Mola Ram — Headdress
Once upon a time, I joined the many procrastinators who storm the stores on October 30th or 31st to buy something to wear to costume parties. At some point, I realized two things: 1) "one size fits all" does not indeed fit me at all and 2) holy cow! for that price, I can make it myself. And so, I decided to pursue this latter point in 2010, the year I made my first costume as an adult (ended up being a faun — a costume that was very well received). Since then, Halloween has become my Christmas and I get excited about it the moment an idea crosses my mind.
In the last few years, my source of inspiration has been movies that hold a special place in my heart. I recall as a child watching Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom and feeling both scared and thrilled at the same time. So, as the nostalgia set in while I watched this movie sometime in Spring 2016, I knew that I had to be Mola Ram for Halloween. Several online tutorials have helped me along the years to create my costumes. To pay it forward, I'm writing this Instructable in the hopes that it helps somebody else. Hope you enjoy it!
Tools and Materials
To make this headdress you'll need:
- Newspapers (or your favorite paper to use for paper mache)
- Plaster wrap (you can buy these from Michaels or AC Moore)
- A plastic bag
- Masking tape
- Aluminum foil
- Wire hangers
- Small piece of poster board
- Old towel
- Old shirt
- Mirror or helper
- Styrofoam head
- Oven bake polymer clay (2 colors: white and brown)
- Hair extensions: one brown and short and 2 or 3 long black extensions
- Modgepodge (or wood glue)
- Fishing wire
- Good music
- Reference pictures of the headdress in the movie
Creating the Head Support
I wanted to create a helmet-like support with a snug fit on my head. I decided I would make a light-weight mold of my head using the plaster wrap that can be found in art supply stores (ex. Michaels, AC Moore, etc.) and then use such mold to add on the other details of the headdress. While I wanted a snug fit, I also wanted to make sure that it would be easy to put the headdress on and then take it off. I found out that making the mold of the top of my head (down until the ear line) achieved this balance. Creating the helmet-like support is a 2-part process: 1) molding the top of the head and 2) adding the jaw structure. We'll start with the former.
Working with the plaster wrap can be messy so I recommend putting an old shirt on before proceeding. I also didn't want to apply the strips directly on my hair (how would I explain my new look at work?). I started by taking a grocery store bag and putting it over my head to cover my hair (from approximately the top of my eyebrows to the back of my neck). To keep it from sliding around, I tied the handles on the back of my neck making sure the knot was at the base of my skull. The bag was a bit lumpy in some areas due to trapped air. I was able to remove this by rolling extra bag material under the knot I just made.
Once the bag was secured, I grabbed the scissors and cut strips of plaster of various widths (0.5" to 2"). At this point, I moved to the bathroom so I would have access to a mirror (you can skip this step if you have a helper who will be applying the plaster strips for you) and made sure to have a bowl of water and an old towel nearby to clean my hands. For each plaster strip, I put it in the water, took it out and gently ran my fingers down the strip to remove excess water (you want it wet but not dripping) before placing it on the top of my head. After placing each strip on my head, I pressed on it to ensure it was tight and flush against the bag that covered my hair. This process was repeated until the top of my head was covered with enough layers to keep the shape once dry (didn't actually keep track of the number of layers and thinking 2 to 3 will be OK). At this point, I waited until the plaster was rigid enough to remove from my head without losing the shape (note: the plaster will still feel damp/cold and will take a few hours to completely dry). Once removed from my head, I put the top of the helmet on a Styrofoam head so that it would continue drying.
