Introduction: Pie in the Face Paper Mache Mask

About: I Build Monsters.

"I want to make a mask that looks like food."

That was the text I sent to my boyfriend a few days back. It was a fleeting notion, unformed, without direction. But I knew that would be my next project.

At work the following day, I was showing my co-worker some pictures of the Average Bear mask.

"Do you know what you're going to do next?" he asked.

"A mask that looks like pie," I replied, without hesitation, almost as if that was a decision I had made at some point. But as soon as the words came out of my mouth, I knew that they were true.

Step 1: Preparing the Top Crust

I thought about free-forming this mask, but decided that if I made a plaster-gauze cast of my forehead and eye area, I would probably have an easier time ensuring that the pie would sit correctly on my face. This is almost certainly true; the resulting mask is far more solid and heavy than it would have been otherwise, and probably looks like a more realistic pie than I would have achieved if I had gone the other way with it.

The mask was also more complicated than it would have been, but I've never been one to shy away from complexity (at least not when it comes to projects with no meaningful purpose). I'll get more into that as we go along.

With the plaster base completed, I cut a strip of poster board to represent the top of the crust, and another to represent the center line of the slice of pie, and I attached them to the face. At the top, I took a small strip and taped it into a circle; the top strip was mounted on this circle, to lift it up and away from my forehead. Astonishingly, this small circle in the middle of the forehead ended up being responsible for a lot of the design choices I would make on the fly.

I used more strips of poster board to frame out the pie slice, and then bent two more strips and taped them in to create an eye area. The whole thing was then skinned over with masking tape, and I set about coating it with my new favorite toy, Paper Mache Clay. This was still the same batch that I made two masks ago, and I will be using up the rest of it on this mask.

Now that I had this first bit of construction finished, I sat there and pondered what I had done. Essentially, I had two sets of eye openings: the ones in the plaster mask, and the ones in the pie crust, which was basically suspended above the plaster mask. How was I to reconcile this? Do I join the two together, creating deep-set eye sockets? Do I build the pie mask and then, once it's complete, cut the plaster mask away entirely?

Then it hit me: the only thing that should be under a pie crust is pie filling. So I should make the portion of the plaster mask that was visible through the pie holes into a part of the pie filling!

Step 2: Meanwhile...

I took more of the paper mache clay and started making blueberries. I had an idea of how to accomplish the pie filling: I would build straight-sided "walls" for the filling and then use the clay to create an uneven surface that suggested the idea of berries. This could then be painted to reinforce that illusion.

Additionally, I would make a bunch of individual blueberries, painted by hand, which could be glued on over the solid surface. So, while the top crust was drying, I was making blueberries - just rolling clay into little balls, and then using a metal spatula tool to pry out a blueberry hole. I didn't even make the hole in all of them. Eventually I counted and discovered that I had made 55 blueberries.

Step 3: Filling Filibuster

I had intentionally dried the top crust with a bit of a curl, to give it some character, so I had to cut side-walls with a fairly dramatic scoop trimmed out of them. This is also where I decided where I wanted the filling walls to be, relative to the edge of the crust, which determined where they would intersect the plaster base. I then cut off all of the plaster that extended beyond the borders of the filling.

While the whole structure was still open, I also packed clay in between the plaster eye holes and the pie crust eye holes, making an internal surface that I could use for pie filling later.

Packing in that clay adds an appreciable amount of weight, and the quantity required was greatly increased by that circle I used to lift the pie crust up and away from the plaster base. It doubled the amount of space I had to fill!

The poster board filling walls were given a healthy coat of paper mache newspaper strips to create a firm, stable surface for me to work on. After the initial coat, I used poster board to put in the bottom crust. I had toyed with the idea of only including the pointed front of the bottom crust, leaving the back of the pie (against my face) to look messy and uncontained, but I ultimately preferred the cleaner look of the fully realized slice of pie.

I built the complete bottom crust, and brought it all the way up the back to join behind the plaster base, then I gave the whole lower structure a coat of paper mache to integrate it with the top part.

During this process, I had to figure out how to tie the mask on, and I decided to run a ribbon straight across the forehead, under that little circle I had made. I built a series of tubes out of poster board to channel the ribbon, taped it all in place, and then packed the opening full of paper mache clay. This, of course, added even more weight than the stuff I packed in behind the eyes, but it also sealed off all the openings and made the pie into a much better-looking object than it was before.

Step 4: The End of the Clay

With the ribbon installed and the top of the mask sealed off, it was finally time to add a fluted edge to the rim of the pie, which was pretty much exactly like adding a fluted edge to an actual pie.

Then I started making little balls of clay, pressing them into the edge of the filling walls, and smearing them into the shapes I wanted. I just kept adding more where it looked like they were needed, and painting on flour paste with a paintbrush to help seal it all in.

Step 5: Bake at 350 Degrees Until Golden Brown

This step is actually about painting the mask. Under no circumstances should you attempt to bake your mask at three hundred fifty degrees until golden brown.

Starting the paint job was weird, because I had to paint the top crust first, which meant painting something that was basically dough to look like cooked dough. And it was a bit counterintuitive, since one typically adds the palest highlights to the topmost features, whereas here, the topmost features had to be the brownest because it was supposed to be pie.

The berries were done with a base coat of straight dioxazine purple, which dries to nearly black and is a perfect starting point for blueberries. Then I added a light cadmium red, which really brings out the pink tones and makes it much richer than the more violet cast of the base coat. A little white made an excellent highlight, really helping to sell the illusion of the densely packed filling, and once I glued on the additional blueberries I think it really looks great!

Step 6: The Future of Pie

Okay, here's the big secret: this mask isn't even finished yet.

Yeah, I'm jumping the gun here because I'm pretty excited about this thing and I'm a bit of an exhibitionist so... I wanted to show it off. But this is supposed to be a pie, consarn it, so the berries need to be glistening with sweet delicious syrup. That means I've got to use a high-gloss varnish, but I haven't got any. I ordered some, and I waited almost two whole days after ordering it before I wrote this Instructable, but the varnish still hasn't arrived.

That means sometime next week I'll do the final steps and post the results here, but until then, please enjoy this nearly-completed pie mask.

I'm thinking of putting together a costume for this mask, something like the Purple Pie Man except, obviously, totally different from that. But a purple chef's hat would be a great start, and matching apron. Something like a chef's whites, but dark and maybe a bit militaristic. My absolute fantasy accessory would be a purple leather butcher's apron, but I never find anything like that at the local thrift shop.

Step 7: Shiny!

Quick pick of the pie after the additional work. I applied a layer of gloss varnish and after re-assessing the pie, I decided that I wanted more. So I made about twenty more blueberries and added them to the filling before applying another layer of gloss varnish. To finish, I tinted some varnish with a little diox purple and some magenta, then slathered it over the surface and allowed it to pool along the bottom like juice.

Halloween Contest 2017

Participated in the
Halloween Contest 2017