… thoughts on theatre, life, and stuff

Archive for May, 2010

Camel Hat Assembly – and spit!

click to enlarge


Here’s a simple diagram that shows how the head of the camel was assembled.  You will need 

  • a foam camel head which you construct (stay tuned for a separate how-to)
  • wooden supports (1″ x 2″ will work, or heavy wooden dowels) 
  • a hard hat
  • duct tape and/or hot glue
  • upholstery foam
  • 6 ‘ of fish aquarium tubing (only if you want your camel to spit) available cheaply in the pet supply area of  “Wally World” or “PaySmart” discount stores.

Cut the wooden supports to size. You will need at least 3 vertical supports (perhaps more depending upon how heavy your camel’s head is).  Cut additional horizontal supports, attach them to the vertical supports to keep them from collapsing into each other.  Duct tape or hot-glue this structure to the hard hat. 

Cut, size, and hot-glue or duct tape together a tube of upholstery foam that will fit over the wooden support to pad the neck of the camel.  BEFORE you hot glue this to the supports, make sure it fits nicely with the head, shaped well, formed at the correct angle to look like a neck, etc.  THEN it’s OK to hot glue it to the supports. 

Slip the head-piece on and hot -glue it to the foam, BUT LEAVE THE OUTER FUR LOOSE AT THE BOTTOM, so you can come back later and attach the fabric that will cover the actor’s face.  When I made this costume, I just went ahead and glued that piece on at this point, and I regretted it later.  I have a new idea for this that I think would work better which I will describe in a separate entry about ways to improve this design.    BUT WAIT! THERE IS MORE! 

WANT YOUR CAMEL TO SPIT?   Leave small gaps in your hot-glued areas so you can run a 6′ length of aquarium tubing up through the neck and into the mouth of the camel (yes, 6 feet, it has to reach down the neck and through the body of the camel).  After testing to see that the water sprays out the mouth the way you want it, glue the end of the tube into place inside the mouth.  In our case, I ran the tubing over the top of the hard hat, up to the head between the faux fur and the foam support piece, and out through the mouth, clearing the tongue with about 1″ of tubing.  

SPITTING IS ABOUT AS LOW TECH AS IT CAN GET.  After experimenting with gadgets, pumps, and syringes, I finally realized the simple solution was best.  The actor in the back of the suit kept a bottled water with him, took a swig and literally blew it through the tubing to make the camel spit.  It took about 2 seconds for the water to travel from his mouth to the camel’s mouth, so he had to know the script and time the spitting with the other actors.  We used regular water, but you could color it, add milk (refrigerate that!) or other food-safe additives to make it show up against your stage’s backdrop, with your particular lights, etc. 

Fun fun!  hugs, v 


Camel Saddle

Assembling the saddle was one of the easiest parts of the project.  Here’s how I did it.  hugs, v- 

The camel’s saddle was simple to construct.  You will need: 

  • foam rubber (like upholstery foam from the fabric store)
  • “blanket” fabric (stripes are nice for a Middle-Eastern flavor)
  •   mock “leather” fabric
  • gold or other rich looking fabric.
  • hot glue
  • scissors
  • two small oval cardboard “jewelry boxes” from a craft store

I started by cutting out the foam shapes.  You will need to cut 1 long rectangular shape for the arch of the saddle, and two half-circle shapes for the ends.  If you’re just going to guess, cut out the rectangle first, shape it in to a curve and hold it over the remaining foam to guesstimate the size of the curve you need.  If you take the mathematical approach, make sure 1/2 of the circumference of the circle you cut equals the length of the side of the saddle.  (see diagram) 

click images to enlarge



Next, I covered all the foam pieces with the gold fabric.  I just hot glued it on, folding over the edges and hot-gluing them to the inside.  

I then hemmed the edges of the faux leather fabric and hot-glued that over the gold fabric.  

Next, I bent the rectangular piece into a curved shape and glue the end pieces into place.  

I covered the small oval craft boxes with fabric and hot glued them to the top of the saddle to look like saddle horns. 

 I cut the fabric for the saddle BLANKET into two equal pieces (note the direction of the stripes) and hemmed all edge.  Next, I sewed the very ends of the two pieces together for stability and hot glued the fabric to the saddle careful to leave the opening for the actor’s head. 

click to enlarge


 By NOT attaching the saddle to the body of the camel, the actor could remove the saddle like a hat to cool off.  These suits can trap heat!  


Click to enlarge


How I made the camel – introduction

“V! How’d you make the camel?!”   “Wait, it spits real water?!!!  How’d you DO that!?”      

The camel performs during Very Merry Rush Hour


Like most things I do… the honest answer is… “ummm, I dunno.”   I just got one of those bees in my bonnet and decided we HAD to have a camel costume. But lots of people have asked me to explain the process, so I’m working on a how-to blog series to explain how I made the Camel suit we used in Very Merry Rush Hour 2009.  

First of all, the disclaimer: Making this camel meant following a series of inspirations one after another. I may have started my research on Google for more practical ideas, but I believe with all my heart that my creative inspiration comes from God. My only frustration is that sometimes my imperfect hands can’t actually sculpt the image God puts in my brain.  

I couldn’t find a design I liked online, and I didn’t want to spend between $800 to $1000 to buy someone else’s creation, so I put this together myself.  It has a serious design flaw, but more about that later… To get the ball rolling, I did a simple Google search for “camel costume.”  From that, I decided to go with a single-hump, two-man costume. Yeah, yeah, I know that makes my camel a “dromedary” – HA! a drama-dery! get it!? snort!  

I used every-day tools, tons of hot glue, and materials you can find at your local hardware and fabric stores. I used light-weight PVC for the framework, because it is easy to work with in my kitchen. (even though I do have a power miter saw and I know how to use it!)  

