Neiman Marcus: Carlos’s Candy

A lot of people’s talents went into creating these windows. The video from 2 years ago can give you an idea of what goes into popping the windows open, putting the crawl-through tubes together, and then sealing the whole thing back off again. But then there’s the planning, the lighting, the backdrops, the lettering on the windows (this year even the plastic covering the windows pre-unveiling had writing printed on it), the lettering inside the windows, and on and on. There are dozens of small motors set up throughout the windows that make the bees fly, the springs boing, the snowman shiver, fruits and silverware and wheels spin. You don’t even want to know how long it took to bring motion to the cascade of jewels.

And most of it’s a pretty thankless job of running around, futzing with wires, installing the not-so-interesting hardware to hang the interesting things from the ceiling, and so forth making the non-visible parts work. I’m not going to go into all of that, mostly because I wasn’t there for much of it. The parts I got to admire were when Carlos, along with his trusty assistant, Carlos, made crazy things come to life.


Here is a huge cookie:

When not on the cookie itself, the cookie part looked exactly like cat puke.

Here it is in the window:


The candy video monitors


In the window:


The enormous cake being squished by the tube and the n&m’s

It starts out looking like cheese:

The cake covered in plastic to protect it while the raspberry filling gets painted. To the left, the n&m’s and the chocolate frosting drying on the table. To the right, Carlos’s feet and elbow:

In the window:

This is how seriously cake-y this looks, even on close inspection:


Carlos also put together the infinitely-pouring bag-o-jewels. There’s an enormous, still pile in the front, then a spinning pile behind it designed to look like it’s an unending flow coming out of this huge, magic, velvet bag.

Carlos also blinged up a couple sets of paparazzi, made even more dramatic by the the folks in charge of the lighting:

Every year there’s a big event in the nearby park square in which Santa flies in from a nearby parking garage. This year, Carlos built a realistic-looking jetpack that included a chemical reaction designed to look like it really was shooting flames out the back. Alas, I didn’t get any pictures of that, as I witnessed the building of it during what was, for me, a 12-hour day that still had more non-Neiman’s sewing to do in the evening.


Neiman Marcus: Gingerbread Yummm!

The process by which a foam piece of M becomes a delicious gingerbread cookie:

First it begins as a thick foam cut-out with what appears to be styrene on both sides. That got sliced off with a heated-wire foam-slicing tool.

Then it gets sanded down by hand:

Some sanding and painting later:

What would be a more interesting book than the one on grey–50 Shades of Brown:

I made a lot of cording:

Glitter, the herpes of the crafting world (then again, so is fur-fuzz):

Here is where I ran out of cording. The Goddess of Adequate Yardage, despite being prayed to, did not provide.

Here it is finished except for that last foot of frosting cording. The floor is coated in glitter from the roomful of trees the other crew decorated:

Roomful of trees:

This isn’t even all of them. I have no idea what round this is, tree-wise, as I worked at home more than on location.

Yummm! in the window; that naughty ant messed up our kerning:

Neiman Marcus: Snowman

The project: A cold snowman

The original prototype center: we had planned on stuffing it. I tested it out with muslin and filled it with small pieces of fabric, as I don’t have however many pounds of stuffing on hand that it would take to fill a whole snowman:

Since it was going to be on a machine that would shake him to make him look like he was shivering, and since it was going to be constantly shaken for over a month, we decided it shouldn’t have as much possibility of shifting. Hence, foam:

Since the fur was so thick, I could mark the pieces on the back with impunity, including an arrow to keep the nap straight:

What with all the cutting and the serging and so forth, the flying fur dust became overwhelming. I finally tied some fabric scraps over my face:

I soon discovered the difficulties in covering something round with fabric that was not stretchy. My original pattern pieces, designed to make 6 panels per sphere, worked okay on the head, but came out looking really lumpy on the bottom snowball. I draped a piece of fabric over it and figured out the maximum possible width, which more than doubled the quantity of panels.

I still had to pull the fabric on really taut to keep it from looking like an albino pumpkin:

Pulling, scootching, and pinning; stitching, then somehow finding more fabric that could be pulled, scootched, pinned, and stitched. Repeat.

Then go through each seam with a pin and loosen every tucked-in fur fiber.

It actually looked better in person than I could get a picture of, but you can see in this shot that it’s significantly better than the original pumpkin.

Now to style the face. Carrot nose:

Here he is pre-eyebrows, with all his features pinned in place, and his eyes cheerfully sad:

Eyebrows made from velvet-covered wire:

Nearly finished:

You’d think it would be easy to put someone’s hands into a position that looks like they’re rubbing their little mittens together. Not so. If his thumbs don’t show in the front, it’ll just look like socks. If you put the palms together, it looks like he’s praying. It was hard to keep the bend only at his elbows and not partway down his forearm, which would have, aside from the horrific element that added, solved the hand problem.

