I mentioned BareBones in my last post. What is it? Why, it’s the Outdoor Halloween Puppet Extravaganza, of course!
Each year here in the Twin Cities, we get together to put on an epic puppet show, featuring stilters, fire dancers, aerialists, enormous puppets, and a live 20+ piece orchestra, in a gorgeous park by the Mississippi river. The story is always different, but the themes of grief and remembrance stay the same. It takes hundreds to put this show on, and this year around 8,000 people came to see it over our five night run. BareBones is a 501(c)3 non-profit, and I’ve been on the Board of Directors for two years now. Since April I’ve been serving as the co-chair, which has been really challenging and fulfilling.
In the past I’ve been in the show and I even made some sweet sparkly jumpsuits for the aerialists in 2012. Because of my board duties, though, my time to be directly involved in the show was limited this year. I asked the director’s what I could help sew and they told me they needed a giant rock, which a crowd of people would gather under, pulsing, until the rock broke apart and lava flowed from it (in the form of a group of kids with red fabric). Another volunteer had already acquired and dyed a massive amount of grey sheets, donated by a linen supply company, and I just needed to figure out how to make those sheets into a rock.
Initially I had this crazy idea of cutting the sheets into triangles and then using my tent (which I brought in and set up in the middle of our build space) as a draping form, instead of following any kind of pattern. I made the first one this way and it didn’t go so well- it was really hard to put together well. I then realized I could use a faceted gem-like shape and sketched this pattern.
Each triangle had sides of about 5 feet long, but that was by no means consistent, so a lot of the pieces had to be pleated as we sewed to make them fit together. The main thing was that it needed to create a draped shape and not just be a big flat sheet. We made four of these rocks, and I was able to get several other volunteers (including a former Cirque du Soliel costume assistant!) to help me with the sewing. When the rocks were done I doused them in leftover mache glue to make them look a little more crusty and rocky. This only worked ok… I had to put them in the dryer, which made a lot of the glue come off. If I’d had more time I definitely would’ve done something else, like added some cardboard inserts, to make it rockier, but we were only a few days from the show opening when they were finished.
Ultimately the rock scene was hard to photograph, as it was very dimly lit, but you can see the rock in the background here (as the lava kids run in front).
I have loved working on sewing projects for BareBones because it’s a real opportunity to get away from my usual style. There’s a limited amount of time to work on these projects, so I can’t be a perfectionist. It’s also great to get out of my own head and help other people make their vision come to life. I can’t wait to see what I’ll get to help make next year!