Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Revamped Ceramic Skull

A few months ago I went to an estate sale for the very first time.  I've had more than one friend just happen on an estate sale and find the most awesome "potion" bottles.  I did not have such luck. I only found one interesting bottle, but I did get a skull for $0.50. I almost didn't buy it, it was rather cheesy looking and I had absolutely zero inspiration for what to do with it.  But it's really hard to pass up a skull for fifty cents. I mean you can always find a use for another skull, right?

It also made me wonder about my future estate sale.  I know the kids will keep a few of my prized possessions for sentimental value, maybe a severed body part or a zombie creation, but I'm sure most of it will have to go.  I can even hear possible future spouses, "No. I know you loved your mother, but that thing is not coming in the house."

At my estate sale there won't be one lonely skull on a table amidst other holiday stuff.  There will be a whole table of skulls, next to the table of skeletons, between the body parts and potion bottles, right across from the table full of spiders.

This is the before and after of my skull.  It's a ceramic skull.  There's a big open area in the back so you can put a tealight in it and a smoke hole on top.

If you've been following along, you know I started obsessing over altered bottles last year.  It's like collaging in 3D.  There are so many different ways to go about it and I've only touched on a few so far.  Any method can be used to cover much more than just bottles.

One method I've been bouncing around in my head is using molded components.  HomeTalk has a nice video using this technique on ornaments (Creepmas anyone?)  Except I didn't have any molds and there's so many to choose from.  Investing in yet more crafting stuff requires a commitment I wasn't ready to make.

The Fates decided to intervene and I happened upon some Mod Podge molds on clearance at Michael's. I picked up the Ornaments and Royal mold.  The mold's are small, a 9.5cm square and less than $3, so not too much of a commitment in money or storage.  They are meant to be used with glue sticks, but they're silicone molds, so you can use just about anything.

For my first go-round I used a spackle glue mixture I had leftover from an ornament project.  It had lost quite a bit of moisture and was a really thick putty.  I used it for the three pieces on left which have some imperfections, but I believe that's called character.  Then I added a little water to thin out the rest, which was a huge mistake. It got all clumpy and no amount of kneading would smooth it out.  I used it anyway pressing it very firmly into the mold, but after it dried it broke into pieces when I removed it.

I also had leftover paint and joint compound mixture from my pirate ship. These pieces were lighter and more detailed, albeit a little pockmarked.  Maybe because of the sand texture?  They were also a little flexible.

A few things about these molds in particular.  Most of the impressions are pretty shallow, so whichever medium I used they were dry in a few hours.  The two domed areas on the "Ornaments" (left) mold needed to dry overnight.  You can see I got impatient and lifted them too soon.  Many of the objects on the "Royal" (right) mold were difficult to remove without breaking. Namely the top left scroll, the bee's little legs, the key and the boarder at the bottom.  For my purposes this didn't matter. Any defects just add a worn, aged appearance as far as I'm concerned.

I ended up making another batch of 50/50 white glue and spackle to make additional pieces.  Leaving a thin layer across the back of the mold made it easier to remove pieces without breaking them. It was easy to crumble off if I didn't want it, but I found I liked it.  The glue/spackle mixture isn't waterproof, so it does soften when you lay it on wet glue.  Using a small brush, wetting it if needed you can blend that thin layer onto your working surface.  

Here's the skull covered with a layer of the paint mixture to give me a good surface to work on.  The teeth and other cavities had a hard straight edge from whatever was used to cut those areas out.  I used additional layers of the paint stuff to build up and round out those places.  The "eyes" are just me playing around with pieces.

Then I started gluing stuff on, using white craft glue. The laurel wreath cut in half made a nice mustache.  I cut apart the boarders from both molds into individual pieces.  I took apart some old flowers.  I love that it doesn't matter what color they are because everything gets a coat paint.   The glass eye is just a cheap plastic gem.


I even used up most of the crumbly broken pieces on the back.  

Then I put some spackle glue in a disposable icing bag and piped it on to build up areas and fill cracks so the molded pieces didn't look like they were just sitting on the surface.  I used a wet paint brush to further move it around. There was some shrinkage after it dried so I went back and touched it up with more spackle glue.

After that dried it was onto paint.  I started with a solid layer of dark brown.  It took three coats to get every little nook and cranny coated, turning it every which way to make sure I didn't miss a spot.  The paint has to protect the spackle glue so you have to have good coverage. I liberally sponged on a tan coat, then a slightly lighter tan on and finally finished off with a few white highlights.  

This angle reminds me of Shakespeare, which is fitting since we did share an "Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio..." moment while I was painting him.  

It just happened that after I finished, one of my air plants bloomed! 


  1. Wow - that's pretty awesome for a 50 cent find.

    1. Thanks. I’m so glad I didn’t listen to that pesky little voice telling me I didn’t need another skull, or project.