Friday 6 June 2014

From High to Wilted Wigs

For the grand finish, I have decided to try something a bit more risky...

Yes, I decided to play with something a bit more temporal; a wig made from vegetables.  Inspired by one of the artists whose work always draws me back, Giuseppe Arcimboldo.  For someone living in the 1500s, his fusion of still life and portrait is truly avant-garde.

And I got the perfect idea for the wig block:

a.k.a. Mr. Cabbage Head

I reused the paper towel holder from the first wig block and stuck it into the cabbage.  It was surprisingly secure.  I purposely chose a smaller cabbage size as the ball wig block taught me to size only the upper head shape, not including the jaw.

 As decided, the third wig foundation will be a more traditional sheer, stretchy fabric style.

 I picked up some nude hosiery, popped it on to Mr. Cabbage Head, and based stitched the legs around.  Technically, I should of cut the legs and sewn the opening but I was worried about the quality of 99 cents hosiery as they tend to tear easily as it is.  Looking back, I wish I used stretchy thread for this step as the restriction of the normal thread throughout the cap made it pretty difficult to put on.

Mr. Cabbage Head also wanted to join in the picture
 Grocery shopping took on a whole new meaning when you are shopping for texture and colour instead of cooking and price convenience.  I picked up some green onions; three different types of kale I think (or it could of being lettuce or cabbage of some sorts, the grocery clerk was unsure as well); bundles of extremely foul tasting parsley; and carrots and radishes for some pops of colour.  I set them to dry a little thinking of starting the attachment of the "hair" today (I didn't want to work with dripping vegetables as it will be pretty messy) but notice them starting to curl and wilt.  In alarm, I started right away.

I rarely take in-progress photos because I tend to get carried away in the process and enjoy the surprise of the final piece.  But this time I though it would be useful for explanation purposes.  In reflection of the first wig's hair arrangement issues, I started sewing on the vegetables from the nape this time and worked my way to the crown.  Starting with pieces that has a stronger spine, circling up using variety of textures, and ending with the more delicate parsley.  As I worked, I noticed the vegetables starting to droop which put me into a frenzy resulting in numerous poked fingers.

Here is the final work with the radishes and carrots added in.  The radishes were extremely difficult to work with as the fruit was not securely attached to the leaves so I had to poke it through the whole thing.  I wanted the wig a little longer as well but was restricted by the length of the vegetable stems.  Though the texture turned out beautifully.

Last but not least, my little model wearing the vegetable wig:

As you can see, the parsley has notably wilted quite a bit by this time resulting in a little dent.  But I think I did a good job with the "hair" that is framing the face; notice the use of the green onion in the reversed direction?  My fingers smelled pretty bad all night no matter how many times I washed it. 

Thursday 5 June 2014

Wig a Ton

After some long and intensive hours of work, I finally completed my 2nd iteration.  Like before, let us start off with taking a peek at my sketch:


For my second wig, my inspiration was the description "macaroni" (as mentioned in previous entry) and its use in the 1700s to describe someone who dressed and acted outlandishly.   Pun intended, I decided to make a wig from macaroni and assorted dried pasta in an elaborate periwig style.
Ball and plastic martini glass; Bowl and stacked candle holders
As I learned from the 1st wig, the wig block is very important to ensure the correct "hair" placement and overall wig shape.  So I went out to find a ball the size of a head (my model's specifically) for the next wig but it did not work out.  For a helmet style wig foundation, a curve into the jaw is needed for the fit and the sphere shape does not allow that.  I did take a look at wig shops for a wig block but the creepy empty eyes of the head mannequins did not appeal (not to mention the cost).  So I did a little switch-a-roo and used the bowl for the second wig foundation and the ball for the knit cap based first wig.  

 The colour matches quite well even if I originally wanted the blue to contrast with the ocher yellow of the pasta.  The candle sticks used in the second wig stand echoed the fanciful feel I was going for as well.  They did not hold up to the weight of the wig in the end though even with heavy glue gun and tape enforcement.  But for a good 20 pounds, I was probably asking a little too much.

