Thursday, July 30, 2009
Q&A: Cellulose Fiber Insulation
Questions regarding my projects and papier mache regularly fill my mailbox. In an effort to answer these questions and share information some of these questions will be regularly featured on this blog.
“What brand and where are you getting the cellulose fiber insulation?”
The brand name of the cellulose fiber insulation I use is made by Regal available at Lowes. I preface this by saying that it is available at Lowes in Michigan but I’m not sure as to its availability in the warmer states.
My suggestion is to check the availability at your local home improvement store and if it’s not in stock inquire about special delivery.
Hope this helps.
And We All Fall Down . . .
Unlike the cauldron which was deliberately destroyed the Sentinel was an accident caused by yours truly because I accidently moved one of the weights that were keeping them in an upright position.
The Sentinels were originally created for The Mad Lab this past spring. Several weeks ago I decided to improve them by adding some detailing to the skulls, arms and wings and they were now ready for the next step which was to apply cloth coated with Monster Mud giving each statue a very heavy looking hood and robe.
The Sentinels are going to be used to top off some new columns being made for our cemetery entrance.
After making my “improvements” and adding additional clay the statues became very front heavy and while being stored in our garage one of them decided to fall off of a table and land face forward on the cement garage floor.
Considering their weight and the distance it fell I’m lucky there wasn’t more damage as only the arms and fingers suffered major breaks. The mid section of the Sentinel also buckled so I added some more clay for support. All things considered I got off pretty lucky but have to be a little more careful in the future.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
In a nutshell geocaching is sort of like a treasure hunt using a handheld Global Positioning System (GPS) unit to find your way to a set of coordinates where a cache is hidden.
A cache is another word for container. A cache can be big or small such as a five gallon plastic bucket or a 35mm film container.
Each cache contains items such as log books, monetary items, trinkets, etc. Using clues published on the website and the GPS coordinates you head out on an adventure never knowing exactly what you are going to find.
A few of the great things about geocaching is that it is free (except for the GPS unit and gas money), it’s a great form of exercise as you do a lot of walking and hiking and you discover many areas in your local community that you never knew existed.
A couple of weeks ago we engaged in several days of back-to-back geocaching and found some very creatively themed caches.
One of our favorites was a series of eight “haunted places” geocaches in our surrounding area. Each cache was hidden in a location that was supposedly haunted. Each cache also detailed a local legend such as the ghost of a witch that haunts a set of woods or the remains of a house where a family was murdered resulting in reports of ghostly activity.
Another multi stage cache detailed a legend of a local vampire and had you travel to his childhood home and final burial place.
A multi stage cache is one where the first set of coordinates lead you to another set of coordinates and so on. The story was fun and the cache locations were very interesting to visit.
The last cache we attempted was not themed but proved to be the spookiest, ok, the scariest experience of them all.
The cache could only be done at night because the GPS coordinates took you to the starting point of a forest then required you to use a flashlight and follow reflective markers placed on the trees. The resulting hike was about a ½ mile into the woods in complete darkness, at which point you were to discover an X marked on a tree with the reflective tabs. Once you found the X you were supposed to turn off your flashlight and search for a red blinking beacon which would guide you to the next step.
On our first try at this nighttime cache we brought our boys ages 13 and 10, this proved to be a mistake because being in the middle of the woods in the pitch black was more than they could take.
Several nights later my wife and I attempted the cache again by ourselves. I’ll admit I’m not the bravest person in the world but I’m not skittish….but…after 40 minutes of trying to see the red beacon things started to get spooky.
First there was constant high pitched screeching all around us, bats we assumed, and while I rather like bats I had no desire to have one fly into my face in complete darkness. My wife and I decided to call it a bust and head back to the car.
Our little flashlights barely illuminatating the trail in front of us, my wife in the lead and me right behind her.
Everything was cool until I heard something, and by something I mean something big enough to make trotting sounds cross the trail right behind me.
