Saturday, May 21, 2016

New Super-Secret Project Reveal: Bringing The Labyrinth's "Junk Lady" To Life

I generally hate sharing process photos before a cosplay is finished, since I'm semi-convinced it jinxes my ability to ever finish the thing, BUT... I think the time has come.

So let me walk you through the life-consuming project John and I began about three weeks ago, on the very day we learned there was going to be a Labyrinth Ball during Dragon Con this year. (A moment of sadness, however: the Ball tickets went on sale a few hours ago, sold out in less than 2 minutes, and we didn't get one. S'ok, though; this has been way too fun to let that get us down.)

As with all our previous cosplays, John and I wanted to do a character that's never - or very rarely - been done before. We also wanted a challenge we could both work on, which meant both structural elements for John and more creative, free-form elements for me. Plus it had to be something really over the top.

I think you'll agree this lovely lady fits all those criteria:


So. Let's begin.


First, a quick PVC frame:


With mandatory "head" jokes GALORE. (Just look at that grin.)
  
John continued work on the junk pile while I took over for the head. It's a big a Styrofoam ball, so I covered it with masking tape before re-attaching it to John's ingenious neck pivot:


She won't be a puppet, but she WILL move. Hopefully enough to seriously startle some unsuspecting con-goers. ;)

Then I sketched in features:

It's Balloony from Phineas & Ferb!


Adding crumpled tissue paper and more tape to rough out the more prominent features:

 
The eyes are a ping-pong ball, cut in half. 

A coat of paper maché for strength:


Which we placed outside to dry and/or scare the neighbors:

 Now on to sculpting with paper clay, since weight is a concern:

 

My only sculpting tools are from a $2 plastic cake decorating kit: a small spatula and a few pointy sticks. I think I'm ready to spring for something nicer now.

I only covered the visible areas with clay: her face and a little of her neck.

Next, paint!


I base-coated her with a sickly pale flesh tone, then stippled on areas of pink and lime green. (All of my paints are the 89 cent acrylics from the craft store.) At this point she's looking pretty zombie-like, but we're not done yet! Next, aging:


 A watered-down wash of brown really brings those wrinkles to life.

At this point I'd been literally nose-to-nose with this lady for maybe a week, and wasn't particularly phased by her nightmarish visage.

Then I added the eyes.


AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIIEEEE

The eyes were done using the exact same method as my eyeball roses, minus the veining, so check out that tutorial if you're curious.

I ordered an enormous curly blond wig from ebay, then spent an evening destroying it with a comb and flat iron:


I used spray paint to add sections of browns and grays to further dirty it up. Frankly, I'm a little annoyed that it STILL doesn't look all that bad up top. As with everything cosplay-related, you have to go BIG and over-emphasize absolutely everything to really make an impression.

You can tell Junk Lady loves her new 'do:

"Are those... bangs?!"


Testing her position on the new rolling frame:


She and her junk pile are removable from the rolling base, giving John and I the option of either wearing her on our backs or shuffling along inside the PVC frame. A lot of this will depend on just how heavy the finished product ends up.

I'd hoped we could use some latex zombie gloves for hands, but the Halloween ones we ordered were enormous and completely unusable. So, more sculpting for me:


The hands have a base of coiled wire covered in newspaper, masking tape, and paper maché. The tubes are place-holders for her rope straps we'll be adding later.

Veins and warts. Those veins were what finally made them look like hands to me, though of course I'm still not 100% pleased with them. (Discovering I friggin' LOVE sculpting, though. Who knew?)

Another test fit:

I'm completely ignoring all of John's work at the moment, I know, but you can see his progress on the junk pile here.

I will say we are striving for complete screen-accuracy, and John is building nearly everything: every chair, every satchel, every giant drum and toy abacus, completely from scratch. And what we aren't making from scratch we're finding at thrift stores and aging up with paint and sand paper and whatnot.

 It's been an incredibly fun scavenger hunt, both in studying the film over and over to figure out what's IN the junk pile*, and then trying to find or make an exact copy here in the real world. That rug beater was an $8 find, and you'd think we'd just won the lotto with it. Ha! (We're also striving to keep the cost at "dirt cheap." So far, I think we're succeeding.)

[*FUN FACT: there is a live rat in there - can you spot it? Ours, however, will be a stuffed toy.]

I'll also say I've never seen John have this much fun with a project. EVER.


