Chamberlain Skeksis build

Discussion in 'Replica Costumes' started by Beverley, Jul 4, 2014.

  1. Beverley

    Beverley New Member

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    Hi everyone,

    Long time reader, first time poster ;) I decided one day to make my childhood favourite, Chamberlain Skeksis, and I'd like to share here how he was done, and how the finished project turned out.

    I started it in January this year, and worked away on bits and pieces of him on weekends. All in all, I spent 6 months on the whole build.

    He was completed at the start of June, and made his first public appearance at a pop culture convention in Sydney, Australia, a couple of weeks ago (photographed by the wonderful Sarah Hillier photography)

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    I started out by doing a WED clay sculpt of the head, over a styrofoam mannequin head:
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    I latex molded it, and cast it in sculptamold:
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    Once it was just off fully cured, I carved and scooped it all out, so that the head was a shell, rather than a solid piece, and added the wrinkles and face details with latex and tissues, then hand painted him with acrylic paint, and later added painited sculpey teeth:
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    I did the hands, and the little arms on his back in the same way (sculpt, latex, sculptamold):
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    The body was made on a base of a hiking back pack, on which I mounted shaped EVA foam mats, and added a sewn tail filled with styrofaom beads and toy stuffing:
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    I hand sewed the legs, and chest/belly piece out of cotton poplin, and filled them with toy stuffing:
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    The legs were then permanently fixed onto the body frame, by hand sewing, and I glued the chest piece into the body frame. Then I coated the whole lot in liquid neoprene from the hardware store, let it cure, undercoated it in black gesso, then hand painted the skin of the Skeksis in acrylic paint:
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    The arms were made from cardboard inner rolls from the fabric store, joined with plastic plumbing curves. I glued the scultamold hands into the wrists, and wrapped the entire thing in left over poplin, stuffing as I went and hand sewing the 'muscles' into position. They were treated the same as the body and legs - neoprene coated, gesso coated, then hand painted for the Skeksis skin look I wanted:
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    The spines were made from balsa wood, shaped with a dremel, and then coated with sculptamold, sanded back roughly, then hand painted:
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    Once all the separate pieces were finished, I attached the arms by fixing U bolts on to the foam body, and attaching carabina clips to the inside surface of the upper arms. The spines, head and tiny arms were fixed on with screws and wing nuts, so that he can be broken down for transport and storage:
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    I left the body assembled, and standing on a dressmaker's dummy inside, and built his clothing onto him. The robes are made from 20m of satin, which I hemmed at 1.5m intervals along its length, add added drawstring ribbons to give a layered effect. I then hand sewed this all onto a straight sheet of black quilt backing, and glued the quilt backing straight onto the back of Chamberlain. 10m of black cheese cloth was then hand sewn up into the gaps of the satin drapes, and onto the edge of the quilt backing, to disguise it, and give a second texture of robes that would fall out onto the floor and drag:
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    I sewed the sleeves from white bridal satin, hemmed down the centre line, and added a draw string ribbon along the length, to get the rouching of the sleeves, and added lace cuffs with ribbon detail. I flipped this inside out and added a second lining sleeve of striped cotton, that shows through once every thing got ripped up:
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    The 'collars' and lighter grey robes were made from more satins, and some white chiffon, that I hand sewed into place around the spines. I went through the folds of the robes and added scraps of embroidered jacquard fabric, and just let them hang out as tattered pieces:
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    Once all of that was done, I weathered all of the robes with a box cutter and a steak knife, then used watered down acrylic paints in spray bottles, to get the dirty and aged look that he needed. I started with black, then worked my way up through a few shades of grey, until I finished it off with different shades of brown :
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    The last few things I did were go back in, and add a thin metal 'skeleton' to the inside of the chest and main body, to support the weight of all the bits, once he was assembled. This just sits in there by pressing against the sides of the creature, and holding its own shape and the weight of the costume, and I cut a viewing window fro myself into the chest piece. I filled the hole with black tulle, and hid the edges by smoothing more neoprene onto them, and repainting that part. Then I glued two velcro leg straps to each of his legs, to hold them to my own, and hid the joins with more neoprene and paint.

    And then he was done, and ready to be worn around the convention, and brought to life :)
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    Thank you for reading, every one! I hope you enjoyed seeing how I got this big guy done :)
     
    Yrien and chefhawk like this.
  2. 8 perf

    8 perf Sr Member

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    That is absolutely FANTASTIC!!!!! Very well done.
     
  3. ahoudini

    ahoudini Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    OK, that is just absolutely wonderful! I hope you understand how few humans possess, themselves, the varied skills necessary to accomplish this amazing build! Design, sculpting, casting, painting, foam fabrication, metal work, sewing, soft sculpture, weathering and distressing, costumed performance; the list goes on and on. You should be very proud! I hope you watched "Jim Henson's Creature Shop Challenge." If not, track down at least the Skeksis episode on YouTube and watch how a talented team with a stupidly complete shop (and Henson advisers) accomplishes what you did by yourself! Well done!

    BTW, your use of the phrase, "plastic plumbing curves" rather than "PVC elbows" hints at how far out of your comfort zone you ventured and makes your achievement even more impressive. Congratulations!
     
  4. Sean

    Sean Sr Member RPF PREMIUM MEMBER

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    I'm speechless that's so amazing. absolutely fantastic work.:thumbsup
     
  5. Beverley

    Beverley New Member

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    Thank you, every one! I have previously only done sewn costumes, so fabric stores are my second home, but my Chamberlain build sent me to the hardware store more times than I can count, so you're right, Ahoudidni- I was out of my comfort zone a few times! ;)

    I watched the Henson Skeksis Challenge AFTER he was basically finished, and I would have loved to have made the articulated foam hands that one of them had, but as it is, I can move his arms out and reach out to people from inside the costume (technically, I think he crossed the line from costume to puppet :/ ) There is plenty of room in his head to add sound, so that he will whimper, and I'm hoping to get that done for it someday.
     
  6. LadyStormblood

    LadyStormblood New Member

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    Stunning work. It is always amazing to see someone talented in so many different skills required to complete a project like this! Bravo! :3
     
  7. coyoterose

    coyoterose New Member

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    Bravo! The Dark Crystal is one of my favorites from childhood too and you have done incredible work!
     
  8. Azrael69

    Azrael69 Active Member

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    Love your work, Bev... :D
    You are amazing at whatever you choose to do, in or out of your comfort zone... ;)
     
  9. Ardeliah

    Ardeliah New Member

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    That is amazing! I'm looking to see how others made theirs while I'm working on my own. I wish I had found this site before I started. Some of the tips are awesome.
     

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