Monday, September 30, 2013

The Eye of Azathoth

The prolific Jason McKittrick brings us The Eye of Azathoth, a Mythos-themed ouija board.  It's a limited run piece that will only be available for a week.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Easy Eyes

Well, relatively easy.  Sytnathotep has a tutorial on using epoxy and photo prints to produce some very nice eyes.  The results are near taxidermy eyes in quality, but for just pennies apiece. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013


The history of exhibition gaffs, defined narrowly as fake or manufactured creatures and body parts intended for viewing by the public, stretches back thousands of years.  For most of that time they were primarily religious in nature, serving as fixed or traveling examples of spiritual or mythological belief made real.  What's really interesting is that the phenomenon crosses cultural boundaries.   No matter what the belief system or era you'll find all sorts of ginned up "artifacts" associated with it, from the mummified kappas of Japan to the West's long tradition of collecting the body parts of Christian saints.

The desire to see a bit of the divine may have waned, but it's still around.  Hence the existence of a site like For All the Saints, a ministry that specializes in making Catholic relics available to churches for special occasions.  Browsing through it's collection gives you a fascinating look inside a cultural niche that draws on thousands of years of history while being surprisingly technologically aware.  I mean no disrespect, but YOU CAN ORDER A PIECE OF ONE OF GOD'S CHOSEN OVER THE INTERNET.  That's absolutely amazing.

From a propmaking perspective, there's a lot of really interesting stuff here.  Catholic relics have been a huge influence on gaff displays in the West, with very specific iconography like rayed circles and sealed mounts becoming secularized over the years.   Just look at this presentation of a bone chip from St. Anthony of Padua.  Even non-Catholics would immediately recognize it's something precious and highly valued thanks to the ornate stand for the theca, the small sealed case that contains the actual relic.

The ritual around the authentication of relics is pretty interesting in itself.

Any bishop or leader of a religious order may produce relics. The small piece of relic material is usually enclosed in a locket-like container called a theca which has frequently been highly decorated by nuns. The relic is tied into the theca with red thread and then sealed with red wax. While the wax is still soft it is imprinted with the seal of office of the person authorizng the preparation of the relic.

Starting in the Middle Ages many abuses grew out of an illicit trade in relics, many of which were counterfeits. The Church declared that any relic that would be used for public veneration must be accompanied by a document of authenticity. The document describes the relic and is signed by the authorizing official or his representative. Below are a couple examples of these "authentics."

As usual, the guidelines for spotting fakes are where propmakers will find some of the most useful material.  Props are by nature counterfeits, so experts trained to spot them are the best resource for everything from how to make a realistic wax seal to duplicating Vatican documents. 

I know some of you are probably asking yourselves "Why is he featuring this?"  Two reasons.  One, relics are an important part of the history of gaffmaking.  Two, a site like this is a goldmine if you're willing to use it.  I'm thinking particularly of vampire hunting kits.  Almost every existing example is a Blomberg-style kit, which I'd argue is decidedly Protestant, if not Calvinist, in it's presentation.   They're workman-like collections of tools almost totally devoid of ornamentation, designed to physically combat the menace of vampirism without any consideration of fighting it's spiritual taint.

It's not hard to explain why they have that aesthetic.  The most obvious reason is that the originals were put together by British antique dealers based on celluloid examples created by British propmakers for the Hammer vampire films.  Both groups had limited cultural exposure to Catholicism, not to mention a notable dearth of Catholic items to draw on.  Ironic that, given the explicitly Catholic Abraham Van Helsing from Stoker's "Dracula".

Oddly enough, the Catholic church and it's approach to vampire killing has been a far more prominent in literature.  I'm not sure why propmakers have been reticent to draw on that body of material, other than the fact that there are vanishingly few visual references.  One interesting example is John Steakley's "Vampire$", which featured all kinds of Catholic goodness, like Vatican vampire hunting warrants, customized and blessed stakes for self-destruction in case of infection, and specialized rituals.  Something that was totally dropped from John Carpenter's rather dodgy film adaptation. 

I'd love to see someone tackle a "Catholic" vampire hunting kit, filled with all kinds of ritual items and documents drawing on the church's long history.  The aforementioned warrant would be cool to see, as well as sanctified weapons, specialized gear for emplacing seals in and around structures, spriitual "decontamination" kits for treating infection...the possibilities are endless. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Pirate Treasure

Nightshade FX brings us this wonderful pirate themed tableau.  The skullcap pirate map is a custom piece cast in resin.  I believe the rest of the items are commercially available props, including the vintage style hand irons.  What isn't off-the-shelf is the wonderful rusted patina on those cuffs. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

You Gotta Have Heart

Nate Barton brings us this phenomenal prop heart. The sculpt has an amazing amount of detail.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Joyner Edition.

