Monday, November 29, 2010

A Christmas Carol Coffee Cake

Materials: Great Stuff, Tissue Paper, White Glue, Design Master, Acrylic Caulk, Gloss Medium, Fake Holly

So, is everyone feeling festive yet? If you work in a theater in America, chances are 64% that you are about to open your Christmas show. (Statistic not based on fact) Whether it be 'A Christmas Carol' (yay, public domain!), 'The Best Christmas Pageant Ever', a Nativity play, or some multi-denominational holiday extravaganza, you're probably picking glitter and pine needles out of your clothes at the end of each day. Well, here in the Fake-n-Bake kitchen, we are no exception.  Now, I feel like I should say that I love our beautiful production of 'A Christmas Carol,' but one does tire a bit when most of the notes involve bow fluffing and holly gluing. 

This prop is a rebuild of a smaller coffee cake that wasn't reading well.  I started by making a ring of Great Stuff foam. Now, I'm having a bit of a falling out with Great Stuff right now (See upcoming posts on life casting traumas) but I like using it for baked goods because it is lightweight, readily available, and it carves well. 

Once the Great Stuff was cured, I trimmed away the funky bits to smooth the shape a bit.  Then, I did a papier mache treatment over the foam, to give it a more 'pastry like' surface to paint.  I used tissue paper and white glue for this.

Once the papier mache was dry, I painted the cake with Design Master spray paints. The Honey Stain and the Glossy Wood Tone worked to give the cake that fresh baked golden look that looks so good on stage.  The icing is made from a mixture of Acrylic Caulk, Acrylic Gloss Medium, and Water.  I drizzled it over the top. The first time, I put on way too much and had to wash it off. The next time was a little bit better, though I would have liked to have achieved skinnier drips, so I'll have to practice that in the future. I also could have spent a bit more time and attention to a more symmetrical coffee cake, but as my real coffee cakes usually turn out asymmetrical also, I thought I'd let it go.

Then, I glued it to the plate, and hot glued a metric buttload of fake holly and fruit picks to it, and WAH-LAH! Christmas like Charles Dickens intended it!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Meat Buns aka St. Lucia Rolls

Materials:  Upholstery Foam, Liquid Latex, Acrylic Paint, Sawdust, Flex Glue

These are another prop from our recent production of Cabaret.  As I've mentioned before, it was my job to create a smorgasbord of (inedible) German treats for the engagement party scene.  I had recently seen some beautiful prop rolls created out of latex coated upholstery foam, and so I wanted to give the technique a try. I did some poking around to find photos of German foods, and I found a photo of some beautiful rolls over on  Now, this might be a good time for a disclaimer. I cheated a bit, St. Lucia buns are actually Swedish.
Swedish, actually. Don't tell my boss.
Making these buns is very straightforward. First, use an Olfa knife (or other utility blade) to carve upholstery foam into the appropriate shape. 
After carving the rolls, give them a few coats of liquid latex. Once dry, use some thinned acrylic paint to give them some color. I mixed my paint with matte medium.

Finally, stuff the little divots in the buns. I used a combination of sawdust, flex glue, and acrylic paint.  Once they are dried, put them in a lovely basket, and put them onstage!

Pretty easy, huh?

The only thing that I don't like about this technique is that it is very difficult to get the rolls to be nice and smooth.  Perhaps I just need more practice, or perhaps I'm missing something. Does anyone have a surefire way to get upholstery foam to carve smoothly? If so, please comment below, I'd be happy to hear it!

Did you like this post? For another delightful type of roll, visit the following link:

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sarah's Festive Balls- Sugarplums/Sweetmeats

Materials: Celluclay, Food Coloring, Spray Paint, Cork, Spray Snow, White Glue, Garnish

Well, the time has come once more for our beloved production of 'A Christmas Carol' to be dragged from the filthy warehouse, lovingly cleaned and pieced together, and presented as a gift to the whole city. But, alas, this year, a few of the props needed special attention. The sweetmeats. Yes, the faithful sweetmeats that have served us, lo, these six long years, have seen their better days.  It is time for a new platter of sweetmeats to grace our stage, and who better to confect these Victorian beauties than one of my favorite propsters, Sarah Heck?

Sarah is my co-crafter at the Rep, and she's a propster of the highest caliber. She specializes in fake taxidermy, leatherwork, and other crafts; she is a gentlewoman, a scholar, and a judge of fine whiskies. Also, I envy her for being tall. There, I said it.

But enough kissing up to Sarah, let's talk a little bit about sweetmeats.  Sweetmeats, according to my favorite reference website, , are a British term for confectionary. Basically, what we call candies.  Confections back in Dickens' time were mostly very sweet mish-mashes of honey, nuts, and preserved fruits.  One of these types of sweetmeat is the famous sugar plum, which according to Saveur Magazine, look like this:

Sarah started these sugarplums by making round lumps of Celluclay colored with brown food coloring and allowed them to dry.  Celluclay is nice because it is lightweight and paintable.

Next, she put pieces of rolled cork (the kind you buy to make cork board) into a blender.  Once the cork was minced to a desirable size, she used spray paint to add some color to batches of the chopped cork.  She dipped each of the Celluclay lumps into white glue, and rolled them in the cork schnibbles. Once the cork dried, she coated each sugarplum in white glue to seal and bind the cork even further.

Once all the glue had dried again, she dusted the top of each with spray-on snow, a sweet substitute for powdered sugar.

Once the 'sugar' was dried, there was nothing left but to pile them dramatically on a wooden platter, and garnish them with holly.


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