Posts Tagged ‘Coraline’

Making a dancing bear’s head

20090510194436.jpg I needed to make two puppets, a “dancing bear” and a blind man, for a show that Jodi Eichelberger and I are doing at the Puppet Playlist.  To begin with, I did a drawing to get relative scale of the things I was building. I’ll usually be a lot tighter with drawings than this, but since we’re only performing this show twice, I’m working fairly loose through the whole process.

20090510200836.jpg I’m using the same paperfolding technique that I used when I made the Coraline dolls. The process involves folding the paper and taping it as I figure out the shape. You can see here that it’s too large and I don’t have the angles quite right.

20090510201245.jpg I marked the areas that I wanted to change, then cut the face apart to make a flat pattern. Each V cut out of the pattern represents a dart in the paper.  I cut the pattern in half so that when I trace it I can flip it to get a more symmetrical shape on the next round.  I saved the side that was closest to what I want the final to look like.

20090510222709.jpg My next draft is closer, but still off. Again I mark the areas I want to change.

20090510223235.jpg Cut it apart into a pattern and try again.

20090511011802.jpg The third draft is close enough that I decide to glue it together as my “final.” If I were doing this for a client, I’d probably continue tweaking it to match the drawing more closely since the drawing is what the client would be expecting. Since it’s just me, I’m calling it good enough.

20090511244628.jpg On the interior of the head, I paste paper bandages across each of the seams so that it takes on a fairly smooth exterior.

20090511011820.jpg And here’s what my bear looks like from the front. I’ll post photos of the finished critter later.

AMC – Ten Movie Moms Too Fantastic to Be True

As an antidote to the entrails post, you can swing by AMC to take a look at my column on mothers in Fantasy film.  I don’t know about you, but my mom is fantastic all on her own.

Mother’s Day is here and lest you need reminding, none of us would exist were it not for them. Fantasy has a high incidence of orphaned characters, but once in a while mothers do show up. Here are the ten best moms a fantasy girl could ask for.

via Movie Moms Too Fantastic to Be True.

Writing Retreat Day 3

I was a little distracted today but still managed to wrap up a story and edit another. At one point, to keep from checking my email every two minutes, I headed into the kitchen to start cooking and made some Deep, Dark Chocolate cookies. Gluten free, I’ll have you note.

We all trouped out to a matinee of Coraline, which was really enjoyable although there were aspects of the book that I seriously missed.

I’ve now stayed up waaaaay too late, finishing the final touches on Issue 10 of Shimmer. I’m going to print it out in the morning and barring any surprises, we’ll send it to the printer on Monday.

Meanwhile, I’ve got a story that I’d like to start tomorrow.

AMC — Talking Shop With Coraline Puppeteer Lance Woolen

For years, while I worked at Tears of Joy, and then after, Lance Woolen was my Technical Director. The man is brilliant. Even today, living in NYC, if I run into a question of how to build something, I call Lance. If he tells me something is not possible to build, then it’s not. But it’s very rare that he can’t find a way out of the impossible. This week, for my AMC column, I interviewed him about the work he did on Coraline.

This week, readers, allow me to introduce Lance Woolen, a career puppeteer and one of Coraline’s puppet builders. He’s giving us a look at the immense amount of work involved in translating Neil Gaiman’s book to the silver screen.

via Go on by and read what Lance has to say. It’s good stuff, I promise.

Coraline mask

Bill Schafer, at Subterranean Press, realized that he wanted to send out one other Coraline thank you. We couldn’t do another doll, because we had said that there would only be three of them. So I suggested a Coraline mask.

Scaling up Coraline I started by scaling up the pattern from the doll. Basically, I scanned the small pattern into the computer. Then I measured the distance from mouth to eye on my head (3 inches) and enlarged the pattern until that it matched that.

The exterior It goes together just like the little Coraline heads did. In some ways working at this scale is easier, because I don’t have to convince the paper to make tiny turns. In other ways it is harder, because I have more material flapping around as I’m working.

Destroying the book Because this is going to be a mask, the interior will be visible. I asked Bill to send me a pdf of the book so that I could print out some pages and use them to mache the interior. He sent me the book itself.

This caused the single biggest slow down on the project. I had to prep for a while before I was ready to destroy a book.

Owie! You can’t hear me whimpering, but I am.

It makes sense to use actual pages and I know that there are other copies, but oh. Oh. It goes against everything I was taught about respecting books.

Wheat based wallpaper paste Besides the paper, the other ingredient in paper-mache is wheat-based wallpaper paste. Everyone has their own recipe, but this is what works best for me.

Starting to macheThe lovely book is now so much raw material. I get a little paste on the paper, and then work it in so that it permeates all the fibers.

Smooth the paper Because her forehead has such nice big planes I’m able to lay in large pieces of paper.

