Dreaming of Monsters

   by Roni DeFalco for Build A Dream (2014)

This project began with a cardboard mockup of the room, dream bubble and the bed, to get an idea of scale and perspective. The room, bed, and figure were built with foreshortened perspective in order to accentuate the entrance of the Monster Under the Bed. The structure of the room, roof, and floor are constructed from the outer box that the materials came in. The floor is reinforced with triangular braces to help support the weight of the piece. A large hole is cut into the floor. This opening is the space for the Monster Under the Bed. The Mystery Build guidebook was cut into strips to represent wooden planks. The strips were glued onto the floor in a staggered pattern to better represent a wood floor. Water was dropped onto the strips. This technique caused the surface to bubble up and give the "planks" a warped look. Wood grain and nails were scored into the strips with a dental tool. The surface of the floor was painted with a black wash to accentuate all the scored elements. The floor is then primed and finished with washes of brown and hand painted details such as nail heads, wood grain, cracks and crevices. The shingles for the roof were cut from the box the mannequin came in. The card stock was cut into strips to make siding for the exterior house facade. The box's plastic wrap was used as glass for the window. The square dowels were used to make a window frame and door jam. The exterior of the room and the interior of the room were painted and constructed to resemble my childhood home.

To begin building the dream bubble; in the mock up stage, a paper and tape mold was made of the shape I had envisioned. The wireform mesh was bent to the contours of the mold and any unnecessary edges removed. The mesh form is then glued to the interior wall of the room. To ensure the wireform mesh didn’t collapse, the plaster bandage material was added to reinforce the mesh and enhance the texture of the dream bubble.

The monsters in the dream are comprised of two kinds of inner structures. One kind is built out of the packing peanuts assembled in various configurations; the other kind is built with the sea sponge. The monsters constructed with the former material are primed with white latex paint. Adding the paint caused the surface of the peanuts to deform until the paint dried. This gave the original forms a more spontaneous look, which was inspirational when building on top of the forms with clay.

The sea sponge monsters were created in a similar way. First the sponge was broken up into various size pieces. The packing peanuts and water were used like a glue to adhere the sponge pieces to the dream bubble. The peanut/water paste was molded over the contours of the sponge shapes. Clay was used over top of the forms once they dried to create the different sponge monsters.

Once all the monsters were assembled they were first primed with latex paint. When choosing the palette for the monsters I tried to evenly space out warm and cool colors. The monsters were finished with blacklight reflective accents. This element gives the monsters a dual appearance, which can distort the characters in a grotesque way while still maintaining their goofiness when the lights are on.

The bed was constructed from the hardboard and square dowel. The foundation of the mattress is accomplished by rolling the packing peanuts thin. Then they are glued with water to the surface of the bed and then covered in canvas and faux finished.

For the fingers gripping around the bedposts, the foam dowel was first cut into disks. I then cut a hole into the disks to allow them to fit over the posts of the bed. I rounded the edges and carved pointed fingernails into the foam. Finally the bed was glued over top of the hole in the floor.

I disassembled the mannequin and reassembled the parts to create a figure slightly foreshortened that resembles a young girl, sleeping. All the parts were locked in place by applying strips of plaster bandages. I continued to use the plaster bandages to sculpt her nightgown. Her face is sculpted clay on top of the mannequin head. The canvas fibers were unwoven and cut into lengths and dyed with brown paint to create her hair.

The pillow and blanket were created from the canvas and thread. I also cut a piece of the Van Gogh ear to use as stuffing for the pillow. Both the pillow and blanket are faux finished to resemble bedding I had as a child.

As a puppet builder, I wanted to have a puppet element in the piece. In order to build this character I sought the help of members of Make Lehigh Valley, a member based engineer Maker space. Their knowledgeable members helped me design a mechanism for the puppet to suit my needs. In the end we settled on a lever and spring system to operate the puppet. To make the lever mechanism, the parts used were; the round dowel, the square dowels, the bobbin, wood disks, and wooden mannequin parts. I wound the thread around the bobbin and handle of the lever and tied the other end to the top of the Monster's head. Ensuring the thread is taught when the lever is fully engaged allows the monster's mouth to open and close when the lever is pulled.

The blue egg was cut up and made into a head for the Monster Under the Bed. A spring from inside the mannequin was inserted to help give tension to the Monster's head. With the use of some other wooden parts of the mannequin, the monsters head is mounted to the aluminum rod. The surface of the egg was sanded to allow for better adhesion of the teeth and packing peanuts. The Monster’s teeth were made out of scraps of paper from the Mystery Build guidebook. The monster was covered with flattened packing peanuts attached with water. Again the water was used to manipulate the peanuts, to create a rough looking texture for the skin of the monster. Similar to the monsters on the bubble, the clay was used to create the final form of the monster.

My dream of monsters has been one that I've had since I was a small child. I was always convinced there were monsters in my closet or under my bed. There was no fear associated with these creatures, just ever evolving thoughts on how to bring them to life. It's this childhood dream that inspired me to pursue a career in puppet and mascot building. Now I can bring all the monsters I could ever dream of to life.