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Confectionary armatures: wood form experiment goes mostly wrong

This weekend, I was asked about the process I went through on my journey to find the most ideal materials for doing armatures. One of the things I was asked if I tried was wood. It is mentioned that some of the early armatures used wood as a base. And at the time, I had forgotten about the small king I made to slay a dragon.  As I thought more about it, I remembered that yes, I had tried using a wood form for an armature, and had blocked the memory because of the trouble I had getting the sugar to adhere to the form.

Edward slays the dragon.

The small sugar king, has a wooden form to assist with the general shape and pose of a longsword attack. A 10″ wooden art manikin was used as the base.

Wooden-Manikin

The base was removed from the form. The wood pieces were sanded to remove all of the varnish. The manikin was posed into a mid-swing, German longsword movement.

The first attempt at sugar application was directly to the sanded wood. The sugar would not stick. There was not enough grip to the under surface for the sugar to make a solid bind. It peeled off the form, like bad paint peels from a wall that has not been properly primed.

The second attempt came after priming the surface with paper mache. I knew that sugar could grip the paper form my earlier attempts with the metal armatures. However, the paper mache would not stick to the surface either.

The third attempt came after a rasp was taken to the entire form.  This created uneven surfaces in the wood. The sugar stuck, but when it was dry it would not stay in position. It slid off the form.

The fourth and final attempt was a combination of priming the surface with a tempera paint, a layer of paper mache sealed with glare, followed by the sugar paste. The surface of the sugar was a bit bumpy than it normal would be as there was only one layer of sugar. The sugar was “smoothed” by burnishing it with water while it was still pliable. Normally, there would be a second layer of sugar for the fine details, but given the unexpected layer of paper mache, a second sugar layer would have give the figure unwanted bulk.

If I were to attempt to use a wooden form again, I would probably use a layer of plaster mesh or possibly starched linen as a barrier between the wood and the sugar. This would probably give me a solid surface for the sugar to adhere.

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Posted by on October 28, 2013 in Sugar

 

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Updated: Confection research

Updated the research paper, now with experimental research. Paper has increased by 13 pages. The next version will probably have more about the various classes and their build or buy tendencies.

Confections

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2013 in Sugar, Uncategorized

 

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Bhakail Investiture Subtlety- Gredechen

Concept art
This is based on the door, which is used on the sleeve of the incoming Baroness’ dress.
lizzard

Armature
The structure is a combination of wire mesh and plaster. At this stage it could be a salamander. It could be a duck.  Or a really strange loaf of bread.

BeforeAfter1

BeforeAfter2

Finished structure
It looks more like a salamander with all the plaster on.  You can see the final shape.
LizardProgression

Sugar application
LizardProgression2

Finished
76087_10151431700403959_1369720584_n

Lessons learned
Gilt application
I did not particularly enjoy this step. I played with gold leaf. I went with 23K edible leaf because I will want to use the left over leaf on food at some point. I tried 5 different methods of application, tragacanth, arabic, honey, glare and breath. The arabic seems to work the best, followed closely by breath on the dried sugar.

Tragacanth worked … funny. Maybe because there is tragacanth in the mix, but I don’t really know.  The glare caused the paste to get too gummy. The end result is some of the leaf stuck well. Some of it sticks out off the flames in a weird hybrid of 1/2 on 1/2 off fashion, but the end result makes it look like “living flame”.  Whatever. It’s on and I’m done.  And for the record, leaf is a PITA to work with.  It is fiddly, and delicate, and a wee bit persnickety.

Period pigments
I discovered an interesting side effect to using powdered illumination pigments, quite by accident.  And it’s awesome. I left my red pastry paint at home, quite by accident. I remembered to pack the illumination pigment baggies that Holly and Heather gave me. In the bag that Holly sent was a lovely red. I donned gloves and went about mixing the pigment into the sugar paste as if it were a powdered food coloring. The pigment is designed to be used by scribes, but worked very well to color sugar paste. The gum tragacath/egg mixture has enough moisture to rehydrate the powdered pigment with out adding additional moisture to the paste.  It was so super easy to use.  The color was less bright than a modern color and that was perfect.  I then painted a very fine layer of re-constituted pigment (with gum arabic) to the dried paste.  I didn’t need a lot of pigment to color the paste.   I am very glad for this mistake. I want to try more pigments now. It will increase the cost slightly.  But it really isn’t much more expensive than the powdered food colors I currently use. I would probably get the synthetic versions of the truly toxic paints.  This could be “very exciting” ™.

