With the Brinnington Arts festival just around the corner, Brinnington Media Group is gearing up for our busiest week ever: Covering every event and activity, spreading the word on the talented residents of Brinnington on social media, through this blog and our Twitter stream.
And our individual members are getting involved too – our Chairman Mark Mitchell has volunteered to build the Jabberwock creature that will lead Friday’s Day Parade. We managed to steal a few minutes from his schedule to discuss the project.
Our first question, naturally was “What’s a Jabberwock?”
MM: “Lewis Carroll was fairly vague in his description of the beast – jaws that bite, claws that catch and eyes of flame – but there have been many attempts to render the creature visually and I quite like the stretched dragon-style beast that seems to have inspired the Tim Burton version, so that’s been the inspiration for this build. The challenge was actually to find a design that would translate into something that could be carried in the day parade – and I think the idea I’ve come up with is going to be something that hasn’t been seen before.”
We asked “So what are you going to be building the creature from?”
MM: “The framework needs to be lightweight enough that someone can carry it around the parade route, flexible enough to fit through a doorway and strong enough to bear it’s own weight. Fortunately, the Lantern Team were kind enough to let us use their surplus willow, which is the perfect material for this work – once it’s been thoroughly soaked you can work willow branches into all sorts of intricate shapes, but it also retains it’s strength and form when it dries out. And since the Jabberwock needs to have a living, organic look to it I don’t need to work too hard on symmetry and perfect curves or straight lines.
Once the frame is finished, I’ll be creating the body of the beast from chicken wire and over that there will be a solid outer skin that will allow myself and the volunteers from the art groups to paint the beast and bring it to life.”
YB: “It certainly sounds like a lot of work!”
MM: “Not at all! The real challenge is to create a shape that requires the least effort to
assemble and build. The time-waster is preparing the material: soaking the willow in the shower; bundling, wrapping and sealing the individual branches to create structural members and then bending those struts into shape without snapping them. It isn’t easy and there have been accidents, but nothing that couldn’t be repaired with a little tape and patience. Every build teaches you new principles or requires you to stretch your skills in a different way – this time last year I was learning how to light paper lanterns without heat and the best way to balance and support a massive and fragile model to give it structural integrity – so it’s more of a learning experience.”
YB: “How far are you along in the build?”
MM: “Well, I’ve completed the actual frame and I’m in the process of overlaying the chicken wire, which is a slow and occasionally painful one. Once again, I find myself depending on the greatest accessory a modeler at this scale can have: cable ties! I really cannot over stress the usefulness of the humble cable tie – they give support while assembling, can be used for tensioning and shaping and come in a range of sizes that will support anything from a sheet of chicken wire to a willow strut as thick as your thumb!
I’d guess that I’m now about a third of the way through the build – once the chicken wire frame is complete I can really have fun with modroc and papier mache. That will be the messy part, but it will also be the stage where the creature starts to take shape. Once it’s dried and set, the final look can be added in the painting stage along with the neck and head assembly and wings.”
YB:”Seems like you still have much to do -how confident are you that you’ll be finished in time?”
MM: “You know my motto: “If it’s not on fire and nobody is screaming for it, it’s not worth doing!” I’m confident that she’ll make her appointment in the park, just wait and see.”
YB: “Thank you for you Time, Mark – I can see you’re eager to get back to work.”
MM: “My pleasure, just watch out for flying willow!”