Saturday, February 8, 2014

Halloween Flamingos

My original vision was two dozen flamingos strewn across the front yard in various stages of demise. Decapitated, gut shot, rotting, tortured plastic flesh, pink flamingo carnage as far as the eye could see with a few flamingo cenobites thrown in to instill order. 

But I felt the kids were too young to see mommy hacking away at little pink bodies and I didn’t know how well those little plastic bodies would respond to the kind of treatment I had in mind. Instead I purchased only a half dozen flamingos from eBay, for a very reasonable price, if you don’t mind not having authentic Featherstone’s and outfitted them with very tame Halloween costumes that the kids came up with based on their interests at the time.

My only complaint is the legs don’t stay put. I don't know if this is just a problem with the knock-offs, I'm not really a flamingo connoisseur. The wire legs were always popping out of the slots molded into the plastic. So I ended up gluing mine in, but then they take more space to store. One of them had a defect, we’ll talk about him later. 

I had two criteria for the costumes. One was to use stuff on hand and the other was to use materials that would hold up to the cold and the rain.

I'll explain the least obvious accessories like Indiana Jones’ jacket, which is made from a child’s pirate costume boot cover.  

His lasso is a rope, the handle is what I call a modified noose, but I’m sure there is real name for it. 

My dad passed on a wealth of knowledge to me, such as don’t get any jailhouse tattoos and don’t steal anything that’s not worth going to prison for. I’m sensing a pattern here. He also taught me how to make a noose.  No context, just an out of the blue, come here kid and let me show you something father and daughter bonding moment. It's 
because of my warped childhood that I’m always surprised at how many people don’t know how to make a noose, so let me enlighten you if you don't already know. 

It’s really very easy and handy for decorating. No, not for Better Homes and Gardens, but definitely for stringing up a skeleton or two for Halloween. Never, never ever, ever ever, (Is that Taylor Swift singing in the background?), never, ever, never put a noose around any living creature. Not for just a second, not to be funny, not because your inner child wants to clean the gene pool. It’s not cool.

That being said,
here’s a video that shows you just how easy it is. I’ve heard it’s illegal to make a noose, that a hangman’s noose has 13 coils, that 13 is the requisite number to make it big enough to snap a neck after a short drop with a sudden stop, and that the number of coils is why 13 has been deemed an unlucky number (Totally unfounded, nasty rumor, 13 is an awesome number once you get to know it. Now 4 on the other hand seems a little shifty. You don’t hear much about 4, kind of makes you wonder what it’s up too, right?). I have not seen anything factual to give credence to any of those statements, but I think thirteen loops looks good and for macabre decorating is definitely in the spirit of things.

This faux bullwhip is similar to the hangman's noose except just make one loop, wrap it, feed the end of the wrap through the loop and then pull the long end of the rope so the loop pulls tight. No, I don’t actually recommend using a fuchsia jump rope, but you get the idea.

Moving on, the witch's stringy hair is plastic Halloween garland. Her cape or shawl is made out of black pet screen. Pet screen also works for toddlers that like to press up against screen doors. 

Most of the other accessories are made out of craft foam sheets. Here are instructions to make an easy tutu like the ballerina has.  My favorite is the mummy and he's just wrapped in cheesecloth.  I think an army of mummy flamingos would look awesome.

The ghost was the one with the bum leg hole. After numerous fixes I gave up and he floated from a tree for a while and then he was abducted by aliens and this happened.

The alien flamingo's eyes are made out of the round plastic toy capsules that come out of quarter machines.  I boiled two halves in water until they were soft, and then wrapped a rubber band around the middle to squeeze them into an oblong shape. Careful they will be hot, so use tongs or thick gloves to hold onto it while wrapping.  Let them cool, and spray paint the inside black.  The edges will need to be trimmed for them to lay against the face.  Trim a little at a time until you get a good fit and then hot glue them on. 

