Building a Rocket for the Cave of Lost Toys

Midway into the fall semester I was approached by John Hennen, adjunct professor/director in the theatre department at West Liberty University. John and his students were writing and directing a play called The Cave of Lost Toys. The play centers on a nefarious plot to hold captive all the old-fashioned toys and create a shortage and subsequent black market. The villain and his henchmen have threatened Christmas, and only a revolt can save the day. John asked if my sculpture class could create a group of large toys to use on the set. I presented the idea to my class and they were quite interested in taking this project on. We met with John, and set designer Meta Lasch, and discussed possible “big toys” that we could create.

We decided that we would design and build five circa-1950’s toys: a rocket, jack-in-the-box, rocking horse, robot, and a “plastic” toy soldier. Our budget was…. well, there actually wasn’t a budget. The theatre department did buy us some glue and tape, but about everything else we scrounged from either the theatre or the back of the sculpture studio. The sculpture class was divided into 5 “teams” of one or two students each. Here I will show you how one of the toys, the rocket, came to be.

Students Ryan and Cayla began with a sketch of the rocket and enlarged the sketch on a 4'x8' sheet of plywood.

Ryan begins cutting out one of the two rocket halves.

Finishing the first of two rocket shapes.

Cayla and Ryan have joined the two halves of the rocket, and now circular supports to strengthen and give form to the armature.

The quarter circles begin to give the armature shape.

Cutting and adding the quarter-circles is a slow process.

Additional quarter rounds are cut and installed.

Ryan begins attaching the wire mesh.

Wire mesh is placed over the entire armature to give the fuselage shape.

Old bed sheets are torn into strips, dipped in an Elmer's glue and water mix, and placed over the wire mesh.

Old bed sheets are torn into strips, dipped into a mix of Elmer's glue and water, and placed over the wire mesh.

Once the bed sheet covering is dry, Cayla and Ryan cover the form with paper mache.

Newspaper is torn into strips, dipped into the glue mix, and added one piece at a time.

After the paper mache is dry, the rocket is painted with a couple coats of latex paint.

Ryan begins giving the rocket a second coat of latex paint.

After several coats of acrylic paint, the rocket is ready to head to the stage.

I will add some photos of the other toys in a future blog. My thanks to all my Sculpture I/Art 260 students who put the time and energy into a great project: Ryan, Cayla, Tabetha, Yvonne, Courtney, Jenn, John, and Joshua.


3 Responses to “Building a Rocket for the Cave of Lost Toys”

  1. March 19, 2010 at 1:35 am

    Seeing the process of something being created is very exciting and not something I see all that often. Thank you for this.

  2. 3 Olivia
    January 3, 2011 at 6:19 am

    thank you so much for posting this!!! see, I have a few more days before going back to school, and I decided to make a real paper mache rocket. my idea of building it is a tad different, i never thought of using a wood structure! clever. hopefully my idea will turn out just as successful =]


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