Finally. It's been several months since I finished this project and shipped it off to its eager recipients. Now I am finally ready to begin reporting on the saga that is The Black Duke project. I took over 160 pictures of the items for this project, so it has taken me a while to deal with all of that.
Let's start with a tiny bit of back story. It was early in the year, January, and I was already underway with the Shadowmanor project. I got an email from someone interested in having a custom prop tome made for an independent movie project he was producing, entitled "The Black Duke". My first instinct was to say "no thank you", as I don't particularly like doing commission work. It does not suit my temperament or my creative process. But I needed the money, so I entertained the request and began discussing the project, tentatively. What started out as one prop tome, quickly became three separate prop items; a tome with some custom interior pages, a diary with blank pages, and a wooden box with an engraved design on the lid. Within a few days, I had some issues come up that looked like they would prevent me from taking the job, so I politely declined the commission. I felt bad for doing so, since negotiations had already begun. But as it turned out, a few weeks later, my situation changed and I wrote them back and told them I would make their props if they still wanted me too. These props were central to the plot of their movie and having seen my work posted on this blog, they were still eager to have me make them for the project.
The first items I started on was the diary. I thought it would be the simplest and the easiest. The concept for the piece, as discussed with the producers, was something along the lines of the Grail Diary from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It was to look like an old leather covered journal. Simple in design and with significant weathering. I was going to leave it blank, as the client was going to fill it with their own content. But the book was going to be used open, so the pages also had to be aged. My diary started off as a small (4x6) art store sketch book.
I had to remove the text block from the cover in order to customize each. I had originally though about using the faux leather kraft paper finish with a dark red color...
For the book block (blank pages), I used a mixture of water, black tea, instant coffee, and black walnut crystals to dye the pages. This particular brand of sketch book is well made and uses sewn signatures that are properly attached to the book block. They are easy to remove and the pages stay together nicely. I knew that the pages were going to swell significantly, so I removed the first and last signatures of the book block before dying. Otherwise, the pages would not have fit back into the cover. After applying the dye, I fanned out the pages and placed it on top of a space heater to dry. The pages became predictably warped and wrinkled. When it was mostly dry, but not completely, I put the book block between two pieces of hardboard and clamped them tightly in order to flatten the pages back out somewhat.
P.S. Although it doesn't seem to be ready for viewing yet, here is a link to the production company's web site. www.blackedgeproductions.com. Hopefully things are going well and information about the film will show up there soon.
The Black Duke - the Diary (part 2)
The Black Duke - the Box (part 1)
The Black Duke - the Box (part 2)
The Black Duke - the Box (part 3)
The Black Duke - the Tome (part 1)
The Black Duke - The Tome (part 2)
The Black Duke - the Set (fini)
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