Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Making Stewie, Part 1

Some folks wanted to get a clearer picture of Stewie's creation, so I'll do a two-parter with what pics I took.

I want to give full credit to SpookyBlue, whose design I followed here. Spook has a far better tutorial than I will cover here. This will be something of a quick overview, complete with my beginner's mistakes.

I put on my thick gardening gloves and some eye protection and wrestled the chicken wire head into a roughly spherical shape. As I said before, there were a few spots in Stewie's build where I didn't quite follow the directions exactly, and this was the start. Stewie's head wound up more football-shaped than round, hence the name Stewie. Oh, well. As I said in a previous entry, I'll fix it in post. I took a few feet of 3/4" PVC pipe, drilled a hole through the pipe towards the top (leaving space to attach a stalk later) and one farther down the pipe so I could wire the chicken wire "sphere," now reinforced with duct tape, to the pipe. If I had realized at the time that I was building Stewie larger from the start, I would have chosen a thicker pipe to support the weight. I did mention SpookyBlue's tutorial was better than this one, right? We also wired a light socket with an orange fluorescent light bulb I had picked up at Walgreen's into his head for an evil flaming effect later.

At this point I rolled up more chicken wire into tubes to form breastbone and ribs, drilling holes along the pipe to run wire in order to secure the ribcage, etc. My husband came up with the great idea of taking heavy-duty cable ties rather than wire to add stability. Worked a treat! I then stuffed the ribs with newspaper and wrapped the whole lot with duct tape.

This was truly where I mixed up Spook's instructions and made the ribs way too large. In addition, the way I placed Stewie's head on the pipe (looking for a relatively good spot for his face later on), and placed his ribs created forward-heaviness as the project went on and I added more elements. If I had thought about it, I would have wrapped the ribs more towards his back.

Up to this point, Stewie had been small enough to be supported by a clamp on my workbench. Now I needed to be able to move around him as I started his layers of papier mache. I asked for my husband's input on the issue, and he came up with the idea for a bucket with a post set in cement. I got 1" PVC with the idea of sliding the 3/4" inside, but had to go back to Lowe's and get a coupler to make it work. I added wheels to the bottom before the concrete was poured, so I could move it around easier by myself.
Later, as Stewie's rapid weight gain put him in danger of face-planting almost daily, we got a galvanized tub, a 1 1/2" galvanized pipe, and a 50lb bag of concrete. The tub spread the weight out nicely and gave him a more stable platform.

I was ready to start the first layer of papier mache. For people who just want to knock out a prop fast, this is not for you. This takes time and patience, and if you focus on what you're doing, you can achieve a sort of relaxing, Zen-like state. This 
was around the time I bought a cheap stereo system from Big Lots and brought my laptop out in the garage with me to act as MP3 player and reference to SpookyBlue's site. It made the 90+ degree weather more bearable.
After I applied three layers of newspaper strips to Stewie's head and body, I cut out his eyes and mouth, going for a really big, evil, toothy grin. Then I started with real papier mache. This is an art form, and since it was my first time, there was a learning curve involved. I soon got the hang of it, doing my best to keep the mixture on the dry side. It took me a couple of days to work out where I wanted ridges and the details for his teeth, but once I had a clear picture in my head, it was pretty easy. I also used rolled-up newspaper to form ridges and duct-taped them to Stewie's head.

I made sure to cut an access hatch in the back of his head so I could change the light bulb when needed. I also made sure to continue the ridges and details I had started on the front to the back, so that he'd look finished on all sides.

More tomorrow!

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