Monday, November 17, 2014

Our Lady of Kibeho at Signature Theater

It's been a while since my last post, but that doesn't mean I haven't been busy.

The past few months I have been the makeup department head on a new television series, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. We have some really fun makeup effects that I am looking forward to sharing with you as soon as the episodes air early next year.

In the meantime, I have also taken on some additional freelance projects. The folks over at The Queen Of The Night reordered hands for their lead performer's costume. The previous post is about my process creating the hands. I was also lucky enough to find a much better image showcasing this amazing costume with my life casts attached.

Signature Theaters new play, Our Lady of Kibeho is filled with special effects. The play is about a Rwandan village school girl who has visions of the Virgin Mary. Her schoolmates don't believe her until impossible things start to happen.

Greg Meeh of Jauchem & Meeh Special Effects was the special effects designer for the shows many practical effects. One effect however required a prosthetic in order for it to work.

The actor Nneka Okafor must put her hand over a burning candle. The candle, both for the story line and practically cannot burn her. The candle of course is a real candle, lit on stage with real fire. The audience sees a lot of smoke, and at the end of the effect, Nneka is fine.

Greg and I worked together to achieve this effect.  It needed two things, one to protect the actors hand from the heat and secondly, place to attach the smoking element. The glove was to be fingerless so it could come on and off easily during quick changes.

It was decided that I would make a silicone glove to look like the actors hand and imbed a small magnet into the palm side so that smoking element could be attached.

I went to Signature Theater to do a life cast of Nneka's hand. I cast the life cast in urethane and cut the fingers off at the middle knuckle. Because the glove is fingerless, I didn't need the fingers of the life cast getting in the way of my mold. It left me enough to help with registration, but not enough to make the mold more complicated. (It also made the sculpting much easier too!)

The sculpture had to look like her hand. I kept the top side of the sculpture fairly thin, and added some extra clay palm side to thicken the sculpture for added protection from the heat of the candle. I used Chavant clay in medium for the sculpt.

Once the sculpt was finished, I laid a clay wall around the hand. I used Chavant Le Beau Touché, a much softer clay to do this. Then, I started to brush on epoxy resin for the first half of the mold.  I used Smooth-Ons Shell Shock fast set. After two layers of resin I added chopped fiberglass to my Shell Shock and brushed a few layers on, finishing with a last layer of just resin for a smooth finish.

After the first side set, I cleaned my clay wall off and touched up my sculpt where needed. In order to make sure each side separated, I used Smooth-Ons Sonite Wax as a mold release for the resin.  I did the same layers of resin and fiberglass to the other side. The only difference is that I tinted this resin with Tints-All pigment.  This helps to see each mold half when separating each side.

When both sides were completely cured, I trimmed the edges of the mold off on the band saw. The mold was then opened up and the clay cleaned out.

I cast the hand in two parts, for two reasons. One, Nneka's skin tone is very light palm side and much darker on the top side. I also needed to place the magnet in the correct spot. Smooth-On Dragon Skin 10 was tinted and mixed to the lighter skin tone. A few layers were added and the magnet was placed in the right spot. Before this silicone was totally cured, the darker skin tone was mixed and poured into the palm side on top of the light colored silicone and into the top side of the mold.  The life cast of the hand was then pushed into the palm side of the mold, then, quickly and carefully the silicone filled top side of the mold was flipped onto the life cast as well.

Once the sides were snapped together, mold straps were added and the silicone was left to cure.

An hour and a half later the mold was opened up. The flashing was trimmed and the silicone cleaned with alcohol.

Keeping the prosthetic on the life cast, the hand was seamed and painted.  Now it was ready for Nneka to try on.

I met Greg at the theater where we were able to try the prosthetic on and test the smoking effect. Everything worked perfectly. We took some video of the test, which you can see below.

Our Lady of Kibeho runs until December 7th. You can read more about the show at

Monday, March 17, 2014

Queen Of The Night

I recently had the pleasure of working with Daniel Roseberry, a designer for Thom Browne. Daniel was asked to design a dress for the Marchesa, the ring leader if you will, for the new vaudeville show, "Queen of the Night" at the Paramount Hotel in New York City.