Me: "John, that toy desk-organizer with a built-in abacus on the back of her pile is barely visible even with the TV brightness set to max. Do you REALLY need to build one from scratch?

John: ".... " [already in the garage building one from scratch]


Though we're striving for total screen accuracy, John and I will also be hiding some Easter Eggs from the movie into the junk pile - and I am SO EXCITED about this part.

 I've decided Junk Lady is 30 years older now, so of course she's picked up more things from around the Labyrinth, right? I won't spoil them for you yet, but suffice to say there will be plenty of mementos from other scenes for fans to play I Spy with when we're done.


And finally, I recently discovered Brian Froud has a similar Junk Lady in his Goblins of the Labyrinth book named Agnes, but it's unclear if this is the same character. So hey, anyone out there friends with Mr. Froud? Because I would love -  LOVE -  to ask him to name our Lady.

I mean, c'mon, Mr. Froud, how could you resist DAT FACE?

:)

K, that's all I have for now. Next time I'll show you guys some build photos for a few of the dozens of props we're finding/building for the junk pile. 

Also, believe it or not, we are planning to debut Junk Lady in less than one week at MegaCon. She may not have all her Easter Eggs installed by then, but she should be loaded up and ready to party regardless. Now, just cross your fingers she'll fit in our friends' van... and will fit out our front door. Ha!

'Til then, as the Dread Pirate Roberts would say, rest well, and dream of large, scary junk pile women.

72 comments:

  1. Holy cats... the talent you and John possess never ceases to amaze me. I'm sorry you didn't get tickets; she would have been the belle of that ball! As it is, I wish I could be there just to see people's reactions to this cosplay.

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  2. How does this not have comments yet?

    I love that you're taking on such a unique project, and I also love how fantastically accurate she looks thus far. It's clear you both are having a lot of fun, and isn't that the most important part of cosplay?

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  3. Well, that's it. I'm going to have to find you two at Dragon Con again hahaha
    The tickets to the ball were so expensive it made me sad :(

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  4. First: Oh my lords, that is incredible.

    Second: BALLOONY!!

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  5. AAAAAAAAAAAH!! THAT'S SO FRICKING AWESOME I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH MYSELF!! AAAAAAAAAH!!!

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  6. Completely in awe over here! The finished project is going to look amazing. I can't wait to see it.

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  7. This looks absolutely amazing

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  8. Oh my goodness, I am in so much awe and glee and I can't wait to see the final result!!! You guys are so fun and I love it!!!

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  9. I have no words. Amazing!!

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  10. I wish I lived closer so I could see all your amazing work in person. Can't wait to see the final product. Even half-finished she looks fantastic!

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  11. Oh wow! She looks great! In an old bag lady lives in a garbage dump kind of way. I wonder if she and Oscar the Grouch are neighbors?
    You are so good at sculpting! I am just amazed at how lifelike she looks.

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  12. HOW CAN YOU PEOPLE BE THIS CREATIVE???? Every time I think you've blown my mind more than I would have dreamed possible, YOU DO IT AGAIN!!!!! I will bet my last dollar that when the organizers see this, they will HAND you tickets to the ball. Seriously, someone take this bet. I could use the money.

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  13. Jen, that looks freakin' AMAZING! Seriously, I'm always in awe of your crafting skills, but this is so, so cool. I've always thought sculpting would be really neat to learn, but I haven't a creative bone in my body, so I've been too scared to try. Anyway, I can't wait to see the finished product, it's going to look awesome!

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  14. You two never cease to amaze me. Can't wait to see the final project!

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  15. I would assume that the Agnes in Brian Froud's book is the one from the movie as all the movie goblins are based on his work, just like with Dark Crystal. He and his wife share a Facebook page so that would be the ideal place to share if you're trying to get his attention. :) I'm a huge Brian Froud nerd (they had to cancel the one appearance near me a couple years ago, was so sad!). And you junk lady looks AMAZING!!!! What a fantastic character to bring to life!

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    1. I'm friends with Toby Froud on Facebook- I'll call him out but not sure how much good it'll do- he has LOADS of friends.

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  16. That is the most insanely awesome costume I've ever seen! You have some serious talent, Jen and John! You guys could totally start creating for studios. I'm in total awe. TOTAL awe, I say!!!

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  17. Oh, my squeeing SQUEEEE! She's unbelievable!

