Here’s one of the more complicated steps to constructing the 2-man camel suit. This entry describes the construction and assembly of the frame.
The frame was constructed of PVC, padded, and covered with felt.
I made the frame of the camel from PVC (that white plumbing-tubing available at hardware or home-improvement stores). I used long lengths of 1″ pvc. Heating this stuff in your kitchen is very do-able. When it reaches the right temp, you can easily bend it with your hands. A hack-saw made the necessary cuts, or you can heat a kitchen knife (this will ruin the knife!) and “melt” the cuts.
Do not inhale these fumes!
Melted plastic will give you nasty burns if you are not careful!
This stuff will catch on fire, can leave icky melted plastic on your stove, etc.
The original design.
You need to heat all sides of the tube for it to bend correctly. Just heat the bottom, for instance, and the tube will “warp” as you apply pressure to bend it. Then, instead of being a nice “flat” curve, it will dip down, or rise up, and the bottom of our camel will be uneven.
PVC pipe comes with “joints” and “curves” you can buy. I went the cheap way and bent it using heat, but alternatively, you could cut the PVC into the correct lengths and glue on elbow joints for the curves. This would mean more time and expense, but you would have a much neater end product than my camel.
I used duct tape to connect the various pieces to each other.
Cover all this with padding, and then fabric. Padding the frame (I used an old blanket) will soften the shape some. I hot-glued the fabric over the frame. WHEN GLUING ON THE FABRIC, LEAVE GAPS IN THE GLUE FOR ACTOR HANDS TO GRIP THE INSIDE OF THE FRAME. My frame was actually sized so that the actors fit comfortably, but snugly inside the frame and the rear frame fit over the actor in the back, making the entire frame supportable by just his shoulders.
NOTE: I added straps of fabric to the inside of the frame for the front actor, like suspenders to make it easier to keep the “cage” of the body level. It’s one thing to hold it all in place standing still, but when you are dancing with a partner and nearly blind inside it, the level of complexity rises and the actors’ concentration will shift from cosmetics to survival!
For the final outer layer of fabric, I used 60″-wide lengths of camel-colored felt that I got on sale. (Most fabric comes on bolts that are either 45″ or 60″ wide. )
NOTE: this frame and the “skin” of the camel are the parts of the project that I would re-design. I never did like the way the front “Chest and neck” just floated around loosely like a skirt. With more money and time, I would have designed the frame this way…
A new approach.
The new design would have allowed me to have an elastic or draw-string neck opening that could be slipped right over the hard-hat and under the loose edge of the faux fur that covers the neck… resulting in a smoother neck and chest that looked more camel-like.
Well, the NEXT time we use the camel… he’s in for an overhaul.