Lee Joyner is an incredibly gifted sculptor, something on display in his winged Cthulhu sculpt.  You really need to click through to look at the high rez picture.   Two things that stand out are the detail work on the eyes and the very subtle skin texture.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Cthulhu Jewellery

I'm happy to welcome Cthulhu Jewellery, our latest sponsor. I've had the pleasure of featuring a variety of pieces from Stuart Williams over the years, so having him on board is particularly satisfying.  He offers some fantastic sculpts, both from an aesthetic and Mythos perspective. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Faux Snakeskin

It's turning into bubble wrap week around here.

Yesterday I stumbled onto a way to make amazingly realistic snakeskins.  Take some small package bubble wrap, the kind with bubbles around 1/4 of an inch in size.  Place it bubble side up on a sheet of glass.  Hit with a heat gun on high.  Tada!  A cast off snakeskin.

Sadly, the occasions when you need some faux snakeskin are few and far between.  I did think of two applications this would be useful for.  The first is a gigantic snakeskin for a cryptozoology display.  Roll out some bubble wrap, trim it roughly to the elongated V-shape of a real snakeskin, and hit it with the heat gun.   During the meltdown process it seems to shrink about 60%, so you'll need a pretty long run of the stuff to make an impressive trophy specimen.

The second use would be as a surface treatment for the tail of a Fiji Mermaid style gaff.  If you could shrink the bubble wrap around the tail structure you would get an excellent fish-like scale pattern.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


The improbably-named Fifi Colston brings us this helpful bit of magic- turning bubble wrap into blisters. I love finding little gems like this on craft sites that normally specialize in projects best described as "precious" and "adorable". Heh.

If you're the type that loves to go over the top you could even make these poppable. Just inject it with fluid using a syringe and then seal it up with a dab of liquid latex. The best budget "goo" for that kind of thing is probably cornstarch and water with a few drops of food coloring.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Ring

Morgan W. Loebel brings us this delightfully squicky ring.  There's some wonderful texture work in the sculpt.  What really stands out is his use of multiple types of polymer clay, from translucent to flesh colored to glow in the dark. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Centipede Edition.

Copper Centipede returns with another hand carved Cthulhu idol. This time it's finished as aged bone.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Future of Propmaking

 Want a Kandarian dagger from "Evil Dead"?  Really love the titular prop from Brian Yuzna's "Necronomicon: Book of the Dead"?  Now all you need to make a duplicate is a picture of the original.  This is absolutely amazing technology that converts an image into a 3-D model that can then be sent to a 3-D printer. 

Cthulhu Fhtagn! McKittrick Edition.

The prolific Jason McKittrick has a new Cthulhu idol available. I absolutely adore the worn finish on the figure on the left.  It really captures the look of a clay artifact that's been buried for millenia.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Great Cthulhu

The gifted Stuart Williams brings us this nicely done necklace of Great Cthulhu.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Necronomicon, Mille Cuirs Edition

The talented Mille Cuirs brings us this Evil Dead style copy of the Necronomicon. The cover is hand bound sculpted leather with glass and resin embellishments.

Monday, September 16, 2013

On the Road to Riga

In a helpful example of synchronicity, Meliadhor brings us this assemblage of items and ephemera from a period railroad trip to Riga. It's a great example of the storytelling-via-props idea David Anaxagoras was discussing in Friday's post.  The set includes a hand bound leather journal, camera, a period map of the Riga railroad route, tickets, and an authentic railroad watch. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Lords of the Dead

Bill Doran and his wife decided to attend DragonCon in the guise of two Draugr Deathlords from Skyrim. He's been kind enough to post a complete build log for the costumes. The process includes everything from using pepakura templates for the helmets to tailoring EVA foam to create the incredibly detailed armor pieces.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

More and more stores are now rolling out their Halloween goods, and there's some really cool stuff available this year. I'm making an effort to publicize this kind of thing because I've inevitably found myself saying "I wish I'd bought that back around Halloween" every year. Usually around February/March, when I have lots of time for projects.

The Dollar Tree chain has their usual assortment, and there's lots of things a propmaker would find useful. Their "skeleton garland" has become the go-to base for all kinds of mummified fairy projects, even though I find the figures a bit crude. That said, even goofy skeleton bits can be re-purposed to add some detail to larger projects.

One thing Dollar Tree really goes nuts with is body parts- fingers, ears, eyeballs, feet, and hands. The fingers are a great base for mummified fingers, while adding a coat of raw latex to the ears turns them into great trophy necklaces ala "The Walking Dead". Both the hands and feet are seriously undersized, but they're still a great base for projects. And, of course, EVERYTHING IS A DOLLAR!

The Rite-Aid chain is a bit "Meh" so far, but they do have a cool little "Groundbreaker" set. It includes two skeletal arms and a skull designed for yard display, as though an animated skeleton was bursting forth from the ground. All the pieces are undersized, something that's not surprising given the $19.99 price point. The skull is a little crude, but it's a good foundation for larger projects. The arms are far better. They're ideal for anyone looking to do a mummified hand or arm. Pose the fingers with a heat gun or hot water, lay on some paper mache skin, add some fingernails, and you're in business.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Out of the Box

Writer David Anaxagoras is tackling a new project that's right up our alley- building a narrative with a collection of props.

I’m currently working on something I’m calling a story box. A story box is a collection of related artifacts that imply a narrative. The story is constructed, interpreted, by the recipient of the box who weaves a tale that incorporates and illuminates each of the artifacts.

While the curator of the box might have had a specific storyline in mind while gathering or creating artifacts, different recipients will obviously conjure different stories. This is participatory storytelling, where the “audience” is perhaps more responsible for creating the tale than the “author” is. Ultimately, it’s an open-ended game that encourages creative thinking and imagination.

If that all seems a bit abstract, let’s try a specific example. Let’s say you wanted to create a story box about a world-weary cynical American who runs a bar in war-time Casablanca. Your “box” might be a courier satchel containing letters of transit, a gun, a newspaper article, sheet music for piano, a lease agreement for a night club, postcards from Paris, an empty gin bottle and so forth. The story of how these objects are connected is up to the receiver to interpret.

I'm looking forward to see how this develops. Mr. Anaxagoras has some strong media writing credentials that bode well for the project.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Motoring to Arkham

"Fghtan" brings us this vintage road atlas map of Lovecraft country. It's a great recreation of the kind of period ephemera you could pick up at nearly every roadside gas station, right down to the color palette . The only changes I would make are giving Arkham its canon location in Essex County and losing the "Shoggone" in-joke, but that's just nit-picking.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Tinting Glass

When you think horror prop tutorials it's a good bet that the home design site Fancy That doesn't pop immediately to mind.  But their tutorial on color tinting glass bottles is ideal for anyone doing specimen jars.  The technique is cheap, easy, and all the things they view as negatives, like streaking and mottling, are actually positives from an aging perspective.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Not of This Earth

Artist Mike Sneath brings us this creepy little alien fetus.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Fossil Mermaid

Artist Tony Rice uncovered this fossil mermaid. And still mainstream science denies the existence of such creatures!

Sunday, September 8, 2013


The prolific Dan Smith brings us Nasilnese, yet another handy fantasy font.  The glyphs are a nice blend of cuneiform and eastern brushwork.

Saturday, September 7, 2013


Marc Green brings us this protective amulet against the Hoodwinker, a potentially deadly nature spirit.  Click through to the large version to see some wonderful texture work. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Cthulhu Fhtagn! Robkin Edition.

Artist Ken Robkin brings us his take on the traditional Cthulhu idol. It's part of an interesting Kickstarter project that features a running narrative leading up to the actual delivery of the idol. It's a clever approach that features the kind of accouterments I adore.

That said, I'm going to hold off on saying it's a good project to support. If you remember, last Christmas I pointed you towards this Cthulhu cultist artifact from artist Allan Harwood. That turned into a huge debacle, with multiple people left with nothing to show for their money. Because of that I've hardened my attitude toward any project where the goods aren't finished, in hand, and ready to ship. Unless I know from personal experience that the artist has a track record of following through on their commitments I'm going to avoid anything that might be seen as a recommendation.

Update:  I'm very happy to say that Mr. Robkin has offered to answer any questions you might have in the comments.  Just leave a note and I'll get them posted as quickly as possible.  I would say that his appearance bodes well for the project.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Amulet of Gaulder

Black Owl Studio brings us this recreation of the Gaulder Amulet from Skyrim. It's made from polymer clay, which makes the wood grain effect even more impressive.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Prop Spacesuit

Since I was a kid I've had a thing for space suit costumes.  It started with the retro style efforts in movies like "Abbot and Costello Go to Mars".   I absolutely loved those suits, and as I caught more classic science fiction on cable I started to recognize how often they had been re-used and re-dressed for use in other movies and television shows.

It still amazes me that amateurs are now producing suits that rival some of the props produced by professionals.  This beautiful "Terranaut" effort from "Mcj2burn"  is a good example.  It was made for a low-budget film, and his gallery includes some detailed shots of the buildout. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Relic

Artist Ugo Serrano brings us this intriguing mummified hand. The accoutrements really capture the feel of traditional European religious relics.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Mexlar Font

Mexlar is a free fantasy font licensed for personal use by Cumberland Fontworks. It's suitable for all sorts of scrolls and tomes. The fact that it hasn't suffered from overexposure like many fantasy fonts makes it particularly useful.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Amulet of Azathoth

Stuart Williams brings us this iron and resin Amulet of Azathoth.