Like an idiot in a bad horror film I stopped and swung my flashlight around to see what just passed behind my back, nothing. The moment I turned around to catch up with my wife I heard the “thing” cross the trail right behind me again going the opposite direction. This time I didn’t look back but rather quickened my pace and let out a small sigh of relief as we made our way out of the forest and back to car.
We plan on returning and successfully completing this geocache but next time we will bring a couple of adult friends with us. Not that I’m a wimp or anything I just think we should share the fun with our friends.
Geocaching is great fun and I urge you to give it a try if you have never experienced it. If you don’t have a GPS unit ask your friends, family or co-workers as I’m sure somebody has one that they would lend you for a couple of days. If you have kids it’s one of the coolest hobbies you can do as a family…as long as it’s daylight.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
The End Of A Cauldron
It was decision that neither made me happy nor made me sad. It was a matter of fact undertaking, something that needed to be done and the time seemed right.
In 2007 I built a large cauldron from papier mache and monster mud.
The problem came about when it came time to store the beast. No matter what the thing took up a 4’x4’ space in our garage and it was just too dang heavy to store in the rafters.
After several years of having stuff stored on top of the cauldron and being constantly dinged by bicycles the time came to put it down.
It was beyond repair and did I mention that it was heavy?
Step One: Let the kids kick the hell out of it. An oversized piñata without the candy I guess.
Monday, July 27, 2009
…the kitchen sink.
Over the past year I have taught six papier mache workshops at Space Studios in Midland, MI.
Forty-three students have attended the classes and created dragons, gargoyles, frogs and pumpkins.
The classes are a lot of fun and I get the chance to meet some really creative and talented individuals but the workshops are a lot of work.
In addition to developing each project I must pack and bring all the necessary tools and materials for six to twelve students.
This may not sound like much but when you stop and think about every possible item you may use during the course of three hours you get the idea.
Newspaper, cardboard, scissors, tape, hot glue guns, markers, extension cords, tarps, fans, paste, clay, mixers and on and on.
The hardest part of teaching these workshops is the packing and transport.
Here are a few shots from unpacking my last papier mache frog class called Frog-O-Rama.
The photos show the materials required for one session, each class requires different materials so it’s always a challenge.
Also here are some photographs from some of the past workshops, there is a lot to see.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3
Kyle is only ten years old but he’s a huge fan of horror flicks although the number of horror films he has seen is quite limited.
Friday, July 24, 2009
“What can be used other than the starch bottles ? I just don't use starch.”
“Hi, I was reading about how to make the halloween sentinals and i was just wondering what you used for the arms,hands, and collar bones. Thank you.”
The answer to the first question is any object will work to create the body armature for the Sentinels, I used starch bottles because I use liquid starch in my paste but any similiarily size and shaped bottle would work. Items that come to mind would be plastic juice containers, laundry detergent bottles, two liter pop bottles. My only advice would to make sure the container was relatively strong and resistant to crushing.
The arms, hands and collar bones were created from sheets of newspaper rolled into tubes then assembled with hot glue and tape to make the armature. The newspaper rolls were wrapped with masking tape for strength then coated with several layers of strip mache.
When creating the rib cage armatures for my creatures I always reference a photo or illustration of the human skeleton. The rolled tube of newspaper was flattened and bent to create the basic shape for the collarbone.
During the early 1980’s I had a serious addiction, one that threatened my school grades, wasted my time and had the potential to destroy my future. The addiction was my Atari 2600 video game system. During the early 80’s Atari was the thing even though Intellivision tried to tell you otherwise.
My Atari 2600 addiction caused me to accumulate over 100 game cartridges. One of the things I really loved about the games besides playing them was the great artwork that adorned the cover. Airbrushed scenes of violence and mayhem that just screamed “buy me.” A game that I used to love was “Haunted House” first released in 1981.
Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about the game:
“The house has three floors and a basement. The player's character may pick up only one of three items at a time (a key to open doors, a scepter to ward off evil spirits, or the urn) and must avoid a bat, a tarantula, and the ghost of Mr. Graves himself. If the player is hit by the monsters nine times, the game ends. If the player escapes the house with the urn, the player wins.
