The Art of Darkness

Tutorial: Mummified Fairy


Materials:

  • Small plastic skeleton – I used a Petite Pete from Anatomical.com
  • Contact cement – I used Weldwood
  • Clean pantyhose (old ones with runs in them are fine)
  • Hot glue
  • Polymer clay
  • White glue (such as Elmer’s)
  • Toilet paper or facial tissue
  • Spray paint
  • Acrylic paint
  • Skeletonized leaves (see below)
  • Shadowbox
Click the thumbnails for larger images.

 
Disarticulated Skeleton
 
The skeleton I used had its arms and legs attached with little bolts. Remove these, or do whatever it takes to disarticulate your skeleton. Don’t worry if an arm or leg separates at the elbow/knee joint, since the pantyhose will hold everything together.
 
Cover with Pantyhose
 
Cut the pantyhose legs into sections of about 12″ to make them easier to work with. Wearing protective gloves and working in a well-ventilated area, slather contact cement onto the torso and stretch a section of pantyhose over it, gathering the extra in the back.

Note: I intended this fairy to be displayed in a shadowbox where the back wouldn’t be visible, so I didn’t worry about visible seams or unfinished bits on the back. If you plan to display your fairy in a bell jar or similar in-the-round fixture, you’ll need to take more care with making the edges meet neatly and invisibly.

 
Covered Head
 
Cover the skull and neck with another section of pantyhose, again gathering at the back. Do the same thing with the arms and legs, except gather the excess at the shoulder and hip joints.
 
Covered Skeleton
 
Let the glue dry thoroughly, then trim away the excess gathered material. Your skeleton is now covered with “skin.” However, it’s probably been laying outside for a while and has begun to decay. So…make some slashes in the fabric below the ribcage, and tear bits off of the arms and legs to let the bone show through.
 
Glued Limbs
 
Glue the limbs back on with a dab of hot glue at the joints and arrange the limbs as desired. I used the barrel of the glue gun to heat one of the hands and bend it into a fist to give it a bit of a rictus-y look, and crossed the arms over the torso. I wanted the general appearance of the fairy to be something that sort of curled up and died, so I tried to give the impression that bits of it were sticking together as it started to mummify. After this photo I repositioned the arms and glued the feet together, and I ultimately wound up twisting both knees and hips over to the side.
 
Ears
 
I figured pointed ears were kind of de rigeur, so I made a couple out of polymer clay. Squish a bit of clay into a thin oval and then pinch one end to make the point. Dry or bake according to manufacturer’s directions.
 
Glued Ears
 
Glue the ears in place with a dab of hot glue. After this photo I also glued a little blob of clay into the nose hole, since having intact ears with a skeletonized face looked odd.
 
Papier Mache
 
Give the corpse a little depth using bits of toilet paper dipped in watered-down glue. Let dry.
 
Spray Paint
 
Cover any exposed bone with tape and spray-paint the fairy. I chose a sort of earthy-brown color. Let dry.
 
Add Hair
 
If desired, give the fairy a few scraps of hair. I got this hair by giving my dog a good brushing, but you could use fake hair or possibly even something like fake spider webs. Attach by brushing a little contact cement onto the head and then sweeping a tuft of hair against the glue to let a few strands adhere. Let dry.
 
Paint
 
Use acrylic paint to add spots of “mold” and “dirt” and to give the eyesockets a little more depth. Let dry.
 
Wings
 
Time for wings. I wanted this fairy to look like something that would be camouflaged in a forest setting, so I decided that its wings should look like leaves. I took a walk in the woods and managed to find some naturally-skeletonized leaves (I found a perfect one almost immediately and then spent another hour looking for another one of similar size and color. Argh), but apparently it’s also possible to do it artificially. (If leaves don’t appeal, you might stretch some pantyhose over a wire frame or mold wings out of clay. Follow your bliss.)

Arrange the leaves as desired–make sure they’ll look good from the front–and hot-glue them to the back of the fairy. Again, since the back would be hidden, I didn’t really care about a big dollop of glue right in the middle. If your fairy’s back will be visible, you may need to figure out a different attachment technique.

 
Mounting
 
My fairy was going to go in a shadowbox, so I cut two sides of a plastic wine cork flat and glued it onto the back to use as a mounting point.
 
Artifacts
 
I decided that the “body” might have been found with a few Iceman-like artifacts, so I made a miniature bow and quiver. The bow is a twig from a curly willow which was naturally shaped like that; you might also be able to bend a green twig into that shape and let it dry. It’s strung with a bit of thread. The quiver is a piece of shed skin from my lizard glued around the cap of a ballpoint pen; its strap is rawhide cord that I had left over from another project. After taking the picture I decided that the feathers in the quiver looked odd so I took them back out. Pretend they aren’t there.

One thing I’d like to really emphasize is that most of the detail bits were made up out of stuff I had laying around. Use whatever you have handy to add realism to your fairy. (Incidentally, I thought about making a shield out of a larger piece of lizard skin glued to some chicken bones. Then I decided that it wasn’t logical for my fairy to carry a shield if he had a bow. Because logic is important when dealing with mythical creatures….)

 
Finished
 
Finally, I added a label. It says, “Common Wood Fairy/Oreades silvestrus/Natural mummification.” I printed it out on some parchment-colored paper and used some little gold spacer beads to hold it in place.

And…done! Easy. Add it to your wunderkammer and display with pride.