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maandag 8 augustus 2016

Voodoo Hat

For the next Elf Fantasy Fair, my wife and me are making voodoo themed costumes. Here's a cool hat I made!

  • Top hat
  • Clay
  • Ribbon
  • Acrylic paints and varnish
  • Hot glue gun
  • Chicken bones (more on that later)
  • Bleach
  • Vinegar
  • Feathers
  • Black yarn
  • Beads
  • Drill
  • Needle and black thread
Preparing the chicken bones
I used some real chicken bones, from chicken wings, on the hat. Of course, you don't want to make a greasy, smelly mess. After eating the wings, you're left with bones that still have pieces of meat, skin and fat on them. It's quite easy to clean them:
  • First, simmer for about an hour in water.
  • Clean off any pieces of skin and fat as much as possible (this will come off easily).
  • Simmer for another hour to get the last bit of fat out of the bones.
  • Put them in a plastic container, cover with bleach and let it stand overnight.
  • Rinse thoroughly with water.
  • Rinse a few times with vinegar to neutralize the bleach and immediately rinse with water.
  • Let them dry a few days and apply a coat of varnish.
That's all there is to it. Very important: after rinsing with vinegar, immediately rinse them with water, or the vinegar will dissolve the bones. I had this happening the first time I tried this. The worst part? I have a degree in chemistry, so I should have known this would happen!

Sculpting the skull
There's a bird skull on the front of the hat. This isn't a real skull, though. I sculpted one out of air drying modeling clay, with a picture of a raven skull as reference.

 After it had dried, I painted it using very thin washes of ochre and burnt umber to give it the appearance of an old skull. Finally, a coat of varnish.

The Ace of Spades
There's also a playing card on the hat. A plain, boring card wouldn't really do it. There should at least be a skull on it, and it needed to look old and weathered. I searched for some clip art of (of course) an ace of spades and printed it using a laser printer. It's very important to use a laser printer, because the paper will be painted, and inkjet ink would run.
I printed out several sizes and then picked one that was the right one for my hat. To make it look old, I crumpled the paper a bit and then applied a wash of ochre paint. I let it soak in for a few minutes and then rinsed most of it off. This darkens the wrinkles in the paper.

After it had dried a bit, I darkened the edges a bit with burnt umber. I let it dry completely and then glued it on a piece of cardboard. A few coats of glossy varnish turned it into a real playing card.

Making dreadlocks
I didn't want to wear a wig underneath the hat, so I decided to attach some dreadlocks directly to the hat. I experimented a bit with several methods for creating simple and cheap dreads, and here's what I came up with.
I took some cheap black yarn and looped it a few times around a doorknob, so I had a bundle of about six threads. Next, I clamped it in my drill and spun it until it was wound up quite thight. I then folded it in half and carefully let it unwind again.

I put a couple of knots in it every 30 centimeters, so it wouldn't unravel, and cut it into pieces. At this point, it still looks like a rope made of yarn. To give it a more dreadlock-like appearance, I used a cat grooming brush to comb the dreads.

Putting the hat together
The hat itself is a cheap top hat I bought at a costume store a few years ago. It had a black ribbon around it, this had to removed first. It was glued on, and it wasn't easy to remove all glue residue, but using a sharp knife I managed to scrape everything off.
I put a red ribbon around the hat, put in place using a hot glue gun. I also made a bow using the same ribbon, and glued the bird skull and chicken bones in place.

The playing card was bent a bit, to match the contours of the hat as much as possible, stuck behind the ribbon and then secured in place using a few drops of hot glue.

Next, putting the dreadlocks in place! I simply sewed them on the hat using black thread. I also decorated each dread with a round red bead.

The finishing touch is a pair of feathers I bought at a costume shop.

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