Wednesday, 31 October 2012

How To make A Papier Mache Skull Pendant

I'm normally pretty rubbish and lazy when it comes to fancy dress, but this year I thought I might try to make a bit of an effort, and as part of my Halloween costume I wanted a gnarly old crow's head pendant like Bellatrix wears in the Potter movies. You can buy bird's skull necklaces all over the tinterwebs, but I wanted to spend as little as possible, so I decided to make one myself from papier mache. And I thought I'd share the process with you guys!

You'll need:
1 sheet of newspaper
PVA glue
Mixing bowl or bucket
Warm water
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 skeksi bird skull pendant for Halloween. Send me a pic if you make one too!

Trick Or Treat?

Happy Halloween/Samhain, guys and ghouls! The other day Laura of South West Artwork pointed me towards an Amelia's Mag call for Halloween-themed animal fancy dress illustrations, so this is my little contribution. I think I'll print her onto some bags too - bit late for Halloween, but who can say no to a dog in a cape...?

Follow the link above to see the full post, with lots more illustrations from contributors.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Charity Exhibition & Craft Fair

Right now I'm busy preparing and packaging loads of printed bits and bobs for my very first craft fair. I'll be at the Flint Hall (former Central Lending Library), Leicester this Saturday (27th October) from 10am - 4pm. There will also be an art exhibition and auction with all proceeds going to Leicstershire and Rutland Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research (a percentage of all stall sales and the full stall booking fee will also go to LLR).

So if you're in the area, please pop along and say hello. I'll have a host of goodies for sale as well as a print in the exhibition/auction and there'll be loads of other artsy craftsy stalls too.

See for more info.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

FREE SHIPPING on Society6!

There's currrently free shipping on all products except stretched canvases and framed prints in my Society6 shop until the 14th October when you use this link

More designs and products available, follow the link to see more!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

That's Not My Cat

Another cat for you. This is Rory. Rory in a bag. When we lived in Oakham we had a cat flap but no cat, and Rory - real name unknown* - was a frequent visitor. For all his disdainful, snooty looks he was a bit of a grubby numbnuts (he liked to sleep in the road) and always stank of stale cigarette smoke. He'd squeeze himself in between us if we were curled up on the sofa, if the butter was left uncovered he'd lick it all over and if we locked the cat flap he would scratch at it and moan until we let him in. I once heard a rustling under my desk and found him under there like this, inside a paper bag (which he'd broken with his fat body) of old sketchbooks.

We lived opposite Tesco, and Rory's favourite spot for a nap outside was nestled up against the curb while the delivery lorries thundered past. The last time we saw him was December 2007, when my family was visitng for a Christmas feast and Rory sauntered in and fell asleep on the sideboard next to a bottle of cooking brandy. We don't know if a Tesco lorry finally got him or if his family moved away, but we stayed there for another two years and never saw him again. We missed him.

*We can't remember why we called him Rory, but it suited him.