The Widow is based on a statue that appears in several cemeteries around the world. After retiring several props this year we needed to create a few more to replace them. The Widow was a collaborative project of several crew members resulting in what we think is a stunning prop!
Step 1: Building the Body & Base
For the main structure of the body we used a wood frame, PVC pipe, chicken wire and bubble wrap.
Using the height of the wig head we measured and cut the wood frame pieces to create accurate body proportions. (Measuring to accurate human proportions is something we started doing several years back and makes a huge difference in the finished prop.)
After the wood was cut and screwed together at the base, a wood block is placed between the tops of two pieces of wood and then we thread a short PVC though the outside pieces and the block. The block created a pivot point for the head and the PVC pipe is where we attached the arms.
Once the frame was done we started to wrap frame in chicken wire to get the basic shape we wanted for the widow. (We went a little smaller on the shape than we actually wanted, since she will gain some bulk once draped in fabric). From there we attached the molded bodice from a Costco Swimsuit to the chest and cut it down to fit.
The base was create using a piece of 24"x24"x2" pink foam. We softened down the corners and routed out a 22"x22" insert in the middle that would allow her wood base to fit inside to keep her off the ground.
Step 2: The Arms & the Urn
The arms for the Widow were purchased from a prop manufacturer as a custom order to have their stock foam rubber female arms cast in rigid foam.
We bored holes into the inside of the shoulder pieces to fit the PVC pipes on the frame, then cut the arms (which came straight) at the joints to allow us to get the angles we needed to hold the urn. Once the angles were placed we used 2 part expanding foam to reattach the pieces together, then sanded it down to give a more natural looking wrist, elbow and shoulder.
The Urn was a custom job done out of a 6" chunk of scrap white foam we had. After using a hot knife to cut down to the general shape, the rest of the urn was hand sanded into its final shape. The lid and based were shaped as separate pieces and gorilla glued together to give it a natural lip. After placing the urn we marked where the hand would catch it and sanded that section out to allow a snug fit. Once done we placed the urn using gaffers tape so we could do a final fit on the arms and secure them in place using gorilla glue.
The final piece was to install a small hard drive magnet on the urn and the inside of the Widow's hand to keep the urn in place during the season.
Step 3: Adding the Head, Smoothing the Body & Test Fitting the Fabric
We used a standard wig head as the base for the Widow. To capture the look we wanted to modified the lips and also cut the neck to capture a better angle once mounted. We secured the head to the pivot block, adjusted until we had the correct angle and then screwed the block in place to keep it secure.
After the head was secured we used chicken wire to create a cowl. We used a soda box coated in vaseline to help secure the cowl up during the mudding process. (The vaseline makes it easier to remove the paperboard after the mud is dry.)
We then used large bubble wrap (bubbles on the inside) to wrap to cover all of the chicken wire to prevent the chicken wire from showing through the fabric once mudded.
Using scrap sheets to test fit her gown and cowl so we would know exactly how much fabric we would need and how it would need to be cut.
Step 4: Mudding the Gown & Cowl
Using the test pieces we did a first layer of mudded fabric to ensure no chicken wire would show through. We then cut the velvet and ran it through our signature monster mud dry...unlike lighter or more porous fabrics, velvet does not need to be soaked before being dipped in the mud. Dressing her took 3 people as the velvet is quite a bit heavier than standard sheet fabric is when mudded.
We started with her dress, using one long piece wrapped it around her entire body and up towards her neck. We cut a slit in the fabric near the neck to allow us to run it up over each should giving the appearance of a halter dress. Using a scrap piece of velvet we added sash to add to her shape. Finally we shaped the excess around her feet to cover the wood base.
Using another piece of velvet we started at the front of the cowl, leaving a few inches extra at the front of the cowl so we could fold the edges under for a clean finish. Working our way down made minor adjustments to the velvet to conceal voids (real statues would not have voids). We then used scrap mudded pieces to fill in the void in the cowl around her face.
Step 5: The Paint
Once the Widow was completely dry we used a paint sprayer to do a solid black coat of paint as a base. We used small brushes to get into some of the deeper areas where the sprayer could not reach.
She is then painted with two shades of gray. The first, the darker gray is applied with a large 4 inch cheap exterior house painting brush that has be well used so the edges are frayed. Use the brush to dry brush a coat of the dark gray paint to cover 80% of the black surface of the statue. Be sure to leave black paint showing in all the recessed areas. Let this coat dry before going to the next step.
The second coat, a lighter gray exterior flat house paint is again dry brushed on to cover about 60% of the statue. In this instance you are wanting to just hit the high parts of the statue to bring out the details. Let this coat dry before going to the next step.
We then 'aged' the prop. We do this with a mixture of water and black exterior house about 50/50. Take a squirt bottle of water and spray where you want your drip areas to be and then take a small paint brush with your watered down black paint and drip where the water naturally runs down the statue, be sure to take a dry rag to wipe down the drips so they look like weather washed brink and not dripping mascara.
This makes the statue look more weathered and worn.