Assorted props and costume elements

Here are a few photos of costume elements and props I’ve made for The Fool Factory over the last couple of years.

A new cover for the Giant Cherry! I love this photo because it looks completely photoshopped and surreal but isn’t. Finding the right fabric and colour is always challenging…

A giant Allen key in progress. This was for a prop for a gig at the opening of the Canberra IKEA store.

A hat and epaulettes for a Christmas Toy Soldier character.

New decorative leaf collar for the Sunflower Character.

A new body suit and colours for the Black Butterfly character. This is the front and head.

And this shows a side and back view.

And a big ruff for a scary Jack in the Box character for Halloween.

Grey felt


I couldn’t find any fur fabric that was right, so opted for felt for covering the kangaroo mask. I was actually happy about that, (although it still leaves the question of what fabric to use for a tail), because I loved the masks using this technique that I made some years ago. I built a section into the inside of the mask that will fit the wearer’s face comfortably and firmly. There’s still quite a bit of detailing to be done on the ears, eyes and mouth.

While the mask was drying I went back to  making an emu egg for the same show, Biami. I’d already made a polystyrene form for it, but had set it aside while I considered how to make it light up inside. Today I finally covered the egg in Plastimake. I’ll have some photos of the egg later as it progresses.

The Rock House


This is the little ‘rock’ house I made for the play I blogged about last week, Joy McDonald’s The (Very) Sad Fish Lady. It is made from sheet polypropylene cut to suggest rocks , and was covered with gauze, so that it could appear solid when lit from outside, but could also show action inside when lit internally.


Here are a few making photos.




Flotsam and Jetsam

lighthouse island set

Earlier this year I made the set and props for Flotsam and Jetsam, a production for children which tells stories about living on Australian lighthouse islands in the past. The script was written by Greg Lissaman, from recollections gathered by Chrissie Shaw, the actor. Catherine Roach is the director.

The set is an island, panels painted in a pointalist style, which can concertina into different shapes and be dismantle for touring. The lighthouse is modelled on the historic lighthouse at Cape Otway in Victoria, and Tasman Island in Tasmania was among other sources of stories and images, such as the flying fox access to the island. There were numerous props – seaweed, wooden chests, a porcelain doll, an albatross, and a sea buoy. There are more photos of these in my  Flotsam and Jetsam photoset.

Touring dates and booking details for Flotsam and Jetsam are listed at Chrissie’s site. On 19 – 21 August it has a short season at the Maritime Museum in Sydney, and then it will tour coastal community venues in NSW. Chrissie also performs The Keeper, an adult play also based on lighthouse stories.


flying fox
seagull skeleton
porcelain doll

Kevin Rudd glasses

Kevin Rudd glasses

Eight pairs of sparkly Elton-John-sized Kevin Rudd glasses made for Shortis and Simpson’s lastest political satire, Three Nights at the Bleeding Heart, currently at the Street Theatre.

A little heffalump


I’m starting to get fond of the little elephant that I have been making over the last few days. That’s always a good sign.


He can do tricks! And now has cool trunk to look down modestly while trying to pretend he isn’t a Brave and Clever Elephant.


I have to set him aside to finish in March now, as I have to move on a couple of other projects that are vying for my time.

All the wild little horses

Horse sculptures

I loved making these two little horses recently for an up-coming theatre production, Emma’s Dynasty, by Jigsaw Theatre Company. They are based on an earthenware Chinese Han Dynasty horse that is here in the Australian National Gallery collection, but they are tiny in comparison, only 17 cm high at the head. I really like how stocky and wild the horse is, and how he looks like he has come to a screaming halt.


A while ago Andrew at PuppetVision linked to a super sculpey sculpting tutorial by Peter Konig, and it was really useful to me while I was doing the horses – thanks to you both! The tutorial is much more detailed than what I am going to write here – no sense repeating – and I can really recommend it.

The first steps were to make an armature using armature wire. In this case the strength the armature gives the legs and tail is particularly important. From the nose to the tail is one wire, and then the legs are separate wires, wired on with fine wire (Peter has close-ups on how to attach them), and set in place with Knead-It, a Selley’s two-part epoxy. You knead the parts together, and it sets as hard as a rock in five minutes – invaluable stuff!

