Halloween is almost here, are your party plans ready to go? I still have a to-do list but things are slowly getting checked off.
I wanted to draw your attention to this great dessert idea from The marshmallow studio. They will make custom marshmallow treats for any occasion from their San Diego shop. The puffy pieces are priced from $12 per doz and will ship.
So if you've been following this tutorial and are still with me, Congratulations! Thanks for hanging in there. Last time we finally saw a real monument coming together and it is now caulked and sanded and primed. Now we're ready to foam coat!
The foam coat is tricky and time consuming. You can only mix a small amount at a time or else it will harden before you can get it on. I used Hot Wire Foam Factory's Foam Coat plus Bounce on all of the soft foam pieces like the top trim. I used Foam Coat by itself for the middle and Foam Coat plus Boost for the bottom and top. It took me one entire day from top to bottom.
Once that was over it was on to paint! Fortunately this was the fast and fun part. The first layer I used was stucco paint in a matte finish from Home Depot. It came white and I didn't change anything. This paint was thick and easy to apply.
Pretty and white:
Next I added marbling around the whole monument. For inspiration take a photo of real marble and see how the lines run and change. There are many marbling techniques shown online as well. Remember that this is a prop, not a piece in your home, so you want it to be on the "overdone" side so it will stand out.
Then I started aging and weathering it by adding "water stains", "dirt" and so on. I used multiple shades of grey and a hint of black for these. Since this was an actual tombstone I mainly followed the photos I had. However if you are going from your imagination, visualize how this piece would stand out in the rain, collecting airborne particles and being exposed to the elements. Nooks and crannies will either get a lot of deposits, or few, depending on where they are located.
Make sure you are consistent and it will turn out well.
This will be mainly seen at night, so make sure you over emphasize the weathering so it will show up under event lighting.
Next I tackled the verdigris on the bronze. I used several shades of turquoise craft acrylic paint. I wanted it to show up, but not be overboard. On the original it runs down onto the marble, so I copied that as well.
For my final step I used Thompsons Water Sealer over the whole thing.
And finally, we're done!!!
Thanks for walking through this project with me. Even if you don't build this one I hope it gives you ideas for something else with these techniques.
I love my bloggy friends! Just tried Pioneer Woman's cinnamon rolls and Wow! They're easy and delicious. I tell you that woman can do anything. And she does it with photos for every step! Totally my speed.
So finally the weather cleared and I was able to get outside and make some cuts.
As you can faintly see in the photo below, I marked each board with the lines for all of the pieces.
I used my radial saw to make all of the major 'board' cuts and although you can't see it (I didn't think to photograph the underside and the dust while cutting was too intense to bring the camera out), I mitered both edges at a 45degree angle so that each side would meet at the corners. Make sure you have a dust mask and goggles. These are key for all of the cutting and sanding. I sanded after every cut so that the edges were always nice and clean. I used my electric sander which made the process go quickly.
I used regular molding from the home improvement store for the straight pieces of molding. The ends have all been mitered to match the 45 degree of the board.
The round rosettes were purchased online, they are 2.5" diameter. I glued everything on with liquid nails and/or HWFF Foam glue. The foam glue is not as thick and dries slightly faster, which I ended up preferring.
I cut the square middle pieces from 1/2" pink foam and glued them on. One piece gets a round hole, three do not.
So up until this point I was motoring along and pleased with myself for all the progress. However the true test was coming...the curved top trim.
Originally I thought I could make this with my hot wire tool and I started with good result.
However when I started the curved piece it all fell apart. I couldn't get a jig together that would hold the tool at the right angle and curve it at the same time. I tried and tried (for way too many hours I tried, and thought, and ate some chocolate, and tried again). No, this was just not going to work. So while not exactly the right profile I came up with this.
I used 2 sizes of pipe insulation from the home improvement store. The ends are mitered at 45 degrees to match the sides of the board and the middles are at 35 degrees or so. I glued the ends on first and let them set up. Once firm and dry I added the curved middles. I was pleased with this and so went to the next step, adding small diameter window and door insulation in between the "steps" so that it would look more like real trim with the little peaks and valleys. The styles I used are below. The best part about these are that they come with adhesive built in. Just peel of the tape and you're ready to apply.
Next I cut craft foam sheets into 2" strips, mitered the outside edges to 45 degrees and glued them to the top of the pipe foam to create the "roof" of the trim
Then I added a large trim piece to the bottom and again mitered the ends. Now, for you observant folks, you will notice that some of the square pieces in the middle are solid, and others show a round recess. This is because the Poe stone has one side that has a bronze relief and the others do not. I didn't keep tabs on which piece was in front while I photographed.
