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.

Motifs for furniture

As promised in my previous post, a look at the motifs agreed on by the group to be included into the furniture (including the hourglass on my bookcase design).We all felt that the usual symbols for death, such as skulls and skeletons, would be far too obvious. The point of a psychological thriller is subtlety, and these symbols are not exactly the epitome of subtlety. However, the group did discuss the use of a winged hourglass and the willow tree.
The winged hourglass is a symbol of time passing or flying, and the willow tree is
a symbol of weeping, grief and death. These are the websites I used to loo
k up the symbols and their meanings:

Below are some images of the actual objects, and the symbols being used on tombstones:

(The piece of furniture is a whatnot shelf made in 1875)

The illustration list: