Thursday, 26 May 2011

Health and Safety

Throughout the building of the set health and safety was considered. Steel toe boots were worn, when ladders were used they were held by another person, when necessary goggles and masks were worn. Fabrics had fire-retardant sprayed on them, and the foam used on the furniture was fire retardant.

Photos of finished set

All my own Photos


All the photographs from the wallpapering, making the love seat and the windows

My own photo of the stencil used in the Drawing room

Inspiration for the drawing room stencil, taken from 'The Art of Faux' by Pierre Finkelstein, 1997, published by Watson-Guptill Publications in the United States.

Photos courtesy of Sarah Laker

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Week beginning 16th May and week beginning 23rd May

Any stencilling left over was completed.
Rhyan made the frame for the love seat at home and brought it in. Rhyan, Vicky and myself then began to pad it out with foam. The frame had a base and legs made of wood, thin wood bent around the back to give it a curved shape and plastic tubing around the top to give it a curved edge. Foam was placed over the back of the inside and was cut to fit, before being fixed into place with a staple gun. this was repeated until all of the inside was covered. Any gaps were patched up with small pieces of foam and the space between the foam and the wooden back of the seat was padded out with excess foam and polystyrene. The foam was difficult to staple to the frame and it required several attempts.
We then began to upholster it. We started in the centre of the inside of the love seat, stapling the fabric to the plastic piping at the top, before making our way round the top edge and fixing the fabric to it. We then pulled the fabric taut down the inside and stapled it into the crease where the foam was stapled on the seat. The excess fabric was trimmed off. The front edge of the seat was covered in fabric, which was stapled both on the seat and underneath.
We then found that there was not enough length in the fabric to cover the back of the seat. To fix this we measured the outside of the back of the love seat and divided it by 3. We cut two sections of fabric long enough to cover 1 third each, and attached them to the top of the back of the seat (with the top folded over to make the join neater) using the staple gun. The fabric was then pulled taut down the back of the seat and stapled underneath the seat. the excess fabric was cut off of the bottom, and it was this that we used to cover the middle third of the back of the seat. This was attached in the same way. Where the legs got in the way, we cut a slit into the fabric and wrapped it around to the back of the leg. Rhyan bought some gold braid, which we used to cover the joins in the fabric. We attached it using a hot glue gun, and folded the ends over to make sure they didn't fray. Rhyan then stained the legs of the seat.

Vicky and I then began on the windows. We first made the frames by measuring the height and width of the windows. For each one we cut two lengths of softwood the same measurement as the height, and two lengths the measurement of the width minus the widths of the two height pieces, see diagram below.
The two vertical pieces were placed into the side
s of the gap, using another piece of pine facing the same way to mark how far into the window the frame would sit. The vertical parts of the frame were screwed into the flats at regular intervals. We had quite a bit of difficulty in screwing the tops in and we had to ask Simon for help. Abbie Whenary and Nicola McCue screwed two of these into place for us, but we had to re-screw the tops of these, as they were not flush with the neighbouring flats. The horizontal pieces then slotted in between, at the top and the bottom. They had to be fixed using small blocks of softwood which had two screws, one into the horizontal piece and one into the vertical piece. This was repeated for each window. Problems were encountered when measuring the wood, as none of the windows were of equal sizes, and the were different widths between the top and the bottom. However eventually we got the measurements correct.
We then measured up for the bars across the windows according to Vicky's design, with Simon's help. There were three verticals bars and 2 horizontal bars in each window. Thin pieces of softwood were used. The vertical bars were cut to the same measurement as the height of the window, plus 2 inches each end, and the horizontal bars were cut to the width of the window plus 2 inches at each end. The middle of the edge of each piece of wood had to be marked, so that notches could be cut into into them. These notches allowed the bars to fit together and fit onto the window frame. The notches we cut in the vertical bars are shown in fig. 1 and the horizontal bars are shown in fig. 2. The notches had to be at precise intervals so that they would match up correctly.

Fig. 1

Fig 2

The notches in fig. 1 are 46cm apart, and the notches in fig 2 are 19cm apart. The vertical bars were attached to the window so that every 19.5cm mark on the window frame matched up with the middle of each bar, these bars were then nailed onto the frame. The horizontal bars were slotted into place with the notches, which were glued in place, and were also nailed to the frame. Any apparent gaps were filled with car body filler by Rhyan, and once this was dry it was sanded down. We then used two coats of dark oak wood stain to stain each window.

