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

Strangler ghost costume!

Hooboy, this costume was a big undertaking! The basic concept for this costume is a lightweight ghost sculpture, made with wires inside to make it somewhat adjustable, and it’s attached to a harness worn under one’s clothes. There were so many different parts to build and so many problems to solve, and I basically made up the whole thing as I went along, jumping around from part to part in a weird order. So, I’ve put together as much info as I can about how I made this thing here…

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Published by Manning on November 1st, 2016 | 2 Comments

Cheap and easy DIY knife props

These are so easy! For my séance Halloween party, I wanted a quick and easy method to make dozens of knives and have them floating in our kitchen, held aloft by murderous ghostly hands (i.e. hanging on fishing line). The knives needed to be lightweight, cheap, and relatively quick so I could make a ton of them. (I also wanted them to not actually be dangerous if one of them were to fall on someone; the lightweight part is key there.) I came up with this method that’s really fun and easy and the knives look great. I made all of these in just a couple hours (with some drying time for the paper maché and the paint). Anyway, all ya gotta do is…

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Published by Manning on November 1st, 2016 | No Comments

Crystal ball decoration for my séance Halloween party

This homemade crystal ball decoration was for my séance Halloween party. The main decorations for the party were lots of pieces of lightweight paper maché furniture hung upside down on the ceiling. This crystal ball was the centerpiece for all of that, hanging upside down from the little paper maché table I made. It was fun and easy to make!

I considered a lot of options for the clear ball part itself; my main criteria were that it had to be lightweight, transparent, and preferably cheap. I ended up buying an 8″ acrylic globe off of Amazon; these are meant to go over a light, like on a light post in front of your house or whatever. They come in a lot of sizes, with options for clear or frosted, and mine ended up being about $11. You can find these at Home Depot too.

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Published by Manning on October 31st, 2016 | No Comments

Creepy paper maché hands for my ghost costume

I made these creepy hands for my “guy being strangled by a ghost” costume! (Article about that whole thing coming soon.) You could use this same method for posable, realistic hands for any kind of monster decoration: a witch, a vampire, a zombie, etc!

First, I traced my own hand onto a sheet of craft foam (aka Wonderfoam). I kept my thumb stretched way out since ultimately I wanted these hands to be in a strangling position around my neck.

Paper mache ghost hands - tracing and cutting

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Published by Manning on October 20th, 2016 | No Comments

Paper maché spooky lamp prop

This is part five of my paper maché furniture projects for my séance Halloween party; see part one; chairs, part two; table, part three: mantel, and part four; nightstand.

I got the idea for this lamp when I saw this plastic bottle of almond milk in our fridge; it’s a neat bowling-pin shape that’s perfect for an old-timey lamp. I decided to add this lamp project to the list of lightweight paper maché furniture that we’re hanging from the ceiling for our spooky séance party.

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Published by Manning on October 20th, 2016 | No Comments

Paper maché Victorian nightstand

This is part four of my paper maché furniture projects for my séance Halloween party; see part one; chairs, part two; table, and part three: mantel.

Paper mache nightstand

Okay, one last piece of furniture before I lose my mind! This time, a floating haunted nightstand with a floating haunted lamp.

I started the nightstand with three big pieces of foam board — the front, back, and top.

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Published by Manning on October 20th, 2016 | No Comments

Mantel prop for my séance Halloween party

This is part three of my paper maché furniture projects for my séance Halloween party; see part one; chairs and part two; table.

Mantel and fireplace decoration for my seance Halloween party

This mantel is possibly the biggest paper project I’ve ever made! (Well, this or the giant spider.) I don’t have a ton of work-in-progress photos for the construction of the mantel — I did a tremendous amount of sketching and measuring beforehand, and a lot more along the way as the thing came together and I kept adding things. Almost all of the pieces are foam board, with a little bit of poster board, all held together with lots and lots of packing tape and masking tape.

