More theatrical shenanigans!
School have an annual presentation evening, and it’s a HUGE deal, using the city Town Hall etc. [And yes, of course it’s very likely to get cancelled, but meanwhile, we carry on] I was asked if I could help out with costuming a production number on ‘animals of the world’, saw a chance to make more wonderful Wintercroft masks, and said hell yeah [but no sewing!]
Eventually they told me they wanted antelopes, lions, cheetahs and monkeys, and lo and behold, Wintercroft have suitable masks for all 4, with tiny modifications. [I rounded off the ‘Jaguar’ ears for the cheetah, and changed the eye shape for the antelopes, using ‘Oryx’]
To save on painting time, I found some card of the right weight in shades of brown/orange from a school supplier, printed off the mask PDFs, and got ready to work. The card was too thick to go through the printer dammit, so it all had to be printed out on buff paper, glued to the card, scored and cut out neatly before the fun part [sticky time] could begin.
Each mask or headpiece is made from multiple A4 sheets, cut up into MANY components, each with loads of construction marks for scoring. I roped in some of my 6th formers to help pritt-stick the printed papers to the coloured card, which saved a lot of time!
Day 1: The monkey masks looked the simplest, so I started there. The instructions estimate 2-3 hours construction, I think it was considerably less. Each one has just 4 sheets of A4 card, with 8 pieces per mask in total. Lots of scoring and gluing, but I got all 4 constructed in a single evening, watching ‘Locke and Key’ on Netflix. Fun! No issues whatsoever, I painted over each mask once completed with some watered-down PVA glue to give a bit of extra strength and some texture. The elastic is some millinery elastic leftover from making fascinators for the Wizard of Oz last year, and I added an extra hole each side to spread the load, reinforcing on the inside with a bit of duct tape to reduce the risk of tearing. Kids do not handle these things very gently!
Day 2 and part of 3: My 6th formers had also glued the bits for the jaguars to the card, so they were next up. Much more work, these are full-head masks, not the half masks with elastic. Instructions predict 3-4 hours for construction. Each required 12 sheets of A4, and had 16 pieces, some quite large. I made three. It takes a bit of effort to work out how they join together- you match numbered tabs and edges, but you have to FIND them first! Generally you more or less need to add on pieces in alphabetical order, but not QUITE. Fun! I found that for each style of m,ask, I needed to make a little key diagram for myself and follow that for the subsequent versions.
The hardest pieces to attach on these are the final bits, as you are completing almost a sphere of faceted card, and it gets tricky. The full head masks get attached to a sort of cardboard headband which you fit to the wearer, to stop the thing spinning round! As I said, I rounded the ears a bit to make the jaguar into a cheetah [sort of] and added minimal detailing at school using acrylic paints. My painting skills are minimal, it seemed wise lol I told everyone I was aiming at a sort of tribal look, that’s my excuse anyway!
I finished watching Locke and Key, and started on ‘I Am not OK With This’ which is BRILLIANT.
Days 3-5: Antelopes, using the ‘Oryx’ half-mask kit. Estimated build time 2 hours, 8 A4 sheets, 12 pieces per mask. I did some jiggery pokery here, and by rough cutting the paper pieces out first, managed to use quite a bit less card than the 40 sheets predicted. 5 masks though, so a lot of bits and pieces, masses of pritt stick [I used several sticks on this project altogether], hours of scoring and pre-folding.
By doing several steps in production line fashion, they got completed. It’s not a ‘real’ oryx, the eye slit is more like a visor, and I think they are meant to look a bit sci-fi/fantasy, which annoyed me a bit. In the end I added a small strip taped inside to strengthen the centre of the slit and stabilise it, and cut away more of an eye shape on either side. I’m REALLY impressed with how strong the horns are, these designs are brilliantly engineered.
Again, minimal painting of details, and I’m happy with the result. A coat of thin PVA seems to have brought the colour up nicely. Again, two holes at the side for elastic, reinforced with duct tape.
Finished ‘I Am not OK With This’ and started on ‘The October Faction’ [Loved it]
Day whatever: 3 lions [haha]. Each needed 17 A4 sheets, estimated build time 3-4 hours, and 22 pieces per mask. Saving the hardest til last! Again I managed to reduce from 51 sheets by dint of some fiddly jigsawing together of all the bits. I hate waste!
Hours of cutting, hours of scoring and pre-folding, and an eternity of gluing. This design favours patience- it’s pretty unwieldy, for some reason not all the pieces have alphabetical labels so it’s tricky to work out construction order, and the whole thing is again almost a sphere, making the final stages tricky…one of them fought me HARD and I was starting to think that the ruddy thing was going to have to be scrapped and re-started from scratch, when it finally gave in.
Once again, minimal; marking out in acrylics and a coat of thin PVA for strength and colour intensity. I started, and finished two seasons of ‘Marcella’ during this epic and hunted around for something else to watch, but nothing has so far amused me beyond an hour or so.
HOURS of work. I have watched so many Netflix series while getting through this lot, which is fairly unusual for me, as the missus hogs the TV and I only catch things on the PC when she is out or happy to watch HER programme with subtitles. When sewing, I prefer audiobooks so my attention is not diverted.
And there we are- dance teacher is delighted with them, I’m happy [apart from the fact that I’ve now been told they only need FOUR antelopes after all- great to know once you’ve finished] Maybe the big show WILL go ahead after all…but I’m not holding my breath.
**edited, 2 days after writing. Show is postponed, school is still open but sending home pregnant or otherwise at risk staff, suspending various year groups on different days to relieve staffing problems. They just need to STOP now!
**edited again, two MORE days later. School shuts tomorrow, and I will be ‘working from home’ for the foreseeable future. The 15 little dancers were marched over to see their finished masks today…and I’d already brought them home. Sigh.
Masks waiting to be stored indefinitely…they really take up a lot of space lol