Thursday, 12 September 2019

Fizzgig Amigurumi

When I started watching The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, and knowing that I was going to the Into Thra exhibition in a few days, I just knew I had to crochet something to take along. The obvious choice was to make Fizzgig - I loved him in the original film, and members of his species (which is actually Fizzgig) obviously appeared in the new show, as I kept seeing them in promotional meterial. The only problem was that I had limited time to make him, and I was binge-watching the show in the same time. You'd think that I could make him while I was watching, wouldn't you? I mean, I normally crochet while watching TV, in fact my fingers start getting twitchy if I don't have a project on the go. However, Age of Resistance is such a visual treat that I couldn't risk missing any of it, so I had to crochet in the time I had between the episodes.

The basic technique I used to make Fizzgig was to use loop stitch which I then cut, and fluffed up the yarn using a wire pet brush. I wasn't sure when I started what direction to work in, because I didn't know which direction the fluff would go once it was brushed. I also had the problem that I only had one ball of the yarn I used, and loop stitch uses up a lot of yarn! I didn't bother to make him fluffy at the bottom to save on yarn, and I was really worried that I'd run out as I was making the tail and the feet. Luckily I had just enough, although annoyingly it seems that this colour of yarn is not being produced any more.

I've used the technique of making something furry/hairy by using loop stitch before, but only on much smaller pieces, like the beards for my dwarves, so it was hard to know how well it would work. I was also unsure of how to make the face, but it turned out that just inserting the eyes and sewing on the nose and mouth flattened the fur in that area so the face can be seen. I did think about making a version with an open mouth, or even a puppet version where I'd be able to operate the mouth, like the monster I made a while ago, but I figured that would take longer to get right, so I stuck with a Fizzgig with a closed mouth.

Strictly speaking Fizzgig have four feet, each with four toes, but being limited for time (I was sewing the feet on at 11.00pm the night before I went to the exhibition) mine only has two feet with three toes. Size-wise he ended up larger than I'd planned, nearly lifesize, when I had intended him to be much smaller (maybe large grapefruit size) so he'd be easier to fit in my bag, but that's what happens you make something so fluffy!

A few small issues aside, I'm really pleased with him, and I'm so happy with the way the texture of his fur looks. He's very tactile, and I love stroking and cuddling him. His slightly grumpy face also reminds me of my dog!

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

The Dark Crystal

I first saw The Dark Crystal on the big screen when it came out in 1982. I was 12, and I was instantly enchanted. I loved the characters and the story, but what particularly caught my attention was the world-building, and all the different creatures that inhabited the world of Thra. I really wanted to make my own strange and wonderful creatures, but I wasn't sure how I would achieve that. It wasn't until I realised that crochet could be used to make things in three dimensions that I started to work on my own creations, and I was very much inspired by Brian Froud, the artist who designed the world of the Dark Crystal.

 Various creatures I've made that have had a bit of inspiration from Brian Froud's creativity.

So, you can imagine how excited I was when I heard that Netflix were making a prequel series to the film - The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. A few weeks ago I saw that the magazine SFX was offering readers the chance to go to a talk with Brian Froud at the 'Into Thra' exhibition in London (for free!) and, being lucky enough to live fairly close, I booked it immediately.

Once the show was released I binged it in a few days, so that I would have finished before going to the exhibition. As I started watching I knew that I had to crochet something to take with me, and the obvious choice was Fizzgig, the fuzzy little friend of Kira in the film. His species appears in the prequel, including one with an eyepatch called Baffi. I will write a separate blog post with more details about making him, but suffice to say that I just finished him in time, and so he made the trip up to London with me. My rucksack was rather full, but luckily he's mostly fluff, so he didn't weigh too much!

I had a fun day up in London, visiting the British Library and the National Gallery, and in the early evening I headed to the BFI Southbank. When I arrived I was greeted by sight of the Emperor on his throne, Aughra in a glass case, and staff who were all wearing 'Order of Lesser Service' t-shirts (which I would very much like to have). We all went into a screening room to watch The Crystal Calls, the 'making-of' documentary which is also available on Netflix. I'd already seen it, but it was good to watch it on the big screen. Then Brian Froud came on stage (to loud applause) and was interviewed. He was just as lovely as I'd hoped he'd be, full of lots of interesting information about his work on the film and the show. He joked that after seeing his younger self on the documentary, he was turning into one of his creations!

