Celty’s Head (Durarara!!)

The jar later received a significant upgrade! Photos and explanation here.

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Taylor writes:

Our second commission was for the same cosplay group as the helmet: the head of Celty Sturlson in a jar.

(It should be quickly noted that the character in question is a headless fairy spirit from Celtic mythology who has had her head stolen by nefarious persons.)

The head came about as a challenge from my esteemed colleague Toadvine to myself, to whit, could we produce such an item within a forty-eight hour time period? (That, sadly, being the extent of the free time we then possessed.)

It was clear we’d have to divide and conquer, so after a quick consultation Toadvine began work on the vessel while I took on the head itself. Of course, we remained in close contact throughout the construction process. As with the helmet, much of our knowledge was at that point theoretical: we had solid ideas but weren’t sure yet how they would work out in practice.

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The head’s base was a commercially available styrofoam women’s display head. It provided most of the mass and the beginning of the shape while being very light. The head was lightly sanded to provide a “tooth” to help in attaching other materials.

Of course, the head is so heavily stylized that it looks more alien than human. The next step, then, was to begin building up a more realistic head/face structure using Paperclay. I planned to model the head on the actual head of the member of the cosplay group whose character is supposed to look identical to Celty. However, since the existence of this prop was to be a surprise, I couldn’t directly obtain the mug-shot style images from my friend which would have been helpful for the project. Instead, I had to rely on photographs from her facebook profile.

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When working on a three dimensional form, it’s vital to keep turning the object and view it from all possible directions, as everything you do to the form affects the rest of the form. Slowly, I built up the nose, jawline, cheekbones, eyesockets, lips, and even the ears, until it began to look human. To speed the process I often paused to dry the clay with a blowdrier before sanding it and adding further thin layers of the Paperclay. Even relatively unsculpted areas of the head received a thin layer of the clay to create an even surface for painting.

After the head was sculpted, I painted the piece with several coats of acrylic in unbleached titanium, a yellowish off-white. I then used more detailed faux painting in olive green and black to further create the illusion of form and depth, especially in recessed areas like the ears, nostrils, and the underside of the neck.

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To really make it look human, the head needed hair. I carefully attached false eyelashes to the eyelids, then we ordered a wig to match the one our model planned to wear. The eyebrows were added with paint.

Toadvine writes:

The wig wouldn’t arrive for several more days, as is the nature of internet commerce. However, m’colleague and I wanted to have everything else finished when it arrived. While Taylor sculpted and painted, I drilled, cut, burned, and tinted.

We searched a plethora of retailers in to find a clear cylindrical container to serve as the jar for our head. After five hours of not-quite, almost, and too-bad-it’s-glass, we found a slightly fogged transparent bucket at Home Depot being sold as part of a Ceramic Floor Tile Installation Kit. I covered the top edge of the bucket with foil tape and cut out the center of the lid replacing it with a (serendipitously) perfectly sized pot lid. The lid’s handle was replaced with a cabinet handle. For the straps across the top, I cut up an old brown belt and used my soldering iron to scribe the appropriate grooves into those straps.

The straps would be glued around a ring of aluminum armature wire with a clear-drying 2-part epoxy. The ring would then be set around the top of the jar with more foil tape. I attempted to dye the inside of the jar green using a dye designed for acrylics. An hour of trying and a great deal of hot water yielded only the meagerest of results.

More would have to be done, but Taylor’s weekend visit was coming to an end. I would have to continue alone. After first testing the idea on a piece of scrap plastic, I bought a green apple Prismacolor marker and coated the inside of the bucket with its wide end, buffing with a cotton ball as I went to diffuse the brush strokes, as it were, and give the color a uniform appearance.

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A few days later the wig arrived. I cut and styled it, then applied liberal amounts of gel and hairspray to make sure not a single strand could ever move again. The end result is seen below, in my home and in the wild at Otakon 2010. Posing with it is its model, whose character underwent plastic surgery to look more like the head. It is, as they say, complicated.

The jar later received a significant upgrade! Photos and explanation here.

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