Splicer (Bioshock)

This is actually the second of my Halloween “costumes” which I haven’t worn yet. The first…. I have to write up extensively and resize images and stuff like that. And I’m lazy as hell, and also have started blogging (not about geek or fashion stuff) over on another blog.

This is not even so much a “Halloween costume” or outfit tutorial, but a How To Make a Splicer Mask or Any Other Type of Mask From Scratch Tutorial. Alternatively titled, GOD I LOVE PAPIER-MACHE AND GLUE GUNS. This is not your grandma’s “papier-mache the the balloon” project!

So yes, I made the mask from scratch out of papier-mache, and I followed this fan-made replica as inspiration and a guide for shape and overall look. That guy’s mask apparently took 18 months to make, is made out of real porcelain and actual gold leaf. My mask was made over a period of about 2 weeks, working on it for a few hours every other night and left to dry during the day. I probably spent about 6-9 hours actively working on the mask every week (although half of one week became a bit of a failed experiment), which is still a significant investment of time, but also a lot less than 18 months.

Sadly I did not take nearly enough progress pics while I was making this, but hopefully the instructions sound fairly clear.

Here’s what you need:

  • Newspaper
  • PVA glue (often known as “craft glue” or “white glue”) (You could also try making glue with flour and water, which is the traditional papier-mache method, but I’ve not tried this myself and suspect it wouldn’t seal the surface as well.)
  • White paper (printer paper works)
  • A glue gun + glue cartridges
  • Acrylic paints: I used two different types of white, yellow, gold, black.
  • A solid “base” mask to work off. I bought a cheap plastic one for $2. Try to buy something with a smooth surface and with a shape that you want your final mask to resemble. Pay close attention to the nose and brow shapes. I ended up buying a half-mask that looked very much like this one.
  • Optional: blow-dryer
  • Optional: air-drying clay
STEP 1: MAKE THE MASK BASE

FIRST, have a clear idea of the shape of the mask you want. Draw/cut out a 2D life-size equivalent of the edges of the mask if it helps. This will safe you pain in the future.

You know how you used to papier-mache balloons as a kid? (I’m assuming everyone did this at some point in their lives.) Do that with the mask, using torn off strips of newspaper with a water + PVA solution (I like about 60% glue, 40% water). The basics of papier mache: drench your mask thoroughly in the PVA/water mix and just paste that newspaper directly onto it. Keep going until you’ve covered the whole mask and then go back to add about 3-4 layers of newspaper, making sure each successive paper strip has the glue soaked through.

Long flat surfaces can be covered with large strips of newspaper, however, heavily shaped and sculpted surface areas will need smaller pieces of newspaper, otherwise the paper will bunch up and you’ll get these little ridge surfaces on your otherwise smooth mask surface.

Because I only bought a half-mask, my papier-mache had to actually go beyond the 3D parameters of the mask. That’s easy – just use extra-long strips that naturally follow the 3D lines of your $2 plastic mask. DON’T be too neat with it and make sure you extend the area beyond what you actually require. Only make the main facial structure of the mask – don’t make the ears yet.

STEP 2: SHAPING & DRYING

This seems really obvious, but you need to leave your mask to dry overnight. You can speed up the process with a blowdryer but often that only dries the top layer of the glue and the inside of the structure is still very damp. You’ll know when the mask is dry because the top layer should feel surprisingly hard to touch and also maintain it’s own shape (not droop or wilt) when you have removed the $2 plastic backing mask.

If the mask feels sodden or squishy then the glue still hasn’t dried. HOWEVER, you need make changes to the mask shape before it dries. In this case, I made the nose area a bit more flared and snout-like by drying the top layers with a blowdryer and shaping it by hand.

After this first layer is dry, remove the $2 backing mask. Cut your mask to the shape you want using a pair of ordinary scissors (this is why you should papier mache more than you think you need). The photo above left shows the end-product after these two steps.

STEP 3: MAKING APPENDAGES

The reason you can’t make ears earlier is because you didn’t have a solid base to build off. Now that the main part of the mask is dried  and shaped you can make the ears in the same way. Make sure you use long strips of newspaper that over the original mask as well, and criss-cross the direction of your paper for structural integrity. Because you don’t have a plastic guide to go on, you may wish to cut out some shapes to use as a guide. Alternatively, you can wing it like me – approximate where the ears should go and then cut them into the right shape after the papier mache has dried overnight.

The result should be the image on the right.

OPTIONAL STEP 3.5: SHAPING THE EARS

I wanted to make the ears concave as per porcelain inspiration mask I mentioned at the beginning. You could possibly drape them over some sort of curved surface to dry but this is what I did instead:

Build up substantive flat layers for the mask, maybe about 5-6. After they dry completely, you should be able to bend/roll up the ears like thick cardboard. Unfortunately, like thick cardboard, bending it will result in creases and ridges in your mask. This means you will need to add several more layers of paper to smooth out the surface in step 4…

STEP 4: CLEANING UP THE PAPIER MACHE

I used white printer paper here for two reasons: 1. The mask is going to be primarily white and white paper means less layers of paint to prevent the newspaper print from peeking through and 2. the white paper is thicker than newspaper and will more easily cover creases if you did the Option Step 3.5. If you DO use white paper, keep in mind that because it is thicker the edges show through very easily as individual strips of paper. Try to tear the paper in a way so the edges look “torn” on an angle, rather than say, cutting the paper into neat strips with scissors.