Horse sculpture

I also used wire and Knead-It to attach the armature to a firm stand. I struggle with being too impatient at the beginning of a project to go to the trouble of making a firm base like this, and I often regret it – and know I’m going to regret it, what’s more! However, I’m getting wiser about this, and decided to follow Peter’s advice, even though the horse was small.

Horse sculpture

Another tip that I appreciated was to make a cardboard cutout of the silhouette of the horse to use as a reference while sculpting. I usually sculpt by eye, but this allows you to check how you are going.

Horse sculpture

I padded out some of the bulkier parts of the body with aluminium foil, as a way of saving how much super sculpey I needed to use later. Wire is wound around the armature wires to give something for the modeling clay to grip onto.

Horse sculpture

Now the best bit, the modeling! I’ve only recently started using Super Sculpey, and its a real pleasure to work with, because it remains soft for a long time and takes detail so well. Peter says to check it’s soft when you buy it, in case its been on the shelf a long time, and to keep it in a zip lock plastic bag.

Horse sculpture

So she kneaded it and punched it and pounded and pulled till it looked okay… You can use mineral turpentine to gently bush the surface detail to smooth it, and almost model the tiny detail with the brush.

Horse sculpture

Into the oven to bake. I had trouble fitting it in my oven still attached to the stand, and ended up putting it in on its side. I thought trying to cut off the support before the horse was baked might risk the horse getting squashed. Maybe next time I should make it so it unscrews instead.

Horse sculpture

Sawing the support bolt off was a little tricky, but manageable. There were a few small cracks, but I gather this is quite common, and took Peter’s advice to fill them with sculpey and blast it for a few seconds with a heat gun, only in my case it was with a hair dryer. Instant glue is effective for mending breaks. Then, on to the second horse.

Horse sculpture

Super sculpey takes acrylic paint very well, and I used a dappled mix of greys and terracottas to get the final finish.

Horse sculptures

There are more photos here. I guess I got a bit carried away, but sometimes that just happens.

Horse sculptures

Flying ducks again


The ducks have progressed to the painting stage, and I should finish them today. When the paper mache dried fully, it somehow warped the necks and top wings slightly, so that the ducks didn’t sit flat against the wall, so I had to do a bit of surgery, making a cut in each tension point, and filling it to push the part back. I also spent quite a lot of time smoothing the surface and sanding and filing the feather shapes, as the paper mache doesn’t allow fine shaping, and dries just a little bumpy. It’s also proving tricky to get the glazed translucent look that the ceramic ducks have. I am putting a lot of hope in the final varnish!


This is how they turned out. They are for “1 in A 100”, a play about mental illness (synopsis here) written by Mary Rachel Brown, directed by Carol Woodrow, design by Imogen Keen, at Canberra’s Street Theatre in May 2007.


Flying ducks

I’m working on several projects at once at the moment. One is making a set of those flying ducks that people had as wall ornaments when I was growing up. I’ve been lent a couple to model from, and looking at them up close I can understand their attraction, despite their kitsch reputation. Since the ones I am making are theatre props they only have to look like the real thing. Inside, they have an mdf structure, and I have bulked them out with polystyrene. I like carving styrene, except for the mess.

Flying ducks

The next part of the process is covering the shapes with a commercial paper mache pulp. It starts as a dry mix, and when you add it to water it turns into a thick paste, which can be smoothed on and sticks to most surfaces. Here I’m half way through adding the paper mache to the big duck:

Flying ducks

The pulp takes a couple of days to dry, but I’m always impatient with things like this, and I have been hurrying it along by putting the ducks in the sun,

Flying ducks

and the oven:

Ducks in the oven

I’ll have to add more detail to the shapes, like the eyes, tails and feather patterns, and then its a matter of getting the surface smooth and painting it to look like china.

We have four beautiful white pet Indian Runner ducks, and it was funny to see them charging across the back garden in a line just as I was photograhing these in the kitchen.