To start, I did a plastic bag mold of my model's head and constructed a newspaper base on top.  As I build the shape, I realized just how important the switch was; how the use of the bowl instead of the ball was a good decision.  When I was looking through the different foundation styles for wigs, I thought the helmet style is the most convenient and easy to do, you literally just need to make a mold.  So I wondered why the bother with elastic that can shift the positions of the hair.  But as I was working on this, it became evident that the helmet style neglects the nape and back of the head completely.  If I was actually sewing hair on, it will definitely not look natural because the hair can only start to sprout half-way up the head. Therefore working with the back for the base was very tricky. I could not curve towards the neck too much or else I can't remove it from the block but leaving it too straight will leave a space between the wig and wearer.

Here is the final product with pasta glued all over.  It took a ridiculous amount of time but bizarrely, I enjoyed it very much (even if I burnt my fingers about a billion times).  It felt good to see an idea come to life and it is very different in emotional accomplishment from my usual process through painting.  If you look closely, I used penne, farfalle, rotini, and of course macaroni shaped pastas. 

And here is the moment you being waiting for, the picture of my little model wearing the wig.  He was very excited about this though he complained of a neck injury afterwards...

A penne fell during the process, can you spot it?

Sunday 1 June 2014

Wiggling Wig Block and the Frist Attempt

Here is the long awaited first attempt!  Let me take you through the whole process one discovery at a time:

This is my original sketch for the wig with some swatches of the colour theme.  I was planning to have the denser part to be yarn with pieces of ribbon coming through.  It did not turn out quite like that exactly.

I bought some yarn and ribbons from the dollar store (best place ever!) and used my TUMS bottle as length reference.  It has a nice curve on the lid that holds the yarn in so I was able to make small mountains of "hair" tassels at warp speed.

The knit hat caused me a moment of dilemma.  As the warm weather extinguished these winter headgear from most stores, I found the blue one in Ardene's for $10.  A little more expensive than I would like, but, the cashier said that they were having a 5 for $10 dollars sale so technically I can but it for $2.  There wasn't anything I really wanted there though, but I ended up choosing 2 nail polishes and 2 bracelets that I don't think I would ever use nor needed at all.  Thinking about it now, the price is exactly the same - witness once again the mighty grasp of consumerism.

Wig block or hat rack?

 To make wigs, one need a wig block, or something to hold the foundation in shape (especially when working with an elastic type wig cap).  Though there are cheap ones one can order online, due to the time constrain, I decided to make my own.  I went around testing bowls to find the best fit and stuck it on a paper towel holder.  Add some duck tape and woila!  It is a bit more flexible in angles which caused a little bit of hassle but over all workable.

On to the wig construction.

I started with sewing on tassels of ribbons thinking of adding the yarn on top and the ribbons will show through.  Many of the wig tutorials showed the real wig makers attaching hair along the nape and building up to the crown but the DIY ones attached it just along the crown.  I thought I can add the ribbons to the crown and attatch the yarn in the traditional way.  But that did not work.  Partly it was because of the wig block as it is only a half sphere and the other was due to the way the hair is attached.  Once the ribbons were attached down the crown, the yarn couldn't be attached long the nape without having a weird cross-way.  In the end I sewed a fringe halfway across the front and the rest along the crown on top of the row of ribbons.  It reminds me of the way the Ancient Egyptian women wore their wigs on top of their natural hair, a duel texture feel.  I am a pretty fast worker so the over all process took me around 5 hours or so.

Final look from three angles

 For the next iteration, a more secure wig block is a must.  I am looking forward to working with the helmet style foundation, theoretically, it should be a little easier to manage. 

Big round of applause for my little brother who was happy to be my little model.  It looks better on than I expected, but that could just be that smiling face ;)

Friday 30 May 2014

Wiggle Room

As my plan is to make wigs from unconventional materials (reference to hair ball monster) and not exactly natural looking - I blend right in - wigs, most of the material research does not relate to my ideas.  Though one thing that crossed over is the use of foundation or wig cap.  I have decided to try three difference styles of foundations:

First a knit cap.

Cool drawing no?

