Intro: How to Make an Easter Island Head Costume
The date: New years eve 2008
The place: The Doctors mess in Dorchester, south coast of the UK
The theme: "Around the World"
This Instructable details the complete build for an easter island head costume.
I've thought about building an easter island head costume before but the prototype ended up a little bit blocky and there were issues with where to put the eye holes without them looking obviously like eye holes. This version was a complete rebuild of that initial idea, making the entire shape a lot more rounded and making the whole thing much larger.
As ever I have taken inspiritation from the real thing and I've loosely based my design up it. I hope you can see the similarities.
Step 1: The Materials
Is there nothing that can't be done with a lot of cardboard, some PVA glue and a bit of time and patience?
Like most of my costumes the materials are cheap and easy to get hold of. Copious amounts of cardboard are held together with PVA glue and sticky tape. The main ingredient and difference this time is Polyfilla (or spackling paste in the US?). This gives the head a stone texture and a certain amount of density that would be hard to copy otherwise.
Poster paints are mixed with PVA to give the head the desired colour and also a bit of a stony coloured shine. The PVA also serves to make the head a little bit waterproof but if you are intending to take it somewhere damp then I would suggest a quick coat of varnish to make it totally waterproof.
I wish I had a photo of the materials to insert into this step (a good hint to always take more photos of a project). Instead I have photos of the important ingredient taken from the internetz, you don't have to use these exact brands, cheaper 'own' brand alternatives are preferable
Step 2: Cardboard Base Shape
The main shape of the head is simply a cylinder of corrugated cardboard. Remember to roll the tube working with the corrugate, this gives a much smooth and much more even shape.
The top of the head tapers slightly toward the top, at the bottom it should be wide enough to go around your forehead (with some room to spare). Mine was 50cm long, 60cm in circumference and 70cm circumference at the bottom.
The bottom part of the head also tapers slightly (this can be seen in the second image), this was 15cm long, 70cm in circumference at the top and 65cm at the bottom.
As my starting box wasn't very big I ended up building the shape from two sections, this was quite convenient as it left a gap to look out of, instead of having to cut a new hole., tape these two bits together leaving a slot on the front of the head to look through.
Now is a good time to cut a hole out for your head. I chose to cut mine into the back of the head leaving myself a bit of a chin to the mask, I think it looks better from the front that way. This hole will probably shrink once everything else has dried so make it generous in size.
I used a foam insert to fill the void between the mask and my forehead, this provided a bit of pressure between the two and was able to hold the mask fairly securely onto my head. It was bearable for a few hours but you probably want a different method for something more long term.
Now to add some detail to the mask
Step 3: Adding Details to the Base
The point of this step is to provide a rough shape for the head. It doesnt need to be perfect, you can smooth out all those imperfections later (or leave them in because they add character).
I started with the large protrouding brow. This was another strip of carboard, taped around the top of the head. It runs flush against the head on either side and stands proud on the front as a forehead for the mask.
Next I cut more scraps of card to add a nose to the mask. This is mostly one long strip of card with two triangle shapes to run down either side of the nose. You dont have to worry that it doesn't touch the face in every position, later steps will be able to bridge those gaps and hide them completely.
Add some nice big lips to the face, these again were just cardboard shapes, cut and stuck to the mask. You will be looking out of the mouth of the head so try not to close this gap up too much. It's about finding the right balance between people being able to see in and you being able to see out.
Finally I added some ears, these were just two ear shaped pieces of card attached to either side of the head.
Once the details have been blocked out in card you can move on to giving them the exact detail you want.
Step 4: Fleshing Out the Details
Just like my other instructables I used kitchen towel to add details to the mask. It's cheap, flexible and good at providing bulk to the existing shapes.
The only thing that needed doing on this mask was the nose and the lips. I wanted some big nostrils so I used balls of kitchen towel to flair the end of the nose and rolls of kitchen towel to form the circles on the bottom of the nose. These were held down with a mixture of tape and glue. The lips were again just tubes of kitchen roll shaped and glued into position
At this stage I decided to cover my whole mask with a layer of paper and glue to provide a solid base to apply to the polyfilla to. Instead of using newspaper I brought home some to the recycling paper from my workplace. This is a good quality printer paper that provides a much stronger paper mache. I used the paper as A4 sheets to provide large amounts of coverage quickly. Screwing each sheet up into a ball before you put it in the glue breaks down the fibres in the paper and allows the glue to penetrate it better. This strong paper is also much better for covering the gaps that form around the ears and the brow.
As you can see from the photos it is far easier to work the mask upside down. This way it rests on the big flat spot and doesnt fall over. Don't worry too much if the top of the head sticks to the work surface, remember that when completed it will be a long way up and only the tallest of the tall people will be able to see any blemishes this causes.
Step 5: Creating That Stone Effect
This stage is mostly trial and error and personal preference.
Mix up some of the polyfilla according to the instructions on the packet. I like to have my quite dry and stiff. This allows me to smear it over the mask without worrying about it being dragged down due to gravity.
I used a small paint scraper to apply it to the mask, don't worry about it looking a little rough, this wil only add to the stone effect. Remember you want to get the coat of filler quite thin because it is fairly heavy when applied to the whole mask. This is also the time to round off any parts you don't like with a little extra filler.
Once the whole mask is coated it will need some time to dry. You can see the lighter patches on the picture where some of it is drier than the rest. Once the whole mask is dry you can move on to painting it.
Step 6: Painting the Mask
I used a mixture of white and black poster paint, mixed to get the desired shade of grey. I mixed the grey paint 50:50 with PVA glue in an effort to save myself painting the mask twice. As you can see this was a rather fortunate mistake as the resulting effect looks quite streaky and a little bit rock like. This only added to the effect for this mask.
Don't forget to paint the mouth and the head hole from the inside too, this makes sure that no matter how hard people look they will have trouble spotting that it is eesentially just a cardboard tube on the inside.
Follow these steps and hopefully you should have a very large easter island head mask in front of you, of course a few extra tweaks in the costume can make a large difference.
Step 7: Completing the Costume
I wanted this costume to look like the head and shoulders had just got out of the ground and come for the party. I wore a grey jumper that matched the colour of the head and I sewed some model railway grassmodel railway grass around the jumper to look like the grass that was lifted when the head walked off.
Finally I took my flaming juggling clubs along for some extra fun, although not advisable to juggle fire with limited visibility I did feel brave enough to hold them and pose for some photos. I think they go rather well but was a little dissapointed with the street lamp showing clearly over my shoulder, perhaps one day I'll get round to editing that out of the image.