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

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!

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Published by Manning on August 27th, 2018 [No Comments]

“Good enough for Halloween!”

“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. Read more…

Published by Manning on August 25th, 2018 [No Comments]

Custom SLY skull trophy sculpture

SLY skull sculpture - painting finished!

I made this skull sculpture (skullpture??) for my good friend, Twitch superstar Slyvinlisha, aka Sly. I made the sculpture based on two different versions of her logo illustration, pictured below.

SLY skull sculpture - reference illustrations

I started with a nice plastic skull from one of my Halloween skeleton decorations that broke in half due to a spooky Halloween mishap! I broke the neck off at the base and put the rest of the bones away to use for other Halloween decorating purposes. Read more…

Published by Manning on March 31st, 2018 [No Comments]

My mask making process

Hooboy, I’m finally typing all of this up! Here’s my basic process for making big paper maché masks, including materials, my paper maché process, etc. These are just guidelines, and I change parts of this process for almost every mask, but this the basic stuff right here.


I always design my mask on paper, through tons and tons of sketches. I always draw it from the front and sides, and sometimes other angles if they’re important to the design. Read more…

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

Axeman skull mask! — part 2

Axe Man paper mache skull mask

This is part two of my Axeman paper maché skull mask for Mardi Gras 2018; see part one here.

Making the mustache

You may remember from part one I wanted to make the mustache attach to the skull with magnets so it’s removable. Here’s my convoluted process for designing the mustache, getting it to match the curvature of the skull, and getting the placement of the magnets correct.

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Published by Manning on February 12th, 2018 [No Comments]

Axe Man skull mask for Mardi Gras 2018

Axe Man paper mache skull mask

Here’s my Axe Man skeleton costume for Mardi Gras 2018! The Axe Man was a semi-legendary serial killer in New Orleans in 1918-1919; you can read all about him here. This year Skeleton Krewe designed skulls and costumes based on figures from New Orleans history, to celebrate the city’s tricentennial, so of course I picked the creepiest guy I could find. Here’s how I made his skull mask, and don’t miss my other article about making the oversized paper maché axe prop.

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Published by Manning on February 12th, 2018 [No Comments]

Skeleton Krewe — That’s how we roll!

Just a fun animation I made; indirectly related to my paper maché skull masks!

Skeleton Krewe - That's how we roll!

A thing I used to keep quiet on this website but have gotten more in the habit of mentioning is that I’m a member of a Mardi Gras marching krewe in New Orleans called Skeleton Krewe. That’s (obviously!) the reason I make all my paper maché skull masks and skeleton clothes. I’ve been a full-fledged member of Skeleton Krewe since 2013, so I’ve made six skull masks so far. I’ll be unveiling my new one on Mardi Gras morning, February 13th! Read more…

Published by Manning on February 3rd, 2018 [No Comments]

Making an oversized paper maché axe

I made this big ol’ paper maché axe prop for my Axe Man skeleton costume for Mardi Gras 2018 (read about the real Axe Man here!). It was easy to make! Here’s how I did it…

Paper mache axe

(Wax mannequin for scale.)

Paper mache axe - printouts

I started by grabbing a photo of an axe online and editing it in Photoshop to be the size that I wanted; about 48 inches long total with an oversized blade that’s about 16 inches long. Read more…

Published by Manning on December 28th, 2017 [4 Comments]

Tiny hand-made crown for my bunny rabbit!

I made this tiny crown for my old blind bunny rabbit, Acide, for this 13th birthday! It was a quick last-minute project and I didn’t take any pics of my steps, but it was really easy; I’ll explain how I made the thing…

Tiny paper mache crown - Acide wearing the finished crown

I designed the basic shape for the crown on paper and then traced that onto craft foam and cut it out.

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Published by Manning on December 28th, 2017 [No Comments]

Painting a skeleton shirt with fabric paint

I’ve already posted two articles about painting skeleton clothes — my first skeleton suit, and a new pair of skeleton pants — and I learn something new every time I paint up some new clothes.

I’ve been wearing my skeleton suit every Mardi Gras for years now, usually with a black dress shirt, sometimes with a tie and/or vest, but last Mardi Gras (2017) was so warm it made me realize I also need an option that doesn’t involve layers. So I decided to paint this skeleton dress shirt. Read more…

Published by Manning on December 27th, 2017 [No Comments]

Craft foam sea serpent and other relief shapes

I made these layered craft foam reliefs to use as decorations on the paper maché globes I made recently.

Craft foam relief - Isabella the sea serpent

I designed three different relief elements for the globes: Isabella the three-headed sea serpent, a ship based on the Crewe of Columbus logo, and a simple compass shape. I decided to make two copies of each, so each of the two globes could have all three elements.

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Published by Manning on December 10th, 2017 [2 Comments]

Paper maché globe decorations

Paper mache globe - ship and compass

You may remember recently I posted about making a three-headed sea serpent sculpture for the Crewe of Columbus, a Mardi Gras parade group in Mobile, Alabama. The same wonderful client from that project also commissioned this pair of paper maché globes, which go along with the Crewe’s theme of world exploration; they’re going to be hung up as decorations in the same ballroom as Isabella. These were really fun to make!

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Published by Manning on December 10th, 2017 [6 Comments]

Paper maché technique: multiple layers and even coverage

I use this method for some of my paper maché pieces when I need multiple layers but I don’t have a ton of time, and especially if the weather is good for drying quickly outdoors — hot, sunny, and not too humid.

The whole point of this method is saving time by doing multiple layers of paper maché in one session but keeping the coverage nice and even. Backing up a bit… usually it’s not possible to cover your base entirely in a layer of paper maché all in one session because you’ll end up gluing it to your working surface. Read more…

Published by Manning on November 30th, 2017 [No Comments]

Ancient Egypt Halloween party

My Halloween party theme for 2017 was ancient Egypt! This is one I’ve been wanting to do for about 20 years! The theme is so rich with built-in imagery, colors, mythology, monsters, etc; it was insanely fun to explore. Here are some of the projects and costumes that went into our ancient Egypt Halloween party…

I started off by sending out our annual animated invitation; I make these every year, and my friend Robbie Davis always supplies music, and in this case, lots of cool sound effects. Read more…

Published by Manning on November 8th, 2017 [2 Comments]

Paper maché Anubis mask

I made this paper maché Anubis mask for Halloween 2017, for my ancient Egypt-themed Halloween party.

Paper maché Anubis mask - finished!

My main goals for this mask were to make something that would be wearable for all or most of my party; I wanted to figure out a way to make a large paper maché mask like this that allowed me to hear very well, see very well, and have good air circulation. I’d never worn a full head mask like this for my Halloween party, and I know from experience with my big Mardi Gras skull masks that seeing and hearing can be a challenge! Read more…

Published by Manning on October 31st, 2017 [No Comments]