The members of the group making the panelling changed its design in order to save time, using long strips of wood as the top and bottom horizontal parts, and shorter strips and the vertical. A dado rail was added along the top and a skirting board along the bottom.

Rhyan and Simon cut the wood for the floor and I helped to slot it into place.

We then carried all the furniture in and placed the knick knacks in their places. We were then taught how to light the set using lights, gels and various other things in order to animate the light. We learned how to used a video camera, including altering the aperture and ND filter.
We experimented with lighting the rooms. In the study we placed a large light outside the window, another that lit the room through the door, and a small one in the corner which was dimmed slightly to resemble the light from a candle. This looked effective. However, even when all of these lights were on and the aperture was fully open, the room was still a little too dark. Although this did make it seem more creepy, as was intended.
The drawing room was lit by two small lights from above, acting as chandeliers, and one large light through each window. This again made the room a little darker than was intended.

Overall I was very happy with the way the set turned out.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Week beginning the 9th of May

On Monday we finished wallpapering the rooms and decided on designs for the finished wallpaper. Rhyan found an altered a design for the study, and I found a very intricate Baroque-style design for the drawing room, and simplified it. Rhyan began to cut her design out of polyprop. However she found it very difficult, and when we tested it the paint bled. We therefore decided to make the stencils from acetate which, when tested, did not allow the paint to bleed and could be held flat against the wall more easily.
On Tuesday Rhyan drove us around various DIY stores to pick up the paint for the walls. Eventually we had to settle for buying the slightly more expensive colour mixed paint as we wanted very specific colours. Once we came back we began to paint the study dark green. Rhyan painted the corners and edges with a brush while Vicky and I used rollers to paint the walls.
At this point we decided that, as I was working with both Rhyan and Vicky on our respective elements, and Rhyan was working with Vicky on a love seat, we would work as a three to get each item done without one person being left with nothing to do.
During the rest of the week we painted the drawing room pink, going around the edges and corners with brushes and doing the main parts with rollers. We took our designs for the stencils and laid the acetate on top of them, and drew the design on with permanent markers. We then used scalpels to cut the design out. Later on in the process a second full stencil and a half stencil had to be cut out for the drawing room. The half stencil was to help make the corners easier to negotiate, and the full stencil was made when the first one had broken too much to be repaired. The stencils did occasionally break, but were easily repaired with sellotape. They also had to be regularly cleaned, as when too much paint built up on them they allowed paint to bleed through underneath.
Rhyan measured on the wall where each stencil should be placed and the stencil was fixed to the wall with masking tape. The paint for the pattern was lightly dabbed onto the stencil with a sponge. The sponge had to be quite dry in order for the paint not to bleed under the stencil. A light layer of the wall-colour paint was stippled over the top with another sponge to give a more textured effect. This was repeated over all of the walls, and took several days to complete.
The corners of the room we difficult to negotiate with the stencil, so we left those until the very and and then cut the stencil to fit.
Any mistakes or paint bleeding was corrected using a small brush.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

This week

We started to put the set together on Tuesday this week. Henry Jones showed us how to screw the flats together. We began in a corner, with at least two people on each side. Those on the flat side held the flats in place, made sure the edges were flush and one of them used a spirit level to check it was flat. On the other side one person also held the flats firm, while the other screwed them together at 2 foot intervals, starting near the bottom and working up. As more flats were added, more people were required to help keep the flats upright. However this was not a job that required the whole group. In fact the job was hindered when too many people got involved. So myself, Kirby Vincent and Vicky Leonard were taught by Simon to make the brackets to keep the set stable when it had been put together. To do this we needed two pieces of softwood roughly the same length. Two people held them in place, at right angles as in the diagram below, while the other screwed them together with 1 - 2 feet in between each screw.
If the others putting the set together required our help then we would leave this and help them, as the building was the priority at this point. We continued to make these supports until we ran out of wood!

On Thursday we took down on of the drawing room walls as it was 'floating' a few cm's off of the ground. We then rebuilt it with a piece of MDF underneath it (this was to check it was straight, as we weren't sure if it was the floor that was wonky!). However unfortunately it still still 'floated' a little. Rhyan, Vicky, Chloe and myself then went to buy the wallpaper etc. following some research into what was available (this will also be posted). We also had a look around to see if there were alternatives to painting a floor, as we felt we would not have time. We found that Lino and snap in flooring was too expensive, but that small tiles of self adhesive Lino were available at the pound shop. However, after getting back and discussing it with the rest of the group, we were not sure that this would be our best option.

