Stop Motion Animation Forum Archive











Posted by Jackieboyblue, on 2006-07-25 17:05:52

Contemplating Organic Type of Set: Fiberglass, Mache, Wood?

I'm set on building a rather organic form for of my stop motion sets. Organic in that its not something where I could just fasten planes of wood together because there are far too many curvilinear surfaces on it. I have a plethera of ideas about different approaches to this problem, but I wanted to get a good idea of what the experienced would say. I've considered the fiberglass approach, but of course when dealing with fiberglass you must have a hard mold or pattern with which to begin. I've considered taking ceramic clay, or wood and then covering it with a layer of fleece and drenching it in fiberglass resin. I've also considered taking chicken wire and fastening it to the fleece and applying the resin, fixing mistakes with bondo after its cured. Is fiberglass strong enough for simple tie downs? Another approach I've considered is gluing multiple layers of particle board together to achieve a block of wood and then carving away the organic form. I imagine this could be a slow and tedious process. Finally my third approach involves a sort of cloth mache with canvas and linen using the same type of molds from the fiberglass approach (clay or wood) and then soaking the cloth with durham's RHWP. So what do you think about these ideas. If it was your project what would you do? Any new approaches/ideas are perfectly welcome of course.

Posted by Nick H, on 2006-07-26 02:04:40

Fibreglass would be excellent for making organic forms like undulating ground, rocks, tree trunks etc. But I usually use plaster reinforced with fibreglass matting, because it's cheaper than the resin, less stinky, and works well enough. It's fine for tiedowns. I've made plaster rock surfaces in latex moulds taken from real rock. But most of the time I don't bother with a mould. One way is to build up the approximate shape of the hills (or the front of the tree trunk or whatever) with water based clay. This is good for something that rises to about 2 to 6 inches high. Just lay the clay on a flat surface. Brush some clay and water on your benchtop around the clay to act as a release. If its a tree I have it laying flat on the bench, and I model it about 3/4 round. That leaves me a space at the back to get the clay out afterwards, but theres still enough to curve around out of sight. Then put plaster and strips of fibreglass matting over it. You can also use hessian (burlap) fabric as reinforcement. Build up about 6mm (1/4") thickness, and let it set. Then pry it off, and remove the clay from the back. If puppets are going to walk on this hill, you need to cut a hole in your set floor under where this hill will go so you have access to the underside. More plaster can be stippled over the surface and onto the particle board set floor to blend it in to the ground and give it texture. You can model some details directly in wet plaster. If you wanted to use polyester resin and fibreglass, which would be lighter and stronger, first cover the clay completely with cling wrap. Otherwise the moisture would inhibit the cure of the resin. It's like making a plaster mould of a clay sculpture, only the mould is the actual object, you use the outside of it. In one case it was both, I detailed the clay surface of a tree, then made the outside of the mould into a bigger tree. I cast several latex trees from the inside. Brushing and stippling, or scoring the thickened but not-quite-set plaster can create all sorts of rock and bark textures. Actually you can build up with anything, go out in your backyard and make a pile of dirt, then lay plaster over it if you only want a gentle mound. Another way is to build up the shape with chicken wire. I made some rocky cliffs this way (photos somewhere at stopmoshorts). First make a couple of profiles cut from particle board so you can staple the chicken wire to that. You can dip strips of burlap in wet plaster and lay them directly over the chicken wire. You may need to do one section, let it set, then rotate the chicken wire so a different part is facing up, and then cover that bit. Then a second layer will be easier because it's got something to stick to. The same technique works with polyester resin and fibreglass. The first layer won't cling to a vertical chicken wire surface so again you have to do a section at a time until you've got the first layer done. If its plaster, Agnew's Water Putty (Durham's in the US) makes a better final surface, but plaster will do. Finish with water based acrylic paint. When I want a hollow in the flat ground, like a pond, I cut a hole in my particle board, staple some plastic sheet that sags in the hole, then plaster over that and blend it into the ground. Resin would definitely be better if you are putting water in it, but I've got away with plaster a few times now.

Posted by Jackieboyblue, on 2006-07-26 21:54:41

Excellent input/ideas as usual, Nick; thanks for the feedback. I'm taking a serious consideration in trying the burlap/plaster mache approach. I might add some tacky glue or acrylic medium too to give it some flexibility. I'm not sure if adding those types of media to plaster will disturb it from setting up but I'll do some experimentation. To be more specific, when I said organic forms I meant that my set has different levels in which the character interact within. If you ever saw Wes Anderson's Life Aquatic, then you might remember the bisection of the boat type of set and how certain movie shots would pan from one deck to another. It was rather impressive. I'm not going that far, but imagine the same concept but the bisection of a human heart and imagine that the ventricles and atria were different rooms so to speak. That's my initial idea. That's why I'm concerned about strength more than say a mound would require. But I'm definitely interested in your idea and will try it out. Thanks for the feedback again. It is most helpful!