Yes, I thought that was a genius idea as well.  Based on this DIY post on by Rain Blanken (link here).  My plan is to focus on the "hair" arrangement and colour combination of the yarn and or ribbons and or any other string like materials I come across.  The knitted quality of the cap is ideal for such choice as the strings can easily be hooked through or sew on.  Be prepared for some wacky and fun colours!

Second wig cap will be of the helmet type using a wrap around mold of my head.  This iteration is from Whimsey Box by Alison Strang (link here).  She used newspaper as her "hair" choice but I will be doing something a little different.

Upon my research into wigs, I came across this term "macaroni", a term I associate with dried pasta that was used in an absurd context that I knew was not what the paper referred to.  After Googling it, I can across this image from Wikipedia:

Click here to see wiki page

"Macaroni" in this case referred to someone what dress or acted outlandishly which suited the phase of periwig period wonderfully.  Therefore a periwig inspired wig out of macaroni is a must!  And thus the helmet style cap will be more suited as I imagine it may end up really heavy.

Third foundation will be a more traditional with the fabric style wig cap but as I lack a proper wig block, we will compromise and use hosiery.  This idea is also from a DIY website called "This MAMA makes stuff" (link here).  It will require more sewing and the tradition of working with more elastic base.  "Hair" material to be determined upon inspiration.  Any suggestions?

Wednesday 28 May 2014

High on Wigs

Here is an image to wet your appetite for a history lesson on wigs and its historic and cultural contributions.  The image is from a hilarious post on wig illustrations in a blog called Bili Odyssey (link to post here)

That is one amazing wig

I first started my research not particularly focused on the periwigs that where in height of fashion during the late 1700s.  But those white elaborate curls with the ridiculous frills of lace, ribbons, and ruffles that were popular for both women and men were an unavoidable period of wig history.  What was said to of started as a simple remedy for aging man to conceal their baldness and a way to avoid lice and grease- as wigs don't produce oil- became a status symbol.  The more elaborate wig-dos, the more time you (or your servants) have to groom yourself, the higher your status symbol.

Wigs became such a craze that for a period of time it was thought as a moral sin to wear a wig.  It became a topic of controversy, as it was argued by certain religious individuals, as an act of rebellion towards "God" and what "He" naturally given you.  The use of wigs as a way to cross-dress also contributed to the disdain.  Women can try on short hair without having to chop of their feminine locks (though that was not done as often as it is done now) but more often, men are trying out longer and longer wigs.  That was what made the religious group uneasy.

Of course wigs were not limited only to that period of history.  Hair is often used as a maker of race, class, gender, and therefore identity.  For example in Ancient Egyptian drawings, the wig style and length can be used to differentiate the presented figures.  The pattern repeats throughout history; the longer and more elaborate the wig, the higher the social status.  The lower class where shown clean shaven or sometimes wore wigs of animal or vegetable fiber. I guess those who can not afford the real thing gets knockoffs.

Things haven't really changed from thousands nor hundreds of years, we may not have wigs that is at the same level as birds but we still do pretty crazy things to gain access to certain social identity, don't we?

Monday 26 May 2014

Why Wigs?

Wigs are kind of creepy.  Makes my scalp feel itchy just looking at them, though I never actually tried one on.  I always link them to giant hair balls in the tub that forms into a monster when you least expect.

The purpose of this wig project is to attempt to make something you never never done before within the discourse of consumer culture versus maker culture.  What attracted me to wigs was the idea of it as something to hid under, sort of like a constructed identity.  Bald people may wear wigs, people who has short hair may wear long hair wigs for occasions, or cancer patients may wear wigs to ease the lost they have to go through.  (More research into that soon) 

My plan is to make 3 iterations of wigs using 3 different materials.  Tentatively, the first will be more "hair-like" material (yarn?) and progressing to more unconventional materials as my technical skill gets better.  Please feel free to suggest any materials you think I should attempt.  Some of my current ideas are: feathers, leaves, straws, something food related?

As the time budget is pretty tight, hopefully get the first one done before end of the week and two next week.  In the mean time, stay tune for some wig info on historic and cultural associations.