Making a Monster / Step 4 : Skinning the Beast

Continued from – Step 3: Cutting the Teeth

Full Disclosure – this project began before we decided to create the blog –  There is inadequate photographic documentation in this post. Sorry!

The next step was to cover the chicken wire frame with a materials that would appear organic, be very lightweight and  would allow me to easily secure sticks over it. I opted to use an ultra lightweight fabric called Cambric. It is used to cover delicate outdoor plants and on the underside of upholster. The fabric color I used was charcoal which I dusted it with a deep green spray paint to help blend it into the other organic material I was going to place on top.

As I wrapped the fabric back and forth across the frame, I tried to create random clumps and folds.  I let the pieces at the bottom hanging down in tatters, to help blend the beast’s head into the less elaborate body that would be worn below. The fabric was secured by appying a dollop of hot glue to the chicken wire frame and pinching the fabric around the frame. TIP! – wearing latex or rubber gloves will prevent burns when using hot glue!

The next step was to apply the sticks and raffia. (again, apologies that there is a lack of photo documentation on this step.)

For the sticks I use Twisted Willow because it is REALLY flexible (even when dried) and it grows in twisty, unusual forms (hence the name). I live in San Francisco and we have a wholesale flower mart that services all of the local florists, caterers and other event planners. I am able to buy these by the bundle (approx 30 sticks – $50). They are approx 4-5′ tall. They can be found at local craft stores, but it seems they are smaller and a lot more expensive. If you don’t have a wholesale spot for floral products, a large florist would probably be able to help you. TIP: If buying from a florist, ask if they have dried pieces. Floral designers prefer to work with fresh, green sticks, so anything dried is “old” and the florist may sell it cheaper.

To fill out the beast I stuffed raffia bought in bulk under the sticks. Both the sticks and the raffia were secured to the chicken wire frame with thin gauge black floral wire available at any craft store.

For the lips, I used large “welt cord” aka: cotton piping applied to the frame in a twisting pattern. I applied the piping with hot glue. It is sold by the yard, in many sizes at most fabric stores. I used this because I could easily twist it into different shapes and pull apart areas that seemed too thick.

To blend all of these different materials I tore standard white tissue paper (like you find in gift boxes) into large pieces and applied them over and around the sticks, raffia and pipping with watery Elmer’s glue. This makes a crackly skin texture when dusted with brown spray tint.

To finish it off I stuffed angel hair vine (the hairy brown stuff) into any large crevices.

NOTE: the green pieces you see poking about are actually the end of the dyed raffia bundles. I liked how these sections looked in contrast to the rest of the beast. They seemed like tufts of grass, so I kept them even though they were “incorrectly dyed.” Happy accident!

For the eyes, I used a clear plastic globe ornament commonly found at craft stores. It comes apart into two halves, presumably so people can put doo-dads inside (I’m guessing). I lined the INSIDE of each half with red tissue paper and liberally coasted that with watery Elmer’s glue and pushed the paper with my fingers to make it crease. This gave it a pleasing crackly texture. By applying the paper on the inside of the plastic orbs, they retain their sheen, thereby look alive and wet.

NEXT STEP – the hands.

These were easily made by using basic work gloves and covering them with standard packing tape. This allowed me to build them up and make the fingers really long. The finger tips were trimmed to create a tapered shape.

Once I was satisfied with the shape I covered them with a single layer of tissue paper applied with watery Elmer’s glue. I placed the glove over a paint can so I could more easily work with it and it would be on a stand to dry.

To color the hands I used spray tints. Fortunately, I was able to spray the hands even though the glue was still wet. I prefer a brand called Movie Paint (color Beige) but the silk flower tints by Design Master are available at most craft stores work well too. I kept layering the tape and paper and applying spray tint until I felt it looked like crackling, burnt skin. I tried to leave a little tape poking through in places to give those areas a shiny, wet look. TIP: This took HOURS to dry.

The first layer of paper and tint.

Below is a final look at how the hands turned out using this technique.

Please go to Step 5 : It’s ALIVE! to read more about the creation of this monster.