Monday, January 10, 2011

Project: MOOSE

paper mache moose head

This project is a moose, not a monster. I volunteered to make a moose head trophy for the stage play "Catch Me If You Can" by Weinstock and Gilbert, in which I'm playing Inspector Levine (January 2010). Although there were few surprises it was still a challenging project with several moose-adventures.

I started out by tracing a moose silhouette onto cardboard of the size I wanted. After padding the silhouette with plastic bags stuffed with paper to round it out I covered the form with tape, paper and plenty of 'mooscilage'. Bruce is starting to look like a moose (or a cow).

The early-stage eyes are visible, resting in the egg carton, above.

This was my first project of this size so, naturally, I learned a few things while doing it.
Big projects require more drying time so using fans helped tremendously in drying the paper.

A closer view of the cranium with stoppers in the ends of the pipe

Looking quite cheerful here with ears attached - clearly inspired by Thalia, the Moose of Comedy. Or is it Muse?

Moose is less than life-size.
I obtained a length of 3/4" I.D. PVC pipe and made it part of the head. This would later receive the ends of the antlers.

The eyes worked out much better than I imagined; they really make it 'come to life'. Eyes were made from foil balls covered with Sculpey (bakeable hobby clay), painted, then given several coats of polyurethane gloss.

(BTW, I found out that they no longer sell varnish at my local hardware store - it's all poly now! "Grampa, what's varnish?" Shaddap, kid.)

A face you can trust!
Eyes were mounted in the proper places and back-filled with paper-mache clay. (The eye above looks cloudy because it's covered in sandwich wrap which will be removed after body painting.)
(Note the notch in the nose - this was added to facilitate hanging a sign from it during the play.)

Check out that shine!

Ears were relatively easy - I made forms of coat-hangar wire and stretched white glue soaked bedsheet material across them.

Preliminary antler 'plates'
A lot of thought and work went into the antlers. Fortunately, each moose's antlers are unique, so I couldn't go wrong on the shape. I finally settled on cardboard ovals with tape and paper-covered wire for the points. 3/4" dowel worked just fine for the horizontal supporting members. These were angle-cut and fastened to the ovals with screws. I covered the antlers with (true) paper mache of a clay-like consistency to give them a pleasing shape and fill in voids. Lots of filing and sandpapering was needed to get the smoothness I wanted. The antlers were then painted, stained and given a gloss coat. The 3/4" dowels of the antlers were inserted into the ends of the PVC. I drilled into Bruce's head from above and secured the antlers with pegs to keep them from rotating.
Albinism is rare in meese...mooses...moose

The biggest challenge was in mounting the darn thing. After removing the stuffing, the neck turned out to be too weak to support the weight by itself, so I took a rectangle of cardboard and joined it to the neck as a base. Once this was dry and solid I screwed this base onto a wooden frame I built for added stability, then covered this with pre-printed wood-grain paper. (Other methods could have been used here but I wanted the plaque to match the trim on the set.)

Another consideration was hair. Did I really want to go to the trouble of covering a stage prop with faux hair? Certainly it could be done, but live performance was approaching and I was running out of time! I finally located some fake fur at a hobby shop, but decided to paint Bruce using a base coat then dry-brushing. This looks acceptable from the audience. I covered his pate with fur and gave him a nice, moosculine beard.

Voila! Congratulations ma'am, it's a moose!

moosehead left profile
Bruce the Moose

He looks pretty good from 3/4 views, but there's a definite centerline ridge visible from the front. More rounding before papering would be better next time. A friend commented that the antlers are way too small for a moose. Aside from the fact that this was a stage prop, he's probably right. Next time, more moosive antlers!

I told someone that the hardest part wasn't making the moose, but in knowing where to cut off the head! (She probably thinks I've got a moose body stashed somewhere.)

Annette, that Inspector Levine's back. Check out his moooose!
("Hot Fuzz" paraphrase.)

    "So that's that, and that'll be that, and that's the end of that!"
    Inspector Levine, "Catch Me If You Can"


Your monstrous comments are welcomed.