Behind The Project

Home Re-Creating Jen Adventures In Foam Latex Thoughts On The Film
Disclaimer & Legal Stuff Re-Creating Kira Creature Puppets Meeting Jim Henson
Research & Bibliography Making A Fizzgig Making Props ~ Behind The Project
Contemplating Re-Creations? Backdrop Building The Presentation Trivia    Contact

My name is Carl Coling. I learned many different skills in my life, and I've never stopped learning. I learned to tailor my own clothes in college (being short has many advantages, but finding clothes that fit properly isn't one of them), to build things, and to find and ferret out resources.

I have multiple college degrees, and am both a writer and photographer. I've made a special, lifelong study of creativity. The science fiction and fantasy fields are particularly fertile creative grounds.

Attending my first science fiction convention in 1973, I met Bjo Trimble (the "save Star Trek" lady), along with a host of other science fiction/fantasy fans, and have encountered a goodly number of people over the years that work in the entertainment industry. I have a pretty good grasp of the requirements and vicissitudes of the various creative trades.

I've been to costume classes from industry professionals, as well as special effects seminars from the likes of Industrial Light & Magic through UCLA, and have toured the costume shop for Phantom of the Opera, and visited Bob Mackie's costume warehouse with the Costumer's Guild West.

I've seen some of the very best work from prop makers, makeup artists, costume designers, and others in the creative crafts of the entertainment industry.

I also have a knack for being able to build something if I can see and study it.


I once built a Doctor Who Police Box, using nothing but a ruler and the Doctor Who Sound Effects album cover as a design guide. I drew up my own plans. My version came apart in 13 pieces for transport. It ended up being used for a KCET (PBS) pledge drive featuring Tom Baker (Doctor Who was broadcast on PBS at that time).

Where The Dark Crystal is concerned, I was impressed by the visuals, the attention to detail, and the artistic approach to the film. I knew, when I saw the Craft and Folk Art Museum exhibit of the characters, that I wanted to do a tribute to the creative men and women behind the film. Worldcon '84 (The World Science Fiction Convention held in Anaheim, California) seemed the most suitable venue for it.

Once committed to the project, it took a full two years to complete the costumes, backdrop, and puppets. I could have used more time, even so! Everything had to be made from scratch, including patterns. It was a daunting task, especially the last few weeks before the convention.

I had to budget, decide on the best approach in fabrication, struggle with availability of materials and ask assistance from friends. I sought out affordable resources, learned new skills, and dealt with all manner of challenges along the way. I had no idea the experience would be this intense.

Credits for the Dark Crystal Project: Pre-Production/Fabrication:

Regarding the people who aided me in the fabrication process, the stage presentation, and/or the tear down, I was not able to contact everyone. For those whom I could not contact for permission to list their names here, I'm listing only first name and last initial. However, their contribution is no less noteworthy.

The Fizzgig eyes were manufactured and painted by a specialty company that produces eyes for the screen trade. I regret I do not have the name of the company readily available. It was not on their receipt. The other character eyes were ordered from a mail-order doll catalog.

The belt buckle for Jen was outsourced to jeweler Eric Du'marn (who had a small, entrepreneurial business at the time called Dragonmarsh, which is now larger and more diversified, and has an online presence,

Since the buckle was larger than a conventional piece of jewelry, Eric made a wax replicate of my clay rendering, and outsourced it to a foundry which cast it. He then added the necessary buckle hardware (the bar and the chape). When I received it, it was bright and shiny. To make it look as close to the original as possible, I treated it with a reactive chemical I'd read about in a book on creating specific patinas on specific metals and alloys. It worked. This piece was the most expensive element on Jen's costume.

Credits for the Production of the Props, Costumes, and Backdrop

Jack O. Jones: For the use of his workshop and storage facilities, and assistance in cutting the Crystal Shard.

Paula Green and Tanya Coates: Additional research, aid on applying the "mane" to the re-created Mystic puppet, and finishing touches (shadowing) on the Backdrop (final days before the convention).

Terri C: The Backdrop (initial stages), and aid with the hanging elements on the Kira costume.

Gene T: Carl's lifemask for the Jen character, and advice on prop making and potential materials suppliers.

Carleena Marinez and Paula Green: Additional research materials (periodicals and books), as well as production stills.

Andrea Fontaine: applied a coat of varnish to the beak portion of an otherwise-finished Skeksis puppet.

Paula Green: last minute help sewing the ears on the wigs (at the convention, the afternoon of the presentation. We had just a few hours before the masquerade!)

With the exception of the above acknowledgements, Carl Coling is responsible for the following:

Researched and sketched (for purposes of the re-creation) the characters from the film and those on display at the exhibit at the Craft and Folk Art Museum of Jen and Kira, the Mystic, Skeksis, Urskek, and Fizzgig, with supplemental research from reference books about the film and by conceptual artist Brian Froud. (see Bibliography) Selected and purchased the materials to be used for the costumes, puppets, and backdrop.

Drafted the patterns for the re-creations of the Jen and Kira costumes, the puppets, and blueprints for the backdrop.

Dyed, sewed and hemmed, weathered, distressed, fitted, and finished the costumes, as well as integrated the accessories for the re-created Jen and Kira characters. (This included patterning and making Jen's shoes and making the belt -excepting the manufacturing of the buckle- as well as applying the hanging elements from the sleeves on both, sewing on the beads and bobs, leaves and effluvia on the costumes, and ironing the daylights out of the Kira jagged, finished costume hem which continually tried to twist.)

Designed and built the backdrop, sketched the "Wall of Destiny" in pencil on the six panels, oversaw Terri C in the roughing-in of the designs in felt tip pen over the pencil sketching, took over the remainder of the work on the painting, shading of the backdrop when Terri C left the project, as well as overseeing the last minute 'punching up' (to increase the contrast of the images for the stage) by Paula G and Tanya C days before the convention.

Designed, patterned, cut, glued, and painted, the Urskek, Mystic, and Skeksis puppets, and also fabricated the eyes for the Urskek, and the minimal costume effects for all these puppets, and inserted the eyes into the puppets.

Designed the pattern, cut and glued the foam sub-structure of the Fizzgig, modeled and cast the mouth and teeth, adhered the foam, did additional foam latex pieces for the tongue and uvula, adhered the fur to the finished form, sewed the legs and feet (with claws) and integrated them into the Fizzgig, and inserted the custom-made eyes.

Selected the wigs, streaked, braided, and altered them for the demands of the re-creations.

Did Andrea's lifemask, modeled both the Kira and Jen masks and ears, created the negative molds, mixed, poured, baked, and finished the masks, applied the masks and wigs at the convention, did the makeup, and removed the appliances and wigs after the presentation.

Transported the puppets, backdrop, costumes, makeup, wigs, and accessories to and from the convention.

Financed 100% of the project.

Credits for the Dark Crystal Project: Crew and Cast

Paula Green, Tanya Coates, Carleena Marinez, and Joanne D.: Gear wranglers, pre-stage assistance & set up, onstage puppeteers, prop handlers, and all-round good sports. Paula Green brought us the battery operated, hand-held fans and the water (with straws). Thanks!

Andrea's mom: Backstage assistance and chaperone (for the minor in the cast).

Carl Coling: Portrayed the "Jen" character for the onstage production.

Andrea Fontaine: Portrayed the "Kira" character for the onstage production.