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Published by Manning on October 20th, 2016 | No Comments

Paper maché table for my séance party

This is part two of my paper maché furniture projects for my séance Halloween party; see part one (chairs!) here.

Paper mache table - finished and ready to paint

With the chairs done, I moved on to the table! Unlike the chairs, I didn’t have a real table handy to use as a model for this, so I just made up a table based on some Google image searches for victorian round table.

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Published by Manning on October 12th, 2016 | No Comments

Paper maché chairs for my séance Halloween party!

For my upcoming séance party I wanted to have a few pieces of paper maché furniture stuck upside down on the ceiling — a table with a crystal ball, two chairs, maybe a little dresser with a lamp, etc. The main guidelines I set for myself are: the furniture all has to be extremely lightweight, since it’ll all be attached with thumbtacks to the ceiling, and it doesn’t have to be super realistic, since the lighting in the party will be low. I started with the chairs; here’s how I made ’em!

I have some simple Ikea chairs that I used as a model. My plan was to trace and/or draw the various pieces of a chair onto foam board, and then cut out all the pieces and assemble ’em and hope they resemble a chair.

Paper mache chairs, painted

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Published by Manning on October 11th, 2016 | No Comments

Halloween 2016 theme revealed: Séance!

Check out our animated séance party invitation! You (probably) ain’t invited but feel free to check out the video.

Coming soon: tons of paper maché and other ghostly decorating projects!

Published by Manning on October 11th, 2016 | No Comments

Teeth-making tips for big paper maché masks

In all of the large paper maché masks and heads I’ve made, the teeth are always, always the most labor-intensive and challenging (and sometimes frustrating!) part. I’m always amazed at what a large proportion of my time and effort go into such a small part of the head! I’ve tried a few different methods for making teeth over the years, with varied success. Here are the methods I’ve used, and some pros and Cons:

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Published by Manning on October 3rd, 2016 | No Comments

Advanced paper maché mask-making tips, part 2

Okay, I wrote up some more of these tips! (Part one of my tips for making big paper maché masks is here.)

Design a base that’s easy to break apart

Maybe my favorite part of the whole mask-making process is the step when all the paper maché is dry and it’s time to cut the mask open and remove all the foam board, styrofoam, poster board, etc, along with tons and tons and tons of masking tape. While fun, this can be challenging and a little annoying at times because lots of the large shapes are locked into the paper maché and you have to do a lot of work cutting them apart from the inside before removing them in pieces. Read more…

Published by Manning on October 2nd, 2016 | No Comments

Making big paper maché masks — advanced tips

In making all my big paper maché masks I’ve learned a lot of important things along the way — things I could only figure out through trial and error, but now that I know about them they’re a huge help in every subsequent mask I make. I’m by no means an expert! I’ve only made four big skull masks so far, and I have two more in the works (one skull and one non-skull) but with each one I can see them getting easier and easier to make and to wear, thanks to these tricks I’ve worked out over the years. Here are some of them…

Making big paper maché masks - advanced tips

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Published by Manning on October 1st, 2016 | 2 Comments

Tip for drawing perfect circles

A lot of my projects call for drawing various circles to cut out of foam board or poster board. If the exact size isn’t important, I just trace a plate or a bowl or whatever. But sometimes I need a circle to be a precise size, so this is the trick I always use.

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Published by Manning on July 1st, 2016 | No Comments

Tips for working with gesso

If you’ve ever created any paper maché projects and then painted them, you’ll surely have noticed that the edges of your paper are often still visible, sometimes even after several layers of paint. I hate seeing those paper edges in my stuff, and I’ve learned I can reduce this with a few techniques, like being really precise with my last layer of paper, and doing a final layer of just paste smoothed over the whole shape with my hands. Still, even when I do that stuff I end up still seeing those paper edges through the paint sometimes. It drives my crazy.

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Published by Manning on July 1st, 2016 | No Comments