feather still stood out.  My only criticism with this whole project is that I started out with one type of paper towel and I finished with a different type.  Up close, the texture of each wing is different. One type of paper towel worked much better for getting into the corners.  I wish I could remember which was which, but you'll have to decide for yourself which type you like better.  I usually use Bounty, but in this case, I think it was the cheaper, thinner less textured brand that worked better. 

One wing almost done...

And above, two wings done.  See the difference in the relief of the feathers? for the one on the left, I wet the paper mache again and pressed it down in the spots where it was too flat.  It worked a bit, but not as well as those other paper towels.  

In the picture above, the wings have been coated front and back with a coat of white acrylic paint.  I didn't want them to be able to absorb too much gold paint when I painted it on in the cracks and crevices, and I thought this would help. I outlined each feather and then gave both wings two coats of  Mod Podge. 

Finally ready to hang!  As you can see by my 4 foot ruler, they're pretty large.  Now I have to find a place for them, since they really should hang together, and my daughter hung up something else in the spot she had for them.  I'll find somewhere.  I love them!  

What do you think?

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Seussian Grass

My next prop for Seussical Jr. is a little patch of Seussian grass.  Horton is supposed to sit in the grass and look for the speck of dust that holds the tiny town of Whoville. I thought a circle of grass would be good.  He can sit in the middle and ponder the flowers.

I had my husband cut a few 2x4s into 5 of these shapes.

Then I drilled some holes the ends and attached them together with hinges.  I also put wheels on the bottom of each piece.  I only bought 5 wheels (because I was cheeping out) but it's too wobbly.  I need at least 5 more - really I could use 10 more, but the wheels are about 2.50 each and I don't want to spend 25.00 on wheels.  

Each side of each 2x4 you see above gets a piece of cardboard "grass" attached.  I cut a low piece for the front side of each board, and a tall side for the back of each board.  I may label them, too, so the stage crew is sure to face the correct side to the audience.  I'm going to attach them to the boards after I bring the whole thing to school since I can picture it really flapping around in the bed of the pickup truck.  I'll post another shot when it's all attached and I've added the flowers.

Goodnight, everyone - till next time!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Seussical Jr. - Main Stage Piece

There are loads of props in seussical Jr., but I think I have finally nailed down a plan for our largest set piece.  I was looking for something that would add height to the stage and incorporate those crazy, Seussian curves. 

It starts with this basic structure:

It's a row of 5 cubes (if you count the stairs on each side as a cubes). The center 3 pieces are open front and back and they are actually 6 pieces rather than 3. Each is only 2 feet deep; the one behind is another 2 feet deep, creating a total of 4 feet in depth. With minimal disassembly, this allows for easier transport and storage in the basement, which would be next to impossible with a 4 foot cube.

Now that I'm thinking about it, we might have to split the stair unit on each side into two pieces as well. Those would be split on the horizontal - bottom two stairs, one piece, top two stairs another.  When the structural pieces are complete, they'll be lined up and attached together for stability.  A series of tall, round, loopy designs will attach to the back to form a sort of back railing, and another group of shorter looped designs will attach to the front to form a railing on the front side as well.

So now I have to figure out how much lumber we're going to need.  I can't find my worksheet at the moment, but it looks like each of the 6 cubes in the middle will require 1 sheet of plywood and about 42 feet of 2x4s, or some other combination of 2x4-like lumber.  Math time!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Pillberry Bush - pretty much done!

Here is the pillberry bush with its spray painted trunk. I sprayed it with Rustoleum Ultra Cover - says it also bonds to plastic.  I'm not a fan of spray paint, but the paint from the can doesn't seen to stick well to the spray foam.  I'm now going to transport it to school and there I'll glue on the fabric "soil" (my friend who does the costumes has some appropriate fabric in her fabric stash) and maybe some felt on the bottom of the pot for easy sliding. On to the next project!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Seussical Pill berry Bush - Making Progress!

When we last left our developing Pill Berry Bush, I had just assembled the basic structure and the next step was covering it with the necessary items to make it look like a fleshed out topiary tree.

As I showed in one of the pictures from the last post, I coated 4 long strips of cardboard with Great Stuff to cover the stem.  I stapled these to the trunk with a staple gun, and I covered the ball at the top with with solid green fabric.  I attached the fabric with safety pins and then I sewed it on with an upholstery needle...

I bought WAY too much fabric - I think I bought 8 yards of solid green and 10 yards of tulle.  What was I thinking?  I'm sure we'll be able to use this for something in the future, though, so it won't go to waste.  I only needed about 3 yards of each, maybe less.

After I sewed on solid fabric, I covered it with a fluffy layer of the tulle.  This took a long time, and I hate hand sewing, so I kept putting it off.  Also, I kept wasting lots of time on and that didn't help either. 

