When you give an artist a blank scout trooper helmet and total freedom, the results are brilliant.
It was a dream assignment for Tom Spina, owner of Tom Spina Designs in New York. The owner of a company known for restoring original movie props, among other things, received an unfinished scout trooper helmet. You know, the one from Star Wars? He was told to decorate it any way he wanted, no boundaries. “The instructions were to come up with something that would bring in a lot of bidders,” Spina says, and he says the person who requested this “didn’t put any real limitations on it.”
This was thanks to Simon Graham, who created a charity project in London called the Biker Scout Helmet Project. He contacted 35 artists and sent them all identical unfinished scout trooper helmets. Then he waited to see what would happen.
The results of their work were all featured in a massive Star Wars celebration in mid-July 2016 in London, where more than 50,000 fans could view the helmets before bidding on them in a 10-day eBay auction. All proceeds from the Biker Scout Helmet Project went to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Images courtesy of Tom Spina Designs.
When he learned that the Star Wars celebration would be coming to London, Graham, who is British, realized that it would be the perfect opportunity to host the Biker Scout Helmet Project in conjunction with the big event. So last year he contacted artists throughout the world, who donated helmets from the United States, England, Germany and Ireland. Graham originally got in touch with 40 artists, asking them to donate their time and experience (as did he), but he ended up with 35 finished scout trooper helmets.
When Spina got the call, he immediately agreed, and he and his team at Tom Spina Designs started brainstorming about their design. “We threw ideas out, but the one we used was the first one we threw out,” he says.
“What if an Ewok found the helmet and turned it into a battle helmet and made it look tough?” they asked themselves. And that was the theme for their helmet.
“I could immediately see this — cute little furry people wearing this poor, dead trooper’s helmet,” Spina says.
It took them a few weeks once they actually started it, and three or four people conquered the scout trooper helmet, transforming the blank space into a furry little creature.
Other artists, like Arturo Delgado, worked on their own. A lead artist at Crixeo and graphic designer, Delgado created his scout trooper helmet in three days at his home in Joliet, Illinois. He’d had a vision for it, but it sat in his home for five months before he implemented it. “I mentally had a visual, and I knew what I wanted…” What Delgado ended up designing involved plastic, leather, model pieces, old toys, various types of paints and many layers.
It’s one of the sleeker helmets, a straightforward scout trooper helmet, silver and black, and Delgado named it the Go For Help, Go. “It’s one of the first lines that one of the troopers said in the first movie,” he says. “It’s a combination of the helmet with the speeder bike.”
(Left) Go For Help, Go by Arturo Delgado; (right) Scout-The New Batch by Simon Greenway. Images courtesy of IGN.
For the students at the prop-making class at Northbrook College in West Sussex, England, this project was a totally different process. There was a competition for the students to submit designs inspired by Studio Ghibli films (animated Japanese features), says Daniel Jenkins, course leader at the college. “Howl’s Moving Helmet was chosen, as it offered a vast range of technical and creative challenges, enabling as many students to be involved as possible,” Jenkins says.
A team of eight took about six weeks to complete the scout trooper helmet. It features many parts, including legs, metal structures sticking out of the top and front of the helmet, and a crown around the top.
Darren Wildman, of PCC Event management in Preston, England, says his scout trooper helmet idea was an epiphany. “The BB-Scout was obviously inspired by the little man himself,” he says. “I had sort of an epiphany about a scout helmet that has an extra means of feeding input into the wearer, and from there, BB-Scout was born.” Then, it was a matter of working out the details of painting the helmet. Altogether, this took about 55 hours.
“I love the individual ideas and concepts the other artists have — it’s always a joy to see how other artists work and apply their ideas,” Wildman says. That was key for many of the artists involved, none of whom were paid for their time or work. But as artists who love Star Wars, they said they enjoyed the individualistic yet collaborative scout trooper helmet project that ended in a massive donation.
“We’ve done a number of these charity projects, and they’re always good fun and a nice way to stretch our creative muscles a bit — and to play in the Star Wars sandbox,” Spina says. “There’s also something really cool about having a wide range of artists work with the same canvas and give it their own twist.”
Those artists are given the same canvas, but they come from all over the globe, and their inspiration and results are very different.
(left) Howl’s Moving Helmet by Northbrook College Props & SPFX; (center) Bad Habit by Shawn Mika; (right) Scout-Lord by Blaidon Props. Images courtesy of IGN.
Lewis White, of Uxbridge, England, felt like the original blank design fit in well with the Star Lord face. “Then it was just a matter of drawing out different designs, while still keeping it basically a biker scout helmet,” said White, who works in the film industry as a professional model maker and has worked on films including The Avengers, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Justice League.
And for others, the inspiration simply came from outer space. “I was inspired by a Sith Lord from the Star Wars expanded universe named Darth Bane and the character from The Lord of the Rings known as the Mouth of Sauron,” says Thomas John Spanos, a freelance restoration artist and former lead technical illustrator for Encyclopaedia Britannica from North Carolina. “Darth Bane wears a helmet to keep his living armor — Orbalisks — from growing over his face.” Spanos says he meant for his helmet to represent an earlier Sith Lord that would have pioneered the wearing of the exotic armor.
To make it, he had to secure a reference model, and he began sketching concepts and then started sculpting maquettes. The base helmet from the prop masters arrived in November 2015, and he assembled that immediately, before sculpting the final build, which he first created in clay and then molded with plaster. Spanos cast the hard pattern in fiberglass and made a rubber mold out of that, before dusting it with aluminum powder to give the final casting the appearance of metal.
Total time for Spanos to make the scout trooper helmet? Seven months.
Worth it? Every minute, he says.
Click for a larger image. Art by James Tampa.