Introduction: How to Make a Puppetteerable Medusa Headpiece (and Costume)

This instructable is about how to make a medusa headpiece with snakes you can move! (And the rest of the costume, which is the easy part.) By the time you are finished you'll be turning heads (to stone) in no time!

Step 1: Supplies

1) wet-set fiberglass casts (I acquired some expired ones from a doctor's office that could not use them anymore)
2) aquarium tubing (this will determine the thickness of your snakes)
3) sturdy wire (must be able to withstand and resist repeated bending)
4) wire for attachment (I used a large hobby wire here)
5) cable and crimps (I used stainless steel beading cable)
6) fabric for "skin"
7) fiberfill/stuffing material
8) cotton piping that matches the thickness of your tubing
9) fabric for dress
10) thread
11) puff paint
12) face paint
13) scissors
14) drill
15) sewing machine

Depending on the strength of your tubing, you may also need another tubing that will fit inside the other.

Step 2: Create the Base

Consider how you are going to wear your hair with the headpiece and arrange it. I wore mine up and underneath, so it required room to mold around my hair as well as my head.

Follow the directions on the casts. I had someone assist me, but mine were wetted and then molded. One was molded around my head, and the other was molded from the top back down my neck and upper back.

--you set the first piece with your forehead/ears where you will be comfortable wearing it
--you set the second piece while you are standing up comfortably, so it will curve to the correct arch of your shoulders

Allow these to set/dry.

Step 3: Create the "snakes"

The snakes will be controlled with a cable system. Begin by cutting the tubing the length of the snakes you would like. Allow some length for attaching them to the headpiece, and if you want different curves/poses. (Don't go too crazy with curves, however, as it may not allow the cable to move as easily.)

Looking from the side of each snake, cut triangular wedges out along one side. Looking at it from "underneath" these will look more like a diamond shape. Cut as many as you would like until you are satisfied with the movement (push down on the "top" to see how it will look).

Cut a long piece of steel cable. Thread it through the center of the tube and loop it around the last section through the notch hole. Attach a crimp and knot. At this point you can hold the tube in one hand and pull the cable with the other to see how the snake will look as it is moving.

Cut pieces of the stronger wire and loop one end (to make attachment to the base easier). These will be the "spine" of the snakes. Bend the wire into the shapes you want for your snakes and slide the tubing over such that the large wire stops before or at the point at which the notches begin. If there is any overlap the snake may not move at all or may create some collapsed bends, depending on how strong the aquarium tubing is.

Step 4: Build Base Structure

Line up your fiberglass pieces in the way they will sit on your head. Mark some holes where you can wire them together.

Arrange all your "snakes" in the areas you want them as well, making sure that the bases point down and towards the back (so that the cables will all meet in one area). Mark four dots, two on each side, of the bases of the snakes so that they can be wired in place as well.

Drill all the holes that are marked and wire everything into place. (At this point I had to find another plastic tube to reinforce my snakes so that they did not collapse at the attachment and prevent the cable from moving.)

Make sure the fiberglass parts and snake bases are secured that they do not move. Tuck and clip long wires out of the way so that they do not catch on the fabric.

It may also be helpful to attach some extra tubes on the back to collect and direct all the cables into one place.

Step 5: Build the Snake Skin

(I apologize for the lack of pictures here, my computer ate them.)

The "skin" of the headpiece consists of a "helmet" piece that covers the base and individual pieces for each snake.

To create the helmet piece you will need two mirror-image pieces cut with a dome shape on top and a long, wide tail to cover the back piece as well. Placing them face-to-face, sew along the long curved side (ONLY) and turn the piece right side out so that the stitching is hidden.

Holding the fabric helmet up to the base, mark approximate lines where the snakes will poke through. Cut a slit for each snake, and then pull the fabric over the headpiece so that each snake shows through. For the most part the slits will be hidden so they don't have to look great.

Step 6: Making the Snakes

There must be enough fabric snakes for each tubing snake as well as other snakes to be tied in for "filler".

Each snake is essentially a long rectangle of fabric. It may take some experimenting to get a fabric tube that will fit over the tubing used for the snakes, but make sure it is snug but not too tight.

Cut a rectangle the appropriate length and width. Fold it in half lengthwise such that the "skin" side is now on the inside of the fold. Sew along the length of the open side (not the folded side) and around ONE end (so it is closed on one end). Turn this inside-out.

Using the fiberfill (and this will be easier if you have some kind of tube or stick you can use to push the stuffing in), stuff a wad into the very tip of the closed end until you get a shape of a snake head the size that you would like. If you experiment with the amount and tightness of the packing, you may be able to create some different dimension like a diamond-shaped head, eye or nose ridge, etc.

Pull each snake over the tube snakes so that the stuffed head rests comfortably on the end of the tubing. Tuck the fabric down so that it meets the helmet fabric and blends in visually.

At this point you can make more "filler" snakes which I did both with tubing and the heavy wire (to create poses--these are not articulated) as well as with only the cotton piping. This allows for some variety and also fills in the space between the other snakes nicely. For these snakes I used hot glue to glue the solid tubing snakes to the fiberglass base, and simply wrapped the cotton piping snakes around and through the others to give the headpiece more of a sense of curvy snakes.

Use the puff paint to paint on eyes after all the snakes have been arranged in place.

Step 7: Making the Dress

For the dress I simply bought some discount, thin-looking fabric and created a sort of tube-dress. I sewed it at the top corners so that it would hang on my shoulders and did some gathering at the neck so that it would stay up. I used fabric spray-paint haphazardly to make it look old and dirty, and tied a ribbon around my waist.

However, none of this is absolutely necessary, you can take an old sheet and do the classic "toga" for pretty much the same effect.

Step 8: Makeup

Since I cannot wear contacts, I had to come up with an alternative method to give Medusa the "evil eye" effect. What I did was to paint half of my face a base color that matched the headpiece (with matching lipstick) and created bright white "eyes" on my eyelids. I then painted vertical-slit pupils on top of the white to look like snake eyes.

Make sure that the edges of the fabric on the headpiece are tucked in, or you can also glue the edge to your forehead/neck with a makeup glue or even simple white school glue (which will probably be easier to remove in the long run).

Step 9: The Movement

I wasn't able to come up with an effective system (yet) for managing all the cables for the snakes. My original plan was to run them down my arms to my fingers, but they turned out to require a lot more pulling force than simply wiggling your fingers. The next idea is to possibly hook them up to some sort of motor system that I can attach to the back piece of the fiberglass, but I haven't looked into it much yet. (I welcome any suggestions!)

As it stands currently, I simply pull out a few cables and tuck the rest inside the dress, and pull them with my hands. Even just a few moving seems to have a good effect when people are paying attention!

Happy Halloween and enjoy spooking some folks with your "living" snake hair!

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