Pretty Hacks: Backstage Styling the Makey’s

Photograph by Gregory Hayes

Happy Halloween! I thought today would be the perfect day to post about LED special effects make-up. Here’s a look at work that went on backstage to styling Gillian BenAry, Gareth Branwyn, Jeri Ellsworth, and Matt Richardson with LEDs for Make Magazine’s Makeys award ceremony back at World Maker Faire with make-up artist Jessica Jade Jacob and hair stylist Suki Tsujimoto.

Jeri Ellsworth receives Makey’s Hero award, photograph by Gregory Hayes

When Gareth Branwyn asked me to style the Makey’s I thought it was the perfect opportunity to do some LED make-up experiments. Maker Faire is an outdoor do-it-yourself event with an emphasis on technology. The challenge was to make our looks elegant for an awards ceremony while maintaining the fun informal do-it-yourself feeling. Jessica Jade Jacob, and I have talked about making up LEDs ever since we saw Soomi Park’s LED lashes. In addition to fashion make-up, Jessica also does special effects for zombie movies, so we planned to build the LEDs into prosthetics.

Diana’s desk the day before

We only had 3 hours to do hair and make-up for four people. So we started prepping, sketching, and experimenting the day before.

Sidenote: I really thought we would use copper tape, but wire wound up working best.

Jessica Jade Jacob builds feather lashes

Jeri’s Look: Jessica and I are super into feather lashes, so we thought they would work well with LEDs for Jeri Ellsworth’s look. We bought some lashes as a base from Duane Reade, then picked up feathers from the garment district to build onto the store bought lashes. The feathers made a nice solid platform for the LEDs so we wouldn’t need to adhere them to delicate eye skin.

Suki styles Jeri’s hair and Diana Solders

To keep it light, we soldered a bunch of surface mount LEDs with very thin wire for the lashes. My trick for soldering SMD LEDs to wire is to line them up, tape them into place, add a small bit of solder to each one, then hold the wire against each solder bit and heat it with my soldering iron until it connects. Suki joined us at Maker Faire to style everyone’s hair and help out.

finished LED lashes

Jeri in progress

Photograph by Gregory Hayes

The eyelashes were powered with a coin cell batteries stashed behind Jeri’s ears using wig tape.

Photograph by Gregory Hayes

Matt’s Look: Jessica took me to a “hair shop” in the theater district where we matched photos of Matt’s hair color to a mustache. I call this a hair shop because they basically sold all sorts of hair attachements, ranging from wigs to sideburns. The mustache hair was not rigid enough to support the LEDs so we used stiff wires to maintain the shape and connect the LEDs behind the mustache. Matt kindly shaved his glorious beard that morning so that we would have a smooth surface to adhere the net at the center of the mustache.

Photograph by Gregory Hayes

Photograph by Gregory Hayes

Gillian’s Look: We were a bit short on time, so we just added some LED’s to a hair piece for Gillian, and did some quick hair styling and make-up.

Gareth’s Look: We were super excited that Gareth sports a bald look because it’s one thing to ask someone to shave their beard and another to ask someone to shave their head for an LED mohawk. We were really short on time so we decided to use LED strips instead of custom building something. In the photo below we were testing for ease of movement and adhesion.

Photograph by Gregory Hayes

We used a two part silicone to adhere the LED strips to Gareth’s head. We started by painting on a protective base coating so that the LED strips would not touch his skin directly. Layers of silicone were painted over the strips and then finished with a flesh colored powder.


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