Saturday, December 31, 2011

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Hi-Ho Cherry-oh!

Materials: Mold, Casting Resin, Pigment,  Mono filament, Spray Paint, Super Glue

(Read this in a Jimmy Cagney voice.)

So we're dressing this bar cart, see, and the cast is making manhattans. Sure, we say, manhattans, gotta have those maraschino cherries. So we give 'em some maraschino cherries, and all but two of them sit in the bowl all night getting dusty. Bad business, see, wasting food and money on spoiled cherries.  Bad business. So, my boss says to me,'Miss Anna, hows about you make 'em some fake cherries? Hows about you make em so good everybody thinks they're real?' So I say 'Sure thing boss.'

I get out my trusty cherry mold. Lucky for me, I been down this road before. For 'Eurydice', see, I had to make gallons of cherries, so I made me a mold.  I get my mold out, and I get some Smooth Cast 320. I grab my So-Strong Pigment, and I pour me some cherries. It takes me a try or two to get the color right.  While my cherries are settin' up, I gotta make some stems.  The hard part about maraschino cherry stems is the translucency.  I get some thick, clear, monofilament, and I get some red spray paint, and I make me some stems.

All I got to do now is trim the flashing from my molded cherries, give 'em the old drill hole up top, and glue in those stems. Nice and easy.  Put 'em in a bowl, and the subscribers don't know the difference.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Spray Painted Turkeys and Brick Brownies

Hey, Propsters, I wanted to pass along this link that just came across the SPAM net.  The fine folks at Deli Garage are making an edible spray paint. Shipping to the US is still a bit up in the air, but the site promises tasteless metallic paints for all of your food gilding needs.  Silver steak? Sure! Gilded Goose? Why not?  While you're over there, take a look at their blog. I think you'll like the brick shaped brownies (for wall building) and some of the other clever vittles these guys have on offer.

Oh, and is the website only coming up in German? Up in the right hand corner is a little button marked ENG. Just click it.

Happy Propping, dears.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Hand Casting Part 1

Alright, readers, I have to admit that there aren't a lot of fake food props being made here in the Fake-n-Bake kitchen lately. For the past few weeks, I've been up to my neck in breakaway plates that aren't breaking and script covers that are being manhandled to death.  So, I haven't had much to report. Since there aren't any fake food projects on my horizons, I thought I'd take a look back at some older casting projects, and write a few posts about those.

These lovely beings are the first step in a pair of hands that got crushed in a trap door in 'The Government Inspector.'

Materials: Alginate, Hydrocal or Dentstone (or any high strength casting plaster), your carpenter (or any pair of hands), Petroleum Jelly, and Buckets

The first thing you need to do is convince your shop's carpenter to let you use his hands. Why do you need to use his hands? Because he has the most marvelously huge hands you've ever seen. His hands are like hams with fingers. You can use no lesser hands- only these will do.  Our carpenter was pretty easy to convince, but if yours isn't, I recommend baked goods. Real ones. No nerf muffins.

Once you convince your carpenter to allow you to cast his hands (or her hands, but ours is male, so I'm sticking with that pronoun), make sure your set up is comfortable for him.  Set up your containers near a chair or stool that will allow your carpenter to easily hold his hands in the alginate for fifteen minutes or more.  This make take some adjusting, which is why it is important to do this before you have mixed up your alginate.  Uncomfortable models lead to bad life casts.

Once you've got your set up ready, have your carpenter apply some petroleum jelly to his hands. Alginate (of dental impression fame) releases very well from skin, but petroleum jelly will help with any hair on the hands.

Once your carpenter is lubed up, get him settled into his position, and talk about how you want him to hold his hands; we went for a relaxed curl.  Then, mix up your alginate (follow the directions) and pour around the hands, and wait for the alginate to set.  It's important, when lifecasting, never to leave the model alone.  If a fire or other emergency occured, you'd need to be there to help. What's more common is that you'll need to make slight adjustments for the model's comfort. Can you imagine having both hands encased in goo, and then get an itch on your nose? TERRIBLE! 

