Manning Makes Stuff - Halloween decorations, paper mache masks, costumes, party ideas, and more

Manning Makes Stuff - Halloween decorations, paper mache masks, costumes, party ideas, and more

Paper maché axe prop

I made this here paper maché axe prop for my 2019 Halloween party — theme to be announced soon! It was really easy; here’s how I did it…

Paper mache axe - finished!

A little background: you may remember I made a way-oversized axe prop a while back for my Axe Man skeleton costume (why would you remember that?). So I’d already learned a few lessons from that project, and I decided to do this one a little differently. Along with being oversized, I intentionally designed that axe to be a little bit exaggerated in its proportions; almost a little cartoony. Read more…

Published by Manning on August 5th, 2019 [No Comments]

Sculpture technique: making box shapes out of foam board

Most of my sculpture projects start with a base of foam board shapes connected with tape and/or glue. I made up this technique for creating sturdy box shapes in any kind of shape or size, and I use it for almost every project, with some slight variations. This technique works great for anything from very geometric shapes to completely irregular custom shapes, as long as they’re flat on two sides. Here’s what I do…

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Published by Manning on August 4th, 2019 [No Comments]

Love 2 make new Friends

paper mache heads

It’s June, and that means Halloween preparation is well underway! This here is the very early stages of making a dozen paper maché severed heads!

I’ll post a few pics of the heads in progress below; full article coming soon!

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Published by Manning on June 5th, 2019 [No Comments]

An even bigger Skeleton Krewe doubloon!

I had a lot of fun making a 15″ Skeleton Krewe doubloon recently, so I decided to make a much larger version! I considered a few different sizes based on the different materials I had to work with, and landed on 33″ in diameter as the size for this big one.

Giant 33-inch Skeleton Krewe doubloon - with shiny silver paint job

Many of the steps for making this giant 33″ doubloon were the same for how I made the 15″ version, so I’ll refer to that article several times here rather than type the same stuff again. Read more…

Published by Manning on April 10th, 2019 [No Comments]

Skull mask with marching skeletons — pics from Mardi Gras!

Here are some more pics of my mask in action on Mardi Gras day with Skeleton Krewe, and another video as well!

You can check out my posts about making this mask here:

Part 1 – making the gears and moving parts
Part 2 – making the little skeletons
Part 3 – building a skull mask around all this
Part 4 – painting, hat, finishing touches, etc!

Read more…

Published by Manning on March 7th, 2019 [No Comments]

Skull mask with dancing skeletons, part 4

This is part four of my skull mask project with rotating gears and marching skeletons. See parts one, two, and three.

Installing the hard hat

Almost all of my big paper maché masks are mounted on a hard hat. Hard hats are great because they’re cheap and they provide a lot of comfort and stability in a big mask. I usually saw off some parts of the hard hat for each mask depending on its shape, in order to reduce weight and to help the hard hat fit in the mask as well as possible. Read more…

Published by Manning on March 5th, 2019 [2 Comments]

Skull mask with dancing skeletons, part 3

This is part three of my skull mask project with rotating gears and marching skeletons. See parts one and two.

Building the skull shape

In part one I built the whole mechanism with the gears inside of a big circular wall; this would become the outer wall of the skull mask at around ear-level (not my ears, the skull’s ears — uh, wait a minute…). Read more…

Published by Manning on March 5th, 2019 [No Comments]

Paper maché skull mask with dancing skeletons, part 2

This is part two of my skull mask project with rotating gears and marching skeletons. See part one here.

Attaching the skeletons to the rings

Dancing skeletons

I drew all 29 of the dancing skeletons at a larger size (about 6″ tall) on sketchbook paper, keeping the designs as simple as possible since I’d be re-painting them by hand at a much smaller size. I scanned ’em and cleaned ’em up in Photoshop, reduced them to about 2″ tall, and printed them out. Read more…

Published by Manning on March 5th, 2019 [No Comments]

Skull mask with dancing skeletons, part 1

Welcome to the newest installment in my ongoing quest to kill myself with overly complicated art projects! For the 20th anniversary of Skeleton Krewe (my seventh year officially with the Krewe) I decided to make a paper maché skull mask with moving parts! Yikes! The mask has a crank and gears and 29 little skeleton figurines representing my fellow Krewe members; a sort of best-of selection of our skull masks and skeleton outfits over the last two decades. Here’s how I made the thing!

Skull mask with gears and rotating rings

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Published by Manning on March 5th, 2019 [2 Comments]

Paper mache horse skull mask!

This year for Skeleton Krewe’s 20th anniversary, my fiancée decided to make a mask of our mascot, Skelly the skeleton horse! And I’ve decided to steal it for blog content. This is her second big skull mask project, and she let me be her assistant!

