Saturday, September 4, 2010

Halloween Creepin'

The ennui that had started to settle in last week is gone and I was infused with a sudden sense of needing to get things done. Could be that the calendar shows there's less than two months to go before Halloween.

But I did make a lot of progress this week. I completed my Wall Crawler that was modeled after instructions found in Terror Syndicate's prop building handbooks. The only major change I made was using a paper mache head instead of a mask. I'm not really satisfied with the head as my cloth mache technique still needs a lot of refinement, but the skill continues to improve and I already see how I can better the technique next time.

Speaking of next time, I've begun my next prop, which will be a bubonic plague victim. Not quite despatched to the nether lands, but not completely of this world still, the plague victim will be a shrunken shell of his former self. To that end I've been practicing new mache techniques using flour and water rather than glue and water. I've got to admit it holds fast and firm and is a lot cheaper than using white glue (I do add a little glue to the mix though).

This is the mache recipe used by Stolloween, though his also calls for liquid starch. Scott uses a brand called Sta-Flo, but being cheap I prefer making my own. Homemade liquid starch is very simple to make: 1/2 cup corn starch, 1/2 cup cold water (mix it together just as if you were trying to thicken a gravy) and add it to about 2 cups of boiling water. When it cools it should stay clear but you've got enough liquid starch to add to your mache recipes.

You'll also recall from prior posts that after my first foray into using Stolloween's cellulose insulation clay, I wasn't that enthused. However, I've persevered using it on several other occasions and the technique is growing on me. I just used it to build up the (shrunken) facial features of my plague victim and I used it to help create the features of my pumpkin creep character.

And speaking of the pumpkin creep prop, I also cloth mached his PVC body frame which will then be painted in earthy tones to give him a more organic feel. My idea is to weave real dead vines around and through his limbs once he's set up in the yard. I did like Grim Hollow's creep carrying three jack o-lanterns (I think they might be lit from within), though I'd like to do something different. What, I don't know just yet.

But I have completed the first layer of paint on my creep and once that's dry I will "brown wash" him to again give him an earthier, organic look.

So with the props I've built recently -- the Acolyte, the wall climber, and the pumpkin creep -- they still need to be painted and waterproofed, but they are largely complete. I want more, more, more! but I'm actually satisfied with how thing have progressed. And with a new make-and-take scheduled for September 25th, I'll finally finish my flying crank ghost. The main structure was built months ago, but the actual "ghost" and the frame to fly it from has been put off. That will be rectified this month. Still, so much to do so little time.


  1. I really like what you have going here. Nice job on the pumpkin and the ghoul. For what it's worth, the cloth mache is much easier of you use old cloth. I find old bedsheets work the best, the older and more worn the better. Many times these are the cheapest one in Thrift stores. Also, don't dilute the glue for that step (in case you are). Good luck. What fun projects!

  2. Dan,

    Thanks for the encouragement! While I don't think you're going to have to worry about me challenging your terrific monster creations anytime soon, in a short period of time I have come to really like and appreciate this medium. I plan to use it on a lot more projects in the future (all of them?) and I suspect my technique will improve over time.

    The sheets I've been using are older, though I guess not particularly threadbare. I actually got them through a site called freecycle where people post items they no longer need and are willing to give them away. I put out a call for old, used bedsheets and got quite a pile in return (FWIW, I've also gotten a beautiful grandfather clock, an antique barrister's bookcase, and an original (working) Craftsman lathe and carving tool set from the 1950's from the site and all for free).

    I can't recall if I diluted the glue, though I think only slightly if I did. I'll keep that in mind though when macheing my plague victim's head. Your book was a terrific inspiration as is your site. Thanks for topping by and reading.



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