The first day of the PDP specialism opened with an oversight into the course and the options we could follow in our projects - we looked at a slideshow of works related to our topic titled EAT ME. The impressions that some of the works had on me, in particular the visuals of 'Dimensions of a Dialogue' by Jan Svankmajer, the luscious yet ludicrous costumes and SFX of 'The Company of Wolves' and the beautiful sets of 'The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover', all confirmed for me that this was the pathway I was meant to be in.
Jan Svankmajer, Dimensions of Dialogue (1982)
After this we discussed our own food traditions in our families and cultures, some of which were very interesting, especially Juliana's story of the tamales / plantain leaves and other traditions like the length of the noodle corresponding to the length of your life.
For the second part of the class we began by choosing a vegetable or fruit from the list provided, from which I chose a pumpkin (due to my obsession with Halloween). I described its character as a melancholy, hollow person with a thick skin. I also played on the idea that the character of the pumpkin had been physically assaulted and stabbed (dark.. I know) - but it was the best way to represent the carving ritual of pumpkins.
Designs inspired by gourd / pumpkin
As Halloween was over, for the vegetable first hand part I purchased two gourds in Waitrose which are very similar to pumpkins in colour and form. I designed these two garments inspired by the colour and shape of the strange, phallic looking vegetable. I would love to create the the piece on the left in the future, even if it was just made from some copper wire.
Initial ideas based on my vegetable choice.
Abstracted pen drawings from life of the gourds. On the orange acetate I tried to represent the markings on the stalks in the form of pen on acetate.
I left the studio buzzing with ideas for the next week. Overall I thought the day was a great introduction to the principals and practices of the PDP pathway and I'm excited to see how the next two weeks pan out. If I could have done anything differently I would have tried to work faster on my pattern making exercise, because I know that I already have the skills to make a pattern, but I just did not simply have enough time to do this exercise effectively and to come out with a successful outcome. I was so disappointed with this piece from today, but I will try to work faster on the shorter projects from this lesson forward.
The day's first exercise consisted of creating a character and costume from a short limerick by Edmund Lear, and my particular verse went,
"There was an old man with a beard,
Who said, "It is just as I feared,
Two Owls and a Hen,
Four Larks and a Wren,
are having their lunch in my beard!"
Initial ideas and concepts for the beared man and his birds. I explored simplified poses of how he would be positioned.
We then had to create a character drawing to fill a piece of A3 paper, and after that create a silhouette of the character on black paper. When everyone created their character we placed them on the wall in relation to eachother - mine and the characters surrounding him were related in the sense that they were very elderly-looking in there stances.
For the second half of the class we began to design a space based on a flavour. I used a cherry bakewell tea bag as my inspiration, as it was a scent and a taste of a physical biscuit in the form of a liquid.
Notebook ideas from the second half of class.
I decided that the Cherry Bakewell tea was a very homely, family-orientated scent which evoked memories of my grandparents' house. For that reason I created a home from cardboard with a giant 'cherry on top' and the tea bag suspended within.
The suspension of the tea bag within the structure accentuated its welcoming feeling, with the scent aimed at drawing the viewer in through the front door, over a welcome mat, into the structure.
Indie interacting with my piece during the feast section.
Today was a mixed bag - the first half was very simulating and provided a strong base for what I want to do for my outcome for the Eat Me project. I decided by the end of the day that creating a costume piece on the brief of Option 2 was what I was going to pursue, and create a costume piece that allows the wearer to create a shared eating experience with a group of cartoon birds, using the beard as the table, plate and presentation of the food.
However I found the spacial design section much more difficult. Although this was something I had never tried before (translating a taste into a visual and interactive experience), and despite the fact I love to try new things and push my own personal creative boundaries, I didn't like this part as much. I wasn't very inspired by it, but I did still enjoy the interaction and performance section with the other two class members which we did in the canteen.
I then proceeded to attach the felting wool which formed a good base for the beard. I sewed in small sections of the weave and continued to backcomb and strengthen it with hairspray.
To this growing mass of fake hair and wool I inserted moss, small branches and an egg, all of which helped add to the aesthetic of a bird's nesting place. I felt it would be better to add the crisps and noodles on the day of the feast as they would go soft and not be as nice for me to eat.
At this stage I also redrew the birds on a thick card which would prevent flimsiness and I attached a wire to them which was threaded into the beard matter.
I was all in all very happy with how my piece turned out. I successfully portrayed the physical character of the old man which transformed the wearer once the beard was attached to them. The beard/nest-like aesthetic created through the use of different textiles, organic and non-organic substances and food was also extremely successful in creating a realistic environment for the cartoon birds.
Today was the best day this week. The feast allowed my to create a loose prototype for my beard piece, which I was quite impressed with. I was able to experiment in an alternative material (solely paper products... well that was until I purchased some felting wool to give the illusion of hair) and play with structure, length and weight and how it would sit on the face.
Early stages of creation.
I also made the formal decision that the birds in the final piece will, like the prototype, be line drawings. My reasoning for this was that the line drawn birds look like illustrated cartoons from a book, linking the costume to its original inspiration - a limerick from the Nonsense Verse of Edmund Lear.
Phoebe wearing the finished prototype.
I liked experimenting with the composition of the birds and how they would create weight in the beard.
POSSIBLE IDEA DEVELOPMENT - doing 8 birds as laid out in the text? *After some experimentation I decided that the beard would look too overcrowded with all 8*
Initial trials with felt confirmed it could be used as the hair or a basis for the hair, however I think I will try to source a weave and somehow combine the two through backcombing?
Comments from class mates and tutor.
I left class feeling extremely motivated for the creation and realisation of the piece and went home to prepare a cast of my face for the mask part to get vacuum formed at Archway.
Casting my face and neck.
However the casting session failed a number of times and I decided to, despite having spent so much money on materials, that I would use one of the ready prepared casts at Archway instead of having a tailored fit mouthpiece. This was disappointing but was the only solution. At least I know that next time I have to apply a good few layers of alginate to make it a lot more sturdy. Nothing ventured nothing gained!
After my catastrophe with the casting I had a consultation with Kate and Gary who advised me to drop the neck piece and to focus solely on a mouth. This was a bit of a compromise to my concepts of a restrictive mouth and neckpiece which almost restrained the wearer of the beard whilst creating an extremely sturdy base. However I redesigned my base piece in my sketchbook for the trip to Archway the next morning.
Final design with material samples.
On Tuesday I began to work on my final outcome after a few setbacks. I arrived at Archway and used the vacuum former for the first time on one of the face casts provided due to failing to produce my own. I experimented with two different thicknesses of plastic, one being 0.3mm and the other 0.7mm.
After deciding the sturdier 0.7mm was going to provide a stronger base and would be safer for drilling the holes into for the insertion of the hair I opted for that mouthpiece.
The beard after I began to insert the sections of weave into the follicles.
Backcombing of hair begins.
Video showing a close up of the beard in its finishing stages
As a last minute addition to the feast presentation I decided to add some bird song to my process of me eating the crisps out of the beard, effectively turning it into a performance with sound and visuals. I wish now that I had choreographed and prepared a full performance for the piece instead of just leaving it solely as a costume piece, as it would have added a whole other dimension if used as the centrepiece of a performance.