Gathering camel ideas from the web.


This HOW-TO series will be broken down into several blog entries, so stay tuned for updates. Right now, you’ll find camel stuff in the “Costumes” category. When it’s all finished, I’ll group the series all-together so you can refer to it easily. I do all my own illustrations for this blog and when I actually BUILT the camel, I wasn’t taking notes on how I did it, so the process of documentation after the fact will be interesting to say the least.   

So far, I have posted how I made the tassels for the reins. (Woot! ambitious start, huh?)  That’s a handy little how-to that can be used for an infinite number of projects.  Stay tuned… soon I’ll be posting a how-to on building the framework from PVC and making the saddle and assembling the head-piece.  I’ll also break down for you how I did the shoes and jump-suits, and a lessons-learned section for what I think I would improve upon next time after having done it once.  If you make your own camel from these designs, you will find LOTS of ways to improve on them.  I would LOVE to see how yours turns out!  

Stay tuned… More camel fun to come!  P.S., ever try to find a CLEAN camel joke?  sigh.   hugs,  V-

Tassel making

Here’s an easy way to make a tassel.  I used these to decorate a long set of reins I made for a Camel costume.    hugs, V-    

click to enlarge image

Orange Costume Idea

Orange suit idea


Here’s an idea I have for the next time we need an “Orange” costume.  The same idea would work for any citrus fruit, I’m sure!  LOL.  Keep in mind… unlike most of the costume ideas on my blog,  this is still in the idea stage, I havent actually tried to construct it yet!  This is how I get started with a creative idea, though.  If I end up building it, I’ll post an update.      

The whole thing could be drawn as a faux (fake 3-D) design on poster-board.  Easy, cheap, done!  But with more time, $$ and effort, this could really be a conversation piece after a presentation on the concept of  “going orange.”  Imagine wearing a foam rubber orange slice to your church’s next staff meeting to make your pitch!!!    

This could also be made out of spray-painted upholstery foam (available from fabric stores).  That should be stiff enough to hold the circular shape.  Alternatively, I could use a cardboard circle COVERED with foam.  To cover the foam circles, I am thinking I would use orange tissue paper, the type used for wrapping gifts.  Orange poster board would be heavier, but would look great.  Yellow yarn glued on would look good for out-lining the segments, I think.  So would yellow glitter glue.     

... or watermelon, Kiwi, lemon....

I would use yellow, self adhesive fun-foam cut-outs for the seeds, and orange cloth strips for the shoulder straps.     

Put the actor in an orange or white track suit… or tights and oversized t-shirt, and voila!    

hugs, V-

Protecting your sound equipment from errr… water

A “lip microphone” setup for Rush Hour looks like this…   

Not an endorsement. But here's a sample... Countryman IsoMax E6 EarSet Microphone

Recently, an actor who shall remain nameless but who’s initials being with “V” had an issue where she tucked her microphone pac into her back pocket as she usually does, BEFORE she used the ladies room, and gave her mic pac a burial at sea.  This happened not just once… but, yes. Twice.  I p… I mean SHE paid for the replacement of one pac, and the other one was salvaged, but to avoid future embarrassment…. she came up with an idea for female actors…  (men CAN have this problem as well, but … oh, YOU figure it out, this blog is G-rated).  

 A simple pocket sewn onto the back of a sleeveless undershirt gives a female actor a way to preserve modesty when having a male tech help her with her mic, keeps the mic in place, and can prevent unintentional baptism events for the mic pac. 

Pocket shirt

 This same thing came in handy when Cammie make the comment that the weight of her mic pac was pulling down the waist of her cheer pants.  I whipped up one of these for her, and now… no more yanking at the waist of her pants.  And it’s snug enough, and sits in the small of her back, to prevent that square-mic-pac-bulge at the shoulder-blades or the waist of the pants. 



Cactus Prop (painless)



When a script called for a cactus, we had a hard time finding one that was big enough to look good on stage and look DANGEROUS, without actually BEING dangerous.  And I didn’t have much lead time to make something, because we didn’t know the real deal was so risky until it was run-through night, and it punctured our producer in the … err … well lets just say we didn’t find out until Thursday night that we needed a safer prop on Sunday morning.  

Here’s what I did. 

Gather materials including 

  1. a brown paper bag and water to soak it in.
  2. a decorative planting pot
  3. green flannel
  4. white fun foam
  5. a hot glue gun and glue sticks for it
  6. stuffing (I used paper from my paper shredder, you could use polyester batting if you wanted).
  7. a short pencil or dowel for each cactus pad you make

First, I tore off a large panel from the paper bag, wadded it up to wrinkle it, and began soaking it in water.  This will simulate the moss or dirt in the pot when the project is complete. 

Then I cut out round shapes, a little larger than the palm of my hands, from some green flannel scraps I had.  They were from an old faded twin bedsheet, so cost = $0.00.  You can sew the wrong sides of the flannel circles together leaving a large gap in the bottom for stuffing as shown here… 

Click to enlarge


When the cactus “pad” is stuffed and closed, cut needles out of fun foam and hot glue them on. 

add the needles to the "pads"


Hot glue on the pencil or dowel as a stem.  The stem won’t show, but adds support and provides a way to connect the pads together at the base like a real cactus. 

add a quick stem


Next, hot glue the stems together.  If the pads “flop” over, that’s ok.  Hot glue the stems into the base of the pot so they stay put. 
Wring out most of the water from the brown paper bag that has been soaking in water.  It should look wrinkled.  When it dries, it will look leathery, or like dirt from a distance.  (If you want to make a fake book that looks like leather, remember this material!) 
Stuff the paper around and under the pads of the cactus.  When it dries, use hot glue to secure it into the pot.
Ta Daaa!  Safe, realistic-looking cactus.  Done. 
hugs,  v-

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