Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Trying Some New Display Methods

I've been collecting items for my future table display in my future tent at some future art festival or craft fair.  Recently I bought some styrofoam wig heads with the most "realistic" necks I could find so I could display my ruffs without needing to put them on a form.  I had designed a free-standing display that used recycled margarine tubs and dowel rods in slots, but then realized the ruffs would looks like a bunch of balancing plates in a vaudeville act...  I needed to display them on something that had a bit of "context" so people would know what they were looking at.

So I bought the styrofoam heads and decided I absolutely had to do something with them because 1) the styrofoam would get really dirty very quickly, and 2) I hate the look of styrofoam itself, and 3) if I didn't do something with them I would be missing a design opportunity to enhance the "feel of my shop" and help with the branding...

So I was going to texture them with paint.  I sprayed one with grey primer, and realized I had made a mistake about a minute into spraying it--I used Krylon primer and it started to melt the styrofoam!!  I quickly dabbed the surface hoping to wipe off as much of the primer as I could, but it was a little too late...  My poor styrofoam head looked like it was a bit...   well...  "pekid".  The melting holes were far from attractive.  I thought I'd ruined my first display piece.

Then I thought, well, why not cover it with something?   I thought about kraft paper (I have a huge roll of it that I use for patterning) and paper mache or something similar.  But the paper was too heavy to retain the shapes of the features of the face.  I thought about old pages from a book.  I thought about old maps.  But as appealing as those ideas were, I didn't have anything like that on hand...  So I opted for the tissue paper of an old 1980s Butterick pattern instead...

 I sliced up the patterns into long strips, and then randomly adhered them to the styrofoam with a cheap, clear acrylic "gloss" sealer and a paint brush, making sure to cover all of the surface of the foam with a couple layers.  While it worked great and the tissue paper was lightweight and transparent, it was hardly glossy when it all dried.  And it didn't look old enough for me.

I went back and sponged on a transparent ink that was developed specifically for aging and distressing.  It had an antique sepia brown hue, and added a bit of shadow and dimension to the different layers.  It accented the texture of the tissue paper by making it more pronounced and popping out the little wrinkles.

Then I painted over the whole thing with a new product I found at my local craft store tonight:  Triple Thick Gloss Glaze.  I like this product.  I'd used the spray on kind before, and tonight I discovered a couple different thicknesses of the paint on kind.  I slathered it on and let it dry, and it created (as it said it would) a thick glassy glaze over the whole thing.  Shiney!

So I took some pictures of them, and now I need some advice.

Do they look creepy?  I was hoping for an "artsy fartsy" feel, but I look at them in the photos and I'm a bit weirded out... They aren't like this in real life.  They're somehow more "distant"...

I thought I could use them for my product photography, too, but now I'm not so sure...  I absolutely LOVE the look because it's so different, and it's the closest I've been able to come to an assemblage feel, but is it right for this purpose?  Is it distracting?  I had been using a dress form covered in a black velvet sheath, but dress forms don't have heads so I worried it would look odd.  Now that I have a head, I don't have a body.  And that looks weird to me, too, now...

I'm also trying a different background.  The checked background provides a bit more "character" to the product photography, but it's definitely lighter in tone than the plain gray I had been using with the dress form...  I'm not sure that's good or bad...

Anyone have any thoughts?  I know the new display heads and background are more visually interesting, but is it in a good way?

Hm.  I can't tell...

Until next time, I'll try to Live Life with Relish but this is a quandary that's going to bug me...  hehe...


  1. Corey, these heads look terrific, but to me they are crying out for a hat(?) of some kind.Do you make hats?Something rakish and black?
    Harlequins also come to mund. Oh!!Just thought..what about some amazingly stylish little black masks!!?
    Love those heads!!!!

  2. Corey, I'm laughing a little over your adventure with the styrofoam heads. Overall, I'd say what you did with the pattern tissue is not bad. The only thing is as display, they do look a lot like heads (without a body) on a table esp with the neckpiece on. I have a few friends who sell accessories and I've noticed how they get away with the heads is they display them sitting on a height e.g. on a box. If you display the head on a flat table, the table cloth should not be too busy. Just a plain flat cloth (no ruffles or draping) would look better. I've seen some styrofoam heads with really long necks. They look outstanding.

  3. I absolutely LOVE these heads! They are perfect for displaying the ruffs.

  4. Those are awesome ideas, Judy! Hm. Now I think I gotta go explore those.... I hadn't thought about masks or hats... Wow--there is actually a LOT I could explore there... OH my. Brain overload... LOL!

  5. Jane, those are very very helpful thoughts! I hadn't thought about losing their "head effect" on a flat table--I will need to think about how to elongate the shoulder area to lift the ruff further off the table and make them look less like plates...

    And the tablecloth surface being flat with less distracting texture would help with that, wouldn't it? Makes sense.

    Brilliant!! Thank you Jane!!

  6. Anonymous, thank-you!! That's very kind! : )

  7. I love this idea personally, and they don't weird me out either. I do prefer that aged, found/collected,and shabby chic look anyway.
    In terms of photography, I agree that the backdrop should be plain, pale and unruffled. I also think the second shot with the head to the top left of the photo has much more appealing composition, without losing the detail of the product. To soften the effect of the heads you could exaggerate the short depth of field effect so that the ruffles are in focus and the heads start to blur into the background. This is THE way to create professional photos.
    Anyway, I think they're fab and a keeper and thanks for helping out with my coccoon coat dilemma,

  8. Helen, welcome welcome welcome!!! I can't wait to see pictures of your coat project!! There's nothing like sewing historically inspired clothes--I think our styles today have lost a bit of dramatic flair in favor of some kind of "shock value" that just isn't the same...

    And you're right about the short depth of field--if I can blur out the head a bit it will guide the eye to what I want them to be looking at, won't it? I tried a bit, but maybe I need to do it a bit more obviously, eh? Photoshop here I come! LOL!

    Thanks so much for your advice, Helen! Very nice to "meet" you! : )

  9. I love the heads too...I have several foam heads myself - for hat display - and I think I will borrow your idea. As a fashion designer, I especially like the paper pattern decoupage :-)

  10. Go for it, Parismegs! I was reminded by a friend that a similar effect could be achieved with a variety of different tissue papers that don't have patterning lines on them--floral prints or even just plain tissue for that layered look. All of them very very interesting options I'm going to have to try in the future! I hope you have fun doing it--send pictures!! : )

  11. They look so steampunk love it. I make crochet items to sell online and at craft fairs. I am so going to make these!


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