Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Zen of Aging

No, not the necessary acceptance that you're getting older and will eventually die, but the thought process behind aging and distressing a prop.

Professional designer George Ledo brings us this insightful discussion about antiquing props. He's speaking to an audience of stage magicians, but his thoughts on developing an aging treatment hand in hand with the item's backstory are equally applicable to Lovecraftian artifacts.

Antiquing isn’t a formula; it’s a concept. That’s a phrase I learned a few years ago when Donna and I attended a class on how to make paella, which is a Spanish seafood dish. One of the first things the instructor said was that there’s no “classical authentic recipe” for paella. Paella is not a recipe: it’s a concept--a traditional way to use rice, and chicken, and chorizo, and locally available seafood, to make a one-course meal for several people.

An effective technique is to think of the object as having a history, and of each part of its history as being a “layer” that can be addressed separately. Although it’s impossible to create a “how to” list about antiquing props, I’m going to show a couple of hypothetical examples of how I would go about doing this, using standard theatrical techniques. This will of course delve into the actual design of the prop, but I’ll focus on the antiquing.


Jason McKittrick said...

Great post.

Anonymous said...

Something to think about: aging and distressing is also important to costumes. I don't know how many times I've been to a ren faire or a convention and seen something that would be a really great cosume, ~if~ it didn't look like the outfit was being treated like somebody's "sunday best", even if said clothing was supposedly someone's "adventuring outfit".
- Andy

CoastConFan said...

He’s quite right. As an antique dealer and appraiser, I use observation as an important part of authenticating original objects. It’s more subtle than the correct material, correct manufacture, and consistent aging, wear, and dirt (or the lack thereof). The history of the object in question takes into account all of this and more. Therefore, a prop object must also reflect, at least on the surface, the background of the object it simulates. A really good prop should have all the expected characteristics and remain convincing. Like a stage magician, a good prop maker should fool us all at least on the initial presentation level and make us appreciate the illusion.