Daniels original sketch for the dress.

The gown is quite ornate with a headdress and masks to complete the costume. The dress was to include a few life size hands sprouting from around the body hugging the curves of its wearer.

I enlisted a willing model, and Daniel as well, to life cast. With Daniels direction, we made sure the hand was always in the correct position for where it was to be placed on the dress.

Getting ready for the life casts. Smooth-on Body Double and plaster bandages ready to go.

Yon, our model keeping his hand very still.

Since the hand had to have enough detail, and be light in weight I used a combination of urethane and foam to cast the hands. Smooth-ons Task urethane seemed like the best option for the hands. It's durable, slightly flexible and easily tintable. I used a powdered gold pigment to tint the urethane then poured it directly into the life cast. Then, i made sure to coat the entire inside of the mold by rotating the life cast, then letting the material settle into the fingers. I did this a few times to build up a skin of urethane before pouring in the foam.  I used smooth-ons Flex foam V to fill the rest of the mold up.  This gave me a durable and light hand that could be attached to the dress.

The life casts ready for casting.

After a few coats of urethane, the life casts were filled with two part expanding foam.

Casting all the hands at once!

One of the first test hands, cast entirely in urethane.

More test hands. A urethane hand and a soft foam hand.

The folks over at Eric Winterling, one of New Yorks largest costume houses, built the gown and attached the hands. Prior to attaching the hands, they were gold leafed.

The finished cast hands.

I have yet to see the performance at the Diamond Horseshoe at the Paramount Hotel, but I hear it is an incredible show. You can get tickets, and more information at

The final dress.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Makeup Artist Magazine Article

The new issue of Makeup Artist Magazine, no. 107 comes out next week. The article Tube Time features many television shows including The Blacklist. Check it out!

I will also be part of a panel at this years IMATS in New York. The panel will be held Sunday, April 13, and will be discussion with television makeup department heads.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Paper Mache Mask

I have always been interested in paper mache. For Halloween last year I decided to make a mask that would be cast in paper mache.

The Internet is a wonderful place for information and recipes, a little mind boggling at times. Since I was going to be pressing the mache into a mold, I wanted a fine pulpy mixture, rather then the newspaper strips we all covered balloons with as kids.

The recipe I found (among many more) was tiny ripped up bits of toilet paper, PVC glue and water. I used sobo glue, but Elmer's glue would be just as good. Working in small batches, I mixed the three ingredients into a peanut butter-y consistency.

With this mixture I was able to easily press the mache into the nooks and crannies of my mold.

I also did a bit of research about what sort of mold would be best to cast the mache into. Many sites were about fabricating ventriloquist dummies and they recommend latex molds. I however, did not have the time to make a thick latex mold and opted for one of my all time favorites, Smooth-Ons Rebound 25.

The mache needs to evaporate to harden. Between layers (3 in total), I used a hair dryer to speed up the drying process. I then left it to dry further (in the mold) for a few more days. Once de molded, I let it dry for another few days.

One thing I did not take into consideration was the shrinking that would happen when a water based material dries out. My original sculpture was plenty big to fit on my head a day after it was de molded, a week later it was a very tight fit.

Trimming the edges was easily done with sharp scissors. Once fully dried, the mache can be dremeled and sanded. Had I more time, I would have finished the mask properly with a little sanding.

My inspiration for the mask was a Japanese kabuki performer. I used nail polish to mimic the lacquer often found on antiques.

Unfortunately I had to work the entirety of Halloween and I did not have a chance to wear my costume. There is always next year...... and hopefully more paper mache projects!

The mask sculpture in progress. Sculpted in Chavant clay.

The first layer of molding silicone.

I made the mother mold in UltraCal plaster.

The mold and the mask cast in paper mache.

The almost finished mask painted with nail polish. 
I later added ribbon to each side to tie around the head.