Costume by: Sara Bielaczyc and Clayton Pollard
Photographer:  Clayton Pollard

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Every Halloween I have the hardest time deciding what I would like to be.  I dress up at least 3 different times throughout the week.  This year I dressed up in Halloween gear for my boot camp class, as a Vulcan for Halloween Zumba , in retro style at an 80’s night at Zumba, as a witch for Halloween, and as Martha Stewart from her model days!  My most elaborate costume this year was for my brother’s big Saturday night party.  At first I wanted to be a normal mermaid (and wear our Sea Elf Ears and gills!), but eventually it was decided that my boyfriend, Clayton, and I would be reverse mermaids.  Since we work every weekend from mid-August to mid-October, it would be hard to find time to make the costume.  The easiest part for me was finding the clothing which I will go into towards the end of the article.

We decided to make our masks out of paper mache.  We figured it would be light and comfortable.  It would also give us the freedom to be very organic.  The first thing we looked at was this artist’s website and video tutorials: http://www.gourmetpapermache.com/  He makes incredible work.  He has so many great tips and tricks.  The different creatures are so inspiring for your own creative paper mache projects!

Clayton started working on his costume in mid-September, and I started working on mine a week before Halloween.  First, I will talk about my costume.  We made a paste out of cheap bleached all purpose flour and water.  Make sure to fill the bowl with water each time because it is hard to clean otherwise!  I created the main shape on a large bouncy ball I bought at Wal-Mart.  I only went halfway on the ball, so I could remove it once it dried.  I kept my mask in a shallow cardboard box, so I could move it into my studio under the fan.  I learned quickly that paper mache takes multiple days to dry unless it is under a fan.  For the mouth area, I wadded up an oval ball of paper and taped it off center to the top of the ball shape.  I paper mached over this to create the longer mouth area since most fish aren’t perfectly spherical.  Because it had been a long time since I had done paper mache, I ended up ripping off some of it and reworking as I went.  The process was super forgiving and not stressful (most of the time!).

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The main materials I used were newspaper, phonebook paper (which I ended up liking better), masking tape, flour, water, paint, and a plastic ornament.  To the half ball shape, I took some cardboard I found at the office (including the covers of phonebooks) to create scales at the bottom.  I tried to paper mache the entire mask at this point, and it started to collapse in on itself!  Next time, I will make sure to work on one-third of the mask AT MOST each sitting!

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By this time it was finally coming together instead of coming apart as I added more paper mache!  The basic shape was done!

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Next, I needed to add gills.  I made two semi-circles of cardboard and taped them to the side of the head.  This picture shows them with the paper mache already on them.  Also I had a little heater with a fan blowing on it as I worked.

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I twisted the ornament apart and painted the inside with a mustard color.  I use a Golden acrylic paint.  I painted the inside, so it would be shiny and smooth on the outside.  I debated on a pupil, but in the end I decided the yellowy eyes worked great with no pupil. I taped the half ornaments on and wrapped 1/4″ of paper mache around the eyeball.

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Here is a better picture of the mouth.  To create the lips, I did the same thing as before. I crumpled up paper in long tubes and used masking tape to adhere them to the mask which is covered by paper mache.

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I made the fins out of chopped up wooden skewers wrapped in phonebook paper.  I then used thicker white paper towels to make the fins.  At this point, I was nearing the end.  Clayton helped me out and used painter’s tape to mask off the eyeballs.  I then spray-painted the whole thing with a white primer.  I cut fin shapes out of the bottom of the mouth for my visibility.  Behind the holes, I adhered a sparkly translucent blue fabric which was easy to see out of!  I used fancy art store paper as my final layer which was wonderful to work with.

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The clothing was incredibly easy to find which seemed pretty lucky to me!  I knew I wanted to keep a blue theme for the outfit.  I found the fishnets first.  I looked on Sock Dreams because they have some in handy for a couple of my other costumes.  I got the blue stockings underneath the fishnets and the sparkly gray shoes at Target.  I got the dress and jacket on Amazon.  The dress is supposed to be for a 1920’s costume, but it was perfect for me!  There are many choices for sequined jackets on Amazon.  This one matched the color of the fishnets the best.

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I also knew I wouldn’t want to wear my head the whole night, so I made sure to do some cool makeup and wear our ears and gills!  Finding a mermaid make-up tutorial was easy, and actually doing it took no time at all!  I put a fishnet over my head (YES! You do look ridiculous!) and brushed metallic blue eye shadow around the edges of my face.  I also used a little silver make-up to highlight other areas of my face.  I put a silvery light pink lipstick on, and I painted my nails blue.  I tried to use a teal brush-in hair color, but it didn’t work very well.  I’ve tried the hair powders which worked WAY better.

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And of course fish face!

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Clayton had a little more time to work on his.  He made a mock-up of his head and neck to build his mask on.  He also used paper mache.  Since his jaw could move, he filled parts of the head with expandable foam to keep it sturdier for the bolt.  He made the teeth out of Crayola Model Magic, but he found that they were not strong or durable.  He made his eyes light up with dollar store battery operated tealight candles.  He used glossy spray paint as his final layer and used different colors to get the variations of blues and red around the mouth and gills.

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Happy Halloween from Sara and Clayton!

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Products used in this costume: