Back in January I posted my original character concepts for FILTH. That was long before I built anything. I’ve been doing a lot of painting this week. I put the finishing touches on the puppets today and I thought it fitting to show them with the original designs to better illustrate the evolution of the cast from concept to completion. Some characters strayed from my original idea but for the most part they remained extremely faithful in spirit if not in actual execution. Not a bad looking motley crew.
I finally have a perfectly cast puppet. It’s taken 3 weeks and 7 runs but all my puppets are now foamed up. It was an experience which seems unlikely to be repeated any time soon. So why did it work this time? WHO KNOWS! I have my theories but I may never know what really went wrong (or right as the case may be) I spoke with the people who manufacture the foam who helped me narrow down what could be the problem so a big thank you to Arnold Goldman at Monsters Lab. If nothing else this episode will change the way I prep my sculpts, molds and skeletons before running my next batch of foam. Of course … it may be three to four years before I run any new puppets so I really won’t need to worry about it until 2020.
Remaining positive in the face of adversity is not easy. I’m fortunate. I’m able to maintain (much to the annoyance of those around me) a stubborn steak of optimism in my disposition. After a third disastrous run, do I know why this puppet won’t foam up? Maybe … maybe not. Truth is I may be no closer now than I was when I started. It’s all just a guessing game at this point but I’ve made some changes to my procedure and ready or not, I’m prepping my little Michelin Man for another go. I won’t bore you with the specific changes I’ve made but I love a challenge and as the stakes get higher (my poor mould is really starting to crack) I can’t help but feel a little giddy about what might happen next … like a good horror movie.
There was no way I could put this off. With yesterdays successful run, I got up today and knew I had to run the last puppet again. Unfortunately the results were less than stellar and the mould has taken the brunt of it. I can epoxy it back together and because it’s his back side it shouldn’t be a problem.
As for the puppet, the run was much better than the first attempt but it’s still suffering from the same issues. I have to let the mould cool before I can patch everything up and try again. I will have to wait a few days to let the epoxy set before I can run this again. My quiet resolve has turned into dark eyed determination.
I just completed run #4. I couldn’t wait; I had to know if my theory about the clay and the moulds was correct. Today’s run was the first attempt for my main character. Aside from the clay used in the original sculpt; there is essentially no difference in the entire process of creating this puppet and yesterdays. The puppet foamed up without incident which seems to confirm my theory, that the issues that have been occurring have something to do with the clay leaching something into the plaster mould. If recent history holds true, the remaining puppet, which has already been baked once, should succeed the next time I run it. This whole episode has left me exhausted.
I just completed a third foam run with mixed results … but I have a theory. My disaster from earlier in the week has gone through a second time and successfully come out the other side. However the second puppet in the oven suffered the same fate as my previous mishap.
NOW … MY THEORY. I’ve been using a different clay on some of the FILTH puppets and every mould that was made from a puppet sculpted with that new clay has come out of the foaming process wrong. Even when 2 moulds made with different clays where in the oven at the same time, the new clay puppet failed while the older clay puppet succeeded. I believe something has leached into the plaster from the clay during the mould making process and is having an adverse reaction with the foam. I am also fairly certain that having gone through the oven once seems to have baked whatever is causing the issue out of the mould. I base that conclusion on the success of today’s successful second attempt. I can only hope that the same will occur when I put today’s failed puppet back into the oven. If all this proves to be true, my only real conciliation right now is that the one puppet that has yet to be attempted was sculpted using my old clay. If he should foam up successfully on the first try I believe I will have the reason for this situation.
I waited a day before posting this because it’s important to keep things in perspective… and I needed to cool off. Things can go wrong for any number of reasons. Trying to pin point where things went sideways is not always easy. Sometimes it just happens. The process of making this type of puppet from start to finish is not an easy one. It takes a lot of time, there are a lot of steps, it’s messy, it’s smelly and at times it can be both frustrating and nerve wracking. I’ve run a lot of foam over the years so I’m fairly comfortable with the procedure but I still get anxious during those hours I have to wait while a puppet is in the oven. I’ve had my share of failures and let me tell you it is not a good feeling opening a mould and seeing a disaster. That’s exactly what happened yesterday. To say I was disappointed would be a gross understatement but you can’t let these types of setbacks derail you. A few days from now, I’ll try again and (hopefully) succeed and this moment will become a footnote in the making of FILTH. To use a sports analogy, it’s a single loss in a very long season.