Documentation:
Here is the documentation for KQAS.Documentation Salamader

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2013 in Projects, Sugar

 

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Coronation subtlety- “Cyneweard”

“Cyneweard”, which means “Royal Guard”, the dragon who was slain by Eward, King of the East, during his coronation feast. Thrya, Queen of the East was represented in the 2 dozen tiny little arrows throughout the dragon’s body. This was the brain child of Mistress Aife ingen Chonchobair in Derthaige. Her idea was to have a team of folk to work together on bringing her subtlety idea to life.  She assembled Mistress Eleanore MacCarthaigh, Master Toki Redbeard, Lady Olivia Bakere, Lord Harvey Wynegode, Lord Joel of Vestfell and myself.  I dragged Lady Creatura Christi of Oakes and Lady Barry the White to the party to help with assembly the day of the event (and Lady Creature was the honored driver of getting Cyneweard to the event. Yay drivers!).  Master Toki Redbeard ushered in the presentation, with a fine tale.  It got every one into the spirit of the “grand reveal.”

This does not journal all the parts of the project.  Other project stakeholders may journal their own parts separately. The main focus is to document my part of the project and the things that I was responsible for making sure were completed.

Concept Art:
Armed with artwork by Mistress Eleanore  we set off to bring our fire breathing dragon into being.

Under the covers:
There was both a lot and not much going on behind the scenes. The structure was lightweight, transportable, and pretty durable. And at the heart of it all was the flange and support structure that held everything in place and allowed  Cyneweard to breath fire. And we introduced the concept of a “kill zone.”  This was the part that you could actually (in theory) cut to get to the tasty inside.

Structure:
The structure of the dragon is a combination of wire mesh, paper mache and in targeted areas, plaster. The edible portion was made from structural gingerbread (made without leaveners) and covered with royal icing (egg white and sugar). The head has a flange wired into it to provide a platform to secure the cup that will hold the jigger of camphor. The dragon structure was made in Philadelphia and then transported up to Albany.  The dragon was not pre-assembled, as the base/walls and floor were built in Albany by Lady Olivia. Once on site, it was secured to the base, joined and covered in sugar.

 

 

There was a bit of hurry up and wait.  We needed to let the plaster of Paris, used to hide the join of the head and fore-body, dry thoroughly before adding the sugar. More was added to expand the haunches and fore-arms, as there was much more room on the board than originally planed for. It probably grew lengthwise by 4″. This expansion threw the scale off and was corrected (as much as could be) on site.  What you can’t see is under the middle section of the dragon. Mistress Aife created a pastry filled with stuffed figs. It was part of the “Big Reveal”.

Sugar paste:
 

 

The dragon was covered in about 300 individually cut blue scales.  Lady Barry was a work horse.  We ended up using about 6 lbs of blue gum paste in total.  Lady Creature helped us get the head and neck covered and made all of the fierce (but tasty) teeth and claws.

The final dining room presentation
 

King Edward is shown holding sword and buckler in a classic long sword pose. His base is  wooden art manikin covered in paper mache. The tiny little arrows were fletched by Lord Harvey to have the same coloring as Queen Thrya’s personal arrows. If you look closely, the arrows are actually functional as well as decorative. Arrows are on either side of the sword of state, and on either side of both feet. This kept our sugar king from falling off of the dragon.

In the second photo you get a good sense of scale. The over all piece was just over 3 feet long, 18″ wide and 2 feet tall at the head and neck.  The wings are made out of the same rigid food grade building material as the center piece and covered in dark blue royal icing. You can also see the torch and eerie tree that were added to the final piece (constructed by Lady Olivia).

This is probably the best photo that shows off the over painting that Lady Olivia did.  There is an all over shimmer of gold luster paint that had been air brushed over the entire dragon, with concentrated areas of darker gold. The flame was created with food grade camphor.  It was hot enough to just singe the outer layer of the sugar teeth.  And burning period sugar paste, smells like  marshmallows

What was learned:
I learned that I do not work well with a team when we are separated by a distance of 5 hours. This is not to say anything negative about the members of our team.  They were all wonderful and very communicative /responsive with email. And once everyone was together, things really came together. But I felt rushed.  There are a great many details of the dragon that felt rushed.  I would have like to have more details on the head completed, which would have made him more “real”. I would have like to work on the proportions of the haunches and arms. I would have liked the back ridge to be taller and more pronounced. But these are details that would have required the whole body be assembled in one spot over a longer period of time. Since the head had the support flange, which needed to be secured to the base, and the base was being worked on in Albany (and the head was in Philly) things needed to wait. This is more of a frustration with my performance as an artis. Sometimes, I am a bad team player and I definitely felt like the weak link. this is a good lesson to remember for the next time.