The interiorI normally alternate colors of paper so I can tell how many layers I’ve done. Here, I alternated text and illustration. When I had my three structural layers in, I went back to add some purely decorative pieces, like making sure that I had a piece that said, “Neil Gaiman” in there prominently.

Warped As the mask dried, it warped. This happens sometimes if something dries unevenly or is unsupported. In this case, the damage happened because I painted it when it was still “leathery.” I didn’t think about the extra moisture I was pushing into the paper.

Back in trueFortunately, with paper-mache, one can re-dampen it and coax it back into true. Because I had painted it with watercolors, I could not dampen the outside so I brushed the interior with water. As I held it in the correct shape, Rob hit it with the hair dryer. Voila. A reformed mask.

Coraline mask and small head I used watercolors to paint the head. Here it is with the test head from the Coraline dolls.

Coraline mask, completed I had a moment of panic because the store no longer carried the paper that I’d used for the dolls’ hair. Fortunately, we found a substitute that had the right weight and color. Otherwise, I’d have been forced into taking a white sheet and tinting it. I was not excited by that.

Coraline mask, worn The mask worn. As a mask, it is very difficult to see out. For stage, I could preserve this look and give it more visibility by poking a billion pinholes around the eyes. But I suspect that the primary use of this will be to hang on the wall, so I left it alone.

Shipping Coraline

Well, my three lovely ladies are leaving home tomorrow. I’m shipping the Coraline puppets to Bill Shaffer at Subterranean Press. He in turn will send one to Neil Gaiman, one to Dave McKean and one to someone who pre-ordered the special edition of Coraline.

I wanted to make certain that I had good photos of the dolls, so I went over to Ellen Datlow’s this evening and let her do her camera magic. Behold.


Coraline built by Mary Robinette Kowal

Coraline built by Mary Robinette Kowal

Coraline built by Mary Robinette Kowal

Coraline built by Mary Robinette Kowal

Coraline's bathrobe

Coraline's hand and cuff

Coraline's slippers

Coraline: bad pattern. No biscuit.

Gah. I’ve started the build of the real Coralines and the first one I put together had that same gap under the chin. I set it aside and started another–same gap developed. So, the problem is in the pattern. I finished that one and then cut it apart to make a clean pattern. The new heads are going much smoother now.

Coraline: Correcting a pattern

I thought I wasn’t going to blog about her legs, because the process is the same as her arms. But, wouldn’t you know it, not only am I going to blog about it, but it’ll wind up spanning more than one entry.

Leg testThe process of making the patterns is the same as with the arms. But, I made a mistake with this one, so I thought I would show you how I correct the pattern. You can see how the lower piece, which is her shin, overhangs the top piece on the left side. That’s her kneecap. I wanted those two pieces to make a smooth straight line down the front of her leg.

Trimmed legSo I trimmed it with an exacto and saved the piece that I trimmed off.

Trimmed leg patternI then laid that saved piece on the original pattern, traced it and trimmed it off the pattern. Voila! The next shin I made from the corrected pattern fit perfectly.

How many Coralines?

I’ve had a couple of people ask me if I’m going to make a Coraline for myself. No. I will keep the dud head that I made, but since Subterranean asked me to make only three, I’m making only three. One for Neil Gaiman, one for Dave McKean and one for… you?

To learn more about how you could potentially own one of the three Coraline figures I’m making, swing by Subterranean Press.

The living room comes together

The living roomFinally, we got our futon. Whew. We also picked up a gorgeous bookcase from the early 1900s. The folks that sold us the futon said, “Need anything else?” And we said, “Bookcases?”

Behold, for reasons that are unclear to me, they wanted to get rid of this glassfront bookcase which had belonged to the husband’s grandparents. It’s beautiful! I am baffled but was very, very happy to buy it from them. Naturally, it was not a dimension that we had planned on having in the apartment, but so pretty that we went into make-it-fit mode. Actually, I think this will be better all around. So, what we are doing is using it as a divider in the living room and giving Rob a micro-office there.

Clearly, painting is still happening, but I hated the color I put up on the wall behind the lamp. It’s a purple that does not play well with anything else in the room. It is not at all the color that the photo makes it appear.

The apartment floorplanI am taking over the entire room that we had set aside as an office. Though my workbench was supposed to be temporary, it’s becoming pretty clear that I will always need something like it. I made this floorplan when we were moving out, to figure out what furniture would fit. It’s been very handy so far. Like when we were trying to decide if we could, in fact, make the bookcase fit. So far, we only have one piece that we don’t have a good home for. It’s a Japanese kimono rack, which is normally a lovely piece, but the right spot hasn’t presented itself yet.

I need to reorganize the office, which we are already starting to call the “workshop” but that will probably wait until Coraline is finished.