At this stage you want to wrap the paper around the edges and smooth everything out as much as possible. Minor issues with rough surface can be solved by painting the mask once all-over with undiluted PVA. The glue should create another thin layer on top of the everything else and if its thick enough then joins between strips of paper can be completely smoothed out.

After the glue dries, you should be left with a shiny, smooth surface.

OPTIONAL STEP 4.5: AIR-DRYING CLAY

I originally bought the air-drying clay to do the 3D details with and….I would highly advise against doing that. I ended up adding a thin layer of clay to the ears and bottom of the mask to smooth out the surface even more. I actually ended up shaping the ears after Step 4 with the white paper so the creases were impossible to get out so do as I say, not as I do.

The clay does really hold and reinforce the curvature of the ears more though.

If you do decide to do this step, also let the clay dry fully.

STEP 5: 3D ACCENTS

Turn on your glue-gun and have a handful of glue cartridges ready to go. Pipe the edges with glue, pipe in the swirl detail. It’s a bit likepiping baked goods, except you’ve got a hot glue gun instead.

Try to pipe everything that joins at one time. Once the glue starts drying, the hot and cool glue will separate out and the design will look lumpy if you wait to much time.

STEP 6: PAINTING

Cracks: You can make you own cracked effect using this method with PVA glue and acrylic paints (note that this doesn’t work with metallic acrylic paints).

Colours: I used two differents types of white – a warm off-white and a cool white, plus tiny bit of cool yellow. You can paint it whatever colour you want, but the yellow suggests that the mask is aged because the paint is discoloured. I also painted parts of the mask without yellow to show inconsistent aging. Accents were painting with metallic

Aging: Black paint + dry paint brush. Add a tiny bit of paint to the paintbrush and start filling in the nooks and crannies of the mask; basically anywhere around the edges of the 3D accenting. Anywhere with a bit more of a cavity should be the darkest. You want your brush to have as little paint on it as possible, and for the paint to be highly dispersed. This is very difficult to explain in words, so you may want to experiment on some paper for yourself first. Basically the brush needs to be as dry as possible and only leave fleck traces of black paint when you brush it over the gold. The effect should look like the gold bits have tarnished.

STEP 7: FINISHING TOUCHES

I sprayed the whole thing with clear spraypaint to make it waterproof and added some ribbon so I could wear it.

And you’re done!

 TIPS AND TRICKS

WAIT for everything to dry completely. This was especially difficult for me because I am not a patient person by nature. Often a blowdryer just won’t do the trick, and you actually need the base structure to be completely solid before you can begin building off it.

PLAN everything ahead. Plan the shape of the mask. Plan how you will shape it. (By hand? By drying it over certain objects?) Draw on where your accents will go and what they will look like. Decide how layers of paint in what colours and mix the right amount of paint.

USE small strips of paper for papier mache where there is detail. Smaller paper will almost always be better than bigger paper.

CHECK your mask against your own face periodically. Is it looking like how you want it? Do you want to adjust the shape? The size of the eyeholes? The length of the ears?

Advertisements

London Alice (Alice: Madness Returns)

Things I have discovered upon trying to kick myself into blogging here again: you can definitely, definitely get out of practice with this sort of “skill”, if you want to call it that.

Second thing I discovered: I give good advice that I should occasionally take myself some time 😉

As soon as I started playing Alice: Madness Returns (about a week and a bit ago) I knew I wanted to try out Alice’s London outfit. Firstly, I didn’t have a blue dress anything close to the one she’s known for wearing, and secondly, I knew I had all the elements of the London dress in my wardrobe. (As an aside, for each level Alice has a different dress to match her surroundings, but they’re pretty special and you’re probably not going to find anything that looks vaguely like em sitting in your wardrobe. I couldn’t even find the elements of her steamdress and my wardrobe is pretty damn steampunk.)

I actually thought this was going to be the easiest outfit ever and actually an easy peasy “get back into the thick of things” post for NaC. Uh no. So while I had the black skirt, striped top and apron, as soon as I put them on in that combination I knew it wasn’t working. It looked, to be honest, kind of shit. It was very much “why the hell is this person wearing an apron outside for no reason” rather than “slightly creepy, plain, Victorian-inspired get-up”. I couldn’t in good faith post a picture of it here and tell you I would genuinely wear it out because I absolutely wouldn’t have.

So today I got a bit of a brainwave. I realised I was doing this wrong because I was dressing too much to the specific items of clothing (ie. it has to be a long-sleeved, striped top, it has to be a knee-length gathered skirt, it has to be an apron, etc) rather than roughly dressing to the shape, silhouette and blocks of colour of the outfit. I was getting too caught up in the details rather than getting the gist and bigger picture across.