 If you are able to find flat black safety pins, you could maybe attach the fabric that way instead.  I was afraid that safety pins would be visible since they would reflect the light.  Just a thought.  

So as you can see, I still had empty strips down the trunk/stem of the tree, so it was back out to Home Depot to buy another can of Great Stuff.  You might be able to see that the Great Stuff I used for the lumpy "soil" shrunk a LOT after it dried.  I could have sprayed more in there when I finished the trunk but I thought there was a possibility that it would shrink again, so I didn't bother - it's going to get covered with fabric anyway.  

I sprayed the last can of Great Stuff into the empty spots on the trunk.  

I also bought a bunch of packages of ping pong balls from the local Dollar Tree and painted them with bright nail polish so they'd look like berries, then glued them on with the glue gun.  

Keep in mind, glue guns are usually pretty hot, and the glue will run down the sides of the ball towards your fingers.  You might want to hold the ping pong balls with some tongs.  I learned the hard way.

Next, I spray paint the trunk and cover the soil and then I'm DONE!!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Hidden in the Past - Ancestry Search

You'd have to be living under a rock to have missed all the advertisements out there lately on social media as well as television... "I used to think I was German, but then I found out I was actually Scottish... I turned in my lederhosen for a kilt."  After a while, you start to really believe that you'll sign up and those magical little Ancestry leaves will drop onto your computer screen, paving a way into your heritage like Hansel and Gretel's breadcrumbs, only they won't be devoured by birds.  I would finally be able to find out if there was an Italian Renaissance painter in my past...  I could find out if my mom's side of the family was really Pennsylvania Dutch.  I could even add in some info for my husband's side of the family so my kids would know their heritage from that side as well.  I knew it was only a matter of time before I gave in my curiousity. 

What helped this summer is that it's been hotter than hell on Long Island.  What a great time to sit, slug-like, in front of the computer and find out about my family's past?  I finally decided to give it a go.  

I signed up for my two week free trial.  I plugged in some information, and immediately got a few leaves - WOW, addicting!  So what if it was listings of my parents' address from about 20-30 years ago - with weird spellings and incorrect phone number digits - I was ONTO SOMETHING!!

I filled in everything I knew, creating a sparse tree, but a tree nevertheless. I called my parents multiple times.  I filled in information I had found on the Ellis Island website about 10 years ago.  I found out the original spellings of my grandparents' names.  I filled in my grandfather's sisters' names that I vaguely remembered (mostly because they were names that were always in the examples we used in Italian class... Pia, Estella, Maria, Josepina, Francesca) - women who, supposedly, had never come over from Italy.  If they had lived to adulthood, they most likely had entirely different names that were unknown to me.  But I found nothing on them.  NOTHING!  If I could remember their birth order, I might be able to guess the dates they were born, but I couldn't find the piece of paper that info was written on.  My parents remembered that two of them were twins, but which two??  I checked daily for leaves.  I went to sleep with weird pictures and names swirling around in my head. I woke up thinking, "let me just see if I got another leaf today..."  Nothing. 

My dad's grandmother traveled here with her 4 children in 1907.  The children were very young, and her husband was not there with her - he was already here, I guess setting up a job for himself so that his family would be take care of when he got here.  I looked at the Ellis Island record.  They came from a town called "Piano di Sorrento."  I couldn't find the passenger list listing my great grandmother, but when I was able to see a PDF file of the ACTUAL list of passengers who arrived. ON that page, she was listed.  Mariangela Iaccarino. Ah, there was another woman from Piano di Sorrento listed... Angela Iaccarino.  Her sister, maybe?  Hum.  My dad hadn't mentioned her. 

I checked the 1915 New York Census.  Living in the household, was a woman named "Angiline Eacgrina."  

"Dad, who do you think this person is?" I asked him. 

"I have no idea.  Melinda, It's lost to history" Come on, Dad, give me a break with that "it's lost to history" excuse.

I pictured an American worker, going from house to house with a clipboard, doing a census in 1915.  I pictured a woman answering the door, and trying to answer the questions she was asked in her broken English.  I said the words "Angiline Eacgrina" as if I had a thick Italian accent. Ah, the same woman from the boat, Angelina Iaccarino, whose name has been written down by a census taker who doesn't know a word of Italian, and probably can't spell very well either.

Then on the 1920 survey, Angelina Iaccarino is gone. By the way, the names of my grandmother and great aunts and uncle were spelled differently every time I ran across them.  My grandmother went from Ersilia at 4 years old to Elsey at 11, and then Elsie at 16. Uncle Pat went from Pasquale on the passenger list in 1907, to Patry at 13, to Patsy at 18 and then to Pasquale at 27.  If you think this doesn't make difference in your searching, think again!  