Once the alginate is set (it will be stiff and won't be tacky) have your carpenter start to gently flex his hands and wiggle his fingers.  As he does so, the alginate will release, and he can slip his hands off from the mold.  Hand your carpenter one of the clean towels you had waiting (ha, gotcha) and send him off to wash his hands. Thank him for his time.

Alginate molds don't keep well for long- they dry out and shrink.  You can usually hold on to a mold for a day or so by wrapping it in wet cloths and keeping it in the fridge.  For best results, I recommend pouring your cast right away.  In this case, we only got one shot at the casting (some shapes allow for more), so we had to make it count. 

Mix your casting plaster according to directions, and pour it on in. Jiggle your mold to make sure you aren't trapping any air bubbles.  Once your plaster is set, you can remove the mold from the casts. I did this by removing the mold from its bucket, and carefully tearing away the alginate.  I did break a finger or two, but a little white glue took care of that. Oh, you can also see on the finger pads where some air was trapped. I sculpted those bits in with clay before making the next mold.  There you go! The first step of smashy hands! More to come soon, happy propping.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Whipping Muffins

Once in a while, your boss will come to you and say something magical. Something like "Anna, (or, you know, your name) I need you to make some muffins to be thrown into the pool every night." These are the moments when you think 'I have found my true calling in life.' If you work in theater, and you don't have these moments occasionally, you should probably start thinking about a job that pays you in real money. 

To be fair, these muffins are being thrown 'into the pool' which actually means upstage. There isn't really a pool on our 'Ten Chimneys' set, so I didn't have to make these muffins waterproof.  I decided that I wanted to make the muffins out of Smooth On Flex Foam-it X because it's light, durable, and really fun to make things out of. Most importantly, if I made soft, nerf-like muffins, we could have muffin fights in the shop.

The first thing I did was to try out the material.  I grabbed an old muffin tin, one that I won't use again, and gave it a good coating of Universal Mold Release before mixing and pouring some of the Flex Foam in and letting it cure.  As you can see, above, the expansion is pretty good, but the smooth, shiny tops of the muffins aren't very convincing. So, I needed to think of something to sprinkle on the top of the foam while it was curing.  The first thing I tried was crushed cork which I've used very successfully as crushed nuts in the past. This worked really well on the muffins, or, it would have if I wanted the muffins to look like they had Grape Nuts sprinkled on top. Back to the drawing board.

After a bit of thinking about tasty, tasty muffins, I decided that a streusel top would be the way to go, so I set out to make a good fake streusel topping. Real streusel is made of butter, flour and sugar. My streusel topping is made of sawdust and flex glue.  I also tried corn starch, but it didn't work as well, and I was worried that little micies would eat it in storage.
To make the streusel, I just sifted some sawdust and slowly stirred in flex glue until the topping was the right consistency.  I let it dry over night before it was ready.  When it came time to pour the foam, with a drip of brown tint in it, I waited until the foam was starting to rise, and I sprinkled some streusel onto each of the muffins.

The texture came out just as I'd hoped, but the muffins needed a bit of paint. I used a combination of Design Master sprays and acrylic paints to finish the job. I'll admit, painting isn't my forte, but I think these are passably muffiny.   
I used hot glue to secure the muffins into the tin. I also bent a piece of aluminum wire to fit inside the lip of the muffin tin. I glued it onto the tin, in hopes that it will help protect the edge from all of the flinging that's going to occur.

So that's that. Whipping Muffins. Oh, and by the way, my computer kept trying to replace 'streusel' with 'stressful,' and that amused me. Happy Propping, y'all.

Monday, August 1, 2011

My Hero the Hoagie, a Submarine tale.

So, it is possible that some of you may noticed that I haven't posted in a while. Yup, the summer got away from me. To make it up to you, and long post about a long sandwich. Enjoy.

When you think Opera, you think elaborate sets, elegant costumes, tremendous music, and giant hoagies.  Well, maybe you don't, but the good people putting on 'The Last Savage' sure do. When our Master Craftsman was going through the to-do list, and said 'four foot hoagie' I volunteered immediately. Well, okay, by volunteered, I mean that I squeaked like a chipmunk and clapped my hands. It worked, I got to make the sub. It ended up being only a three foot hoagie, in order to fit in the trunk, but who am I to question?

