Gandalf The Fabulous

My husband and I are a couple of enablers. One of us will come up with a crazy idea – one of those ideas where neither one of us is sure if we’re joking or not. Rather than being a mature adult and talking the other out of said crazy idea… the other will expand on it in some bizarre direction, back and forth… and then we both decide that it must be DONE.

Rather than shelve the idea as “some day, maybe”… we tend to drop everything and DO IT.

Such was the case leading up to last night, and the premiere of “The Hobbit”.

A group of local geeks were planning to dress up and attend the premiere en masse, and we thought it would be fun to participate. What with Gandalf being awesome and all, the general direction of our costume was a given – of COURSE we had to dress Porter up as Gandalf. But, which? Grey would make more sense for this particular movie, but we’ve never really felt super restricted by stuff like that. White was more badass, but I hate embroidery.. So, I posed the question on the Celebration Generation Facebook Page.

Yay, hivemind! Different points were made. White is harder to keep clean. Grey has a hat. Blue would be different and cool, and match his hair. He should go as Magneto instead.

Then, through messaging, we received the game changing suggestion. Brittany, my very last cake client, produced this bit of genius:


YES. We had a plan… and I decided that Gandalf’s beard would be dip dyed. One thing was certain – no one else would be wearing the same costume!

We found the perfect fabric, and I made his robe, hat, and cloak from it:

I fashioned a leaf pin out of glittery blue polymer clay, and detailed it with a silver leafing marker:

As the fabric part of the costume came together easily, one detailed had yet to be finalized – the staff. Did we want to do something vaguely tree-like, like Gandalf the Grey… or go more refined and elegant, like Gandalf the White? Or, you know, we could get weird with it, and involve a mirror ball..

It took like 3 seconds to decide on the mirror ball.

As soon as we had the mirror ball in our hands, ready to work on the staff… we started bastardizing our own plans. This is basically how it went down:

Me: “How do we want to actually affix the ball to the PVC pipe? I think we could (boring talk of creating the setting)..”

Porter: “You know, we could put some LEDs in the fixture to light it up…”

Me: “…..!!!!!”

Porter: “We could build the wires into the prong setting, and then drop them down into the pipe, to a concealed battery pack”

Me: “You know what would be awesome? Sticking a little motor in there, too. Have the thing lit AND rotating!”

Porter: “That’s getting a bit complex”

Me: “But… it would mean a trip to Ax-Man..”

Porter: “LET’S DO IT!”

… half an hour later, we were ringing up out purchase of LED lights, wiring, a motor, diodes, resistors, a battery pack, a switch, etc. Yep, it had gotten crazy, FAST.

Turbo decided to help:

Porter wired up the LEDs, drilled holes into the sides of copper piping, and I sculpted polymer clay around each finger of the prong setting.

We built a base around a larger diameter of copper piping, Porter custom drilled an opening for his motor to fit in, and I connected all of the prong pieces together in the outer framework of the design. Wasn’t overly happy with hour lumpy it all looked, but hey.. it was a first time thing for me.

After lots of fussing, it was ready to bake:

Meanwhile, Porter worked on the motorized aspects of the staff:

We painted it with “granite” texture spray paint, thinking that a stone look would more or less camouflage my shoddy sculpting, and assembled it:

Not much time to spare, either – final assembly happened less than 24 hours prior to the movie premiere! Of course, we had to get Porter all dressed up and take a picture of the whole thing:

SO happy with how it all turned out. The beard is actually gradient “dip dyed” with two different colors: The white turns into a pale teal, which transitions into the fuchsia, with a bit of a purpley mid ground color. Beautiful – but it was our second attempt. I had painstakingly brush-dyed the beard and wig with 3 colors of my Manic Panic.. only to find that it doesn’t actually stain/dye cheap synthetic wigs. Crap!

Ended up using a solution of rubbing alcohol and acrylic ink. Worked wonderfully!

We had a great time at the premiere:

… And we were sure to get a picture with our friend Bill, who was Gandalf the Grey. (He immediately dubbed Porter “Glamdalf”… love it!):

It was a bit swarm of Hobbitses, a couple Gandalfs, a handful of elves, and I THINK a Dwarf:

The movie was great. Where I’m far too ADD for the original trilogy, I found this one far more interesting, and at a better pace. Anyway.

We took some shots outside this afternoon:

It was, as expected, a ton of fun. This was the first real time we’ve actually worked on a costume together (rather than me just sewing something for him, or him working on a component for something by himself). It was great to plot the whole thing out, swap ideas, and problem solve together – and hey, our crazy enabling turned out something pretty cool, IMHO.

Aside from the hilarity we experienced in creating it, it was fun to see kids’ eyes light up, as they excitedly pointed Porter out to their parents. Well, kinda like they do when they see our blue hair, but more so – I guess a lit up, rotating disco ball is cooler than dyed hair 🙂

Check out more photos from this project on Facebook, here. Also, thanks again for the inspiration, Brittany! You’re Awesome!

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