The Gorilla Suit -secrets of the Hollywood propmasters.

I'm not one to give away my trade secrets but I thought I'd share some creative tips and tricks in a new series of posts.


Did you know most gorillas in movies and t.v. have been a person in a costume? It's true!

Tarzan movies, the 70's Jessica Lange King Kong movie, that episode of Gilligan's Island with the gorilla...all had a person in a gorilla suit. I know, I know... I was fooled too.

Here's how to make your own that would rival anything from Rick Baker or Stan Winston's shop. Click on image to enlarge and print. Follow the directions carefully and remember to wear safety googles.

Happy National Gorilla Suit Day everyone!

How do you want to be remembered?

The Fiancee and I were discussing the distant future over dinner one night. She suggested her epitaph might read...

and with a raised eyebrow, told me what mine should read.

The Spirit Cave.

1997. Here is a coversation from that summer as best as I remember it...

"I'd like you to design a set for us."
"It would be for a local public television channel and would feature a ballet with traditional Native American music and dance."
"Alright, sure. That's interesting"
" would have to be a very large set. There are 15 or so dancers and maybe 10 musicians?"
"That should be no problem."
"It's scripted as being in a ...uh...large spirit cave sort of setting."
"WOW! This sounds fun to do!"
"Yes, but...ummm..uh, here's the thing...we would need it this weekend."
"Yea, and's sort of a benefit performance so we only have $500.00 total to make it."
"Yea...uhhhh...can you do it?"

Here's what you can make with some old set walls and paint lying around a studio, promises of beer to friends for help, $100.00 worth of prop making materials and $400.00 worth of butcher paper...

Click on pictures to enlarge.

HGTV's Outer Spaces water features.

This is the 3rd portfolio post in my HGTV's Outer Spaces series. The unexpected and welcome part of doing the work I do is having to learn new skills sometimes for particular projects. Water features became a big part of Outer Spaces and were wanted by many of the homeowners. Click on any picture to enlarge.

Often pre existing water fountains from a garden shop were used. Sometimes unique and "custom made" ones were wanted and needed to fit the design. Through much trial, error, cracks and leaks I learned how to make almost anything a fountain.

Some were easy, just retro fitting pre existing fountain parts or ceramic pots.

Some required a little thought like this custom made bamboo t-bar spout.

The complete custom made ones always brought a new level of difficulty. Some could be as simple as this one...a basin sunk below ground level and covered with rock to resemble a mini geyser.

The custom projects early in first season were very hard. Guest designers wanting a unique water feature and producers wanting good T.V. projects often won out despite the time involved and my lack of water feature buiding experience. There was often no budget to have any made by a "water feature pro".

The pic below was the "Apocalypse Now" of water features. It was a 9' high free standing piece. The guest designer had sketched it and sold it to the homeowners but had no idea how to make it. I built it with exterior grade wood and sculpted the stone and details with exterior stucco. The pipe at top was drilled with atleast 50 if not more tiny holes to create a cascading sheet of water into the basin below. It took 2 full days to make in the shop.

The stucco coating was taking a long time to dry. I hoped to bring it from the shop to location on day 2 of the makeover despite the shooting schedule that wanted to see the designer "working on it" in day 1. T.V. won, so a couple of the crew were ordered back to the shop to bring it to location.

They got the shot they needed which included adding fresh stucco. It needed to lay flat in the backyard overnight until the stucco dried. During the night the sprinklers went off leaving an even wetter freshly stucco'ed water wall the next day! A camera crew had to go back a few days later to get the shot seen in the show of it working .

This one was the first pond I ever made. The spout was a bathtub fixture customized to fit a fountain pump.

As the shows went on I gained confidence in my skills and found opportunities to include my own crazy idea's and creations.

A "surreal" themed backyard was a fun one to do when every home owner seemed to want variations on a japanese garden. Rene' Magritte was the artist who inspired this makeover and at the zero hour it needed an extra detail. It gave me the opportunity to do a water feature design that was bouncing around in my head for awhile. That's a real umbrella and handle with the center post replaced by a copper tube to run the water through.

