Monday, March 12, 2012

DIY Elephant Head Fake Taxidermy: Part One

Finally, I can present to you the elephant head project! One of my most popular posts, at least keyword search-wise, was on Fake Taxidermy. It took me a year, but I finally DIY-ed this project, just in time to see my office become more of a nursery than a writer's haven. Oh, well.

In the week leading up to Carnaval, I bought the biggest container of glue I could find, sourced chicken wire mesh and a big roll of thick, yet malleable wire at the hardware store and begged a bunch of old newspapers off of our doorman. I was supposed to wait to start this project until Carnaval, but I couldn't resist and HAD to test out my artistic skills as soon as it all came home with us.

Vance lent me a photo he took in Africa, which I studied:

With my terrible artistic skills, I drew a rough elephant bust shape on an old cardboard box. I wasn't thinking about how BIG it was at the time.

Then I followed the shape with wire, making the ears, trunk and head pieces all separately, then covered them with wire. The trunk had to be 3-D, so I wrapped it with floral wire to keep the two sides of chicken wire together. Eventually, the head started to resemble an elephant. Next time, I'd wear gloves, I really got a LOT of nicks from the sharp ends of the wire.

Here, I pose with the belly and my wire Dumbo:

I tried several papier mache methods before I found one that worked. Strips of paper didn't work well with the metal frame. Mixing paper in my blender ended up being the best option. I dumped the extremely wet pulp into an old pillowcase and wrung it out, then added plenty of white glue and rubbed the paste into the wire. It took a long time to dry; bringing it inside helped. I was worried about mold...among other things. Working in such a humid, bug-ridden climate, I didn't want to use flour paste. All told, I think I used almost a liter of white glue!

Here's the head after the first paste layer:

You can see the progression of papering experiments, from R to L. First was the standby paper strips, followed by torn bits, and finally the blender method.

After two coats of papier machĂȘ goop, I covered every inch with newspaper strips to even out the texture and give some support to areas that looked like they needed it. After it dried really, really well (almost a week) I painted the whole thing white and finished with a coat of glue. Since we had some acrylic molding paste lying around, I used that instead of another batch of papier machĂȘ to fill in the eye sockets and places where he was a little lopsided. It was easier to see where he needed help once the sculpture was all one color. I forgot to take a picture here.

While the head was pretty heavy with all the wet paper pulp on it, once it dried, it lightened up considerably. If you try this at home, I'd recommend a smaller creature. The three-foot-ish earspan of my elephant is probably excessive!

When hubby gets home tonight, we'll take pictures of the nearly-finished product. Look for part two in a few days!

1 comment:

anne said...

o aI remember when you blogged about fake taxidermy a longish bit ago -- but WOW does it look awesome -- so worth the wait! i rather liked the wire animal as well :)

the photo that Vance took is amazing, btw!