The sticks are holding his hands in place while they dry:

Big Carlos used techniques he’d learned in Columbia to dust the whole snowman with glittery snow so that it wouldn’t shiver off.

Taking this shot through the glass, it was difficult to keep that blue light reflection from landing right on his face:

Also in Mr. Snowman’s window, giant blow-ups of crocheted snowflake ornaments, some of them on motors to make them spin:

I had tried out making them out of rope, but it took a whole thing of rope just to start one snowflake, and we determined that the time involved and the logistics of how to make it stiff enough to even hang, let alone to spin, just weren’t worth it:

The screens set up to show the kids running through the tubes look like they’re in miniature glaciers:

The whole Brrr window:

Neiman Marcus: leaves of grass

The Project: giant blades of grass


Foam tubes covered in more foam to make them thicker. The two foams had been glued together, then separated exactly one night before I went to cover them with the fabric:

The fabric socks, as previously pictured in a teaser blog entry:

Here’s the first end result–I had thought the ruching was for all the foam tubes, but it was not intended for the grass; just for the vine part. It was delightfully Dr. Seuss-y this way, but that wasn’t what we were going for.

I put pieces of pipe inside the foam to make it stiff, which made it easier to pull the fabric on. The vine:

Here they are in the window:

Butterfly on the Ocean

The project: a butterfly made of rose petals that will float in place on water

The original intention was to make it from pale yellow petals, but that would have required ripping the glued and damaged petals off of more stem-roses than we had access to–as well as spending $5-$7 per rose. There are boxes of any number of colors of fake rose petals online, but as always with photoshoot props, there wasn’t time to order them. From a frantic interwebs search, the only local place I could find that sold rose petals by the box was Hobby Lobby. ::start very, very short rant:: Why, why, why, why are Hobby Lobbies all out in the suburbs?? #end rant.

Anyway, so after a handful of vaguely informative phone calls to Hobby Lobby, during which we are informed that the quantity of petals per box is “plenty,” I drive out there and see in person the recent change in dye lot.

The ones on the right looked more like the inside of a plastic seashell, so we went with the ones on the left, which look almost red when not next to the blood-red petals available in the store. Also, we didn’t go with dark purple. There weren’t a lot of natural-looking shades available, and the eventual plan for this prop was sending it to France where the crew would obtain real local roses of the same color, gut them for petals, and sprinkle them on top of our creation. Which is why Plan A had involved yellow roses, as those are apparently readily available in France.

Here is why I usually try to avoid going into places like Hobby Lobby: their nearly perpetual 50% off glass sales. Not good for a glass addict. At one point, inspired by a series of moves, I thought I had broken myself of it . . . but apparently all that meant was that I had to start over.  # rescind rant, I guess.

First we glued the petals to a net in the shape of a butterfly:

Wait, no, second we glued petals in the shape of a butterfly. First we sorted out all the shiny, almost metallic rose petals unless they had one matte side, and we sorted out all the organza “petals” whose presence in a box of fake rose petals would have given the random spreading of these at a party, wedding, or other such event an air of tackiness I’m not sure most people who spread rose petals decoratively are intending.

Then we cut squares of foam (there IS a use for that weird, ugly craft foam they came out with about 6ish years ago!) and glued them to the back, as fake rose petals absorb more water than real petals, and would then be weighed down.

Starting in the lower right corner:

When artists, writers, creative people, etc. are going on about the process of creating with more tediousness than they actually experienced even in the tediousest part of the tediousest project, I often think of what my professor told me about the three times involved in writing a novel: story time, reader time, and writer time. Story time is how much time passes for your characters in your book, reader time is how long it takes your audience to read it, and writer time is how long it took you to write it. Of these three times, only the first two matter to anyone besides you, or are interesting in the slightest.

That said, I’m going to imply in a thousand words how many foam squares were put on all those rose petals, and leave it at that:

A small sample had been tested in a sink before beginning this 7-foot wide butterfly, but would the butterfly hold its shape in water?


I expected that, being out of season, the pool on my roof would be empty. Or, rather, I hoped it would. I went to the least populated corner to test it. A few people started edging closer, apparently unconsciously, and a small girl headed my way to stare at it, so I got out of there before playful pool users damaged a visual-only, expensive, time-consuming piece one day before it had to be on a plane to France.


Secondary Project: re-cover a turquoise tissue-paper parasol with white fabric

Start with ripping all the tissue paper off. I had first thought to use Fabri-Tac, but was told 3-in-1 would dry faster. It did indeed dry faster, which was very helpful, though it was rather like using melted mozzarella cheese that had been run through a spider.

After I had finished about 3/4 of it, I realized a better technique that would have allowed me to better attach the fabric along the entirety of each spoke, but this being a photoshoot, the final product was more than adequate.