For a "Jazz club" themed makeover the designer wanted to include old instruments in some way. My assist Jason Garner, scoured the L.A. landscape and came back to the shop with all types of rusty broken musical items. As he pulled a tuba from his car we both said at the same time..."WATER FEATURE!"

A faux pond with aquarium pebbles brought a needed break from getting soaked making the real thing.

My art dept.'s skills were put to the test one day when a design required a 40' long canal to run the length of a patio, including a centerpiece with a 4' high overflowing water pot. It was a big makeover, the guest designer had brought in her own "personally trained" crew of people she was used to working with to help with the entire project.

Working with the designer, it was decided my crew would make and finish the canal and her team would paint and decorate the patio. She was convinced the canal would take all 2 days of the makeover time to do. She thought her team knew her vision so well and were so good that they would be done with the patio makeover early in day 1...sure in real time, maybe, but this was t.v. filming time. She offered me their help to finish the canal if needed.

I was proud and protective of my battle hardened team and felt she threw a glove down as if her crew was better than mine. Well, I got satisfaction at the end of day 1 when my crew was helping hers on the patio.

Monday blues?

2 videos with a theme to brighten your day...the first a classic, the second a new classic I think.

Yes, Devin...there is a Santa Claus.

This is a belated Christmas story.

Early in December my sister Megan told me her concern that my niece Devin was already doubting that Santa exists, she was confused and questioning it. Megan remembered the fun when Santa was real as a kid and she wanted Devin to experience it as well.

Devin did not elaborate as to why she doubts but Megan thought a few of her pre school classmates were telling her Santa was not real as they might have parents who don't believe in raising them with the myth.

Megan hoped that I and all the family would, atleast this year, help Devin to believe in a workshop at the North Pole. I was happy to help. I had my reservations, I remember when I learned the truth last year. I was very depressed. I think believing in Santa can be some of the best memories of youth. It is for me. A warm feeling of mystery and magic I treasured.

Devin wrote a letter to Santa. It was a tightly folded piece of paper with no stamp or address sitting at the bottom of their mailbox. I took it... to write back as Santa. Opening the letter I discovered Devin either has a long way to go in grammer (I'm the last person who should make that comment) or she wanted stuff from IKEA.

Her Dad, Paul, translated it to me later over the phone. I dropped off Santa's response the next week while they were out. Santa told Devin... He will try to get everything she asked for and with a specific request to leave mac and cheese for his reindeer because they love it. The best memory of Christmas 2006?... Megan calling me on Christmas eve with venom and sarcasim in her voice

"I just wanted to thank you Uncle Dave. I'm in the kitchen, making mac and cheese for all of Santa's reindeer."

Making Christmas fun for my niece and torturing my sister at the same time...priceless.

On Christmas day the family got together at Megan, Paul and Devin's house. Amid the festivities, my brother Ted and I casually snuck into the backyard with a Santa hat hidden from view. I became a human step ladder helping Ted hoist himself up on the roof. He walked slow and steady to the chimney just in case Devin might hear his footsteps sitting in the living room below... and of course walking so not to crash through the ceiling under a weak beam. That would of been a great holiday surprise! Ted artistically drapped the hat on the chimney and made his way back.

Ted getting down from the roof is a whole other story...including my brother in law Kirk getting involved making it a real 3 stooges routine. Ladders are a good invention...must remember one next year. We stepped inside and announced

"It looks like Santa lost something!"

With great overblown bad acting, drama and fuss everyone went outside.
Devin looked up, her eyes went wide and with a big smile on her face she said

"It's Santa's Hat. " and then with real concern she added...

"Oh no...We have to get it down!"

For that one brief moment she was a true believer. Her reaction made me believe again. Mission accomplished.

Epilogue: Ted had to climb up again and he dropped the hat down. My Dad ordered him to stay up there until we could get a ladder so he could get down safely. Being Christmas day all the stores were closed. The next day each of us assumed the other would go buy a ladder to let Ted down. None of us had. No one realized this until last week when Ted did not show up for a family get together.

