I first met with Debbie Gantt (Performing Arts Coordinator), Alex Edwards (Lower School Music Teacher) and Andrew Luman (Music Teacher) at the beginning of October, and it was there that Alex showed me her drawings for the set and asked if I would be interested in making Fluffy the Three-Headed dog. In her drawings she had three heads coming out of the wall as well as the front legs. I was intrigued by the idea but asked if perhaps it could be the entire dog. Andrew gave me the parameters, and I went away to stew on the idea. Exactly a month later I presented them a scale model of my proposal. The model, made of pink foam rigid insulation, was exactly to scale and showed a five foot girl walking under the legs. They were sold.
December 6, a month later, I sent them a picture of the first head with my daughter Bimba standing next to it to show them how big it was going to be. My hope was at that time they would call me in and say it was too big and we needed to reconsider the project. Instead all I received was their praises. For the next two months all I did was work on Fluffy.
I used almost 1000 sq. ft. of two-inch rigid foam insulation to create the entire dog. Each head takes about 135 sq. ft. Thirteen cans of spray adhesive, seven bottles of Gorilla Glue, and three gallons of paint were used. The body has a core made of two-by-fours and plywood. The front legs have a steel frame which was then covered with the foam. In my studio I built the top half, the heads and top of the body first. I then took them off raised the body to the ceiling of the studio and built the lower half. After spray painting it a golden yellow, I took it all apart and delivered it to Brookwood in three trailer loads. It was there that Alex brought Fluffy to life with her paints. It took all of Friday and part of Saturday to assemble it on the stage.
The most difficult aspect of building this was figuring out how it was going to stand up and be guaranteed that it would not fall down. The solution was the steel used in the front legs and the triangular support I built behind the wall to carry the hind end. I needed to be sure that the dog could not fall forward or push the wall over backward. The other aspect of the project that required the most thought was the tail and how to make it wag. Debbie was determined that the tail had to wag. It is very simple, but it took me a long time to get there.
The sheer size of this could make it very scary to young children, so to tone it down I made the heads to resemble Mr. Peabody’s and gave the body the playful pose of a puppy about to spring forward. Alex then added to that with soft expression around the mouth.
– Sebastian Carpenter ’79
and Parent ’13, ’14, ’17