Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Becoming a character - Part 1

I don't know at what point I realized it, but it has been pretty obvious for quite some time that Klingons and Star Trek would be a big part of my marriage. My husband started learning tlhingon Hol a short time before he met me, and it fascinated him as a linguist. He has since translated many things into the language (even getting PAID to do it!), and has studied the culture.

A few years ago he purchased a Klingon costume from some website, but hadn't consulted me first. Assuming for a generous moment that if he HAD asked me first that I didn't immediately say no, then I like to think that I would have helped him put our money into a better costume than what he ordered.

When we got it in the mail the first obvious flaw was that it looked like a Halloween costume you might buy at Wal-Mart. Cheap fabric, foam, and pleather with faded painted designs. :-/

Now, I'm not saying that to be mean. We've gotten some mileage out of it, and he's worn it to a few events. But the time has come to REALLY vamp it up as the Trekkies unite for the Star Trek movie premier in a couple weeks. Woo.

Of course, we didn't start the process until today. Not enough time? Nothing a lot of money can't fix! -- ... But we don't have a lot of money... Lame. But we DO have some ingenuity and resources, so maybe we can pull it off! My goal is to tweak what I can.

Trouble is, I come from a Theatre background, and a family of complicated over-achievers! So it is pretty hard to JUST tweak anything. It's WAY more fun to pull together and facsimilate something totally AWESOME! ... So we're trying.

Today I looked at reference material and made some calls to meet with my favorite make-up artists -- my parents. I detached a decal from the costume that had been manufactured upside-down, so I can attach it correctly. I also detached the mock knee boots from the cheap black pants it came with so my husband can wear them over his boots and some real pants. That alone will kick the over all look up a notch. I also have hopes of attaching some metallic pieces, scavenging for some gloves and a sash, and making a better belt buckle.

But the REALLY AWESOME accomplishment of the day was the creation of a Klingon forehead and nose prosthetic! Here is how it went:

1. Call Daddy and ask him very nicely if he is available to help with a prosthetic and pay him back with gratitude and Welch's Grape Juice.

2. Meet up and discuss options.

We talked about going the Alginate, Plaster, and Latex Mold route a few years back, but the effort required lead to never doing it. Today my Father offered an option involving building the prosthetic directly onto the actor. Sweet.

3. Assemble supplies:
Liquid Latex
Cotton balls
Tissue paper
Tulle (sp?) That decorative netting you see at weddings.
Powder - for removal

4. Trimmed a piece of Tulle to the desired size of the prosthetic; covering the forehead. Should have also cut it to cover the nose, but forgot.

5. He put a bit of liquid soap along the hair line to help with removing the finished product.

6. Used a flat knife (Latex spatula was missing) to apply a thin layer of Liquid Latex to the skin.

7. Applied the pre-made Tulle base. This acts to give the piece stability, and keep it from falling apart when it it removed. It's kind of like the steel mesh used to reinforce a slab of concrete.

8. Then add Liquid Latex where you want to build up the prosthetic, and create the shape you want using cotton balls, tissue, yarn, or what have you.

To clarify: add a small amount of Liquid Latex to the immediate spot you want to attach the cotton ball to, to make it stick. Stretch it out or whatever to get the desired shape. You can apply more latex and materials to build it up, or take it away. As you go, Apply more latex over the cotton balls, and shape as desired. Repeat over the rest of the forehead or whatever until finished.

An artistic sensibility would be good here. You are limited only by your imagination. Checking frequently in the mirror will also help as you can make adjustments until the latex starts to dry.

9. Let the whole thing dry in place. How long depends on how much material was used. Our piece needed at least an hour or so. We could have waited longer, but my husband had to go to work.

10. Slowly peel the whole piece back off, working from one corner to another. It hurts like a large bandage being ripped off. If you got hair in it, it will hurt more. Powdering it lightly as you go will help to keep it from sticking to itself.

11. Once off and dry enough, store in a zip top bag. The fine line to walk is you do not want the prosthetic to dry out, as it would become too brittle, and break. That would be very sad.

When the time comes to put the prosthetic back on for the event:

1. Trim or adjust anything to clean it up a bit.

2. Apply the prosthetic with Spirit Gum. You may also want to have Spirit Gum Remover handy for later.

3. Use facepaint to blend it in with the rest of the actor to achieve the desired look. Artistic ability needed here too.

This is the kind of thing where practice will make perfect. I only applied some finishing touches to today's prosthetic, as the rest of the time was spent caring for our children. I declined creating a forehead for my 6mo old son at this time.

I think it turned out well. I would have done a few things differently, but next time. Before we started, my Father asked my Husband how long we'd like the prosthetic to last. My Husband said he would wear it until it fell apart. My father said that could be three minutes. I said we'd probably like to get a dozen events out of it. I don't know if it will last that long. But I am confidant that I can build another when the time comes. Obviously, there are better/more "professional" ways of making prosthetics (remember that Alginate and Plaster method?), but this will work great in a pinch. =)

... Now to finish the costume.

And we haven't started on mine yet. Apparently I get to paint myself green. That will be the easy part. Finding a modest costume will be the hard part. And do I really want the attention? ... That should be interesting.

But that's a blog for another day.

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant! We had a guy who made his ridges the same way. The only difference was he built his upon one of those store bought, licensed, Westmore rubber headpieces. Worked great though!

    Lionel\Lord Veska

    PS - He joined the Black Fleet but his family gave me his ridges,. I still have them in a place of honor.