The next part of the helmet-like support is to add the jaws. To do this, I drew the outline of a jaw on a piece of poster board and cut it using the scissors. For this part, I recommend: 1) looking at pictures from the movie or internet to guide your jaw design and determine the length and angle of the jaw according to your face and 2) place the helmet (once dry) on your head so you can determine the placement of each jaw. It took some trial and error to get the jaw design to the point that I was happy with it. Once happy with the shape, I traced this on another piece of poster board and cut it to create two identical jaw outlines. One thing to keep in mind is that the jaws have a slight curvature and frame the sides of the face towards the mouth. To do this, I taped wire (I used cut segments from wire hangers but you can use any wire sturdy enough to keep a shape) to the part of each poster board jaw cut-out that would touch the side of my face and added a slight bend to each jaw. When the jaws had the curved shape I was looking for, I taped the top part of each jaw to each side of the helmet. I ended up placing them slightly in front of my ears as I did not want my ears to be covered or squeezed when wearing the headdress. At this point, I recommend you take the helmet on and off a few times to ensure that you can put it on and off easily before adding the plaster strips to the jaws.
The next part is adding plaster strips to the jaws. I did not want to wrap the wire with the plaster strips, so I made sure that the strips only covered the poster board jaw cut-out. After adding several layers, and ensuring the jaws were rigid and retained the curved shape, I carefully removed the wires from the inside of each jaw before adding more plaster strips to fully cover each jaw. As previously mentioned, I recommend taking the helmet on and off to ensure that it comes off easily. The frame of the headdress is now finished. You can set it back on the Styrofoam head and let it dry completely.
Creating the Horns
To create the horns:
1) I used 2 wire hangers and stretched them out pulling from the hanger hook and middle of the bottom of the wire hanger.
2) widened the base (close to the hook) to the width of the base of the horn (this will be attached to the helmet armature). I pinched the other end of the wire hanger (this will be the point of the horns).
3) using newspaper, I tore pages and bunched them up to add volume between the 2 wires for each hanger. I used masking tape to secure the newspaper stuffing to the horn structure. I kept adding newspaper & tape until achieving a relatively smooth long cone.
4) I bent the long cone to match the shape of the horns (I recommend looking at pictures from the movie for reference). The bending of the wire hanger armature created creases in some areas of the cone. I taped bunched up newspaper to these areas to make it smooth again.
Note: Since you'll need to create 2 horns, it's important that the shape of the armature (steps 2 & 3 above) is the same for each wire hanger. Step 4 may be a little tricky as the 2 horns need to be mirror images of each other. It may take some trial & error to achieve this.
Once happy with the shape of the 2 horns, I prepared to apply the paper mache. There are many home made recipes online for paper mache. Feel free to follow the one that works best for you. To achieve my paste, I used my hands to mix water and flour (approximately 1:1 ratio) until obtaining a pancake batter consistency. After cleaning my hands, I manually tore paper strips (down the length of the newspaper) of various widths. Before adding the paper strips to the horn armatures, I recommend covering your working area with newspaper (paper mache can get messy). I then used one hand to apply the paste to each paper strip and squeezed out excess paste before applying it to the horn armature. At this point, you keep adding paper strips until you've covered each horn and then add layers once the previous one has dried. I lost track of the number of layers I applied (it was probably 4–5). The cool thing about using wire hangers during this process is that you have a hook, so feel free to use that to hang the horns up to dry in between each layer of paper mache.
Once all of the layers were dry, I cut each horn at the middle using a serrated knife so I could remove the horn armature (this will reduce the weight of the horn, which you will appreciate once the headdress is on your head). I recommend being careful in this step and taking your time to remove the paper mache from the wire/taped newspaper armature. You may need to use pliers to help remove bits and pieces of the newspaper you previously bunched up to create the armature. After removing all of the stuffing, I lined up the 2 pieces I cut for each horn, taped them together and reinforced the seam by applying layers of newspaper strips using the paper mache paste.
Adding the Skull Details and Smoothing
During this step you'll need reference pictures of the headdress, aluminum foil and plenty of masking tape. This part can take time and I recommend playing your favorite music during the process. Using the reference pictures, I started making the bone structure of what would be the nose of the skull. I tore a strip of aluminum foil and pinched it into the shape I was after. Since this was to be placed in the middle of the skull, it also helped me determine the placement of the eye sockets. I added foil to add volume behind the nose bone and around the eye sockets and covered it with masking tape. Then I continued adding foil and covering it with tape to augment certain features of the skull. I was not after obtaining an exact replica of the headdress of the movie. Rather, I wanted to give it enough structural detail to make it recognizable with the rest of the costume.
