Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Altered Coffin and Halloween Finery... and I'm probably going to sewing hell for this project!!

A week or so ago I stumbled across a cool channel on YouTube that someone I subscribe to had watched so now I have subscribed to follow myself. The channel is Serena Bee and you can find her on YouTube here.
The first video I watched was her Halloween Challenge and Giveaway for 2013. The prize Serena is offering is totally cool and packed full of Halloween goodies, but it was the challenge itself that attracted me. Either alter a miniature coffin or make a Halloween inspired ATC. I love making ATC's but the idea of altering a mini coffin was just too cool to resist so I set my mind to participating in the challenge.
And here was where I encountered my first hurdle...
Over in the US of A (where Serena Bee is based) mini coffins are available on just about every street corner... well at least in every Michael's store and at a measly USD$1.50. Here in New Zealand we don't have a Michael's (only the Michael Hill jewelry stores) so that option was out. I tried a couple of the larger craft stores to no avail either. I even checked the Amercian store here (Martha's Backyard) but not a mini coffin to be found.
What I did find and ultimately used, was a paper mache pencil case with straight sides and a flip up lid. It still does look like a coffin just not the generally accepted (and first to spring to mind when you think of a coffin) six-sided shape but the bonus was I could design it with a split lid which I could lift up for a viewing.
I painted the coffin (as I no longer think of it as a pencil case) inside and out with black acrylic paint. Then I sliced the lid in half to create the two independently open able lid portions. In hindsight, I should have done this before painting as the cutting process pulled off some of the paint, so a touch up job was required.
About now I pondered for a bit as to how I wanted to decorate the coffin. I bought some gorgeous green fabric and a spider and web pendant, neither of which I ultimately used. Instead I decided to add some flames along the bottom border of the coffin. (Although that sounds like a quick and easy decision it was actually more like a desperate clutching at straws as I didn't know what to do or where my mojo was hiding at the time.)
I checked out the flame related stencils I have but they weren't really designed as borders nor were they designed for such a small project. The height is only about 1.5" so I decided my only option if I wanted the flames was to design and create something myself.
I downloaded some stock images from the internet and used several images as inspiration for the design. I drew my design onto a strip of heavyweight plastic (cutting board or place mat from the $2 shop) then cut it out using my Tim Holtz Cushy Grip Scissors and Retractable Cutting Blade.

I placed the stencil along the edge of the painted coffin so that the base of the flames was the bottom edge of the coffin and pounced on some yellow acrylic paint using a cut up piece of makeup sponge. The design was quite detailed and some parts relatively intricate so I wanted a lot more control of what I was doing, hence the make-up sponge.
My conclusions on this step...
1. The image created by sponged on the paint was not as strong or as sharp as I imagined or wanted.
2. As the coffin was made from paper mache, the surface was actually that smooth, so achieving a crisp clear edge on the flames was not easy as the stencil did not always lie completely flat on the coffin.
3. Putting the yellow paint over the black was as you can imagine not a simple task and more than one coat would be needed in order to not end up with a "dirty" yellow look.
I thought about laying the stencil back in place and going over the image again with the sponge but decided this might just end up making a complete mess of things, so instead I decided to paint over the image by hand using a fine detail brush and using the stencil image as my pattern.
This turned out much better. Not only was the yellow paint completely opaque this time, but I was able to clean up the image and ensure that the outer edges of the flames were all much crisper and cleaner.
I repeated the paint job with orange and red acrylic paints ensuring that each subsequent layer of colour left some of the previous layer showing to give the flames a colourful and dimensional look. For the red in particular I made sure to use a "flicking" painting movement to give a softened edge to the image rather than a hard, unnatural look.
At this point in time I decided that I didn't want to cover up too much of the paint job having put so much effort into it and I also didn't want to just put a skeleton into the coffin. It was way too cool for that, but instead I thought the coffin would be more suited to a Vampire Doll who used the coffin as her hip and trendy "hidey hole".
I traipsed around Papakura and the surrounding area for the perfect doll. Ten or was it twelve shops later I still didn't have the perfect doll... though I did have a couple to choose from. I found there was a predominance of really tall "fashion" dolls and mermaids neither of which I wanted or really short dolls that would have just looked silly. The two dolls I did find were still both a little tall so some creative "plastic surgery" would be required to make them fit but at least the were a faux Monster High look so the doll I eventually chose was already a "Vampire" (all be it a pink one).
After some delicate plastic surgery my Vampire girl was about an inch shorter (just don't look under the clothes to see what I did in order to make her shorter... it wasn't pretty!!) and she now fits inside the coffin, all be it still a tight fit.
(Above you can see how much I shortened her in order to get her to fit.)
While out doll shopping I had also picked up a cushion cover to cut apart and use as the fabric to line the coffin with. This is something I have done in the past and is a much cheaper alternative to buying fabric from a haberdashery store. The cushion cover was only $2.00 from the cheapo store, yet gave me two generous squares of silk fabric in two different styles (and a zip I can use for another project).
I cut the fabric to size then completely cheated. If you are a sewer you might want to skip this bit. If you don't know how to sew then read on...
Time was of the essence and I couldn't be bothered getting out my sewing machine and hand sewing was going to take forever... so I cheated. To provide a crisp edge on the coffin lining and to ensure the fabric didn't fray (as fabric usually does) I folded each edge over and stuck it to the back of the fabric (wrong side) with masking tape. (Yes I know I am probably going to sewing hell... but tough, if I can live with it then so can you). No I didn't take any pictures... I hid the evidence of my evil doing!!
I then adhered the fabric in place using Helmar's Fabric Tac glue. It is worth pointing out that I did the inside of the base in one piece but the lid was covered in two pieces so that the two portions of the lid could be opened independently of each other with a nice crisp edge along the centre split of the coffin lid.
The then hand sewed a coordinating outfit for the doll. She is dressed in a camisole style top made from black ribbon of two different widths and a orange and black skirt. Both the skirt and camisole are decorated with a frilled black lace to accent and provide a feminine touch. In addition the skirt is lined with a black tulle under petticoat though both layers of the skirt have been tacked together so that the skirt doesn't flare about too much preventing the coffin lid from closing properly.
The doll originally wore some red plastic filigree boots with slipped on her lower legs. I coloured these black with a permanent marker so they now are black with a red undertone which looks really good against the orange lining.
The final touch was some black ribbons in her hair before I laid her to rest in her new home.
I love the look of this project. I am so pleased with the way everything turned out especially the flames on the outside. It take a lot longer than I thought it would but that included sourcing the coffin, fabric and doll as well as all the hand sewing of her outfit, not originally included in my planning phase, but that said... I really didn't mind to get the end result.
Now I just need to keep it away from my 4 1/2 year old Granddaughter who has been eyeing up a new doll for her extensive collection!!


Dawn Turley said...

You have outdone yourself on this one Paula. It is completely stunning. I am so impressed with your patience and perseverance.

Paula Lynne said...

Thank you Dawn. Yes my stubborn, not to be defeated streak sometimes has a positive outcome lol.