Thursday, January 31, 2013

Lovecraft Country

Sweet fancy Moses, this is fantastic. "BlueCollarLove" brings us this map of Arkham, Massachusetts in the style of a USGS topographic plot.  He mentions in his writeup that it's part of a larger project.  I can't wait to see what it is.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Faux Amber

Carim Nahaboo brings us these outstanding faux amber specimens. The stones were cast from tinted polyester resin and have the realistically rounded appearance of wave tossed amber. I'd love to try something like this with more...esoteric...creatures.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

DIY Book Press

Tomes are some of the most difficult Lovecraftian props because of the sheer amount of work required to craft even a small one. First you have to gather or create all the artwork and text. Then you have to do the hard part- bind it. If you've ever tried mounting a text block you'll appreciate this amazingly clever tutorial from "SeaLemonDIY" for making a quick and dirty book press. Given the prices of even small professional presses it's a real bargain for anyone looking to experiment with bookbinding.

It's also a particularly useful tool for propmakers. The only way to realistically age the edge of a text block is to clamp it down and then physically weather the pages as a whole. Weathering each page individually and then binding them together isn't nearly as effective. The first approach gives you even, realistic usage wear. The second invariably looks like a stack of deckled paper because of the uneven, ragged pages.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Centipede Edition.

Copper Centipede once again brings us some intriguing Mythos carvings. This time it's a set of soapstone Cthulhu idols.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

From the Witch House

I can still remember the first time I read Lovecraft's "Dreams in the Witch House". It was during the winter break of 1981. I was a voracious reader and maxed out my library privileges to insure I had enough books to keep me entertained for the whole holiday span. One of the anthologies I had picked up included the tale of Walter Gillman's unfortunate end, and to this day I can recall the impact of the revelation that science and magic were the same thing. That what appeared to be ancient lettering and elritch sigils scribbled on a page were actually equations.

Today that's a well established trope, thanks in no small part to the writings of Fritz Leiber, L. Sprague de Camp, and Fletcher Pratt, but at the time Lovecraft wrote it the idea was brilliantly innovative. It's a foundation stone of the entire Mythos and one of the major reasons I'm still fascinated by HPL's works.

That all serves as prologue to this new prop set from Jason McKittrick, the Witch House collection. All of the pieces are well done, but I particularly like the skull of Brown Jenkin and the sacrificial obsidian knife.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Lurker

Sean Schofield brings us this immense recreation of a Lurker from the "Dead Space" videogame. The finished piece is cast in resin and measures just under three feet in height.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Gauntlet

Count Magnus brings us this armored gauntlet. Formed from hand-shaped brass and bronze segments with a Pietersite adornment.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Sacrificial Bowl and Knives

I have to admit to being jealous of propmaker Mark Cordory. How can you look at something like this amazing sacrificial bowl prop and not be?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Glove of Myhnegon

Paul E. Smith brings us this detailed build of the "Glove of Myhnegon" from the third season of the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" television series. He's painstakingly researched every facet of the screen used prop, from tracking down the original source of the chainmail gauntlet (a butcher's glove) to casting copies of all the decorative elements.

This is just one of the dozens of props from the series he's recreated. Browse through his website and you'll find page after page of reference photos and build logs, including some clever detective work identifying found items. Even if you're not into Buffy it's a valuable resource for anyone interested in occult props.

Update: I somehow forgot to actually include the link to Mr. Smith's work. My apologies.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Staff of Destruction

Dj3r0m brings us this recreation of the Staff of Destruction from Skyrim. Like many other propmakers he's been able to produce some amazing work using medium density fiberboard, or MDF. It's inexpensive, tough, and relatively easy to work with even basic tools. Browse through his album to see what can be done with it, in particular his take on the Ragnarok sword from Final Fantasy.

Monday, January 21, 2013

From Beyond

It's an undertaking that sounds like hipster bait- an old school video adventure game featuring stop-motion animated Lovecraftian beasties. Richard Svensson brings us this fully articulated creature puppet, just one of the many he's created for the project. It was crafted Harryhausen-style with a latex skin over a foam padded wire armature. Mr. Svensson includes some fascinating build pictures.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Liber Occultus

Vodouisant brings us this custom binding of the Liber Occultus. He's pulled off something that's extremely difficult- using brass findings as adornments on a grimoire. Most attempts at that come off looking cheesy.

The thing is that I can't quite figure out why I like this presentation, but generally dislike similar efforts. It may be a combination of the studs and the sheer amount of gingerbread. It's busy enough, but laid in such a clean geometric pattern, that the eye tends to rove instead of fixating on any particular piece. Findings tend to look like bits of brass just glued to a book. Which is what they are, after all. The dimensionality of this mounting helps break up that flat-on-flat effect.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Inner Sanctum

It gives me an immense amount of pleasure to welcome Cryptocurium, our first sponsor.

Jason McKittrick is an talented Lovecraftian artist whose work has appeared here on a regular basis for years. For some time he's been offering interesting Mythos artifacts, including a range of Cthulhu idols and some amazing prop sets. Now he's come up with something I think you're really going to enjoy- The Cryptocurium Inner Sanctum.

In essence it's a sculpture subscription that gives you a regular Mythos fix throughout the year. There are three different levels of membership, each providing an impressive amount of goodies at a very reasonable price. As an example, the basic Bronze subscription includes this Yonaguni Cthulhu idol, a Cthulhu cult sigil pin, a special birthday surprise, and a Cryptocurium T-shirt. All for just $50. That's an incredible value.

If you're a regular reader you know that short run projects have been an important part of the Mythos collector community for a long time. The Inner Sanctum concept is an effective way to get some outstanding items at a reasonable price while supporting an artist who has consistently produced quality work. It's worthy of your patronage, and I'm extremely happy to be a small part of it.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

High Elf Helmet

I shudder to think how many hours of work went into this High Elf helmet from Artist Tiim Välimaa. The basic structure was built up using foam and fiberglass over a steel helmet. The surface was then painstakingly finished in leather.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

My Apologies

I'll try and update the blog later, but my day has been consumed with trying to figure out how to register my deadly and dangerous "assault weapon". That would be the Ruger 10/22 rifle I've had since I was a teenager. You know, the same plinking rifle millions of people have used to shoot tin cans since the mid 60s?

The poor state and local police departments have been inundated with calls from people in the same position as I am. Almost overnight semi-automatic rifles and shotguns in New York became potential "assault weapons". In my case I'm guilty of installing an after-market stock that...gasp...has a thumbhole.

I intentionally avoid politics here, but no matter what your feelings about gun control it's safe to say that making a bill public less than 24 hours before it's signed into law is a grotesque abuse of the legislative process. Particularly when the consequences for violating the law are so serious.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tools of the Trade

Chance Zero brings us this incredibly creative portable toolkit. Are they for adjusting infernal devices? The shaping of flesh? Or the foci of a skilled mage? The fact they could be any of those things is part of the charm.

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Relic

1997's "The Relic" is a great B-movie that never quite lived up to it's potential despite having an A-level budget. One area where it did shine was Kothoga, the brain slurping creature designed by the late Stan Winston. Artist Kevin Gosselin has produced a limited run of the Kothoga idol prop from the film.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Mark of the Crawling Chaos

Stuart Williams brings us these Amulets of Nyarlathotep.  Made from epoxy clay with a nice metallic paint job.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Assassin's Knife

Russian artist Alex Kuznetsov brings us this beautiful Assassin's Knife.  The blade is carbon steel, the handle a mix of bone and ivory with sterling silver adornments.  

Friday, January 11, 2013

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Centipede Edition.

Copper Centipede brings us another wooden Cthulhu idol. I love how he's taken a basic theme and gone through multiple iterations of the design. It would be interesting to see a museum-style display using a group of his idols. Those evolutionary variations are the kind of thing anthropologists and historians get all gooey about.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Jade Skull Amulet

Marc Green brings us this jade skull amulet. The faux stone was created with a blend of Fimo and Premo polymer clays.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Elder Sign Bracelet

Aethermancer brings us this Elder Sign bracelet, made from hand-tooled leather. I like the warty texture of the band, but I'm not familiar enough with leather working to know how it was achieved.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Eldritch Tomes

Janet Juarez brings us a pair of old school tomes. These were created with very basic materials (cardstock, printer paper, and glue) and she's shared a full making-of series of posts. Her presentation shots also have some nice background props.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Lovecraftian Grimoire

William Thomas Damon brings us this well done Lovecraftian grimoire. The book is actually a storage box while the embossment is leather adorned with a glass eye.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Tale of the Tentacles

One of the site's most popular posts is the tutorial on making a tentacle. It's a quick and dirty method using inexpensive materials, and it consistently comes up in site statistics as one of the biggest draws on the blog. Despite that popularity it's vanishingly rare that I actually hear from anyone that's used it.

Devan McGaughey was kind enough to break that trend by sending over some snapshots of some tentacles in action at this year's ZombiCon.

"This is sort of a random thing, but I just wanted to let you know how creative and helpful your tentacle tutorial was. I attended a zombie convention, Zombicon, in Southwest Florida around Halloween last year and the theme was aliens, so naturally I wanted tentacles... I ended up making about 4 of them and, as you said, they were really amazing looking fairly early in the process, and they just kept getting more awesome! I had a bit of trouble figuring out if I was using the right kind of liquid latex (you were right about going by smell - just a whiff of it almost knocked me out) and then with the plastic wrap (I had to have someone else either wrapping or holding for me, and getting it even everywhere, especially toward the smaller end, was challenging), but things turned out very well. I covered the tentacles in a little (a lot) of fake blood, stuck them down my shirt, and was ready to go! Here are a few pictures, so you can get an idea:"

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Bestiarius Edition.

I weep at the thought we'll never see the final version of this Cthulhu idol from Bestiarius. The skin texture alone is amazing.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Lutin

Jacob Petersson brings us this outstanding mummified fae- the Lutin. It's an interesting mix of a whimsical Froud-style fairy with a mummified gaff. The distressed clothing kicks it up another notch.

"Following the death of François de la Motte, Baron d'Aulnoy a curious entry appears in the house inventory- item nr 1443, a preserved "Lutin" under blown glass dome. The item was presumably donated to the curiosity cabinet of king Louis XIV. It disappeared however, during the turbulence of the revolution and the current whereabouts of the Lutin d'Aulnoy remain unknown."

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Broers Edition.

Joe Broers once again brings us a fantastic piece. This time it's a Cthulhu idol inspired by the Mound Builder cultures of pre-contact North America.

There's a lot to like here. The design is not only attractive, but seems consistent with the forms used in the surviving beads and small sculptures of the Mound Builders. What's most interesting to me is how well he's duplicated the look of engraved and polished stone using Super Sculpey.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Triax

Artist Lee Camara brings us this beautiful three bladed weapon. Everything you see was hand crafted from wood. I would strongly suggest you follow the link and browse through Lee's other work. There's some incredibly craftsmanship on display.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Finger of Nephren-Ka

I've been working on this particular project for a while, which is a bit embarrassing. In theory this is a trivially easy prop- a mummified finger. What made it so time consuming is that I wanted to do it with old school gaff techniques while making it realistic enough to meet modern presentation standards.

Part of the problem with doing it retro-style is the dearth of information about the actual manufacture of carnival and sideshow attractions. Some vintage pamphlets from gaff makers have survived, but they don't contain any specifics about techniques. The high end of the craft is maddeningly opaque because the practitioners were so tight lipped. When they died their secrets went with them.

We know from surviving documentation and examples of their work that most pre-WW II gaffs drew on two traditions- taxidermy and puppet making. The taxidermy school used the body parts of dead animals to manufacture gaffs, while the puppet making contingent relied on sculptors working with malleable materials like rubber and paper mache. There was also some crossover between the schools. Puppet-style works were sculpted over animal skeletons, while taxidermists used paste and plaster to modify the shape of preserved animal specimens.

I'm drawing on the techniques of the puppet-style craftsmen. Paper mache is cheap and easy to work with, but can produce amazing results in the hands of a skilled artist. And, lets be honest, it's a lot more socially acceptable than doing taxidermy on the dining room table. Bringing home some road kill for a new project is likely to result in many a night spent sleeping on the couch.

We start with the presentation. It took forever to find a box that was the right size, but I finally stumbled across this one at the dollar store. It was originally a storage box for puzzle pieces and measures 6" by 2" by 1 1/4". Some sanding and a coat of stain gave it a suitably weathered exterior. The label is a re-sized version of a stock specimen label. After printing I trimmed it to size, applied the edge distressing, and tea stained it.

