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

Giant witch statue! — part 2


Published by Manning on October 29th, 2018

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. All this made the connection surprisingly sturdy! The broom handle needs to be pretty strong in order to support the weight of basically the top half of the witch statue.

Giant witch statue - taping mop handles together for the broom

So that’s the interior structure of the broom handle, but I needed to add a wider exterior. I had a funny idea for this: I decided to use two brand-new rolls of brown wrapping paper; the same stuff that I rip up and use for paper maché. I simply slid the long metal rod through the two rolls of wrapping paper (still in their plastic wrapping) and taped them together. The nice thing is that when it’s time to break down the witch statue I can keep these two rolls of paper for future use.

An important step here was planning out the size of the head/bristles of the broom and leaving that much of the metal mop handle exposed, so it can run down inside the length of the bristles and reach the floor. I settled on 18″ for this. It’s important that the metal part reaches all the way to the floor because it has to support the weight of the witch statue. I taped the rolls of paper to the metal rod at the correct position to leave 18″ exposed; I’ll build the broom head onto this part later.

I then wrapped the entire broom handle (except the exposed metal) in some construction paper that I had left over from other projects, and secured it with tape. I added a little ball of newspaper at the top, covered with masking tape, to round out the top of the handle. Then I wrapped the entire handle in one layer of paper maché. Hopefully when I’m breaking down the statue, the construction paper layer inside will easily lift away from the plastic wrapping on the rolls of wrapping paper; fingers crossed! (Post-Halloween update: this totally worked!)

I designed the shape for the broom head/bristles on foam board — I had 18″ of the metal rod to build this onto, so I designed a knot shape at the top that’s 3″ tall, and the bristles area at 15″ tall.

Giant witch statue - foam board panels for the broom

For the big part of the broom head/bristles, I measured and cut out eight flat panels to fit around the handle. I used various leftover scraps of foam board for this, hence the scribbling on some of them. (I also numbered them, but in hindsight this didn’t serve any purpose; just a habit when I’m making multiple copies of anything.)

I put all these panels together on the broom handle with tons of shipping tape and masking tape. I build shapes like these for the base of a lot of my projects, and they always start out feeling extremely flimsy, but as you add lots of tape to connect the individual pieces the whole structure becomes more much sturdy. For example, when you start out with a shape like this one, the individual panels want to flop back and forth pretty easily, but once you’ve attached each panel to the ones next to it, suddenly none of them can move.

Next, I wrapped lots of rolled up sheets of newspaper around the base, to round out the shape. I attached all of these to the broom base with tape.

I then wrapped this whole broom head shape with strips of bubble wrap to round it out even more; I took a 12″ roll and cut it into four 3″ strips and taped them together end to end. I wrapped the strip around and secured it with tape. With each step, the eight ridges become less defined and the whole shape starts to look fairly round.

I did two quick and lazy layers of paper maché here; I covered the whole shape with tons of wallpaper adhesive and then I wrapped big pieces of newspaper and then paper towels around it. No need to use small pieces and be precise here, ’cause this layer will get covered up by the bristles.

Giant witch statue - cutting craft foam to make the broom bristles

I’d cut out a million thin strips of craft foam ahead of time to make the bristles. I just cut slightly wavy strips and kept them as thin as I could get them, and then I twisted them up by hand a little bit. While the paper maché was still wet on the broom head base, I spread even more wallpaper adhesive over the surface and laid the bristles in place all the way around.

Giant witch statue - gluing the broom bristles in place

Oh yeah, in the above pic you can see where I covered the bottom end of the metal mop handle with craft foam, to protect my floor — that’s that brown shape in the middle. It’s two strips crossed over each other and taped in place.

I made up a really lazy process for making the big knot above the broom head; I just took a bunch of the leftover craft foam bristles I’d made, twisted them together, wrapped them around the broom handle, and hot-glued them in place.

When all this was done, I protected the broom handle with newspaper and masking tape and spray painted the whole bristles area a light tan/yellow color. I left the handle itself un-painted, since it’s already covered with brown paper. That’s all for the broom!

Assembling everything

Putting all these parts together was a little tricky! Having an assistant for this was key.

