Sunday, June 26, 2016

Witch's Jawbone... Er, Skull

Every once in a while I feel romantic and want to make something special for the Pretty One. Some of you may remember the Blood of the Innocent cocktail and Child Skull Goblet I made for her before. I didn't quite know what I was doing and should I ever try to make another I'd probably do a few things differently but all in all I loved the way it turned out. It also gave me the experience to step up the next one a bit.

This is that next one,

The Witch's Skull...

As an avid reader of Proponomicon I saw a post a while back showing a prop from TheMonkeyRadio called The Witch's Jawbone and thought it would make a lovely present for The Pretty One. As I looked at it I thought to myself, I'm good at making stuff, why not give it a go myself and see what I can make. The Monkey radio mentioned that the prop was from an actual account of a witch burial so I did a quick search and found this...
A grisly end: 800-year-old remains of witch discovered in Italian graveyard… with seven nails driven through her jaw
As much as I liked the museum piece jawbone in its presentation box, I figured I'd do a trophy or altar worthy skull just to be different, I read through a few prop sites, read up on corpsing and came up with a plan.

I got a basic skull, shrinkwrap, latex primer, acrylic paints, some Elmer's and a terrible wig that I somehow salvaged to use. I still have these crappy nylon hairs all over my living room. Lastly I got some nails from an 18th century New England barn as I wanted it to look as old as possible. Maybe the skull of this girl wasn't from 12th century Italy but from a good old Puritanical American witch-hunt.

Because I actually had a plan, I drilled the 7 holes through the jawbone for the 7 nails. As fun and therapeutic it would be, I figured that actually hammering the nails in would just break the poor girl.

I liked the positioning so I set about fixing the jaw in as wide open a position as possible.

Next, I wrapped her with shrinkwrap to start the desiccated skin effect. The first time I tried it I only wrapped it around once or so which didn't leave me enough material after hitting it with a heat gun. Needed several layers to keep from vaporizing with the heat gun and leaving nice crusty flesh.

After some trimming a latex primer was added before painting the skin to match the skull. I wanted the flesh to match the same tones as the bone.

Now that the skin was all set, it was time to re-insert the nails through the old flesh and add a nice little carved warding.

Now she's starting to look pretty and she's as done as she'll be until I mount her to a base,

I got this piece of wood from ASPauljoy on Etsy. I probably could have easily sourced something more local but it was the perfect size and finish and only a few bucks. I did a light dremeling of the design before hitting it with some fire.

After the torching was done I added 13 nails around the circle of the pentagram. The article about the Italian gravesite mentioned that not only were 7 nails driven through the woman's jaw but her corpse was surrounded by 13 nails which I also wanted to incorporate into the presentation somehow. Another corpse had 17 or so bone dice around her but I felt like I wanted to keep it a little simple. Besides, it took me a while to find the write lettering style for "Malefica". It all turned out well, but it really needed more fire...
A couple of long woodscrews through the bottom of the base up into the skull and she was fairly secure. Most skulls I found online were hollow, even ones like this one I got specifically because it didn't have the removable top of the cranium, but this one was solid resin or plastic. I would have actually preferred to use a hollow skull as I'd feel more secure if it was mounted with a toggle bolt instead of being at the mercy of the material the skull to not crumble or tear out at some point.

I originally was going to mount the entire wig I got and braid the hair through the 13 nails on the board. Unfortunately the wig was really fucking ugly and a nightmare to do anything with so I snipped a few clumps of the white hairs off of it and attached them in locks with masking tape and Elmer's.

After that, it was just a little finishing paint up over the new hair and some other touch ups.  A quick hit for an acrylic finish spray and she was all done.