After finishing the nose and eye sockets, I tackled the area where the voo-doo head will sit. To accomplish this, I made 2 pyramid-like shapes and united them in the middle. It's important at this point to determine how the horns will be attached to the helmet. I decided that the horns would attach on the back of the helmet. I cut part of each horn and positioned it on the back of the helmet, ensuring that the horns were approximate mirror images of each other. I recommend cutting the horns little by little (although you can always add foil and masking tape if you end up cutting too much). I secured each horn in place using hot glue and added foil and masking tape around the base of each horn. I then put the headdress on and looked in the mirror to ensure the horns looked right. Then it was back to adding foil and masking tape to continue building up the details around the skull structure. Feel free to be creative during this process. Once happy with the structure, I made another batch of paper mache paste and applied 2–3 coats of paper strips to the whole headdress.
While the paper mache was drying, I took pieces of oven bake polymer clay (I used white Sculpey) and sculpted several teeth for each side of the jaw. As I sculpted each tooth, I placed it on the side of the jaw to ensure it was the right shape and size. I recommend making a few more teeth than what you think you'll need. Then it's just a matter of baking the teeth in the oven by following the directions in the package. Once the paper mache had dried, I attached the teeth to each side of the jaw using a hot glue gun.
To finish this step I applied:
1) a couple of coats of modgepodge to the paper mache to seal it (letting each layer dry before applying the next one) and
2) several layers of gesso to make the headpiece as smooth as possible, particularly the horns. When adding the gesso, it's important to add one layer at a time and to sand the gesso in between layers to achieve a smooth finish.
The headdress actually has a long string of hair that falls down the back. Having worked with long hair extensions in the past, I know they can add a bit of weight. After evaluating different methods to attach this hair, I decided to drill 2 holes with my dremel on the top of the headdress, right behind the area where the voo-doo head will sit. The idea here is that I'll use fishing wire to tie the hair extensions together and then loop the fishing wire through the 2 holes and tie it in place.
The Voodoo Head
I used brown Sculpey and sculpted the voo-doo head. As with the structure of the skull headdress, I added enough features to achieve a similar look to that from the original movie. Once happy with the sculpting, I baked the head in the oven following the instructions in the packet.
For the hair of the voo-doo head, I went to a local beauty supply store and bought a hair extension they had for sale. I unwrapped the hair extension, folded it in half and then sewed along the folded seam. I repeated this again, folding it in half and sewing along the seam. Then I started sewing the seam in a circular manner, making sure I kept it as tight as possible as I was sewing it together. I ended up using all of the hair that came in the packet; however, I recommend you keep your voo-doo head nearby to determine how much hair you will need. Once done, I secured the fair on the voo-doo head using a hot glue gun.
Final Touches: Painting and Attaching Voo-Doo Head and Hair
I worked in layers to add color and shading to the headpiece. Using ivory paint as the base coat, I mixed shades of brown to highlight certain areas (and dark brown/black for the eye sockets). I think one can spend hours working on highlights and/or lowlights so I recommend painting it according to any method you're comfortable with. Once happy with the paint job, I sealed everything with a couple of layers of clear varnish. I then secured the voo-doo head to the top of the headdress using contact cement (I found out the hard way that hot glue did not work well in securing the voo-doo head due to its weight). To finish the headdress, I used 2 packs of fake black hair extensions, tied them together using fishing wire and then looped the fishing wire through the 2 holes I previously drilled with the dremel. It's important to keep the fishing wire as tight as possible as you are tying the wire through the holes on top of the headdress. Once done, you can put the headdress on the Styrofoam head to admire your work or do as I did... which is to put it on your head and go around the house chanting "kalima, kalima, kalima...":)
I hope you've enjoyed this tutorial. Let me know if you have any questions. I'd love to hear from you if you've done one.