This photo includes a really cute model to distract from the fact that I neglected to take photos of several stages.
One: I glued the four board components together and let them dry. I think you can figure how how that works so that's not a big deal. I used blue painters tape to hold them in place. This works well on the foam provided you stick it down really well and it's not too humid.
Two: I made simple rectangular boards and mounted them to the bottom. Again, fairly straightforward.
Three: I made the pyramid top and glued it on. Sounds so easy, right? NOT. Although it was fun to use my geometry skills for once in 20 years.
To figure out the dimensions of the four triangle shaped sides I first decided that the pyramid should be 6" high.
So for the first formula, you have to imagine a cross section of the pyramid. Take a straight line from the tippy top of the pyramid down to an imaginary table it is sitting on. Then continue that line to the middle of one of the sides. If you continue the line up the sloped side back to the top, you've created a right triangle. The height of the right triangle is 6", and the base is 12" (each side is 24", so half of that, to the middle, is 12"). From there you use your formula to get the hypotenuse of the triangle. a2 + b2 = c2 (those 2s are supposed to read as "squared"). Thus you get 6 squared (36) + 12 squared (144) = 180 whose square root is 13.41. So when you go to cut your triangle pieces, they should be 13.41" tall, and 24" wide at the base. I just drew them out and connected the dots to complete the triangle. Although you could again use your formula if you love it so!!
I cut the four triangles out of 1/2" foam and then mitered all three edges of each triangle so that they would match up flush when glued together. Now in reality they weren't exact, (well, at least my reality. Maybe you're a better carpenter- it wouldn't be hard) but I evened everything out in the end with some sanding and joint compound.
So that was a lot. Are you still with me? Only one more post to go...
We're using more Model Magic clay today to sculpt Poe's face. There are many techniques you could substitute for this, but here's what I did and learned.
So first let me say, I am not a sculptor. These are not professional techniques. However I needed a passable representation of the bronze bas relief on the Poe tombstone and so I jumped right in!. I started with a plain mask to give me the right proportion of eyes, nose, and mouth. It was much too tall/deep, so I trimmed it with scissors. Still was too tall, but I didn't have anything else, so I forged ahead. I built up his facial features, made some eyes and lips, and then added hair. So far so good. Model magic takes a while to air dry so I let it sit for several days.
Then I rolled out a fairly thin model magic sheet and covered a piece of foam core for the background. I used regular baking tools like a pastry roller for this. I then let it dry for another couple of days.
It cracked. And cracked. And cracked some more.
Model Magic shrinks when it dries. So by placing it on the mask and board which don't shrink, the clay had to crack. Ugh.
I covered up all of the cracks with wood filler, however this did not solve the problem, there was still more cracking. Totally feeling failure now.
So I took my HWFF Bounce and Foam Coat and brushed it on all over the clay.
And at last!! it worked. The cracking stopped and the foam coat covered up all of the lines. Whoo hoo!
So life went on and I added the dates (clock number with adhesive backs) and started to paint.
I started with a combination of gold and copper metallic acrylic paint. Then added bronze and black metallic. It doesn't show up well in these photos, but there are different colors in the crevices and highlights.
It was done for now. I'll wait until I mount it to the tombstone to add the verdigris as shown below...
So here's your how-to on tombstones! Of course yours doesn't need to be this complex. Usually people start with something well, smaller and less complicated. But not here, I'm very goal oriented and just HAD to make the real thing. If you're not as crazy, you can use these steps to create any size and style of tombstone you'd like. We have many old cemeteries in the area so I often go and take inspiration from those. If you don't have one handy, there are many great photos on Google images.
So, I started off with several good quality photos of the real thing I found online.
I made a quick sketch of the tombstone right on my pieces of 2" pink insulation foam. This type of foam is sold at home improvement stores and comes in long sheets. It doesn't break apart into pellets like white styrofoam does and is much more dense. Pink foam comes in 2 foot widths, so I made the main structure 2' wide and then just eyeballed the proportions of everything else.
Once I had the dimensions pencilled in, I started on the small items. Mostly because it was raining outside so I couldn't cut my big pieces of foam and I needed projectss I could do indoors. My first task was the harp. I sketched out the design on 1/2" pink foam and cut it out with my hot wire saw. Of course I did this in front of the open door so that the fumes didn't kill me.
Then I sanded. A LOT. And some more after that. Finally I ended up with nice round edges and a pleasing shape.