So remember, back in the day, when I annotated like this?

What I used to do was follow my instincts and then work backward to to create the annotated image above. This time, I found it useful to draw a little stick figure in my head of what she was wearing and the shapes she created. Alice’s torso is somewhat square – which told me that I need a top that was tight-fitting in order to create the contrast of the more triangular skirt area. This would also be helped by having a belt-like piece of material to really emphasis my waist. As for black skirts – I would need one gathered at the waist and I would need something that was longer than the apron I owned (which is actually stupidly long).

The Outfit

Here’s the breakdown of what I’m wearing – at it’s a lot more than you might imagine:

  • Long-sleeved striped top – $6 random clothes store
  • Dress – $10 from ASOS
  • Underskirt – $2 from Cotton On
  • Bodice/Vest Top – ~$10 from Target
  • Striped tie belt – Actually a scarf I thrifted for another outfit *coughKnivesChaucough* but it was long enough to be used here as a belt. $3.
  • Apron – This had a torso section as well, but I had to fold it down and also tuck the rest of the bottom bit under the white top because it was so damn long! $2 thrifted.
  • Stockings – Leftovers from High School, yep. $10.
  • Boots – ASOS ~$40.
  • (Bottle necklace – Diva $5.)
  • (White Rabbit plush – by Funko ~$10)

As usual, everything is layered to the max. The striped top went on the bottom – that was easy – because it’s all we really need to see is the striped element on the sleeves.

Next I added a black dress (whose black short sleeves you can see) because it had the most triangular shape of everything I had. Unfortunately it was a little short, so I added another black underskirt to increase the length, puff out the skirt and give the bottom a bit of added interest. When you’re doing stuff like this, I would recommend picking an item of clothing that has a wildly different colour or texture to the material above. You’ll unlikely get two items of clothing with exactly the same material, and going for “as close as possible” usually means people notice the variations more and it looks weird. On the other hand when you combine two thing that are wildly different in some way, it looks deliberate and therefore not so noticeable (weird, eh?). You can’t really see here, but the dress is made out of a slightly shiny polyester material, whereas the underskirt is cotton lace.

To create the more square look, I opted to go for the white bodice which fit me quite tightly. As mentioned previously, I was able to fold and tuck the apron under the bodice as well as try for that more trapezoid shape (which isn’t quite conveyed in this photo). In retrospect I would have probably used some safety pins to secure everything in place and ensure that it looked exactly like how I wanted.

Lastly, I think the long, trailing bow at the back of Alice’s apron is kind of a trademark. I couldn’t find any white material that was the right colour/texture/length, but I opted for the scarf because the stripes were a repeating motif. That scarf is pretty long, but it could actually be much longer for the bow at the back. I think in this case instead of having an in-between length bow, you might have to choose between a really large, wide bow OR really long trails. I tried to get the both worlds (not that you can see in this picture anyway) and it ended up looking kind of half-assed. UP TO YOU THOUGH.

edit: Here’s a simpler alternative version. I am really out of practice.

Came up with this when I was taking off the outfit and facepalmed myself so hard it bruised.

This is basically above without the dress and tucking the extra length of the apron into the skirt I’m wearing. Because the skirt puffs out, a little extra padding underneath isn’t really noticeable.

You’ll notice I changed the top from the tight-fitting bodice to actually a quite loose-fitting white tank! I actually think this top works better when the dress is absent – the looseness is just about right to create that square shape, and I think it mimics the relative free-moving apron so you can kind of trick people into thinking it’s part of one thing.

Tank was from Big W for about $5.

Bring Your Own Attitude.

Video games meets high fashion

Author’s note: a post about the status of this blog to come! Yes, I realise it’s been 5 or so months.

I am so beyond excited about the sequel to American McGee’s Alice, Alice: Madness Returns coming out later this week. Most people know I have this intense obsession with all things Wonderland, but what I really love about AM’s Alice – and hopefully the sequel game – is that it was an example of style with substance. I could really rant on about why the game and the concept was so good, but I’m going to stop myself because I have a personal blog for that purpose.

Anyhow, to celebrate a decade of the original game and the release of the new sequel there is a gallery art show dedicated to conceptual and fan art for the games. Amongst some of the lovely, lovely visual art work comes these lovely one-off blazers. There were only three made, and I suspect they’ve already been sold for quite a nice amount of money. I still want one.

Using the Japanese textile “Boro,” a mended and patched material over a 100 years old, Dr. Romanelli was able to encapsulate both the dark and mysterious elements of the traditional Alice In Wonderland folklore and the unique, detailed vision of American McGee. Limited to only 3 pieces in total, the Dr. Romanelli “Alice” Blazer is something you’ll want to see in person.

Dr. Romanelli explains, “Boro textiles are usually sewn from 19th and early 20th century rags and patches of indigo dyed cotton. The diversity of the patches on any given piece is a veritable encyclopedia of hand loomed cotton indigo from old Japan, mostly created by happenstance and not planned by the maker.” (source)