Horse skull mask - close up

The real Skelly is a fiberglass horse on wheels; she used to one of many gold horses that were mounted on top of tractors that pulled the floats in the Mardi Gras superkrewe of Rex. Read more…

Published by Manning on March 5th, 2019 [2 Comments]

Making a giant Skeleton Krewe doubloon!

I’ve been marching with Skeleton Krewe every Mardi Gras since 2013, and every year we give out either wooden nickels or metallic doubloons with the Krewe’s logo on them. This Mardi Gras the group is celebrating its 20th anniversary, and I decided to make this giant-sized doubloon; I’m not even sure what I’m gonna do with it yet! Here’s how I made the thing…

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Published by Manning on February 23rd, 2019 [No Comments]

Making a 20th anniversary Skeleton Krewe rosette medal

This year for Skeleton Krewe‘s 20th anniversary we were encouraged to make and wear anything with an “XX” to commemorate the occasion, whether it was something incorporated into our skull mask, or our costume, our makeup, etc. I decided to make this rosette-style medal to accentuate the skeleton suit I wear every year. It was fun to make! Here’s how I did it…

Skeleton Krewe rosette medal

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Published by Manning on January 28th, 2019 [2 Comments]

Experiment time: paper maché and wood filler

One thing about working with paper maché is that it’s very time consuming, because you’ve gotta do lots of layers and they all take a long time to dry; most of my big masks and sculptures need at least seven layers of paper to be thick and sturdy enough. I’m always looking for any kind of shortcuts that might speed up the process of building up a surface that’s nice and strong, while also keeping the cost of materials in mind.

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Published by Manning on January 14th, 2019 [No Comments]

Experiment time: paper maché versus plaster cloth

I’ve always used paper maché for my big masks and sculptures, and although I really enjoy the paper maché process it can be very time-consuming. A friend of mine mentioned that she recently tried plaster cloth — aka plaster wrap, plaster of paris strips, craft wrap, etc — and she said it saved her a ton of time. She’d made a couple Halloween masks with the stuff and they definitely looked great; she said she was so happy with the results that she’d never go back to paper maché. Huh! I was skeptical, but intrigued.

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Published by Manning on January 13th, 2019 [No Comments]

Creating 3d relief shapes with craft foam

A few years ago I made up this method for cutting out precise shapes with craft foam, to create 3d relief shapes on a lot of my various sculpture projects.

Craft foam, aka wonder foam, is a soft rubbery material that I often describe as being similar to a yoga mat, but much thinner. You can buy it in any arts and crafts store, and it comes in tons of colors. Read more…

Published by Manning on January 10th, 2019 [No Comments]

Spray painting tips for paper maché projects

Spray paint is a big part of my process for creating most of my paper maché masks and sculptures, and it can be a huge time-saver when you’re working on any large shape. Here are my tricks and tips for working with spray paint, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro!

I use Montana Golden acrylic spray paint for all my commission projects and any of my more-serious personal projects like my Mardi Gras skull Read more…

Published by Manning on December 14th, 2018 [No Comments]

Paper maché wolf mask

I made this oversized paper maché wolf mask for Halloween 2018! It was a rush project without a lot of planning, and I took a lot of shortcuts, but it still came out pretty cool (but, uh, way bigger than I was thinking)! Here’s how I made the thing…

Paper mache wolf mask - paint job finished

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Published by Manning on November 2nd, 2018 [No Comments]

Axe Man sculpture from History Bones!

I’m still recovering from Halloween, and this is a thing I’ve been dying to post about for weeks: Lee from History Bones sent me her sculpture of my Axe Man costume! Holy shit! Incredible! The whole thing is not even 7″ tall! The mask comes off! And the likeness underneath is uncanny!

Axe Man sculpture by History Bones

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Published by Manning on November 1st, 2018 [No Comments]

Giant witch statue! — part 2

This is part two of two of my giant witch statue for Halloween 2018. See part one here.

Making the witch’s oversized broom

I needed the witch’s broom prop to be much longer than a real broom, so I started with two metal mop handles from the dollar store. I connected these at the ends with a couple layers of shipping tape wrapped around, which felt a little flimsy, and then I rolled a piece of construction paper tightly around the connection point, and then I wrapped some more shipping tape around that. Read more…

Published by Manning on October 29th, 2018 [No Comments]

Giant witch statue! — part 1

My fiancée and I made this giant 8-foot witch statue for our 2018 Halloween party! This is by far the biggest thing we’ve ever made. It was a great learning experience. Here’s how we did it…

Giant witch statue made from paper mache, foam board, plastic table cloths, etc

I used my fiancée as a model for the witch! I had her pose with a broom and I took pictures from various sides to use for reference. Read more…

Published by Manning on October 29th, 2018 [2 Comments]