For the leaves I used model magic from the craft store. It is very light and stays plyable when dry. I rolled it out with a rolling pin and used leaf shaped cookie cutters to cut out the leaf shapes. I rounded all of the edges with my fingers and let them dry in different positions. I also made the stems by rolling little snakes.
These took several days to dry completely.
I put those aside and went to work on the acanthus leaves on the upper corners of the tombstone. I did these exactly like the harps.
First I sketched them on the foam, then cut them with the hot wire, and finally kept sanding until I thought my hands would fall off. I used several types of block sanders and half round metal files. Remember, I did the full, 3-d tombstone, so there are FOUR sides, thus 8 are needed.
And here they are all nice and polished.
Finally the leaves were dry, so I added those to the harps with liquid nails.
Phew, that was a lot of work.
Next time we'll work with some more model magic and sculpt the Poe bas-relief.
I'm also looking forward to part 3, actual construction and power tools!! See you next time.
Edgar Allan Poe is a great theme for a party. He wrote so many poems and short stories that you can make it very literary, very creepy or somewhere in between depending on your audience. For this corporate reception I aimed to capture a spooky feeling in the middle.
The centerpiece was a re-creation of the Poe tombstone and cemetery in Baltimore, MD.
Several vignettes brought scenes from his works to life, like this one from "Murder at the Rue Morgue."
Life size text from "The Raven" along with a mysteriously floating quill.
Aged books and candles decorated the cocktail tables.
The butler greeted guests along with his pet raven.
I always like to provide informational props for guests who may not be well versed in a particular theme. This road sign reproduction gave a lot of information about Poe in a party friendly way.
Framed graphics with illustrated titles of his works also illuminated the connection between the props and theme.
The purpose of the themes and props are to provide conversation starters for attendee networking and recognition for the sponsor.
I think these goals are important for all events, whether corporate or personal. Facilitating guest interaction keeps the party going and encourages attendees to stay longer and feel connected, even if they are attending solo.
Even though it was a "dreary" event the attendees had a great evening with Poe.
Here's a quick and easy mantle or buffet decoration. A jar full of spiders!
Spiders in various sizes
Clear vase or jar
White cloth or batting
Clean your jar. I always plunge right in and then regret it when I'm through and can see fingerprints or dust on the inside.
Roll up your cloth or batting until it is within 2" of the diam of your vessel. This is your form.
Pull off some spider webbing and loosen it up. Start adding spiders to the form and lightly string the webbing over it to hold everything in. Once the outside layer is full, carefully slide it into your jar.
Add more spiders to the top and sides as if they have pushed aside the lid and are crawling out.
I've found several ideas to try in the October issue of Martha Stewart Living. My favorite thus far is from page 148, "Skeleton Crew". I tried it out and here's my tale.
I wanted large bones so I rolled up newspaper into 2" diameter rolls and taped them closed with masking tape. I made mine between 16" and 20" long. Make sure these are thick and sturdy so they won't crumble under the watery plaster cloth.
Then I took 3 pages of an ad insert, the booklet kind, and scrunched them into barbell or bowtie shapes. Use the fold as your center line and crumple the paper on both sides into balls.
Take a long piece of masking tape and tape the "barbell" down the middle to the end of your roll.
Do this for both ends.
Now comes the gooey part.
Make sure your table is covered in newspaper or plastic and that you have removed all of your jewelry. I skipped this step and had to thoroughly scrub my table and clean my rings. It gets into every crack and crevice.
Then unroll your plaster cloth and cut into varying sizes. The longer they are, the easier, is what I found. I cut mine into 16" and 5" pieces. You'll want to make most of your cuts before you start wetting as your fingers are soon too gooey to pick up the scissors.
Following the manufacturers instructions, dip the cloth into warm water. Martha says to add tea for a stained effect, but I admit, I forgot and didn't do this. Will try it next time.
One helpful tip is to keep working the fabric in the water/tea until it gets a little gooey. It will adhere better and also dry with fewer holes.
Cover all of the newspaper and add layers to anything you want more definition.
Let dry in a warm place and voila! Giant bones ready to add to your favorite haunt.
I got my plaster cloth from Michaels, it is called Rigid Wrap. They had two sizes and the larger was easier to cover large surfaces. I used one large size for three bones and two small sizes for the same. This cloth is great, I'd like to use it for other crafting projects.
I'm a designer who loves to travel and be inspired by the wonderful people and Poms in my life. I work in events, interiors, and corporate & association marketing. Design spills into every area I touch and I hope to share some ideas with you too!