The items (and house layout in higher difficulties) can only be seen when the player uses the 'fire' button on the joystick to light a match, illuminating a small radius directly around his character; this can be done an infinite number of times, although the match only lasts for a limited amount of time before being snuffed out. If a monster enters the same room as the player, a howling wind from the monster will blow out any lit match.
Haunted House has a total of nine different levels which make the game more challenging; in particular, later difficulty levels make the walls of the house itself invisible unless the player lights a match.”
The artwork on the box rocked and despite the primitive graphics the game was a lot of fun. If you don’t believe me you can play the Java version of the game online here.
To see more Atari 2600 artwork check out this site.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Q&A: Cracking Clay
“I tried to make your clay, but it came out runny. It wasn't thick enough to roll out at all. I am wondering if while adding the cornstarch if I need to keep it on the heat? I don't know what else I may have done wrong.
Maybe you can give me some hints..? "
Unfortunately I mix up mache recipes the same way I cook and that’s to never measure anything and keep adding ingredients until it works.
My guess on the cracking clay recipe is that it was a combination of heat and lack of cornstarch. When making cornstarch based clays the heat will cause the mixture to congeal, the clay almost takes on a gel type of quality.
The mixture needs to stay on the heat until it congeals, if it’s not happening try adding some more cornstarch. The paste and clay recipes I use are based on a lot of trial and error so you may have to experiment a little to make it work.
Here’s the link to the Ancient Skull tutorial which uses the cracking clay.
Q&A: Styrofoam Wig Heads
“I am creating a haunted bust, and I have the Platform/Pedastal done. I bought a wig head as a base for the head and I have no clue what to do wth it! Im not sure how to go about it and Im making a frankenstien bust. Will i paint it green or go with the grey/black/gold stone colours?I need help!”
My advice would be to browse Haunt Project or The Monster List for tutorials using Styrofoam wig heads.
Off the top of my head.
As far as the color scheme that’s pretty much up to you and depends on the effect you are trying to achieve. Stone colors would give you a classic bust scheme but using greens could give you a unique and stylized prop.
Q&A: Weather Proofing
“ If you could tolerate being asked advice for probably the hundredth time on the same topic:
I'm doing strip mache with a water/liquid starch mix. Everything gets at least two coats of exterior enamel before the detailing.
What are the chances my props will hold up to the elements for a month, or should I protect them more when not in use? “
Protecting papier mache from the elements is probably the most frequently asked question.
1. Most sealants have a glossy finish which may not be desirable for many props. Who wants shiny tombstones? The solution is to seal the papier mache before painting, this way the paper is protected and the paint will cover the gloss.
2. Cover all surfaces. Sealants only work if all exposed papier mache surfaces are thoroughly covered. If you have created something that is hollow such as a skull or pumpkin take the time to seal the interior because unsealed papier mache whether strips or clay will absorb moisture.
3. You get what you pay for. From my experience I have found that cheap or inexpensive sealants do not protect as well as more expensive products. My preferred sealant is Spar Urethane which costs about $30 per gallon. Here is some more info on Spar Urethane.
4. Read the warning label. Most sealants produce harsh, flammable and toxic fumes. Follow the manufacturers guidelines and use only in well ventilated areas with the proper safety gear.
5. If your props do become soft from moisture don’t panic, simply place them in front of a fan in a dry environment and they will come back to their former glory.
My papier mache props are only displayed for about a week before Halloween and during this time I really pay attention to the weather.
Here is an additional link to an article published last year.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Downtown is HOPPIN'
I always enjoy the Summer Sculpture Series because it’s a chance to see many different approaches to the same subject matter. Past series have included trolls, foxes and dragons. This year artists were given the choice between working with a prefabricated fiberglass sculpture or creating their own. The frogs represent a variety of techniques and materials ranging from metal sculpture to foam carving.
On September 17th at 7pm the frogs will be auctioned off with the proceeds being used to present next summer’s sculpture series.
"Lillian The Amphibian"