In our previous posts in the series of turning your house into a Haunted Mansion we have looked some general ideas and theming as well as the construction of your own 13 Hour Monster Clock. While most theme parks are content to just let you wait in the hot sun as you slowly inch closer to a ride, you can leave it to Disney to even make queuing up entertaining. One such area is the graveyard on the entrance and wait area into the Haunted Mansion. It is so interesting with so much to look at sometimes I regret skipping it when I have a fast pass and walk straight into the mansion. One of the most iconic elements in the graveyard is the tombstone of Madame Leota, the disembodied head you will later meet floating in the crystal ball of the séance scene.
As you approach this unique weathered teal face it will occasionally open its eyelids and stare at you with ominous green pupils. I wanted to create this tombstone as a piece to hang on the wall. I made this piece with the blog in mind so I made it with all things that can easily be purchased. I also did it without expensive tools or impressive sculpting skills.
I started by looking for a proper oval base. I started out thinking I could find a large wooden base or plaque with a routed edge at the hobby stores, but I could not find one in the large size I needed. I found a large wooden letter “O” at Hobby Lobby. The large hole in the middle would pose some problems later but nothing too disastrous. The best part was it already came with a pre-routed hole for screw to go in for it to hang on the wall.
I also wanted to have the realistic eyes. I found some large green eyes on Amazon meant for dolls that were $8. I had two options. One was more of the shocking bright green eyes like you see on the ride the other eyes were more realistic. I could not find bright green realistic ones. I opted for the realism of the ones pictured below.
As for sculpting the head I found these great female faces that slip over Styrofoam mannequin heads on eBay for $20. That was a bit much but they came with Styrofoam head also, which I will be using on a later project. I cut out the plastic eyes from the form and secured the new realistic doll eyes behind the head with hot glue. I trimmed the face to sit flush and angle properly on my base board.
For the overlapping veil flaps on both sides of her head I rolled out a sheet of Super Sculpey with a rolling pin and cut them into 7” x 9” rectangles. I then folded them properly and baked in the oven. Sculpey is available at most craft stores. It is not the strongest of materials but it is easy to work with. Super Sculpey is discussed in more detail in the Mary Poppins Umbrella post. I later filled the cavities with a material to avoid the veil ever getting crushed or collapsing.
As for the hair and scarf I needed some serious volume and did not want to add a lot of weight or waste a ton of expensive sculpting material. One trick is to build up the under areas with tinfoil to take up the space and save your material. I rolled the foil and shaped them and secured them with some construction adhesive. I had to make them a bit longer then they should be to cover the opening in the large wooden “O”.
I opted for a different sculpting material, Free Form AIR by Smooth On. This is a bit of a specialty item but can easily be bought online. It is a 2-part process where you mix part A and part B to start a reaction that leads to it hardening. I would recommend wearing rubber gloves. I have a love hate feeling toward the product. It is absolutely remarkable and unlike anything else on the market, as it is so light weight (it honestly feels lighter than air) yet dries hard as a rock. It must be seen and felt to be believed. The down side is it is a crumbly mess when you are trying to mix the 2 parts together and it is not the easiest to shape or sculpt with. I went with the Free Form because all I needed to do was shape folds in fabric and hair so it was not too complex. It would let me get the volume I needed and add no weight whatsoever to the piece. Also, Sculpey can be dried with a blow drier or heat gun but that process would have melted the plastic face and been heavy. I would suggest letting the Free Form set a while after mixing to let the process of hardening start to make it easier to work with.
I sculpted the parts in phases. I started with the veil one night. I let it fully cure and the next night I did the top of the hair. The following night I did the two large parts that sweep away from her face.
When it was done I taped over the eyes to protect them from the paint. I covered the whole piece in few coats of fillable and sandable primer which covers imperfections and smooths out and unifies the entire piece. I then put a few thick coats of Krylon Color Master MAX Coverage Satin Black Paint. I followed that up with a few coats of Valspar Gloss Exotic Sea (seen below) and finished it off with a few more coats of Krylon Color Master MAX Coverage Satin Surf. Really you can get by with just the final color; I was just using what I had on hand and playing around by mixing the coats at various levels.
I finished it by mixing some black craft paint from Walmart with some water creating a dark soupy mixture. I covered the entire piece and begin to wipe it off with large amounts of paper towels. Always wipe against the ridges. This is process known as a wash. It gives it that weathered and grimy look. The dark paint stays in the cracks and crevices while you wipe it off the high points which showcase your details. I kept adding paint and wiping it away until I was happy with the look.
I let it dry, added some sticky felt pieces to the back to protect my wall, and it was done.
Until next time…
The Imagine Ears features the DIY projects, adventures, and thoughts of a father and daughter who use a shared love of all things Disney to create memories together through encouraging her interests in architecture, design, Imagineering, while exploring history and science.