On Friday we began to put up the wallpaper. In the morning, while the brackets were being attached to the backs of the flats, we mixed up some weak wallpaper paste. We applied this to all of the walls, above where the panelling would be. This was to prepare the walls, as if we had applied the wallpaper straight away they would have absorbed all of the past and the paper would have come away. In the afternoon we used a plumb line to draw a straight line down one wall in each room. It is to this that we would line up the edge of the wallpaper. But first we cut strips of wallpaper about a foot too long for the area we were papering (we needed 5 foot so we cut about 6). Then two people pasted these while myself, Vicky and Rhyan applied them to the wall. We did this with one of us up on the platform holding the paper at the top and matching it to the line. The person at the bottom then continued to match the line and the paper was smoothed down using a dry sponge. A wet sponge was used to wipe off any excess paste. The bottom of the paper which overlapped the panelling was cut off. This was repeated around all of the walls.

Flat sizes

As previously promised, the number of flats and their sizes built for the set:

17# 4 x 8 foot flats

1# 3 x 8 foot flat

7# 2 x 8 foot flats

1# 3 and 1/2 x 8 foot flat

1# 1 and 1/2 x 8 foot flat

3# 3 x 3 foot footers for the windows

3# 4 x 1 and 1/2 foot headers for the doors (only 2 doors, but one needed on each side of the door connecting the two rooms)

However, the headers for the doors are only being used to help hold the set together under construction. They will be replaced when the doors are built.

Monday, 18 April 2011

While I was out in Rochester I found these and bought them to put into the completed set:
One is a candlestick holder and the other is a small vase for flowers.
I also bought a brass letter rack and brass ornament at an antique fair.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Building Flats

On Tuesday the 5th we had a demonstration from Henry Jones. He showed us how to make the flats for our sets and then helped us work out exactly how many flats we needed and at what size. (I do not currently have these but I will post them when I do).We then began to build the flats. First we had to measure the wood. For each 8 by 4 flat, 2 x 8 foot pieces of wood and 5 x 4 foot (minus 2 times the width of the wood) were cut. On the 8 foot pieces of wood, one end was marked so that we knew where to start when putting everything together. We measured along these and made a mark every 2 feet with a pencil, using a square to make sure the lines were straight. We marked them in bulk to save time (eg. 5 at a time). On each end, we made a mark a distance from the end equal to the thickness of the wood. We used a power drill to make two holes in each end. These were to prevent the wood from splitting when the screws were inserted . Then, starting from the marked end of the 8 foot piece of wood, we used the drill to screw on the 4 foot pieces of wood at each mark. We repeated this for the second side, again starting with the marked end.
Once this has successfully been screwed together, PVA glue was spread all over one side of this frame. A 4 foot by 8 foot plywood skin was then placed on top, and one of the marked corners was made flush. An electric nail gun was then used to fix the plywood to the frame.
We used this around each edge, manipulating the plywood to make sure it was flush against each
edge as we went round. This meant that the finished flat was as straight as possible. We drew lines across the plywood which showed where the frame was underneath, and also used the nail gun across these to make sure the plywood was secure. We then used a router to go around each edge to make sure they were straight.
This was repeated for every flat, footer and header but with any necessary measurement changes.

We measured 3 feet from the bottom of each flat and used a set square to make sure the line
drawn across the flat was straight. This marked where the panelling would be. We painted up to this line to make it look like mahogany. This was done with three coats of paint. Firstly red oxide paint was applied. While this was still wet burnt umber was mixed into it (making sure all of the brush strokes followed the grain). Black paint was then lightly brushed on to create a more defined grain. This was then dry brushed to blend it in.

We discussed how the panelling effect would be created. at first we thought that a plywood square with the middle cut out, and the lines painted onto it would be used (image 1). Then, after discussing it with Andy, we decided to make each individual 'piece of wood' from plywood and butt them together as in image 2. Then I suggested that we could make every piece of wood in the same size, making it easier to make them, and then butt them together as in image 3.
These were cut to the right size (which I do not currently know, as I did not measure or cut them) and I then helped to paint them in the same way as the flats.
Fiona and Callum were making the stove for the drawing room and had to cut out and paint MDF tiles to cover it. When they had been cut out I helped to prime them with covent garden primer and give them 2 coats of white emulsion.

