Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Zombie Pumpkin - Part One, The Pumpkin

Most of the pictures you are about to see are from my "Dinner Party" pumpkin.  I didn't have the foresight to take many pictures and it's easier to dismantle for instructional purposes.  The basic techniques are the same.

The first thing you need is a fake pumpkin.  I like the fake pumpkins from Michaels. Except for the thicker band that runs around the middle they are a fairly uniform quarter inch thickness throughout. I haven’t worked with a Funkin, but I did feel one up at the store and decided it wasn’t for me.

The next thing you need is a hole.  The hole will need to be large enough to accommodate the false floor.  I estimate the diameter of the pumpkin at its widest point and go from there.  If you take advantage of the length between the opposite corners of your opening, you can make it a reasonable size and gently angle the floor piece in. 

I design the shape of my opening on the computer, which usually spans more than one sheet when printed. From here I treat it like a real pumpkin. I tape my design on the pumpkin and use those one of those pokey tools to dot along the lines to mark the layout. Then I take off the paper and cut along the dotted line. Those cheesy little saws that come with the carving kits work fine, but I might break out the Xacto knife if I hit a tricky spot.

To make your false bottom, set the pumpkin on a sturdy piece of cardboard.  Hold your pencil against the widest point of the pumpkin to trace around it.  This will give you the general shape.  Since we’re tracing the outside of the pumpkin, but we want to fit this for the inside of the pumpkin you’ll have to guesstimate and cut your cardboard a little smaller than the shape you drew.  I find it’s usually about ½ inch decrease all the way around. It also depends on how low you want the floor to sit. 

Always error on the side of caution, cut a little, see how it fits.  It’ll take a few times and after your initial cut, just trim one small area at a time.  I like to mark two guide lines on the floor and the inside of the pumpkin with a Sharpie so that after each fitting I’m still lining it up the same way. You’ll rotate your floor piece maneuvering it in and out and it’s easy to lose your place. I also mark what I think needs to be trimmed, cut it off and try it again. Once it’s fitted properly it will fit nice and snug without any adhesive or additional support to hold it in place.  For the graveyard I added an inch of Styrofoam, so that meant my cardboard base had to sit an inch lower than the bottom of my opening.

I don’t like Styrofoam, its handy stuff, but purposely buying it makes me feel a little dirty.  So whenever we get something that’s packaged with it, I save it to use later.  I glued the cardboard base onto the Styrofoam and then cut the Styrofoam about ¾ of an inch away from the edge of the cardboard.  Then I cut the side of the Styrofoam at an angle from the edge of the cardboard to the edge of the Styrofoam to accommodate for the pumpkin widening as it went up.  Just like fitting the cardboard, I went through the same process with the additional layer. 

After it was fitted, I mixed up some dark green acrylic paint and coated the top and sides of the Styrofoam. Even though it would eventually be covered with moss, I didn’t want any glaring white showing through. 

On a side note, if you are curious about the tile floor I did for the dinner party pumpkin, it’s made out of counter top samples.  Before you begin you might want to don a pair of safety glasses. Then using large pliers, break pieces off.  You will want to sand the edges to make them look nice. 

It helps to arrange your pieces on the cardboard, starting on one side and working your way over.  Trace around them to help with placement later.  You might need to create few custom pieces for those last few hard to fit areas.  

To make colored grout add a little acrylic paint to glue.  I really like Aleene’s craft glue, it’s nice and thick.  Pick an edge of the cardboard and spread a generous, even layer of the colored glue on a small area.  You won’t be able to see your lines after you cover them, so just do as many at a time that you’ll remember where they go.  For my short term memory, that’s about five.  Gently press the tiles onto the glue and keep going until the whole thing is covered.  After it was completely dry I went over the grout lines with black glitter glue, because it’s sparkly and I can’t help myself. 

The final step in pumpkin preparation is to give it a good paint job.  I use acrylics on the outside and the cut edge, but the insides of the Michaels pumpkins are really slick and don’t hold paint well. You could use a primer, but I like to decoupage tissue paper to the inside for a little texture.  For the graveyard I used black tissue paper and highlighted it with midnight blue paint.

Coming up next will be Part Two, Pint Sized Zombies.

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