1 sheet of newspaper
Mixing bowl or bucket
Gold or silver paint
Black acrylic paint
Black ribbon or thread
An image of a bird's skull to copy
A couple of days' drying time or a couple of hours in the oven
To make the pulp tear up your newspaper into smallish bits, put it in a bowl and add enough warm water to just cover it. Leave it to sit for a couple of hours until the paper feels good and mushy (If you want it fairly smooth leave it overnight. I wanted mine quite lumpy for a more gnarly effect, so I only gave it about an hour and a half). Get your hands in there and give it all a good mushing up then drain off any excess water and squeeze out the pulp until it feels malleable and not too soggy. Now add a good dollop of PVA (this bit needs a little trial and error, but approx two or three tablespoons should be enough for one sheet of broadsheet newspaper). The pulp will keep for a couple of days in the fridge if you don't get round to using it straight away.
Scoop up some of the mush and roll and squeeze it between your palms to create the basic skull shape you want. Mine's quite big, but remember that smaller = less drying time so if you're in a hurry, go small! If your pulp seems a bit too dribbly then squeeze some more of the liquid out, it'll hold together better if it's not too wet.
Shape the eye sockets by gently pushing your thumbs into the fatter end of your blob and pinch a little with your forefingers to shape the brow ridges. If you need to add extra pulp to create definition, use a small amount at a time and carefully smooth it onto the main piece to ensure it's properly bonded. Use more PVA where necessary.
Use the handle end of your paintbrush to carefully shape the nostrils. Keep squeezing, poking and adding pulp until you get your desired shape.
Don't forget to make a hole around the back for threading your ribbon. When it's ready, place the skull on some paper towel or newspaper and put it somewhere warm and dry, like an airing cupbaord or above a radiator, to fully dry out. If it feels like it might be a bit too wet to handle give it a gentle blast with a hairdryer on a low setting for a few minutes, just to harden the outer layer a little, before moving it. Mine spent two days in the airing cupboard followed by two hours in a very low oven (with the door open slightly to let any moisture out) to finish off.
Once it's completely dry (it should be very light and sound kind of crispy when you tap it) you're ready to paint it. The colours are up to you; I used gold calligraphy ink because that was the only shiny paint I had. When that was dry I brushed a teeny-tiny amount of black acrylic paint all over it using a dry brush to make it look a bit more 'dirty' and to highlight all the lumps and bumps. I used a little more around the ridges and indents and loads in the eye sockets and nostrils to make them really stand out.
Thread your ribbon through the hole you made and you're done! To ensure that I really didn't have to buy anything at all, for the ribbon I cut a couple of hanger loops from the shoulders of a cardigan and tied them together. Brilliant!
So there you have it, how to make a cheap n' gnarly