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

“Good enough for Halloween!”


Published by Manning on August 25th, 2018

“Good enough for Halloween” is a phrase I say all the time; it’s basically my mantra during all of August / September / October, and I do not say it lightly!

I hope I don’t need to explain that Halloween is my favorite time of year, and I care about it so deeply that I can get super emotional about it if I’m not careful! So you might think that I’d want to obsess over every detail of my Halloween projects, but it’s really the opposite! I honestly try to cut as many corners as possible for my Halloween stuff.

Here’s the reason: All my Halloween projects are made specifically for the one big party that I throw every year in my home, so I know exactly how and where they’re going to be displayed, namely, they’re always viewed in very low light, and by very drunk people! On top of that, they only need to survive one night — and really I don’t care if some of them get destroyed during the party; it’s actually kind of cool when that happens! So all of that allows me to take a lot of shortcuts.

I’m always jugging a million Halloween projects at the same time, so timing is key. When my Halloween stuff involves paper maché (and most of it does), I try to strategize how I can use the absolute least number of layers possible, to save lots of time. Most of the projects don’t need to be sturdy at all, so I allow them to be pretty flimsy in some cases; I even take into consideration where the decorations are going to be situated in my home and think about whether it’s likely that someone might touch them — either by accident or on purpose. Some pieces are higher up or out of the way and I’ll let them be really delicate, where other pieces might be tempting for people to pick up and play with, so I’ll put a little more time into making them sturdier. I want people to enjoy this stuff!

Other examples: using scraps of paper with straight edges on them, when usually I’m careful to hide those edges in interior layers or throw them away. Painting stuff assembly-line style and with really broad strokes or even painting big details with just a spray paint can, rather than carefully using masking tape to keep the lines perfect. Hot gluing everything, rather than carefully connecting pieces with paper maché to make the connections seamless. Painting some details on as 2d rather than sculpting them out as 3d; this is something I’ve learned can really get concealed by low light. Et cetera et cetera.

I also try to cut corners with cost! For my Halloween projects I’ll use the absolute cheapest and lowest quality spray paint I can find at Home Depot, rather than the fancy stuff from the art store that I use for all my other projects. I also use really cheap acrylic and tempera paints from the art store that are priced much lower because they’re much lower quality. I’d never use these for my Mardi Gras skull masks or my commission pieces (more on that coming up), but they’re totally good enough for Halloween — for these short-lived Halloween projects I’m not worried about the paint looking weirdly shiny or inconsistent, or not covering very well, or rubbing off a little bit if someone touches it.

Decoration is facing a wall? Don’t bother to complete the back of it! My big paper maché bat was totally flat and undetailed on the back because I knew it would be high enough that no one would see that side. I’ve done a ton of decorations that only look good from one side.

So, all of that is what I mean when I say “good enough for Halloween.” I want Halloween itself to be fantastic! But there’s no real benefit in spending more time on some of the individual pieces than necessary. Taking lots of shortcuts means I get to make more things, and really transform my apartment.

Now, on the other hand, for my Mardi Gras skull masks, I do like to go crazy and obsess over ever detail, get my layers of paper maché perfectly smooth, add extra layers of paper maché for more strength, do extra coats of gesso to perfectly hide all the torn edges of the paper maché, etc. I even take time to make the insides of my masks look nice! I’m a perfectionist when it comes to my Mardi Gras skulls, and all my custom and commission paper maché work as well. But if I adhered to that philosophy for the dozens of simultaneous Halloween projects I’m juggling every Autumn, I’d probably never finish any of them.

Happy haunting!

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