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

Baroness de Pontalba skeleton costume, Mardi Gras 2018

Published by Manning on August 27th, 2018

This is my fiancée’s Baroness de Pontalba skull mask and costume for Mardi Gras 2018 — her very first mask for Skeleton Krewe! She was very clear from the beginning of the project that I wasn’t allowed to lay a finger on her mask during its creation, but she let me explain my methods and show her some techniques while I was working on my own skull mask at the same time. I don’t have any work-in-progress pics of her skull mask but I wanted to post the results, which are lovely!

Baroness de Pontalba skeleton costume, Mardi Gras 2018

As I mentioned back in my post about my Axe Man skull mask, this year Skeleton Krewe designed skulls and costumes based on people from New Orleans and Louisiana history. My fiancee chose Micaela Almonester, the Baroness de Pontalba. The most famous portrait of the Baroness shows her wearing a poofy black bonnet, so my fiancee wanted to include this as a main element of her skull mask.

She made the bonnet using a common technique for making paper maché pumpkins and jack o’ lanterns — that is, stuffing a trash bag full of newspaper, tying string around it to separate it into sections, and covering with paper maché; seven layers in all. (You can read about our paper maché process and materials here.)

She made the skull separately, using a base that was similar to what I did for my Axe Man skull mask — a big plastic bowl on top of a tower of foam board, with lots of paper strips wrapped onto it, then lots of bubble wrap, then lots of tape.

For the face, we tried something new; she cut out the various bones for the face using soft craft foam — the eye sockets, cheeks, upper and lower jaw, etc — and taped them into place on the head. She cut out the teeth individually from craft foam and taped them in place. She also cut and added a layer of craft foam for the Baroness’ hairline, including the widow’s peak and the part down the middle. When the face and hair were all done, she covered the whole thing with masking tape, to act as a release agent for the paper maché. She then covered the whole head with seven layers of paper maché over a few days.

When the paper maché was completely dry, she cut out a big section from the pumpkin-shaped bonnet to let it fit nicely over the skull head at a sort of tipped-back angle. She taped the bonnet in place and covered the connecting area with a few layers of paper maché. At this point she also cut out the eyes/nose/mouth holes and reinforced those edges with paper maché. She reinforced the interior of the lower edge of the mask with plastic zip ties, taped in place and covered over with paper maché.

When all the paper maché was done, she painted the mask by hand with black and white acrylic paint, and finished it with a coating of matte spray. She then applied a coating of gloss on just the hair, to give the black hair and black bonnet two different finishes.

The lasts steps were gluing black screen material in the eyes/nose/mouth holes with a hot glue gun, and attaching a hard hat inside the mask with Gorilla Glue and some hard foam supports.

Baroness de Pontalba and the Axe Man

Here’s my fiancée as the Baroness de Pontalba and me as the Axe Man on Mardi Gras morning 2018 as we marched along the parade route with Skeleton Krewe. Photo stolen from my friend Paul; it’s about 8am in this pic and I am druuuunk. Check out my posts about my Axe Man skull mask and my giant axe prop.

Baroness de Pontalba skull mask

Photo by Kevin O’Mara.

She accessorized her Baroness de Pontalba skull with some hand-painted skeleton clothes, and also some red blood splatters cut out from felt with an adhesive backing, to represent the places she was shot four times by her ex-husband!

I thought this was an amazing success for a first big paper maché mask! We can’t wait for next year!

3 Responses to “Baroness de Pontalba skeleton costume, Mardi Gras 2018”

  1. Ami Taylor Says:

    Wow, Your blog is having so engaging images I really like the skull mask and black costume. This is a great idea for Halloween to wear this type of dress on that day. Thank you.

  2. Suzan Says:

    Hi! I am holding a free workshop for kids who want to make big fish heads for Gleneden beach’s annual Jul 4 parade. What foam do you recommend for adding height before the construction hat is attached? Is there a limit to how high you can build the foam? (Note: I am using modified Halloween Roman guard hats for the kiddo fish heads.) I appreciate your help!

  3. manning Says:

    Hi Suzan! My solution for building anything big is foam board, aka foam core; I buy it at the dollar store at $1/sheet. Here’s my article about working with foam board. If you build a kind of armature of intersecting pieces, there’s practically no limit to how big you can go. Here are some pics of the kinds of structures I’m talking about: one, two. The horse head one is probably overly complicated, but even with a very simple structure of intersecting pieces and tape you can make something very big and relative stable. I often make a shape like this with foam board, then wrap it in something cheap like bubble wrap and lots of tape to smooth it out, and then cover it with paper mache. The biggest section of the giant spider I made was about 3′ x 2′ and it was very sturdy. I don’t have a lot of pics of the foam board parts in my witch statue, but if you check out that article she’s basically completely made from foam board wrapped in bubble wrap.

    I’ve never worked with the big sheets of blue foam you can buy in art stores; that stuff is great for cutting/sculpting and very strong, but it’s super expensive. Good luck!

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