Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Medica Della Peste! (props)

This year is the first time since high school I have had a dedicated Halloween costume!  This is quite exciting.  I'm going to be a plague doctor/Venetian carnival reveller.  This ensemble is the product of one late night's hurried inspiration and about 3 days of intense making.  I have modded my wedding skirt slightly into something shorter and poofier (thinking of the sheer volume of carnivale outfits), picked out my plainest shirt and vest (to not distract from the headgear), made the hat of all hats, and an array of props.

Many of the photos are on my laptop, so I'll have to edit this post later.  But I had to share some goodies.  first off all, a good plague doctor will carry charms, prayers, and all sorts of thingums to counteract the foul vapors arising from the city streets!  I carefully drew up an old "abracadabra" charm, and copied a couple from Defoe's A Journal of the Plague Year.  

I figured I'd also need a fan to wave away the stench of the plague houses...or the aroma of Venetian canals...

And a mask!  Of course one needs a mask.  This one is a two-buck plastic shell from AC Moore's.  I spraypainted it, lined the edges with gold paint marker, and added a charm because one must.  There is no room for reticence at Carnival.  Or in the Eat, Drink, and Be Merry hedonism of soon to be plague cities...

And one needs mystical things for the otherworldly atmosphere of the Carnival....Behold, a Rider-Waite tarot deck that got a pretty sweet makeover.  A while back, I was going to make a Tibetan-style book.  But I made the mistake of gluing all 72 cards to one side of the papers, thereby making a wedge, rather than the "block" of pages that would then be bound with decorative boards.  Still, there had to be something to do with them....

I cut them out, trimming them to rectangles, which to my eyes looks more "ye olde".

I stamped the backs (which were the plain paper they were affixed to ages ago).  This stamp is little bits of medieval/ren/old typefaces, so it keeps things looking anachronistic.

And here's a half-finished card.  The tarot were not done with their journey yet, however...they had to be antiqued!

Here's some of the cards, laid out on a baking pan, covered with coffee and grounds, in the time-honored DIY paper aging method.  I did this for the programs for my wedding and got pretty good at it.  All you do is  drizzle/sponge coffee onto your paper (let it cool!), sprinkle grounds for added age spots, and bake until dry on your ovens' lowest setting.  You'll have to keep an eye on the paper, and make sure the rack is not right up by the heating element, but you can end up with some really cool results.  And your kitchen will smell of coffee if you're into that :)

If you have one of those pod-brewers like the Keurig, you can still do this.  Just rip the foil off the used pod and you have a few batches' worth of grounds!  This can get messy, but cleanup's easy.  A damp dishrag will rescue your stove and counters.

At the end of this, I was left with a tarot deck that was yellowed, a bit wrinkled, and looked like it had seen some years.  Just the way I wanted it!

Ok, here is the hat of all hats.  It's built onto a fedora my husband wanted to get rid of.  I cut out a larger brim from a cheerios box, as well as a top, and hot glued them to the fedora.  I was inspired by tophat-like carnival head-dresses.  Top hats are pretty basic, so they seem like a good place to start  with DIY millinery.

I proceeded to cover the "shell" with burgundy satin, and gluing the whole thing.  Inch by inch...fold by fold!

 I added all manner of stuff, once it was covered.  Flowers, a little skull, lace for height!  I went nuts.  Since revellers must conceal their identity, I wanted to make sure I'd be covered, so I added a  burgundy velvet placemat to the back of the hat.  There's a similarly colored window valance now as a veil for my face.  Surely, I will be a mystery :)

This was an interim shot, just to show some friends what I did on day 1.  These are the potpurri sachets for the "posey" I'll be carrying to ward off the plague.  They smell divine!  They're 2 blends from that I used in my sachet tutorials.

The posey itself is really an antique salt shaker I found at a secondhand store.  I'm presuming it's really old, since it's metal, but who knows.  It makes a great holder/stand for the posey.

I couldn't leave well enough alone, so I added the skull and jawbones to make a chimeric beast :)  Because I can!

And there you have it, most of the bits and bobbins I'll be putting on myself for this Hallows eve!  I'll have some shots of the full ensemble posted soon!

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