I found Angelina Iaccarino when I decided that she must have gotten married between the 1915 census and the 1920.  I searched "marriages" in New York City in that time frame and I came up with what seemed to be a good match.  A woman named Angelina Iaccarino married a man named Nicolo Ceglio on May 12, 1917.  Then that couple showed up on the 1920 census, but I had dismissed this record before because this Angelina was too young.  Upon my second viewing, this time of the PDF file itself and not just the ancestry citation, I saw that the husband's occupation was "Pianos" (whatever that means).  I remembered that my great grandfather's job on the first census I had found for him was also listed as "pianos."  He later went on to own a butcher store. Could this couple have met through my great grandfather, her brother-in-law? Could she have lied about her age to be more appealing to a prospective suitor? I noticed that on on the 1930 census, this same Angelina and Nicolo couple had suddenly aged differently - now instead of on year younger than him, she was 3 years older. 

I mentioned this information to my dad.  Oh yeah, Iaccarino, yeah, I think that's my grandmother's maiden name.  Yeah, I think she had a sister here, but we called her Stazie, but Stazie just means "aunt" in Italian.  (It does?) My dad remembered her always dressed in black, with a big gold cross on her neck. He said her husband died first, but now I was starting to believe that his memory was faulty on those long gone details.  My dad is still sharp as a tack, but I could picture him as a child not really paying much attention to this stuff.  By the 1940 census, Nicolo was a widower. What happened to Angelina?   That night I dreamed of Ceglios, passenger ships, small Italian towns and another unknown relative of my grandfather's named Livarata (or was it Liberata? Or Liberato? ah, the joys of early 20th century spelling!

I don't know how anyone finds any records from another country, but I haven't given up hope quite yet.  I have a 2000 page PDF file of handwritten birth records from Abruzzo that I have to search through - written in Italian in handwriting that has lots of loops and flourishes.  

So, if I haven't finished my Seussical pill berry bush quite yet, at least you know why. 

And if anyone has some searching hints to share, I'd really appreciate them!! 


Saturday, August 6, 2016

Seussical - Pillberry Bush Project

I've signed up to work on this coming school year's middle school play and I'm excited!  The play is Seussical Jr. and there are a lot of large props.  I figured I'd get a head start with some of the props during the summer and get things rolling.  The first prop I'm making is the Pillberry bush, which is most often pictured as a topiary tree in a pot with large red berries on it.

Here are the supplies I gathered to create this prop:

1 large plastic flower pot (approx. 24" in diameter) purchased from Lowes for about 14.99
2 cans of Great Stuff spray foam insulation - about 3.99 each
5 yards of green cotton fabric and about 8 yards of green tulle - about 35.00 from Joann's
4 packages of ping pong balls from Dollar Tree - 4.00

Things I had at home, or we had leftover at school:
a thin, flat plank I removed from a pallet
Wood screws
2 old bricks
4 long, narrow pieces of cardboard (to cover the topiary's trunk)
a piece of wire fencing, and a similar sized piece of deer netting
a 5 foot long 1x2 (at least, i think it's a 1x2)
a large ball of wire - a leftover planet from the the Interplant Janet scene in Schoolhouse Rock (see posts from 2012)

This was my plan of attack:
I made a template for two different sized tapered pieces I would screw into the 1x2 so that it would stand upright inside the flower pot.  I used the pallet wood for this, and my husband was nice enough to cut it to size for me.  I then arranged the pieces in the pot, held them together with my hand, removed them from the pot and screwed them together.

Then I did the same thing with the second, large set of pieces, attaching them perpendicular to the first set so that the 1x2 wouldn't wobble from side to side.  For good measure, I used a level to make sure the 1x2 wasn't tilted.  Good thinking, eh?

I plopped the bricks in the bottom of the pot to weight it down so it won't tip over when completed.  

Next I attached my wire ball into the 1x2.  It already had a hole in on end, so I slid it right into place and hammered a few staple nails in the top to hold it in place. Yeah, I wasn't very good at that part...

I secured the bottom with 2 zip ties.

For the "soil" around the tree, I cut the wire fencing in a circle shape, trimming and squishing the wire so it fit in the pot to sit on top of the upper pieces of wood.  I added the deer netting on top of that, so when I sprayed it with the insulation, it wouldn't fall through the large holes. 

I wanted to use as little Great Stuff as possible since you CAN'T save half a can of that stuff - the nozzle gets gummed up so you MUST use it all at once.  I wanted to cover the trunk of my tree in great stuff, so I cut 4 pieces of cardboard the right sizes and prepped them for a coating of Great Stuff. 

I covered my work area in plastic and got some disposable gloves, then I sprayed the inside of the flower pot so that the bricks don't move, then the 4 pieces of cardboard for the trunk of the topiary, then the top wire/netting layer to make the soil.

Here is the result:

Next post:  putting on the finishing touches - fabric, "berries" and "soil."