So, what do we need to make a sub? Well, in this case bread, lettuce, tomato slices, cheese, ham, turkey, and olives, or, actually, reasonable facsimiles thereof.  Let's start with the bread. I used upholstery foam to make the bread, and I learned a few new tricks while I was doing it.
The first trick is a way to keep your Olfa blade sharp while carving foam. I heard about it a while ago, but didn't really put it to the test until this project.  The trick is simple, just put a little bit of oil onto your blade, I used the oil that we use to lubricate our industrial sewing machines.  This keeps the blade sharp, which makes the cuts cleaner.  The second trick is to use a tool called a curry comb to carve the foam.  The curry comb's sharp teeth carve the foam well, but they can also leave grooves in the foam- so beware.

Once the bread was carved, I coated the foam in some old liquid foam latex that we had laying around the shop.  The dark color actually ended up being perfect for the fresh baked bread look. I love it when that happens!

So, next up would be toppings.  I haven't yet found a good way to make fake lettuce, so when I need lettuce, I just go for the commercial stuff.  I wanted to secure the toppings together, so I cut a piece of canvas, and stapled the lettuce leaves to the fabric using an office stapler.  Quick, easy, and effective!  As for tomato slices, this time I went commercial there too.  I grabbed some fake tomatoes from our stock, and sliced them with a bear saw.  Since the other toppings were covering the tops and bottoms of the tomato slices, and only the edges were showing, it wasn't necessary to paint the top and bottom.

Then, for the cheese! Now, as I am from Wisconsin, you all know that I'm pretty serious about my cheese. That's why this sandwich has two types of cheese, provolone and cheddar.  Both are cut from fun foam, that stuff you buy in sheets at the craft store. The foam is pretty good for the cheddar, but a little too opaque for provolone. Again, the fact that the provolone will be mostly covered is helping me get away with this.
Oh, as you can see, I used a plastic lid to trace the circles out. Resourceful!
Cheddar is better.
So, next up, ham!  I really wanted to use materials that were already available in the shop (the budget was tight this season) and I also wanted to get the prop done in a reasonable amount of time. Now, I've made ham slices before (see Hammy Sammies) but that process was pretty time consuming, and I wanted to bang this bad boy out.  Luckily, we had some pinkish fabric in stock that worked really well as thin sliced ham.  I cut the fabric into ovals, and hit the edges of each with a brown Sharpie to give it a rind.


The turkey slices were also fabric from stock. We had some light colored spandex that was just the color of deli sliced turkey. Again, I cut the fabric into circles, but I rolled these cold cuts into tubes to give some variety to the sandwich.

Now, you maybe be asking yourself 'Self, what are those bits of ethafoam rod doing on that sandwich?' Well, I'll tell you. Once the ham and turkey made it onto the sandwich, the weight of the 'bread' was pressing down on them, and the were losing their shape.  I cut short pieces of ethafoam rod, and carefully glued them (with low temp hot glue) into some of the turkey rolls and ham folds.  It boosted the sandwich slightly, but was not easily seen.

Assembly was mostly done with low temp hot glue.  It wasn't my first choice, because I was worried about it degrading in the heat, but it was the only thing I could find to stick to everything.  Everything was glued to the lettuce/canvas staple combo in order. Then, I used a contact adhesive similar to green glue (3M Fastbond) to attach the bread to the fillings. It wasn't a perfect adhesive, but it did seem to work.

For good measure, I decided to add a mechanical fastener as well.  I used a tufting needle and monofiliment to tie the sandwich together at four places. That's what the olives on top are for!  Each one is a wooden bead that I used as a tie off point. Then I stuffed the ends with plumber's epoxy (paper clay is lighter and cheaper, but takes longer to dry. No time!)  and painted them to look like olives.  Tips for tufting a sandwich? Wear safety glasses and use a leather tufting needle. The blades will help you cut through the foam more easily.

So there it is, WAH-LAH, as they say in France. Want more? Okay, one more pic, just for you.
My boss enjoying the sandwich.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Famous Pies ala LoRyn!

So, I know that all of you read the Santa Fe New Mexican, and that you already saw this photo of Loryn working on some ginormous pies.
If you didn't, you can read the article online by clicking here.