He talked a little bit about how great it is to create something entirely with puppets, because of the reality they bring. He's not against CGI (and he thought that Jim Henson would have embraced it, as he loved new technology), and said what a useful tool it was on the show, to remove puppeteers in green screen and add more details to the puppets' expressions. However, he did say that CGI characters often lack weight, and that animators would do well to create puppets of their characters to see how they move in the real world.

Lore, an unusally shaped puppet (no spoilers, but if you've seen the show you'll know which character this is) was performed using the Japanese Bunraku style of puppetry, where you can see the puppeteers, but they were removed to give a character with a really unusual way of moving. An interesting mix of an ancient art and modern technology. Brian said that Lore was insprired by the stone tors on Dartmoor, where he lives, and the head was based to some degree on a hamburger!

Brian talked about the fact that Thra has a very different sensibility to our world. Everything is alive - rocks, plant, maybe even clothes. You'll see on the documentary that the people who made the costumes tried to neaten up his designs, not realising that the clothes are supposed to be asymmetrical and organic to a degree. Many of the costumes were made from expensive fabrics, and some of the designers were horrified by the amount of 'aging' he and his wife Wendy were subjecting them to to make them look more like they fit in the world. Luckily the director, Louis Leterrier, was fully behind what they were trying to create or, in this case, destroy.

Brian and Wendy wanted to spend time at the beginning of preparation for the series to make lots of background creatures, which is something they did when they started work on the original film. Unfortunately there wasn't time in the schedule for this and they had to get straight on with the main characters. So they came in at weekends (I think along with their son Toby who also worked on the series) and made little creatures, often out of scraps in the bins, to go in the background of the scenes. However, when Louis saw them he liked some of them enough to put in the foreground!

One fact Brian shared was that when he started designing the Mystics for the original film, Jim Henson suggested he base them on trolls that he drew. The only trouble with this was that any designs he made for the film became the property of the Henson Company, and he didn't want to lose the copyright on creatures he'd already designed, so he gave the Mystics and extra pair of arms, thus making them different enough. The Skeksis also have four arms, but on most of the the second pair has atrophied and is hidden in their clothes, although there's a new Skeksis character in the series that uses all four of his arms.

A question was asked about whether it was his decision for the Gelfling to have a matriarchal society He said that was down to the writers, but that they'd been inspired by the 'Wall of Destiny' he designed for the film which teaches Jen and Kira about the prophecy they are part of. It features a queen figure, which became the All-Maudra in the show. It also inspired the pink Sanctuary Tree which Brian was a bit confused by, until he realised that the image they thought was a tree was actually supposed to be a castle!

All in all Brian talked for about an hour, and he was fascinating to listen to. He mentioned that when people met him, so many said that they had been inspired to do something creative or work in a creative job after watching The Dark Crystal or Labyrinth, and I saw many heads nodding in the theatre. I know it's true for me, and the person I chatted to next to me was working on a stop-motion film, so I think that's very much the case.


Various otherworldly beings - over 70 different species were created for the series.

 Brea's journal, paints and paintbrushes.

Brea's journal and another book from the library.

After this, we were able to go and look at the exhibition, which was just crammed with interesting items and puppets from the show. There were displays of various small creatures, props, photos, scale models, and a Podling bottom! Round a corner was the Crystal itself, glowing purple, and then a table set with Skeksis delicacies and with the Chamberlain enjoying them. Round another corner were various tableaux, filled with the plants and animals of Thra, as well as several Podlings, and the  Gelfling stars of the show. It was all a treat for the eyes, and I managed to get a photo of Fizzgig in his natural environment.

 Fizzgig and I enjoying a meal with the Chamberlain. The Gelfling ears were part of the experience!



Podlings, and a Podling bottom!

Fizzgig, feeling right at home.


Afterwards I picked up a free poster, and a can of Stone-in-the-Wood pale ale! I had a great time that evening, although sadly the exhibition is now over. If you're a fan, and it appears anywhere near you, make sure you go along! In the meantime, I hope you enjoy all the photos, and I'll post more about making Fizzgig in my next post.