This was one of the props I made for Binghamton University’s 2017 Production of “A Lie Of The Mind.” The show ran from February 24-March 12. It called for a deer body that was chopped off from around the waist down because one of the characters hunted it down and brought the bottom half home. I made this my senior year at the university right before I graduated with the help of both scene shop and costume shop teachers. So let’s begin.
So I started off with a base of two legs that were stored in a props room. My first job was to find them. As you can see, they were wrapped up in a white plastic bag so it was a bit of a challenge but at least we knew which room they were in. In the second picture, you can see them out of the bag along with a piece of hide that was stored in the furs closet in costume storage. You can’t really see it but in the third picture, I was sewing shut parts of the leg(s) that were ripped open.
Once the legs were found and prepped, I printed out research on what a deer’s body looks like along with its muscles to help me make it as accurate as possible. And then I had to pretty much figure out how to make the bottom of a deer out of two legs.
I know it looks menacing, but the red and yellow you see in the legs is just foam and not flesh. They were stuffed with foam, some long bits of wood, small wooden chips, and some saw dust.
I started with carving out a part of the foam big enough to insert a sturdy piece of wood, then reinforced it by wood glue and screwing it onto the wood that was already inside the leg. Each of those pieces also had another perpendicular piece attached at an angle keeping in mind how a deer’s body would lay and for additional support/structure.
The two legs then had two more pieces of wood screwed in between the outward ones to actually join the legs together (pictured below). While I was making it I had to keep in mind the amount of force that would be used on it and so I had to make it very sturdy.
You can see those two extra pieces in the bottom right corner of the photoset above.
Once the boning of the structure was finished, I cut some chicken wire and started shaping it around the legs with the appearance of a dear’s bum. I wrapped and cinched the wire together to keep it from coming apart at the cut ends, then inserted long strips of wire in wherever I could through the legs and the chicken wire and secured the wire to the legs. Afterwards I manipulated the entire shape to get the general look.
After I got the wire on, I started stuffing the inside with foam to fill in the round shape and keep the wire from collapsing when the prop was moved (or dropped repeatedly like it was in the play).
Then I cut out a piece of muslin, wrapped it around the wire, and used Phlexglu to keep it together yet still be malleable. (Everyone kept commenting that it looked like the deer was wearing a diaper)
Then I painted the inside all nice and bloody with the help of some gory reference pictures and keeping in mind where the spine would be.
During this whole process we realized that the hide we had in storage was the wrong color and wasn’t big enough, so Barb Wolfe (the head of the theatre department) ordered a better one online from a professional and that’s what I’m holding on the right.
Gross, I know.
Then I finally started to attach the hide. I figured out the best placement for it so that it fit right and even had a spot that appeared to be the tail. Then I had to sew it on. I used regular thread at first and then realized that was a mistake because it snapped almost immediately. So then I switched to a thick nylon thread which worked much better.
My biggest problem when it came to sewing this was trying to get the needle through. There were some places where it easily went through and some where it wouldn’t budge at all. To get around that, I got a thin bit and started drilling holes where I needed to sew. It was still pretty hard to get the needle through because of the weird angle and the needle being curved so I ended up using pliers to pull the needle out. (They were wrapped with tape to keep from damaging both the needle and the pliers)
After the hide was on, it only covered about half of the body, so I then had to go to another fabrics storage room and find the black bag labeled “fake white fur.” I then cut an appropriate piece and sewed that on.
Finally, I added some darker color to the “guts” and painted some blood on the fur and some trickling down the legs.
And we’re done! Half a deer at your service.
The whole process took a few weeks. Along with this prop I also had to assemble a variety of WWII planes for a mobile. I took them home and worked on them on my free time which was a pretty fun way to pass time.
About 2 months after our run, I got an e-mail from one of the women working at the theatre office saying that someone in Kansas City, MO was doing “A Lie Of The Mind” and somehow knew we had a deer prop. I was asked if I had pictures of it for them to look at, so I sent them a link to my portfolio. 😋 Apparently they were satisfied with it because it was later shipped out to them.
I didn’t see the prop again until the year after when I started working for the university and it was shipped back to us. It looked the same except for an extra piece they added, which I was honestly kind of annoyed that I didn’t think of 🤔.
They put a piece of foam on top of the “guts” and carved it and painted it so that the spine was pronounced and much more discernible.
It was used in the Coterie Theatre. I tried looking them up once to see if I could find a program card or something with the names of the crew to see if they put my name down. I don’t think they did but I’m not entirely sure. I couldn’t really find much besides some articles on it.
If you liked this Behind The Scenes process, you can be sure there’s more to come! 🤩
If you want to see more of my art you can check out my portfolio at consciouscreations.eu 🦄