Nov 2, 2010

Faux Rocks and Paper Mache

No, this is not a post about food... BUT, since most foodies are pretty crafty (with their recipes), and love to find interesting ways to recycle (who doesn't?), I thought this would be a post of interest. It was certainly interesting to me!

A while back, we decided to redo our front and back yards. Good friend and housemate, Mark helped to make this long overdue project a reality last week. A large cement truck was involved, and at the end of the day, we had a beautiful front patio and a lovely sunken back patio. After smoothing everything out, Mark had the ingenious idea to use the leftovers to make two large concrete "boulders."

These remarkably real looking boulders were made simply by building a mound of dirt, covering the mound with concrete, then smoothing out the concrete and adding cracks and texture with a small trowel. Powdered concrete dye was added during the sculpting process to add some color. Pretty cool, huh?

Rocks and Boulders made of Concrete
Mark works on smoothing out his concrete rock (our backyard patio in the background)

Me and My Rock
Side view of my rock
The other project involved the nostalgic childhood art of paper mache. Every Halloween, we do something special for the kids in the neighborhood (probably because we don't have any of our own). We usually decorate the front entrance with a scary tunnel and show movies on our huge projection screen that we use in our DJ performances, as well as some of our lighting effects. It's become a Halloween tradition, and something our neighborhood looks forward to every year. Of course, we always want to outdo ourselves- but I hate to spend a ton of money on decorations! So this year, with some trepidation, I decided to make some of my own.

Once I got the hang of it, it was a pretty simple process. First, build your form, making sure it's bound tightly with tape or string. Then mix 1/2 cup of flour and 2 tablespoons of salt, and about 2 cups of water, and simmer on the stove until "gluey." Then add ground up paper until you get the consistency you want- sticky but not sticking to your fingers too much. You can also use dryer lint, among other things.

Paper Mache Characters
Tree face made with flour, water, salt, recycled paper, dirt, and pebbles for eyes
Made "spookier" with uplighting and tombstones!

Harry Potter Mandrake Plant made with a stuffed onion bag, masking tape, and branches from an old plastic plant

Adding paper mache made with flour, water, salt, and recycled brown paper bags
Crying Mandrake- the finished product! I used a little black acrylic paint to accentuate the face and wrinkles.
On Halloween night- I  used a little voice recorder (you can see it behind the middle plant) to play the screaming sounds that I recorded directly from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, and put it on auto-loop with the volume on high.  The Mandrakes are sitting on top of scrunched up bags with potting soil to fill in and around the tops.
I also made Harry Potter's Dobby with plastic shopping bags, cardboard, and masking tape
Using the same technique as the Mandrakes, but I used recycled white copy paper (junk mail, old bills, etc.), which turned out gray in color
The face was painted with black, white, and yellow acrylic paint.  I then cut the sleeves and neck off an old white T-shirt and tied it onto his shoulders.  I originally wanted to have him hanging from a tree branch (thus the arm being up), but the tree was trimmed, so he got to sit in a chair, looking light a student raising his arm to answer a question LOL!
Teo gets into the spirit, and tries on Mike's SF Giants Panda Hat. They won that night, and became THE WORLD SERIES 2010 CHAMPIONS!!!
Overall, Halloween was a great success, with over 150 kids coming through!  We showed Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince on the big screen in front of our house, which drew some kids to stop and watch.  The front entrance to our house was converted into a tunnel with fog and lighting effects from our DJ business, as well as my props. 
Entrance to the tunnel on the left, big movie screen on the right, and we had large fire lights in each window to make the house look like it had eyes!
Entering the tunnel, which wrapped around to the left
And, here are our beautiful pumpkins that we got from our neighbor, Garry, who works at the Veg Crops Dept at UC Davis.  
We're so fortunate to have a neighbor like Garry, who provides us with free pumpkins every year!
"Giant Rat and Pumpkin Cat" and "Alien Eyeball Pumpkin" (with glowing eyeball lights!)
Mark's Pumpkin Castle, made with his Dremel carving tools... COOL!
 Special thanks to everyone who helped!  ... Now, on to Thanksgiving!


  1. Wow, what an incredibly impressive post. You make your own rocks! And the mandrakes...those are worth keeping around after Halloween, in my opinion. A couple sitting amongst the other plants on your new patio...just stuck in...

  2. Crafty is an understatement here! Such marvels, such creativity, such fun. I love that Giant Rat!

  3. Awesome creativity! I love the mandrake plants.

  4. Wow, the faux rocks looks incredible and so realistic! Love all the Harry Potter stuff, very nicely done! Halloween looks like so much fun at your place. Can't wait to see what you come up with for Thanksgiving! :-)