Through all of these steps I made sure I was wearing the correct equipment: steel toe boots, goggles when using the drill, router or saw and a mask when using the router or saw.

All photos courtesy of Sarah Laker.

Catch up on last week

The next few posts will be a catch up on our work last week.

Below are my concept drawings of how I imagine parts of the finished set to look:

This is the far corner of the study (Death room). It has the sofa on which Ivan dies and the screen which symbolises the way he sees death. The shadow and mould represents death reaching out for him, and is creeping across the room to get at him.

This is the opposite end of the study. The shadow does not reach this far as it is only looking for Ivan. You can see the light of the real world entering the room from the door which leads to the drawing room. The curtains are drawn so the only light is entering from the drawing room.

This is the drawing room. It is much brighter and is lit with natural light. It shows a stark contrast to the study.

Monday, 11 April 2011

The Machinist - Film review

(image courtesy of

This film was about a man who had killed a boy in a hit and run accident, but had repressed the memories of this. The guilt caused him to lose sleep and he began to hallucinate, creating people and events which never existed. Throughout the film he tries to find out what is going on and finally realises the truth at the end.

This is the most modern film we have watched, and I think one of the most effective.

This film contained elements from some of the other films, especially The Tennant. Until the very end of the film, the character’s delusions are shown to be fact, and it is only towards the end when these unravel that the viewer begins to doubt his version of reality and it is revealed that he has actually been repressing memories. For example, at the beginning of the film he was shown to be disposing of a body, but at the end it is shown that this body did not actually exist. However I feel that this film used this distortion of reality to far greater effect than The Tennant. The main character’s delusions are presented as pure fact, and while the viewer may have suspicions that they are not seeing the complete truth, the reality of the situation is not revealed until the very end of the film. This creates and sustains suspense and intrigue throughout the entire film, holding the attention of the viewer.

The dingy settings, such as his flat and the factory where he works, create an unpleasant atmosphere which helps the viewer to empathise with the his state of mind.

It also has a large Freudian influence in the form of repression. Repression, according to Freud, is a defence mechanism enforced by the ego to protect the id from harm. The ego represses painful or damaging memories so that they are no longer consciously available. However this tends to have repercussions, as the memories are still there even if they are not available. The person may begin to act out in strange ways, and mental illnesses may even occur. In the case of this film, the main character cannot sleep and a combination of the repressed memories and sleep deprivation (well known for causing hallucinations) causes him to construct his own reality.

While most of this film revolved around the psychological state of the character, there were a few images designed to shock the viewer. The blood pouring out of the fridge and the man’s arm being cut off are examples of these. The man’s arm getting cut off was a good way of conveying the severity of the main character’s situation and state of mind.

I thought that this was a well made and effective film and is a brilliant example of a psychological thriller.

The Haunting - Film review

(image courtesy of

A psychological thriller based around a study in a haunted house, where the participants gradually get more and more frightened and involved with the story of the house.

I’ve seen the remake of this film and unfortunately, I feel it restricted my viewing as I was constantly comparing the two. In this respect, I found that the original film was more effective in terms of the subtlety of a psychological thriller, where I personally found the remake more interesting and easier to follow.

Where I say subtlety, what I mean is that there is the implication of something being there without actually showing it. In the case of the haunting this was done with noises, shadows, parts of the house which looked like faces and the doors closing on their own etc. All of these things lead the viewer, and indeed the characters, to believe that something untoward is happening within the house, without anything actually happening. These implications of something frightening cause the character to react and therefore cause events to unfold, such as Eleanor crashing her car. This really helps the story to progress which makes the film far more watchable. However the effect that I really liked was when the door began to move and looked almost like it was breathing. Despite the fact that this was much less subtle than the other effects, it looked really effective and allowed me to see why the characters were so scared. I was also surprised at how realistic this effect was, considering the age of the film (I’ve seen far worse effects in far more recent films).

I found the storyline a little lacking. There was no explanation for the reason behind the haunting of the house (a house being ‘born bad’ I don’t feel is really an explanation…). I can see the connections that can be drawn between Eleanor and the house, for example she cared for her mother as the daughter was cared for, and I can empathise with her not wanting to leave the house because she has nowhere to go. However I felt these connections were overplayed and detracted from the film.