Here's a little more info about the pies.  These pies are a joint effort by many a props crafter. First of all, Mana Butt, shopper extraordinaire bought two vintage pie tins.  Then, our apprentices Oona (see the post on Sugared Pansy Cake ala Oona) and Ellie (see Cherries Cake ala Ellie) carved bead foam into the shapes of the pies. Aimee Plant (Chickens Ala Aimee) showed Ellie and Oona to make a pastry like crust by layering tissue paper and flex glue. Then, Loryn Williams (or LoRyn, if you read the article) painted the pies.

See, Collaboration!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Casting Call

Today on the Fake-n-Bake blog, I'm bringing you a casting project. This is a piece that I just did for the upcoming production of 'Faust' that I'm working on. This little decoration will eventually be part of a mirror stand in a jeweler's window.

*Remember, when using any chemicals, to use the proper safety equipment. Casting materials can be really, really bad for you if used without the proper protection.*

The first step was to draw out what I wanted to build, including the piece that I would sculpt and cast, in full scale.  Once that was done, I made a copy of the drawing and taped it to a piece of plywood to use as a sculpting surface.

I used modeling clay to sculpt the piece, with beads added for certain details. Once the sculpting was complete, I built a plywood frame around it to function as a mold box.

I sealed the box and the clay with clear spray shellac. This is partly out of habit (sulphur clays inhibit urethane rubber cure, and I often use urethane) and partly just too add a layer between the mold and the positive.  I used Tempo 30 silicone to make the mold.  I haven't used this much, but it worked very well.  To mix this product, you measure portions of catalyst and silicone together by weight, stir THOROUGHLY, pour, and allow to set overnight.

Once the silicone had set, I demolded by removing the sides of the mold box, and peeling the mold off of the positive.  To cast the piece, I used universal mold release before pouring two part resin into the mold. It's always important to have a level casting surface, but especially when the piece is so thin like this.  Once the piece came out of the mold, it was easy to trim away any excess bits of resin, and smooth any flaws.  The resin will stay soft until it fully cures, so if I had wanted to, I could have bent it to fit around a round surface. 

TA-DA! Here it is.  I'll try to post some finished photos when the whole prop is done.

Happy Propping!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

More Fridge Dressing

Here are a few more of the goodies from the Salesman fridge.

 Jam. These were made by putting tinted hot pour vinyl into vintage jam jars.

Pot Roast. This is repurposed from an old food prop I did a while back.  It's chunks of upholstery foam, coated with flex glue, then painted with acrylics.  It is garnished with micro-foam onions (one side sprayed red), hot pour vinyl gravy, hot pour vinyl onions (apparently, these people like onions), and silk foliage herbs. It is served on a bed of cotton batting mashed potatoes.

Tuna Noodle Casserole. Just like in the TV dinner! Real noodles, saw dust, flex glue, and mardi-gras bead peas. Yum!

Summertiiiiiiiime, and the living is anything but easy.

Hey all, as you may have noticed, I haven't put up a post in a few weeks. Well, it's time for my annual summertime excuse. In the summers, I spend the little time that I am not working in the Opera prop shop either gorging myself on green chile, or watching the rodeo. Now, most of you theater folks are off contract anyway, and shouldn't really be reading about props in your free time, so you may not even notice that the posts are slightly more sparse.  So, here's the deal. I will try to get in a post a week- but more likely I'll be doing once every two weeks. Now, if you have a beautiful food prop that you've been dying to send me (why haven't you?), this would be a great time to send it. The summer is my favorite time to do guest blog entries. So, I hope you all have a good summer, I'll blog as much as I can, and I'll see y'all back here real soon.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Smo-kay Cheese Spread

Materials: Hummus, Food Coloring, A Kick-Ass Graphics Artist

Okay, this is yet another post in which the graphic prop artist outshines the food props artist. In this case, the artist doing the outshining is Jill Lyons, the very talented and skilled artisan who does paper props and props painting here at the Rep.  It was Jill who did the research on the cheese spread and Jill who made the labels- I just put some hummus in the jar.

