Here are some process photos for the making of an accurate severed head for our production of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline. In our shop we pretty much always use Smooth-On products for casting/mould making projects. We used Body-Double silicon for the mold and Dragon Skin silicon for the cast. Here’s how we did it:
1. Scheduled 2 hours of the actor’s time with stage management and got a room setup with supplies for working and cleaning (cups for mixing, tongue depressors for stirring, silicon gloves, silicon bald cap, barber’s sheet.) DO NOT USE LATEX ANYWHERE NEAR SILICONE MOLD-MAKING SUPPLIES. IT WILL KEEP THE SILICONE FROM SETTING UP AND YOU WILL BE VERY UNHAPPY.
2. Got the actor covered up, bald-capped, and coated his face in Body Double Release Cream.
3. Mixed the first batch of Body Double (equal parts A & B) with a tiny bit of silicone thinner, making sure to mix them evenly for the required amount of time. Spread it on, working from back to front, top to bottom. NOTE: we only thinned the first batch in order to capture more details. NOTE 2: Let the actor work up to having his face covered by doing eyes, nose & mouth last. BIG NOTE: leave plenty of open space around the nostrils so he can breath!
4. Once he was well-coated (build up extra around areas with depressions - eyes, ears, etc.) let it set up. We mostly used the fast-set material, each batch took 5 minutes. After it set up, we built a mother-mould out of plaster bandages. This must be built in two halves, front and back. Did the back half first and built up a ridge where the seam would be. Use a heat gun (with your hand in between the heat and your actor so you know it’s a safe level.) Put some release agent on the plaster seam and build the front half of the mother mold, making sure not to cover the nostrils.
5. Let it dry 10-20 min(?) with heat. Ideally, the actor is uncomfortable for not-too-much more than 30 minutes. De-mould. Used first aid scissors to cut a slit up the back of the neck of the silicone mold and peeled it off like a glove. Let the actor free!
6. At this point, the mold can be flipped inside out and touched up in the negative if there are problems. We actually did a cast in plaster, just to be sure, before we committed to using the Dragon Skin.
7. Cast it! — We put the mould/mother mould upside down in a 5 Gal bucket and packed it with batting and sprayed ease release into the the mould. We mixed up a very light flesh-tone with Silc-Pig tint in the silicone. NOTE: mix the Silc-Pig evenly into 1 side of the 2 part mixture and then combine. NOTE 2: stir smoothly and evenly, scraping the sides and without removing the stir stick (makes bubbles) for the time specified in the instructions. Pour it in…. We used a big dowel coated in Ease Release to displace some material around the neck. Wait for it to dry….
8. De-mould. Success (for the most part.) Painted using Silc Pig and Psycho Paint base. We mixed glazes, working from light to dark (like watercolor) for the translucent fleshiness. We had good luck with a foam brush and a kind of stippling technique. When the paint dries it is very shiny, so baby powder works great to dull it.
9. We filled the neck-hole with some AB foam and painted it to look gooey and gross and attached the duplicate character wig from wardrobe (we sewed it on with upholstery needles and added a little Smooth-On silicon glue for safe measure.)
10. There you go… severed head….
We’ll add a post later about the process of making the body that went with this head later in the show….