Auburn Students Prepare Mystic Society for Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras everything

Professor Randy Bartlett’s students in the School of Industrial and Graphic Design (SIGD) have ensured that the Infant Mystics, a mystic society in Mobile, Alabama, are ready to celebrate Mardi Gras. As part of a sponsored studio with Mobile Carnival Association, industrial design students at SIGD’s futures studio, an off-campus instructional site in Mobile where students can complete a semester of undergraduate or graduate studies, worked on several Mardi Gras projects.

Students worked with the Infant Mystics to develop concepts focused on brand identity and participant interface for use in the organization’s parade and ball. They decided to construct several “walking heads” for use in parades, signage for better conveying names on floats and a kinetic sculpture for mystic society balls. Their most ambitious creation was a 22-foot long fish that articulates as it moves down a parade route. Another project was a walking head float in the shape of a knight’s helmet, a nod to the Infant Mystics’ insignia. Both the helmet and the fish can be pushed by a single person, while another walking head, the giant 8’ foot tall squid, can be ‘worn’ by two people.

Students worked with professional float builder Steve Mussell to learn the process of building floats, which Bartlett described as “paper mache on steroids.” They began by constructing basic forms out of materials like PVC pipe and plywood. They added a layer of rough corrugated cardboard and then a thinner layer of cardboard to smooth it out. A final layer of brown craft paper finishes the form, and a special glue called contact cement, donated by Mussell, holds the materials together so the form can be primed and painted.

Students worked throughout the fall semester of 2020 to complete their creations, and while Mardi Gras 2021 was cancelled, the floats will still see plenty of use in years to come. “Everybody jumped on board to give suggestions and work together,” Bartlett said. “This was absolutely a team project with a collaborative synergy where everyone embraced the project.”

Related people:
Randall Bartlett