Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Dirty Martinis

Hey all! Sorry for the delay in a new post. I worked on a commercial shoot these last two weeks that completely took up my time. Please enjoy this week's post!

Materials: Acrylic Water (the kind florists use), Martini Glasses, Toothpicks, Sculpey, Acrylic Paint, Spray Paint


So, this is a project with a couple of issues- one was an I-D-10-T error (I was being an idiot) and one was more about being unfamiliar with the materials.  I'll explain both when we get there.  These martinis were made for  Milwaukee Repertory Theater's production of  'Cabaret.' We needed spill proof champagne and martini props for the Kit Kat Klub patrons to wave about while they caroused.  I did a few samples before I settled on the Acrylic Water. Neither Smooth Cast 325 nor the year old Zeller Opti-Kleer that I had in stock was water white or bubble free, so I ran over to my favorite floral wholesaler, and picked up a bottle of Acrylic Water.  This is a two-part acrylic resin that is used in the vases of silk floral arrangements to simulate water.  It is easy to work with, water white, virtually bubble free, and has a beautiful refractive quality in a glass. I've never used it before, but I was eager to give it a shot, and I'm glad that I did. (There was no MSDS, and I didn't have time to request one, so I took the same precautions as I would with any two part resin. I used the appropriate PPEs, and worked in a ventilated area.) 

Jim Guy, my boss, and Props Director Extraordinaire, found these acrylic martini glasses at World Market.  Aside from having a nice look, the thick stems are sturdier than a typical martini glass, which helps to keep them from breaking or tipping when the acrylic makes them top-heavy.  Aside from the glass, the most important identifying characteristic of a martini is the olive.  These olives are made from white Sculpey brand polymer clay. 
Aren't they hilarious? White model olives!
White was the only color of Sculpey that I had on hand, so I had to paint them.....but I'll get to that later.  I shaped the olives by hand, and used a pen cap to give them the round impression that looks like a pimento. I decided to put two olives in each glass, to add color and help take up volume. Then, I made a stupid mistake. 

I decided to put the two olives on skewers before baking them. This was not the stupid mistake.  I went down to our stock hoping to find metal toothpicks. Faced with the decision between wooden toothpicks and plastic toothpicks, I chose plastic. The voice in my head said "Don't do it, they'll melt in the oven," but the tired part of my brain that had been working too hard said "Nah, it'll be fine." STUPID!  Here's something I've learned in theater and life. If that little voice in the back of your brain pipes up, it's usually right, don't ignore it.  So I baked the Sculpey olives on their plastic toothpicks, and I melted the plastic toothpicks. I didn't melt them entirely, just enough to make them misshapen and saggy.  Stupid.  Since I was working with limited time, I did my best to straighten them out, painted them silver, and carried on, hoping that the refraction of the acrylic in the round glass and the distance to stage would help me out.  Luckily, for the most part, they did. 

Olives before baking.

I also painted the olives. For the green of the olives, I used Design Master spray paint, for the pimentos, I used red acrylic paint.  I probably should have given the spray paint a bit more time to cure, but as I said before, we were pressed for time.  I dropped a skewer of olives in each glass, mixed the acrylic according to the directions, poured the martinis, and left them to cure for 24 hours. 



Once cured, the acrylic is beautiful and durable,  The overall effect from stage is actually very good. There was no reason not to send these martinis on stage. There was, however, a swirl of paint coming off of the olives into the martini.  It looks pretty cool actually, but it isn't part of what I intended the martini to be.

See? GRRR!

I think that if I were to duplicate this project, I would use green and red Sculpey instead of attempting to paint white Sculpey. As it was, we said that I meant to do it, called it a dirty martini, and sent it onstage. I highly doubt that the audience, or even the performers, noticed that anything was amiss.  It wasn't  the perfect prop that I would have liked it to be, but I learned a few things, and got to try a new product, so I can't complain too much.  But hey, if I did it perfectly the first time, what would be the fun of doing it again? Cheers!

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