Friday, November 1, 2013
Just What the Plague Doctor Ordered
The past four to five weeks has seen some significant changes around the Campbell household. I've been struggling a little bit while I attempt to adjust to the new schedule of physical activity and tracking food for myself, appointments and physical therapy sessions for my sister-in-law and taking care of extra duties around the house so my wife can actually get some rest after twelve to fourteen hour work days. So when we were invited to a Halloween party/ wedding reception on the first weekend of November, my initial reaction was less than enthusiastic.
I'm not one who really likes to dress up for Halloween or other costume occasions. It's not that I don't enjoy the idea of it, it's just that I usually have trouble coming up with a costume idea that I both like and that will work with my chunky build and often limited finances. I put things on the back burner to simmer while I dealt with the chaos of life around me. On Sunday I realized there were just six days to go. Luckily an idea had been taking shape... the plague doctor.
But I didn't have a hood, hat or robe. Some modifications to the theme were needed. Inspired by the following masks, I decided to update the 16th century guy to somewhere roughly around the turn of the 19th century.
Now if only I had some leather, leather working tools and the skills to use them. No joy there. What I did have around the house was some poster board from a starship deck plan project, some brown paper and cardboard from our recycling box, and a whole new slew of ideas to try using a modified paper mache technique.
My overcoat would be substituted for the robe. A scarf and mask would take the place of the hood. I recently purchased welding gloves and wing tip boots that I could wear. I only needed to make the mask and the hat. I won't talk at length about the construction, but here are some progress shots as the pieces came together with a few notes on materials.
I started with a poster board mask. Patterning is a bitch for me so it was a lot of estimate and fit it later.
Here the mask is being covered with a brown paper and polyurethane mache. These were the materials on hand which became a happy accident. The final material is waterproof, tough and flexible.
The hat is constructed from corrugated cardboard with poster board over card board strips for the sides.
The mask now has details added in cereal box card board. And the holes for the rivets are drilled.
It was spray painted white with a walnut stain rubbed on it. The beak has been stitched and the metal work painted.
A strap made from a belt was added and the rivets were placed. These are 1/2" brass fasteners.
About the same time I finished the hat with a paper mache covering, hat band from cereal box, and stitching all around.
The final mask details were made from electrical fittings; some kind of insulated plastic bushing.
The hat was spray painted orange brown with the same walnut stain rubbed onto it. It came out a rich, non-uniform red brown. Very close to what I had envisioned and very little effort.
Some pics of it together:
Total out of pocket expenses for the hat and mask came to $11. Time involved was about twelve hours. Well worth it though. I can honestly say this project was a real sanity saver. It gave me a creative outlet that was a departure from my daily fare. It was calming, centering and energizing at the same time. Just what the plague doctor ordered.
Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.