This post will include puppets. Images of puppets and the attempt to make myself look like a puppet. So if puppets scare you…might not be the best reading for you.
If you’re not scared of puppets, we can start!
And the Skeksis are very pleased about it.
I’m sure most of you don’t know the original movie. But let’s start from something all costume people know: Labirynth. David Bowie as Jared, Jennifer Connelly with the giant iridescent extravaganza dress that makes Lady D’s wedding gown’s sleeves quite modest in size.
The magic mind behind all that aesthetics is a guy named Brian Froud. He’s an english illustrator you may not know of, but you are surely familiar with some of his drawings, probably trolls and faeries. HAnd he really looks like a hobbit.
From his pencil, always in the 1980s, The Dark Crystal was born.
It was a movie made with puppets. It tells the story of a Crystal embodying the soul of a world. The evil skeksis use its power for their purposes and corrupt it, and two faerie-like gelflings have to save it.
The movie was one of the best things of the 1980s, visually speaking.
But due to puppets, I think, and due to the fact that it was somewhat slow, it remained a thing for few and survived to the decades only in the minds of few fans.
Many of them became visual artists and such. Because it was a niche thing, but a niche thing that touched a cord especially in people with an artistic sense.
So a few years ago, Netflix started working on a new series, a prequel one, set in the same world.
And it is the best thing I’ve seen there in 2019. Yes, I’ve seen The Witcher, and I liked it, but the Dark Crystal was just something more.
They created a whole world, and everything in the details is great. The costumes, the textures, the creatures, the stories, all is great. Especially the puppets.
The little faces, the perfect hair, the great textures work and paintwork, the whole design is just something so good you rarely see.
And while eating up each episode with my eyes, I wondered if I could start working on something.
I have to say that despite my favourite characters are the Skeksis, on costume matters, they’re…too much work. All was too much work, and I didn’t have the time. So I abandoned the idea.
Until I had a bad adventure with dyeing for an other project. Long story short, the fabric should have dyed differently, and I couldn’t use it for what I planned.
I only could get it darker.
I started draping it over a pair of stays I had made long ago for a costume I no longer had. I had no idea of what it was going to be, I only had a rough idea of the shape and dyed the fabric to have contrasting ombré effects on each panel.
I have to confess that the theme for the costume came out later, and it was quite perfect.
The dress had the colors of the Dark Crystal, and it has a sort of Skeksis style.
There is in fact a character that isn’t a skeksis, wearing their style, so I played around with the concept.
Which gelfling is closest to the crystal? Deet. And the story of this first season ends in a peculiar way for her, getting touched by the Darkening, this obscure force, linked to the corrupted crystal.
I have used this costume as a project to get out of a very dark place.
I’m not used to discussing such things here, but knowing I wasn’t alone helped a great deal, so I’m leaving it there.
Depression. Ends up I’m sort of in and out of it a lot. I always get out on my own, but this time it lasted longer than ever, almost a month, and I used this project to work a little on it, and thento go back to the usual work. I used it to recharge my energy and to elude my frustration and guilt. So it makes a lot of sense, as theme.
This 2019 has been quite hard on me, on that side. I need to learn how to deal with stress and anxiety, and to be more forgiving about myself. I have experienced how sometimes things don’t go as you want, even if you do all you can, and I need to be able to handle my emotions when that happens.
I completed the dress with fabric I had in my stash only, and it’s all hand sewn, except the stays. I designed it to be fast and easy to sew, relaxing, creative and to minimize the chances of failure.
I especially enjoyed the weathering process, and all the painting that’s gone into making it look like the crystal.
The dress is painted, weathered, broken down, enriched with angelina fiber, lace pieces, cheesecloth, glitter, makeup glitter, iridescent rhinestones. There’s a huge variety of materials and techniques used, from boiling tied polyester to create 3d effect, to ombré dyeing. It’s basically a catalogue on what can be done on a costume to make it look more real and less new.
Deet is a girl. So she has wings. While waiting to purchase a pair of the best in the market, I made some with an iridescent silk chiffon I came around, and I love them as they remind of the wings in the original movie.
I also added lots of ribbons and long net sleeves, as gelflings have them to hide the rods moving their hands.
I sculpted the mask with things I had at home: silk clay over a papier mache venetian bauta mask. The material isn’t one I’d use again, but it was there when I needed it.
The sculpting work is one of my first for a face, so I know there might be some issues. But in this case it was much more about the healing process in creativity than making a perfect thing.
The wig is made from one of those I use for Daenerys. I styled and painted it to recreate the effect on the gelflings, which was pretty amazing in the series.
Now enjoy some of the previews. I hope to add more proper pictures soon!