    That sculpting and painting, Jen! Perfection!

    Can't wait to see the build photos for all of John's contributions.

    SO sad that tickets sold out before you could score any, but aren't there press passes you can get? Or, hopefully, one of the organizers will have this post forwarded to them and will cough up some complimentary passes just so they can be honored with your amazing work at the ball.

    Wow! You guys NEVER disappoint with your creations. A ridiculously talented duo.

    KW

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  18. Love love love love love!!!! Everything about this. Just total love.

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  19. Love love love love love!!!! Everything about this. Just total love.

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  20. Absolutely amazing! Do you ever watch Face Off on SyFy? You could be a contestant on there easily. Your sculpting and paint job is every bit as good as theirs and John's talent for creating the structure and details...let's just say you'd be an unbeatable team! I'm hoping to go to Dragon Con again this year. If I do I'll definitely want to meet up for a pic with you guys.

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  21. You could name her Davina in honor of Bowie. Also, I'm not sure if there are any pots and pans involved in her junk pile, but you might look into kids' toy pans if there are, as they're a LOT lighter weight and tend to get sold at garage sales as soon as kids grow out of their tiny toy kitchens. This looks awesome. Y'all are incredible.

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    1. Oooh, that's a great idea! We've been looking at the full-size stuff, and you're right, super heavy. Now I'll start looking in the kids' section!

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    2. Glad I could help! And that it wasn't too late considering you're in your final week before her debut. I'm not particularly crafty, but have been working with kids for years, so I at least have that experience to offer. :) Good luck!

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  22. I WAS hoping I see you on a big white ball gown, but this is a sultry AAAAAAMAZING. You and John are so talented and I love seeing your progress pictures! Can't wait to see the final cosplay!

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  23. OMG this may be the best cosplay build EVER. I can't believe how good it looks already and I'm amazed at this idea. You guys are incredible.

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  24. I'm super impressed with this build! You guys rock! :)

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  25. Holy schnikes, that is amazing! You guys are such a rock-star pair. (Now that you realize how much you love sculpting, I feel compelled to share one of Orlando's best kept secrets with you. There is a community center pottery studio near downtown: http://www.cityoforlando.net/recreation/pottery-studio/ <= The folks there are some of the most delightful people I've met and they would love to expand your sculpting horizons. Totally worth checking into.)
    Can't wait to see the finished lady!

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  26. Shut the front door. Fantabulous. Can't wait to see more.

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  27. Eeeeeeeeeeeee! Eeeeee! Eeeee! (happy flail)

    (BTW - if you ever get to Atlanta, the Center for Puppetry Arts has some of the original puppets from this era in their museum - I remember they have the Mystic from Dark Crystal, but I think they've got some Labyrinth puppets, too. Their method for building puppets isn't really that far off of what you're doing - you could easily add some articulation on what you have if you wanted to, by carving up your face into bits and adding spring joints.)

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  28. Oh.My.Goodness. The level of detail you both have put into the project is amazing. Once the lady got her eyeballs it truly came to life. Can't wait to see the next update!

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  29. OMG! I just used her as a character in a flash fiction 2 days ago! I love the junk lady, and yours is so awesome!!

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  30. Read the abacus conversation aloud to my SO, who is a pro propmaker in a shop off Hollywood.

    Him: "Well, is it /there?/ Then you gotta make it. That's what separates the amateurs."

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  31. Oh frabjous!! Your creation is amazing!

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  32. I couldn't get tickets either, so I scrapped my idea for a Worm costume. Maybe I'll make him anyway.

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  33. Okay, so I've never actually seen Labyrinth (I know, I know ... but I'm sure I'll love it so I'm just sorta saving it for the future), but this is 100% amazing. I love seeing your cosplays!

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  34. Dang it - I would have loved to see you cover that ball. What a great idea for an event!

    No wonder you like sculpting - you're awesome at it! Making that face is really no easy task and it looks brilliant - keep up the good work!

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  35. Jen, I think you need these slippers. :)

    Awesome work on the junk lady. The progress photos are amazing!