The hummus was an actor request. For some reason, he didn't feel like making a greasy, fattening cheese spread sandwich every night. He asked for hummus, and we all thought that it was a fine idea. We bought plain hummus, and used red and yellow food coloring to make it the delightful smoky color you see here.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Far Away Fridge Food in Five Minutes

The healthiest story ever told, apparently.
Alright, so I'm dressing a fridge for "Death of a Salesman" (Arthur Miller....swoon) that is going to be open for all of 15 seconds- if that.  Now, the fridge should look stocked, and the dressing should look good, but there's no point spending an inordinate amount of time on a prop that will barely be noticeable.  Here are two of the quickies that we used to dress the fridge.

I picked Phil's Dairy because my brother is named Phil, and he is awesome.
How did I make this lovely bottle of cream in less than five minutes? Let me tell you! I pulled a cream bottle and pog top from stock. I filled the bottle with salt. I glued the top on. WAH-LAH!*

I can't believe it's not butter!
Well, this photo is pretty self explanatory. I cut a piece of yellow insulation foam and put it into a butter dish. Yup.

So, as you can see, this is another post that just highlights my belief that, sometimes, the packaging is the most important part of making fake food look convincing. Salt in a bowl doesn't look like milk, and a chunk of yellow foam on a chair wouldn't look like butter. In the right context, however, sometimes all we need is that little nudge to get our brains where they need to go, and often, the simplest solution is the best. Happy Propping!

*Yeah, I misspelled it on purpose, it's funny.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Chickens ala Aimee, or the funniest food prop I've ever seen.

 Materials: Utility Fabric, Pinto Beans, Poly fill, Pretzels (optional), Plastic Bags.

This week's project comes to you from my good friend, Aimee Plant, who is a free lance propster in and about Chicago.  For a production of 'Milk, Milk, Lemonade' by Pavement Group, Aimee had to make a slew of raw chickens. The shtick is that chickens go into the processing machine and, after a poof of feathers, processed, bagged chickens come out.  According to Aimee, one of the chickens to meet her untimely fate is also the best friend of the human protagonist- and played by an actress in chicken costume. For her processing, Aimee made a large, turkey sized chicken.

The chickens are soft sculpture- and made from a fabric called Utility Fabric. Aimee wishes it were more specifically named, but she believes that it is used to cover changing tables and other surfaces that need to be wipeable.  The stuffing is a mixture of poly fill and pinto beans (for heft) which are very common and useful stuffing choices.

First, Aimee made a prototype out of muslin, to make sure her size and shape were correct.

Once she had determined that she was on the right track, she cut her pieces out of the fabric.

Then she sewed them together and stuffed them while she enjoyed a delicious snack of pretzels.
Filling for chickens and tummy.
Pile of chicken parts.
Then, she pieced the chicken parts together into whole chickens.
Possibly the funniest food prop I have ever seen. 

Then bagged them.

If you've seen a funnier food prop- send me a picture!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Cherry Pie ala Kathleen

This awesome work of faux pastry was made by Kathleen Ballos, a young propster and one of our neighbors to the north.  I'll let her tell you about it.

Katleen writes;

"The cherry pie was something I just something I made at home for fun because I didn't have a job at the time. That being said, I used things that were affordable and very non-toxic (it was too cold to work outside for ventilation). I used salt dough for the pastry - I made the bottom layer like a normal pie (but cut a slice out and put it on a separate pie plate to bake) and covered the bottom with dried beans and foil, then arranged the lattice on top (I also cut a slice of the lattice and placed it on top of foil on the other pie plate).

After it was baked, I cut styrofoam to fit both the large pie and the slice and used Crayola Model Magic to form the cherry filling over the styrofoam. While I was doing it, I could tell that the foaminess of the model magic wasn't going to be the most accurate way to recreate the cherry filling, but using a tiny bit of water to smooth the edges of the cherries helped a bit. However, when it dried little crevices formed, but were hidden by paint and the lattice. On the plus side, the model magic allowed the filling to stay light-weight.

The lattice was a bit tricky - when I baked it, I didn't think to press the intersections together or to use water to help strengthen them, so it was pretty fragile. The salt dough reacted alright to hot glue, but it wasn't very strong. Finally, I painted the cherry filling and the shell, then glued the layers together."

Delightful!  If you'd like to see more of Kathleen's craft work, you can visit her Flickr page here.


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