Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Making Of a Murray Plush.

Every now and then you get a commission that makes you appreciate your trade and reignite the love for your practice. My latest was no exception and not only was the commission itself an exciting request but the making of it became a bit of an Art Attack / Macgyver mash-up. 
Some time ago I got a curious email from Anne Murray. Anne was soon to be married and wanted to get her new hubby Cian something a little different and unique. It was instantly clear that Cian was a very lucky man as the request was direct and simple. Can you make a Bill Murray Plush Doll? 
I love when a commission like this comes in. No matter what other work is lined up or on at that very moment you wanna clock out and run home to this job. 
When I asked Anne which Bill Murray would she like in soft cuddly form she insisted it had to be Ghostbusters Bill. A Peter Venkman Plush it is and with that I went about other work that had nothing what so ever to do with Ghostbusters. Thats how the job works, you get in a dream commission, flirt with it and then give it the cold shoulder until your ready to get down n durrrrty. What a nasty business. 
As time moved closer to the circled date of my calendar a whole load of life had slapped me in the face and thrown me way of course. Working space had been dismantled and boxed along with an unplanned house.  I became a traveling artist working from the back of my van and I was ok with this. I started to limit my work pallet. My tools had to be multifunctional and few. My materials had to be easy accessible, compact and easy to carry. Everything had to be knolling.  I started to build up a whole new relationship with every tool I ever owned. 
With only a few days to go before Anne and Cian tied the not, I had still yet to thread a needle but at least I knew where that needle was.....in the glove box beside the Snikers bar under an old tax disc.

With the spirit of Neil Buchanan watching on and the perfect soundtrack building up, it was time to get to work. 

 Quick Bill-ish like doodles over breaky. I never like to look at a reference until the very last moment, always better to make it from what you remember. 

 Found the face I was looking for and remembered I had promised Anne a little slimer too.

Everytime I plug in a sewing machine I think of Coronation Street...the fight to make sewing machines look cool on men continues.  

I never make templates, I always draw direct from the sketch to fabric, cut, sew and fold out. Getting this right the first go feels great. I used the felt from an old doll I never completed for the head and inner body. 

I knew I was out of practice when it came to making these boots. They took way too long. I got impatient with the glue and made a mess, which later would become pink slime. Mistake? What mistake? 

Stuffing for the doll was supplied by a a pillow who had seen its last head lay on it. We will miss you summer pillow, you put up with a lot and help us through the toughest hangover days. May you forever rest in peace in the head and body of Plush Bill Murray.

I struggled to find the right material for the Ghostbusters uniform. Then I remembered I had bought a pair of overalls for a festival costume that we had altered into a Ghostbusters costume. A quick amputation of both legs provided well enough material to make a mini version. 

The collar and velcro zipper just had to be altered and trimmed down but worked a treat for the size of the plush. 

I noticed that the straps of the Ghostbusters Proton Packs in the movie were army green, not black like I hoped. I had a really annoying strap on my arty man bag so I gave it the chop. It did the trick. I ran it through the sewing machine with an little extra strap I swiped off an old camera strap and got a convincing utility belt out of them. The different stitches give them a more robust look. The pockets were bits of cut down scrap pleather. 

Here's a closer look at the back pack straps and custom logo, made from old scrap boot factory leather and felt. 

The sewing master who I call Tullia Giacomelli once gave me a bag of off cuts and bits n bobs for a festival workshop. 
In this bag she had these little folded fans of material. These came to mind when I needed to make elbow pads. Keep that inspiration coming Tullia x 

Everytime I make a plush doll, I always put a little personal token inside which in a silly way I kind of think acts as a little soul. I really didn't know what I could put in that had any significance and then I noticed my keys. 

I've had this little Stay Puft key ring for sometime and it felt right to give it some purpose and a new home...in the chest of Bill Murray. Lucky key ring. 

It wasn't until I had finished making the doll that a connection was made to the key ring. I discovered when delivering the doll to Anne and Cian that they lived on Oxmantown Road. Only a few doors up from where I used to pop this Stay Puft key in the door of the house I lived the past 2 years. 

I always want my plush dolls to be as close as possible to the original hand drawn design. Every time I make a new doll I learn something new. Young Bill Murray as he was in Ghostbusters has little facial features that bring his character together. The dimple in the chin, the thick eye brows that give him that nonchalant look and his cheeky grin. Also as Peter Venkman he rocked a mean 9 O Clock shadow which was achieved with a broken blunt pencil. 

Seeing as I was making a Slimer, I wanted to cover the plush in some non sticky slime and make it look legit. This was achieved with a hot glue gun, a highlighter and a tiny pot of glow in the dark paint I had left over from another job. I layered it on and it dries clear but glows super well in the dark. 

This is another little personal coincidence. The green leather I used to make slimer is pretty old, I would guess, 10-20 years. Its from an old boot factory in Kilkenny, Annes home town. I had intentions to make a big Slimer so it was good to try out a little one first. 

Like the Peter Plush I wanted Slimer to be a near exact copy of a sketch I would make of him. The rest of him is made from some scrap felt and his tongue a balloon I found in our new house. 

I have a thing for pink Posca markers, they just go with anything. I was using them on another piece at the time and came in perfect for the Ecto Slime. The boots came together really well in the end. Made with the fingers of old gloves, leather from an bag and elastic from a very messy basket of bric a brac. 

This is where the Macgyver spirit watched over me. I wanted to make a decent proton pack only because I had made such nice straps. My man bag losing a limb had to be worth it. There wasn't much on offer in way of card so i began snooping around for basic shapes. The GB Proton Pack is a pretty basic shape, rectangular-ish with a big round bit on the bottom. Ironically enough I found an old 80s VHS case that I kept tiny screws in and my Annie had a lovely cork coaster on the table ( luckily she was at work - this happens a lot ). I emptied out my tool box and found loads of old wires, spray caps, sanding tops, buffer tops from a Dremel. Bit by bit it started to take shape. 

Luckily I had a can of black 94 left over from my Home Alone piece. After a few gentle coats and a few little added extras and tiny details I had a pretty convincing Proton Pack. 

I will admit that this whole process did make me feel like a children's TV presenter. This may have been one of my finest Blue Peter moments. 

The blaster was a bit more tricky. Its made up of an old broken paint brush handle, some card, a spool of thread and bits n bobs from the odl VHS tool box. Sprayed black and detailed with a pen. 

The whole time I was making the plush I was trying to ignore that part of my brain that kept shouting at me like a drunk guy in a chipper.." Hey HEY YOU!!! Wha a bout the trap thingy...you'z know whaps I'm talkin bouts...they yellow doory tarppy thing". I knew exactly what he was talking about and refused to acknowledge him as it was another thing to make and .... ah feck I've already started it. Glue + Allen Key and some wire = Trappy Thing! 

As me Da would say " anything looks alright with a bitta paint". 

Around this time when I know I am nearly finished, I usually go slap on the kettle or pop a beer and just hang out with whatever I've made. Might sound lame but I never get much time with what I make and usually never see the work again in person, I think if I didn't do that I'd become too far removed and end up not caring. There's that and I had to honestly sit and think if I had left a key on that Stay Puft key ring...FacePalm moment. 

Peter Venkman ( Bill Murray ) Plush. As seen on the Internet. 

Peter & Slimer Plush.Anne Murray you have really put it up to all fiancee's out there. 
Congratulations and I wish you guys all the best. Bill should keep your gaff pretty ghost free. 

No comments: