She started by inflating several standard-size rubber balloons to about the size of a human head, maybe a bit bigger. These she covered with two or three layers of standard newsprint papier-mâché. This yields an egg-shaped base, which when dry can be cut in half to make two basic “masks.” When I arrived in Georgia, she and my nephew had already made a couple of these into orcs by applying features such as eyes, nose, scars, and scary lumps to the half-eggs with other bits of newsprint molded and dipped into the flour glue.
Orc #1 was based on this attractive guy:
Orc #2 was based on an orc called Grishnakh – different looking but just as generally disgusting as the first model. I used the same process as before – this time giving him a wider nose and heavier browbone. I should say that all this built-up wet newsprint gets a bit heavy, such that especially for this guy the shape of the mask was somewhat distorted by the weight. In a way he looked more clownish and silly at this point than scary, but the great thing about making orcs is that it’s nearly impossible to mess up – your result might be different than expected, but it’s no less an orc. Sum total I probably spent about an hour and a half on both orcs, getting my hands completely gooey in the process, then left them to dry overnight.
Next day, I had two still quite soggy orc masks sitting on the counter. Seeing as the newsprint was more than an inch thick in several places, not too surprising. With the party a few hours away, I pulled out a hair dryer and, switching back and forth between the two orcs, began drying. I regret to say that the carbon footprint for this project was relatively large, as I spent more than a half-hour blow-drying orcs, passing the time reading Entertainment Weekly, until they were still clammy but dry enough to paint.
As party time neared, I was charged with the task of setting up the orc ambush scene. Mom found several odd garments to use for their bodies – old graduation robe, pancho, lengths of old fabric – which I took out to the chosen cluster of trees, along with coat hangers, wire, duct tape, and the four orc masks. Working with my brother-in-law, I found that the best method for hanging the orcs was to make two holes in each mask: one at the bottom (below the chin) and the other at the top (above the forehead). We pulled the coat hanger hook up into the bottom hole, secured it inside the mask with duct tape, and wrapped a length of wire around the top of the hook which we pulled up through the hole at the top of the mask. Then we tied the other end of the wire around a tree branch at about head height. Afterwards I draped the fabric and clothes over the coat hangers, trying to suggest some type of body mass beneath. Some of my judgments here, however, were questionable: particularly the pairing of a red length of fabric with a black graduation robe, effectively turning Grishnakh into a University of Arkansas grad. Anyway. To add a little ferocity, I found several long branches, which I propped up alongside the orcs to represent some type of staff-like weapon. (All the "real," plastic weapons were in use by the party guests.)
Once assembled in the woods, the effect was pretty cool. Somehow my initially clownish Grishnakh proved the scarier (despite his Razorback regalia), while the pointy-eared orc looked a bit goofy. Perhaps it was the lack of teeth. Neither actually came out much like my model - I guess the images wre more inspiration for my own unique creatures than literal models to be copied. My nephew’s and Mom’s orcs looked equally good, and the grouping as a whole made a great backdrop for the archery contest.
The whole papier-mâché dimensional mask idea is one that I'd love to try again - given more time it would've been fun to add stringy hair, build out the ears, use cardboard to make teeth, and otherwise get these guys a little closer to the Weta models. However, I think it was pretty good work considering the time constraints. Maybe for Halloween. Or if my brother ever decides he's Peter Jackson.
Lesson Learned: Where there's newsprint, there's a way: Dimensional papier-mâché sculpting is a really fun and reasonably quick way to achieve great effects; however, next time allow at least a full day for the thick, gloppy newsprint to dry.