I started off by creating loose connections between the limb sections with packing tape. Let’s use an arm as an example; I took a forearm and upper arm and ran a long piece of shipping tape along one side of them, and then another long piece along the other side. This gives me a narrow elbow joint that’s totally flexible and twist-able into any position (for now) but won’t tear.

I did the same thing with the leg sections; I made loose joints out of shipping tape for each piece. Finally I had all four floppy limbs assembled.

Giant witch statue - propping up the torso

At this point I stuck the head onto the neck; it held on by itself with no tape or anything. I then stood the witch torso up on the umbrella base, and had my assistant hold it up so it wouldn’t fall over. The base wanted to slide around on the floor a lot more than I predicted, so I decided to tape it down with tons of shipping tape.

I got nervous here that the witch wasn’t going to be strong enough to stand up on her own, so I did something that turned out to be unnecessary: I tied a piece of string to the curtain rod behind her on one side, wrapped it around her neck, and then tied it to the curtain rod on the other side. Later on while moving the statue and finishing all the connections, I noticed the string was hanging with a little bit of slack; it wasn’t doing any work at all. So I removed it.

Okay, next I loosely taped the legs in place on the hips with lots of shipping tape. I then figured out where I wanted the feet to be positioned on the floor. I taped the front foot to the floor with shipping tape, and then I taped that ankle onto the foot. All of these connections were still loose.

Like I mentioned previously, since the witch’s back faces the corner of the room, it turned out I didn’t need the back foot at all, so I didn’t attach it. In fact, leaving the back foot off allowed me to position the witch a little further back in the corner, so she takes up a little less space in the apartment.

While my assistant was still holding the torso in position, I used tons of shipping tape to firm up all the leg joints. Whew! The statue was finally standing up on its own!

Giant witch statue - finishing assembly

Next, I put the broom handle through the witch’s hands and glued them in place at the right height on the handle with Gorilla Glue. I let that dry, and then my assistant held the broom in place while I taped the arms onto the shoulders and the wrists to the hands, making very loose connections with tape, just like I did for the elbows.

I then did the same steps for solidifying and padding out all the joints with lots of tape.

The whole witch was assembled! The head was hanging downward a little more than I wanted, so I put some shipping tape on the back of the brim of her hat, pulled it backward a few inches, and taped it firmly onto her body. This helped hold the head up a little more.

Dressing the witch

Giant witch statue - making the clothes

When the body of the statue was fully assembled, my fiancee dressed her with about a dozen black plastic table cloths we got from the dollar store. She secured the table cloths with clear shipping tape, hiding the tape from view as much as possible. She did an amazing job, making some parts tight and some parts look and really adding a lot of dimension and character to the witch. I probably would’ve just wrapped the whole thing tightly and then draped some more around her waist to make the skirt.

Giant witch statue - close up of face

The witch stood up on her own, and didn’t sag or break or fall, for the full week we left her up.

Giant witch statue - side view

Giant witch statue - face closeup

Giant witch statue - multiple views

Here’s what the witch looked like in the orange-y lighting of the Halloween party:

Giant witch statue - in party lighting

And here’s a closeup of her light-up eyes:

Giant witch statue - light up eyes

I took all the daytime pics above on the morning after our Halloween party; here’s a very hungover human being for scale:

Giant witch statue - human for scale

Whew! This was an enormous project! Both physically and in terms of time and effort. I’m really pleased with how it came out! I’m already looking forward to next year’s projects…

Post-Halloween update

In building all the parts for the witch, I decided we should wait until just a day or two before the party before actually assembling her and standing her up — I was afraid the statue would sag and warp and begin to fall apart under its own weight if we left it up for longer than that. So we put her together the day before the party. However, we left her standing there for more than a week longer, and she didn’t move or sag at all! She remained exactly the same the whole time. I realy thought we’d see her head hang lower by by day, her arms and legs begin to sag and hang loose, etc. So this was a good lesson for next time — the foam board is rigid enough to hold its shape and the shipping tape we use to connect everything is strong enough to not stretch. Those are my main two materials for so many of my projects but this was the biggest test I’d ever put them to, and they performed beautifully.

Giant witch statue

Here’s the witch statue on the day I took her down; it’s always sad to break down my big Halloween projects and throw them out! I tore the statue into a million pieces, and it filled up five big trash bags.

Now I’m thinking about what other huge statues I can make for future parties! I’m already sketching some ideas…

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