The finger itself. The core is a bamboo skewer. I measured the joints on my right index finger and bent corresponding ones in the bamboo after soaking it in hot water. The joints and body were then bulked out with glue saturated cotton fiber. It's a vintage technique for building puppet armatures and it's unbelievably strong thanks to its composite nature. The cotton fibers and glue mimic modern carbon fiber and resin, producing a final product that's stong in both compression and tension.

My references for the sculpt were pictures of actual mummy fingers and my own hand.  I wanted something between the bony structure of a true mummy and the relatively normal proportions of a specimen preserved with salt or natural tree resin.  Dessicated, but still fleshy.  On that front I think I was successful, but the final result is probably a bit too plump.  The dried flesh should more closely mimic the contours of the underlying bone.  I write that off to the preservative effects of being an occult artifact.

A closeup of the finished gaff.  One of the hardest parts of the sculpt was the slight curve of the finger.  Each joint segment needed a tiny bend, with the fingertip having the most noticeable angle.

Getting the nail right was an exercise in frustration.  I didn't particularly want to try carving a nail from horn, so I broke from the pure retro rules and used some light packaging plastic for the nail itself.  I trimmed out the basic shape and used a heat gun to get the surface curve right before giving it a light sanding and adding a bit of wear to the nail tip.  It was then laid in a bed of paper pulp for final positioning.

Trying to keep the fingernail oriented correctly while I sculpted the rest of the fingertip was extremely difficult.  What I should have done is placed the nail and then gone back and sculpted the details around it.  Instead I engaged in a comedy of errors trying to sculpt the details of the fingertip and the nail bed while the nail was effectively floating in a vanishingly thin layer of pulp.

There were two small details that I really wanted to capture here.  The first is the slight retraction of the flesh of the fingertip under the end of the nail as the finger mummified.  The second is the similar shrinkage that takes place just at the edge of the nail bed.  The nail itself rests on the relatively tough attachment point for the flexor tendons, but they immediately branch to the right and left to produce a fleshy gap immediately behind the nail.  That produces a concave dip as the fat and tissue in the space contracts during drying.  In the picture above you can see that slight constriction.

The final skin was built up with tissue paper and dissolved pulp mixed with starch and a bit of glue.  I sculpted the folds of skin along the joint lines with a finely tipped dental tool.  This, ultimately, was a mistake.  I didn't take the shrinkage of the pulp mixture into account when adding the slight dimple at the joint at the same time as the skin folds.  The dimple is there, but it's shallower than it should be because the pulp shrank excessively as it dried.. 

The end of the finger, with the nub of the metacarpal bone visible.  This is another one of those little details I wanted to capture.  Most gaffs like this don't show any real anatomical detail.  The finger just kind of...ends.

One of my goals here was to have a clear distinction between the skin, the underlying tendons and flesh, and the stub of the severed bone.  I also wanted to capture what actually happens as an amputated finger is mummified.  The bone is stable, but the tendons shrink along their axis of contraction while the skin tightens inward.  To recreate that I first built up the structure of the dried tendons over the bone with cotton fiber and let it dry.  The skin was done separately.  I spread a thin sheet of tissue paper on glass and misted it with diluted glue to build up it's stiffness without building up too much thickness.   When it was dry I applied some fine pulp to one side and wrapped it around the tendons, trimming it to size and blending it in to the rest of the finger with more pulp.

The finish was pretty straightforward because the paper mache was pre-tinted with dark brown pigment that acted as my base color.  Over that I wet sponged some mid-tones and light brown along with just a hint of green.  The final surface treatment was tinted paste wax.  That gave some depth to the color and produced the glossy effect of flesh treated with resin.

All in all this turned out to be a pretty solid piece.  I'd give it a 7, maybe even an 8, out of 10.   It may seem from my narrative that I'm dwelling on relatively small details most people won't even notice, but there's a reason for that.  This isn't a display prop.  It's meant to be handled and closely examined and has to stand up to scrutiny that a gaff under glass or in a display case would never have to deal with.  From a foot way things like tendon attachment points don't matter, but when someone can hold it next to their own finger and compare the two it's something you have to pay attention to.