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Friday the 13th and Paper Mache Pumpkins

on March 13, 2009 - 11:54am

Making paper mache pumpkins
Happy Friday the 13th, boils and ghouls. What better way to celebrate the day than with a marathon of pumpkin paper mache? That's what I say, anyway.

I realized that I've never created items traditionally associated with Halloween. I think an army of jack o' lanterns should solve that.

As a base, I'm starting with a technique touted by fellow paper mache com padre (lots of rhyming in today's blog. Unintentional, but amusing) Stolloween.

It's simple. You take plastic bags, stuff them with crumpled newspaper, close them up and pull string tightly around the outside of the bags to create grooves (defining the pumpkin's shape).

Scott suggests using tape over the string for further definition, but I've found this is only necessary when the string wasn't as tight as I wanted it to be. In that case, I would place the end of a long but thin strip of tape at the bottom of the pumpkin along the string, pull the tape tight against a length of the pumpkin/string, then press the tape in place before continuing.

Here's some more tips from me if you use Scott's process:

  • When wrapping the string around the bag, it helps to pull it tight every few inches as opposed to after you've covered an entire side. Pull it tight, then hold the string against the pumpkin with one hand as you extend the string further a few more inches with the other hand. Repeat until you make it all the way around the pumpkin.
  • For pumpkins with pronounced creepy curves, put less paper in the bags. You still need to pull the string super tight, forcing the crumpled paper against each other, so that you're macheing over a solid mass.
  • I left a bit of extra string at the top when I started. Each time I went under the bottom of the pumpkin and came out on top, I used that extra bit of string to tie a knot before starting the next section.
  • I've been making 4 loops around the pumpkin, which creates 8 sections.

Making paper mache pumpkins
When it comes to the paper mache part, it makes sense to be working on more than one pumpkin at a time. You can cover three quarters of one pumpkin with the first layer of mache, then move on to the next one. By the time you've worked your way down the line, the first pumpkin is dry enough to be turned upside down so you can add paper mache to the bottom.

This is my least favourite part of creating paper mache props. While the cost for materials is small, the amount of time invested in this sort of project is not. The process of adding that first layer - when all the newspaper has to hold onto is the plastic bag - can be maddeningly slow. Then you should allow it to dry completely before adding a second layer.

The second and third layers are much, much faster (both in application and - in my experience - drying time).

I think I'll be deviating from Scott's process a bit, experimenting as I go along. I'll keep you posted if I come up with something interesting. In the meantime, I encourage you to check out Scott's tutorial on Stolloween.com.

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