His spaceship is nothing fancy. It's a circle of foam I had, with some cardboard, covered in tinfoil with clear marbles and battery operated micro mini lights glued along the outside edge, covered in plastic wrap for waterproofing. It looks pretty good for a 15 minute project with the lights twinkling and reflecting off the wrap, marbles and tinfoil.

Best part, nobody questions why he doesn't have any legs. 

By the way if you're thinking, "But wait tinfoil and aliens don't mix.", you should probably check out
this site, the old tinfoil hat isn't nearly as effective as you may have been led to believe.

Next step is to make papier mache flamingo clones, then I can do all sorts of dastardly things to them.

This has nothing to do with Halloween, more to do with Home Owner Associations and is possibly the best lawn flamingo story ever written.  Most importantly it makes me chuckle, enjoy A Flock of Lawn Flamingos by Pat Murphy.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Papier Mache Binder II

For materials I used newspaper, tissue paper, paper clay, air dry clay, white glue, acrylic paints, an old pair of jeans and of course an old binder.

This project was just another excuse to play around with papier mache. I had a few ideas I wanted to try out and for the most part they worked.

For the deep gashes I use rolled tubes of newspaper. The tighter they are rolled the better. I glued three tubes side by side, the center one becoming the gash, the outer ones just for added support. Then I added some paper clay for more support and to even things outs.

Once that was all dry I slit the tubes down the center and softened the paper by brushing it with water. I separated the layers and pushed them around until they started to look fleshy. Then I did the same with a 50/50 mix of water and glue. After that dried it was ready for paint.

I distressed the jeans by rubbing them against the grip tape on my skateboard. I also used a sandpaper block for a little bit, but much preferred the larger surface of the skateboard. Then I washed and dried them with the laundry and dyed the pieces with watered down acrylics that looked like murky water. Later I would get crazy adding more eyeballs than I ever intended, which would then lead to a considerable amount of distressing  and the washing, drying and painting process would have to be repeated.

For the eyes I looked at a bunch of cataract pictures both animal and human for inspiration. What I came up with is definitely a very loose interpretation of the two.  

On the first few eyes, the ones closest to the outer edges of the binder, I used a thin layer of air dry clay over paper clay for the center of the eye. They ended up being very flat, still interesting looking, but not my favorite. I like the eyes in the middle of the binder more and for them I used only air dry clay. 

The rest of the technique applies to all the eyes.

After the air dry clay dried I gave them a clear coat of acrylic varnish. On top of that I painted a dark base coat for the iris and random splotches of red. On top of that I added layers of tissue paper. The only important detail is to coat each layer of tissue paper with clear varnish, this keeps it translucent when it dries. After that it was just playing around. You don’t have to completely cover the eye with tissue paper each time, varying layers just changes the depth of color in spots. When adding more color I used water down acrylics before the clear coat. After using the watercolor let it dry before adding a clear coat. It’s also fun to just apply a little color and let it wick through the wrinkles in the tissue. Play around with different shades and layers, there’s no wrong way to do it.

The flesh around the eyes is a combination of paper clay covered with strips of tissue paper.

I decided to give this binder a title so I went with POTIONS. I think I might turn it into a recipe book. Same thing right? I was going for a carved into flesh look. I glued down a bunch of layers of ripped newspaper just along the edges, so that when I cut into it, I could easily push paint and water into the edges of the cuts.

Do you ever really forget your first deep laceration? For me it happened when I was just a kid and although I knew in theory there was a fatty layer of tissue under the skin, it still came as a surprise the first time I saw it out there in the open. Protruding out of my wound, a thick yellow mass, it reminded me of dough bursting along the seams of one of those Pillsbury cans. I think what I ended up creating on my binder looks more like pus, but fatty tissue was my inspiration, and I believe in giving credit where credit is due.

I put a pocket on the inside, for pens, pencils or business cards.

All the bloody bits, pus and eyeballs are coated with a few coats of clear gloss to give it that wet look.

Like most of what I do, it’s a far cry from my original idea,
but half the fun is letting the materials push you in different directions.