"Have you seen Ted?"
"No, have you?"
"He's not still up on the..."
"Oh my gosh...did you get the ladder?"
"No. I thought you did?"
"Oh no..."

We found Ted still up on the roof, patiently waiting. He kept warm by making a coat and fancy headdress from roof shingle. He wanted to be known as... "Overlord of the Chimney Gnomes and Keeper of the Holy T.V. Antenna". He also demanded freedom for the "leaf people" stuck in the gutters.

The Doctor says his therapy is going well and the dementia will pass.

3am coffee, pom poms and googly eyes.

I've been the prop stylist a little over a year now for the "how to" craft videos on Family Fun Magazine's website, They can also be found at We shoot these every 2 months or so.

They have reworked the videos in time and style. They are shorter now, so more segments can be shot in the usual production schedule. The trade off is less time for "step by step" instruction. Now each segment will showcase several projects with a theme, as in "things to do with a toilet paper tube".

I have to make the "things to do with a toliet paper tube".

They narrowed it down to three projects per segment. We shot 12 , one minute episodes in 2 days. That's 36 finished projects I had to make! Oh! Did I mention I am also responsible for installing and dressing the set as well?

They finalized what projects to do on a Tuesday... and wanted to see all 36 finished "heros" by Friday for approval ...I first thought they were joking, they were not.

Everyone realized there was only 24 hours in a day. Help was given and some finished projects trusted to look good by shoot day without approval, but I still had a few long nights of work to get everything done.

At 3am with blurry eyes the cute crafts, the mess and the atmosphere take on a Diane Arbus / Twilight Zone / David Lynch kind of feeling...

Valentine's Day is Almost Here.

I've turned two cartoons of mine into Valentine's Day greeting cards, but be warned...dark humor here... no cute chubby cupids below!





Both cards are available at my gift shop, click on...


It's not too late to order for Valentine's day! Small gifts for friends and co-workers are also available. I hope you visit.

Support This Site

Five O' Clock Girl.

My sister and artist Monica Lowe Scott has been creating new work.

Knowing her, the finished work below took her less than 15 minutes to create but she took 5 days to research images and think about what pen to use. She will then stare at the art for days. Deciding they are not up to her standards, she will throw them in a dark corner of the house fighting her want of burning them as her inner self critic voice is telling her to do. She'll then make a pot of coffee and sulk on the couch flipping through t.v. channels looking for a Discovery Channel show on giant squids or some reality show to satiate her need for a new season of Survivor. Then her husband Kirk will come home and ask...

"What's wrong?"
"Nothing." She says.

Awkward silence will fill the room. Kirk will then rewind the days events in his head to make sure he didn't do anything stupid. He'll then...wait, I digress. Here is Monica's latest work...

See more of her work at and visit her new web store, click on... Five O'Clock Girl. All the above art is there and much fun would it be to shop at the grocery store with a human heart on your tote bag muttering...

"Man, why do they only have animal parts to eat!"

A perfect circle.

There is an old art world legend that I've heard told connected to several artists, Picasso in particular. The story goes...

In his younger days, Picasso was working as a commercial artist. He arrived for an interview without bringing a portfolio.

"How can I hire you without seeing samples of your work?" asked the client.

Picasso took a scrap of paper from the person's desk and drew a perfect free hand circle. He got the job.

I thought it an impossible myth until I saw this...

Rip Van Winkle

Sketch for a possible larger piece, prismacolor pencil on trace paper.

Click on image to enlarge.

I want to be a...DANCER!

A sneak preview of my new musical about me?
Me at Burning Man?

Just the best at work time waster ever!!!!

I always wanted to know what it would look like if I lead the Conquest of the Planet of the Apes!

This could be old but new to me. Go to PICTAPS to make your own. It's free and pretty easy to do.

Never tell me the odds.