At the end of the day, it all came together. The King and Queen were ecstatic. The audience was wowed.  And Aife was happy.

And that is all that really matters in the end.

Photography credits: Lord Joel of Vestfell and Seigneur Godewyn, Apprenti de Magestra Alisay de Falaise

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2012 in Sugar

 

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Sutton Hoo- completed

The Sutton Hoo subtlety has been completed and delivered to the Pennsic State diner 2012. This was an interesting project as the side pieces are attached via silk thread to the main helm. The helm plaques covered the holes and thread and provided a level of security to keep the plates stationary and in place. The figures were made by pressing brass plates into the sugar paste creating a negative.  Normally this should be an embossed positive image, but there were time constraints due to weather.  The brass plates were created by Sir Raymond the Quiet, OL, OP and can be purchased here (he does amazingly beautiful work and a really nice vendor). I used 2 designs and alternated them to create the helm pattern.

Project notes:

  • Aluminum wire armature, covered by paper mache, sealed with glare
  • Inner helm linen with natural linen
  • Face plate is piped icing for texture
  • ~70 individually applied sugar paste helm plaques
  • Colored with silver and gold paint
  • Sealed with several layers of non-toxic acrylic
  • Displayed with a standard hat stand
  • Total weight ~3-4 lbs, including 3 lbs of sugar paste

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Posted by on August 16, 2012 in Sugar

 

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General project updates

HRM Kenric rapier armor–  The pieces have been joined for both sides.  Appliques are done for the crescent side and down on the tyger side (ironed but not sewn).

Sutton Hoo– The armature is finally taking shape.  I’ve procrastinated on this project as long as a I can to get a break in the weather.  Humidity is not friends with sugar paste.   The armature has to be done in stages.  Since I am using wire mesh with sharp edges, I need to recover my hands before moving on to the next pieces.  all I have left is one ear flap to cut. I will  paper mache the face, neck and ear flaps this weekend.  They will take some time to dry in the oven (pilot lights provide enough dry heat without actually turning on the oven).  The main helm will be getting it’s sugar coating this weekend.  This will allow me to dry everything completely before applying the paint.

Champion cassocks– These are well underway.  The artwork has been updated with new swept hilts, thanks to the hard work of Baron Ian Raven and his updated artwork for the OGRs.  King’s champion sleeve has been sewn down, Queen’s champion sleeve has been pieced and ironed.

Fundrasier cloaks– All the cloaks have been cut, pieced and sewn for lining and outer cloaks. The applique work is starting to go down.  I will get pictures up very soon.  Of the 10 cloaks offered, 9 sold.  Several will have award badge designations in the yellow banner, including ORG, Rose and Laurel.  These cloaks will be list legal 1/2 circle, non-rigid parry objects.  They are based on a 16th century pattern.

And there are the miscellaneous projects of coats, armor, dresses and more armor.  I will post pictures as I get projects more into a state of doneness.

 

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2012 in Fencing Armor, Heraldic, Sugar

 

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Loaf sugar

I recently purchased some loaf sugar. The purveyor is doing the refining herself. She has several different sizes.  I have been experimenting with making powdered sugar, gum paste and tonight I used it to make Manus Christi confections.

Boiling the sugar is a very different experience compared to using modern granulated sugar.  It was more hygroscopic and behaved in a manner similar to honey (but different).  It was very slow moving through the stages and the bubble formation was different.  I was glad I used a thermometer for this first go around.  I ended up doing quite a bit of skimming during the process. But the end result was lovely.

One of the hardest parts about using it, is making it small enough to use.  I ended up using a combination of sugar nips and my chocolate knife.It has a bit of a different flavor than modern sugar.  Still sugar tasting, but different.

If anyone has thought about using loaf sugar in your confection projects I would highly recommend it. I wont use it in every project I do. It simply isnt economical enough.  But I will be using it again.  I have another 4.5 lbs waiting for a new recipe.

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2012 in Sugar

 

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