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  36. Dang! That looks like a LOT of work. And a lot of FUN.
    The picture you posted on Instagram -- is that part of this or another project? It was a picture of ..... well, to me it looked like the top of an edger for your yard. Curved top, pointy ends, a short shaft like it needed to be put on the top of something? Is that part of this?
    Maureen S

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    1. That *is* part of this, and it's one of the Easter Eggs from another scene. Or several scenes, in fact. It's a little oversized vs the "real" one, and hangs on a cord, if that helps. ;)

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  37. Amazing!!! Cant wait for your photo-report of this on the con.
    Love your blogs
    Inge

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  38. You are my guru. (You also make me feel better about the time I just spent hand-stitching a shabby-chic number 1 as a photo prop for Baby Girl's first birthday photos...but slightly bummed that I never got around to making the lace bumblebee wings.)

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  39. Unrelated, but oh my gosh, check out this guy! He's like a cross between Dreamfinder & Figment! http://www.ebay.com/itm/331846739398 (Playmobil Victorian Family)

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  40. Love it! Brilliant - and so crafty, you guys are seriously talented! Wish I could see it in person but hope we can finally meet at Tampa Bay comic Con this August! Looking forward to the report from Mega Con!

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  41. This is just mind-blowing, it looks amazing! I can't wait to see her in action and people's faces.

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  42. She looks fantastic - and quite frightening! If you didn't know it already, Jen, you are really gifted at sculpting.

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  43. This is so cool I can't stand it. And it's FUN for you! You do this amazing stuff that's imaginative and has genuine skill behind it, and you talk about the process being fun! And you have a partner who loves it as much as you do!

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  44. Wow! That is amazing! I can't wait to see the finished product!

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  45. You guys just leave me breathless!

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  46. Just.... open jawed amazement. WOW.

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  47. Unbelievably believable! You two are becoming more amazing at every new project. Maybe you could open up a (very exclusive) costume shop. I can't imagine what someone might pay for a set-up like this!

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  48. That is, honestly, the coolest and best cosplay I've EVER seen. OMG OMG OMG. I just, wow, I'd almost fly to Atlanta for that. I am trying to figure out a way to do that. Yeah, no way, but wow I'm, wow... I can't even type right I'm so wow.

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  49. This is amazing.
    That's all I have to say.

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  50. Have you thought about working with your local H.S. Drama Club with the props? Because they would LOVE what you two come up with. Wish you were closer to CT because I's PAY you to make props!!!!

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  51. Wow! Just wow. You guys are so incredibly talented, it's almost unfair! XD I kid of course; I love seeing all the amazing things you guys come up with. Glad you are having so much fun with this, and so excited to see the follow-up posts! Are you going to do an Easter egg reveal after MegaCon for those of us too far away to attend? Don't want to spoil it for everyone seeing it in person, but I'd love to see a reveal post after the con!

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  52. Oh, she is one of my favorite characters. Of course, I don't think I can pick a favorite Labyrinth character. But, she comes to mind often. Your construction of her is AMAZING! Of course, your construction of everything amazes me. I can't wait to see the rest of the build and how she turns out. Good Luck!!

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  53. There was an amazing one of these at con 2 years ago, so dont be surprised if there is another one. Your progress so far is amazing.

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  54. I'm flabbergasted and awed at your work. You two are doing an amazing job! We were going to be up near MegaCon on Sunday. I'm going to hope against hope that we get to see you two because frankly I would love to fanboy all over this in person. ^_^

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  55. You guys have every reason to be proud. Cannot WAIT to see her complete and search out the hidden gems!

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  56. Even if you wear this costume (statue? sculpture?) the wheels were a good call. Not sure if you've heard of Beach Blanket Babylon in San Francisco (the show with the REALLY BIG HATS) but their hats have support frames that go under the costumes and have wheels that rest on the floor to take pressure off the weight on the performer's head/neck/spine. I'm not a big convention/crowd person but this would be worth braving those crowds and seeing it in person. Fantastic!

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  57. HOLY MOLY!!! This is absolutely incredible!!! I am praying you bring her to DragonCon so I can get pictures!

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  58. oh my god you two blow me away. this is phenomenal. kudos to you both.

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  59. WOW! That looks awesome. I am ashamed that I've had a month notice to make my (depp) Mad Hatter for the Through the Looking Glass premiere and so far the only thing I still have is my naturally long and somewhat unkempt red hair, which was the inspiration for the costume which still has yet to come to fruition.

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  60. Words are not sufficient. Phenomenal only tries to come close. Holy cow this is amazing. LOVE, love love love it. WOW!

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  61. If you guys have a FB we can follow, I'd love to see updates on the things you guys do!

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