Let's say in my life and work for various projects in the past 20 years I've pounded into walls, at the very least, 80 nails a year.

That's 1600 nails.

Last night while hanging a picture in my house, I hit an electric wire... for the first time.

1 in 1600. Not a bad run.

Incident in image exaggerated for maximum dramatic effect!

DIY's Craft Lab- the set ver. 2.0

One of my favorite projects in 2006 was redesigning the set for DIY's Craft Lab. I'll be honest, I was not happy with the set I did for the first season. This old post, Evolution of a Set, will give you a little backstory on that. I was thrilled to be told a new set was needed.

For the re-design I went back to my original idea that I believed had elements that would work.
I wanted the set to be a heavy industrial space softened by funky, bright decor. I also wanted it to be practical looking with real work tables etc. I had to consider a big new need, a space for "crafters"... 2-3 people to be working along with Jen (the host) and guest.

My budget did not allow for new construction so the first thing I did was play with the old set plans, rearranging the walls to be less cavernous than the first and knowing what worked last year and didn't.
I committed myself to the darker wall colors I wanted, rusted metal and gray cement. I then worked on the larger furniture in the workspace. I also began to consider what kind of decor would compliment host Jennifer Perkins.

From the start I wanted old lockers, a retro diner booth for the crafters and some kind of large wall art. The below image was the one I used to first pitch my new design. Thankfully everyone liked where it was going.

I abandoned the above long work bench idea. It was overkill. It would be great in a real workshop but not practical for t.v. filming. Everything began to fall into place and I finalized the layout and started in on the small details.
The angled shelf unit idea on the left came from a broken one in the prop room that stood like that and I found unique looking. The one you see on the finished set is the one from the prop room.

Below is the final drawing submitted for approval. It was a rare career moment, everyone concerned gave it thumbs up. A DIY exec particularly liked the fun details such as the bowling trophy collection...that idea was inspired by host Jennifer Perkins who actually collects them.

click on picture to enlarge.

The only issue of debate was the large wall art. My first idea was a pop art influenced collection of craft themed panels. The design was rejected.

My second design was a craft themed 70's romance comic cover. The below image was a quick photoshop mock up borrowing a couple of images from old covers to sell the idea. I started to design one with my own original art but it was nixed before I could finish it.

In the end they liked the old diner sign I had in my first sketch. My assist Jason Garner designed the finished one below and I painted it on a 3'x3' canvas.

That's my own computer borrowed from home....cursed budgets.

I had alot of fun with the little details on the set. I imagined that the space evolved around making crafts, no thought put into the decorating. Finished projects and inspired clippings would be put down or slapped up anywhere. Supplies, tools and works in progress everywhere. I let extension cords run to tools and paint drips on the table tops be visible, because that's a reality in doing crafts.

Personally, I think a creative workspace is not complete without a mannequin torso.

Many crafts involve oven baking so one was worked into the design. This guy was a cheap "as is" floor model... amazing what a coat of paint and new knobs can do. Jen Perkins is a big music fan so I threw in as much referance to it as I could, like the speaker.

The artisans at the set shop, The Scenic Route, did a great job... retro fitting the walls, repainting everything with amazing aged faux finishes and brilliantly improving the large "sono" tube columns from last year by skinning with linoleum. The lino was glued on with the backside out and painted. As usual my talented partners in all things t.v. art dept, Andri Silanandra and Jason Garner were there every second to help. Especially keeping DIY's Uncommon Threads prop needs moving along, I was designing Craft Lab while we were shooting it.

One thing I'll never forget with this re-vamp.

Last year a functioning sink with running water was needed for several episodes. It proved to be a big pain in the butt and never worked right. It's a simple enough t.v. trick: just run a garden hose from a spout and fit it to the faucet, and put a bucket underneath the sink for the water to drain into. Well, murphy's law proved true.

This time around I made it a personal mission to have the new sink work without failure. I had one person dedicated to it all day.

It worked perfectly so of course we used it only once.

Craft lab is now airing daily on HGTV as well as DIY!