The setting of the huge mansion is a good one for a psychological horror, full of empty rooms and corridors. The characters mentioned that nothing in the house was ‘normal’ (odd angles etc.) and this would have added a degree of discomfort and given it a more frightening atmosphere. However I could not really see these oddities!

The fact that they were stuck in the house with the gates locked, emphasised by the repetitive speech from the caretaker’s wife (“…in the night in the dark”), creates a feeling of claustrophobia. This seems to be a running theme in these films. The characters were then trapped inside a house, which would be creepy at the best of times, but also has a story behind it as well as all of the spooky goings on. They are also stuck with the same people, which creates friction and adds to the tension of the film.

The Man Without a Past - Film review

(image courtesy of

It is a Finnish film about a man who is mugged and beaten, which causes him to forget who he is. He then has to build a new life, with the difficulty of not having a name, before eventually discovering who he is. It was released in 2002, which surprised me as I felt that it seemed rather dated.

I found the film quite difficult to follow. There was little dialogue which made it awkward to watch and I felt that not an awful lot actually happened! As for the awkwardness of little dialogue, I think this may have been a deliberate attempt to make the audience feel uncomfortable and maybe empathise with how difficult the character’s situation was.

The setting was pretty dismal, which showed the level of poverty, and conveyed the emotions of the main character well.

I’ve found it very difficult to review this film due to the lack of content, though this lack does contribute to the feeling of the film as it reflects the feelings of the character. Generally I found this film ineffective, difficult to watch and it didn’t really hold my attention, though I can see how some of the details add to the feeling of the film.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Mostly Wallpaper

On Monday we allocated the building of furniture, so that each item had two people working on it. I will be working on the windows with Vicky and the wallpaper with Rhyan. Vicky did the original research and design for the windows, so we will be building them from that.
Below is my research into wallpaper designs. Having looked at wallpaper prices, we decided it would be more cost effective to buy plain wallpaper, paint it and then stencil a design onto it.

Log house, from Tsyvozero village (Karsnoborsk Region) (19th century), interior, reassembled at Malye Korely Architectural Preserve, Russia

Baroque interior, Rundale Palace, Latvia. Built in the 1730's.

19th century Russian middle class home

Friday, 1 April 2011

Revised bookcase

The group met on Monday to look over out autoCAD designs and print them off ready for Tuesday. We spoke about each design, and after several suggestions we decided to extend the glass cabinet part, and remove two of the drawers. This would give us more space to display knick-knacks and books.

After we changed the layout of the room we started discussing the possibility of having the bookcase set back into the wall, but nothing was decided.

Models and new room plans

On Tuesday we made a scale version of our set, including the furniture we designed. After a few maths related scaling problems, I constructed my scale bookcase, and all of our models came together so we could see how the finished room would look.

On Wednesday in our tutorial we discussed the practicality of such small rooms with so much furniture. After fighting tooth and nail to keep our screen and most of our furniture, we resolved to change the drawing room from 12' by 12' to 16' by 16', and the study became 12' by 8' to make it seem more claustrophobic.

The screen is supposed to be the focal point of the study. We decided to a have a physical representation of what Ivan was seeing in his mind. The book said he was putting up screens to block the pain and thoughts of death ('it'), so we translated this to a literal screen and as in this era they still had modesty screens we felt it wouldn't be out of place. This screen was supposed to hide 'it', but still give the impression the 'it' was breaking through to reach Ivan. A darkness or mould will also creep from this corner, reaching out to the sofa where Ivan would be lying, but not reaching the door to the next room. this is why we were so keen to keep the screen (which was lovingly designed by Sarah). We also felt we needed to keep the other furniture, such as the bookcase and desk, so that it still felt like a study. We also wanted to keep most of the furniture in the drawing room as we had designed furniture which was mentioned in the book, and we had already removed some of it due to lack of space, like the piano. It still needed to appear to be a room for entertaining, even though it will be smaller than an actual drawing room.

We therefore agreed that enlarging the drawing room would be the best option to create space and simultaneously make the study feel more claustrophobic, without taking out things that we felt were important.

This is a very rough plan of the rooms, with the new measurements. The furniture is neither to scale nor necessarily in the correct place, especially in the drawing room. It is just a rough idea, drawn on google sketchup.