Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Making of the Coral Tiara

Diadem fever has swept the costuming community this year, and I have happily been swept up with it. Coral tiaras were my undoing, and I wanted, no needed to have one. For health reasons. ~cough~

There are lots and lots of examples of Regency-era coral tiaras, and other diadems, to be found online, especially on Pinterest. I wasn't quite sure how to tackle making one, though - do I sculpt and cast it in aluminium or pewter and then plate it? Do I make a resin one and just paint it? What about wirework? Some options seemed like too much work, and some didn't seem like they would produce a really high-quality looking tiara.

Then a friend suggested using lamp banding. I had no idea what lamp banding was, but quickly found that, yes! This was just what I needed. So, I purchased a foot of this stuff, intending to copy this tiara as well as I could.


When the banding arrived, I found out just how difficult this material was going to be to work with. There was no give in the metal along the vertical, it would only bend back along the horizontal, so that nice arc to follow the curve of the head was going to be impossible to achieve with the banding as-is.

My first thought was to snip into the bottom line of the band at regular intervals and give it some room to curve, but that didn't work at all. The top banding stubbornly refused to curve, so both the top and bottom banding had to come off completely. When that happened, the center portion that was left had no problem bending along the curve that I wanted.

(You can see I had already strung a line of coral beads here, but they weren't attached to anything yet.)

Once I had the guts of the banding doing what I wanted it to, I had to decide what to do about the rest of the design. The tiara would have been okay as it was, but I wanted some framework around the filigree and coral.

I turned to an old standby for that. In the past I've used K&S Engineering's brass sheet to make small elements, like flowers for Eowyn's crown. It's easily cut with scissors but sturdy enough to keep its shape without extra reinforcement. It's generally used to make windchimes, and can be found in the model car section at Hobby Lobby.

There are different thicknesses available. I used 0.010", but there are thinner and thicker options if you want to try something different. 

The next step was super scientific with lots of measurements and calculations and stuff.
Nah, I'm just kidding. I laid the banding down on the brass and drew around it with a pencil. I don't have a picture of the drawing (the pencil marks against the brass were hard to see in photos), and when I cut out the brass it just looked like a bunch of crazy curls of metal, so it wasn't very helpful. But, once I flattened it out and attached the rest of the bits (the banding, the coral arch, the coral spires at the top), it turned out to be the perfect solution. The only thing that didn't work out was the embossing. I was hoping to add some decorative elements to some of the larger expanses of blank brass, but the brass was just too thick to allow it. 
But, all in all, I'm very thrilled with how it turned out. This is the finished crescent.

I originally planned to solder all the metal joins so it would be super sturdy, but I remembered that I'm really too scared of soldering, so I decided to use superglue instead. Which was a bad idea. Superglue takes forever to set on metal, and you end up with it slowly seeping onto your fingers and then you're glued to your tiara, and when you rip the metal off your fingers the tiara falls apart, and it's all very tragic. Ain't nobody got time for that. So, I went back to my old friend, the hot glue gun, and things proceeded much more smoothly. 

Yup, that whole thing is hot-glued together. Don't tell anyone. 

I finished it off with a couple of plastic combs that I glued to the back. The already have a built in curve, so I didn't have to alter them at all, thank goodness. They stay put in my hair extremely well, and I can even wear the tiara on the side of my head and it won't slip. 

I'm definitely planning to make a few more diadems. They're such a particular style that store-bought tiaras just don't cut it. Besides, once you find out that you can make something cheaper and more accurately than a store-bought version, there's no going back!

There's a much more detailed tutorial on the way for those that wish to tackle a tiara themselves. Be forewarned, though, they aren't for the timid, and tiaras bite. My hands are scratched, cut, burned, and bruised from my recent tiara wrangling. But if you're brave and willing, then stay tuned!

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