Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Taking Flight :: Making Masks

Benevolent Order of Makers is proud to share these excerpts from the Utah Ballet production of Hansel and Gretel, featuring the crow masks designed, developed, and built by Alex Van Valkenberg.

The order was for masks that were form fitting, stable, but comfortable enough to wear while dancing, and with beaks that could not only open and close, but also pick up breadcrumb props in a ballet. Fortunately, for Alex, he knows a very good ballet dancer, and he consulted with Bambi about measurements, and other specifications and recommendations she had. Most manufactured masks are either very small, like for a child, or rather large, for bigger adults. These masks were specifically measured and scaled with the proportions of a ballerina's size kept in mind. Maria and Bambi were helpful models and testers for this purpose. During testing it became apparent that air holes for ventilation were necessary, the elastic bands were modified for improved fit and function. But these details were what followed the elaborate process of making the basic mask forms...

Everything began with Alex's research, and drawings. He took his concepts into the computer and fine tuned them in Autodesk Mudbox. What he made were designs for a wood mold. The wood mold was cut using our homemade CNC router, Frankenrouter. This picture shows the two layers being glued together.

Here the face mask is being sanded and prepared to be put into a vacuum former.

This is the ABS vacuum formed face mask, and Alex is cutting it out for finishing.

Each part of the beak was made in the same way as the face portion, but in separate parts, both due to the limitations of the router, and the vacuum former, and so that they could function with the design to open and close.

A total of fourteen crow masks were made for the Utah Ballet.

Here they are, about to be shipped. In Utah, they were finished with details by the costume department.

We see this not only as a job well done by Alex, but as the culmination of years of study, practice, experimentation, and artful design by Alex. His diligent pursuit of engineering, from concept art to completion of robots for competition, and art for public enjoyment has been practiced with creative imagination, as well as an instinctive understanding of mechanics and engineering.

Alex, congratulations on the successful completion of this custom order. It's a pleasure to see both your art and your engineering skills applied to such a clever and beautifully finished product. Your career is taking flight! Bravo!

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